I GROANED A minute later as the helmet was pulled off, and the lights around me blinded me. I blinked and looked at the lab I had been in the whole time, and momentarily wondered how long I’d been in the simulation. “Well little girl, seems like we have some work to do…” Lioness said as she continued disconnecting me from the simulator.
“Happened?” She finished, “You died from a point-blank gunshot wound to the head.”
I gulped, “what did I do wrong?”
“More like what did you do right? There wasn’t much,” she said condescendingly. “But we’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s get you out of the sim-suit so we can clean it for when you come back on Friday.”
I just let myself go and be manipulated out of the suit that had definitely needed a diaper within it. Eventually she had me cleaned up, dressed me in a clean diaper and my costume, and then carried me to another room with a large screen that took up the majority of a wall.
“Well it was a pretty standard first run there,” Dr. Thunder said as she walked in. “I think we all make some pretty big mistakes our first times in the simulators.”
“But if that had been real life?”
“Yes, you would have been dead or worse,” Lioness said.
“Little blunt today Lioness?” Dr. Thunder asked with a shake of her head, “Okay, let’s go through the footage before Lioness has to get you back to your ‘family.’”
I would have thought I would be told I did okay for the first part of the sim, but clearly, I’d made mistakes there too in my efforts to pretend to be a regular baby. Apparently, there were dozens of signals I sent that didn’t match with a year-and-a-half old baby. Both Lioness and Dr. Thunder picked on every single accidental thing I had done that was out of character! When I was at the point where the man was reaching for my diaper, they paused the film.
“You made the ultimate mistake in these next few moments,” Lioness stated.
“Identifying yourself was necessary by law as an FBI agent, that’s true, but the second there was a single twitch you should have pulled the trigger. Then you made the biggest rookie mistake of all by not taking the safety off. You need to practice drawing your weapons and un-safing them simultaneously, so you automatically just react and can shoot. That is the kind of mistake that will get you killed just like it did you today.” Lioness chastised me, and I felt like I was even shorter than I already was.
“You did a great job of using your magic, why didn’t you put a shield up as soon as you pushed them away? I know from the footage I saw from last night you can do that?” Dr. Thunder asked.
“I don’t know,” I confessed, feeling like I was the ultimate dunce.
They both nodded at me, “And this is why simulators are so valuable Emerald,” Lioness stated calmly, “so that you can make these mistakes and not die learning them.”
THERE WAS ANOTHER half-hour or so of picking my performance in the simulator apart before we left for the hotel to meet up with Camille’s family. The really odd thing during the rest of the debrief was realizing that while it felt like hours had passed in the simulator, it had only been about a half-hour total in real time. When I had asked about that I was told it was a Dr. Thunder device, and I was better off for my own mental stability to not ask.
Just before we arrived at the hotel, Lioness had me change out of my costume and back into a normal outfit while she turned on whatever field emitter she had, to hide her own oddities. I found myself being carried in the infant carrier by Lioness going inside the hotel. Camille was waiting in the lobby, “Sofia!” She said as she plucked me from inside the carrier. She hugged me, “I missed you!”
“You missed a lot,” I whispered to her ear.
“I’ll see you on Friday?” Lioness asked her.
“Yes please, if you can sit for her again while we go shopping it would be very helpful!” She tickled my side, “Wave bye bye,” and waved my arm at her.
I sighed but stayed quiet and played along as she then carried me to the elevator and back to our room. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon then. “Where’s Cassidy?” I asked her when we were inside.
“Taking a nap, like you probably should be doing,” she said with a light touch to my nose as she sat down on the couch while facing me towards her on her knee.
I shrugged, “Do you have my phone? I’d like to call Hannah?”
“Aww… do you miss her?”
I squirmed under her glance but nodded, “I’m sure she’s going even more stir crazy than me though.”
She went over to the suitcases and dug out my phone and handed it to me. “Make it short, I need to change you and get you ready for din din.”
I stuck my tongue out at her and then decided I would facetime Hannah instead of just calling her. I went into the app and dialed her thinking it might take a moment for her to answer, instead it was like she immediately pressed accept. “Oh my God, you’re alright!!!”
Hannah was in tears as she spoke to me and I realized I should have called her much sooner. “I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner; last night wasn’t a good night and I’ve been… busy today.” I told her.
