Your Move - Chapter 17 Posted [8/12/2022]

Just before 25-year-old programmer and chess IM (International Master) Isabelle drowns, she is pulled to the Diaper Dimension by the UN’s Dimensional Rescue Group. Things don’t quite go her way, but she has a powerful ally…

Your Move

Foreword

Welcome to Part 1 of my first story. A year ago today I started posting a chapter a week of this story on DailyDiapers and Wattpad, and I stopped when I got to the end of Part 1 since my Junior year of university was starting, and I just didn’t have the time to study and write on top of extracurriculars. This summer I found some spare time to write a bit every day after work (internship), and I’ve produced 7 chapters so far. With the way the story has taken it’s own life, I’m only about 1/3 of my way through the plot points that I’ve had planned out for Part 2! Unfortunately, I don’t forsee being able to finish writing with the amount of things I get up to, so you may be left on a cliffhanger (Sorry! :pleading_face::smiling_imp:), but at least you’ll get to read a couple more chapters.

Anyway, here’s the complete, edited version of Part 1. Hope you like it!

Part 1: Opening**

“Attackers may sometimes regret bad moves, but it is much worse to forever regret an opportunity you allowed to pass you by.”

— Garry Kasparov

Chapter 1 — What the Hell

I never expected it to be like this**.** Frankly, I didn’t think I was even supposed to be in Hell. Even though I wasn’t the most devout Christian, I certainly was one. So shouldn’t I have gone to Heaven? Even if I take the secular interpretation, don’t only bad guys end up here? I’m pretty sure I’d been a good girl — most of the time anyway.

Of course, human nature made being perfect all the time rather impossible, and I’d certainly done my share of sinning. But… but… this?? I don’t think that anything I’d ever done had made me deserve this. Did some angel mess up? Or was it a bug in some kind of software? Did angels even use software to make these decisions? Leaving the ‘why’ aside, shouldn’t Hell be hotter and more fiery, and shouldn’t Satan be a guy?

I pinched myself just to confirm I wasn’t dreaming, and looked around the dilapidated, dirty room for the third time since I’d opened my eyes a minute ago. The twenty-by-thirty-foot space was dimly lit by a small window stained almost opaque by dust and grime. The looming figure of the Devil, about twice my height, was clunking away in front of a stove, puffs of smoke rhythmically emanating from her mouth as she dragged on a cigarette.

I wretched again at the malodorous pile of dirty dishes, pots and pans that sat unwashed in the sink next to her, and the overflowing trash can beside it that contained a large mound of unidentifiable ooze whose composition I could only guess at. A lonely mattress, straight from a prison cell the way it was stained, filled the opposite corner of the room. All the furnishings, clearly sized for her, appeared intimidatingly large to me. What was most disturbing was a pile of reeking garbage bags that filled the last corner of the room. Topped with a pair of flies buzzing around angrily, its base spilled out to within inches of the mattress.

My disgusting panorama was interrupted by a noxious wave of cigarette smoke reaching me. It made my head spin. I choked and coughed, nauseous and unable to breath. When the air had somewhat cleared a moment later, I drew a deep breath. All I inhaled was the putrid stench of the space. Though it wasn’t exactly hot, the room was bordering on that, and the air was unpleasantly humid and warm. A trickle of sweat meandered down my face. Whatever I was wearing was definitely much thicker than necessary. Wait…

I looked down at the lavender footed sleeper I was dressed in. This was NOT what I’d put on the morning I died. It was frayed but soft, and the cute design adorning the front had long faded. Somehow, whoever had redressed me for this place knew that I liked purple. I’d actually owned a similar outfit before I died, but mine had been less… cute?

The similarity stopped right there as I noticed the straps that connected the butt of the sleeper, just below the end of the long zipper, to the heels of the feet. They didn’t seem to serve any purpose besides preventing me from getting up onto my feet. Odder yet, my undergarments felt utterly foreign to me. I was flat-chested enough that I rarely wore a bra, so it didn’t surprise me that I wasn’t wearing one, but the pillow hugging my loins stuck out to me just as much as it spread my thighs apart. I poked experimentally at the thick padding, confirming that it was some sort of ultra-thick diaper — a word that still made me blush as it stirred memories of my bedwetting fiascos as a child.

Thanks to the heat caused by the pillow of a diaper, my nether regions were even warmer than my other body parts, but this discomfort was nothing compared to the screaming alarm bells that my bladder was sending to my brain. Get to a toilet, now! In desperation, I cleared my dry throat and spoke for the first time since I’d died, “I eed oo you a waoom.”

My brain bugged at the disconnect as I heard my own words, blatantly incoherent. My hands quickly found the gag in my mouth. How on earth did I not notice this thing? I tried pulling it out and retrying my plea, and it suddenly expanded with a loud POP! My jaw felt like it was on fire as I cried out in pain!

Satan swung around and I glimpsed her face for the first time. Her washed-out green eyes were partially covered by strands of her matted, unkempt, dirty blonde hair. She looked like she was about fifty-five, and the wrinkles on her face scrunched up into a frown so ugly that I shuddered.

“Quiet, Christa!” She scolded in a crackling voice, turning back to whatever she was brewing.

Who’s Christa? I scanned the room once again quickly. There was definitely no one else here. Is Christa what they call Christians here? Does it mean—

My bladder once again interrupted my thoughts with its tingling, and I tried to squeeze my legs together and press a hand between them to prolong peeing myself. The thickness of the diaper rendered both efforts futile, so I started frantically looking around for a toilet. I saw a weathered but imposingly tall door. A curtain on the opposing wall of the same giant size. The paint on the door had peeled and the curtain’s designs had washed out years ago. Realizing that I had no other options since I couldn’t even stand up, I whimpered as the floodgates opened and I wet myself.

The Devil clearly didn’t notice what had transpired, but I almost broke into tears as I pawed at the warm wetness between my legs, spreading its tendrils into the thirsty padding. I hadn’t felt anything like this in years, and my memories of waking up in a cold, wet diaper as a little girl came flooding back. The pain in my jaw had dulled somewhat, but it still ached, and I rubbed it, choking back tears. In an attempt to distract myself from my distressing situation, I recalled the last moments of my life…

“Mom, dad, are you guys ready to go?” I called out as I set the burglar alarm and locked the front door on my phone.

“Yeah hon!” My dad shouted back from the car.

I jogged over to the driver’s seat, climbed in, and started the car. I put on some nice classical music, and started driving to the annual regional chess tournament. I was on-track to secure my third GM norm, which would promote me from an International Master to a Grandmaster, a title I’d spent the better half of my life trying to secure. ‘GM Isabelle Green’ would look perfect on my website, I noted to myself.

As I drove down a winding road that hugged a rock face, I marvelled at the lake on the other side of the road. Its crystal-clear waters perfectly reflected the blue summer sky, on which a family of ducks were making a wide V-shaped wake. When I rounded a bend in the road, a large semi truck suddenly bore down on me from the opposite direction! The driver must have been either drunk or crazy, because it was driving dead-center on the two-lane road!

I heard my mom shriek as I swerved quickly to the right, narrowly avoiding a deadly head-on collision. Just as I thought the incident was over, a front wheel cleared the narrow gravel shoulder and the steering wheel was wrenched from my grasp! The three of us joined into a collective scream, as the crystal-clear water loomed closer and closer. It was almost like everything was in slow motion, like I was watching an action movie. It must have been only a second or two from my driving off the edge to the impact of the water, but it felt like hours!

People say your life flashes before your eyes when you’re about to die, but my mind was totally blank as the car slid silently below the depths. The slight thud as the car hit the bottom of the lake jolted me to my senses, and I quickly looked behind me to check on my parents. They appeared to have either fainted or been knocked unconscious by the collision with the surface of the water. I undid my seatbelt, twisted around, and struggled to free them as well.

Once I got their arms free from the seatbelt, I pulled out the headrest of my seat and used the pointed end to smash open my side window, knowing that the doors wouldn’t open yet due to the pressure difference. Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for the ice-cold water that gushed through the window in torrents, smacking me in the face and freezing me into a stupor. Surrounded by a frenzy of air bubbles, I let out a cry, muffled by the water pouring into my lungs, and I began to drown!


“Pull her now!” Dr. Torelli yelled, determination and a hint of desperation evident in her voice.

Not wasting a millisecond more, I hit F6 to run the extraction script and watched as the localized portal leveraged quantum entanglement to swap the girl with a proportionate amount of fluid in the transfer tank. The process had been perfected by the legendary Dr. Bremer’s protégé, Wilhelm Münch. After undergoing field trials by private-sector organizations like the Procurement Agency for Childlike Littles, it was now being used by the Dimensional Rescue Group of the United Nations’ Interdimensional Commission to give people from the other dimension a life after their sudden deaths.

Every second that I’d had to watch the livestream of the accident was pure torture, delivered in submillimeter-pixel holographic gory from the ceiling-mounted volumetric display projector. The holographic feed, stitched together in real-time by AI, showed the girl’s vitals directly on her translucent body. The data and imagery were being captured by nanobots in the other dimension using a mix of lidar, x-ray, and millimeter-wave imaging, since we were working underwater. Cameras recording in the visible wavelengths at that depth would be blurry at best.

We had a strict protocol to follow, so I was forced to wait until Dr. Torelli, the team’s physician, affirmed that the girl couldn’t possibly survive without some sort of miracle (that we’d pull off) before executing the extraction. I breathed a sigh of relief as the tank’s indicators showed that she was still alive.

This was definitely not the team’s first extraction. As soon as the transfer subroutine finished executing and flashed the transfer tank green, the medics breached the tank’s seal. In unison and with calm and skillful preparedness, they lifted the girl onto the waiting operating table.

“DNA verification successful. Subject is twenty-five-year-old Isabelle Green, caucasian, height five-four, weight one-nineteen, pulse forty. Symptoms are water inhalation and cold shock.” The extraction room’s AI helpfully listed.

I heard a hiss as one of the medics nasally delivered the nanites that would be used to clear the Little girl’s lungs of fluid via an oxygen mask. Another medic quickly diapered her, not wanting a shock from the nanites to cause any more of a mess. I loaded a standard electrolysis program I had written for the nanites, wirelessly uploading it to them.

“Clear! Activating!”

When the holographic vitals floating above the operating table improved, everyone in the room visibly relaxed. I knew that nanites had yet again saved a life, electrolyzing the water in Isabelle’s lungs into harmless oxygen and hydrogen gas. They had first formed a thin film around her alveoli, the parts of her lungs that oxygenated her blood, and then started the electrolysis process from there so that she could breathe.

I shuddered as I remembered that the other dimension still stuck tubes into the lungs, often causing irreversible damage to the trachea and bronchi. Another swarm of nanites spread throughout her bloodstream, exothermically warming up her body to prevent hypothermia and treat the cold shock she’d experienced from the icy lake.

“Good work people! Let’s send her to recovery.” I congratulated the team as I let go of Isabelle’s hand, which had gone from cold and clammy to a comfortable room temperature in the span of just 10 minutes. They’d all done their jobs well, a quick glance at Isabelle’s now strong and stable vitals confirmed. Inwardly, I regretted not being able to save her parents as well, but we had limited staffing, time and resources, so we couldn’t save everyone. We always prioritized the young and healthy. And the girls. I shuddered at that last one.

As a Canadian Dimensional Rescue Lead, I was proud of how well Littles were treated and how equal their rights were up here in Canada, at least when compared to our bigotted southern neighbors. Little weren’t granted anywhere close to equal rights in countries like the United States of Acimera. Since the headquarters of UNIC were in the US and the majority of its directors were Acimeran, I knew just why the Little-owning Bigs down south had set those criteria in our guidelines. They were more adoptable. I looked over at Isabelle being wheeled out of the room. She was very cute. Very adoptable.

“Thanks Mike, you know you’re the best.” Dr. Torelli patted my back.

I nodded. I’d basically written the book on extractions. As one of the first DRLs, I’d helped set up the program and personally programmed a lot of the tech around me as a result. When you design the system, well, you tend to know everything inside out. And be the best.

“You’re not so bad yourself, Doc.”

The rest of the team followed the medics out of the room, and I was about to go with them, but something stopped me in my tracks. I… couldn’t help but feel a pang of… emotion. For Isabelle. What was it? Pity? Guilt? Love? Whatever this is, it isn’t something I’ve felt before.

I sat down at my workstation again. “Where’s her destination?” I asked the room’s AI on a whim.

“Ollirama, Jacinto”. I shuddered again. That was down in the deep south, one of the worst places that a Little could end up in. I made a note to check up on her situation in a few days, and got up to join the others in the break room.

##Chapter 2 — Predator and Prey

Satan walked over to me. Towering over me and looking down, she introduced herself.

“You will call me Mommy, if and when I let you speak. You’re in my house. You’re nothing but a doll to me. I don’t care what you want and you don’t need ANYTHING. I own you, and you will do everything I say. Nod if you understand me.”

“HNNNN!” I shook my head violently.

“CHRISTA! What did I just say? I said you will do EVERYTHING I say. And I mean EVERYTHING. I also said nod. So NOD!!!”

Confusion in my eyes, I tilted my head at the reappearance of that name. Christa.

“YOUR NAME IS CHRISTA,” she explained menacingly, her voice dripping with condescension. “Goddammit you Littles are so STUPID! NOD. YOUR. HEAD. Or you’ll regret it!” She threatened.

I sat there, bewildered. My name was Isabelle. Not Christa. Where did she—

With a cry of pure fury, she yanked me into the air by my wrists and began spanking the daylights out of me! I shook in fear and pain. Even though the diaper somewhat softened the blows, her massive hand made my bones feel like they were about to crack!

“YOU.” smack. “WILL.” smack. “DO.” smack.

A swat punctuated every word. I started to cry, sobs muffled by the gag in my mouth. Pacifier, I realized.

“EVERYTHING.” smack. “I.” smack. “TELL.” smack. “YOU.” smack. “TO!!!” smack smack smack smack smack smack smack.

By the time she was done, I was a snivelling wreck, blubbering and nodding vigorously. Anything to get it to stop. Please!

She unzipped the back of my sleeper, reached down into my wet diaper, and pushed something up my rear exit!

“Let that be your first lesson. Now here’s another one. This is what you are.”

She grabbed my face in her free hand and cruelly twisted it around, forcing me to look at the pile of garbage as she zipped my sleeper back up again.

“GARBAGE. What are you?”

She twisted the pacifier, deflating it. Not fully, just to its state before I pulled on it. It was still uncomfortable, but at least it wasn’t agonizing. I sniffled, too scared to speak.

“I asked you a QUESTION, little girl! What are you?! ANSWER ME!!!”

“Guhage?” I whimpered around the pacifier.

“That’s right. Garbage.” She dragged me over to the garbage can by the sink, lifted out the overflowing bag of garbage, and dumped me in the bin! I watched in horror as she slammed the lid closed on top of me, trapping me in the pitch-black plastic prison. Ears ringing and eyes completely blind, I panicked.

To make matters worse, a rumble in my bowels confirmed that the worst was yet to come. I desperately pushed both hands against my rear exit to prevent the monster in my guts from escaping, but something told me that I wouldn’t be able to stop it for long. I squirmed against the rigid side wall of the bin, trying to find a more comfortable position.

It felt like at least an hour, but I probably only lasted at most five minutes before I gave in to the unrelenting pressure. I gasped as warm mush oozed out into the waiting padding, forming a large mass in the seat of the diaper that pressed against my skin. I felt the need to pee again, and, given that all hope was lost, just let loose. I’d been flung beyond the point of self-preservation. I felt the diaper expanding to soak up my stream of pee, surprised at the amount that it could hold without leaking.

I shifted my weight, grimacing as the mess slid around in the seat of the diaper and some of it seeped toward the front. Disgusting. My knees hurt so much from kneeling on the hard plastic grid that formed the base of the garbage can that I had no choice but to awkwardly sit down. I shuddered as I squished the mass in the process. This was unbearably awful.

A single tear rolled down my cheek. I sniffed reflexively, and immediately regretted the act. The stench of the mess I’d made had stunk up the confined space, and my mouth was blocked by the pacifier!

This isn’t Hell, is it?? I’m some cruel person’s captive, in some kind of messed up torture chamber or something. How am I even alive? Didn’t I drown after driving into the lake? Where were my parents? Were they able to escape? Is that why I’m being treated so scornfully? I had a million questions. The darkness and isolation gave me time to think, yet the unforgiving stench prevented coherent thought. I rubbed my jaw, glad that at least the pain from earlier was subsiding.

The mass between my legs was cooling, and my skin was starting to itch and burn at the same time. I frustratedly thumped a fist against the side of the bin, which only served to make my ears start ringing again. Real smart, Izzy. Real smart.

After what must have been an eternity, the lid was finally opened, and I blinked at the sudden burst of light as I was lifted out of the garbage can by the scruff of my sleeper. I hastily drew in a deep breath of fresh air, not knowing just how much I would be getting. The room definitely wasn’t a rose garden, but it was still a million times better than the horrific reek of my used diaper!

“Looks like the garbage left a pwesent for Mommy!” The woman exclaimed in a patronizing tone, squishing the crotch of the diaper and patting my butt. “Since you were a bad girl earlier you’re not getting a change just yet. You need to get used to sitting in your poopy diapers!”

“Hnnn!!” I whined.

“Do you want to go back in the bin for another hour?” She threatened, shooting menacing daggers at me.

I desperately shook my head, eyes widening in fear.

“I thought so.”

