“HIS NAME HERE is Jacob Wells, but incidentally his code name is Maponus.”
I fumed, “So he’s the one abusing children?”
“He is at least involved on the planning side of this ring. We’ve only seen him go to the daycare twice in the last year, so we had discounted him as a major player though.”
“Doesn’t his involvement mean that my cover would be blown if I went in now?” I asked.
“Not necessarily if you can go soon he might not even be there. He really doesn’t seem to appear around the daycare center that often.. You’ve already demonstrated this morning while you were with the Jennings that you can pull off the baby act. My agents couldn’t believe what we had told them…” Caruthers chimed in.
“When do I need to go?”
“Well we would prefer within the next week…”
“I’ll miss the finals at school,” I said.
“If the mission goes on long enough for that to be the case, I’ll work with Mrs. Carson to get you excused or be able to make them up.”
I shrugged, “I’m not sure I’m trained enough - and what if he recognizes me?”
‘I think it’s a risk that those real babies need you to take,’ Caireen said gently. ‘You’re not alone, I’ll be with you and I’ll bet that Hannah won’t be far either.’
He gave me a blank stare and a bit of a shrug as a response.
I sighed, “I’ll do it - what else do you know?”
We spent two hours going over everything about the case and I was shown evidence in the form of video and images that I would probably never be able to get out of my head. They had shown me what they had though so I could be aware if I was being taken to one of the places they had been filming.
“What does Maponus have on his MID?” I asked eventually.
He pushed a couple buttons and I looked at his MID card on the screen with his picture:
Name: Jacob Calvin Wells
Code Name: Maponus
Birth Date: 5-2-1992
Age: 23 Years
Height: 6’3” Weight: 210lbs
Exemplar: 2, ESP: 3, Wizard: 2, Regen: 2
“Well at least he should be less powerful than I am…” I said, “The ESP bothers me though. I’m guessing he’s been using that to help with this?”
“Unknown, we hadn’t even really paid that much attention to him before you pointed him out. We really thought his involvement was very minor - no one believed him to be a big part of this operation.”
“If you want my guess, he’s very involved,” I said aloud. Then quietly to myself I added, “and now I wonder if he would even wait until I was an adult again…”
I shuddered and felt Caireen put her arms mentally around me for a hug.
“I certainly hope you have success both here and in your other world,” Caruthers said sympathetically.
“Okay, what now?”
“Now?” He said with a smile, “I think first you probably need a little bit of attention from Lioness, and then she’s going to take you back to the Emerald City Guard’s headquarters for some training time.”
I nodded, “Okay, when do I see you again Agent Sanders?”
“Next Friday I’ll come pick you and Agent Emped from school, brief you, and she’ll place you in the daycare on the Monday after.”
I nodded, “Okay.”
I jumped off the table and walked out the door once he had opened it for me. I was still capable of opening doors with some minor gymnastics, but the act of playing baby the last couple days had really made me hesitant to do it myself for some reason. I walked on up to Lioness at a table and said, “I’m done, could you help me in the bathroom first before we go?”
She smiled and said, “Sure!”
ABOUT AN HOUR later we arrived at the Emerald Tower where the Empire City was headquartered. “Hmm… Emerald Tower, seems like something I should have been destined to visit,” I joked quietly to Lioness who carried me on one hip.
“I had thought about that when I heard your code name,” she said with a smile and a light touch of a large claw to my nose.
The entrance seemed like your average office building, but when she briefly held a wristband to the control panel in the elevator, I watched a whole new set of options appear on a hidden touch panel. She pressed the one that said ‘Headquarters’ and I felt us begin to move like any normal elevator. Suddenly though she pressed a ‘halt’ button that was illuminated on the new options.
“Emerald, could I get you to help me with a prank?” she asked me.
I smiled, “It depends?”
“Just follow my lead?”
I raised my eyebrows, “I’ll try?”