She sighed, “I shouldn’t be so emotional like this,” she wiped tears away from her eyes, “but I’ve never been more nervous… Between the problems I’m having and you being away…”
I nodded with tears in my eyes, “I miss you too!”
“I saw the news… and I was so worried!” She said in a mother’s voice, “Why didn’t you call me?”
I felt like I was three inches tall when I said, “I didn’t want to worry you. I figured you had enough on your plate… plus it was kind of late by the time we had stuff wrapped up and were back at the hotel.”
“Still, you should have called me…”
“I promise I will in the future?” I said. “If you’re this bad I guess I should call my mom and dad… they’re probably even more annoyed…”
“Yes, you should! Your mom texted me earlier asking if I’d heard from you. Why didn’t you answer your phone?”
“Um duh… pretending to be a baby… I don’t exactly look like I should be using a cell phone that’s not a fake toy.”
“Oh,” she said. “Sorry… It’s just…”
“I know, I get it. How are you doing with your problems?”
“I’ve been getting better with less of those green discharges. They had to move me to an electrically shielded room for the first day, but it seems to be getting better. I’m apparently a bit of a power mimic if I’m attacked with something… At least that’s what they think might be the problem, our bond together is confusing at best for the doctors.”
“Sofia, are you almost done?” Camille asked, “Cassidy is waking up.”
I sighed, “I need to go Hannah, I’ll try and call when we get done with Thanksgiving stuff tomorrow. Have a Happy Thanksgiving… I wish you could be here!”
“You too Sofia, be safe, I love you.”
I kind of started at the words, but replied, “I love you too,” and hung up.
The tears in my eyes were filling rapidly as Camille presented me with a bottle that I nursed safely in her arms. ‘I really need to call my parents…’
‘I bet we can get some time to do that after dinner. Just let Camille know…’ Caireen told me.
‘Yeah… I wonder if there’s any way we could get me back for Christmas now that Camille’s father got us immunity?’
‘I don’t know Sofia. You still have angry MCO and Humanity First people back there.’
I stayed silent in my head and soothed myself by nursing the bottle. Before I was ready for it, I was sucking empty air, and Camille was burping me. I belched and found myself having a diaper change on the bed, before she dressed me in a pretty dark green dress that would have looked fine in court at Camille’s castle. “Where did you get this dress?” I asked her quietly when Cassidy was distracted.
“Mom bought it today while we were shopping. She thought it would look good on you,” she smiled at me, “I think she was right. I would look better if you didn’t have the fake hair color you have for this trip.”
I nodded, “My red hair would look much better with this… oh well,” I sighed. Just then Cassidy came in and a pacifier was stuffed in my mouth before I was strapped into the carrier again. Even though she had seen some of what I could do the night before, they were still pretending in front of her in the hopes that she would forget.
Camille carried me downstairs to where her aunt’s limo was once again waiting. I couldn’t ask aloud where we were going really, but Camille told me, “We’re going to go meet your aunty at a restaurant!”
I sighed and sat quietly sucking on my pacifier while the vehicle drove through traffic. I was surprised that it seemed lighter than I would have expected in New York City. Soon enough we pulled to the side of the street and my carrier was unhooked from the car and I once again swung at Camille’s side. Apparently, her aunt had made reservations at a very upscale restaurant. Everyone I saw from my seat was dressed to the nines! I quickly felt glares again towards the unwanted baby from the Maitre’D, but we were led to a large circular table with two highchairs sat, alternating other regular chairs. Camille’s mom sat with Cassidy to her left and me to her right. Camille sat next to me on the right after she unbound me from the carrier and placed a Velcro bib around my neck.
Looking around at the table I saw that this restaurant must have been about as high end as you could go! I could see three forks on the left side of each place setting for the ‘adults’ and several spoons and knives on the right. A very ornate plate sat in the middle of the place settings and I was surprised that no menu was brought to the table beyond a wine menu that Camille’s aunt quickly glanced at and ordered for the table.
“What’s for dinner?” Camille asked.
“This is a five-course set that the chef puts together specially each night,” Camille’s aunt responded.
I could tell that Camille felt just a little out of place here too from the way she fidgeted a little in her chair. I took a moment and looked down at my highchair and noticed the fact it seemed to be made of some very fine wood. ‘Mahogany?’ I wondered. Surprisingly to me throughout the first three courses a separate plate was brought for both Cassidy and I to be fed from by Camille and her mom. For the next hour I played the good baby by taking the offered bites, and endured the cooing from a waitress and a couple women guests that would pass by. I hated the long wait between bites, but I was happy that I ended up having the same meal as the grownups!
