Infantus Series - Dawn of Infantus

Infantus Series - Dawn of Infantus

Postby Miki Yamuri » Sat Aug 02, 2014 1:14 am

Title: Dawn of Infantus


Persephone - Goddess of childhood and bringer of babies
Lin Chase - artist, colonist
Ensign Tair Jarcue - crew member aboard the Outward
Penny Kneece - civilian specialist, Chief of Navigation and Colonial Mining Operations, colonist
Jarris Delon - architect, colonist
Phyllisti Scapes - zoologist, colonist
Denesca Tramnz - Head of the Galactic Mining Consortium
Simins Jasco - Reporter for the Galactic Press Syndicate
Telva Orissina - Editor for the Galactic Press Syndicate
Wilf Vertu - Cameraman for Jasco’s news team
Mina Trome - Pilot and technician for Jasco’s news team

Lin made sure her sketchpads, both ancient and modern, were all stowed in her art cases and there weren’t any stray pencils, markers, brushes, or styli lying around in the cabin.  The ship had been traveling for two days and was about to decelerate to sublight speeds, and having small objects scattered about was a bad idea during that process.  Lin would be in the cold sleep tube, but that didn’t mean she wanted her art supplies getting thrown around and perhaps lost.

Once her cases were packed and stowed in her state room’s cabinets, she got undressed just in time for a crew member to arrive and assist her in getting into the tube.  She stood in the alcove, the clear plastic tube lowered down around her, and … then it was over, and the tube was rising back up into the ceiling.  The room felt oppressively warm, and the crew member was helping her out and applying disinfectant to the tiny injection points in her neck and ankles.

“Are we there?” she asked.

“Well, we’re in orbit,” the crew member said.  Her name was apparently Jarcue, according to her nametag.

“That’s what I meant,” said Lin, with a smile.  “I guess I meant, ‘Are we done with the part where I have to stand naked in a plastic tube?’”

“Oh.  Yes, we’re done with that part,” Jarcue said, nodding and smiling.  She picked up her kit and said, “Right.  Feeling OK?”  At Lin’s nod, she added formulaically, “If there’s anything else you need, please feel free to ring Colonist Services, but for now I have to assist other colonists.  Take care!”

“Thanks,” Lin said, starting to get dressed, “and have a good … day?  Or night?  What time is it now, anyway?”  Jarcue had left while Lin rambled on.

“The time is 16:45, ship time,” the voice of the computer said unemotionally.

“Hmm, how about on the planet below?  What time is it there?”

“At the designated landing point, the time is 02:27, adjusted local stellar time,” said the computer.

“Wow, middle of the night,” said Lin.  “Major space lag, here I come.  When do we land?”

“Planetfall procedures begin tomorrow morning,” the computer stated.

“Well, it sounds like the galley opens for dinner soon,” Lin said.  “Maybe I sh --”
“The galley opens in twelve minutes.”

“Yes, I know that, thanks.  Maybe I should start heading there.  I’m very hungry.  I was after we accelerated to superlight too.  And I remember talking to the computer a lot then too.  Tell me, can you show me what the planet looks like?”

“Affirm-” the computer began, and an image started to appear in the room’s holographic alcove, but this time it was she who interrupted it.

“No, don’t show me now,” she said.  “I just wanted to know if you could.  I’ll ask again later, so I can really look at it.”

Once she was satisfied that she looked like an adult who had dressed herself, rather than a toddler who had attempted to do so, she left her room and headed down the colony ship’s corridors.

The navigator finally managed to get people to call her Penny. She really hated the name Penelope. She turned her head and looked out the planetward view port as the ship finished its most recent orbit. Penny could feel the wonderful invigorating vibrations it gave off through her whole body. It was a refreshing relief … after all the hard cosmic radiation and the man made energies of the FTL drive she had to feel while traveling here.

She finally opened her eyes, and proceeded to her drop station. Her ticket to this new colony world had to be paid for by the company sending the mining team because of the massive cost for her to come all the way across the galaxy to get here. The only thing she had managed to pay for … was an Originator's Claim … and the most modern and aesthetically pleasing earth home she could find.

As she locked her helmet on and the environment normalized within her suit, she watched the world as it passed below the mothership. The view was spectacular through the launch doors of the hangar.

“All right … no sight seeing while on duty. Move along young woman.”

Penny turned from her daydream to look on the Dropship Commander.

Penny said, “Sorry, it’s just a breath taking view of the planet.”

The commander looked out past the forcefield to the beautiful sparkling planet far below. The 2 of them stood for a long moment before the Commander Turned away.

“I see what you mean, young woman. Sorry … I guess you get kind of jaded after traveling as many light years as I have.” Then he moves on, greeting many other of the colonists and making friendly chatter … of course adding the wonderful view of the planet below from the hangar’s launch doors … Penny smiled.

Penny had decided to come to this world and leave home. Her parents were domineering and oppressive to her spirit. She had won her seat to this new colony by being among the best minds at navigational math and Stellar cartiographic calculations than any the company had ever seen. It was easy for her to procure an officer’s status … as a civilian colonist. The newer ships had arrived just a few hours earlier than they, but the drop action still left almost all of this world free and available for staking out. Penny was all for that.

Lin walked into the galley to find her friend Jarris already there.  He smiled and waved.  “Hi!” she said as she sat down across from him at a table.  “Ready to be one of the first people on a brand new planet?”

“The prospect of being an Originator,” Jarris said.  “To be recorded in the history of a new world.  Plus, as the chief architect, I get to put my stamp on all the buildings.  It’s like … immortality.”

“You and your dreams of making a mark on history,” Lin said, smiling.  “As if you haven’t already designed famous buildings on … what is it … six different planets already?”

“But I’ve never been an Originator before.  Besides, aren’t you coming here for similar reasons?”

“I’m just here to draw, paint, create,” said Lin.  “Unspoiled wilderness, untouched by any human -- what beauty, what inspiration awaits?”

Time passed as it has a habit of doing. They ate their dinners and chatted about the news that had happened while they were in hypersleep. “Sounds like the Eta Carinae pirates have been raiding the shipping lanes again,” Lin said.

“Yeah, that’s what I heard,” said Jarris.  “But they say the Sixth Fleet is being called out to go after them.  I bet the pirates will be lying low for a while.”

“The Sixth Fleet!  The Commonwealth’s bringing out its big guns,” Lin said.  “They’re just a bunch of pirates, not a rebel planet or something.”

“Well I guess the pirates are starting to be a big enough problem that …” Jarris began, but then an announcement came over the intercom.

“All Level 3 Colonists … say again, Level 3 Colonists … please gather your gear and report to drop station 69 immediately for Colonial Drop Point Sigma.” Jarris looked down at a patch on his wrist. It had a large red ‘L3’ on it. He said, “I guess they’re calling. Time to make planetfall.”

Penny sat in the navigator's couch and punched in the numbers for the Sigma drop point. She hoped the previous supply ship had been there already and made the materials and drop container delivery. With the star drive using the Omicron Crystal power supply, it would only be a day or two on the rough if they had to replace it.

Penny entered the very last of the data into the Nav computer, then opened a thick binder on mining operations. Her dirtside job was to be the supervising official on the Crystal mining that was to begin in the valley next to the river. Probe scans revealed there to be one of the largest deposits of Omicron Crystals ever recorded just a few hundred feet below the surface.

Jarris and Lin stood in line in a corridor, carrying modest suitcases, and in addition Lin had her art pack and Jarris had his briefcase.  Up ahead was a door labeled 69.

“Alright, ladies and gentlemen, might as well get this show on the road,” said a crew member.  Lin noticed that it was Jarcue again.  “Welcome to bay lucky number 69!  Go ahead and make jokes; maybe you’ll even come up with a new one.”  There was a bit of laughter among the few dozen colonists lined up outside the door.  “Just c’mon up in some kind of orderly fashion, and we’ll get you checked in -- we want to make sure everyone gets on the right drop ship.  Your storage containers have all been loaded, so unless you want all your stuff to be sent to the wrong landing site, make sure you’re in Level 3.  OK, let’s get started with you, Sir, your name?”

“Bill Forelli.”

“ID checks,” said another crewmember.

“OK, head on in, Mr. Forelli,” said Jarcue.  “Ma’am?”

“Phyllisti Scapes?”

“ID’s good.”

And so it went, one colonist at a time, Jarris and Lin included, until they were all aboard the drop ship, taking their seats.

It is said, that anticipation can drive someone crazy. Penny sat, all strapped into her couch, looking out the front view over the pilot’s shoulder. The view of the world slowly passing beneath them was spectacular. Just waiting was driving her insane.

The pilot’s voice in her helm said, “All aboard, stand by for drop.”

After a few minutes passed, all the colonists and drop ship personnel felt a serious pressure pushing them back into their seats as the dropship accelerated rapidly from the launching bay and took up its glide position among the other dropships in high planetary orbit.

Penny had to make a sudden course correction. She had no clue how she could have possibly made such a large calculation error. The spherical glide calculations were easy for her … she redid them in her head. She came to the same answer … something else was causing a major warpage in the fabric of space/time.

She narrowed the scanner beam to frequency 12243.22. A place she was getting weird readings. To her total amazement, she was getting major lensing overlaps of Time and space. She had no clue as to where in space or what time the anomaly lead … all she knew ... it was playing hell with her nav computer.

Finally, after much attempting to make the computer extrapolate the Time/Space warpage differentials with no success, Penny became seriously frustrated. As simple as the line of site operation was for a human intellect, the stupid Nav Computer’s AI couldn’t understand how to extrapolate across the fissure in time and keep the ship on course. Penny resorted to her multicom … and made the calculations on the fly. No one, not even the pilot was aware the computer was no longer giving nav coordinates.

As Penny watched the scanners, a large smile crossed her face. She knew this planet was the perfect place. The lensing effect of the anomalies made time pass at different rates at different times at different places on the surface all the time. In effect, in the drop place for the Argo Camp … time almost stood still for the next 96 hours. Penny was impressed. She narrowed her eyes at the readings she had gotten for Colonial Drop Point Sigma. Penny nodded her head slowly as she thought how interesting these Chronal Anomalies were going to be.

Meanwhile, the passengers noticed none of these anomalies, because physically, the ship’s trajectory was smooth and steady.  “It’s … beautiful,” said a voice to Lin’s right, and she turned to see the speaker, a young woman with her face nearly pressed against the viewport, looking at the planet as their course brought it into view.  

The sun had just appeared over the edge of the planetary disc, causing a sunrise effect with bands of pink and orange, and reflections of those same colors from the ocean.  Lin could certainly see what the woman at the window was talking about, and her thoughts went to painting sunrises like that in the future.

“It sure is!” Lin said.  By way of introducing herself, she said, “Oh, and hi, I’m Lin Chase.”

“Hi!” the woman said with childlike enthusiasm.  “I’m Phyllisti Scapes!  Phyl for short.  I’m a zoologist.  I’m part of the University of Triangulum’s expedition to this planet, but I’m also paying my own way because I want to live here!”

“Planning to make studying the planet’s animals your life’s work?” Lin asked.  She respected that kind of dedication.

“Oh!  Well -- probably!  Unless I run out of animals to study, which is really unlikely, when you’re talking about a whole planet!”  Phyl’s childlike enthusiasm was infectious, and Lin found herself smiling without even realizing she was doing so.  “It’s going to be a real challenge and so much fun to discover how its food chain works and how its biosphere interacts with its environment!”

“I’ll bet,” said Lin.  “I’ll be painting a lot of the animals you’ll be studying, I’m sure.”

“Oh, you’re an artist -- wait a minute.  Did you say Lin Chase?” Phyl asked.  “OH MY G-wait, let me get -- oh no, it’s in my storage.  I have a book of your art, a real book with pages and everything!  Can you, you know, autograph it?”

“It would be my honor,” Lin said.  “What’s more, I hope we can help each other.  The facts you learn about the animals will help me paint them more realistically, and I hope my art can help stir interest in this world and its species.”

“Oh, that would be so amazing!” Phyl gushed.  “I can’t wait to see some of the art you come out with!  Maybe it will be the same species I’m studying!”

“Well, what species will you be studying?”

“Oh!  I did my dissertation on the nadger migrations, but that was only based on remote probe scans, so of course, I want to look into their life cycle and social interactions, but I’m also interested in the donkey monkeys, which have a very similar migration pattern even though they’re not related at all.  Or are they?  Maybe I’ll find out they are.”

“I’ve decided the first thing I’m going to draw is a floppit,” said Lin.

“Floppits!  Aren’t they adorable?” Phyl said with a giggle.  “They’re kind of mysterious, because they don’t travel in groups and don’t seem to migrate, so it’s difficult for orbital probes to get a good scan of them.  But we’ll be able to get a better look at them once we’re down there, won’t we?”

“If we’re quick enough,” Lin said.

Penny sat and shook her head. The pilot had obviously placed the ship on autopilot. The Nav Computer that fed the autopilot couldn’t overcome the massive anomalies that kept popping up in the calculations it made and the ship began to deviate from its course serious enough to cause her to worry. Without the pilot’s knowledge, Penny took over navigation and piloting control, effectively locking the command deck completely out and rerouting through her nav board. The ship quickly returned to its planned flight path as she began to manually enter the course data on the fly. Penny hoped the rest of the colonial drop fleet were noticing the errors and making the proper adjustments. It took approximately 25 minutes for Penny to fly the ship to its proper landing location and set it down.

When the plot had attempted to take the ship back under manual control when landing time arrived, he discovered his flight deck had been locked out somehow. As he frantically attempted to regain control of the ship, Penny set it gently down exactly on target … better than the cheap flight/nav system on one of these Colonial Droppers ever did.

The pilots were in total amazement as they scanned the landing location and discovered their perfect landing. They did discover the supply Drop had been made, although it appeared that they had more than they had bargained for. The Command crew could clearly see that there had been triple the amount of construction supplies dropped than had been requisitioned. It was a good thing they didn’t have to give it back … just keep a record of what it was used for. It meant that Colony Sigma would be extra special and have all the necessary supplies in abundance.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” came the crew member’s voice, causing the passengers to look upward, “we have landed at Colonization Point Sigma.”  A cheer began (probably with Phyl) and swelled into applause.  When it had died down, the announcement continued, “The crew will be finished with post landing procedures shortly, and you will be able to disembark.”  Then, in a few moments, she continued, “The crew reports that post landing procedures are complete.  If you will move toward the exits in an orderly fashion, we will assist in disembarkation and direct you to the storage containers, which we will deliver according to the colonization plan.”

The colonists unfastened their safety harnesses and stood up, lining up in the aisles and choosing one of the four exits, at which crew members stood, ushering them toward the exit stairs that were now fully deployed.

As soon as Jarris set foot on the new world, he felt a thrill, like a cool breeze through his body.  He hadn’t been expecting this: for the first time in a long time, he felt inspired.  He could look at a hill over there and see how to build a home that would harmonize with the scenery and be comfortable for the inhabitants besides.  He could look at the trees in the distance, the beginning of a vast forest, and see tall thin buildings that blended in with the trees and enhanced their natural beauty rather than concealing it.  A building on the bluff by the river that would be reflected beautifully in the water --

“That sounds absolutely beautiful,” said Lin.  “Build it, and I’ll paint it.”