She gave me a quick squeeze and smiled before pressing the button to start the elevator back up. When the doors opened, we stepped out into a room that looked like any other office building. Really on first glance we could have been back in the FBI office we just left. The figure that came from one of the offices though in a blue form fitting suit, with a large gun at her side, and a gold helmeted head definitely helped me see things were far from ordinary!
“Aww, she’s adorable! Who is she?” the figure asked Lioness.
“This is my baby girl,” Lioness said with a squeeze so as to give me a hint this was what she was talking about.
“Your what?” she asked a little louder, “When? How? Who?”
I decided to play the baby and pointed towards her, “Wook Mommy Bwoo!”
“That’s right baby, she’s blue! Can you wave at Doctor Thunder?”
She waved my arm for me at her and said, “Why are you so surprised?”
“When were you even pregnant?!?”
“Well, I am part cat, so I had a much shorter pregnancy. Remember when I was gone for a couple months last fall?”
“Umm… yeah… but…? Who’s the?”
Lioness shrugged, “Some one-night stand after I got done breaking up a robbery last year.”
I chose that moment to turn back and forth between them and then put my head against her shoulder as if I was hiding and she patted my back. “It’s okay, she’s nice!”
I looked back at her and gave a smile back at her and I sensed that the joke had reached its climax as she said, “You don’t mind babysitting her for me the next time we get a call on my shift?”
“Bwoo!” I said again randomly.
There was a whole moment of pause while Lioness gave me another squeeze as she apparently felt like she had accomplished her goal. Even with a mask covering the other ladies face I could tell the other lady was far beyond confused. In fact, as she removed her helmet Lioness started giggling.
“Okay, what’s going on here?” the lady asked.
Lioness laughed and squeezed me, “Thanks for playing along Emerald!”
“Doctor Thunder, this is Emerald Baby, the FBI Agent we were asked to help out?” She bounced me lightly on her hip and gave me another squeeze.
The confusion seemed to lift a little, but she asked, “Wait… She’s the mutant? But she’s a…?”
“Didn’t watch the news last night?” Lioness asked.
I made the universal, ‘I want down wiggle’ and Lioness set me on the ground, “I’m Sofia, codename Emerald Baby,” and curtsied to her.
She began to laugh herself, “Well it’s very nice to meet you Sofia, I’m Doctor Thunder - the leader of this group of loonies!” She said with a smirk and a glare towards Lioness. “I will remember this Lioness…”
“It was worth it!” Lioness chuckled, “Dynamo, did you get that on video?”
A man in a black suit came around the corner and I could see he was somehow directing a very small drone back towards his hand. “Yep! Thanks for warning me of the opportunity!”
Dr. Thunder sighed and looked at me, “Like I said, loonies!”
I smiled, “I’ll probably fit right in with you all then!”
“So, what’s your story? Lioness mentioned that she had been convinced to spend a couple days helping a mutant agent for the FBI train, but she didn’t apparently tell me everything?”
“You want the long story or the short?” I asked.
I nodded, “I was an eighteen-year-old senior getting ready to graduate in Los Alamos, NM when I mutated a couple weeks ago. Apparently, I was fixated on how my baby sister was spoiled with attention or something when I suddenly manifested and experienced a major burnout. The next thing I knew I woke up in the hospital and everything and everyone seemed huge!”
“But I’m guessing your mutation wasn’t just shrinking?”
I shook my head, “No, I lost my potty training and my body has a lot of the same cravings and needs as a baby.”
“That’s awful,” Dynamo said sadly.
“Well it’s not great… Add to that I have an avatar spirit and you create the perfect situation where I’m definitely loonie enough to fit in with a bunch of loonies!” I said with my most perfect baby smile.
“I think she’s onto us!” Lioness stage whispered to everyone. Everyone laughed at that.
“So why did the FBI ask for us to help train you and equip you?” Dr. Thunder asked.