She proceeded to unceremoniously deposit me on the floor with another quick grope of the diaper. Eager to get as far away from the garbage can as possible, but still prevented from getting up by the straps on my sleeper, I crawled desperately across the room toward the mattress. Before I could climb onto it, I heard a yell from the woman.

“NO! Bad girl!”

I jolted and let out a stream of pee in shock, resaturating the drying sludge in my diaper.

“The bed is for Mommy only! You should be thankful I let you sleep on the floor, and not in the garbage can so I don’t have to smell you!”

I just about threw up at even the thought of going back into that hellhole. She shoved a quart-sized baby bottle of water into my hands before twisting and removing the pacifier in my mouth.

“Drink up!”

Since I was getting dehydrated and my mouth was dry, I started sucking thirstily at the tepid liquid, ignoring the infantile drinkware for the moment. She stared at me as I drank, and I saw a smile so ugly I wanted to bleach my eyes when I finished the bottle.


Three days after I rescued Isabelle, it was just after lunch on Saturday and I was working on a side project.

“Remember to check on Isabelle Green,” Max, my AI assistant, helpfully reminded me of the note I’d made.

Furrowing my brow, I took a moment to recollect the feelings I’d had for Isabelle. I’d finally managed to put a phrase to it. Fatherly love. This was the exact same BS that the Acimerans used to enslave Littles, but it was real for me. It’d better be.

“Right. Go secure and bring up everything you can find on her on Workspace 3.”

I couldn’t risk making a mistake and having anyone track what I was about to do back to me, so I got Max to ‘go secure’, which meant encrypting all my internet traffic with lattice-based encryption instead of ECC, and bouncing it off 5 different random servers around the world using Tor. Both ECC and RSA had been cracked years ago with the first Shor-capable quantum computers, but people were still using them. The one issue shared by all technological advancements was that they made people more and more oblivious to shortcomings in the everyday tech they take for granted.

I watched the holograms around me morph from the new nanite routine I was working on to a bevy of video feeds, a terminal, and some additional data about Isabelle that Max had collected using the backdoors and privileged access to UNIC and other systems that I’d accrued over the years. Max had spotlighted a hologram of a dilapidated shack, with two figures inside labelled “Karen” and “Isabelle”.

“This is her current location, eh?” I asked, reading the coordinates floating above the model.

“Precisely. Karen is the adoptive mother. Records indicate that her older sister, Kate, should have adopted Isabelle instead, but her untimely death the day before your rescue triggered an automatic transfer of custody,” Max explained.

“Interesting. Bring up Kate’s data on Workspace 4 in the background. Split 3 and 4,” I commanded with a twitch of my right ring finger and a wave of my arms, sweeping the existing holograms into a 180° field of view so Kate’s data would have room to be displayed behind me. I stood up to get a better view, and the holograms rose with me.

I spotlighted a different vidfeed, enlarging and repositioning it to the center of my field of view. Sitting on the floor in front of a mound of garbage was unquestionably Isabelle… in a heavily soiled diaper. The dark crescents on her footed sleeper were a definite telltale that she had leaked through her padding. Her blonde hair was matted with dirt and debris. Her baby-blue eyes, crusted with dried-out tears, stared blankly at something just below the camera. A trickle of drool ran down her chin from a corner of her pacified mouth. She looked… gone.

I gagged at the state of her conditions. I’m getting her out of there. No human being should ever live like that. Certainly no one ever will on my watch.

“Cross reference her symptoms on the medware with those of hypnosis.”

“Everything except the crusty eyes match. That and her cheeks are excessively flustered, and the optical intradermal scan is reading excessive heat levels there.” He helpfully offered.

“She’s probably been crying, I know I would be if I was in her situation,” I guessed. “That explains her crusty eyes, eh? The flustered cheeks… maybe some sort of hypnosis side effect? I’m no doctor though.”

I sat back down and spun around to face Workspace 4. From the data I could see so far, Karen was dirt poor and had a mean streak. Kate, on the other hand, was well-off, kind and gentle. She’d successfully adopted two Littles before and even sent one to college, something so rare it was almost unheard of! No wonder UNIC had preapproved her for adoptions.

Unfortunately for Isabelle, Kate had been killed in a car accident. How ironic.

“Report this to Jacinto LPS. Send them her details and the supporting evidence, but make sure you wipe the metadata, sources, and any other fingerprints first,” I directed. Hopefully she’ll be okay. With luck, maybe even the hypnosis could be dealt with.

“LPS systems acknowledge receipt of your complaint. They can only deal with it some time next week though, they’ve got a backlog of requests,” Max reported.

“What?! Probably fake complaints from jealous Bigs.” LPS was a major scam, but even the few times that it actually worked made it worth keeping around. Still, the system was very much flawed.

I spotlighted the terminal window.

“Gimme their API endpoint,” I told Max.

“You’re not gonna hack into LPS are you?” Max asked. “You know messing with that stuff is a federal offense, right?”

“So was every bit of info you’ve pulled for me today,” I smirked. “Copy it.”

I pasted in the endpoint and ran some commands.

image.thumb.png.b9250150c3a900afce83063059336216.png

When I saw the nmap summary, I knew I’d struck gold. RRH, or Reverse Routing Header, had several zero-day vulnerabilities in it that I could easily chain with some other exploits to hack into the LPS API. Exposing that port was a rookie mistake, but apparently LPS was too focused on other things to care about security. A few minutes of Python scripting later, I had what I was looking for.

image.thumb.png.502b5a014f3a7ed333d2f19b1abc69ff.png

I quickly logged into the admin interface and flagged Isabelle’s case as ultra-high priority. That got the wait time down to 0… business days?! Isabelle would have to stay with that horrible bitch until Monday. Oh the poor girl.

I decided there and then that I’d help her all the way*.* I tagged a specific orphanage on her file, checked over everything, and logged out of the LPS system.

“Clear workspaces 3 and 4. Wipe the evidence,” I instructed Max.

Hang in there, Isabelle. I’m gonna save you.

===========================================================

Bonus content — a funny video about suppositories and anal temp:

Chapter 3 — Change of Scenery

About an hour after downing the bottle of water, I was picked up by the witch and placed on her lap. I was fed dinner from there, which quickly proved to be another traumatic experience as the jarred sludge she spooned me was so disgusting that I gagged and almost choked several times.

I could think of some people who wouldn’t mind eating sardine-and-spam, but I certainly wasn’t one of them. The ordeal was exacerbated by the airplane noises she made, and the only result of her waving the spoon around like I was two was my face and the front of my sleeper being desecrated by all the food that missed my mouth.

Shortly after, she ate her own dinner and washed up. Having been fed what was equivalent to pig slop to me, the delicious bowl of instant noodles she had the privilege to enjoy was pure torment for me to watch and smell. When the sky outside the small window turned dark, she sprawled out on the tattered mattress.

“Good night doll, don’t get bitten by the roaches!”

I shivered in trepidation. From the state of the place, that wasn’t exactly this dimension’s version of “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” that they just told kids here. My dirtied face and diaper felt like prime targets, especially since the latter was now massively swollen from multiple additional wettings. I did my best to clean off my face with the sleeve of my sleeper, but I couldn’t do anything about my diaper.

I groaned about that as I felt my butt complaining about the combination of the spanking I’d received earlier and the mess coating my butt. I definitely had a diaper rash from the prolonged confinement in the soiled garment, which was sure to get worse by tomorrow. I can’t believe this is happening.

I had the habit of always saying a nightly prayer, so I decided that there’d be no harm in praying here, especially given my current situation.

Dear God,

I know I haven’t been perfect, but I don’t know what I did to deserve this hellhole. Why am I here? Where even is here? I know that you love me and that you know what you’re doing, so I won’t complain… But please, please save me from this degrading place and this sadistic woman. And please, someday, let me have another game of chess and a life beyond someone’s doll. I know you gave me this gift for a reason. Please don’t let me waste it. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me all my life.

In Jesus’s name I pray,
Amen.

I started to cry again, frustrated at how bad my situation had turned out. In the end, I drifted off on the hard floor, curled up into a ball as best I could.

The next morning I rubbed my eyes as I sat up, my body hurting all over. I’d slept surprisingly well given the circumstances, but I figured it was mainly because of how tired I was. I looked down at my diaper, which — I could tell from the dark spots on both sides of my sleeper’s crotch — had definitely leaked.

I suddenly realized that I’d been unconsciously sucking on the pacifier that was still in my mouth. It was strangely comforting, but I made myself stop. I’m not a baby. I tried spitting it out, but the bulb was too inflated, and I didn’t dare tamper with it any further. I definitely didn’t want to risk the painful inflation from yesterday repeating itself.

The woman was already up, and sitting on her bed reading some sort of instruction manual from a paper-thin tablet. Just then, she looked up and caught me staring at her.

“Morning doll! You’re gunna make me some money today!” She exclaimed.

I frowned apprehensively at that, not quite sure what to expect. Whatever it was, it can’t be good for me.

She deflated my pacifier with a twist, took it out, and handed me a large baby bottle of water. After I thirstily guzzled it, she reinserted the pacifier and inflated it with another twist. She then unboxed and set up a futuristic-looking semi-transparent screen on a stand about a meter in front of me.

After pausing briefly to look at the manual again, she powered the device on and it beeped three times in rapid succession. A really bright light from the screen flashed, dazzling my eyes. A split second later, I saw some swirling colors on the tablet-like device, and a calming voice telling me something about using my diapers like a good girl. The next thing I knew, my mind went totally blank!

When I emerged from a complete stupor, she was turning off the screen, and I was pushing last night’s mush into the back of my already full diaper! I frantically tried to stop it, but it seemed like my sphincter and related muscles were locked in the ‘open’ position. Not only did trying to clamp down hurt A LOT, I couldn’t dam the flow no matter what I did!

“Good girl, using your diaper like you’re meant to!” The bitch cooed. “I think I might just change you earlier than I planned to, just so I won’t have as hard of a time washing your sleeper!”

After making me sit in my mess for another half hour, she finally removed my sleeper and laid me down, buck-naked except for the diaper. She manhandled me as easily as one would a toddler, lifting both my legs with one hand just like I’d done when I’d babysat years ago.

The relief of having the soiled and sodden diaper taken off me overcame any modesty I had, so I didn’t bother to try and cover anything up. She used the front of the diaper, which wasn’t much cleaner than the back, to wipe the worst of the mess off my butt. I was then dragged outside for the first time. As I walked, I could feel bits of runny poop that weren’t wiped off sliding down my legs. I need a shower to not feel disgusting at this point.

Once my eyes had adjusted for the bright sunlight that starkly contrasted the dim room I’d gotten used to, I took in the vast landscape around me. Dense, yellowed, prairie grassland stretched unbroken in every direction for as far as I could see. Singular, stubby trees and small shrubs dotted the landscape here and there, and some cattle roamed in the distance. Besides that herd, this place looks like it’s devoid of humanity!

I yelped from behind the pacifier as a jet of lukewarm water blasted my butt. The woman blasted my butt thoroughly, then moved on to my back and legs, as if I was a farm animal. When she spun me around to face her, I appreciated for the first time just how tall the shack she lived in was. A monster-truck-sized pickup truck was parked beside it, and both were at least twice the height of what they were supposed to be. I wonder how she got all this stuff in her size…

When the woman finished hosing me down, she dried me off with a towel. I tried to protest that I could dry and dress myself to stop the uncomfortably intimate touching. She either didn’t understand me with the pacifier in the way or just didn’t care, so I gave up and stood there as she dressed me. My new outfit consisted of a puke-green sundress. Perhaps it was once a more pleasant color, but its current appearance just reminded me of vomit.

I was just starting to feel self-conscious about not wearing any underwear underneath the dress, something I never did, when she dragged me back into the shack and laid me on the floor. She put some cream on my butt, which soothed the discomfort from my rash, followed by another massive diaper. Why are these diapers so huge??

As if ironically reading my mind, she jeered, “You’re only getting one change a day, at least for now. I’m not spending a single cent more on you than I have to!” Her voice boomed out in a pure cackle, in a manner only possible if she were a witch. This woman is deranged. Get me outta here!

As a few more days passed, I lost track of time. The boredom was really getting to me, since there was nothing for me to do except sit around most of the time. I found myself sucking on the pacifier that was locked in my mouth more often than not, if not just for something to do. I also mentally studied some chess positions, but there’s only so much you can do in your head.

My diapers were almost constantly filled with my bodily waste, and the bitch kept her word, changing me just once a day. I was grateful that at least she used the cream during each change, so my diaper rash hadn’t worsened.

I began noticing that I had less and less control over my bladder and bowel functions each day, to the point where I now had very little warning before I went. I was truly using my diapers for their intended purposes, thanks to the hypnosis videos that the woman forced me to watch for God knew how long each morning.

The second time that she’d turned on the screen, I’d tried to close my eyes and turn away, but she’d pinned my arms to my sides and kept my face pointed at the screen with her massive hands, preventing me from looking anywhere else. The bright flash had somehow worked even with my eyes closed, so I’d been utterly helpless. By the time she’d let go of me, the video had already turned me into a passive zombie, staring at the screen in a blissful stupor.

One morning, I woke up to the door of the shack being flung open!

“LPS! Hands on your head!” A gigantic officer, a full head taller than the bitch, screamed at her. Pistol trained on her, she swooped in swiftly, like an eagle hunting its prey. What was going on? Who were these other giants?? There were other giants here???

Another officer, slightly shorter than the first but still impossibly tall, grabbed me off the floor. I instinctively tensed up, unused to being picked up and held so far off the ground. “Dave to dispatch, Little secured, DNA scan verifies she is Isabelle Green,” he spoke calmly into an earpiece.

“Karen Elizabeth Kemp, you are under arrest for child abuse under Section 1709 of Title 44 of the US Code. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you. If you understand me, nod,” the female officer Mirandized.

“You can’t ar—”, the witch started to say something.

“NOD!!! YOU UNDERSTOOD WHAT I SAID PERFECTLY!!” The officer screamed at her, “HOW DARE YOU ABUSE SUCH A SWEET LITTLE GIRL LIKE THAT?!”

I couldn’t help but grin at the irony of the turn of events, and I silently thanked God for answering my nightly prayers.

“Are you mentally intact?” The officer holding me — Dave — asked.

I nodded. “Mothly, I think?” I lisped around the pacifier.

“Good, we’ll need to interview you when we get to the station. In the meantime, your diaper is leaking! We need to get you changed first.”

He rummaged around the storage area behind the curtain for a spare diaper, and emerged triumphantly holding one. The female officer found a pack of wipes from their truck outside, and handed them to Dave, who laid me down, and untaped my soiled diaper. I blushed as he wiped me down, not used to a strange new pair of hands dancing all over my crotch area. I was also quite apprehensive, with his being a man and all.

Thankfully, he was very professional apart from a little cooing, which turned into a grimace when he saw the rash on my butt. His colleague got some sort of ointment and spread it over the entire red area, explaining that it would quickly heal my rash, provided I wasn’t kept in messy diapers for extended periods of time again. Dave then taped the fresh diaper on me and found a clean dress for me to wear.

The officers brought us out to waiting vehicles, and I blushed as Dave sat me in a toddler’s car seat and strapped me in.

“It’s for your own safety, and it’s the law.”

I nodded, still confused as to where exactly this place was. There were laws here…?

During our drive to the police station, the witch screamed profanities at the officers until they grew tired of it. At that point, the biggest pacifier I’d ever seen was locked into her mouth. I giggled at the further irony and her discomfort. She deserved ten times worse.

When we arrived at the LPS office, Dave released me from the car seat and picked me up again, holding me close to his chest. I’d played with the buckle a bit, but hadn’t been able to get it open. That made sense, given that the giants were clearly much stronger than my puny self.

I gawped at the size of everything as we walked inside. More giants were bustling about, and it soon dawned on me that everyone in this place was a giant. I was carried over to a room full of medical equipment, and Karen was led away separately. Good riddance, bitch.

Dave set me down on a scale, and a nurse weighed and measured me. I’d apparently shrunk quite a bit when I died, and I stood at a measly 5’4 compared to the 5’10 listed on my Drivers’ License. I’d also gotten just a bit lighter, coming in at 119 pounds. Or maybe they measured length differently in this place?

I tensed as I was picked up again, still unused to being lifted into the air. Once I saw that it was Dave, I relaxed quite a bit. He’d been gentle enough so far, and I could see no reason for that to change. We walked down several hallways and up a flight of stairs, and I was glad that I was being carried for once. The stairs were massive!

Finally, we reached a room with “Interview - Little” on the door that was more regular-sized. Large stuffed animals, toys, and cushions covered the small room’s floor in huge piles. Some of the bigger stuffed animals were almost twice my size! I didn’t see a particular spot to sit down anywhere, so when Dave set me down on the ground standing up, I plopped down on the lap of a massive stuffed bear and made myself comfortable.

I was stroking its paw and looking around the room more when a smaller, Asian giant walked in and sat down on a bean bag chair. She was still about 3 feet taller than me, but at least she didn’t look like she could eat me for dessert! But that perception changed, and I recoiled, when I saw that she was holding a transparent tablet similar to the one that had been used to hypnotize me!

Chapter 4 — Truth Can Hurt

“Hi Isabelle, I’m Linda. We’re arranging a safe place for you to live. I promise it’ll be a million times better than Miss Kemp’s place!”

She saw my eyes darting to her tablet, and I could tell she sensed my fear. She reassured me, “Don’t worry sweetie, this is just a regular tablet that I carry around. It won’t do anything to you, I promise!”