“Yay!” Phyl enthused.

“That was -- out loud?” Jarris said, aghast.

“Sure was,” Lin confirmed, smiling.  “But I don’t blame you.  Look at this place … the probe photos didn’t do it justice.”

“Excuse me,” said Ensign Jarcue, driving up in an open groundcar, “but the temporary shelters are going up at the homestead sites you picked out earlier -- want a ride?”  

Lin and Jarris’s homestead territories adjoined, so they agreed and climbed into the hovering vehicle, while Phyl stayed behind, because hers was in a different area.
Jarcue’s groundcar took them smoothly and quickly to the first homestead site, which was Jarris’s.  They saw the transport dropping the rectangular, metallic prefab shelter in place, where its automatic jacks quickly leveled its base and its construction servos started unfolding its walls.  Within minutes, the temporary shelter was ready for use.

“Well, looks like it’s time for me to get started,” said Jarris, hopping out of the groundcar.  The crew had unloaded his storage container near the entrance to his new temporary home.  It was now up to Jarris to move in.  As an architect, he had already designed a new home for himself, which he would start building as soon as possible, but the temporary shelter would give him a place to live while he did so.

Penny disembarked and found herself standing in the large confusion of a modern colonial drop zone.  Looking for something she could do to help, she found another groundcar and began driving colonists and their supplies to their homestead sites from the drop ship, and she met up with Ensign Jarcue’s car.  She got out. Before Penny could approach Jarcue’s groundcar, she saw several people standing off beside one of the many large storage units. Penny walked over and said cheerily, “Hi, I’m Penny!  Anything I can do to help?”

Lin turned from her storage cubicle, holding several cases of art supplies. “Oh, hi!” she said with a smile. “I think this is wonderful, a homestead all my own … as many acres as I can manage.  I’m going to try to grow and harvest the native plants and make my own paper and canvas -- maybe inks and paints too.  I’m going to be this world’s first artist … but I need to figure out how to get my house to start building itself first.”

“Oh, OK, now that is something I know how to help with!  If you don’t mind?”  With no objections from Lin, Penny showed the beleaguered woman how to start the auto-builder for her dome-shaped living quarters.  Lin had opted for a more lasting domicile, since she wouldn’t be building a home with her own hands.

“That’s starting to look like the pictures,” said Lin as her house’s segments formed, irised into shape like a collapsible colander, and fused themselves together into a hemisphere.  The dome’s exterior was light and strong, made of artificial stone that was created from the local soil materials gathered on site, briefly melted and aerated with air bubbles to form a synthetic pumice, with several clear glass windows also made from silicates found on site, distributed around its surface.  Lin had chosen this type of home because she would be able to decorate the exterior as she wished, and the grayish surface would be an excellent canvas, making color stand out.  She and Penny stood for a moment, watching the build program complete at first, then just looking at the new house where only native grasses had stood moments before.

Penny said, “I’m buying down at the new diner .. it should be completed within the hour. Anyone interested … meet there at 1900 hours local time and we’ll have a feast … not the synthetic type from the ship either, but real food from Earth.”
Lin turned and asked, “You’re leaving so soon? I thought we could have a house warming glass of wine to celebrate groundfall.”
Penny waves as she enters the groundcar, “I can’t, sorry, I volunteered to drive Homesteaders to their locations. It’s against the rules until I’m off duty.”
Lin waved, “I’ll see you at the new diner at … 7pm local.”
Lin watched as Penny flew off on a cloud of anti-energy. Penny quickly returned to the Colonial Drop Zone and found a young woman fretting beside a large drop container. Penny came up and said, “Hi, I’m Penny Kneece. I’m the head of mining operations once we all get settled in. From the looks of things, you need a bit of a hand.”
Phyllisti said in a cute pouting voice, “I got all this stuff to take out to my …” she looks down at a large scrolled piece of fabric paper of some kind. Penny recognized it as an Official Originator Claim Document. Phyllisti’s eyes get big as she gasps.
Penny asks in concern, “Is … something wrong?”
Phyllisti looks up with big eyes and says, “A minimum claim on this world is 190,000 acres plot … minimum. We have to homestead and develop the sites with absolute minimal damage to the environment. Seems there is some high up official with power that wants to keep this a garden paradise … not that I think that’s bad!  It’ll be good for the animals.  But what am I gonna do with all that land?  It could be a nature preserve, I guess … I could set up blinds where I can observe their behavior … oh!  First, though, I have to figure out how to move all my stuff to my claim.”
Penny smiles as she helps Phyllisti load her equipment and fasten the tow pintle onto the drop container. Penny says, “Get in … My duty is to make sure all you Ladies reach your castles and land holding in proper order.”
Phyllisti stands with a blank expression for a second before Penny says, “It’s a joke … obviously a bad one.”
Another person came up and asked, “Are you …” She looks down at a pad in her hand, “Phyllisti … Phyllisti Scapes the zoologist?”
She replies, “Why Yes … I am.”
The woman replies, “Good … I’m Denesca Tramnz. The Company has assigned me to you to aid in your … new duties.”
“Duties?” asked Phyl.  “But … I work for the University …”
Penny said, “Get in … we can discuss this on our way to the homestead plot.”
Denesca looked at the pad once again. The picture and words on its small screen flickered as it changed. “You must be … Penny Kneece … the Head of Colonial Mining Operations?” Penny nods, “Good … then I can brief both of you while we deliver this equipment and materials.”
After all the baggage was loaded, Penny started them on their way. The sun was starting to get very low in the sky, and they knew it would be dark soon.  The woman told both of them about the operation as they traveled. Phyllisti had been asked because of her intense studies of the fauna of this planet, and secondarily the flora. Since no one had ever set foot on it … they wanted someone with at least a working knowledge of what to expect.
“But I don’t work for Colonial Mining,” said Phyl.  “I’m …”
“We’re just asking for your help, really,” Denesca said.  “You’re free to decline.  But we’re all neighbors here.  We were hoping you’d do us a favor.  Likewise, we’re here in case you need a favor from us.”
“Oh!  Well, sure,” Phyl said.  “I can tell you what I know -- you know, what I’ve managed to get from the probe data.  But I’m going to be learning ten times as much as that every day once I get going!”
“Anything you can tell us would help, I’m sure,” said Denesca.
“Yes,” Penny agreed.  “We need to know as much as we can.  The more data we have, the easier it will be to comply with this colony’s somewhat unusual charter.”
The hovertruck’s control panel flashed and bleeped, signifying that they were near their destination.  “Looks like your homestead is near,” Penny said to Phyl.

~~End - Pt1~~

~~Dawn of Infantus - Pt2~~
Phyl consulted the computer map.  “Right over there,” she said … and gasped when she looked in the direction the map indicated.  “It’s …”  It was beautiful.  Rolling grass-covered hills dropped away into the distance revealing a large river that flowed through her claim.  There was even a small lake, fed by streams, that emptied into a tributary to the river.  She could see waterfowl flying and landing on the water in the distance and small ground mammals that eyed the humans curiously before darting into the grass.  In Phyl’s mind these species and their behavior were already being cataloged and sorted, but that didn’t make her land any less beautiful.  She would have to invite Ms Chase to come paint this beautiful landscape.
“I guess we should get your house built,” Penny interrupted.  “Let’s see, your plan puts it here,” she said, pointing at the computer map.  “Any last-minute changes now that you can see the area with your own eyes?”  Phyl and Penny worked out where to put it, then Penny used the truck to move the house kit into place next to the hill and started its auto-builder.  The automatic jacks leveled the foundation, and the machinery started raising the walls and digging slightly into the hill … just then, the sun’s rays shone through a cleft in the distant mountains and reflected off the lake’s surface, turning it into molten gold set with glittering diamonds.  Phyl couldn’t look at the house anymore.  She had just fallen in love with this planet and its beauty as she stood breathlessly looking at the magnificent view of the lake.
“Dr Scapes?” asked Penny.  “Um … Dr Scapes.  Your house is done … Dr Scapes?”
“Oh!” Phyl said.  “Oh, thank you!  You’ve been so much help!  I suppose I’d better start moving my stuff in … to my house …”  Her house looked for all the world like an Old World cottage from back on Old Earth.  The back of it had dug into the hill somewhat, but it had a roof that looked like it was covered with terracotta tiles and walls that looked like they were made of weathered stone.  It looked hundreds of years old, but of course it was all synthetic and practically indestructible.  The only thing it lacked to make its atmosphere complete were some hanging ivy vines.  Phyl was sure some of the native species could fill the role.

A presence began to take serious notice of the goings on around the new colony. Of special interest was the mining equipment that lay hidden within the drop ship. The presence didn’t want, nor would it allow, any harm to come to this Biosphere. Its consciousness flowed invisibly through the new corridors of the freshly constructed slag-crete structures. It came to the central computer core and watched as the mainframe computer booted itself up for the first time. The programming language was so primitive … it didn’t want to contemplate that as it perused all the data concerning the mining operation … and the many billions of tons of Omicron Crystals.
A spark of concern rose within … as it discovered how badly they were going to rape the valley and contaminate the river in their strip mining operation. It’s true … the words ‘Continental Reclamation’, were used over and over again. What it failed to address … was the ecological damage the pollution from the mining would create in the first place … nor did it mention the total eradication of several species habitat or the inability to remove the massive toxicity left in the river and the lake it fed.
The presence would see into this. This mining operation was not in accordance with the Originator’s Charter that had been worked out with the Earth almost 10 years earlier.  But there were many colonists who, it knew, had come here precisely because of that charter and wanted this beautiful world to remain so.  The presence already had a mortal guise -- perhaps, it thought, it should take a more active role in affairs.

“Well, that’s that,” said Jarris to himself, closing the door to his basic shelter.  “Everything’s indoors and protected from the weather.  But if I want more room … I’m going to have to build it myself.”  Of course, that was already exactly what he planned to do.  “Oh, hi, Lin!” he said, as Lin had walked over toward him.
“All done with the moving in?” she asked.  “Me too.  I hope you can get your real home built soon -- I thought it was beautiful from the moment you first showed me your plans.  Very eco-friendly, too.”
“Thanks!” he said, smiling.  “Now we have to get these storage containers back to the drop ship -- I don’t want a big orange metal cube in my front yard.”
“Same here,” Lin said.  “Let’s call the freight hovertruck back -- they can give us a ride back to the drop ship too, so we can be there for the arrival party this evening.”
“Want to have dinner at the new restaurant they’re setting up?” Jarris asked.
“Actually, Penny invited me to dinner there at 7 pm,” Lin said.  “She said she was inviting everyone.  And she’s buying.”
“Sounds good to me!” said Jarris with a smile.

Penny had finally managed to get her Originator Land Grant Portfolio. She stood by the large drop crate as her house kit and a strange pool kit were off loaded from the drop ship and packed into it. As she signed for the Colonial Housing Bundle with the custom earth home constructor, she realized there was more to her shipment than she remembered requestioning, applying for … and signing for. She shrugged, in Colonial Drops, Mistakes like this happened from time to time. The person didn’t have to return nor pay for the extra … they did, however, have to keep a good running tab on how the materials were utilized.
A groundtruck backed up to her large Drop Crate, and fastened its pintle tow hook on. Penny smiled as she saw Jarcue jump from the cabin and wave, “Hurry along there … dirter!” she giggles, “It’s now your turn to go out to your own stake on this new world.”
Penny waves back as she grabs the duffle bags at her feet and loads them into the storage compartment of the Groundtruck. As Penny gets into the cabin she says breathlessly, “Thanks … I’ve been doing this all day for everyone else and completely forgot about myself.”
Jarcue replied, “That’s why I’m here. Most of the dual purpose Colonists seem to have that problem. Help everyone but themselves.”
Jarcue flipped on the lights, and the Truck pulls off with the huge Drop Crate in tow. Neither girl said much as they watched the strange stars come out one by one as the sun sank low on the horizon. Many creatures began showing up, even stranger creatures that seemed to glow in the dark surrounded them with their beautiful displays of light. The girls giggled when they came across their first Floppit. It seemed to sit up on its hind legs and contemplate them for a bit as they passed, then, it hopped out in front of the truck and began to outrun it.
Penny commented, “If I didn’t know better, I would think that critter wanted to race with us.”
Jarcue said, “I’m game. It’ll help us get to your claim faster.”

With this, Jarcue slowly increased the speed of the truck. To their amazement, no matter how fast they seemed to go, the Floppit was always out in front as it dodged and weaved. It was more than obvious the Floppit was enjoying the chase. Eventually, Jarcue slowed and began traveling at the normal transfer speed. The Floppit seemed to turn and sit on his hind legs again. It looked at them with a strange expression … if such a creature could have such a thing. Both girls just knew it was wanting to be chased some more … and looked as if it was wondering why the race had ended so abruptly.

Penny commented, “Those are the most cuddly creatures. Their fur looks so soft and colorful.”
Jarcue replied as she turned into the location of Penny’s Claim, “I guess you get to find out, don’t you?”
Penny looks at Jarcue and inquires, “Why do you say that?” Jarcue opens the door to the truck and said as she slid out of the seat, “Seems to me, your plot puts you right in the middle of the crowd.”
Penny got out of the truck and looked around. The area was beautiful beyond description. From the top of the hill where the house was to be positioned slightly below, it dropped off into a large meadow surrounded by forest. A rather large and sparkly creek flowed lazily through the bottom land. Off in the distance, the mountains could be seen awash with the setting sun. Of course, Penny also noticed … besides the one Floppit that had raced them here, many others had gathered to sit on their hind legs and observe the goings on.
Penny helped Jarcue place the housing kit on the side of the hill in the location she thought it would look the best. Jarcue pushed the auto builder’s start button, then, all the fun began. The machine first dug into the side of the hill, storing all the debris for use in the creating of slag-crete before leveling, and placing the foundation modules. Next, a beautiful series of domes took shape and formed like an expanding colander as the machine dug places for them in the side of the hill and set the foundations. There was a large central dome, surrounded by three smaller, but still huge domes, a deck surrounded the whole place made of synthetic wood that was as durable as the slag-crete of the dome. A very high tech Dish System for communications sat slightly off to one side. The last thing the constructor did, was dig, and then place, the pool, Jacuzzi hot tub, and build a fourth small domed enclosure with roof doors that opened and hid away to allow the pool area to be a screen enclosed porch area with a grill and a wet bar. From the higher located jacuzzi, spilled a very large and pleasant waterfall into the large pool below. The whole arrangement looked as if it were a mountain waterfall through the rocks, falling into 2 different pools. The pool filled with water immediately and the jacuzzi came on, bubbling and twirling the water within in its wonderful way, and even enhanced the appearance of the water fall into the pool below. Penny and Jarcue stood with their mouths open in surprise at the beautiful finished home.
Penny opened the homestead folio and dug through the papers for a few seconds, before retrieving one and reading it over.
She said, “I didn’t order this module. It says so right here … that package costs more than I would make in 25 years. I ordered the simple earth meadow cottage and picket fence package.”
She hands the requisition form to Jarcue who laughs as she reads it over, “Well, now, it seems you have the Imperial Palace Module. These things happen from time to time on long colony transports. It’s perfectly ok though, as long as you didn’t get less than you paid for and requested.” Jarcue turns slowly and looks at the Drop Container and its contents, “It appears you have hit the jackpot as far as mistakes are concerned. You have triple the supplies … and this home...”
Penny said, “I … don’t have to pay for this stuff … do I? I could never hope to. Not on what I make with the trip out and the mining consortium’s pay.”
Jarcue hands the requisition form back to Penny, “Nope, but you do have to keep record of everything. Since that’s normal protocol … shouldn’t be an issue.”
Penny asked, “Can you … give me a hand? I have to store all this stuff in the house … and then be at the new diner in town by 1900 hours.”
Jarcue replied, “That’s why I’m here.”
The 2 women unloaded the drop container and arranged the house in quick order. Within the hour, with plenty of time to spare, Penny’s new palace was set up. The women got back into the truck after reattaching the empty Drop Container to the pintle, and proceed back towards “Town”.