“Well it seems that my first undercover mission is getting moved up sooner than everyone expected,” I began, “They think it’s important they get me into a daycare soon to figure out what’s going on. Also, yesterday one of the suspects was spotted near our battle down at Rockefeller Plaza.”
“Damned if I know,” I replied. “My… spirit… takes me to her world each night when I go to bed. In that world we have a war that is ongoing versus a king that wants me to marry his son so he can take our kingdom. My spirit… she’s a queen… said absolutely not, even when they offered to age me back to an appropriate age.”
“So that started a war?” Lioness asked.
“He wants her kingdom, since I won’t marry him, the only way now is by force. The suspect we saw yesterday looks exactly like his son does. He has the exact same name too for his codename, so we believe he’s an avatar with that spirit.”
“Wow, if you were ten years older you would have fit right in with those crazy Kimbas…” a new girl said as she walked in. She looked to be in her early twenties but didn’t offer her name right away.
“That’s what I’ve heard,” I nodded.
“Well, now that I know what you’re facing let’s get you first to the range so I can show you what I can come up with for some weapons for you,” Dr. Thunder said.
Lioness who was holding me then said, “Do you need something to drink first?”
I looked at a digital clock on the wall and realized it was almost three in the afternoon already. I pulled my diaper bag out of its holding area and reached in to find a bottle. I handed it to her, “Any chance you could warm this up for me?”
She laughed, “Sure baby girl, but only if I get to hold you while you drink it?”
I turned red, but smiled and clapped, “I get to cuddle with the kitty!”
Dr. Thunder and Dynamo laughed and Lioness groaned, “You’re dangerous to have around here…”
Lioness walked me back through the offices to a full kitchen they had for the heroes to use. She sat me on the ground as she warmed the bottle up the old-fashioned way by microwaving a tub of water and I got to watch it sit and warm up. ‘This takes forever…’ I groaned.
‘Well it is easier when it’s fresh…’ Caireen goaded me.
‘I wish Hannah were here…’ I sighed.
As if somehow picking up on my mood Lioness picked me back up and hugged me, “Who is it you miss? Camille?”
I shook my head, “It’s kind of a long story…”
She laughed, “Aren’t they all?”
Dr. Thunder appeared in the room, “I’m going down to the lab, come on down when you’re done.”
“Okay,” Lioness replied. She looked back down at me, “So long story? Seems like every mutant, and definitely every student at Whateley has one.”
I nodded, “Yeah.”
“I manifested this form like I told you all. A week later my mom, my grandma, my best friend Hannah, and my baby sister Lily, were picking up some pictures at a photo studio in a mall in Albuquerque when someone tried kidnapping me. I think it was some sort of Humanity First moron, but no one has ever told me,” she pulled the bottle out of the water and checked it on her wrist before setting it back in the water.
“How did you get away?”
“Well my spirit had taught me a couple defense spells, but in the end, I instinctively used some sort of charge all over my body that made the guy drop me like a hot potato. I managed to bounce back up and ran towards where I hoped I could find my mom. Hannah was standing there at the entrance hallway to the food court and I jumped into her arms…”
“Well Hannah chose that time to mutate herself.”
Lioness nodded as if she’d heard stories like this before, “What happened?”
“Well she sent this pyrokinetic blast towards some of the people chasing me, and simultaneously her BIT became that of a mother…”
I sighed, “The perfect mother for me as a baby. Her DNA changed to match mine and she developed some other… attributes…”
“So, I guess that’s why this milk smells like breast milk?”
“You can smell it?”
“Remember, I’m part kitty.” She smiled and squeezed me, “I’m not surprised her mutation did that. You’re like the cutest baby girl ever, it would be impossible not to want to protect you.” She smiled and pulled the bottle out and decided it was good. She walked to a nearby room with a couch and sat down before settling me down to feed me like any other baby. As she popped the bottle in my mouth, I found myself relaxing in her furry arms. It wasn’t Hannah, but it was still very reassuring.