Throughout the meal I listened in moderate horror as her aunt talked about yesterday. “Can you believe that there’s some mutant running around pretending to be a baby?” she said at one point. “I mean that’s so low and crazy… and sick!” she said to Camille’s dad.
“I don’t think they probably have a lot of choice in it…” he started to say.
“Really I mean… can you imagine if Cassidy had one of those monsters pretending to be in daycare with her?”
“Umm… you do realize I’m one of those mutants, right?” Camille said pointedly.
“Yes, I know you are by law dear, but you’re really just a witch. You’re not some weird deviant pretending to be a baby for god knows what reason…” her aunt said.
“I rather doubt…” her dad had started to reply when I felt an internal warning something bad was going to happen. Sure enough, I leaned forward in the highchair just soon enough to miss getting hit with a piece of a dish with spaghetti plastered to it. I turned and realized it had been flung at me after a table was destroyed nearby.
“Seriously?” I asked. I pushed the button on the belt on the highchair and backflipped out of it. In front of me were Maponus and Rosemerta.
“Well Princess, I think it’s time for you to come with us.” I could feel a mental suggestion along with the words, but I was able to shake them off.
“No, my mommy told me never to go with strangers,” I told him while activating a spell to switch my costume into place and putting a shield up around myself and another around Camille’s family. Meanwhile the dining room alternated between frozen people who didn’t have the sense to run, and those charging out the doors trampling each other while screaming their heads off.
“But I’m not a stranger, I’m your future husband,” he said with a disturbing grin.
“No fucking way,” I heard Camille say next to me. “That’s just sick.”
“Camille!” I heard her mom involuntarily scold her.
I used that moment to go ahead and draw the gun I had been given by Dr. Thunder out and remembered to click off the safety at the same time. “Maponus I’m an FBI agent. You and Rosemerta are under arrest.”
Rosemerta took that moment to laugh and began to start an attack. I just calmly landed six shots of the higher caliber in her chest while simultaneously launching a freezing spell on her again. Her face took on a look of shock as the six rounds hit her center mass and must have at least hurt a bit. At the same time her face froze into a pained expression that I hoped signaled her being out of the fight.
“Can’t you learn new tricks?” Maponus sneered at me.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I said to him. “Now freeze!”
“No, I don’t think so…” He said with a hand movement that was directed at Rosemerta. She unfroze before my eyes and he launched himself towards me. I didn’t hesitate before sending five rounds into his chest and two into his head. Sadly, he had put up a shield and they just ricocheted harmlessly off of him.
Just before he got to me, I saw a shape come out of the corner that threw a punch straight into his jaw. He and the object went crashing over a table as I saw Camille’s family rightfully pick that moment to slip out a back door. Lioness stood up shortly then and I just barely had a chance to fire another five rounds into Rosemerta when she was going after her. Camille engaged her with a spell to cage her in ice.
My anger, and Caireen’s anger, both rose to the surface then though and suddenly I felt a connection with her unlike any I’d felt yet! We were truly one as we wove a spell of fire and launched it straight at the frozen Rosemerta. The massive heat and fire combined with the ice spell Camille had used caused a huge burst of steam, and then a concussive wave that knocked everyone else down! I watched with a grim smile though as I saw every ounce of the vile creature burn to ash.
I smiled for just a second, before something hit me hard and the lights went out.
WHEN I CAME to, I rubbed my eyes and found I had a pacifier in my mouth. I sucked it nervously and looked around to see that I was in my carrier. I tried moving but the straps held me down. Someone noticed though and I saw Camille, “You’re awake!” she said in her avatar's voice.
“I guess…” I responded as I put together, we were in a vehicle. “What happened?”
“We’ll talk about that after we debrief,” she told me.
“Not now?” I asked.
“It’s standard procedure so you don’t mix up your stories,” I heard a voice that I realized was Lionesses. Her head moved into view for a moment, “How are you feeling?”
“Like a freight train hit me?” I shuddered, “I’ve got a headache… I haven’t had one since I mutated. I got hit hard?”
“Yes, you did,” Camille’s mom said somewhere out of sight. “Lioness said they could look at you at their headquarters, and thought it was better to get you out of there.”