I relaxed by a miniscule amount, not quite ready to trust her just yet.

“I’m going to ask you a few quick questions, which will hopefully help us put her in jail for a long time. Are you ready to be a good little helper and answer some questions?”

I pointed nervously at the pacifier in my mouth that had been my companion for the past few days.

She smiled and quickly deflated and removed it, biting her lower lip as she did so.

I ran my tongue over my teeth, happy to have the restricting pacifier out of my mouth.

“You looked so cute sucking on it, it’s a shame that we have to take it out. I’ll give it right back to you as soon as we’re done, but we do need to hear your testimony.” She cooed. “Do you know what that big word means? Test-i-mon-y?”

I bit my own lip to stop myself from rolling my eyes at her. Instead, I answered with a more civilized but curt, “Yes.”

“My goodness, you’re not just a cute face! Now, if you could tell me eeeverything that happened while you were under Miss Kemp’s care for the record, it would help our case significantly. Whenever you’re ready.”

I sighed, disinclined to go over everything again in my mind.

“Umm don’t you need to start recording or something?” I hadn’t seen her do anything like that yet.

“Oh my, what a big girl! The room’s wired up for sound, sweetie, everything you say will be recorded.”

Over the course of the next hour, I told her, to the best of my ability, everything that had transpired in the past few days in graphic detail.

When I finished giving my statement, Linda sighed and commented, “That sounds terrible, I’m sorry you went through that sweetie.”

I nodded in agreement.

“Though you can rest assured that we’ll put her away for a long time. I’ve got plenty of evidence now. It’s all very strong. The physical stuff we found at the scene along with some video footage an anonymous tipper sent us fully corroborates your testimony.” She said almost to herself.

“Do you want anything before we transfer you? A baba maybe?”

I scowled at her suggestion. Did she think I was retarded or something?

“Something to drink and an explanation of what this place is and how I got here when I died, please? And why I’m dressed and being treated like I’m two?”

“Sure thing honeybun. Here’s some apple juice for you; drink up while I explain everything to you,” Linda said as she brought me a giant sippy cup of it from a fridge sunk into a wall.

I gave her a pointed look for her term of endearment, but started drinking. I was thirsty enough to not care about the drinkware, having had nothing all morning. The sippyness of the cup still begged the question of why I was being treated like a toddler though, and I stared at Linda expectantly.

“Let’s start with your first question. The reason you didn’t die was because the United Nations beamed you here just before you were going to,” she explained.

“We didn’t want you to die at such a young age, so when you were helplessly drowning to a certain death they used some very advanced technology to bring you here. Miss Kemp was then supposed to take care of you, but she didn’t do that very well, now did she? We got an anonymous tip and now you’re here.”

“Where is here?”

Here is the Jacinto headquarters of the Little Protective Services. We investigate when Littles like you are abused, and save you.”

“No, no. I meant what is this world? This…” Dimension. No. How could that have been possible?

“A dimension quite similar to yours, but with some differences too,” she confirmed. “Have you heard of the portals and dimensions?”

I gasped and peed in fright. I’d assumed that I wasn’t in the other dimension — well, this one — before since I hadn’t seen any other people, and I didn’t think they’d be able to instantly create a localized portal at the bottom of a lake. Just how advanced was their technology?

“The dark-web rumors are true then? The tabloids weren’t making it up??”

I’d heard a whole bunch of rumors about what netizens called the Diaper Dimension, where regular-sized adults were treated as babies by giant Amazons. Their tech was supposedly more than a decade ahead of ours, and their history remarkably similar yet with subtle changes. For instance, their United States were those of Acirema, instead of America.

“What rumors?” Linda retorted with a rather blatant mock innocence.

I brushed past her question.

“Please just send me home,” I pleaded. “I’ve cooperated with you to the best of my ability, haven’t I?”

“You have, but I can’t do that.” She asserted matter-of-factly.

“Why not?” I whined, getting nervous again. “Why can’t I go home?”

“Because you’re a Little in a big world. You’re going somewhere where you’ll be taken care of properly instead.” She condescended. My anger flared up.

“What?! How can you let people be treated like this?!” I couldn’t reign in my rage anymore.

She tilted her head at me and tsk-tsked.

“How is this not a human rights viol—?!”

She sighed and popped the pacifier back into my mouth, twisting it a half-turn before I could spit it out. It inflated painfully and I screamed!

“Huck ooo!!!”

Seeing nothing but red, I threw the now-empty sippy cup and a nearby stuffed animal — a red panda — at her and pounded my fists on the bear I was sitting on in frustration. Tears began to stream down my face as I heard the door to the room open and felt myself getting picked up from behind again. I didn’t know who it was and I didn’t care. I just wanted this stupid nightmare to end. My only response was a deep moan of despair. This was the worst day ever.

I was carried over to another room and set down in a highchair. Straps were tightened over my waist, head and legs. The tray was fitted over my arms, rendering me completely immobile.

I had burnt up all my energy in my outburst, so I sat motionlessly as my pacifier was removed, too tired to care. Having eaten nothing but gruel at Karen’s place, I was thankful for the more normal continental breakfast that I was fed. Even when it was mutilated and spooned to me. Even when I rolled my eyes at the silly airplane and train noises and gestures. My brain will turn into freaking mush if this is kept up.

Halfway through breakfast, I turned red as I grunted and pooped with less than two seconds of warning. I wonder if I’ll ever regain control? Thankfully, the feeding stopped to let me finish.

“You won’t leak just yet, but I’ll change you as soon as we finish brunch!” I heard after the crotch of my diaper was squeezed by a large hand.

When I finished the last bite of hash brown, the straps were undone and I was picked up. I was praised for being a “good girl” through breakfast and carried, eyes and nose red, over to a nearby changing table. I was laid down on it with a strap pulled across my stomach, securing me to the table.

A strangely calming nursery rhyme that I’d never heard of was sung to me while my soiled diaper was removed and thrown out. And I was wiped down. And a new diaper was taped on me. Then I was “all clean”, tickled, made to giggle involuntarily, and given a different pacifier to suck on.

There was something different about this pacifier, yet I couldn’t put my finger on it. I figured it out a moment later. It didn’t have a locking mechanism. I sucked on it, having grown fond of the comforting motion. Maybe it’ll calm me down. A short walk later, I was set down in a mesh-walled enclosure with a firm foam padding for the base. A playpen. Seriously? I looked around in a full circle and spotted the giant bear I was sitting on earlier directly behind me. I walked over and collapsed onto its lap. So soft. So comfy. So… sleepy… I decided that there was nothing to lose after everything that happened. I passed out cuddling the big bear’s paw.

I woke up to the sound of a car door shutting. I yawned, rubbed my eyes with my fists, and blinked, then jolted when I realized I wasn’t where I fell asleep. Instead, I was back in the car seat that brought me to the police station earlier. Dave was driving, and there was no one else in the car. Since he’d been rather nice compared to the other giants, and I’d lost the pacifier, I asked him where we were going.

“To an orphanage ‘bout a 10-mile drive away. It’s not the usual one we take our charges to, there was a note on your file. You’ll still be safe, lass. And I’m sorry that Karen was a terrible person.”

“Why an orphanage? Can’t you just take me home?” I begged.

“I’m sorry lass, I can’t do that without losing my job and probably getting charged with neglect too. Even if I could, there’s no way they’re letting you go back. You’ve got no documentation proving you were from there, and they don’t just let random Littles through the portals.” He looked at me empathetically through the rear-view mirror.

“What about through a localized portal like the one that brought me here?”

“As far as I know that’s a one-way thing. I remember something about there being no transfer tank in your dimension, or something along those lines. The exact details are beyond my understanding.”

I desperately wanted him to be lying, but the psych minor I’d done in university told me he probably wasn’t. There was simply no gain for him in doing it, and he didn’t seem like a sadist either. I sighed.

I spent the remainder of the drive staring out the window at the prairie landscape on either side of the highway. Occasionally we passed digital billboards that displayed all sorts of strange brands I’d never heard of before. One of them, Melon Corp, was advertising its latest laptop as we drove past it in a blur. I was startled by the sound of a woman whispering in my ear.

“One century since we made our first computer, we now offer the MelOne. One exaflop of raw power. One exabyte of PCIE-7 storage. One hundred terabytes of RAM. Preorder online or at any Melon Corp certified retailer.”

My mouth fell open in shock. This was insane! We had just worked out how to mass-produce nanosheet technology after years of setbacks. The amount of processing power they had on just one chip was incredible! Wait a minute, how did they deliver that ad?

Dave saw my agape mouth and explained, “The voice you heard was from the billboard. It’s a new micrometer-wave technique for subcranial audio injection called inSAIn. Congress is having a tough time with it, because nobody knows what the long-term effects are and the ethics of it are muddied by the trillions that the corporations involved put in. Most billboards at least have a legal age setting on, so Little and child brains don’t just get scrambled by the ads, but I guess that one didn’t.”

Soon, we took an exit off the highway. A short local drive later, we pulled into the parking lot of an orphanage with a big sign advertising its name, “Little Hearts”. I watched as Dave got out and spoke with the receptionist inside.

A minute later, he returned and looked at me oddly when he reached over to unbuckle my seat straps and found them undone. I’d finally figured out how to undo the buckle over the long drive. It was a complicated depress-twist-slide sequence that required the use of both of my hands. The mechanism had clearly been designed with great effort to be ‘Little’-proof.

Dave picked me up, closed the car door, and carried me over to the reception. When he bent down to set me down, I held on tightly to him and whined, not wanting to leave the nicest person I’d seen in this dimension so far for an orphanage. He sighed and picked me up again, bouncing me lightly once. I yelped softly at the momentary weightlessness. He brought me to his eye level and coaxed calmly.

“Look lass, you’ve gotta go. There’s nothing I could’ve done for you and there’s nothing I can do for you now. Believe me, if there was something I could’ve done I’d’ve done it a long time ago. The only thing I can offer you is some advice: do your best to act as babyish as you can. It will one hundred percent make your life more tolerable.”

I nodded. That wasn’t surprising, given the amount of weirdness in this dimension. He kissed my forehead gently, before passing me over to the receptionist, who brought me inside immediately. I was just starting to feel sad about Dave leaving, when the receptionist — her badge said Claire — carried me over to an alcove beside a strange glass enclosure.

There, she removed the sleeper I’d gone to sleep in last night, and opened a panel on the contraption. She had me climb in and stand barefooted and gently placed my hands flush against opposite glass walls of the contraption. Ordering me to stay still, she closed the panel again. A second later, I was blinded by a familiar flash of bright white light from all four glass panels, and I peed myself instinctively!

Chapter 5 — Life Is Like a Game of Chess

The swirling colors that I dreaded but fully expected never came. Instead, Claire removed me from the device after glancing at something on her semi-transparent monitor. As she ruffled my hair and smiled at me, I saw the piercingly-high definition 3D-scan of my body that she had open on her screen. Enlarged images of my hand- and foot-prints and my irises floated in front of the main model. So that was what the bright light was. An iris scan.

“Oh dear, you’re about to leak! Let’s get you changed.”

She gingerly carried me naked but for my sagging diaper over to a changing table in the adjacent room, not bothering with my sleeper. She removed the wet diaper, wiped me down, and taped a fresh one on me. It was bright pink and adorned with white unicorns, and I frowned at how silly it made me look. Pink is NOT my color. Seeing my long face, she tickled me, causing me to smile and giggle involuntarily. Before I could regain my composure, she had me sitting up with my legs dangling over the edge of the changing table.

A bright summer dress was pulled over my head, turning my vision into a sea of pastel yellow for a moment. When my head popped out the top, Claire swept my hair back with a matching yellow hairband, which came topped with a baby-blue bow. She stood me on the ground, gave me a pacifier that matched my outfit’s color scheme, and led me over to an adjacent mirror.

When I saw her, I gasped at how cute the innocent, foreign toddler staring back at me looked. I hated being relegated to a toddler, but I was starting to not mind the adorable clothes so much. If only the stupid unicorn diaper didn’t peak out from under my dress. I tugged the hem down with both hands, but it rode back up the second I did anything other than stand perfectly still.

“Well aren’t you cute!” She asked, beaming at my reflection. I couldn’t help but smile and nod.

She led me to the main room of the orphanage, which was almost three-quarters the size of a soccer field, and patted my butt, motioning for me to join the other fifty or so people running around boisterously. There was a mix of teenage and adult Littles alongside Amazon toddlers. I didn’t want to just start running laps, but I didn’t exactly want to sit around in the middle of the room where I could get trampled over either.

Just as I was trying to decide on what to do, an Amazon toddler bumped into me. He couldn’t have been older than three or four, but he was a good head taller than me, and stockier too! Without any warning, I found myself bent over his knee!!

“Bad baby watch where goin!” He yelled at me, spit flying everywhere as he fervently rained down smacks.

Even with a diaper on to cushion the blows, the rascal put unbelievable power into the spanking, and my butt soon felt like it was on fire! I was starting to break into tears when a nanny came over and pulled a kicking and screaming me off him.

“James, we don’t hit people.” She chided him, steadying me on my feet.

The toddler nodded and ran back to join whatever game he was playing before the ordeal. I could hardly believe it! I was about to protest the fact that the scoundrel had gotten off without even an apology, but the nanny, having given me the cursoriest of examinations, was already walking away.

I didn’t want to put on any more of a show for the dozen pairs of eyes now on me, so I just sniffled, straightened out my dress, and sulked away. So this was the social hierarchy here. Littles at the bottom of the ladder. No, not even on it really.

I spotted a group of Littles lying prone on the ground in a far corner of the massive room. Some of them had feet swinging in the air, and they all looked pretty intently focused on whatever was in front of them. I trudged my way along the edges of the room to see what they were up to. Halfway there, I stopped to pee and rub my sore behind.

When I got closer, I saw their hands dancing over the pages of newspaper-sized coloring books. Giant crayons in fists, they definitely looked focused on what they were doing, but it seemed like none of them were staying within the lines. I was confused about this for a moment, before I remembered Dave’s advice and understood what was at play. Act babyish. Well, the spanking delivered by a toddler certainly helped to that end!

I sat down beside them and yelped as my butt touched the carpet. Flipping over onto my stomach, I gingerly rubbed my rear end. The little rascal’s blows had really hurt! A Little that looked like he was in his thirties gave me a sympathetic look and put a spare coloring book and a red crayon in front of me.

“Best to stay away from the Big children,” he warned.

I nodded and smiled weakly, before turning my attention to the items in front of me. The oversized crayon reminded me of a giant Crayola I’d once seen a GM comically using at a tournament to record moves on his score sheet. At that time, I never thought I’d see another one being used, much less use one myself to color. Oh how things have changed.

I shook my head at the absurdity of my situation and absent-mindedly flipped through the ten pages of the booklet. Each side had an outline of a different marine animal to color. I copied the others and randomly scribbled on the first page, essentially ignoring the printed black lines that outlined a seahorse. Halfway through the page, I sensed a pair of eyes boring into my back.

“Nice to see a smart new face,” a young man about my age, dressed in a playsuit just as colorful as my dress, acknowledged quietly.

“Isabelle, but everyone calls me Izzy.” I held out my hand and he grasped it in a quick but firm handshake.

“Mark. Don’t look around and don’t stop coloring, or you’ll provoke one of the nannies into investigating,” he warned.

I nodded and got back to it. “Why do you say I’m smart? I literally just got spanked by a toddler.”

“I saw. That was just bad luck, not stupidity. I can tell you’re smart because you know to only make abstract art. So, what brought you here?”

I looked at him for a moment to gauge just how much I should say before answering.

“Well… you probably won’t believe this, but I was driving down a mountain road when a semi came head-on at me. I swerved and drove off a cliff into a lake. The UN sisterly beamed me to this dimension, because next thing I know I’m stuck as some woman’s doll. Good thing some agency called LPS put a stop to that, and now I’m here.”

“So you’re a humanitarian portal Little.”

“Uhh… sure? You could call it that. What about yourself?”

“Parents got adopted and my job didn’t pay enough… I ended up not being able to afford rent, and I got picked up and delivered here the day after my eviction,” he recounted sadly.

“Your parents were adopted?”

He gave me an ‘Are you a Martian?’ look and explained, “I think Littles might be safer up north, but ’round these parts a Big can just grab you off the street and adopt you. It’s like kidnapping, except it’s legal and you can’t do squat about it.”

“Yikes. I’m sorry about your parents.” I thought back to mine. They were probably still at the bottom of the lake. Burial at sea. “At least they’re not dead though,” I added half-jokingly.

“Aye, but they might just wish they were,” he mused. “You any good at chess? I ask every new arrival, but so far nobody knows how to play. Not exactly the most popular game among Littles.”

“Ooh I play quite often. It’s really popular back in my dimension.”

“Shall we have a game then?”

“Sure, you have a chess set around here?” I asked, looking around.

Mark laughed. “No. Have you ever played blindfold chess?”

“Sometimes. I did a sans-voir simul once when I was in college, for charity. I’m assuming you use the same terminology as we do?”

“Guess we’ll find out. You can go first.”

I nodded. “E4.”

“E5,” he countered.

“Knight F3.”

“Knight to C6.”

“Bishop B5.”

“The Segura,” Mark remarked.

“The what?” I’d never heard of that word.

“The name of this opening. We call it the Segura, after the 16th-century Spanish priest?”