“Well I can understand odd mutations. At least you’ve managed to stay ‘cute’ through this. I was so horrified when I mutated and my fur began to grow in…” I looked up around my bottle at her with wide eyes. “It was a lot easier when I switched to Whateley - at least there weird is almost normal - but it’s tough to have people see you like that.”
I pushed the hand holding the bottle in my mouth away, “But you’re so pretty!”
She pushed it back in and smiled at me, “I’m glad you think so. Some others have thought so too. The only real bad part is when you meet someone allergic to cats,” she said with a wink.
I giggled and nearly choked to death so I got back to the business of emptying my bottle. She told me a few stories while I did so and I was almost sad when I finished the bottle and found myself on her shoulder when she burped me.
“Well, ready to go to work?” She asked me.
I shrugged, “This was supposed to be a vacation.”
She laughed, “Get used to it, I have a feeling you’re going to be one of those mutants that will never really get a true break.”
I nodded and looked around curiously as she led me down the hallway and then behind a false bookcase to a hidden elevator that took us some distance underground.
“So, this is the lair of the superhero group?” I joked with her when the door opened to reveal a shiny stainless-steel corridor that fit right in with every bad comic movie ever.
She laughed, “I think Doctor Thunder decorated it this way to live up to the cliché as much as anything.”
She carried me down a few corridors with an occasional sight of some mad experimental lab going by before we arrived in a large room with a long workbench filled with tools and guns and a range down one side. Dr. Thunder looked to be adjusting a sight on a small pistol.
“Everything taken care of?” she asked us.
I nodded as Lioness sat me down on my feet on top of the table. “For now… So, what was it the Bureau wanted me to see you all for?”
“Well first they said they had a pistol you trained with at Whateley this weekend, but they asked if I could come up with a better one for you and maybe some other firepower.”
I nodded and smiled, “Yay toys!!!!!” I hopped up and down a little bit and enjoyed a look of concern from Dr. Thunder.
“You may be the smallest and youngest looking mutant ever… but I think you may be the scariest too…”
I heard Lioness laugh to my side where she was absentmindedly playing with some tool.
“You’re too kind,” I said and curtseyed.
“Well anyway, before I start giving you ‘toys’ as you put it, I want to see if you can handle them safely.”
“Okay!” I said and walked over to her, “What’s first?”
“This is a special pistol that I’ve devised to shoot several different types of rounds,” she paused and picked up three different bullets. The first looked like a twenty-two-caliber round, “This first one is like a twenty-two-caliber round, but has more powder behind it to give it an equivalent energy of a two-two-three rifle round.”
I held my hand out and looked at it, “How do you have that much energy behind it?”
She just smiled, “I’m good at what I do,” she added a shrug. The next round was bigger and I learned it was related to a nine-millimeter round and looked as large, even though there was considerably more power behind it as she said it would act more like a fifty-caliber round and be capable of stopping a car engine or getting through tank armor. The final round looked like it was as big as the gun barrel, I didn’t even know how it would get in, “This is an explosive round Emerald, it’s the equivalent of a mortar shell upon impact.”
“Better to just smile and nod,” Lioness advised, “I’ve long since given up figuring out how she does it. You can be sure though they’ll work as advertised!”
“Can I try them?” I asked tentatively.
“You can use the first two in here… The last round you can try back at Whateley, just make sure you let Gunny know what you’re planning on shooting, and he’ll arrange for a chance to try it out. I know he’ll be jealous,” she added the last bit with a smile.
