Though Shawn was making use of every maneuvering trick he knew there was no getting around the traffic that had swamped the city’s downtown streets. Though headquarters was a considerable distance from the second precinct any advantage Shawn and Liana might have had by driving there disappeared with each new taillight. The detective cursed and slammed on the horn as he turned the corner only to be greeted by another logjam.
“This is insane.” He grumbled. “At this rate - ”
He stopped in mid-sentence, furrowing his brow as he turned and peered out his window. Liana frowned and craned forward to see what he was looking at.
“Shawn?” Liana said. “What’s the matter?”
“Holy shit.” He muttered. “That’s him. That’s him on the sidewalk.”
Liana leaned forward, her eyes squinting and then widening in recognition of the man who had brought her precinct to its knees, striding down the street and heading for the intersection - headquarters was just around the corner.
“Let’s go.” Shawn said, his voice sharp with determination.
“Ditch the car. It’s not like the traffic can get any worse.”
Liana nodded. The two of them piled out and rushed onto the sidewalk, hands on their holsters, ignoring the indignant honking from the motorists who had just seen them abandon their car in the middle of a busy street. Shawn and Liana gained on their suspect with surprising speed - though the sidewalk was thick with pedestrians many veered off at the sight of the detective and the officer coming their way. They bore down on their target as he approached the corner, picking up the pace, sensing the capture, an instant away from making the lunge...
...when he spun and fired.
Shawn and Liana’s instincts served them well, the beam slicing through the air between them as the detective dove into a nearby alley and the officer rolled beneath a parked car. Shawn heard the man curse and looked up just to see him disappear around the corner - but before he could take pursuit he was stopped by the sound of a surprised cry on the sidewalk. He looked over just in time to see the first collateral damage of the day - the middle boy in a group of three teenagers had been struck by the errant beam and was already well on his way back to babyhood.
“What the fuck!” He cried out, his voice cracking in mid-sentence. When he spoke again his voice was distinctly that of a little boy’s. “What is this?!”
The young man’s companions backed away, eyes bulging as they watched his development - the growth and maturity they had compared against one another for years - spiral backwards. Every feature of burgeoning masculinity that he had held so dearly was being ripped from him one by one. His height plunged as his face softened and a smattering of freckles dotted his newly-rounded cheeks. Hard-won muscle melted away as hair curled back into the skin, leaving his arms and legs smooth and scrawny. His already-loose jeans fell almost instantly and the boy found himself draped in an oversized hoody that grew more ridiculous by the second.
“Help me!” He cried out to his friends with his sleeve-swamped hands held high. They scrambled backwards, never taking their eyes from him for a moment. “Pwease!”
Shawn stood in awe of what he was seeing - it was one thing to watch the transformation over video and another entirely to witness it in person. A moment ago he had been a virile teenager on the cusp of manhood and now it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him on TV romping around in nothing but a diaper in an effort to sell Huggies. As the process drew to a close the boy’s shoulders finally grew too slender to hold up his sweatshirt, his last piece of clothing sliding off his body and piling up at his wee little feet with the rest of his big-boy ensemble. During the transformation a murmuring gawking crowd had congregated around the poor child - and even though nobody seemed to believe what they had just seen that didn’t stop them from whipping out their phones and taking pictures. The boy whimpered and looked up at the giants that had gathered around him, his lower lip quivering as he realized that images of his plump little tummy, round rosy bottom and pint-sized pee-pee would be splashed over the Internet within seconds. The thought of worldwide humiliation was seemingly too much for the boy to bear, as he plopped on his bottom and let loose a piercing wail that reverberated through the street. In an instant Liana was at his side, swaddling the boy in his clothes and holding him close as Shawn ordered the crowd to disperse - a command they uniformly ignored.
“Damn it!” Shawn snapped. “I gotta go after him, Liana. Can you take care of things here?”
Liana looked up and offered him a small smile.
“I’ll be on your tail the second backup gets here.” She said. “So don’t you dare bust him until I’m there to see it, alright?”
Shawn smiled, nodded, and turned to leave. He dimly heard the crackle of Liana’s radio behind him as he turned the corner - cautiously, to make sure the man wasn’t lying in wait - and then sprinted towards headquarters. At the entrance the immediacy struck him square between the eyes - trapped in between the segments of the revolving door a disconsolate tot standing with a patrolman’s uniform pooled around his ankles slapped at the glass with a chubby little hand, looking up at Shawn with eyes that welled with tears and screamed with despair. The sight broke the detective’s heart but he needed to keep moving if he were to keep the scene from repeating itself throughout the building. He pushed through one of the side doors, stepped cautiously into the lobby - and moaned in anguish at what he saw.