“Ohh, we call it the Ruy Lopez. And I have no idea who Lopez was. Might be the same guy?”

“Might be,” he echoed. “Knight F6.”

“Berlin defense. What’s your name for it?” I asked, starting a mental dictionary.

“Um, we don’t have one.” He stopped coloring for a moment to look at me.

“You don’t have names for variations of openings? We have whole wiki pages on these!” I felt the briefest of urges before I wet my diaper.

“Nope. It’s never been that popular of a game, so naturally it’s not studied as much as more mainstream games like Go.”

“Wow. Bishop takes on c6.”

“b takes c6.”

“d4.”

“c5.”

“You blundered.” I smirked as I ‘finished’ the seahorse and started murdering the dolphin on the next page.

“How?” Mark asked quizzically.

“d takes e5.”

“Knight takes e4.”

“Queen d5.”

“You weren’t kidding! You’ve gotta be one of the best players I’ve ever faced, and I’ve played thousands of games. You’re incredible!” He looked at me in awe. “Knight takes on f2, which piece are you gonna take?”

“Knight g5. Both. Or you can give up your queen.” I smirked.

“My… God. I resign. You’re too good.”

“Good game!” I smiled. “I’ll give you rook odds if you wanna play another?”

“Sure, although something tells me you’ll still beat me. What’s your rating? I’ve won against players rated over two thousand!”

“My elo is twenty-five oh one. I was supposed to get my third and final GM norm.”

“You’re a Master? Daaamn.” Mark quickly bit his lip and looked around nervously, and only relaxed when he confirmed his slip-up went unnoticed.

We played another two games, both of which I won easily, even with rook odds. Mark then called it a day, claiming he was tired of thinking, although I suspected that he was actually tired of losing.

I was starting to feel physical exhaustion creep in though, so I didn’t object. As an afterthought, I wanted to confirm something with Mark.

“This dimension also has twenty-four hours in a day, right?”

He gave me the ‘Martian?’ look again. “There’s thirty-two hours in a day here. Were there only twenty-four in your dimension?”

“Yeah, no wonder I’m feeling so tired. What about the other units? You have sixty minutes in an hour?”

“Yep.”

“Sixty seconds in a minute?”

“Yep.”

“A thousand milliseconds in a second?”

He laughed. “I dunno. Probably? You also have seven days in a week and fifty-two weeks in a year, right?”

I nodded as a nanny came over and handed out bottles of juice from a tray. I thanked her politely when I got mine. No need to make enemies with the only ‘adults’ here.

After another hour or so of coloring, the nannies began herding all the Littles into the adjacent dining hall. It turned out that this place was both an orphanage and a daycare, and almost all the Amazon kids had been picked up by then.

On my way into the dining hall, a nanny grabbed me for a diaper check, making me blush. Probably never getting used to that. Seeing that it was wet, she grabbed me and changed it, and several others received the same service.

I sat across from Mark on a picnic table sized for us for dinner. The meal consisted of some mashed potatoes, peas and jumbo chicken nuggets shaped like little animals, all served on a plastic plate. The potatoes were bland and the nuggets were soggy, but the food still tasted ten times better than the goop Karen fed me.

The peas in this dimension were the size of small hazelnuts! Luckily for me, I loved peas, so I devoured everything on my plate. Unfortunately for her, the Little beside me seemed to have lost her appetite, and she pushed her peas around on her plate without eating anything. A nanny quickly spotted her dawdling, and honed in like a falcon on its prey. She yanked the Little out of her seat, flipped her dress up, and started spanking the living daylights out of her!

After about thirty smacks, the sobbing girl was taken to a highchair nearby and straps were pulled across her forehead, chest, waist and legs, rendering her totally immobile. Her wails were silenced by a nanny feeding her a jar of what looked like the peas she was playing with, mashed up. I felt so bad for the poor girl, but it wasn’t like I could do anything for her. I looked at Mark, who wore the same grim expression on his face as I did.

After dinner, everyone took turns being showered by the nannies, an experience that turned my face into a tomato again. I didn’t think I’d ever get used to other people seeing me naked. We were soon dressed in footed pajamas and thick nighttime diapers for bed. Giant cribs were unfolded in the main room by the nannies, who then laid mattresses on top of them.

I was tucked in with a kiss and a bottle of milk, which I took a tentative suck at. It tasted like a vanilla milkshake, and was definitely the best-tasting drink I’d ever had! The soft mattress that cushioned me was a fluffy cloud compared to the unyielding floor that I had slept on in the days before. I said a quick prayer of gratitude, and soon after, thanks to the strange milk and the comfy mattress, I was out like a light!

As a bevy of thirty-two-hour days passed by, I settled into a routine that consisted, for the most part, of eating, sleeping, playing, and avoiding the Amazon toddlers. It felt like I was thrown back into a second childhood, and I was somewhat grateful for the opportunity for a bit of R&R. My busy life juggling my chess and programming careers didn’t give me much time to just waste away, something I was essentially forced to do here each day.

Mark had gradually introduced me to the other Littles who had been coloring when I’d arrived, and they seemed like a nice bunch. Other than the boredom and lack of freedom to go places, I was pretty happy, since I had food, friends, and a bed — well, crib. Even though I was babied all the time, I wasn’t being abused. I might have even secretly liked that a bit, not that I would admit it!

All things considered, the orphanage was a million times better than Karen’s shack. My mental chess games with Mark were icing on the cake, and I gradually taught him some more advanced chess theory while we colored each day. He was a fast learner, and improved quickly. I was still able to consistently beat him though. One time, as I checkmated him after a windmill attack, he looked at me and tilted his head.

“You know, life is a lot like a game of chess,” he mused. “You plan things, but they don’t go your way. You get pulled into a series of forced moves, and there’s nothing you can do but to go along with it until you get a chance to counterattack or you lose.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right. Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to counterattack and change the system. Win the game.” I longed.

“You know what Izzy? I hope you do. You’re smart, talented, and kind. There’s nobody better to change the world.”

Every night, I prayed for another shot at living an actual life. You gave me so many talents for a reason. Please don’t let me waste away, God. Give me a chance.

===========================================================

Bonus content — Izzy vs Mark chess game: Your Move - Game 1 • lichess.org

Giant Crayola: Site | Crayola

Chapter 6 — Extraction

My prayers were finally answered around two weeks after I’d arrived at the orphanage. A loud bang came from the reception area, prompting the four nannies on duty to investigate. The Amazon kids didn’t seem to care though, and they continued running around. Most of the Littles didn’t notice either, with the exception of the few of us coloring.

Suddenly, a vent cover in the wall beside me swung open and a Little dressed head-to-toe in a futuristic-looking black combat suit emerged from the ventilation shaft. A spool mechanism built into the suit attached to a black wire, which was pulled taut and disappeared into the shadows above.

He scanned the room for a moment before spotting me and glancing down at a screen wrapped halfway around his forearm.

“Isabelle Green?”

I looked up from my prone coloring position and answered, “Hi?”

He scanned my irises with a device in the wrist of his suit, which beeped and flashed green.

“I’m going to offer you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he told me in a quiet but assertive voice while looking directly at me. “If you want, I can get you out of here. The staff won’t be affected by my distraction for too long, so you have thirty seconds to decide.”

I inhaled sharply at the suddenness of his proposal. “Who are you? Why me out of everyone here?”

“Don’t have the time to explain. Twenty seconds.”

I looked at my friends for support. They were all nodding for me to go, even as several eyes sparkled with envy.

“Your move, Izzy,” Mark said determinedly. “I think you should go. Go win the game. You can’t do that from here.”

I nodded and gave him a quick hug goodbye. “I’ll miss you. And I’ll do everything I can to get you out too.” I stepped back and looked at everyone, “All of you.”

I wiped a tear from my eye and exchanged hurried farewells with the few people that I could consider friends in this dimension. I felt guilt and sadness for leaving them, yet a rekindled hope about my future surged in my chest. I raised my hand to the group in a solemn salute, before nodding to my rescuer and stepping into the shaft.

He shut the vent cover, and I watched through its slits as the others went back to coloring. I trusted them enough to be certain that no one would give us away. Maybe the nannies wouldn’t even notice that I was gone. There were almost sixty residents, and I’d done my best to keep to the shadows after the trauma I’d witnessed my first night there.

“Get a good grip on me. It’s a long way up and you do not want to fall. I’d put a harness on you but we’ve got to move.”

I nodded and clung tightly to him. He pressed a button on his harness and we rose into the ventilation system. On my way up, I couldn’t help but think back to my question. Why me? Was there someone looking out for me?

***

“Clear workspaces 3 and 4. Wipe the evidence,” I instructed Max.

It was the Saturday after I’d rescued Isabelle, and I’d just arranged for her to be sent to Little Hearts, one of the safest orphanages for Littles in Jacinto. In less than two seconds, all traces of my tampering with the LPS systems had been erased.

“Shall I turn off secure mode?” Max asked helpfully.

It’d taken me more than a month to customize Max from the latest open-source homeAI release. I’d written almost a hundred thousand lines of code and config files — with the help of an AI programmer — to do it, and the end result was spectacular.

After testing everything, I hosted it on my own servers in my basement. It was much more sentient and intelligent than the open-source version, and it was perfectly tuned to my liking and needs. I’d named it Max, after the protagonist’s AI in Ready Player One, a novel from the other dimension that I had read in my teenage years.

“Not yet. She’s safe, but not free. I want to set her free.”

“What are you gonna do?” Max asked, confused.

I’d never programmed complicated feelings like freedom into him. I didn’t think he’d need it. He knew what freedom was, of course, but he couldn’t feel it like he could the more basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear. Someday I need to add more abstract feelings. Then I can file a massive pull-request to the homeAI project.

I thought about the actions I planned on taking next. Is it worth all this risk, just for one Little? There’s millions of them. If I were asked this question on a game show, or if there was no risk to me, then I would immediately answer affirmatively. Unfortunately, this was real life, not a hypothetical. Actions had consequences here. I thought about it for a few minutes and took a sip of my coffee. I waited until I was absolutely sure before finally deciding.

Yes. It IS worth it. They’re human beings. They deserve love and respect. They’re people. They deserve to be free. Sure there were risks to me if I were to do this, but those were negligible compared to a lifetime of forced babyhood that Littles are subject to. Every single one of them is worth the risk. With Isabelle specifically, I hoped that what I planned on doing would make up for all the trauma she’d been through.

I sighed and answered Max, “You know how we just hacked the Empire? Now we’re gonna hack the Alliance.” I’d seen a few Star Wars movies from the other dimension and used some of it to train Max’s neural model.

He finally connected the dots. “Well, the Railroad should be a piece of cake compared to LPS, eh?” Good boy.

“Once we find them, yes. The decentralization will be a nightmare to deal with though.”

The Little Railroad was an underground movement that freed Littles across the continental United States. They worked in regional cells smuggling Littles north to Canada or east to the Little Islands, where Littles were safe from adoption and free to live their lives.

The situation in Canada was much better than the US, with adoption being illegal and equal rights for people of all heights. There were still some Little-specific laws, mostly concerning driving and other activities that might be dangerous for anyone short, but they were all for safety reasons.

However, the one thing that Littles did have to worry about was Little hunters from the US that prowled the cities near the border. Given that two-thirds of the Canadian population lived within a hundred kilometers of the US border, that meant that Littles were in real danger of being kidnapped and smuggled across the border. The Little Railroad couldn’t really prevent this from happening, but they did try to rescue as many Littles as they could out of the US.

Since their operations were so decentralized, there was no head of the Railroad that I could target. I had to change tactics and perform a breadth-first search instead. I spun up a quick script to scrape Mastodon, the predominant metaverse and social media platform in the dimension, for a list of known code words associated with the Railroad.

My script would then process the raw data to extract a variety of metrics such as frequency, variation, emotion, and context. After five minutes of big-data analysis, I had a list of accounts likely run by affiliates or members of the Railroad, sorted from most to least promising.

Back in college, I’d started an all-purpose rootkit-injection program to use when I needed access to systems that I would have a hard time accessing through official channels. I updated it regularly over the years with new exploits and patch-workarounds, and it now supported every operating system with more than a few thousand users. Since most people just used thin clients nowadays anyway, my program also worked for gateways running older, but still supported, versions of the popular cloud providers.

I ran this program against the machine used by each target on my list, achieving a 70% pwn rate. After looking through the data of the first fifty users, I’d found out enough about their networks to locate the contact info of several Railroad cells.

I chose three cells to serve as entry, relay, and exit nodes that roughly formed a line connecting Ollirama to the US border with British Columbia, and set about masterminding the operation. Decentralized computer networks could be trusted, but human ones couldn’t, so I would do all the planning myself.

I marked up a few possible border crossings based on Railroad and Border Patrol data, the latter of which I had access to thanks to sysadmin credentials I’d acquired on the dark web a few years ago for another project. Just those weren’t enough to bypass the multi-factor authentication they had in place, but I had a digital carte-blanche to bypass the latest OAUTH protocol. There would be no room for error, and my ample arsenal of cyberweapons would keep my precision high.

I dug up some more information on the cells, and a plan soon materialized. The first leg of the journey would be handled by an extraction team, who would break Isabelle out of the orphanage.

Earlier that afternoon, I’d made sure to mark Isabelle’s LPS file for Little Hearts, one that I knew that treated Littles better and was easy to escape from, specifically to help with this part. The extraction team would immediately drive her west to the border with the adjacent state, which would hopefully get her out of Jacinto and its jurisdiction to ease her escape before her disappearance was even noticed.

At the border, Isabelle would be transferred to the next cell, which was run by a sympathetical Big businessman who owned a limo company and used his fleet to drive Littles across the continental U.S. to where they needed to be. Bigs involved in the Railroad were limited in numbers, but critical to the network’s success from the data I’d gathered, as they could get around much more easily and safely than Mids and Littles could.

Once I finished planning out the details for the final stretch, I contacted all three cells with their instructions. I gave each only the information that they needed, in order to maximize the security of the whole operation and thus Isabelle’s safety. I made sure to send the first cell a copy of her bodyprint, which I’d hacked from the orphanage.

Surprisingly, none of them asked me who I was or where I got their information from. Decentralized meant a lot of need-to-know, and these people were used to not needing to know, which made my job easier. In all honesty, I was touched by their selflessness. There definitely weren’t a lot of people willing to put their own freedom on the line to help others find a better life. I seriously respected those that did.

***

We reached the top of the ventilation shaft in just a few seconds, and I clambered up and into the horizontal duct running along the rear wall of the orphanage. The shaft was spacious, but not tall enough to stand up in, and I could see light coming from the end of the tunnel.

My rescuer put a finger to his lips, tugged on the black wire, and pointed with 2 fingers to a bright opening at one end of the duct. I understood that as ‘keep quiet and crawl toward the light’, and proceeded to comply with his instructions. As I did so, my skirt flared up and I flashed my diaper. I blushed a deep crimson and pulled it back down. Thankfully he appeared to be too busy with the screen on his forearm to notice.

When I reached the opening, I could see that the outer grill had been swung up and somehow fixed to the outside wall. It provided an anchor point for the black wire, which hung out down to a waiting car. The combat-suited Little had followed closely behind me, and I grabbed onto him again as he rappelled down the brick rear wall of the building. When my feet touched the ground, he pushed another button on his harness.

I heard a quiet whirring sound as all the wire was quickly winched up, leaving no trace of our escape apart from the open grill. Fortunately, it seemed that my rescuer had thought of everything. He twisted a dial on his screen, and the grill quietly swung shut. My jaw dropped open and my inner geek screamed, ‘That was so cool!’

“It’s rapid-biodegrading electronics. In a couple hours it’ll all turn into dust and get blown away by the wind. We’ll be long gone by then anyhow.”

I nodded, still in awe and slight disbelief that I was actually free. Just then, I saw an Amazon get out of the driver’s seat, and my heart jumped. He opened the rear door and grabbed my rescuer! I turned and fled in a panic. My socked feet pounded against the asphalt and my heart pounded from adrenalin as I ran in a straight line away from the monster. I’m getting kidnapped, not freed. This isn’t tag where I become ‘it’ when I get caught. If I’m caught, who knows what will happen to me!

I didn’t make it ten meters before I was seized by a strong hand. I yelped. He lifted me into the air. He spun me around to face him. I tried whacking him to break free, but he held me at arm’s-length, pinning my arms down. I kicked uselessly at thin air and screamed hysterically. He sighed and pushed an inflatable pacifier into my mouth before quickly twisting to inflate it. My cries were quickly muffled as my jaw lit on fire! All I could do was look at him in sheer terror, distress and desperation.

Chapter 7 — Silver Spoon

I’m sorry I had to do that,” the Amazon holding me at arm’s-length apologized, “but you’ve got to stop screaming if you want a chance to get away from here.”

What was this guy up to??

“Owww…” this overinflated bulb is really hurting my jaw. I winced and moaned, slightly confused and more than slightly terrified.

He could see that I was hurting. “If I remove that, promise me you’ll keep your voice down.”

I nodded and stopped struggling, eager to get it out. He brought me closer to his chest and shifted my weight to one arm. The pacifier was deflated with a twist and a hiss of air. I quickly rubbed my jaw in relief. These damn things were so painful!

“Who are you and what do you want?” I asked, perplexed, exasperated, exhausted… My feelings were so numerous and complex I couldn’t even put them into words. I gave up all resistance for the time being. Might as well conserve my energy. He’s strong enough to overpower me no matter what I do anyway.