Colonists were starting to trickle into what they had started calling “Town” as the sun wandered ever westward towards the horizon.  The drop ship was still very much the focal point, its enormous metal bulk looming over the cluster of prefabricated auto-buildings around it.  Lin and Jarris rode in aboard the hovertruck that had picked up their now-empty storage containers and immediately spotted Phyllisti wandering the “village green,” as people had begun to call it, her binocucam looking into the distance.
“Oh, look out, Phyl,” said Lin, “you’ll bump into something!”
“What?  Is that you, Lin?” said Phyl, turning toward Lin and shouting in surprise as she got a close-up view of Lin’s out-of-focus face.  “Aaa!”
“Oh, sorry,” Lin said, as Jarris tried valiantly not to laugh, a few paces away.  “What are you looking for with that thing, anyway?”
“You haven’t seen them?” Phyl said.  “There are lots of small mammal-like animals checking us out.”  She played back some of her footage and showed Lin and Jarris what she’d seen so far.  “That’s a floppit … and that’s a new one that I’m calling a grassmunk for now … and that’s a three-striped snirrel.  I think they’re curious.”
“I guess the university will want to see those,” said Lin.  They started walking casually toward the restaurant.
“And they will,” said Phyl, “most likely in a couple of hours.  I’ll be uplinking my videos when I get home.  That stuff’s all set up!”
“I haven’t even unpacked my clothes yet,” Lin said.
“Oh, that was the easiest part,” said Phyl.  “They were all organized the same way I organize them all the time.  It’s a system I’ve got.”
“You’re probably used to packing and unpacking for trips,” Jarris said.
“That’s true,” Phyl said, “up to now I’ve been on expeditions to one planet or another, every few weeks, for years now.  But now … it’ll be all one planet.  Still, I’m sure I’ll be traveling all over this one!  I guess the mining company thingie wants me to do some kind of survey of their land.”
“Mining company?” asked Jarris.  “Now, wait a minute.  They’ve got to be careful.  They can’t exactly strip mine.  It’s against the charter.”
“They didn’t say anything about strip mining,” Phyl said.
“Well, there are plenty of much less destructive techniques,” Jarris said.  “Did they say what they were mining for?”
“No,” said Phyl.
“Probably the most profitable thing they can find,” mused Jarris.  “But hey, there’s Penny.  She’s with that mining company.  We can ask her.”
Penny was also walking from the drop ship toward the restaurant.  She smiled and waved when she saw Lin, Jarris, and Phyl.

The people began gathering at the new Diner. Penny had already paid for everything and was setting up the wet bar as more people began showing up. One woman especially came in the door and looked slowly around at the gathering crowd.
There was an air about her that made people notice. She had long blonde hair, a wonderful figure, and seemed to glide when she walked in a wonderfully graceful way. She walked to the bar and seated herself in a very sexy way as she waited for the gathering to become formal.
Penny came to the woman’s side and said in a friendly tone, “Hi, my name’s Penny. I hope you have a very wonderful evening. What’s your name … and where’s your homestead?”
The woman beamed a smile as she said in a musical voice that sent tingles through everyone, “My name’s … Persephone. My homestead is beyond the Crystal Mountains.”
There was a murmur through the crowd.  “Persephone Pandemos,” said Jarris quietly to Lin and Phyl.  “She discovered this planet a few years ago.”
“Oh, I read about her,” Phyl said quietly.  “I guess she must have filed a claim and landed here in her own ship once it was officially opened up for colonization.”
Penny said, “If you would like, could you say something to the newly arrived Colonists?”
Persephone smiled as she replied in her wonderful voice, “I would love to speak to the children. I think … I have a few things to say about the upcoming mining operation. It … doesn’t appear to be following the Colonization Charter of this world.”
“It … what?” Penny asked.  “I am in charge of mining operations, and I fully intend to comply with all laws and regulations, from the charter on down to the Ministry of Labor’s mining rules.”
Phyl and Jarris walked over about that time. Phyl said softly, “I certainly hope it doesn’t cause any ecological damage to this world … I love it as it is.”
“Oh, so do I, dear,” Persephone said, “and if I have anything to say about it, it will always be a beautiful paradise for all of its children, present and future.”  She looked straight at Phyl and smiled lovingly when she said “present.”
Phyl felt a wonderful rush of sensations all through her body as the women’s eyes met. Phyl felt so wonderful for that instant. She knew immediately she liked Persephone … a lot.
“Well it would be a major black eye for the Mining Consortium if we violated the law,” said Penny, “and I don’t intend for that to happen.  Yes, we plan to mine.  But we will follow the environmental guidelines laid out by the charter and galactic law.”
Persephone smiled at Penny.  “You may find that you are not as in charge as you believe yourself to be,” she said.  But then she stood up, and the room automatically became silent, such was her presence within it.
“Welcome, all,” she said, and although her voice didn’t seem any louder, everyone in the entire restaurant could suddenly hear her clearly.  “So many wonderful new faces, and so many beautiful dreams.  When I discovered this world I knew that soon people would be coming here to share in its beauty and wonder.  Now that day has arrived.  Here we all are, and now our stories on this world begin.  Who knows how they will develop?  There is so much possibility in this new beginning.  But as with any beginning, this one has tremendous power to change the ending.  We, today, can choose whether this world will become a garden for tomorrow’s children to play in, or just another cookie-cutter planet like all the rest.  Remember that the pollution of Old Earth’s environment brought about a new cycle of ice ages that may take hundreds of thousands of years to stabilize again.  Let us always think to the future, for ourselves and our children.”
There was a swell of applause.  “I’m so glad you discovered this planet,” Phyl said to her quietly.  “Of course, it can’t always be a paradise for little kids, not everywhere -- there are some dangerous predators; every biosphere has a food web.”
“I wonder what a planet with no predators would look like?” Persephone said to Phyl with eyes wide open.  “Do you think that there could ever be a stable child-friendly environment like that?”
“Well, I …” Phyl said, “I never thought about that before.  I guess the larger species would have to eat a lot more plants … and don’t forget insects, plankton, and algae …”  She appeared lost in thought.
 Phyl still felt the tingle in her body from looking into Persephone’s deep blue eyes. There was absolutely something about her … aura, that made everyone take notice and Phyl definitely noticed.
Persephone gracefully glided across the room next to Phyl and said in her wonderful cooing voice, “My, you are such a pretty little girl.” then reached out and caressed her cheek lovingly.
Phyl felt something deep within her respond. She shivered as large goose flesh rose all over her skin. At this instant, Phyl loved Aunti Persephone dearly.
Phyl said in a small, shy, stuttering way, “I … I’m … a professor … at … at the …”
Persephone giggled, “At the University … yes, I know. And you are to be an advisor to the Mining Consortium’s representative … isn’t that correct, snuggle bug?”
Phyl nodded, and said in a small voice,“Unngh Huh.”
Persephone smiled a wonderful smile as she patted Phyl on her head like a small child, “If you need to talk to someone … about … problems? I’m available at all hours.”
Phyl was speechless as she watched Persephone gracefully walk off and seat herself next to Penny … and begin what appeared to be a very intense conversation. Phyl felt … like a little girl once again. It was refreshing and seriously distracting.

“Phyl?” asked Lin.  “Are you OK?”
“I … um, yes!” Phyl said, feeling a rush of emotions she didn’t understand.  “I’m fine.  Miss Persephone is certainly an … interesting person isn’t she?”
“She certainly seems to be,” Lin said.  “Very engaging personality, and quite beautiful.  I’d love to paint her portrait.  In fact, it might be a good idea -- since she discovered the planet, there should be some sort of portrait somewhere, for history.”
“Err … yes, that’s probably a good idea!” said Phyl.  “If you’ll excuse me for a moment …”  She edged away.
“That was a bit odd,” said Lin.
“What now?” Jarris asked.
“Oh, that explains it,” Lin said, seeing Phyl heading for the ladies’ room.  “Have you tried the cheese stuffed pizza rolls?”
“These can’t be locally sourced, not so soon,” Jarris said, picking one up from a tray.
“No, they must be from the ship,” said Lin.  “Stasis-frozen.”
“Do you think … that the Mining Consortium really plans to violate the Charter?” Jarris asked.
“Not if Penny has anything to say about it,” Lin answered.  “She seems pretty adamant about sticking to the law.”
“What I worry about,” said Jarris, “is that she might not have anything to say about it.”

Penny smiles at Persephone and says softly, “Now, what makes you think the mining operation is in violation of the Planetary Charter?”
Persephone reached over and placed a memory module next to Penny and said, “I think you’ll find this to be … quite enlightening.” Penny picks up the module as she brought out her multi-comm, “I also think you will find it interesting who is to take the blame if … things do go wrong.”
Penny inserts the module into her multi-comm and turned it on. Immediately, large red letters that read, “Eyes Only - Top Secret Clearance Required. Unlawful possession of this data punishable by sterilization” flashed to the screen.
Penny’s eyes get big in surprise as she says with slight anger, “How did you manage to get this? It has a death seal on it.”
Persephone reached over and pushed the continue button as she said softly, “Look at the data sweetheart, what they are planning to do to the valley … and to most of this planet … would render it mostly a desert wasteland.”
Penny read the data over. She couldn’t believe what it had to say. She was not in charge in any way except as a scapegoat for the repercussions of what they had intended to do.
The data clearly outlined the use of WMD explosions to quickly and cheaply remove the Crystals from the valley. This method was usually only used on uninhabitable worlds that were too hot, cold, or dry for human life.  She knew that terraforming after such techniques was usually considered unattainable, although, with off-world support, the planet’s biosphere could be cleaned enough to sustain human life, but it would take over 1000 years, even if someone decided to put forth the necessary effort and expense..
Penny laughs, “And who is this … data supposed to be for? I don’t see any authorization codes or references to anyone except … me.”
Persephone placed a strawberry pink comm unit in front of Penny, “I think you might need this … later. I also think you need to take more heed to that data, “  Persephone points to Penny’s multi-comm.
Penny took the module from her multi-comm as Persephone gracefully stood and walked off. Penny could actually feel Persephone’s aura slowly fade as distance increased. Penny shivers as she looks over the pink comm unit.

As Phyl entered the ladies’ room, she kept going over what had happened in her mind.  She couldn’t understand it.  She had suddenly realized that she had started leaking into her underwear.  But now … it was difficult to think when exactly it had happened.  Had it been when Persephone touched her cheek?  She definitely remembered her doing that.  Or was it later, when talking to Lin?
Anyway, she had to do something about it.  Luckily they had these super-quick hand driers.  She quickly hopped into a stall and took her shorts off, removing her panties.  Her shorts didn’t seem too badly off, so she put them back on temporarily, and now … Darn!  Someone else came into the bathroom.  They took another stall next to her.  She quickly went to the sink and rinsed her panties out, wringing the excess water out as fast as she could, then held them under the drier -- normally it could dry one’s hands in seconds, but it took a bit longer for this.  She hoped whoever was in the stall there took her time …
OK, good enough, back into the stall, and she quickly pulled her shorts off again, put the underpants back on, and the shorts again … done!  The panties felt a bit cool still, as if slightly damp, but at least now it was just water, and only a little.
She calmly walked back out.  Now that the crisis was over, she thought back again.  Had it been when Persephone had touched her?  It certainly hadn’t been any earlier than that … wait, what was this in her pocket?  It looked like some sort of comm unit, pink in color.  Definitely not hers.  Whose was it?  How had it gotten there?  She looked at it.  Turning it on, she found several apps on it -- communication ones of course, and some games.  Some kind of baby care app too, to record when baby slept or ate or had diaper changes.  This must belong to a parent, she thought.  She touched one of the games, and it started up -- it was something for small children, involving matching shapes and colors.  It should not have interested someone of Phyl’s age and intelligence … but for some reason she found it addictively fascinating.
She matched a blue sphere to another one like it.
“Hey … Phyl?”
“Oh!  Gosh I’m sorry, Lin!” Phyl said.  “I was just … checking … my messages …”
“Uh, OK,” said Lin.  “I was just wondering whether you wanted to come sit at our table.”
“Oh!  Sure!  That would be great!  Thank you!”  She went with Lin to the table that she was sharing with Jarris.  There was extra space, though.
As soon as she sat down she realized two things.  First of all, her panties felt wrong, thicker, as if somehow they had swelled up and become more bulky.
Second … they were wet again.

Penny looked over the other documents stored on the memory chip. She saw the specifications for the mining equipment stored in the hold of the drop ship. Now she understood what the intense security was for around those large yellow and red striped drop containers. Those contained the WMD explosives.
She brought up the yield maps and the dispersion factors for the valley. From this data … if she was the one supposedly in charge …
Penny stood up and gasped, “No!”
The room became silent as all eyes turned to her. Penny saw Persephone turn and look over her shoulder and smile before she walked out the door. Slowly, as Penny stood with wide eyed shock and stared at the place Persephone had been, the people began to chat and enjoy themselves as the noise level rose once again.
Penny was very worried all through the rest of the Drop Party. The rest of the colonists became enthralled by the many types of creatures that glowed varied and beautiful colors in the night. Off in the far distance near the river, another sparkling glow lit the night sky.
Jarris said, “OMG, they are so beautiful!”
A murmur of agreement rippled through the crowd as everyone came out into the night to watch the glorious light show put on by their new home.
Penny, on the other hand, worried hard over what she had just learned. She also discovered that her new assistant … wasn't actually her assistant. Denesca Tramnz. was actually the person in charge of mining operations Consortium wide, and Penny … was just the fall person to take the blame after the operation had completed.
“Phyl, what kind of creatures are those?” asked Lin.
“Huh?  What?” Phyllisti said, looking up suddenly, as if distracted.
“In the air,” said Lin.  “They glow.”
“Oh -- those right there are airyfish.  Like jellyfish but in the air.  That’s what someone called them, anyway.”
“What about those over there?”  Lin said, pointing to some balloon-like floating creatures.
“They call those balluminaries,” Phyl said.
“What makes them light up?”
“We don’t know yet,” said Phyl.  “They glow for a while after sunset, then go dim, so maybe they absorb energy from sunlight somehow and then emit it back.  The data shows that their spectrum is somewhat similar to that emitted by Omicron Crystals.”
“Those things they use to fuel starships?” asked Lin.
“Yeah.”  Phyl looked down again.
“Phyl … is something wrong?” Lin asked, concerned.  “You seem … oddly reserved.”
“I … well … it’s a private thing.  I … I’d explain if we were in private.”
“Oh …” Lin said.  “Well, are you going to be OK?  Do you want to go home?”
“That might be good … Actually I think that’s what I’m going to do.  But Lin!  Please, anytime you want to come by, just do.”
“Sure!  I want to see your claim.  Oh, and you’re welcome at my place anytime too.  Give me a call.”  Lin took out her multicom and tapped what she assumed was Phyl’s pink comm with it.  Both comms beeped simultaneously.  “There, now you have my number.  OK?”
“Thanks Lin!” Phyl said, then suddenly hugged her.  “Thank you so much for being my friend!” she effused.
Lin hugged back, laughing just a bit.  “Oh, Phyl, thank you for being my friend too!  I’m glad we met.  I’ll see you soon.  And please call me later, just to let me know you’re OK … OK?”
“I will,” Phyl said.  “Bye, Lin!  Bye, Jarris!”  She waved at the two of them, then went off to find a shuttle to take her back to her house.  She wanted to make a stop at the general store first, though.  It looked like there was something she was going to need.