The attacker was nowhere to be seen but had been remarkably efficient during his quick trip through the lobby. The security guards flanked at the metal detectors were still in their seats, swamped in their shirts, pants and shoes in a pile on the floor, peering out from the caps that sunk over their brims like a pair of adorable little gargoyles. Shawn moved into the central plaza and was instantly surrounded by the cries of the rejuvenated. The respect and awe the towering main desk was designed to inspire had been undercut somewhat by its sentry, who was currently crawling buck naked across its surface. Off to the side a female officer stared eyes bulging and mouth agape at the policeman she had been walking with, who was currently clutching at her pant leg while he cried his little eyes out. Over by the elevators a pod of lawyers sat swathed in their former ensembles, thumbs planted firmly in their mouths, sucking away with increasing intensity as their little feet kicked futilely within their dress shirts...on many of which growing wet spots had begun to develop. Mere moments ago they had held men’s lives in their hands and now they couldn’t even prevent themselves from peeing all over their three thousand dollar suits. The young woman who ran the coffee cart looked over the scene with blank glassy eyes - when Shawn asked her which direction the attacker had gone she was barely able to point at the stairs.
With his weapon down and his eyes up Shawn strode sideways up the second floor, passing bare little scamps who were crawling their way down step by step with comical determination. As he reached the second floor Shawn’s pulse quickened and his mouth went dry - the entire level was nothing but desks and offices, providing the perpetrator with literally hundreds of places for him to hide. Slowly he stepped in, eyes scanning the scene, looking for any sign of movement and listening for any sound that wasn’t that of wailing toddlers. Here, with as densely as the floor was populated, the concentration of victims - and thus, the cacophony they produced - was stronger than ever before. Everywhere he looked there were little boys cowering in their chairs and huddled under their desks, many reaching out to Shawn as he passed as though they were actual frightened toddlers in need of a big warm hug.
Shawn straightened up at the sound of the small voice piping for his attention. He looked over to see a chubby little sprite with messy blond hair and big green eyes standing on his desk, holding his shirt against his body with one hand while the other pointed directly behind Shawn. The detective frowned for a second...before his eyes widened in realization of what the boy was trying to tell him. Shawn spun and raised his weapon just as the man was popping out of his office, device drawn and pointed in Shawn’s direction. The detective managed to fire first but was just off target, the bullet whizzing by the perpetrator’s ear and crashing into the window of the office he had been hiding in. The glass shattered with a sound that managed, for a moment at least, to even drown out chorus of infantile cries. Seemingly spooked, the perpetrator pocketed the device and made for the stairs, staying low to the ground, making it impossible for Shawn to get another shot off without putting a child at risk.
“Shit!” He turned to the helpful toddler. “Thanks, pal. I appreciate it.”
The boy nodded but lost his balance as he did so, his stubby little legs wobbling and then giving out as he plopped onto his bottom. He blinked in surprise and seemed on the verge of crying - but then looked up at Shawn and sniffled it back. The detective gave him a sympathetic smile before heading to the stairs, moving swiftly and carefully through the maze of desks and their former inhabitants. Just one floor left, he grimly noted. Commissioner’s office.
Halfway to the final level Shawn heard the rapid clop of someone barreling down the stairs, pressing himself against the wall as the sound grew louder. At the last possible moment, he spun out, raised his weapon, and cocked the trigger...which did nothing more than terrify the poor old woman coming down the stairs. She leapt back, hand on her chest, gripping the rail for support as Shawn lowered his weapon.
“Are you alright, ma’am?” He asked as he approached. She took a deep breath and nodded. “What about the commissioner?”
“Th-that man is in his office.” She stammered. “He and the deputy commissioner are...oh God...oh dear Lord...”
Shawn swallowed. Nowhere left for him to hide...but he also knows what direction you’re coming from. Walking into the commissioner’s office would be tantamount to painting a bull’s eye on your chest.
Suddenly he straightened up, struck by a thought. Maybe...maybe that’s exactly what I want to do.
“Is your office attached to the commissioner’s?” He asked. The woman frowned as though questioning the relevancy of his question.
“Okay.” He exhaled. “Here’s what I need you to do. Get downstairs as quick as you can - you should pass an officer named Liana on your way. Tell her that I’m on the top floor - tell her to wait in your office until the time is right.”
“Okay.” She said, offering him a nervous smile. “Okay. I can do that.”
“I know you can.” He said, returning the gesture. “Go.”