I noticed then I was thirsty, “Do you have one of my bottles?” I turned to look at Camille.
She smiled, “We did save your bag again. We probably should have you keep a spare in your storage space.”
I nodded, but held out my hands as she quickly warmed a bottle and handed it to me. I sucked down the contents in record time and was still pretty thirsty. Camille’s mom noticed before anyone else, “Camille, you might want to get her another… she probably needs Pedialyte or something though instead…”
Camille took my empty bottle and looked at it for a moment before performing a couple spells and returning it to me filled with a pink liquid that I made a face at. “What is it?”
“Mom said Pedialyte, so here’s something that should be similar,” she told me with a smile. “Strawberry flavored?”
I took a tentative suckle and decided it was okay. The taste wasn’t phenomenal to me, but I kept nursing it anyway. We must have been stuck in traffic because we weren’t moving very quickly. Only after I’d been nursing that bottle for ten minutes did I figure out she had used some sort of auto-refilling spell on it. I pulled it from my lips and realized it was still full!
I looked over at her, “Does this go bad?”
She shrugged, “It shouldn’t with the spells I put on it.”
“A never-ending bottle… kind of cool.”
I stuck it back in my mouth and nursed it slowly until we finally reached the Emerald City Guard’s headquarters again. Camille picked up my carrier and I just lay still as I swung from her arms. I was glad she had me facing marginally forward while she did so though, I was pretty sure I would be sick otherwise! Whatever was in the bottle seemed to be helping my headache to subside some, and by the time they were in the lower basement with everyone I was almost feeling like myself.
Camille sat the carrier down on a counter and loosened the straps from me. I made arms to get out, but she just pushed me down, “Let’s change that diaper first,” she told me.
I blushed and realized I had messed it, and had again tuned it completely out!
She pulled my tights down and pushed my dress up before just changing me where I lay in the carrier. She made some faces as she cleaned me up and finally had me dressed and sat me on my feet on a long table. I blushed as I realized the entire room had their eyes on me. Camille’s mom was missing, but her dad was present, along with Agent Caruthers and Agent Sanders. Several costumed superheroes that I vaguely recognized as some of the members of the Emerald City Guard were also there. ‘I’m trying to get used to this… but all of them just watched me getting my diaper changed…?’ I groaned to Caireen.
She gave me a mental hug and said, ‘it’s okay!’
The talking around the room continued for a few moments before Dr. Thunder began speaking, “If you could all find a seat? We’ll begin this debriefing?”
Camille picked me up and placed me on her lap as she sat down, giving me a reassuring hug while she turned me towards the group.
“Since everyone may not know everyone here, let me introduce myself and we’ll go around the table. I’m Doctor Thunder, leader of the Emerald City Guard,” she said with a smile.
Next to her a man said, “I’m Dynamo.” He was wearing a suit of black armor with gold trim, and I vaguely remembered him having some sort of magnetic powers.
The others went down the line, a large woman named Heavyweight, another woman named Junkyard, and the last superhero was Legionnaire, dressed in his faux Roman armor. Agent Caruthers and Agent Sanders introduced themselves too, before Camille introduced herself as Sora, and me as Emerald Baby. Her dad rounded out the group.
“Okay, now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, what the hell happened tonight?” Agent Caruthers asked me.
I shrugged, “We had gone out to eat with Sora’s aunt for dinner. I was playing the good baby and ignoring some anti-mutant comments from her when I was nearly decapitated by a flying plate of spaghetti. I hopped up to defend myself, and found both Rosemerta and Maponus standing there. After that it’s mostly a blur of a fight to me. I managed to just perform a spell on Rosemerta that I hoped finished her off for good here… but after that I must have blacked out.”
“What do you have to add Sora?”
I listened as Camille filled in some gaps about everything. She had her own battle with Maponus that was joined by Lioness. Right when I managed to finish of Rosemerta, apparently I had been knocked out when Maponus had flung a table at me that caught me by surprise. I was unconscious as the two of them fought him for another minute and he decided to retreat. After making sure that I was alright, they had booked it out of there and came to their headquarters.
“I can’t believe they made another attempt so soon!” Camille’s dad said. “Any ideas where to find this man?”
Agent Sanders nodded, “Pretty sure we’ll find him when Emerald goes undercover.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea at this point?” Camille asked.
“Doesn’t matter if it is or not, it’s what’s got to happen. I won’t let innocent children be abused if I can help it.” I replied.