~~End - Pt2~~

~~Dawn of Infantus - Pt3~~
“OK, Ms. Scapes, have a good evening,” said Ensign Jarcue, stopping the groundcar outside Phyl’s house.  “Oh, hey, what’s that?” she asked, looking out over the lands of Phyl’s claim.  Some distance away to the west, the land dropped down over a cliff or bluff, and the flat, grass-covered lands below were lit with an eerie blue-white light; the source of this light wasn’t visible from where they were.
“That’s very strange,” Phyl said.  “I don’t know.  I’ll have to check it out.  There’s something I have to do first inside, though.  Little girls’ room.”  She blushed a bit.
“Oh, of course,” said Jarcue.  “Well, I’ll head back to town, then.  Have a good evening!”  Phyl waved, and Jarcue drove off.
Phyl hurried into her house, and the first thing she did was indeed go into the bathroom.  Removing her shorts, she found out that she was indeed wearing different panties -- and this was impossible, because she’d put on her own underwear, and it had somehow changed into … these.  They were some kind of absorbent underwear that looked like little kids’ pull-on training panties, with colorful pastel patterns printed on them -- flowers, balloons, blocks, dolls, and other toys.  They were, in fact, exactly what she had bought at the general store on the way home.  
And those circumstances had been pretty strange too.  She’d looked around the aisles, seeing all kinds of common supplies, like basic tools, staple foods, basic clothing items like socks and underwear, basic toiletries like soap, shampoo, anti-perspirant, and baby powder … and here they were, products for incontinence, both child and adult.  What was used for both baby diapers and adult incontinence underwear was quite advanced compared to ancient Earth products; they were designed to work with the sonic-electric laundry machines that were nearly universal these days.  Electrochemical reactions inside the absorbent pads were quickly reversible by the energy used to clean clothes, releasing the trapped waste materials for easy disposal and recycling into their component organic molecules.  But … what Phyl had noticed was that the products for both babies and adults were exactly the same, only different in size.  Both were made by the same company, Babies of All Ages.  But … the pictures on the packages of adult sized products looked exactly like larger versions of the baby products, both the diapers and the training panties.
She had picked up a package of the training panties, and, on an impulse that made her blush, a package of the diapers as well, because she thought they looked cute.  She didn’t have to face the embarrassment of holding these up for a cashier to ring up at a register; the system automatically scanned them and her ID and deducted the prices from her account as she walked out the door.
But now she was confused.  It made no sense -- how could she have been wearing a pair of training panties from this package before she’d bought them?  And how could it have gotten on her without her noticing?
Suddenly she noticed herself wetting her training panties again, and she squeaked and put her hands to her warming crotch in a vain attempt to stop herself.  When she seemed to have finished, she took her panties off, cleaned herself up with a cloth, and opened the package to get a dry pair, which she put on.  She sighed.  She hadn’t had problems like this since before she was a teenager.  And she was upset and embarrassed on one hand, but also … a bit giggly, as if these incidents were awakening her childlike side.
This wasn’t the last surprise Phyl encountered that evening.  Exiting the bathroom, she suddenly realized that there were several large boxes that hadn’t been there before -- she probably hadn’t noticed them on the way into the bathroom because of being in such a hurry to get out of those wet panties, which she dropped in the laundry hopper.  But where had they come from?  They hadn’t been there earlier in the day.  She opened one up.
The box contained several one-piece garments that were like T-shirts with short sleeves, only long enough to snap together in the crotch … and they had a lot of room around the seat, as if they were made to accommodate those diapers she’d bought.  These onesies, for want of a better word, were many different colors and patterns, some decorated with lace and frills, some with nursery-type prints, some just solid colors.
Another box contained pajamas, one-piece ones, with feet attached and some very cute 2 piece ones with bloomer bottoms.  Another had casual but very childlike outfits, like jumper dresses, cute lacy rompers, plastic lined rumba panties in many colors and lots of ruffles, playsuits with adorable bottoms, and overalls.  Another had very short and lacy party dresses.  Phyl was simultaneously enchanted and confused.  Who had sent these?  And how?
She had a suspicion.  She went to her house’s computer and did a search on Persephone Pandemos and Babies of All Ages.  Sure enough … Persephone Pandemos was in fact the president, owner, and CEO of Babies of All Ages, Inc., a galaxy-wide corporation that produced baby care products and operated highly-respected daycare centers for the children of almost every colonized planet.  So … Persephone had probably sent the clothes.  It wasn’t surprising that her company’s products were in the general store of the planet she’d discovered.  What was her deal?  Phyl didn’t know.  But … she really hadn’t felt any threatening vibes from Persephone.  She’d really gotten the impression that Persephone had been trying to be helpful.
Thinking about Persephone almost took Phyl’s breath away, in fact.  Phyl wasn’t a lesbian, though she’d had a few experiences with both sexes -- she figured she was probably bi, but in reality she was so focused on her work most of the time that she didn’t have much time for relationships or even one-night stands.  But the feelings she had when she thought of Persephone weren’t like that.  They were feelings of … safety, like what she felt when she went home to see her family.  No … specifically they were like what she felt around her mother.  No again … they were like what she had felt when she had been around her mother as a little girl. Phyl thought to herself that this little girl loves Aunti a whoooollleee lot.
The same feelings washed over her when she looked at the clothes that Persephone had almost certainly sent.  She picked up a pink and white onesie and held it up.  It was just the right size.  Impulsively she took off her shirt and put the onesie on.  Then she found a very short baby pink strapped jumper dress, and put that on too.  She felt energized, like a little kid on Christmas morning.  She put her tennis shoes on … she wanted to run around and play outside, even though it was dark.  Nobody could tell her not to!
And that was when she got the third surprise of the evening.  She ran out into her backyard and saw the land below the cliff glowing, lighting up the air.  The light must be coming from beneath the cliff, from the rock face that she couldn’t see from her house.  There must be an answer to it.  But it was a long way away … oh yes, she had a hoverscooter.  She found it and unpacked it, and picked her way along the edge of the cliff until she found a less precarious way down.  She rode downward at an angle where it was less steep, then, once she had reached the lower plain, rode back toward the glowing light.
Crystals.  There was a huge, perfect wall of glowing crystals beneath the cliff.  Brilliant blue-white light bathed the grass and flowers for miles, reaching nearly down to the river that passed through her land.  There were many floaty pie type glowing creatures all around the river habitat. She stopped her scooter and stared, open-mouthed at the beautiful natural wonder.
This was the most visually stunning sight she’d seen on this planet so far.  The child in her was just saying, “Wow.”  But the adult side of her mind was certain that these were Omicron Crystals.  Huge ones.  Naturally occurring.  They had no doubt absorbed the light of the sun, and now that the sun had set they were re-emitting it.  It was this property that made them so sought-after for powering starships: they could absorb and store a vast amount of energy and release it later.  She’d read that they could actually release more energy than they ever absorbed, but that sounded impossible, and she had no idea how it worked, but it was no wonder they were so valuable.
The adult side of her mind also knew that the Mining Consortium was almost certainly here for crystals like these.

Penny managed to stay at the Drop Party long enough that she could make a graceful exit. She stood near one of the entrances to the huge Drop Ship and contemplated her next move. She was astounded to discover all the codes and access passes listed in the data Persephone had given her, proved to be right on cue. If only one digit had been off, the whole security section would have been on her in an instant.
She came to the high security ordinance section and punched in the code. The red Locked indication extinguished just as there was a loud clanking noise. The green Open light came on and the door slid open with an airy whoosh.
Penny walked in, the lights in the huge storage bay turned on. Penny’s eyes grew large with shock as she recognized the many banned Hades type explosives neatly stored in the racks. Penny couldn’t believe what she saw. There was enough ordinance in this one weapon’s bay to wipe out most of the planet’s life forms.
Penny walked to the nearest access terminal and typed in the clearance code, the system immediately came up. The data Penny saw was exactly the same as the data Persephone had given her on the memory module. How in the cosmos she had managed to get it was a true mystery … but the real problem was … it not only was true, but Phyl would also be on the hook as an accomplice when the plan had reached fruition and the crystals had been physically blown from the planet, rendering much of its surface uninhabitable for many centuries.
Penny shook her head slowly as she turned on her multi-comm and made a call. She was going to make sure as many people as she could … received this data. The green … sent light illuminated as a smile crossed Penny’s face.

Lin had been attracting a bit of an audience as she used the holopainting feature of her multicom to create a three-dimensional image of the luminescent creatures floating above the town.  She smiled as people walked around the image in awe to see her magnificent work from different angles.  Jarris stood back and watched, amazed at his friend’s skill.  His multicom chirped, indicating that he had gotten a message, but he would check it out later.

Phyl got back to her house and found that she had a message on her phone -- not the mysterious pink one she’d found in her pocket, but her actual phone.  It was from Penny -- and its contents filled her with horror.  After what she’d just discovered, she’d suspected that someone would probably want to mine this planet’s wealth -- but to learn that plans were already in motion not just to mine it, but to despoil the planet unnecessarily, that was just completely and totally mad.  Penny’s own company was going behind her back … but what could she do?  How could she help? … Phyl knew one thing that could help, though.  That information had to get out.  If the Mining Consortium did this, they would be violating the very charter that allowed them to be here at all.  She forwarded the information to her contacts at the University, in the Galactic Press Syndicate, and in the Interstellar Colonization Authority.
And she sent a message back to Penny.  It said:
“The data flows.  Be careful.”

The Interstellar Colonization Authority held an emergency meeting at the highest level. The many members gathered in the chambers in preparation for a meeting that had a priority never before signaled.
The Chairman stood and banged the gavel twice … then brought the meeting to order with a ringing of the bell. “If I might have your attention please.” the loud murmuring quieted, “Some … devastating data has just come to our attention that needs our immediate responses …”

Penny looks up just as she heard a noise. A security guard stood a few feet from her with his blaster drawn and pointed directly at her head. He says menacingly in a deep growl, “Aww right there you! Stand fast or I’ll turn ya inta bloody chunks.”
Penny stood slowly and raised her hands … after sending the data, a snapshot of this, and the sound bytes along with it to everyone on the call list. She might have gotten caught … but the whole colony will know why.
Every Colonist began receiving a priority comm. It caused their multi-comms to vibrate, beep, and flash red on the screens. The colonists realized after looking over the transmission, that not only were their lives at stake in all this … but the very planet their new claims resided on as well. Another thing … that wonderfully nice woman … Penny … was in serious trouble too. The colonists began to assemble and angrily voice their concerns outside the Drop Ship’s main hangar.

A spinning red “INCOMING PRIORITY MESSAGE FROM: PENNY KNEECE” signal appeared around Lin’s holopainting.  “What?  What’s wrong, Penny?” said Lin.  She reached down and pressed a virtual button.  The message changed to say “HOLOIMAGE SAVED” for a moment, then the image shifted to show a fully three-dimensional scene of Penny being threatened and abused by armed guards.  “Oh no!” said Lin.  The onlookers gasped and began to murmur among themselves.
“Looks like the Mining Consortium was keeping a big secret, even from Penny, and she found it out,” said Jarris.  “It also looks like she sent it to everyone -- I have a copy.  I’ll bet you all do too,” he said to the crowd of spectators, who all started checking their comms, multicoms, and various other devices.  Shortly, their murmuring started to sound ominous … and angry.

“Are you sure this is for real?” asked Simins Jasco, reporter for the Galactic Press Syndicate, aboard the small news runabout Poor Richard.  “I mean, if the Consortium did this, think of the fines they’d face, the public backlash … whatever they managed to mine, they could only sell it on the black market.  It would be a total bonehead maneuver.”
“You’re our closest ship to that planet,” said his editor, Telva Orissina.  “Your story about the pirate sympathizers can wait.  Get to Iota-95 now.  This is big, and it’s breaking.”
“Well, you heard the lady,” said Simins to his crew -- one camera operator and one tech, who also piloted the ship.  “Looks like we’ve got a detour.”  Turning back toward the image of his boss, he said, “We’re on our way.  And actually … I think you’re right.  If the Consortium is really making plans to break the law this badly, it’s big.  I’ll get there in … how long is it gonna take, Mina?”
“About two hours at max speed, I think …”
“... two hours, and I’ll have a preliminary report going out 10 minutes after that.”
“Excellent,” said Telva.  “Go get ’em, Simins.  But be careful.  Freedom of the press and all that, but they do have guns.”
“I’ve gotten into worse scrapes, and I’m still here.  I’m not the reckless type.”  He smiled.  “Don’t worry, you’ll be seeing lots more of my pretty face.”
“Go do your homework, you rogue,” she said, grinning.  “I’ve got a lot more calls to make.  Orissina out.”
Jasco started bringing up data about the Mining Consortium, the planet Iota-95 Chamaeleontis, and their respective histories as the ship sped through the night of space.

Several more security guards arrived. Without a word, one of them came to Penny and manhandled her to the floor on her stomach. He nearly twisted her shoulder from its joint as he cuffed her brutally hard, before yanking her up by the cuff chain, causing her more excruciating pain.
One of the guards was in her face as he snapped, “And just who in the seven hells do you think you are … and what are you doing in a Consortium High Security area?”
Penny spat on the man’s face then said in a growl, “I’m Penny Kneece … Head of the Mining operation here on Iota-95. Just what do you think you’re doing? You are in violation of many Universal laws … including transport of highly dangerous and banned WMD explosives.”
Denesca Tramnz came through the hatch about that time in an arrogant swagger. She walked up to Penny as the guard wiped his face. She said, “So, the fly turns out to have a sting. And you thought you are in charge? How could a moron like you be in charge of … anything?”
Everyone laughed as Penny squirmed to get free of the cuffs. They were cutting into her wrists by this time and she was starting to bleed slightly from the abrasions.