With that she stood and rushed past Shawn and made her way downstairs. He watched her go for a moment turning back to his goal and releasing a long exhale. I can’t believe I’m about to do this, he thought as he let out a little laugh of disbelief. I don’t even like this job that much.
The hall that led to the commissioner was all leather furniture and dark stained wood. To the side lay the deputy commissioner’s office - its door was cracked open and as the detective passed the whimpering of a small child floated through. Within the man that had been assigned to guard the highest office in the city now stood in a pile of his former uniform, wobbling unsteadily and blinking back tears, using one arm for balance while the other was preoccupied with satisfying his newfound oral fixation. With sweaty palms and a dry mouth Shawn raised his weapon, approaching the closed door to the commissioner’s office. He put one hand on it, took a deep breath, and swung it open...to see his perpetrator sitting in the commissioner’s chair, feet propped up on the desk and device in hand. Standing in front of the desk were the commissioner and his deputy, who faced away from their attacker with their hands up, their expressions those of men trained to not let their fear show in even the most chilling situation. In any situation they were undeniably intimidating figures. The commissioner was a barrel-chested Irishman who looked like he could still go ten rounds with most of the force despite his advanced age - while his deputy, a broad-shouldered Hispanic man, towered above everyone in the room with the sheer strength and distinct pride of his Aztec forefathers. The attacker’s lips curled into a smirk as Shawn entered.
“Mornin’, detective.” He greeted. “I’m Teddy. Nice to meetcha.” Shawn swallowed.
“You know me?”
“Nah.” Teddy chuckled. “I just know a gumshoe when I see one. Me and the cops go way back, you see. I guess you could say that’s why I went on this little rampage.”
“Don’t like cops, huh?” Shawn snapped. “How ?bout prison guards? After this little stunt you’re gonna be seeing ?em every day for the rest of your life.”
“Don’t care much for them, either.” Teddy shrugged. “But it doesn’t matter much anyway, ?cause I’m never getting caught for anything ever again. Not with this baby in my hands.
“Anyway, enough chit-chat.” He smiled. “I think you deserve something for your trouble.”
Shawn scoffed. “And what would that be?”
“I’ll give you a choice.” Teddy said, waving the device between the two officials. “Which one?”
“Which one do you want to go through potty training for the second time?”
Shawn went cold. Despite himself he couldn’t help but meet the eyes of the men who would be affected by his choice - who, despite their best efforts, couldn’t hide the terror that bubbled just beneath the surface.
“I can’t.” Shawn mumbled.
“No?” Teddy seemed disappointed. He shrugged and raised the device. “Guess I’ll just zap them both, then.”
“Wait!” Shawn shouted. Teddy stopped and waggled his eyebrows, making no effort to mask how much he was enjoying this. The detective grit his teeth and cast his eyes to the ground.
The deputy commissioner flinched but didn’t say a word. Teddy chuckled.
“You cops crack me up. God forbid anybody mess with your precious chain of command.” He shook his head. “But hey, far be it from me to question your reasons. Going down!”
With unabashed glee Teddy pointed the device at the deputy and slammed a finger down on the button. Shawn couldn’t help but lock his eyes onto the poor man as his transformation began - and he noticed that the commissioner’s gaze had drifted in his deputy’s direction as well. In an instant his bulk vanished, leaving his specially-fitted uniform empty and billowing. His chiseled features were smoothed away as though by the hand of a careful sculptor, his face with each pass growing softer, smoother, rounder, cuter. The deputy, showing remarkable calm throughout the whole process, didn’t even make an effort to keep his pants up when they started to slip and then slid down his increasingly scrawny legs. As had happened so many times that day, the man’s once-rippling shoulders finally grew too narrow to hold up his shirt and coat, his honorable attire falling away to give those in attendance a full view of the transformation’s final stages. When it finally came to an end the once-statuesque man stood naked and trembling with his awards and commendations piled at his feet. Though he had seen it happen with his own eyes Shawn could hardly believe that the adorable little bambino before him had once been the force’s second in command. Nothing about the boy’s soft dark curls, big brown eyes or tiny button nose suggested that the boy would one day grow up into the imposing figure that had once stood in his place.
“Aww, I think he might just be the cutest yet.” Teddy laughed as he craned over the desk and studied his handiwork. He turned to the commissioner. “Alright, buddy, take the little guy and get out of here.”
The commissioner looked at him then at Shawn before scooping his colleague into his arms and rushing out of the room. Teddy looked at Shawn and grinned.
“I’m a man of my word.” He said as the commissioner escaped down the hall. Shawn looked away for an instant to watch him go and in that instant Teddy pointed at him, cranked down the dial, and pressed the button. The detective looked up at his attacker with eyes that burned first with fear and then with white-hot rage.