“I’m here to save you and I want to get out of the state before the cops show up.”

“Save me?” I spat. “And then kidnap me to Mexico to spew babies or test drugs for some cartel drug lord?”

Shivers wracked me as I remembered the stories that one of the Littles had told me about her time in Mexico before she was rescued in a federal drug raid.

“No, Isabelle. I’d never do that. I’m with the Railroad. And we’re going west, not south.”

How did he know my name? The Railroad? They were working together? There were Amazons that weren’t totally baby-crazy? I guess it does make sense though… It’s not like Littles are allowed to drive around here.

Another Little had told me about how he almost got to one of the Little Islands thanks to the Little Railroad. Unfortunately for him, his counterfeit passport didn’t quite pass muster and he was detained at the port. Poor lad. But if this guy was with the railroad, then… he was one of the good guys?

“He’s telling you the truth.” The Little reappeared beside us. My brain screamed for him to run while he could, but he clearly had no intention to do so. I was almost convinced, but I needed more assurance.

“Where did he get all that high-tech military gear and training?” I questioned the Big.

“I can’t tell you that.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you until you do.”

“Look, if you come with us I’ll tell you myself. I trust him with my life, and you should too,” my rescuer interceded.

With a sigh, I conceded and let the Amazon put both of us into car seats in the back of his sedan. He closed the door, got back in the driver’s seat, and drove out into the street.

“You owe me an explanation?” I turned and asked the Little.

“You should know that the less we know about each other, the better. Never tell anyone who you are, where you came from, or where you’re going, unless they already know.”

When he saw me nod, he continued, “As to where I got my equipment and training: I was a Hellcat.”

“What’s a Hellcat?” I asked as we turned onto a main road.

He tutted. “Enough questions. It won’t do either of us any good if I tell you more.”

An hour later, the Amazon driver pulled off the highway we’d been driving on. As he got out of the car, I quickly undid the seat buckle, just to get some more practice at the complex task. That earned a wide-eyed stare from the Little. When the door beside me opened and the Big reached in to undo the buckle, he too sported a puzzled expression.

“How did you do that?” He asked.

“The buckle?”

“Yeah, I’ve never met a Little who could undo it.”

I snapped the straps closed again.

“Push, twist, slide?” I demonstrated.

The ex-Hellcat tried to reenact my movements, but his fingers slipped when he tried the twisting motion.

“Interesting, we just have to push harder than you Littles can. That’ll come in handy for you though. If you ever need to escape in a jiffy, these buckles are standard for every device intended to restrain Littles.”

“Why are we stopping in the middle of nowhere?”

“To pass you on to another cell in the network who will get you where you need to go.”

I nodded. “Thanks for rescuing me,” I said to both of them, as a strange, elongated vehicle pulled up behind their car.

“Cheers,” the Big patted my shoulder as he picked me up, “this is what we do for our fellow human beings. Freedom is a right.”

I was carried over to the strange vehicle whose falcon-wing door was open. He set me down on the carpeted floor inside.

“Good luck,” the Big said.

“Thanks,” I nodded and waved as he tapped the doorframe twice, as if he was signalling the driver to get going. Right on cue, the door shut pneumatically. A moment later, the vehicle started moving. It sounded like a Tesla from back home. There was no engine noise, only the muffled crunch of the wheels on the gravel of the highway’s shoulder. When ceiling lights lit up the interior, I gasped at my futuristic and luxurious surroundings.

The entire body of the limousine was made of some sort of high-tech glass. What I’d assumed were lights illuminating had actually been the glass-like material of the roof and upper half of the side walls becoming transparent. I’d seen electrochromic tech before on airliners, but seeing it in such a large contiguity blew my mind. Just then, I realized that there was nothing underneath the windshield, and I could see right out the front of the limo! It was driving itself autonomously!

I watched for a while as it accelerated to highway speed and turned my attention back to the interior furnishings. One long, white couch-bed stretched against one side of the spacious cabin from front to back, and curved there to form a loveseat against the back wall.

The opposite wall had a strange looking cabinet recessed into it, with a variety of amenities behind transparent panels made of what looked like the same material as the limo body. I cringed when I saw that whoever had stocked the cabinet had graciously provided a stack of diapers for me.

Just as I was wondering whether the limo had a TV screen, the entire side wall lit up. Wow, the glass was a screen too?? The logo of an AI reminiscent of a home or phone assistant back home sprung into animation with a bounce and a twirl.

“Welcome, Isabelle, to the Luxuria Experience, I’m Luxuria,” a voice that sounded perfectly human annunciated. The tone could only be described as… luxurious?

“Umm… hi. How do you know who I am?” I responded, slightly startled. I could feel my diaper warming.

“I have some basic information on you that I received when your journey was created. Speaking of which, I wasn’t able to detect your privacy settings, so I’d like to go over them with you, as mandated by the International Data Protection Laws. First, would you like me to collect anonymous analytics from our interactions to improve my intent-parsing quality?”

“Uhh… no thanks?”

“Okay, I won’t use any analytics. Would you like me to connect to the internet for neural recognition? I can also remain entirely offline if you’d prefer.”

Damn, this dimension’s privacy laws were just as amazing as their tech. Years ahead of us. “Offline please?”

“Excellent choice, my voice recognition software is still state-of-the-art.”

“Finally, would you like to enable holographic mode? I’d recommend it for an improved experience.”

I thought about it for a second before replying. Holograms are cool. And harmless. Why not?

“Sure,” I nodded.

The limo body turned opaque again, and a bank of ‘lights’, which were really white pixels on the ceiling screen, lit up overhead. I watched with childlike fascination as the animated logo materialized out of the wallscreen and morphed into a humanoid-like body with flexible tubular arms that didn’t resemble anything I could think of. I couldn’t see where the projectors were, but it looked much more solid than I expected! When the avatar reached out with a hand, I shook it without thinking. Only after the act did I realize that I had just… touched light?

“How is your projection solid? Isn’t it a hologram made of light?”

“It is. The wave-particle duality of light allows photons in holograms to maintain a solid state under certain high-energy configurations, since photons are their own antiparticles,” Luxuria explained.

“Interesting.” I didn’t know a lot about particle physics, but from what I did know, it was theoretically sound. We’d just never achieved a high enough energy density to do something like this on a scale larger than a few photons to reach any empirical confirmation.

“My sensors predict that you’ll leak in about two minutes. Would you like a change?”

I gave my padding a squish and disappointedly confirmed it. “I can do it myself,” I insisted indignantly, not wanting a hologram to… change me.

Luxuria nodded and grabbed a diaper, powder and some wipes for me. I proceeded to flip my skirt up, untape my diaper, and wipe myself down. Halfway through, I looked up to the hologram’s eyes staring at me.

“Umm… can you not?”

“Sorry, but you do know that my projection is just that, right? The actual sensors and cameras are built into the vehicle’s interior.” The avatar picked up my dirty diaper and wipes.

“Yeah but still,” I whined, skipping the powder and taping on a new diaper. Absolutely no need to degrade myself more than I already have.

My parents had once told me that I’d taped my own diapers on as a toddler. I had a vague memory of it, but it was far too long ago for me to actually remember how I did it back then. The only thing I remember along those lines is having to wear stupid pull-up diapers at night.

Instead, I based my taping on how the nannies had done it for me. It took a couple seconds of readjusting, but I got it done and ran a finger around the waistband to inspect my handiwork. Not bad for the first time in two decades. It’s definitely nicer when someone else does it for me though…

Luxuria turned back around as I stood up and cleaned my hands with an extra wipe.

“You did okay. Try to tape it on tighter so it doesn’t fall off when you wet it. And you should use the powder, it stops chafing and keeps your skin dry.”

Okay?! Did I just get roasted by a robot? No, an AI. Har har. I stared at Luxuria. My stomach growled, interrupting my sulky thoughts. I was used to having dinner at the orphanage at 7 pm every day, and it was just past that according to the holographic clock.

“Would you like something to eat? It’s just about dinnertime,” the AI noted, seemingly having either read my mind or detected my hunger. The time showed on the screen that made up an interior side wall of the limo, and the avatar gestured toward the strange cabinet.

“Fine,” I replied, “are we going to stop somewhere for food?”

Luxuria laughed, “No need to stop. The AmeniTea here is state-of-the-art; it can cook up anything you’d like. Wouldn’t you rather get to your destination sooner?”

AmeniTea? I was confused, but I jogged over and found some drinkware. It looked like I would have to go with a milk-jug-sized mug, or a sippy cup that was my size. I sighed in defeat and grabbed one of the latter. I’d been drinking out of baby bottles and sippy cups the past few weeks, but it had never been my choice. I managed to convince myself that I didn’t really have a choice here either. I brought it over to a drink dispenser situated just above the level of the top of my head. I didn’t see any buttons or labels, but there was clearly a faucet on it.

Probably detecting my confusion, Luxuria helpfully offered, “It’s a smart appliance. What would you like to drink?”

“What options are there?”

“It can make any drink you want, so long as it’s non-alcoholic, as mandated by the government under section 1012E of title 441 of the Little Statutes. The machine has miniaturized pods for several thousand different beverages. It unshrinks and dispenses every drink you can think of, and then some.”

“Can I have an apple juice please?” I loved the apple juice they had here. Much richer in flavor than back home.

“Sure, what temperature would you like it at?” Luxuria asked.

“Uhh… I dunno, 50 degrees?”

“Fahrenheit?”

“Yeah, isn’t 50 celsius like, hot?” I questioned.

Luxuria shrugged. “There’s people that like their juice hot. Put your sippy cup under the faucet.”

I swear this AI is out to humiliate me. She just HAD to say the full baby term. I sighed and reached up — tipping my toes slightly — to do as she instructed.

The second my hand left the cup, the room was flooded with the delightful aroma of apples and the cup filled with juice. I picked up the plastic vessel again — carefully since it was full — and took a sip. It was delicious! The aroma certainly helped, and I practically guzzled the rest of the cup. Luxuria refilled it for me, and turned the top half of the limo transparent so I could enjoy the splendid nature view on either side of the highway as I drank. I watched as the sun set, directly ahead of us, into mountains that I could just barely make out in the distance.

It was the first sunset I’d seen in this dimension, and I was stunned by its beauty. The sun was much bigger, yet of softer tones, than back home, and the vivid colors streaked across the sky like a masterful watercolor painting. The moment was made even sweeter by my impending freedom that I could almost taste. I took a deep breath to savor the tranquility of everything. I’d come a long way from the dirty floor of a shack in the middle of nowhere. No matter where life brings me from here, this moment will be one that I’ll cherish for years to come.

Chapter 8 — Exodus

In the 10 minutes it took for the sun to set and the sky to turn dark, I’d gradually emptied my sippy cup and bladder. In one end and out the other. I heard an audible rumble from my stomach announcing the return of my dinner cravings.

“So there’s miniaturized food as well?” I asked the hologram floating beside me.

“The ingredients are miniaturized, yes, but each dish is made fresh. What would you like?”

“Something spicy,” I answered without hesitation.

Orphanage food had been filling but way too bland for my liking. I remembered a delicious burger recipe that my grandfather had often made for me when I was little. It would definitely make a good challenge for the robot cook. I went for it anyway, just to see what the machine was capable of.

“Make me a burger with the buns buttered and toasted. Melt a slice of cheddar cheese on top of a beef patty, then add a slice of tomato, two half-rashers of bacon side-by-side, two slices of pickle side-by-side, two concentric onion rings, breaded and fried, and Buffalo sauce, in that order from bottom to top. Make a side of thick-cut sweet potato fries, topped with melted cheese and chipotle sauce. For dessert I’ll have mango sago pudding.” I was on a wishing spree! Take that, machine. There’s NO WAY you can make that.

“You’re certain you can eat that much? Have you had any food not made for Littles since you got here?”

I thought about Luxuria’s question for a moment. “Uhh… No, not really…”

I finally put two and two together. If everything here is massive, then the food would be too.

“Right, the size of the food. In that case, make the burger smaller and I’ll just have, say, 3 fries.” That I should be able to finish. I didn’t like wasting food. “Oh, and size the pudding down accordingly?”

Luxuria nodded. “Will that be everything?”

“Yup, thanks.” I confirmed, still confident that a machine would never be able to make a meal that complicated.

Around twenty seconds later, the smell of the patty cooking started wafting from a glass panel on the AmeniTea. A table flipped out automatically from the opposing side wall, at just about the right height for me to sit and eat at, perched Japanese-style on the bed. Less than five minutes after I’d ordered, the panel slid open and revealed my dinner on a large porcelain plate. The avatar brought it over to the table as the AmeniTea panel slid shut again.

“Bon appetit!” Luxuria beamed.

I thanked her and clambered onto the bed with a small jump. After saying grace, I grabbed the burger with both hands and took a bite. It was the most delectable food I’d had in weeks! My first bite brought back a flood of childhood memories. I hadn’t had this meal in ages!

I picked up a fry the size of a hot dog and brought it to my mouth. The sweet potato was fried to a golden crisp, but the size meant it was just slightly too mushy for my taste. The cheese melted a second time in my mouth, and my taste buds exploded satisfyingly from the spice of the Buffalo sauce.

I may have been dubious of the robot’s capabilities, but by the time I finished the dish, I was convinced that the only downsides to it were the slightly off taste of unshrunken ingredients and something missing that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

When my plate was empty, Luxuria swapped it for my pudding, which also made for the perfect dessert for this experience. The food had tasted almost as good as my description sounded, and definitely better than “unshrunk meal” could ever sound! I was stuffed, but satisfied.

After dinner, Luxuria put the pudding goblet into the AmeniTea, and the table sunk back into the wall. I heard a hiss and a light patter as both were cleaned… along with slightly more muted hiss coming from my diaper! A feeling of warmth spread through it. I’d just gone without any warning.

“Would you like to see a movie?” the avatar offered, returning to its floating position facing me.

“Sure. Anything sci-fi you can recommend?” I wanted to see what this dimension’s science fiction entertainment looked like, given that the world around me was basically sci-fi already.

“I’ve got just the film.”

I snuggled up to a soft cushion on the bed and watched as the screens delimiting the cabin lit up with billions of pixels blending together, each of which must have been too small for my eyes to register. Together, they seamlessly formed a realistic background of stars in space at a resolution that took my breath away.

While I was somewhat prepared for that, I was definitely not expecting the Star-Wars-style scrolling text that was holographically projected in front of me. I let out a giggle of delight, both at the quality of the visuals, and at the absurdity of the retro style photobombing an otherwise incredibly futuristic setting.

The movie was reminiscent of Interstellar, with realistic depictions of relativity and physics. If only more writers would depict science and technology more accurately. The single thing I hated the most about movies and books was the unrealistic depictions of hacking scenes. Hooded man furiously typing with green hieroglyphics and ones and zeros…

The movie’s plot centered on the last human family searching the Milky Way for a habitable world. They teleported around the galaxy by folding the fabric of spacetime in a futuristic spacecraft. I never saw the twist coming, which was when the AI that helped the humans and kept them safe the whole time was actually hiding the habitable planet from them. I laughed out loud when it turned out to be caused by a bug in its code. You’d imagine their static analysis would have caught that. I looked worriedly at the avatar floating beside me, but Luxuria just shrugged.

“I’m nothing close to a true AI, if that’s what you’re concerned about. There’s laws prohibiting military-grade machine intelligence.”

The movie soon ended with the AI sacrificing itself for humanity’s greater good and the human family getting to the habitable planet safely with human embryos to settle the new world. It was a rather Disney-like cliche ending, but I liked movies that way. It sucks when a main character fails or dies. That’s what happens in life already, why make a movie or write a book about it?

When the credits started rolling across the floor, up the side wall, and then back across the ceiling, I yawned and got up to stretch out my legs. I’d certainly had a long day. From an orphanage to a self-driving limo speeding across the country. I shook my head. It felt like I was living in a fantasy. A quick diaper change later, I was back on the massive bed hugging the cushion. Before I snoozed off, I said a quick nightly prayer.

Dear God,

Thanks for everything you do for me. I don’t know where exactly I’m heading, both in this limo and in life, but I know it’s to a good place you’ve prepared. Thanks for showing me once again that you care about me and love me. And thanks for sending these good people my way. Please keep all my friends safe too, and help me make the right moves.

In Jesus’s name I pray,
Amen.

The next morning, I woke up to daylight and soft music. I blushed furiously when I found my thumb in my mouth. Must have been another stupid effect of that hypnosis. I’d never experienced this at the orphanage before, probably because I’d always been given a bottle or a pacifier to sleep with. I wiped the saliva off my thumb and rubbed my eyes as I sat up. All the cabin screens around me had been turned off, resulting in the glass body of the car being almost transparent. The scenery and asphalt sped by outside in an unnaturally fast blur that made my head hurt.

“Morning Isabelle. Did you sleep well?” Luxuria greeted me as the limo body turned opaque again.

“Morning. Yeah, I did, thanks. Umm… how fast are we going?” I asked in suspicion.

“One-ten.”

“Miles per hour?”

“Yeah. There isn’t much autonomous traffic, and there’s good visibility, so the lanespeed is slightly higher than normal.”

“Lanespeed? There’s a dedicated lane for self-driving vehicles with a dynamic speed limit?”

“Indeed. Every autonomous vehicle is hooked up to Mothership, the central control system, so we can safely go faster than human-driven cars,” Luxuria explained.

Mothership… Tesla? Is there even a Tesla in this dimension?

“Is that also the reason I don’t have to be stuck in an annoying toddler car seat?”