“Penny’s in trouble in there!” said Lin, as she and Jarris hurried toward the drop ship.  A crowd already surrounded it.
“But where?” Jarris asked.  “It’s not as big as the Outward, but it’s still pretty big.”
“Let Penny go!” shouted another colonist.  The shout became a chant.  “Let Penny go!  Let Penny go!  Let Penny go!”
“This is starting to get ugly,” Lin said, having to raise her voice so Jarris could even hear her.
“Look, it’s Ensign Jarcue,” said Jarris.  Indeed, Ensign Tair Jarcue had emerged from the drop ship at the top of the boarding stairs, which were retracted, carrying a loudspeaker.
“Everyone, please, can I have your attention?” said Jarcue.  “Your attention please.  The crew of the Outward is aware of the situation and is concerned about the welfare of Ms. Kneece as well, and we’re trying to find her.  As you know, we’re not under the control of the Consortium; we’re operated by the Colonization Authority.  And as you also know, if there is criminal activity occurring, we are currently the planet’s law enforcement authority.  We’re searching the drop ship right now.  Unfortunately, although we received the same transmission that you all did, it was only a few seconds in duration, and although we found out where it took place, that took time, and in that time they apparently took Ms. Kneece somewhere else.”
Just then there was a noise in the distance -- the noise of one of the cargo bays opening, followed by the sound of a small spacecraft taking off.  Soon everyone could see it as it accelerated into the sky.  Jarcue was already on her comm, and soon she said through her loudspeaker, “OK, everyone, we don’t know for a fact that Ms. Kneece is aboard that launch, but circumstances do indicate that it’s a craft of interest, and fighters have been launched from the Outward to intercept it.”
“No, poor Penny,” said Lin.  “Where would they be taking her?”
“To a Consortium ship, or base, somewhere,” said Jarris.
Gliding up on her hoverscooter, Phyl spotted Lin and Jarris on the edge of the crowd and stopped near them.  “Lin!  Jarris!  I heard about Penny!”
They of course noticed that Phyl was dressed like a three-year-old, but that was hardly important right now.  “We think the Consortium people took her away on a little spaceship,” said Lin.  “It sounds like the Authority’s trying to chase it down.”
“Omicron Crystals,” said Phyl, “that’s what they want.  This planet is full of them, and I’ve seen them.  There are some really big ones on my claim, and probably just about everywhere else too. There’s an entire cliff face of nothing but crystals. This planet has a large, naturally occurring abundance of Omicron Crystals not found anywhere else … I’m sure of it. ”
“But what I can’t figure out,” said Jarris, “is how they plan to make money on this now.  I mean, they could have just mined the crystals the legal way, like Penny wanted.  It wouldn’t have cost them that much more.  Did they think that they could have gotten away with it?  They’d have been fugitives -- a pariah company, not allowed to do business anywhere in Commonwealth space.  That could yet happen to them.  They think they can make more money on the black market, on the fringes of the economy?”
“I don’t know about the economy,” said Phyl, “but I hope they can get Penny back in one piece!”

In the meeting chambers of the Colonization Authority the debate was heating up.  “The Consortium has obviously shown blatant contempt for the charter they signed and for the regulations of this organization,” said the chairman.  “Violation of the charter means they must withdraw from the planet, having forfeited the right to any resources there.  It is right there, in the charter, in black and white.”
“However, they have not done any such thing,” said Marfield Ulion, one of the younger and newer appointees to the Authority’s steering committee.  “All they’re obviously guilty of is possessing some powerful weaponry, which is illegal, but not specifically a violation of the colonization charter -- they could be fined, yes, if they were found guilty of the charge, which they have not as yet -- but they have not broken the terms of the charter.”
“Indeed, Mr. Ulion,” said the chairman, “but I’m just getting word that they have now forcibly kidnapped one of their own employees and absconded with her off-world.  I’m sure you’ll be the first to state that this isn’t a violation of the charter either, and you’d be right, but their offenses are only stacking up higher and higher.  They brought those illegal weapons-grade explosives to Iota-95 for a reason, certainly -- they didn’t bring them to use as fireworks, did they?  How long do you suppose it will be before they start mining with them?  And once they do, the planet’ll be a write-off.  We can’t allow them to possess those devices.”
“But --” Ulion began.
“But nothing,” the chairman interrupted.  “You know the regulations.  The Consortium’s been accused of possessing those devices, and that means their mining activities are suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.  You’ll be happy to hear, I’m sure, that the Consortium’s explosives are going to be confiscated as evidence, safeguarding Iota-95’s environment and future.”
An imposing man dressed impeccably in an extremely expensive suit entered the chambers. He carried what was obviously a portable real time comm unit that operated FTL with no lag in transmissions using bonded pair technology. He stood at the petitioner's podium and requested an immediate audience with the council.
The Chairman said formally, “The council recognizes the Galactic Mining Consortium’s legal representative, Mr. Fonsworth of Tau Ceti Prime.”

The man sat his case on a table, opened the top like a medium sized laptop, and turned it on. Real time images of the area around the Outward’s drop ship at Drop Point Sigma appeared. It showed what seemed to be a very large riot surrounding the ship. The images weren’t very clear, but were clear enough to show a huge, very disgruntled crowd surrounding the small crew that seemed to be defending the drop ship.
The man said, “Distinguished members of the Colonization Authority, Mr. Chairman … I bring grave news.” The images slowly rotated showing many places where it seemed the colonials were becoming violent. A murmur rose softly though the gathered dignitaries. The images were taken from long range scans and could be deceiving, but what they showed was very alarming. He continued after a strategic pause for effect, “I propose a Colonial Emergency ... Level 2 … armed insurrection on the part of Colonials gone rogue. I offer as evidence and proof of my charges this real time view of what is currently transpiring on the planet’s surface. I also submit that no mining operation using banned explosives has been authorized, implemented, or put into place by the Mining Consortium. The loading of the explosives was signed off by one Penelope Kneece … Director of Colonial Mining Operations.” The man showed the document on the overhead holo.
The chamber erupted with many loud voices all talking and yelling at the same time.
The Chairman began banging his gavel and shouting, “Order … Order in the Council Chamber.” There seemed to be no regard for the call to order as the arguments became louder and more heated. The Chairman frowned as he pushed a small toggle on the handle of the gavel and slammed it to the podium once again. This time, it sounded as if a bomb had gone off amid many pyrotechnical showers of energy. The Chairman said once again, “There will be order in this Chamber, or I will have all of you placed in pain generators for the next hour! Am I clear?”
Silence reigned. No Chairman had invoked that authority in a century or so, and none wanted to taste the chamber for being disobedient to the Chairman’s call to order.
The Chairman looked at the man and said tersely, “Mr. Fonsworth, after review of the data we received … and from what I understand, most of the Known Universe as well, it would appear this is an attempt by the Colonials to protect, not only the Colonist’s Originator's Claims on Iota-95, but are attempting to stop planetary genocide by your company using banned WMD weapons. The mining method suggested by the data is only used for uninhabited and un-terraformable planets and planetoids at best.  I don’t see how the name of the employee who signed off on the order is material in this case -- she is still an employee of your company, and you have as much as admitted that the explosive devices in question exist and are present on Iota-95. I don’t quite see how this can be classified as an armed insurrection. Furthermore, we can clearly see that the Mining concern is more interested in money than keeping to the charter.”
Mr. Fonsworth smirked as he displayed another document in the holo projection, “According to this, evidence has been provided that there is a major uprising on a newly occupied world by the colonists. I am in the authority and represent the mining conglomerate … they deny any and all complicity to this and lay the entire responsibility on Ms. Kneece, who is clearly the one responsible for the mining on Iota-95. Therefore, under section 098725732, subsection 4, article 3, paragraph 124 … I am calling for a Quell action to completely resolve this issue so our investigation can continue …”

Poor Richard fired its braking thruster at full power to slow their approach to low orbit. They were coming in hot and dirty to what had just been formally declared a war zone by the Colonization Authority -- the Mining Consortium wasn’t the only organization that had instantaneous communication, and the Press Syndicate had reporters covering the Colonization Authority beat most of the time.  Once it neared the planet, the ship’s sensors could plainly see all the many armed fighters swarming around in high orbit.
Simins said as he patted Mina on the back, “Good job there, pilot. I think I’ll bring you along next time too.”
Mina giggled, “Thanks boss. I think you’ll wet your panties over this.”
On the comm screen appeared a close orbit scan of the area surrounding Colonial Drop Point Sigma. It did indeed appear that a war was in progress. What they didn’t know was that the colonists were merely demonstrating, being rowdy and loudly voicing their displeasure with the mining consortium. The crew members of the dropship were in no danger from them, and the large majority were not actually being violent, just vociferous. As in all large gatherings of this type, filled with strong emotions and anger, there were incidences of violence. Those would have to be sorted out later after heads had cooled and civilized reasoning was once again in control.

From a low sync orbit scan of 22,500 miles … it appeared as if the whole crowd were fighting. These images were FTL transmitted to all who had receivers and were watching along with Galactic Press Syndicate’s Ace Reporter, Simins Jasco’s live Top of the Wave News Report.

~~ End - Pt3 ~~

~~ Dawn of Infantus - Pt4 ~~

Bridge - 6th Fleet - Super Dreadnaught Helios - comm section - operator Ensen Jakobs on staff

An emergency comm light began to flash red. This was the war channel, and Ensen jumped to attention as he put the ear bud in his ear.
He pushed the active button and said, “Comm officer Jakobs, this is The SD Warship Helios, 6th fleet, How may I serve?”
The next thing that came through, scared the young man to his soul. It was the full authorization to stop a planetary insurrection on Iota-95 by all means possible. The order was a full Quell that basically gave the 6th fleet permission to eradicate all life on the planet with full plasma warhead bombardment without remorse.

Denesca Tramnz sat and smirked at the now very battered, bruised, and bleeding Penny Kneece. Denesca said in an arrogant tone, “Now, you insignificant moron, think about what you have done … and what the procedures to deal with it are.” Denesca stood and walked to a counter and poured herself a large drink, “The Colonization Authority will receive a demand for a declaration of a level 2 Colonial Armed Insurrection Emergency.” she sips at her drink for a second, “This in turn … since the Mining Consortium has not done … or even implemented any of the things on the stolen data you transmitted, causes a Quell order to be granted. This means … that thanks to you, the surface of the planet will be massively bombarded with plasma warheads, mining the crystals for us … and removing everyone who might be an eyewitness from the land of the living along with the physical evidence. The Hades warheads will go up along with the drop ship. Once you are flushed to space, without a suit of course, this leaves the Consortium with some stupid questions to answer, and small fines to pay. Most of the blame will have to be assigned to you, since you are officially the Head of the Colonial Mining Operation, and therefore, this is your plan. That was the easiest part, showing how you went rogue and caused all this trouble. Remember all those papers you signed before loading into the Colonial Transport? You should have at least … scanned them a bit first.” Denesca snorts a laugh, “And think about it, all those pentaplex trillions of credits in already mined Omega Crystals are ours to harvest on a dead and barren world at practically no cost. Neat plan … No?”

Denesca takes another dainty sip of her drink as she smiles broadly at Penny, who struggled vainly against the high tech bonds holding her.

From her Mystical Sanctum, Persephone watched all this in her magic mirror as she lounged on a conjured cloud bed. All the loving and nurturing lessons she had been taught by her mother, Aphrodite … the goddess of Love, became overshadowed by the temperament inherited from her father, Aries … the god of War. An emotion boiled up in her heart she hadn’t allowed freedom for many, many centuries … the blue flame of total anger grew into a raging inferno of wrath over the arrogance and audacity of Mortals. They actually thought something a trivial as this would change one squiggle of the Originator's Charter. No Mortal had the right … or the ability to bring harm to her chosen children nor their magical playground … Infantus. She was totally adamant about that.

“We have to get down there,” said Jasco.  “This doesn’t make any sense.  We need to know the truth.  And we need better footage than what we can get from up here -- some face-to-face interviews too, if we can manage it.  Mina, can we find somewhere to land where we won’t get shot down by all that ordnance that’s being flown into orbit?”
“Well seeing as how it’s now the middle of the night, that makes things a bit easier.  I think there’s some weather moving in too.”  Mina brought up an image of the terrain, pointing at a valley that happened to be on Lin’s claim, though she didn’t know this.  “According to ground scans … if we set down around here, we shouldn’t have to go more than a mile along the ground before we get to the Drop Point Sigma area.”
“Great -- can you do it?”
“In my sleep.  Come on, Boss, give me a real challenge one of these times.”
“Maybe next time,” Jasco said.  “Let’s do this.”
So as night fell, the wind started to rise, and the rain started to fall, the Poor Richard smoothly landed in a valley on the planet Iota-95 Chamaeleontis, among the trees, and Jasco and his cameraman Wilf got out, taking out collapsible hoverscooters to help them quickly cover the distance to the drop point.
After about half a mile the rain started to pour down.  “I really should have grabbed the all-weather gear,” said Jasco.
“There’s a house,” said Wilf, pointing at a dome.  There were lights on inside.  “Someone’s home.  If they’re neighborly, we could get our bearings and go back to get it.”
“Probably one of the colonists,” Jasco said.  “Couldn’t hurt.  The only people they’re mad at are the Mining Consortium, and as far as I know nobody from the press is here except us yet.”
“OK, then,” Wilf said, and they drove over to the house’s door and rang the bell -- a button next to a small monitor of the sort found on most homes throughout colonized space.
“Hello?” said a dark-haired woman, whose face appeared on the monitor.  “Who is it?”
“Hello, Ma’am,” Jasco said.  “I’m Simins Jasco, from the Galactic Press Syndicate -- we’re covering a story on this planet and, wait a minute, are you Lin Chase?”
“Well hello, Mr. Jasco,” said Lin.  “You’re soaking wet.  Why don’t you and Wilf come in from the rain?  I’ll get you some towels.”  The door opened.

“... so once Ensign Jarcue let us know that Penny had been captured by the Consortium people and they’d dispatched fighters to try to intercept, well, I wasn’t happy, but it was out of my hands at that point,” said Lin, “so I came home to wait for further news.  The weather report was saying that some rain was going to blow in anyway.”
“So no one was getting violent or attacking anyone?” asked Jasco, as Wilf kept his cameras rolling.
“Not really,” Lin said.  “There was a lot of shouting and some pushing and shoving, but no one had any weapons.  I imagine this rain’s going to do a pretty good job of dispersing the crowd, too.”
“Were you aware that the Consortium’s been pressuring the Colonization Authority to declare this an armed uprising?”
“What?  Those scoundrels -- they’re worse than I’d ever thought they were.”  Lin frowned.  “And Penny seemed so nice.”
“Penny Kneece?” Jasco said.  “The Consortium claims that she’s the one who signed off on the order to use illegal explosives to mine here.”
“I’m sorry, but that’s just impossible.  She’s not only not that sort of person -- she was also genuinely surprised in the footage she sent out, before she was stopped.”
“I’ve seen it,” Jasco said, “largely because one of the other colonists sent it to our news syndicate, isn’t that right?”
“Yes,” said Lin.  “Phyl did, I believe.  Phyllisti Scapes, a zoologist, with the University of Triangulum, if I recall correctly.”
“So you think the footage was -- genuine?  Not faked by Penny, or by the Consortium itself?”
“I don’t see why the Consortium would fake it,” Lin said, “because it doesn’t make them look very good at all.  And Penny … I doubt it.  Of course, I only met her the other day, but she helped everyone out so much, driving everyone’s storage containers out to their claims.”
“I’m just trying to make sure you understand, Ms. Chase,” said Jasco.  “The Consortium’s got the Authority convinced you colonists have organized into an army.  The Sixth Fleet is already on its way -- it’s been recalled from its mission against the pirates.  This time tomorrow night, they could be here, bombarding the planet.”
“What?” Lin shouted, standing up.  Wilf had to follow her with his camera.  “I’ve got to warn people!”
“You probably should,” said Jasco, “and I probably should have mentioned it sooner, but the fact is that this interview and others like it could be instrumental in preventing that.  I need to get to the drop point and interview more people.”
“Well, I’m going to start telling people that they should talk to you,” said Lin.  “And the sooner you start sending your footage back to your home office, the better!”