“You, on the other hand, I never said anything about.”
“Son of a bitch!” Teddy snarled. He lunged for his weapon - with hands that were already being swallowed by his sleeves - but Teddy kicked it away before he could get his fingers on it. The detective spun and lashed out with his fist but Teddy caught it in mid-air, letting out a small cry of pain as he squeezed Shawn’s increasingly puny fingers with his big strong hand. Fear began to coarse through his veins - seconds ago he and Teddy had been the same height and now the degree to which he towered over him was growing more ridiculous with each passing heartbeat. All of a sudden Teddy released his grip on Shawn’s fist. He put the device down, plunged his hands into the neck hole of his shirt and grabbed the shrinking detective beneath his arms, hoisting him with frightening ease into the air. On the way up every bit of clothing beneath his waist sloughed off and piled on the ground - Shawn burned with shame as Teddy smirked.
“Compared to you, your friends got off lucky.” He whispered in a tone that chilled Shawn to the bone. “I’m gonna make example of you - to show everyone what’ll happen if they try and get in my way. You cops are always going on about diversity in the force - so it only seems right that I throw a newborn into the mix.”
The word plunged Shawn into a despair that he didn’t even know was possible.
“No!” He screamed, his voice that of a petulant toddler. “Pwease, no!”
“Too late, little guy.” Teddy grinned. “You’re gonna be the most itty-bitty police baby in the whole city.”
Through tear-blurred eyes Shawn looked down at himself and knew it was true. Already he was as small as the toddlers he had spent the day pitying and the transformation showed no signs of stopping. As his shirt slipped off Shawn felt what little motor control he had left slip away, his arms jerking and legs kicking as though they had a mind of their own. Before his neck could grow too weak to hold up his head Teddy laid him on the ground, smiling as he hunched over the infant like a proud father. The man towered over Shawn like a titan and in that instant he knew he had lost.
It was just then that Liana kicked the door open from the secretary’s office and burst into the room. Teddy looked up in surprise and as he did so ate a solid right to the jaw that knocked him to the ground. Dazed, he felt around for the device and nearly had his hand on it before Liana swept down and plucked it off the ground. She trained it on him as the man scuttled backwards and put his hands up in defense.
“J-just think about this for a second.” Teddy sputtered. “You don’t know how to work that thing! You could end up firing it on yourself for Christ’s sake!”
He reached out with one hand and offered her his most winning smile. “I know when I’ve been beat. Give it back and I’ll turn everybody back to normal. Deal?”
A beat passed. Liana smiled and Teddy’s grin widened...then vanished as she hit the button. Teddy screamed and deflated into his clothes, Liana looking on with awe and no small degree of satisfaction as he was dragged kicking and screaming back into the powerless state he had bestowed upon so many. Within a matter of seconds it was over and where there had once been a criminal who had nearly brought the department to its knees there now laid nothing but a screaming, tiny, red-faced little newborn. Liana took a deep breath before being snapped to attention by a low gurgling behind her. With a combination of wonder and amusement she kneeled down and studied the pink little wriggling form laid out before her.
“Don’t worry, Shawn, I think I can turn you back.” A sly smile played on her lips. “Though I must say, you are incredibly cute like this.”
Though he tried to shout all it did was increase the intensity of his gurgling.Don’t even joke like that, Liana.
“I’m just playing with you. Gimme a second.” Liana studied the device for a moment before cranking up the dial, sending the display into triple digits. She looked at Shawn and pointed the device at him. “Here goes nothing.”
She pressed the button and almost instantly Shawn felt the strength return to his body. Back in control, in passing seconds Shawn found the power to roll onto his stomach, push himself to his knees, and then with wobbly legs finally rise to his feet. As he rose he caught sight of Liana eyeing his naked little body. Blushing horribly he toddled over to his shirt and clutched it to his body, using it for cover as he returned to adulthood. Liana couldn’t help but feel somewhat honored - she basically got to watch his entire life in fast motion, right up to the present day. Once the transformation eased to a halt Shawn threw on the rest of his clothes, stepped towards Liana, and pulled her into a hug.
“Thank God for you, Liana.” He murmured. “Thank God.”
She squeezed him back. When they pulled apart they both looked at Teddy, whose cries had only intensified.
“What do you wanna do with Rosemary’s baby, here?” She asked. A small smile crept across her face. “Y’know, I’ve always wanted a kid of my own.”
Shawn looked in her eyes and grinned.
“Yeah...I’m beginning to think that way too.”
He looked at Teddy and frowned.