For the next hour I got a chance to try out the pistol and the rounds. It was perfectly sized for my baby hands and the weight felt comfortable. I could shoot the pistol all day long and not tire at all. When she felt I was past the point of needing to practice for the moment she provided a cleaning kit that I used carefully on the gun before loading it with some of the twenty-two-caliber rounds. Somehow the gun changed the opening of the barrel depending on which round was chambered at that moment. The clip actually allowed for rounds of both types to be loaded simultaneously and a flip of the safety allowed selection of the rounds. She provided several clips that had the larger rounds placed in one side too. I had no idea how, but a total of forty rounds were in each clip - it made no scientific sense, but that was just part of her mutant abilities.
“Someone is stinky,” Lioness said as I put the gun away in a pocket of space along with the spare clips.
I groaned, “Of course I am…”
“Would you like some help?” she asked me.
I nodded, “Please?” I pulled my diaper bag back out of the space it was in and found myself laying down next to the cleaning kit on Dr. Thunder’s workbench. She kind of looked at us both a bit annoyed at us using it as a changing table, but didn’t say anything. Her staring would have bothered me a week before, but at this point it had become just another normal part of my day. I felt Caireen give me a mental hug and a pat on the head as I was redressed without a fuss.
“My baby sister never behaved that well…” Lioness said with a smile.
“No real kids for you then?”
She grimaced, “I’d say you wouldn’t understand, but I have a feeling you do. Dating opportunities…”
“There’s someone out there for you,” I told her with a smile, “at least you’re not jailbait for life…”
“More like lethal injection…” Dr. Thunder said, “Of course it sounds like you’re getting ready to go into the lion’s den of people who don’t care. Are you sure you want to take part in the mission they’re preparing you for?”
I stood up then and walked to where she was tinkering with another project while she waited for my change. I looked up at her face and said, “If those of us who can fight monsters choose to do nothing, then the innocent will be hurt. I may very well get hurt doing this, but I would rather it be me than a real baby…” I felt a tear come to my eye but I forced it back.
She looked down at me thoughtfully before giving me a hug, “Then you better make it out of this safely.” She let go and said, “Alright, are you ready for a few more toys and some training?”
I nodded and held my arms out to her, “Up?”
She laughed, picked me up, and then proceeded to take me to a room marked ‘combat simulators.’ “Have you been in the simulators at Whateley yet?” Dr. Thunder asked as she sat me down on the ground next to a disc shaped platform with a rail around it.
“Umm… I’ve heard about them, but we’ve only been there a couple weeks.” I replied.
“Well then, you won’t have too high of expectations then,” she said with a smile. “Ours works well, but the ones Whateley have are pretty much unmatched anywhere but in the military.”
I nodded, “Whateley does seem to get a fair share of toys…”
Lioness laughed behind me holding my diaper bag that I had never gotten around to putting away. I decided it didn’t matter right then, “So what do I do?”
“Well, first thing is we have to get you measured for a suit. Can you come stand over here?” she asked pointing to a clear booth with a door attached to some box.
I followed her directions and jumped when a bright light scanned me quickly. “What now?”
“Pick a color,” she told me.
“Umm… purple,” I answered hesitantly.
A moment later a ding came from next to me and I watched her pull out a shrink-wrapped purple outfit.
“Let’s get you dressed,” she said with a smile.
“Here, I’ll help her,” Lioness said. Quickly I was stripped of my clothes, and then my diaper, before she helped me into a skin tight purple spandex suit that covered my entire body, including my head. Only my face was left uncovered. The suit reminded me of the one at the testing center that I had made a mess in.
“Umm… you do realize I’m not potty trained, right?” I asked them both.
They both nodded, “The suit is washable and waterproof,” Dr. Thunder said.
“You wouldn’t be the only one to ever pee in one either,” Lioness added.
I just looked at them and waited, “Okay then… what now?”
“Now you come here and stand on this pad,” Dr. Thunder instructed.
I walked over, feeling like it was weird to do so without the bulk of a diaper around my body. I just hoped I didn’t do more than pee in it! I took my position in the center of the circle and she handed me a helmet that looked to have been hastily modified for my size. I saw only darkness for a moment before the simulator turned on and I was suddenly in a daycare facility with figures frozen all around me.