“That’s very true, Ms. Chase.  By your leave, we’ll be doing just that.  Thank you for the interview and the chance to dry off a bit.  Wilf, let’s get back to the ship and get the all-weather gear -- and transmit the footage we’ve got while we’re there.”

“OK, Chief,” Wilf said.  His cameras and lights were very compact, and he was ready to go in minutes.
The two made it back to their ship, and while Mina uplinked the video to the Syndicate, they dug out the all-weather gear.  “You’re sure you want me staying here, Boss?  Usually I come along.”
“In this case, Mina, we need you here, to make sure we have a relay point,” Jasco said.  “I think we’ll just transmit the footage to you from this point on.  If the Consortium finds out we’re here, they’ll probably try to shut us down, or kill us.  With the data going instantly back to the office, they can’t stop it.”

“... So there you have it,” said the voice of Simins Jasco on the holo, “On this, which may be the last rainy night on this world before its atmosphere is blasted into oblivion, the famous artist Lin Chase calmly told me how there is none of the violence or armed uprising that the Consortium is using as an excuse to convince the Authority to take action.  I have certainly seen no evidence of any such violence.  I continue to interview the colonists, but one person I should very much like to interview, Penny Kneece, remains nowhere to be found.  Simins Jasco, signing off.”
“And our requests for an interview with the Consortium’s representatives have gone unanswered,” said the news anchor.  “In related news, the Sixth Fleet has been recalled from their pursuit of the Eta Carinae pirates in sector 3-5-17, at the request of the Colonization Authority.  The Authority’s Chairman said only that his veto had been overruled by a two-thirds majority vote of …”
Denesca turned the holo unit off.  “I don’t think you’ll be in any position to grant that interview,” she said.  “For one thing, our men will find Jasco any time now, and put an end to his little crusade of truth.  And for another … you’re not talking.”  She looked at Penny and smiled.
Penny was in a white cell, its nearest wall made of plasteel -- unbreakable, at least not by anything she had in reach.  She looked up, sensing that Denesca had been talking to her, but there was no way she could have heard -- a silence field deadened all sound in the cell, better than a gag.  If she screamed, no one would know except by looking at her.
“The higher-ups are still deciding what to do with you,” Denesca said, knowing perfectly well Penny couldn’t hear her.  “I said we should just sell you to the pirates, but they said you might be worth more in other ways.  They didn’t say how.”
Her comm beeped.  “What,” she said.
“You said to report back after two hours,” said one of her mercenaries, whose face appeared on the holo display.  “But Jasco’s a slippery bastard.  We can’t find him.  Everyone has a different story about where he went -- they’re pretty panicked, of course.  Physical evidence contradicts itself too.  It’s possible he may have already left the planet.”
“Well -- find him, or don’t.  If you don’t, well, either he’s already gone, or he dies tomorrow with all the rest of the life on that dumb mudball when the Sixth Fleet gets here.  But I’d prefer if he stopped making his annoying reports.”
“I should tell you, there have been enough rumors about the Sixth Fleet’s arrival that the colonists have been clamoring at the drop ships to let them evacuate.  I don’t know what the Authority’s going to do, but --”
“We’ve got the Authority convinced that the colonists have organized an armed rebellion,” Denesca said.  “If they’re rioting around the drop ships again, that’s just more evidence for our case.”

Phyl was looking back at her home sadly.  She had a pink jumpsuit and a bright yellow backpack, containing a change of clothes, extra diapers, and changing supplies.  Her wetting had been causing her stress, especially now that she might have to leave her home, for which she’d spent her life savings, and face an uncertain future rather than being taken care of by … an unknown benefactor.
Or mostly unknown.  She got out the pink comm device that she’d been playing with a lot and called the top number in its favorite contacts -- “Persephone.”  Whether or not she’d been the one who’d sent all the clothes and supplies, she was almost certainly the one who’d given her this comm.
“Oh, Sweetie, I am so glad to hear from you,” came Persephone’s voice.  “These Consortium people have been making me so angry that I can barely think straight.”
“You know that they’re going to -- blow up the planet or something, don’t you?”
“I know they’re going to try.”
“Did you know that the Outward is evacuating everyone?” Phyl asked.  “We can get on the drop ships and go back to the colony ship -- it’s still in orbit.”
“Yes, I knew that,” Persephone said.  “It’s a good thing, actually.  I don’t want any of my poor innocent children -- I mean the colonists -- to get hurt.  I do see all of you as my children, in a way -- I do so want you to live and be happy on this planet I discovered.”
“I was wondering if -- if --” Phyl said.
“Yes, dear?”
“I mean -- are you going too?  Evacuating, I mean?  Just in case they really do -- blow the planet up?”
“Well, I suppose I’ll probably have to leave in my ship, at least for a day or two,” Persephone said.  “If they don’t do it, then I can always come back.”
“Well I -- I’ve got -- this problem -- and someone’s been sending me things to -- help with it -- and also some clothes that I think are just so cute -- and …”
“Yes, I’m sure you’ve guessed, dear, it was me who sent you those things.  I have a way of knowing, you see.  I could tell that you were just a little girl in your heart.  And I wanted you to know that it’s safe to let that little girl out -- it will always be safe, with me around.”
There were tears of joy in Phyl’s eyes.  “I just wanted to know -- can I come with you?  Can I -- be safe?”
“You’re asking … me?  If you can be --”
Phyl was sobbing now.  “I want to know if there’s a way I can be the little girl all the time and be safe and always be happy and be the real me inside!  Please, is it all right?”
“No one has ever asked me before whether I wanted them to accept Baby Rules,” Persephone said.  “What an unusual situation.  But, of course, my dear, it is perfectly all right.  Just stay right there.  Mama will take care of everything.”
And there, as the dawn began to rise, was where Persephone’s androids found Phyl a few minutes later, sitting on the grass next to her hoverscooter, her thumb in her mouth, cuddling a floppit that had come up to her and calmly laid its head on her lap.  They cooed to her in soothing words and told her that soon she would be with Mama, and they picked her up and carried her to the aircar they’d arrived in, to take her to Persephone’s home.

“And here we are at Drop Point Sigma, where the drop ship is about to open and allow the colonists aboard, to evacuate the planet,” said Jasco, looking into Wilf’s camera with the crowd of colonists behind him.  The video signal was going straight back to the Poor Richard, and from there it was being instantaneously linked back to the Syndicate’s office thanks to some technical wizardry of Mina’s.  “The hatch is opening, and a crew member is emerging -- let’s listen.”  Wilf pointed his camera at Ensign Jarcue, who had emerged with her loudspeaker.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to deploy the boarding stairs,” she said.  “Please step away from the marked stair landing zone to avoid injury.”  People complied, stepping away.  “Once they are safely deployed, please proceed up the stairs in an orderly fashion.  There is no need to rush.  There were enough seats for you all on the way down.  No one will be left behind.”  The stairs began descending with a quiet mechanical whirr.
“Excuse me, Ensign,” shouted Jasco.  “Simins Jasco, Galactic News Syndicate!  The Authority considers this world under armed insurrection!  Why are you letting these people, whom the Consortium has called armed and dangerous rebels, aboard your ship?”
“Insurrection?  Rebels?” Ensign Jarcue looked puzzled.
“I’m only repeating the words the Consortium has been using, Ensign!”
“Well I don’t see any rebels or insurrection here, Mr. Jasco, and I never have” she said, “just a bunch of people who will be in danger if we don’t get them off this planet before tonight.  The same thing’s happening at all the other drop points, too, by the orders of Captain Vadai of the Outward.  You’d better get going too, for your own safety and that of your crew.”
“There you have it,” Jasco said to the camera, “the official position of the Colonization Authority forces here on this planet is that there is no insurrection, and yet I’ve heard no word yet that the Sixth Fleet has changed course.  Is the Authority really prepared to totally sacrifice a habitable colony world?  This is Simins Jasco, signing off!”
“... And clear,” said Wilf.
“OK, let’s get out of here before the Consortium’s goons --”
“Mr. Jasco, I’m afraid you’ll be coming with us,” said the leader of six armed men and women in nondescript olive-drab uniforms.
“I knew it!” Jasco said.  “Wilf --”
“No worries, Chief,” said Wilf.
“I’m not going to come with you willingly,” said Jasco to the leader of the mercenaries.  “You have no authority to give me any orders.”
“I’ve been ordered to bring you in by force if necessary,” the leader said.
“Well then, you’d better start making with the force, because otherwise Wilf and I are leaving.  Come on, Wilf.”
“You’re not going anywhere, Jasco,” the leader said, grabbing Jasco’s arm as one of his troops moved toward Wilf.
“The Consortium must really want me!” Jasco said, shrugging his shoulder free from the leader’s grip.  “What are they going to do -- kill me to silence the truth?”
The leader drew his sidearm and pointed it at Jasco.  “All I know is they want me to bring you in.”
“So you confirm that you do work for the Consortium!”
“I, er, we, uh …”
Then Jarcue’s voice came over her loudspeaker.  “Listen, I don’t know who you people are, but I want you to know that we have ship’s fixed weapons trained on you.  Any hostile action against civilians under our jurisdiction will be met with force.”
“Mr. Jasco isn’t a colonist here,” protested the mercenary leader.
“We’re empowered by the Charter to act as law enforcement until civilian law enforcement has been established,” Jarcue said.  “I don’t know who you are, but I just saw you commit assault and battery against Mr. Jasco, followed by assault with a deadly weapon.  You are under arrest.  I am legally obliged to inform you that you are being recorded, and anything you say or do may be used as evidence against you in court.  Please, feel free to dig your hole deeper.”
“Pattern F!” the leader shouted, and his troops started running in different directions, then stopped, quickly drew their sidearms -- and suddenly energy bolts from corner turrets on the ship shot the guns from their hands almost simultaneously, causing them to curse and roll on the grass, clutching their burned fingers.
“Targeting computers.  As I said,” Jarcue repeated, “please, keep right on digging yourself deeper.”
Wordlessly the leader dropped his gun and held his hands up.  By this time all the colonists had entered the ship, and several military police descended the ladder to cuff and secure the mercenaries, leading them aboard the drop ship.  “We’ll have to secure ’em on the drop ship until we can put ’em in the brig upstairs,” said one of the MPs to Jarcue, who nodded in agreement.
“Much obliged, Ensign!” Jasco called.
“Just doing my job, Mr. Jasco,” said Jarcue.  “You probably want to get back to your ship while we’re still here to watch the area.”
“Probably right,” Jasco said.  “Godspeed, Ensign!  Wilf?”  Wilf had their hoverscooters ready to go, and they departed.

“Mama!” shouted Phyl as she ran toward Persephone.  “Me all little an me baby an me really me an me happy!”  Persephone’s eyes teared up as she saw the little girl in Phyl so close to the surface.  She embraced Phyl lovingly and used her own special power to release that little girl from her confinement.
Completely and forever.  Such was Persephone’s gift.
Phyl started sucking her thumb again right away, and when the hug ended Phyl seemed quite limp and uncoordinated, so Penelope smiled and set her down gently on a bedlike table, which she just happened to have ready.  “I think someone needs a change now,” she said, and proceeded to remove Phyl’s pink jumpsuit and unsnap her onesie, revealing a diaper that did in fact desperately need changing.  No one in the universe was better at changing diapers than Persephone, with the possible exception of her grandmother Hera, goddess of mothers and mother of gods.
While she was getting Phyl cleaned up, Persephone quite distinctly heard Phyl say, “Pen-nee?”
“Aww, do you miss your friend?” Persephone asked.  “Yes, I’ve been thinking about her too.  A very bad girl has Penny right now -- a very bad girl indeed.”

The Colonization Authority scrambled to reassemble a quorum. The news report live from Iota 95 and the interviews with the colonists and the crew members of the drop ship Outward had proven that the Mining Consortium had been lying and was on the verge of committing global genocide.
As swiftly as they were reassembling, the Speaker knew they might not have enough time for the vote to rescind the Quell order in time to save the planet. The Sixth Fleet might already have started dropping bombs.  There was no Consortium rep here this time, showing them conveniently enlarged live video of exactly what they wanted to see.
The Speaker banged the gavel twice and brought the Delegation to order by ringing the bell, “My fellow delegates. We have all been lied to by one of the most powerful Corporate entities in our universe … The Mining Consortium. We have live proof from a highly respected news reporter who went into what was thought to be a war zone and did live interviews with the colonists and the crew of the drop ship.  All he found were a bunch of panicked civilians -- panicked first because of the Consortium’s actions, and then because of ours!  And the only people he found with weapons were mercenaries, hired by the Consortium to stop the reporter from getting the truth out!”
The chamber went nuts as many loud and arguing voices erupted … the speaker could tell one thing very plainly, none of the arguments … were against recension.

In FTL space, the 6th fleet moved rapidly towards Iota 95. All the plasma Quell Bombs had been loaded. The Super Dreadnaught Hound alone carried enough ordinance to remove several dozen feet of the planet’s entire crust all by itself, not to mention the payloads of the other 20 Super Dreadnaught class Destroyers of the 6th fleet that would be in bombardment range within the hour.

On the way back to the Poor Richard, Jasco and Wilf saw lights on at Lin’s house again.  “Didn’t she evacuate?” Jasco asked, turning his head toward Wilf.  They both stopped, and Jasco pressed the doorbell.
“What’s … oh, hello Mr. Jasco, how are you?” Lin said through the monitor.  “You should probably be getting back to your ship, shouldn’t you?”
“Well I suppose so,” Jasco answered, “but what about you and … Mr. Delon?”
The door opened, and both Lin and Jarris were there to greet them.  “We’ve both decided to stay here,” said Jarris.  “There are a few others scattered around the planet.  If they bomb the place, they’re going to be committing murder.  We want there to be consequences.”
“I wanted to be this planet’s first artist,” said Lin.  “The place seized my heart with its beauty, and I’m not willing to give it up.  If I end up being its last artist too, then so be it.”
“Do … do you want to say that on camera?” asked Jasco.  He could hardly believe this act of extreme bravery -- and he could hardly believe the ratings he’d be pulling if he could get this interview.  Visions of Pulitzer Prizes appeared in his head.

“Architect Jarris Delon and artist Lin Chase,” said Jasco on the holo screen, “deciding to stay on Iota-95 despite the fact that bombardment of this planet will begin within hours -- at most.  Simins Jasco, signing off.”
Denesca turned off the screen.  “Of course, you couldn’t hear any of that,” she said to Penny, who glowered at her from the bed in her cell, “but at least some of your friends will be dying in an empty gesture.  Seriously.  Planets in this galaxy are a dime a dozen.  Planets worth this much money -- you have to grab them when you find them.  And if it means you have to make deals with pirates and sell on the black market, it’s just what you have to do.  The Consortium will survive.  It will just disband and reform under a new name after it’s made its money this time.  I’ll be …”
Denesca paused.  Penny looked surprised.  It couldn’t have been something she’d said.  What was she looking at …?