Questions were asked of the others who had been there too for a long while before the topic moved to whether or not we should just be escorted back to Whateley right away. They decided it would be something to think about for the next day, and it would just be best to head back to the hotel for the night.
I was placed back into the carrier with a pacifier and put back in my original dress. Camille carried me by the handle and we found her mom holding Cassidy in her lap in the lobby area. Both were fast asleep, and I could see that Cassidy had wet her pants to the point her Pull-Up leaked. I used a quick spell to dry her, her dress, and her mom before Camille woke her up. “Thanks,” she whispered to me as she rubbed her mom’s shoulder.
“Mom?” She said, “We’re done, we’re going to the hotel now?”
Her mom blinked several times as she woke up. Camille’s dad took Cassidy as her mom sleepily stood up and we headed for the elevator. A blanket appeared from somewhere covering the carrier and I sighed. They left it on as I heard some cameras click and questions asked as we entered Lioness’ car. After she finished buckling the seat down Camille pulled the blanket from on top and said to me, “Well that was an adventure…”
“Will all of those pictures put them in danger?” I asked her quietly referring to her family.
She shook her head, “Those reporters don’t know it yet, but all of their pictures are going to mostly be blurry messes. The only ones that will be okay are the ones with known superheroes in their costumes.”
“That’s a neat trick!” I said with a smile.
“I think so,” she said with a pleased smile on her face.
The ride to the hotel was thankfully shorter than the one to get to the headquarters from the restaurant. Somehow, we made it into the hotel and upstairs to our rooms without being accosted by anyone. Camille had latched my carrier back into the stroller and pushed me into the room, before I noticed immediately that there was a problem. Her expression scared me and I wasted no time in magicking myself out of the harness and doing a flip out to look into our rooms.
Everything inside was overturned, suitcases emptied and strewn about, and a message was scrawled on the wall in some dark red liquid that looked eerily like blood.
Princess I am coming for you
YOU AND YOUR KINGDOM WILL BE MINE!
I felt a need to vomit right then and just barely held it in.
“I guess we know who did this…” I said sadly. “I’m so sorry for all of this trouble,” I looked at her mom and dad.
“Not your fault,” her dad said coming over and picking me up. “This kind of thing seems to happen around Camille all the time – it’s refreshing to see her not be the main target,” he tried to smile and lighten things up. He failed as Cassidy woke up suddenly and screamed…
The next hour was spent with Cassidy sobbing her way back to sleep, Camille’s mom crying, Agent Caruthers showing up, and eventually a decision being made to head back to the Guard’s headquarters where they had a few rooms we could stay in. By the time we were there I was exhausted!
“I’m sorry, we don’t have a crib for her…” Dr. Thunder apologized to Camille’s mom. The room looked like a hotel room with two large king size beds, a small kitchenette, a living room, and a bathroom.
“I don’t have to sleep in one,” I said to her, “It’s not like I’d even be hurt if I rolled out of bed.”
Caireen voiced her dissent, wanting to just create a new crib, but I said ‘no’ solidly enough that she backed off. As a compromise I found myself in the same bed as Camille with a pillow and wadded up blanket blocking the side of the bed opposite her. Camille changed me into a fresh diaper and a pair of my pajamas. “Good thing we just left all of your clothes in your diaper bag,” she told me as she zipped up the footed pajamas.
I nodded, “I wonder if he didn’t even know for certain I was staying there?”
She shook her head, “He had to have been certain to do that much damage…”
I nodded again, “Am I going to run out of milk before we get back to Whateley?”
She laughed, “Even if you drank twice what you’ve been drinking, we wouldn’t run out for a month just with what I brought with us. Poor Hannah must be pumping all of the time!” She said the last part kind of sadly.
I nodded, “I think she has to wake up in the night… She hasn’t been waking me up though when she does it.”
“Do you think it’s possible we can just get me back to Whateley tomorrow? I hate to endanger your family…”
She hugged me and then positioned me on her lap to give me the warmed bottle, “I don’t think we’re running away from here. Worst case it’s just Maponus now.” Her voice changed, “Your Highness I know for a fact that Rosemerta is no more here in this plane.” There was a smugness to her voice that made me briefly smile.
I nodded my response and began nursing on the bottle, not bothering to take it from her hand as she gently sang a beautiful lullaby that Caireen recognized as being a Fey lullaby.