“Precisely. Speaking of toddlers, your diaper is at capacity again.”

I could feel mush in the back this time, and I really didn’t want to change myself. I sighed and surrendered my last bit of perceived independence. To an AI.

I looked away from the avatar, clasped my hands, and pawed at the floor with my foot. “Umm… Can you do it for me?” I asked Luxuria shyly.

“Oh? I thought you did a pretty good job changing yourself before you slept?” The hologram floated gently into my field of view. Ugh. This thing is reeeeally annoying.

I blushed. “Yeeaah, but there’s poop and I really don’t wanna do it,” I whined.

Luxuria may have called me a “big baby” in jest at that point, but she grabbed the supplies necessary and gently untaped my diaper. The hologram’s zephyry movements were calming and efficient, and I soon had a fresh diaper taped on. The experience was so nice that I didn’t even complain when the avatar used the powder. When she was done changing me, I asked what time it was, just as we pulled onto an off-ramp and started to decelerate.

“Eight fifty”, the time showed up on the screen again, this time in a light theme. I wonder if all IDEs have dark themes here.

“We’re almost at our destination.”

“Which is…?”

“Sorry, I’ve been specifically instructed not to tell you. Can I get you some breakfast instead?”

That was a little annoying of Luxuria, but I did understand the Railroad’s tangible concerns about disclosing information. “Milk and cereal?”

“Sure, what kind of each would you like?”

“Skim and Cinnamon Toast Crunch? Do you have that here?”

“No, but we have something similar.” Luxuria went to the AmeniTea and fetched a pitcher of milk, a bowl and spoon, and a cute little cardboard box of cereal labelled ‘Cinna-Crisps’.

I opened the box and the plastic cereal bag inside, and dumped all seven or eight pieces into the bowl. I grabbed one and ate it in two bites. It looked and tasted like an oversized version of a piece of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but each circular crisp was the size of an Oreo! I poured enough milk to cover all the pieces, said grace, and started eating.

When I finished it, Luxuria put everything back into the AmeniTea, and informed me that we’d arrived at our destination, just as I felt the limo stop. The large falcon-wing door lifted up and I saw that we were in some sort of garage. There was a van parked a few feet away, but there was nothing around that betrayed our location.

“I hope you’ve enjoyed your Luxuria Experience, Izzy” she said as her avatar floated over to me.

I jumped down from the bed. “I did, thanks. It was pretty amazing actually, especially you and the whole solid hologram thing.”

“Happy to hear that.” Luxuria produced a lapel pin from somewhere and pinned it to the hem of my dress. “Here’s a profile microchip containing your privacy preferences and some basic information. Keep it on you until you upload it to the international federated blockchain.”

She also handed me a bag with three spare diapers in it. “And these should last until you get more.”

I blushed as I took it from her. “Gee, thanks,” I nodded semi-sarcastically and gave Luxuria a parting handshake.

As annoying as she was, she’d been a pretty great companion. When I turned around, a Latina Mid came over from the van. Mark had told me about Mids, also known as In-Betweeners or just Betweeners. The term applied to the comparatively rare instances where a person was taller than a Little but not quite a Big. They were clearly as rare as Mike had claimed they were, since this was only my second time seeing one.

“Hola Isabella, I’m Sofia,” she said in a thick Mexican accent.

I was about to correct her about my name, but she seemed like the type of person that didn’t like being told she was wrong, so I kept my thoughts to myself and went with a polite “hi” and a small wave instead.

Seeing that I wasn’t wearing any shoes, she told me, “I will take you over so you don’t get your feet dirty, reinita,” and picked me up out of the limo.

“Good luck Izzy, and safe travels,” Luxuria wished as the hologram fizzled out.

Sofia carried me over to the van, and set me down in the back. Once she made sure I was comfortably sitting in the lap of a giant teddy bear, she handed me a pacifier.

“Put that between your teeth so they don’t break.” She ordered in a dead-serious tone.

I was a little confused and intimidated by that, but I complied.

Sofia shut the back doors and got in the cab. There was a plastic panel separating the cab and the back, which had no windows, so I couldn’t see outside at all. There was some light coming from the gap between the back doors though, which didn’t quite touch each other when they were closed. I perked my ears up instead, and listened as she started the engine and pulled out of the garage.

The van was magnitudes less soundproofed than the limo had been, so I could hear every surface that we drove on, from the clank of a metal drain covering to the smooth hum on asphalt. The van clearly didn’t have A/C, so I was starting to sweat a lot.

About twenty minutes into the sweltering drive, Sofia yelled out “hold on mi amor!” to me and violently swerved off-road. I heard the coarse crunch of the gravel shoulder for a split second, and then the finer crunch of hard-packed dirt as the van shook and bounced over the uneven ground.

The shaking and noise increased in severity as we picked up speed, and I was now glad I had the pacifier. Clearly Sofia hadn’t been joking about breaking my teeth, as my bones felt like they were being jostled out of their sockets!

Suddenly, I heard a loud CRACK, and then the wailing of a siren nearby. Sofia swore but didn’t let off on the gas, and the siren slowly faded. I was starting to fear that the van would shake itself apart as I was flung into the air from a particularly deep rut.

After a few more minutes and a couple turns, I felt the vibrations dampen out as she slowed to a stop. I unclenched my hands, extremely relieved to still be alive. Luckily the bear’s soft stuffing had protected me from the worst of the bumps, but my diaper got soaked from the bone-jarring ride!

I felt the van shift as Sofia got out, and then bright light streamed in when Sofia threw the doors open, causing me to blink. She picked me up and carried me out of the van, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I trembled in fear and panic as I took in the landscape around me. It was an arid desert, being burned by a scorching sun. Small shrubs broke the sandy ground here and there, and stout mountains loomed nearby. I felt a trickle of pee down my leg as I flooded my diaper beyond its leaking point. That served as a painfully ironic symbol for everything that had gone wrong, for my chances of freedom and living a life had just leaked away.

Sofia smiled and told me, “Bienvenido a Méhico!”

Chapter 9 — True North Strong and Free

I sobbed into my pacifier, too dumbfounded to struggle, utterly broken. Why had I been so stupid to trust these people?! When she heard my sobs and saw my tears, Sofia looked concerned and rubbed my back in an attempt to comfort me, but I was going into a full meltdown.

“Ay hey Isabella! Calm down! You are safe, I was only ahh, what is de word, ahh, kidding, kidding! I was kidding! Cálmate, princesa, cálmate,” she soothed, hugging me tightly.

“Yer wying! Dersh no dezherch in Canada!!” The stupid pacifier was distorting my speech, but it was doing is job of keeping me somewhat calmer than totally berserk.

“Mi amor, we are in de Okanagan, in de south of de British Colombia. You are safe, reinita, I just helpet you cross de border!” Her Mexican accent got even thicker when she was stressed, and she looked like she was about to explode from anxiety.

“Cwoss de bohduh indu Mexico?”

“No no! Canada!”

“Pwove it! I dun bewieve you!”

Sofia sighed and pulled out a thin, flexible rectangle of plastic. She swiped a gesture on it and opened a maps app. I could see the position indicator indicating that we were just inside the border with Canada, and the background even showed the mountains and labeled the desert as the Okanagan. At this point, I relaxed enough to realize that the best proof I hadn’t been kidnapped to Mexico was right in front of me: Sofia wouldn’t be going through all this trouble to show me where we were when she could easily just overpower me.

A few moments later, a black SUV pulled up beside us, and an eleven- or twelve-foot-tall Amazon got out. I’d seen enough giants at this point to not flinch, but I still stayed alert. He ran over to me and gave me a quick inspection, a massive hug, and a kiss on the forehead before I could even react. So much for staying alert.

“I’m so glad you’re safe, Isabelle.”

He turned to Sofia and shook her free hand. “Thanks for bringing Isabelle over the border. You people are the ultimate heroes.”

“You are welcome, Señor. Protect her, the hunters are everywhere I hear.” Sofia passed me over to him, along with the satchel of spare diapers Luxuria had provided.

“I will, absolutely.”

“Freedom is a right!” She waved and turned around to get back in her van. That phrase again.

“Hold on. Who are you and why am I going with you if I’m already in Canada?” I demanded. I was done with not knowing. From now on I’m finding out everything before I do anything.

“You’re fifty klicks from the nearest town and less than one from the border. Acimeran border forces have been known to cross over to recapture escaped Littles, which is exactly what you are right now,” he reasoned. “All I’m gonna do is take you further into Canada so you don’t die in the wilderness or get sent back to an orphanage. Any objections?”

“No,” I huffed. The Amazon walked the few paces over and laid me down in the back of the SUV.

“Hey! What are you doing?!” I protested when he flipped my dress up.

He stopped and calmly said, “you wanna sit in your leaky diaper?”

“No,” I begrudgingly acknowledged. He proceeded to change me into a diaper from the bag of spares.

I sighed, red-faced, when he finished and buckled me into a car seat in the back. So much for knowing everything. Things really weren’t under my control here. At least he was gentle and didn’t try anything.

“Okay Izzy, I’m Mike.” He glanced at some kind of holographic heads-up display and started driving away from the border along a small dirt track. “The reason I didn’t tell you my name earlier is because I didn’t want anyone from the Railroad to know my identity. Just a safety precaution.”

“How did you know I like to be called Izzy?” I asked suspiciously.

“I run an automatic bug scan on everyone that comes near my property, which includes my car. You’re clean, but you’ve got a microchip on you with a bunch of your privacy preferences, which ironically includes your preferred name in conversation. Are you okay with me calling you that?”

***

I really did scan her and find the chip, even though that wasn’t where I got her name from. I didn’t want to let on to any more than I needed to right now. She’ll have plenty of time to fully comprehend the magnitude of what I did for her. Or leave. That was a grim thought.

I’d snuck a tracking chip with an integrated mic onto her dress the moment she was in my arms, just in case she was dumb enough to choose that option and ended up needing my help. As much as I wanted to, I wasn’t going to stop her from doing that though.

“Yeah, you can call me whatever,” she replied as I turned onto a paved road. Deep breath, explain the situation. You got this.

“Okay. I want you to know that everything I’m doing for you is to help you. If at any point you want to leave, tell me and I’ll stop the car and you can go wherever you’d like. Just please be careful. However, I recommend that you stay with me for the time being, for your own safety. Even though Canada is a million times better than the US for Little Rights, you’re unfortunately still in danger of being kidnapped by Little Hunters from the US. They WILL smuggle you back across the border and they WILL sell you to the highest bidder before you can say ‘True North Strong and Free’. Because of them, most Littles here actually choose to stay with a Big family or friend for safety’s sake. In fact, it’s so common that we have a name for it: homestay.”

“Where are we going?” She asked as I took the on-ramp onto the highway to Penticton. It was a pretty big detour from our final destination, but I didn’t want to drive all the way to the west coast before Isabelle got her citizenship, just in case we got pulled over.

“Well first we’re going to the Immigration and Refugee Board for your asylum hearing, where you’ll get registered and get your Canadian citizenship.” Boy did she want to know everything! I guess that’ll help her survive in this dimension, so it isn’t exactly a bad thing… Makes her about as annoying as a toddler though.

*“*They hand out citizenships just like that?” She snapped her cute little fingers to punctuate her point.

“To Littles who manage to get to Canada alive, yes. There’s a special clause in the Refugee Act from about twenty years ago.”

“The US doesn’t care?”

“They tried to stop them at first. When people protested and Canada caused a huge international scene with the first escaped Littles, the US struck a deal with us allowing Littles that cross the border to stay without persecution. In exchange, Canada still has the Safe Third Country Agreement for non-Little illegal immigrants, plus extradition.”

“So I can be fully legal and everything?” Izzy’s face lit up in an adorable smile.

“Yup, should be pretty much guaranteed.” I kept the other tricks I had up my sleeve to ensure that, including the fact that I’d sponsored her application, to myself.

“What happens after that?”

“We can stop at Tims for lunch?”

“Who’s Tim?”

I chuckled. “Tims, or Tim Hortons, is just about Canada’s biggest coffee shop chain. Has been for decades.”

She nodded and turned back to the scenery out the window.

“What’s a Hellcat?” Izzy suddenly asked a while later, when we were about halfway there.

“You met one?”

“The guy that broke me out. He was a Little and said he’d been a Hellcat? So, what’s a Hellcat?”

“Wow, cool. I didn’t know Hellcat vets were in the Railroad. The Hellcats are an international team of elite special forces. They’re above the law and protected as such by UN resolutions. They’re the best of the best in CQB, and they carry out counter-terrorist and hostage-rescue operations around the world. No Big unit can match their cool, speed, finesse and precision. You were in good hands.”

Izzy had a shocked, then sheepish look on her face as I said that.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, slightly concerned.

“I umm… kinda fought them behind the orphanage.” Her face turned bright red and she looked away from the rear-view mirror where I could see her. I decided to have some fun at her expense.

“Ahh you’d better watch your butt now, you’ve probably pissed off their whole regiment.” I teased.

“What?!” She squeaked.

“Kidding.” I smiled at her and she chuckled nervously.

Soon, I pulled into the parking lot in front of the Penticton office of the IRB and parked. There fortunately weren’t many other cars there, so I was able to find a spot in the small lot. Izzy had dozed off en-route, and her pacifier that was clipped to her dress had adorably found its way back into her mouth. It bobbed in and out there with each breath she took. She looked so precious! I gently brushed her cheek with my fingers to wake her up, almost regretting disturbing her.

“Hey Sleeping Beauty, we’re here,” I chimed. She stirred and I undid the straps on her car seat. “Sorry about the seat, it’s a federal height law and honestly safer for you.” I’d forgotten to explain that to her earlier since I was focused on getting her away from the border, and I tried to make up for it now.

“Mmmm,” she moaned.

I was about to set her on the ground when I noticed she wasn’t wearing any shoes. Because of this observation, I made a split-second decision and changed my movement at the last minute, swinging Izzy awkwardly for a fraction of a second and accidentally bringing the sleepy girl out of her slumber.

***

I felt myself pulled up suddenly in a motion that jolted me wide awake. I looked around and realized that we were in front of a small single-story office. The lower part of the shiny black coat of the SUV that we’d arrived in was caked in a layer of dust, and the rear passenger door was open.

The Amazon… Mike… closed it and apologized to me, “Sorry for waking you up, Izzy, but I just realized you weren’t wearing any shoes.”

“Huh? Oh ish okay…” I rubbed my eyes and waved it off.

He nodded at that, and carried me in through the front glass door on his hip. The SUV pipped behind us, signaling the doors locking, even though Mike clearly didn’t do anything apart from walk away from it. Bluetooth? RF? NFC? Probably something similar, but more advanced. Aargh, I wish I could learn all of their tech!

There were a couple people waiting around inside the air-conditioned office, most of them seated on a row of cushioned chairs along a wall. Heads turned to stare disapprovingly at us when we walked in. I let my pacifier fall to where it was clipped to my dress and gawped back at them.

“Why are they looking at us like that?” I whispered to Mike as he sat down with me on his lap.

He sighed and whispered back, “Adoption is illegal in Canada. There are, however, a lot of Littles that choose to live like they do in the majority of the US. Some of them are used to the carefree lifestyle from before they escaped, others saw the bright sides of the lifestyle and wanted in. But when they go out and do official government things, like what we’re doing right now, they usually dress and behave as adults. This is the IRB, so you’re dressed just as inappropriately as, say, if you were wearing pajamas or a bikini.” I giggled quietly at the picture. “Some of them probably even think I kidnapped you or I’m forcing you to do this.”

An official-looking Little clerk walked over to us carrying a transparent tablet, her lips pursed disapprovingly. This was the first Little I’d seen working a job, and it very much set the tone for what Canada would be like for me.

“Sir, I’m going to ask you to let her sit by herself,” she told Mike.

She addressed both of us as he lifted me to an empty adjacent chair. “Miss…” she looked at her tablet for a moment, “Green, please be considerate of others the next time you pick an outfit to wear to a government office. I’ll let you both stay this time, but be warned that if you dress and behave like this next time, someone will likely ask you to leave.”

I tried to start explaining to the lady, but Mike squeezed my hand to stop me, and I complied with a sigh. The clerk tapped at her tablet and gave us a number two greater than the one displayed on a TV hanging from the ceiling.

“When your number shows up, please go into office number three over there, and an agent will help you out,” she instructed, pointing to the TV. “Miss Green must go in alone, per our privacy policies,” she looked threateningly at Mike.

I nodded and Mike thanked her, and she seemed to be somewhat put off by that. She blinked and turned to speak to one of the others waiting. After about 10 more minutes, the display updated to mine and I jumped down from the chair.

“They’re there to help you, so don’t lie about anything. Answer every question truthfully and provide as many details as you can. Good luck, I’m here if you need me,” Mike reassured.

I nodded and walked over to the ajar wooden door labeled with a fancy calligraphic 3, my socked feet slipping on the floor tiles. The Amazon man inside looked up in surprise when I pushed it open and walked in.

“What on earth are you wearing?!” He gasped, but quickly recovered. “Okay, okay, can you close the door?”

When I did so, he took a deep breath and continued, “Okay… Isabelle, I’m Agent Duncan Schmidt with the IRB. I want you to know that you’re completely safe here. No one else, including the Big that I’m told you came with, will hear about anything you tell me, understand? And please have a seat.”

I nodded, climbing onto a chair in front of his desk.