“Whoa,” I said. “What’s going on?”
Over an intercom in the helmet I heard Dr. Thunder’s voice, “Emerald we’ve been asked to run you through a couple runs of scenarios at the daycare you’ll be inserted into. I think we’ll only have time for one today, Friday you’ll come back. Your mission objective is to blend in and only break cover in case of danger to you or another baby.”
I nodded, “Roger that.”
“Beginning simulation,” she said, “good luck!”
I assumed she pushed a button on her end because I suddenly found myself being carried towards a desk by someone. “I’m here to drop off my baby girl for her first day of daycare,” she said.
“Thanks! Umm… I filled out forms the other day, what else do you need from me?”
“Well it looks like you have her diaper bag there. Do you have any bottles that need to be refrigerated?” She asked her and then cooed at me for a moment. “Aren’t you just the sweetest little thing!”
I hid my head back in my ‘mommy’s’ shoulder then. “Sorry, she’s a bit shy. I think we’re both going to have a tough morning here.”
“It’s okay, everyone experiences it at some point and she’ll be right here for you when you’re ready to pick her up.”
“Here are her bottles, I brought five of my milk and she can drink regular formula powder I left in there, or whole milk too, but she just prefers mommy’s milk still, huh?” my virtual mommy tickled me a little and I smiled up at her.
“Well they say it’s still best for them until the age of two if you can keep doing it. There aren’t a lot of mothers who pull that off though.”
“Don’t I know it!”
“Well, looks like your little princess has everything she needs. I see she’s even got a bear here in her bag. Why don’t you bring her down to the crawler room and we’ll let her play for a few minutes and talk,” the lady said.
With that said, their ruse to drop off a baby who had never really been away from her mother was played on me. I was dropped off in a room of about ten other babies with caregivers following them around. A toy doll was shown to me and while I played with it my ‘mommy’ disappeared. About that point I felt my diaper fill and I did what a good baby would do and screamed at the top of my lungs!
One of the ladies working in the room came over and said, “Oh baby, what’s wrong?” in a typical mothering voice. I soon found myself on a changing table getting cleaned up, but refused to stop crying.
“Mama!” I cried.
“Oh, sweetie it’s okay,” the lady tried to reassure me. “Hey, did her mother drop off any bottles by chance?”
“The new girl that’s having a meltdown in my arms,” the lady said a bit annoyed.
“I think so, let me look.” I continued to cry until a nipple was pushed into my mouth with milk. Amazingly to me the simulator somehow made me feel like I was drinking milk, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t. I played for the next couple hours - making sure to mostly crawl and only occasionally toddle around. Before I knew it, I was being pulled away from some dolls to be fed lunch of some softer foods, given a bottle, and then brought to a crib for a nap. While I was laying there, the caregivers began having a whispered conversation that I was still able to hear.
“He wants the new girl done today…”
“Why in the world would we move that fast?”
“It’s a traumatic day for her anyway and she doesn’t really talk yet. Mama and baba are all I’ve heard from her so far.”
“As soon as she is asleep,” I heard the voice respond.
I kept my eyes closed and pretended to sleep while I was picked up and carried down the hallway and through a couple turns. When my clothes started getting unbuttoned, I opened my eyes and saw I was in the target’s photo studio. The lady and a man were in there and I felt like throwing up as I saw several things around the room that had no business being in a daycare. The man started to try and take my diaper off and I decided enough was enough.
I let loose a spell that sent him flying backwards while I reached into the pocket of space that I had placed the pistol and grabbed it. “FBI, don’t move!” I yelled.
The man launched himself at me and I fired, or at least tried to. I’d forgotten the safety! He was on top of me a moment later wrestling the gun from my hands. I used my enhanced strength to hit him in the groin and he backed off for a moment. Unfortunately, at that moment he took the gun and aimed it at me and the simulator went dark.