“You’ll be lots of things,” said a pleasant female voice behind her, “but rich isn’t one of them.  Come on, Penny.”  The blonde woman stepped confidently forward and right through the plasteel wall as if it weren’t even there, holding her hand out for Penny to take.  Penny looked at her, mystified, and reached out her hand.  The weakened and bruised Penny stood up unsteadily and, still holding Persephone’s hand, staggered out of her cell, through the wall, much to her amazement.
“What?  How did you get in here?  How did you do that? …” Denesca was sputtering.  “Security to …” she started to say into her comm, but she found that its power was dead.
“This woman signed my charter,” said Persephone.  “That made her my responsibility -- although she first came to my planet as a representative of your filthy company.  But I think she’s learned better than to trust it any longer.”
“Your planet?” asked Denesca.  “You don’t own --”
“I don’t, but I do like to think of the world I discovered as mine,” Persephone said.  “And now I have to save it.  We’re going now,” she said.  “Ciao.”  She blew a kiss to Denesca and … Persephone and Penny were suddenly just gone.  Denesca was mystified and furious …
… and highly embarrassed when she found that she’d made a puddle on the floor -- and then alarmed to find that everything was much larger, or rather, she was now much smaller, no more than three feet tall … Denesca stood and turned quickly, to suddenly find herself tripping over her own wet clothing and falling into a pile of oversized wet clothes and over large shoes. She sits up and looks around the room dazed. She looks down at her now very little body, and an overwhelming urge to cry filled her until the tears flowed … Wahhhhhhhh!!!

~~ End Pt4 ~~

~~ Dawn of Infantus Pt5 ~~

Penny couldn’t understand what had happened just then. She was standing in a place … like no other she had ever experienced before. As she looked around, she had no idea or even a clue as to what her eyes were looking at.
Penny turned as Persephone gracefully came to her side. Persephone was carrying a large shallow bowl of some kind that looked like a giant clam shell. The liquid within it smelled so wonderfully of baby powder. Deep within Penny’s soul, something awakened and took notice.
Persephone said softly, “I can … cure all that is hurt sweetheart.” Persephone’s voice took on a wonderful coo that penetrated to Penny’s core. “There is just one teeny weeny little price tag to it.”
Penny felt helplessly inthralled as she said in a small squeaky voice, “Wha … what kind of price? I … I’m broke from the expense of coming here.”
Persephone laughs a wonderfully musical laugh, then coos even more intensely, “All you have to do little girl … is answer a simple question.”
Penny was helpless. She even felt like a little girl being spoken to lovingly by her mommy. She said in a small whisper, “An … answer … question?”
Persephone nods slowly as she hugs Penny closely and begins to gently daub her battered and bruised face with the warm, moist cloth. Penny felt it tingle all through her body as her face was gently cleaned and the magical smell of baby powder filled her senses.
Penny asked, “What question?”
Persephone giggles, “Do you accept Baby Rules my loving little baby girl?”
It was like being struck by lightning as the question shot all through her spirit to her deepest hidden places. She had to answer. She couldn’t resist. something wonderful was being offered and Penny had no will to resist.
Penny realized she was having an accident in her panties as she nodded her head and said in a small whispering voice, “I .. accept.”

“There they are,” said Lin, looking at the satellite scans of the Sixth Fleet ships, arraying themselves into attack position in orbit.  “Wonder when they’ll start.”
“Whenever … they’re ready, I guess,” Jarris said.  “Are you ready?”
“No,” said Lin.  “But it doesn’t matter whether I am or not.”
“They might still get orders to pull back,” Jarris said.
“Last minute court injunction?  Rescind orders from the Authority?” said Lin.  “If that was going to happen, why wouldn’t it have happened before now?  No, our chances are slim to none.  But what I want you to know is …”
“What?” Jarris looked surprised.
“Before we die … I want to know that you’ve always been so special to me,” Lin said.  “You’re my best friend.  And I love you.”
“Lin …” Jarris said.
“I just wanted to …”
“I love you too,” Jarris said.  “If this is the last chance I’ll have to say it … I want it to be said.”
“You … you too?” Lin asked.  “All this time?”
“Yeah …” said Jarris.  “I … didn’t want to mess up the friendship we had.”
“I guess it can complicate things, yes,” said Lin, stepping closer to Jarris.  “But … I don’t think we’ll have to worry about the repercussions.”
“I think we can risk it,” he agreed, putting his arms around her, which she reciprocated. A long overdue and very passionate kiss followed.

Persephone smiled slightly as she watched Penny finish drinking her bottle and fall asleep in her arms.  All tuckered out, poor little one.  It had been a rough 24 hours for this one -- she doubted those pikers had fed her or even given her anything to drink during all that time.  And meanwhile they were about to destroy the planet she’d chosen for her home with their plans and machinations.  She was starting to get downright annoyed.
She carefully carried Penny to her crib and tucked her in for some rest.  The other one was wide awake, though, playing in her playpen by the magic mirror.  Walking to the mirror, Persephone had it show her the fleet in orbit around the planet.  So many ships, and so big -- well, what mortals considered big.  Even mortals knew that nothing they could build could rival the size of galaxies, or even stars -- yet, anyway.  They were so insignificant, but in their arrogance they thought to destroy such a thing of beauty as this, her chosen home.
She would use it against them.  They wanted the Omicron Crystals that glowed and hummed beneath the planet’s surface -- she would just activate them all.  There would be a lot of destruction -- and lots of particulate matter in the atmosphere for a few centuries -- but no lasting damage.  The ecosystem would rebuild, and there would be no radiation, whereas if the humans were to use their weapons, the planet would forever be a lifeless hulk.  Her way, it would just be like turning over the soil in a garden, albeit on a global scale.  And what was more, there would be no more crystals for the mortals to lust after.  They would leave the planet alone because there would be nothing there for them, except for the colonists who would again someday seek to live there peacefully.
She looked around the planet with her magic mirror then, finding places where the crystals protruded from the surface.
“Home,” said Phyl from her playpen, pointing at the mirror.  Yes, there was the glowing crystal outcropping beneath the cliff behind Phyl’s house.  She gasped.  “Lin!  Jawis!”
“What’s that, little one?  Your friends certainly left with the --”  The mirror showed Lin and Jarris, obviously in Lin’s house, curled up on the living room couch under a blanket.  “They’re not on the Outward.”  She focused on the mirror, then, and saw fleeting images of many colonists who hadn’t left -- they would rather die than abandon their new home.
Persephone felt a fire in her heart like none she had ever felt before.  Tears fell from her eyes.  She would fight not just for herself, but for these wonderful people and their hopes and dreams and homes.  Of course, this complicated things a bit.  She couldn’t just activate all the crystals and release their energy, because that would kill all the remaining colonists.  No … she would have to channel the energy through herself, draining the crystals rather than destroying them. They would no longer be Omicron Crystals at that point, and that might cause trouble a few centuries hence, but for now -- for now it would work.  She would need to borrow a tool or two from her father, but … She would defend her world and her people.
“I’ll be back soon, Sweetheart,” she said, stroking Phyl’s hair gently, then strode off resolutely.

The Super Dreadnaught Helios arrived at its launch point in high orbit. Commander Chris Seafer leaned back in his gravity couch and typed in commands to his Tactical Weapons console. The young lieutenant at Scanners and Comm station said worriedly, “Sir … I’m detecting some really weird spatial anomalies forming about 450 mega-klicks from stern.”
The commander immediately brought the display up on his command board. Without warning, a huge comm signal from no particular origin hit the ship. The Comm officer screams and ripped his earbud from his ear.
An ethereal voice speaks through out the fleet with an amplitude never before encountered, “Mortals … you will cease and desist this foolishness or I will destroy you totally. No remorse … no mercy … I have spoken.”
The Commander said, “Open a channel … tell whoever that idiot is …”
He didn’t get to finish his sentence as a huge flash of energy surrounded him with a loud crackling noise. The commander fell from his couch onto the command deck unconscious.
The ethereal voice again spoke, “I am the protector of this garden and none of you mortal fools will touch it. It’s mine and I will defend it.”
Throughout all the ships in the fleet, the voice was heard. None of the comm officers could locate a particular origin for the signal, but the amplitude was almost powerful enough to be a weapon unto itself.
The First Officer of the Super Dreadnaught Helios insured that the commander was going to live, then took his seat. He turned and said, Weapon’s officer, commence planetary bombard …”

It was like a nova in high orbit as the magical sword of Ares, the god of war, came down upon the 6th fleet. Persephone was angered to her deepest spirit that mere mortals would have the audacity to defy her.
A tremendously hot explosion of plasma spread out through high orbit as all the destroyers were returned to their constituent molecules by a weapon mankind had not seen in many centuries, then only spoken of in children’s stories. Persephone had borrowed her father’s sword of destruction ... and used it for what it had been forged for by Hephaestus, god of blacksmiths.

From the council chambers of the Colonization Authority, Clarence Willington tried his best to raise the 6th fleet to rescind the Quell order. There was no contact with the fleet, nor, for that matter, with anyone within a parsec of Iota-95. All the delegates sat in terror at what their minds began to imagine.

Lin and Jarris looked up from the couch toward her front windows and saw the sky begin to light up, rather than darkening as one would normally expect in the early evening.  Lin’s heart began to leap in her chest … this was it.  The last moments of their lives.  At least she had spent them with someone she loved and would go out feeling like her life had meaning.  But … she wasn’t feeling any explosions, or hearing any sonic booms left by missiles tearing through the atmosphere at supersonic speeds.  She and Jarris were experiencing a definite lack of dying right now.  “What … what’s going on?” she wondered aloud.  “Hey, HoloComm, show us that satellite view again,” she said.
“Huh?” asked Jarris, waking up next to her.  He looked at the image that began to appear -- the Sixth Fleet ships were in orbit, but some kind of brilliant golden light played about them like some kind of super-lightning.
“Lightning … in space?” Lin asked.  “What …?”
She got up, and Jarris did too, and they both hastily put some clothes on to go outside.  What they saw was … unreal.  The sky was afire with energy.  Tendrils of light grew up from the ground like huge vines or roots, joining together at one point high in the air, and from that point great leaf-shaped blades of light shot forth, again and again, in all directions but downward.  And at that central point, nearly as bright as the noonday sun, Lin could have sworn she saw a humanoid figure.  She tried to take video of it, but she wasn’t sure what she would get -- a wash of solid white, most likely.  Jarris was trying to shield his eyes with his hands, but Lin wanted to see as much of this as she could, as if absorbing more light would burn the image into her memory.
Eerily, though, the spectacle was silent.  Everything that was taking place must have been so high in the atmosphere that no sound was traveling back down to them.  The picture on Lin’s comm showed the warships being destroyed, vaporized even, leaving no trace -- and yet the image continued to broadcast, meaning that the weather satellites were untouched.  Whatever terrible vengeance had awakened here, it was sentiently targeting only the threats.  One of the satellites even glimpsed the Outward, remaining there in high orbit, also untouched.
“I have no idea what we’re experiencing,” said Lin.  “Are we still alive?  Is this some kind of out-of-body experience?”
“You’ve got me,” Jarris said.  “I hope you’re going to try to paint this later, though -- if there’s paint in the afterlife.”
One of the enormous energy tendrils twisting up from the ground rushed by them, with a whoosh like wind and a hiss of rustling grasses, and then moved on.  To Lin’s eyes its light looked the same as the light from the airborne animals of the evening … although she noticed that there was no sign of them.  In fact, she also noticed that there was no other sound -- no insects, none of the birdlike aerial creatures or floaty pie types, none of the mammalian ground dwellers.  The animals were probably taking cover from this most unusual event.  Lin suddenly wished Phyl could have been there.  But she was probably safe on the Outward, having certainly evacuated along with most of the others.
“What’s that now?” Lin asked, as she looked and pointed at the sky. At first she had thought it was mere afterimages of the leaflike energy bolts targeting the warships, but she began to see lines in the sky, dark streaks against the intensely bright background.  These lines grew and joined, like cracking glass, until there was a sudden darkness and all the light vanished.  Lin couldn’t help thinking that it had seemed like some kind of flash of darkness, which didn’t make any sense.  The sky then brightened and darkened and brightened and darkened again, like a series of echoes, dying away … until there was nothing but the deep blue of the evening sky, and the stars were coming out.  But here, there was an angular shard of more orange sky, and there, was a triangle of starry midnight black, strange fragments drifting and crossing.
And then it was quiet.  Lin and Jarris looked at each other uncertainly.  “Are we going to make it?” asked Lin.
“I wish I could tell you,” Jarris said, puzzled.  “Maybe we should see if the others are all right -- if we can contact them.”
“OK,” said Lin.  They went back into her house, and started trying to call others -- Phyl, Persephone, the Outward, Mr. Jasco.
Jasco was amazed to hear from them -- he’d been leaving the system aboard his ship, and his instruments had picked up a huge burst of energy, which he figured had been the attack.  “He burst into tears,” said Mina, cutting in.  “The big softie.”
“It was an emotional moment,” Jasco said.  “I thought you’d died.  For no reason, it turned out.  The Authority rescinded the order, but it didn’t make it through to the Fleet.  Not in time.  Which raises the question -- I’m happy you’re alive, but what happened?”
“Good question,” Lin answered.
“Hell if I know,” interjected Jarris, over her shoulder.
Contacting the Outward revealed that the ship was fine, if a little shaken up -- the chronometers were oddly out of sync from one end of the ship to the other, and there were reports of the ship’s layout weirdly shifting, people getting off the elevator at what it said was Deck 7 and finding themselves on Deck 3 near the dining area, and even stranger places.  But Phyl was not there; she hadn’t boarded a drop ship.  And that made it stranger, because they couldn’t get an answer from Phyl’s comm.  Persephone wasn’t answering either.  They decided to go to Phyl’s claim to make sure she was OK.
The nightly animals were starting to come back out with their pleasant glow when they arrived. Phyl’s house was locked up tight, and her lights were off.  They looked around Phyl’s property, but found nothing -- the cliff that overlooked the river plain had some strange black crystals in it, very large, but there was no sign of anything bad happening to their friend.  “Maybe she went to stay with one of the others,” Jarris suggested.  “But we shouldn’t worry too much -- I don’t see anything that says she was suddenly attacked, or the like.”
“I hope Penny manages to get away,” said Lin, “or the Navy people manage to rescue her.”
“Me too,” said Jarris, starting his hoverbike again, heading back to Lin’s house with Lin riding behind.  “They’re obviously a much nastier employer than I thought.  She doesn’t deserve what happened to her.”

In a place beyond places, 2 very adorable little girls played in a dream nursery with many magical creatures and magical toys. Penny and Phyl had named the unicorn Pinky … because of the pink fringes on the tips of its long white hair. There were other creatures, like the furry tail like creature that had feline characteristics they called “kitty”, or something that looked like a very large and fuzzy caterpillar they called a snuggle worm that glowed blue green in the dark.