“Okay, so I need to know, is he forcing you to dress like this? If so, that’s illegal, you have every right that any other person in Canada has. We don’t discriminate by height or size here.”

“No no, he isn’t. I just escaped from an orphanage in the US, and I haven’t exactly got anything to change into yet,” I explained nervously.

He looked unconvinced, but dropped the matter. “Okay, so I need to confirm a few things with you. Can you state your full name and date of birth?”

“Isabelle Dauphin Green,” I answered, followed by my date of birth.

He nodded and tapped a couple things on his tablet. “You crossed the US border today and came straight here?”

“Yeah,” I nodded.

“I have it here on your application that you came via portal from the other dimension?”

“Yeah,” I nodded. Application?

“What was the date of your dimensional entry?”

“Uhh…” I blanked on this one. I’d never bothered to ask anyone for the date, and no one had ever told me. “This past July?” I ventured vaguely. The chess tournament had taken place sometime in mid-July, and I knew that the dates were the same here as back home.

Agent Schmidt looked at me suspiciously. “You don’t have the exact date?”

“Umm… no, sorry.”

“Okay, which portal did you go through? The name given by either dimension is fine.”

“Uhhh… I…” How am I supposed to name the localized portal that the UN made?! “The UN one?”

“What UN one?”

“The one the UN made for me?”

“What?? How am I supposed to help you if you make up answers to my questions?!” He looked exasperated, and he’d succeeded in scaring me. I started sobbing my heart out for the second time that day.

Chapter 10 — Canadian, Eh?

Thanks to the tracker I’d put on Izzy, I was able to listen as Agent Schmidt lost it and Izzy began to cry. Thank God I did that. I sighed as I got up and walked to the office. The Little employee tried to stop me, but I flashed my UN credentials and she stepped out of the way.

I opened the office’s door to a depressing sight. Izzy was sobbing and the agent had his head in his hands, clearly too inexperienced for the situation at hand. He looked up at me, as if pleading for help, wanting to complain, and feeling guilty all at the same time. I sighed, picked Izzy up, and sat down with her on my lap. Her head nuzzled into my chest and I slipped her paci back into her mouth before gently patting her back to sooth her.

“There there, I know you’ve had a tough day, let me handle it from here, eh?” I quietly comforted the poor girl as I slid my credentials across the desk with my free hand.

“She’s telling you the truth,” I told Schmidt, turning my gaze back to him. “I was the one that brought her to this dimension. We opened up a localized portal and saved her from drowning. She’s actually right about the UN part; you can just choose ‘Other’ in the list of locations and enter ‘UN’ into the system.”

He nodded and quickly did that.

“Now, I can tell you’re new to this, so let me remind you of Rule 323 in your handbook. Isabelle here is a Little, obviously, and she has a sponsor, me. That means she can be fast-tracked through the refugee registration process and get her citizenship and passport now. I saw a stack of blanks in the office across the hall.”

Schmidt nodded again and asked a few more questions, all of which I answered for Izzy, who’d managed to calm down and stop sniffling. The agent then got a blank passport from the opposing room and uploaded all her documents to it, along with the full-body scans I’d stolen from the orphanage servers. It was safer for Izzy that they didn’t have the scans — one less data leak to worry about. It had been a walk in the park to hack their servers and delete it after my data transfer anyway.

It took just a few minutes for the central office in Ottawa to remotely approve and activate Izzy’s new passport, and we were on our way out in no time. I made sure to thank the agent for helping us, as well as the nice Little who’d both let us stay and tried to stop me. People doing their jobs thoroughly were worthy of a pat on the back, even if they got in my way.

***

Mike buckled me into the car seat and handed me my passport, which consisted of a rectangle of plastic that looked like a smaller version of Sofia’s phone.

“Fanks, Mike, fuh…” I paused to spit the pacifier out, “for that back there. I had no idea you were the one that brought me to this dimension… so umm… thanks… for saving my life.”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart. Congrats on becoming Canadian, you deserve it.”

I nodded, but one question still burned: “But why did the UN just dump me in a shack in the middle of nowhere?”

Mike sighed, “I’m sorry, Izzy. I’m really sorry for what happened to you with Karen. That was our release team’s fault. You were supposed to go to Kate, Karen’s younger, richer and less heartless sister. Unfortunately, she died from a car accident just before you would have, and, well, that wasn’t something anyone expected and Karen ended up getting custody.” And now she’s IN custody. Hehe. “Again, I’m sorry. I never would’ve let that happen had I known. Most of the time the system works, but sometimes it doesn’t, and there’s nothing we can do except try to fix it.”

“It’s okay,” I reassured him, “it’s not your fault I guess. The irony though.”

“Yeah,” he breathed. “So, you wanna get the full Tims experience to celebrate your new Canadianness or go for drive-thru?”

“It’s safe to go in, right?” I needed to be sure.

“Yeah, you should be safe, especially since I’ll be there with you.”

“Let’s do that then. I’d never been to Canada back home, might as well see it all now?”

“Excellent choice,” Mike commended as we pulled up to park in front of the coffee shop.

I got the seat straps off and opened the door… and Mike got to my side just in time to catch me from almost falling out!

“Easy there, Tiger,” he steadied me and picked me up. “Hmm, I thought those buckles were supposed to be Little-proof?”

“I’ve got a knack,” I shrugged.

The SUV pipped again as we entered the Tim Hortons.

“How is your car locking itself? Bluetooth?”

“Yep, it’s a distance measurement feature. It measures the Doppler effect on the Bluetooth signal waves. You know what Doppler is?”

“Frequency of the wave changes as the distance changes, right?”

“Wow, you’re smart. What would little miss genius like for lunch?”

I stared at the expansive menu, not quite sure of what I wanted, as we joined the line to order.

“Afternoon folks, what can I get ya?” A robot server asked.

“Chicken salad croissant, combo with a large, dark roast, Double Double and a hashbrown, please.” Mike told it, turning to look at me.

“I uhh…” I still hadn’t made up my mind yet, but Mike’s meal was sounding pretty good. “I’ll have the same please, but a donut instead of the hashbrown?”

“Excellent choice,” the android smiled.

“Make her coffee a Small,” Mike interjected.

“Sure. How would you like it?” It asked me.

“Decaf, three cream, three sugar, please.”

“Excellent, what donut would you like?”

“This one, please and thank you,” I pointed at a cruller which it fished out with a pair of tongs and put in a paper bag for me.

“You’re very welcome, have a seat anywhere and we’ll bring your food over in a moment.”

“Decaf?” Mike questioned, sitting me down at a table and then joining me on the other side of it. I noticed that my seat was much taller than his, so the table was the right height for both of us. Quite a clever design.

“I drink coffee for the flavor, not the caffeine,” I explained. On a whim I also noted, “That robot was really good at language parsing. And being nice.”

“Oh? And I’m not eh?” He kidded and I laughed.

“Well you’re not a robot,” I stuck my tongue out at him.

“Mmm.” He nodded and continued in a less joking tone, “Welcome to Canada. Most of us — robots and people — are like this: we respect everyone regardless of size. We even have Littles on all levels of government.”

“Well I’m liking it. Better than the crap I had to put up with in the States.”

“Watch your language!” Mike chastised, making me jump slightly. “There’s kids around,” he reasoned, motioning towards a family of Amazons beside me. I glanced over and spotted the mother shooting daggers at me.

“Sorry.” I sheepishly apologized as another robot arrived with our food.

“Bon appetit!” It wished, before leaving with an empty tray from the table beside ours.

“By the way, Canadians call ‘three cream, three sugar’ ‘Triple Triple’. ‘Double Double’ means two of each and ‘Regular’ means one of each.

“Oh… I was wondering what you meant by that.”

I was about to dig in when I realized something. “Uhh… Mike?”

“What’s up?”

“We didn’t pay,” I pointed out matter-of-factly.

“We did, it’s automatic. See?” He tapped at the air a few times and suddenly a hologram of the receipt floated in the air in front of me.

“Whoa, that’s so cool! Where’s the projector?”

“It’s part of my state-of-the-art cyrano.” The hologram disappeared as he showed me a black earpiece that I’d thought was a rather old-fashioned Bluetooth earbud.

I nodded and quickly said grace, before grabbing a bite of the croissandwhich. It was really good! The orphanage food I’d been eating had really prepped up my taste buds for all the proper food since my escape. By the time I finished savoring the sandwich bite by bite, Mike had finished his meal. He laughed when I picked up the honey cruller donut with both hands. It was the size of a small cake for me!

“What’s the deal with you Littles and your sweets?” He smirked.

“All Littles like sweets?” I questioned.

“Every single one that I’ve known or heard of.”

“Must be some kind of gene or something,” I offered.

“Maybe…”

When I finished the donut, Mike took all the garbage to the nearby bank of bins and sorted them into some 10 different types. They must really care about the environment here to go through that big of a hassle with their garbage.

“C’mon, let’s go. I need to get you some shoes soon, it’s getting tiring holding you!” he remarked while picking me up again.

I laughed. “You know, I kinda like it when you carry me around. Nobody’s done that for me in years!”

My eyes welled up slightly as I recalled my dad carrying me as a kid when I was too tired to walk, but I shook it off. Enough tears for a day.

Mike checked my diaper discreetly and whispered, “You’re soaked, you want changed?”

I nodded thanks. Screw Karen, taking away all my potty training like that.

***

I brought up Izzy’s situation again on the highway to Vancouver, “Where do you wanna go?”

She stopped suckling on the bottle of water I’d given her.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you’re no longer an illegal immigrant, you’ve got your passport, you’re a lot safer now. You still wanna come with me, or I can drop you off somewhere?”

“I’d be safer with you, right?”

“I think so.”

“And I’ll still be free to go whenever?”

“Of course.”

“I’ll stick with you for now then, if that’s okay? It’s not like I’ve got anywhere else in particular to go.”

“Absolutely, Izzy, I’m glad that that’s what you want.”

“Are you gonna charge me rent or… how’s that gonna work?”

“Don’t sweat it. It’s the least I can do for ya after everything that happened. If you get a job someday and you still want to pay me back then… we can cross that bridge when we get there, kay? Right now I don’t want you to worry about a thing.”

“Thank you so much Mike. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. People like you in the Railroad are just amazing…”

She thinks I’m with the Railroad. Should I tell her? What would her reaction be? She’s already decided to stay with me on her own volition… I mulled over this a bit and decided to keep it to myself for the time being. If she found out somehow, that would be great, but I wouldn’t be the one to tell her.

I spent the rest of the drive chatting with Izzy about her home dimension and mine, comparing differences and noting some surprising similarities. She was an amazing person, and she’d been an aspiring chess player, steps away from her GM title, until the unfortunate incident happened.

I promised her that I would do my best to find a way for her to play professionally, even though it would probably require pulling a lot of strings. The first step would involve getting her a chess set, so, seeing as she also needed clothes, diapers, shoes, and everything short of furniture in her size, I drove to a massive outlet mall I knew of in Langley.

This time Izzy was more careful with her exit, and waited for me to get to her side before getting up from her car seat. She held her arms out to be picked up and I obliged her with a kiss on her forehead. I stuck a finger into her waistband to check her diaper, which earned me an “Eeep!”

It was wet again, so I quickly changed her in the back of the car.

“This is the last one in your baggie, we definitely need to get you some more, eh?” I noted and was met with bashful nodding.

I knew I couldn’t carry both her and everything we were getting, so I made a beeline for the robocarts once we were inside. I double-tapped a black one and it rolled off its charging dock. I set Izzy down in the padded seat behind the basket for unique purchases, set it to follow me autonomously, and headed for the first shop on my cyrano’s list.

On our way there, I asked Izzy an important question: “Aside from diapers which you obviously need, are there any other baby-Little things that you want? You seem pretty glued to that paci for instance? It’s perfectly normal for you to be attached to things like that from your time in the US.” I consciously left out the hypnosis she’d been subject to, in hopes of not triggering PTSD. She’d been through enough for one day.

She looked a little red faced and quickly spat the paci out, catching it with her hand. “I’m sorta… drawn to these… they’re really soothing for some reason. Bottles as well,” she added reluctantly, “They’re more relaxing to drink out of and next to impossible to spill. I think the addiction might have something to do with getting hypnotized, that’s how I lost my potty training?”

“Makes sense. We can do that. You want some more cute clothes too?”

“Ooh I got put in these footed sleepers that were so fuzzy and comfortable, I’d love some of those. I actually had one back home too. And I won’t mind some more pretty dresses either!”

She smiled at me and I smiled back. “Sure thing, princess.” She was so precious!

Chapter 11 — Some Things Can’t Be Bought

This Robocart thing — that’s what the sign on the charging dock called it anyway — is so high-tech. I’ve seen similar robots being used to make deliveries and shelve books in libraries, but never as grocery carts. This is genius though. You never have to worry about leaving your cart somewhere and having to find it again, or having to push it through a crowd of people… The size of the basket doesn’t make sense though… Why is it so small? It certainly wouldn’t fit the list of items that Mike mentioned he was buying…

Several store employees greeted us with a smile, but they never offered to help us. Soon, I figured out that only the people with red carts got offered help, and I was sitting in a black one. Apparently, Mike didn’t think we needed any help. When we reached the first aisles of items, I noticed something was off immediately.

“Uhh Mike? Why are there only demos of everything and no actual stock?”

“Oh I can just scan the barcode with my cyrano and it’ll be added to our virtual cart. We’ll pay at checkout and then pick up everything from the dispensary. Here, you wanna help me scan? That should give you something to do other than look around and keep you from being bored to death?” He fished something that looked like a large signet ring out of a pocket and handed it to me.

I took the device from him. It was really light and seemed to be made of plastic. “That is such a brilliant idea!”

I couldn’t believe that no one in my dimension had thought of this shopping model before. I never liked online shopping because I couldn’t see and feel the actual product. VR previewing was a thing, but that could only go so far. We’d yet to perfect reproducing textures and the feeling of holding a physical sample in your hands with haptic feedback. On the other hand, in-person shopping was slow and frustrating. People spent way too much time getting things off shelves and into their carts, not to mention all the checkout lines.

“I know, right? Best of both worlds.” He seemed to be thinking along the same lines.

I twirled the ring around my finger. “Kay, how does this work?”

“Point the lens at a barcode and press on the back — there’s a pressure switch under the polycarbonate there. The scanner will vibrate every time it reads the code. If we get two of the same item just scan the same thing twice, and so on; one scan per count.”

We reached our first stop in an aisle full of all sorts of different diapers, and Mike tossed me a Frozen-3-themed sample, covered in little snowflakes, Elsas, and Annas. I caught it like a frisbee and brushed my fingers over the fabric of the padding. It felt like I was touching a cloud!

“Whoa, this is so soft! Makes the ones I’ve been wearing feel like sandpaper.”

“MapleLove. It’s a Canadian brand, and we tend to do things right, even if we don’t really advertise that on the international scene. Scan it twice for two cases for now, eh?” He smiled.

“Kay,” I nodded.

“Oh right, what size are you?”

“Err… I’m not sure?”

“Okay, stand up and let me check.”

I begrudgingly complied and let him lift my dress up to see. It felt like my wet diaper was exposed for the entire world’s viewing pleasure, and I was definitely going to die from embarrassment!

“The princess is of size four,” Mike proclaimed in a whisper, chuckling when he saw the color of my face. “What’s wong, pwincess don’t wike her diapees shown off?”

I whacked his arm. “Not funny, Mike. You try it sometime.”

He smirked and handed me another diaper from the same brand. This one was covered in little translucent robot characters that reminded me of EVE from WALL-E. I didn’t recognize the characters though, so it was probably a Disney movie from this dimension. Hang on…

“Why is this one so thick?”

“It’s a nighttime diaper. Extra capacity so you don’t leak. One case should be plenty for now, we can always restock online.”

I nodded and scanned it. Mike walked over to an adjacent aisle and the robocart followed suit. This one displayed an assortment of pacifiers and bottles. I was seeing more of these today than I’d ever seen in my entire life.

“Any in particular that you like?”

“Anything but the ones that expand. Those hurt like hell. Also, pink isn’t my color.”

He nodded and picked up a Blue/Green/Purple 3-pack and matching bottles. He also grabbed a plaque for a case of wipes and a wipe warmer, something I’d never heard of but he assured me I would love. Just as I finished scanning all of them, I heard a female voice call out.

“Mike! Didn’t expect to see you here today. How’s it going?” I looked up and saw a middle-aged Big with a Little in a sling of sorts.

“Hey Maria! Going pretty well, yourself?”

As she drew closer, she was about to respond when she saw me. “I’m— Oh my gosh, that’s… that’s…”

“Isabelle,” Mike helped her out. “What’s going on, Mike? Why is she here?”

“I’m just getting her some clothes and stuff. As you know, the release team screwed up and she got messed up pretty badly in the US, but she managed to get to the Railroad. I met her at the border. The paperwork is all done, I sponsored her and she’s Canadian now,” he smiled.

“Wow, I’m glad you’re okay. Maria Torelli, I’m the physician on Mike’s team at the DRC.” She repositioned the sling and reached out her hand, and I grasped it in an awkward handshake. Our hands had so much of a size difference that I would have done better shaking only a finger or two!

“This is Michelle, my adopted Little girl— Ooh! Hi snookums! You’re awake!” She looked down and gave Michelle her full attention, gently playing with her for a moment and then sitting her up.

I took the opportunity to give Mike an uncomfortable look. He seemed to understand why, and put his hand reassuringly on my shoulder.

“Ask her about it.”