The Outward’s Tactical officer turned and said, “I can find no sign of the 6th fleet. Whatever it was that happened seems to have totally destroyed them.”
The Captain said, “Did we manage to get it on vid?”
The Tactical officer replied, “Yes, Sir … we have the entire thing on vid.”
The Captain said, “Put it on screen. I want to watch it again and see if I can tell just what the hell happened.” he turned in his couch, “Pilot, I want you to move us to a higher orbit where they were. I want a full field scan of the area. I want to know about everything … even how many dust particles are present.”
While the ship navigated to a higher orbit, The bridge crew watched the drama unfold. To the very best they could tell, some kind of super powered creature came from the planet’s surface, and utilized a form of energy never before seen by mankind. The image of whatever the being was, was frozen on the viewer. All knew that there was some kind of powerful entity protecting this planet, but what it could be remained a mystery.
There were, of course, dust particles, as there are throughout space, but the Outward’s scanners couldn’t differentiate between naturally occurring ones and the remnants of the Sixth Fleet.

In a place beyond places in a realm called Etherium, Penny and Phyl sat playing with their blocks and cars. They were dressed in thick diapers and fluttery sun outfits. Beneath the short ruffled hem of the tops, the rumba bottoms and thick diapers were obvious.
Persephone lounged in a chair made mostly of white cloud and lovingly watched her newest babies playing. The room was filled with sights that were beyond earthly description. There was a small flash of blue/white light, and another extremely beautiful young woman appeared, dressed in a semi-transparent gown that showed off her wonderfully sexy figure and was tied with a golden sash.
Persephone looked over and said, “Hi, Mom. How’s things at home?”
Aphrodite gracefully walked over next to Persephone and kissed her lightly on her forehead. She said with a slight chide in her very sexy voice, “Aries is furious at the fact that you took his Battle Sword without permission. Look what you did with it … and all over something as insignificant as a planet. Now, the space/time barrier has been fractured, and the damage extends into a few other dimensions. That world basically doesn’t fully exist in reality any longer.”
Persephone sighs, “Aww, mom. This planet is a garden paradise. And … I can show all the children where it is, and they can come and play.”
Aphrodite smiled and giggled, “That would allow you to put your special talent to good use. I approve.”
Persephone asked with a cute wrinkle in her nose, “What about … you know … dad.”
Aphrodite waves a hand and says, “After he discovers why you took possession of this planet … he has to approve. You were here first … they asked to come, but only under a very strict set of rules.” Then … a small flash of blue/white light, and Persephone was alone once again.

“The Consortium’s corporate charter has been revoked by the Commerce Ministry,” said the news anchor, “now that it has come out that it was in league with the Eta Carinae pirates, conspiring to simultaneously draw the Sixth Fleet away from them to their doom and to sell the Omicron Crystals of Iota-95 to the pirates at a huge profit.  There is no longer a corporate entity known as the Galactic Mining Consortium, and its assets are being sold off on the open market.  Now is a great time to buy some slightly-used office furniture and supplies, don’t you think, Simins?”  Jasco was next to her at the news desk, and she turned to him with a smile.
“Definitely, Irina,” he said, “and I doubt any of us is shedding many tears about the Consortium, after all they’ve done, but my heart really goes out to the families of the brave starmen of the Sixth Fleet -- they did their duty to the very last.  I salute them.”  The screen showed a recording from a ceremony that had taken place earlier, where the Commonwealth President was presenting everyone in the Sixth Fleet with the Medal of Honor posthumously -- the greatest military honor that could be given.
“As do I,” Irina said.  “And what of the rumors that some sort of vengeful spirit defended the planet and destroyed them?”  The monitor showed a still image from the Outward’s recording, showing massive flows of energy meeting in a central point where one might be able to make out a humanoid figure -- or perhaps that was just an illusion or coincidence.
“Well,” said Jasco, “I know that’s what some are saying, but angry supernatural creatures?  Destroying a space fleet?  I tend to agree with the more scientific theories, that the massive deposits of Omicron Crystals somehow interacted with the odd space/time anomalies around Iota-95 and the Sixth Fleet’s weaponry to produce a powerfully energetic reaction.  From what I’ve seen, there was certainly enough stored energy beneath the planet’s surface to do it, once discharged.  No one but the Consortium knew the crystals were there, and they weren’t sharing that information -- not that it would’ve helped if they had, because we’ve never seen that concentration of Omicron Crystals before, so no one knew they could react like that.”
“A terrible tragedy,” said Irina, “and I’m sure we’ll be talking for years about how to prevent something like this from happening again.”
“Definitely,” Jasco said.  “The Ministry of Science has called for a conference to discuss the safety of Omicron Crystals and the possibility of alternate forms of spacecraft propulsion that might be safer.  If there’s another way, the greatest scientific minds of the Commonwealth will find it, I’m sure.”
“Meanwhile, on Iota-95, the colonists are returning to their homes, right?”
“Yes, Irina,” Jasco confirmed.  “I personally was much relieved to find that those who’d chosen to remain on the surface were all right.”  The monitor showed an image of Lin, probably the colonist who had been the most famous prior to this incident.  “I’m glad that such prominent figures as Lin Chase and Jarris Delon weren’t taken from us.”
“Speaking of which, aren’t those two tying the knot?” asked Irina.
“That they are,” said Jasco.  “They announced it just yesterday, and they’re going to have the ceremony as soon as humanly possible -- there are lots of arrangements to be made, especially on a newly-colonized world where a lot of the infrastructure has yet to be established.  When I contacted them, they told me that it would likely be impossible to hold a ceremony any sooner than about two weeks from now.”
“To change the subject, there is the matter of Penny Kneece, the Consortium whistle-blower who was then taken captive and spirited away by her former employer.  Any word on her?” Irina asked, as the screen showed the footage Penny had briefly broadcast of her discovery of the Consortium’s weapons and her subsequent capture.
“Well, I’ve heard that people have seen her,” said Jasco, “and her house is occupied, but I haven’t seen her myself.  I’m guessing -- and this is just a guess, mind you -- that she’s probably still recovering from her ordeal, and the story about how she escaped will eventually be told.  You can bet I’ll be trying to get that interview.  But for now, it seems that she’s OK and back at home.”

Phyl zoomed in with her camera on a town of floppit burrows she’d found.  “Hi little floppits,” she said quietly, “time to see how you live!”  Her memory was a bit vague for a few days there, and she wasn’t sure quite what had happened, but she knew that Ms. Persephone had rescued her, and she’d stayed with her during that time.  She’d discovered that she had much more of an inner child than she’d thought -- in fact, she now felt like a baby girl who occasionally pretended to be an adult, but she was OK with that, because she felt more certain and correct about herself than she’d ever felt before.  The fact that she now needed diapers permanently was really just a confirmation of that.
She’d resolved from now on never to make a secret of who she really was, so now she was wearing bright yellow overalls over a white shirt with green trim, and bright green and white shoes.  Her pink backpack had both her scientific equipment and her baby bottles, pacifiers and spare diapers in it.  A pacifier dangled prominently from a ribbon clipped to her clothes by Ms. Persephone this morning when she’d dressed her, and now and then she would suck on the binky thoughtfully.
There didn’t seem to be much activity over at the floppit town -- perhaps she had come at the wrong time of day.  She left the camera recording on its tripod in case they came back and sat down on the ground.  Then, looking around, she discovered one side effect of being a child -- the floppits could tell.  The furry creatures had gathered around her, brown and white and red and black ones, looking at her curiously with their big eyes and crooning at her soothingly.  A white one sauntered up and poked at her pacifier with its nose, then looked at her, so she put it in her mouth and sucked on it.  Another one brought her some kind of yellow fruit that she’d seen growing on some nearby trees, carrying it by the stem in its mouth, laying it down in front of her then looking up at her again.  Phyl had the feeling that they thought she was a baby and had just adopted her.  Was this going to happen with every species she tried to study?

The Battleship Terrain Avenger, on a deep space patrol, and on the lookout for pirates as well, discovered a medium sized craft was careening off tangent under full drive into uncharted space.

The tactical officer tried to raise someone, but the only transmission was the IFF green code … for friendly. He touches the bud in his ear, “Commander? We have what appears to be a friendly … but may be unable to control their vessel. No active comm except for friendly IFF.”

The Commander’s voice replied, “Put all available data on line. Let’s us see if we can … control that ship for them.”

The data indicated that the engines were operating at full capacity. No navigation scans, or other comms were found other than IFF.

The Commander had navigation plot and enable an intercept course, one that would allow them to quickly overtake the ship. Soon, the Terrain Avenger had overtaken and boarded the runaway ship. To their utter astonishment, the only living souls on the ship … were infants and toddlers. No adults of any kind were found. The older toddlers appeared to be caring for the younger and more helpless babies. Deeper investigation found data that the ship was registered to the Mining Consortium, and was an office perk for one Denesca Tramnz. Her current whereabouts were still undetermined. An interesting note; there was a little girl of about 3 on board who seemed to be able to talk clearly, and who … believe it or not, insisted she was actually Denesca Tramnz.

~~ End Pt5 ~~

~~ Dawn of Infantus Pt6 ~~

“And, here comes the spaceship into the space dock,” Persephone said in a high-pitched, sing-song voice as she brought the spoonful of pureed fruit in toward Penny’s open mouth.  The girl was strapped securely into a highchair that was just the right size for her, and she had a gravitic bib around her neck -- it slightly attracted anything that fell near it, rescuing baby clothes from fallen food particles and dribbles.  Another fine product of Babies of All Ages, Inc.  Penny’s mouth closed around the spoon, and Persephone withdrew it, saying, “That’s a good girl!  Yummy, mmm-mmm!”  Penny looked up at Persephone lovingly.
As she continued to feed Penny her lunch, Persephone kept talking to her.  “Soon you’ll be all better and all ready to go see your friends again, won’t that be fun?”  Penny nodded.  “Although you’ll always be a baby, won’t you?”  Penny nodded again.  “It’s true, I can use my powers to heal, but they’re really rejuvenating powers -- that’s a long word for making you young again.  But you don’t mind being a baby, do you, little Penny?”  Penny shook her head no.  “That’s right, because being a little baby is so wonderful, isn’t it?”  Penny nodded again, smiling.  “I have no idea why everyone doesn’t want to be one, do you?”  Penny shook her head no again.  “No idea at all.”
She changed the subject a bit.  “I heard your friends Lin and Jarris are just fine, isn’t that great?”  Penny nodded, smiled and clapped her hands happily.  “Baby Phyl is fine, but you know that -- she was just here, but she had to go out and be a big scientist.  But she’ll be back for dinner and be a baby again, just like every night.  All baby, except when she has to do her science things.  But you don’t have to do big girl things if you don’t want to, baby Penny!  Do you want to?”  Penny shook her head no.  “Well, maybe not now, but we’ll see what you want in a few days.  Did you know that Lin and Jarris are going to get married?”  Penny gasped and giggled, clapping her hands again.  “I know, that’s so wonderful, isn’t it?  They’ll probably have little babies soon …” Persephone sighed happily.  “I just love babies …”  Penny giggled.

A Being sat on an ethereal throne as he watched the magic fountain’s sparkling waters show Persephone’s planet and surrounding space/time. Around Persephone’s entire planet, the Magnatheorem had been shattered. Space and Time overlapped through 8 dimensions around the fracture. The planet existed in a realm of total possibilities. Ares shook his head and smiled. He thought how impetuous youth are. All this over a pet project. He agreed with Aphrodite in that the fracture around this planet did indeed allow his daughter, Persephone, to explore her special rejuvenation gifts. I mean, such unique gifts ran in his family. Eros flitted briefly across Ares’ mind … and his inability to be potty trained. His unique gift fit well with his mother’s, the extremely beautiful Aphrodite. He loved the fact that his baby boy would always be his baby boy. It tickled him pink -- and if the god of war thought that way, imagine what Eros’s mother, the goddess of love, thought about it.  Aphrodite adored him.

“So, Ms. Kneece, I’m glad you could take some time today to talk to me,” said Jasco.
“It’s fine!” Penny said, smiling incandescently.  “Wedding’s not ’til affer lunch!  Are you going?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for anything!  But tell me, Ms. Kneece --”
“Penny!  ‘Ms. Kneece’ sounds like somebody’s dowdy ol’ grandma.”
Chuckling, Jasco went on, “Certainly, certainly, Penny, so we were all very concerned when your video was sent out, and then when that ship took you away.”
“Ooo yeah, that naughty Den -- Denesca, she was so mean.”  Penny still had trouble with some words and names and her vocal inflections still sounded like a little girl when she spoke.  Her ability to talk had only come back a few days ago, although she would always be a little girl who pretended to be a big girl at times.
“Oh, so you were aboard Denesca Tramnz’s ship?” Jasco asked.
“Yeah!” said Penny emphatically.  “She wasa meany.  She put me in jail and didn’t give me anything to eat or drink.  And I was hurt but she didn’t put any bandages on me.  She just kept me locked up.”
“That’s -- terrible!  But her ship was found a couple of weeks ago, empty of all crew, with no one aboard but small children.  Did you know that?”
“No!” Penny said, surprised.  Then she thought about Persephone.  “But I guess that’s the sort of thing that might happen.”
“What?  I don’t understand.”
“She was naughty.  They all were.  They got punished.”
“Naughty people get punished.”
“Um, OK …” Jasco didn’t know where to go with that, so he asked, “So … you escaped from Denesca's ship, right?”
“Uh huh,” Penny said, nodding.  “Only … it’s hard to ’member.  Everything … fuzzy.  Think … my fairy godmother came ’n got me.”
“Well, if as you say you were wounded, starved and dehydrated, and probably sleep-deprived too -- most likely in shock -- you were probably delirious.  I’m amazed you remember anything at all from your experience.”
“Yeah,” Penny said.  “For a couple days after that … I don’t remember anything.  It’s all a blur.”
“Quite a mystery,” Jasco said.  “But somehow you made your way back to this planet.”
“Yeah,” she said.  “Woke up in my house.  And … Ms. Persephone was taking care of me.”
“Oh, Persephone Pandemos, the colony’s founder?” Jasco asked.  “She’s someone I’ve never managed to get an interview with.  A gracious and kind person, by all accounts.  But very busy.”
“She is so wonderful,” Penny said.  “I am all better thanks to her.”
“Then she is indeed wonderful,” said Jasco.  “Now, I’m sure that all our viewers are quite relieved to see that you’re doing OK, physically.  How are you mentally and emotionally?”
“Well, emotionally … I’ve never felt better.  I feel so peaceful.  Mentally … the doctors say that I’m not quite the same as I used to be but they also say that I’ve gotten much better since the ship thing, and I’m still getting better.”
“That’s great to hear!  Best wishes on a full recovery.  Do you have any idea what you’re going to do in the future?”
“I just want to live on this planet for now,” Penny said.  “It’s so beautiful.  And I have a huge house -- they are gonna have the wedding ’ception innit!  There’s lots of room, so I said they could.  And Lin and Jarris are my friends.  I’m happy that they’re having a party in my house!  I want them to be happy forever and ever!”
~~ The End - Of This Part ~~
Miki Yamuri
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