“Umm… Maria? No offence, but I thought adoptions were illegal here?”

She looked back at me and lightly bounced Michelle, who had her thumb in her mouth and was cooing softly. “None taken. In the vast majority of situations, yes. So don’t worry, Mike can’t adopt you, even if you wanted him to, which I very much doubt.” She paused and he chuckled.

“But special cases are granted for the few regressed Littles that somehow end up in Canada. Usually it only happens when an adoptive parent in the US screws up somehow, and the Railroad rescues the Little. It’s really a needle in a haystack though. Unfortunately Michelle’s regression was clinically proven to be irreversible, so she’s stuck like this for the rest of her life.”

“Fortunately for her, I love her very very much, and I take very good care of her,” she told Michelle friskilly with a kiss.

The Little girl in her arms just stared blankly into the distance with empty eyes and a blissful smile. I could tell that she was just a shell of a body, with no personality, no thoughts, and barely any consciousness. It was as if her brain was disconnected with reality. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.

Maria does seem to love and care about her though. Somewhere in my subconscious, a sliver of envy panged at just how much love Michelle was getting. Having always been the mushy, clingy one in the family, and ridiculed for it, I was a sucker for affection. Mike had definitely given me plenty with his hugs and kisses, especially considering we’d literally met less than 16 hours ago, but a little part of me couldn’t help but crave more of that. Just thinking about it made me feel fuzzy and warm.

“Well, we’d better get going, this one needs her diapee changed.” She remarked. Turning to me, she continued, “Looking like you could use one yourself, eh?”

The fuzziness dissipated and the warmth relocated to my face at her remark. I wanted to dig a hole and jump into it! I took a sharp breath, but got it together enough to wave goodbye to Michelle as Mike said “See ya!” and Maria disappeared down another aisle.

Mike then turned to move to the adjacent store, and the robocart trailed him. From a quick history lesson Mike gave me on the spot, this one seemed to be this dimension’s version of Oshkosh. I cringed a bit at that, but I did ask for cute clothes, and beggars couldn’t be choosers, so I kept my complaints to myself.

We found the toddler footwear section, where a friendly sales associate measured my feet to ascertain my new shoe size. Once Mike entered it into his cyrano, I scanned a pack of cute animal socks and another pack of normal pastel colored ones.

In the same section, we also picked up a pair of sandals, sneakers to which Mike hilariously referred as “running shoes”, and some cute and furry booties that looked like a pair of little kittens. They were all adorably brightly colored and adorned with cute designs, but a distinctive compass icon on each of them caught my eye.

Mike saw me fingering the icon patch on the sandals after I’d scanned them, and explained, “It means they come with GPS tracking tags. It’s a really common feature used to prevent children from getting lost. You can hardly find any kids’ shoes without them these days. We can always disable them or even rip the chips out altogether if you’d like, but I don’t think we’ll find any shoes here that fit you and come without ’em.”

In an adjacent section, we found racks of dresses, onesies, rompers, and footed sleepers of various designs and sizes. It turned out that clothes shopping was exactly like back home, since there were several duplicates of each of the hundreds of styles, with retail tags on them. So that explained the robocart basket.

Mike grabbed several dresses and sleepers that caught my eye for me. The adorable toddler and fashionable adult dress designs from this dimension both looked amazing, and I could see myself wearing just about anything on the racks. Just to be safe though, I did also get Mike to find me some plain jeans and t-shirts.

We headed for the fitting rooms, where I tried on my selections and modeled a few for Mike. He cracked up when I put on a unicorn-themed dress, complete with a matching glittering horn headband. I also had to enlist his help with some of the designs that zipped up the back, which I felt were a pain and decided not to get, even though they looked really cute!

I was still very unused to being in a fitting room with another person, even though said person had literally changed my diaper several times by then. It was just something I hadn’t done since I was a little girl. Guess I AM one again. Honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

Thankfully, Mike had the same basic fashion sense as me, so we went through the giant pile of clothes in record time. After trying everything on, I made a few edits to my selections and scanned everything. Mike then put the clothes in the robocart’s basket. On our way out of the store, he took a detour through the stuffed animal section.

“Anything you’d like here? Plenty of adults have giant plushies… I may or may not have one myself,” he smiled and gave me a playful wink.

“Hmm…” What the heck. Might as well go all the way and splurge on my cuddling desires. “Can I have a dolphin?” I pointed at a pile of them, each one the same size as me.

“Sure, princess. It’s your middle name, right?” He grabbed one and set it in the basket.

“Well my middle name’s supposed to be the title of the crown prince of France, but it does have multiple meanings, so sure.”

After I scanned the stuffies, we proceeded to an IKEA-like store on the other side of the mall. There, Mike had me scan everyday things like cutlery, a sonic teeth cleaner, a desk and chair, and a bed, none of which he had in my size.

When he asked if I wanted a crib or a regular bed, I told him about how much I hated the stupid cribs at the orphanage for how prison-esque they felt and how I relished my freedom. For the same reason, I went with a booster seat instead of a highchair for meals. Having spent the past few weeks under almost suffocating restrictions, I didn’t want any more.

Mike even managed to find a chessboard for me. When he claimed that he’d beat me with it, I giggled, knowing that, unless he’d somehow left out crazy secrets about who he was, he stood no chance.

Our final stop was a Best-Buy-like store called Motherboards. Mike looked like he was giddy with excitement as soon as he stepped foot inside. He was definitely as much a tech fan as I was, if not more so. I couldn’t help but get hyped when I saw the crazy specs of everything, and I literally drooled at the insane hardware that they had. I could easily spend a whole day in this store, but Mike seemed to know what he was looking for. He waved off an overeager sales rep trying to be helpful and made a beeline for a section labelled ‘Displays and Peripherals’.

He double-checked something with a sales rep there that I didn’t quite understand, and scanned the items himself with his cyrano. When I asked him what he got, he just smiled and said I’d find out soon. I was exhausted, so I didn’t push the matter.

Mike took a left out of Motherboards and led us back to the mall entrance where we’d come in from. There, he showed me how the mall’s centralized checkout system worked. It turned out to be exactly like shopping on Amazon, less the shipping selections, since we were collecting the items right there.

When the payment went through, an employee walked us to a receiving bay, where an autonomous flatbed robocart laden with everything we’d purchased met us. The employee checked over everything with Mike, and he confirmed receipt by scanning his cyrano.

With that done, they thanked each other and Mike headed for the SUV, where he transferred everything except my dolphin to the trunk. Mike then picked me up, handed it to me, and pressed a button on both carts to automatically return them.

Mike tore open a case of diapers and a pack of wipes. He changed me on the backseat before disposing of the used diaper in a nearby trash receptacle. The MapleLove indeed felt amazing. I could hardly even tell it was there, if not for the slight warmth and the bulk.

Mike buckled me into my car seat. At that point, I had the first real chance that day to process the sensory overload. Nothing else demanded my attention. My head hurt from all the incredibly convoluted feelings I had, even as I felt content that I had no immediate worries.

I abhorred whoever destroyed Michelle with fiery disgust. I pitied the poor girl. I was grateful that Maria had stepped up and shown her love that was as unconditional as a human could give. I still had a twinge of disbelief that I’d managed to escape, and a panging guilt that my friends were trapped in the orphanage.

I was hopeful for my future, grateful for Mike’s kindness, captivated by all the futuristic tech in this dimension, and thankful that God hadn’t forsaken me. Above all, there hung an overarching exhaustion from the day’s events. Fatigue soon enveloped me. Hugging my dolphin, pacifier bobbing in and out of my mouth in tune with my gentle breathing, I drifted off to a peaceful sleep and the land of carefree, uncomplicated dreams.

End of Part 1

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Thanks for reading Part 1 of my story! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing. I plan on posting Part 2 a chapter a week starting Friday! Please leave a like and a comment, it means the world to me!

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Part 2: Middlegame

“The way one plays chess always reflects the player’s personality. If something defines his character, then it will also define his way of playing.”

— Vladimir Kramnik

Chapter 12 — Times Are Changing

Growing up, the way I woke up in the morning changed over the years. Up until I was 8 or 9, I would open my eyes every morning to the smiling face of either my mom or my dad. If I was lucky on a weekend, they’d both be there. I almost always woke up sad and angry at myself anyway, because my Pull-Ups and later Goodnites were soaked more often than not.

Waking up in a cold clammy diaper was one of the first uncomfortable feelings I’d ever known. Knowing that the cause was my failure in controlling my own bladder was just fuel to the fire. My parents understood how I felt and did their best to comfort me, which included greeting me with their cheeriest smiles and hugs and kisses. Every single morning, without failure.

If I was unusually sad or frustrated, like the days after my birthday when I’d be a year older and still a bedwetter, my parents would tickle me, tell me jokes, pull faces, and do everything they could until I smiled. It was their mission to never let me start the day grumpy, and that contributed massively to my childhood self-esteem, confidence, and joyous attitude.

By the time I finally managed to stay dry consistently, I was already 9. Weeks later, my parents received simultaneous promotions. Their new positions meant they could get home earlier and spend more time with me, which I relished. However, they also had to leave before dawn. Since I didn’t want to get up three hours before school started, they let me sleep in and wake up to an alarm on my phone.

In high school, my schoolwork started picking up, and my sleep schedule started getting shifted later and later. I’d start to sleep at 1 am, then 2, then 2:30, and wake up fifteen minutes before my first class. I’d skip breakfast, throw together a sandwich for lunch, and dash out the door half-dressed, hair all messy and generally looking like a street urchin. That probably contributed to my not having many friends, and I found myself spending more and more time with computers instead.

I was sleeping at 3 am by my first year at MIT, where I majored in computer science. There, I discovered many others just like me, and my friend-count shot up. Like my new friends and most other programmers, I found that I coded a lot better in the small hours of the morning, so I regularly woke up at noon. I’d managed to schedule my classes to be in the afternoons and early evenings, so I would wake up, freshen up, have brunch, and head to class.

Thanks to summer internships at Google, Amazon and Meta, which back then were the biggest tech companies, I was offered a six-figure salary plus lucrative benefits at a small Silicon Valley start-up the day I received my Bachelor’s degree. My compensation included perks like flexible work hours and a sizable stake in the company once it IPOed, the former of which I took advantage of to go to chess tournaments, and to never fix my sleep schedule. In fact, from when I was 17 until I was teleported to this new dimension, I was almost consistently a night owl!

That first morning at Mike’s place — my new home, I awoke in a massive Amazon-sized bed with all four limbs wrapped around my new dolphin. My dress was gone, and in its place was one of the footed sleepers I’d picked out the day before. I was also wearing one of the extra-thick MapleLove night diapers. From how swollen it was, a thinner diaper like the one I was last wearing when I fell asleep would probably have leaked. I stretched my arms and yawned as my stomach growled. Having fallen asleep in the car, I’d missed out on dinner, and I was positively starving.

The room was dark, but rays of natural light seeped in from under the door, so I knew it must have been morning. I carefully hopped off the bed and walked — well, waddled — over to the door. It was the first time in ages that I’d woken up outside a crib or a car, and the freedom to walk about felt great.

Strangely, there was no visible handle on the door. I was just contemplating what to do when it slid into the wall by itself and Mike waltzed in.

“Morning princess! Did you sleep well?”

“Mawnin Mike, I swep pwee wew.” I quickly pulled my pacifier out, having forgotten it was there. I’m getting wayy too used to it.

“Glad to hear that.” He looked at the floor-to-ceiling window that made up one wall of the room, held his hand out palm-up, raising his arm as if lifting up an invisible object. As he performed the gesture, the electrochromic glass gradually became transparent and the room was soon bathed in light.

“Whoa, you have electrochromic glass for windows?! What else have you got in terms of mind-blowing tech?”

“It’s actually a transparent EXOLED display, not electrochromic glass. Serves the same function, and more. How ‘bout we grab some breakfast, then I can show you around the place, eh?”

“Sure. I’m starving!”

“Not surprising, what with you sleeping through dinner.” Mike turned and started walking, and I followed him out the room. When he got to the landing, he stopped and looked at me.

“You want help getting down the stairs?”

Even though I definitely probably maybe could have managed them, I capitalized on the excuse to get picked up by his big gentle arms.

“Give me a lift?”

“Sure.”

I held my arms out in the universally-understood ‘pick me up’ signal and Mike obliged me, before adjusting his t-shirt and heading down the stairs. When we reached the living room, I could smell deliciousness wafting from the kitchen. Mike sat me down at the dining table in the booster seat we bought yesterday. It had a nice and simple purple grid design on it, which reminded me of the ads for that high tech purple mattress company back home. Maybe they got the designs from this dimension?

I also found the contrast between the lavish-looking set of dining furniture and my purple plastic padded booster seat funny. It definitely made sitting at the Big-sized table more comfortable for me though, so I was a happy camper. My thoughts were interrupted by a plate of food sliding in front of me. I looked up to a smiling Mike who handed me a correctly-sized knife and fork that we’d bought the day before.

“You mind if I say grace?”

“Sure. I actually didn’t think you had Christianity here — religion never came up in any of my conversations here.”

“The U.S. is pretty staunchly atheist, but up here I’d say about half of us go to church? You’re Christian as well?”

I nodded. “Grew up in a pretty pious family. I was no evangelist, but I did believe. No reason to stop now seeing as I’m looking at the miracle God gave me,” I grinned and Mike chuckled.

After he said grace, I picked up half a pancake with my fork. I was about to stuff it into my mouth before he stopped me. I gave Mike a quizzical look as my pancake flopped back onto the plate and my stomach grumbled at the roadblock.

“You’re in Canada. We don’t eat pancakes here without this,” he plunked a milk-jug-sized bottle of maple syrup on the table. It was so heavy I made a mess pouring it onto my pancakes, but thankfully the big plate caught everything. The gooey tree syrup looked like a pain to scrub off clothes and furniture.

It was my first time trying maple syrup, but I was instantly hooked. I’m never going back to regular syrup. This stuff is wayyy too good.

I grabbed a steak-sized rasher of bacon and some eggs to go with my second pancake, and cleaned my plate with a third. Mike looked at me with serious concern when I finished the massive amount of food, but my stomach was finally happy with the compensation for my skipped dinner, and he was relieved when it didn’t look like I was going to throw up.

“You iked bekfash?” Mike asked with his mouth full.

I giggled at his silly mispronunciation. “Yup. The AmeniTea food I had on the limo was good, but the unshrunken ingredients tasted a bit off, and it was missing something.”

He swallowed. “Love, maybe? I always put lots of that into my cooking.”

I stroked my chin as I thought about it. “Maybe, yeah. Robot cooking lacks a bit of human touch.”

Just then, I felt a sudden urge to poop, and Mike’s next sentence was drowned out by a rude brraaaaaaapppp from my rear exit. My face turned crimson as mush flowed out into the padding.

Mike either didn’t seem to notice, or thought that it was the most natural thing ever.

“How’s your diaper?” He finally prodded when he finished his own breakfast a good five minutes later.

I cringed at the question and put up the most exasperated face I could muster. “Really? About to leak. And I don’t even wanna think about the sludge back there. I will admit though, this Canadian padding is pretty good at its job.”

“Told ya. Shall we start the house tour from your room? You can get changed there too?”

“Sure, just get me out of this. There wasn’t much to my room when I woke up in it though?”

Mike laughed and scooped me up, taking care to not smush the mound in my rear-end. “That wasn’t your room, Izzy. That was a guest bedroom. I was assembling your furniture in your room last night, and I didn’t wanna wake you.”

“Oh.”

He went up the stairs and went the opposite way from where we came from. At the end of the hallway, there was a closed, handleless door with what appeared to be a large full-color e-ink display on it, showing the words “Baby Izzy’s Nursery” in baby block letters! I completely freaked out and looked at Mike with my eyes wide open!

“Relax, it’s a joke,” Mike reassured me.

The door slid open automatically when we reached it, and I was half-expecting some sort of weird pink giant nursery. Instead, it was a normal looking room with three blank white walls, the last side being a floor-to-ceiling window identical to the one in the guest bedroom.

The me-sized normal bed we’d picked out, along with the desk and chair, were all nicely arranged around the room. The last piece of furniture was a tall white dresser that exceeded my height, where Mike had apparently stashed all my diapers. He grabbed a thinner one with a Tinkerbell design on it and some wipes, before hoisting me up and laying me down on the dresser.

“Really? A changing table?” I whined.

Mike shrugged and undid the snaps on the crotch of my sleeper, exposing my soiled diaper. “Easier for me this way. We don’t have to use it if you want to change yourself?”

I hurriedly changed the topic at the threat of my diaper-changer bailing on me. “Where did you even get it? I don’t remember you buying it yesterday?”

“Hand-me-down from my parents.”

“Did a Little living with them leave or something?”

“No, no. This was from years ago.”

I put two and two together, just as something dinged. “You mean this was your changing table?” I giggled at the image of Mike waddling around as a toddler.

“Yeah. And my little sister’s too.”

“Oh? What does she do now?”

“She’s a diplomat.” He untaped the diaper, got some baby wipes from a Pampers container, and lifted my legs up. I could feel the warmth of the wipes as he started wiping my butt. He was right… I love this wipe warmer thing! I’m surprised they have Pampers here. Wonder if those will feel better than the MapleLoves?

“Wow, that must be a really cool job.”

“Yeah, but the nature of it means I only see her in person once or twice a year. We do text each other quite often, though, and we chat over hololink when we have the time.” Mike taped a new diaper on me and redid the crotch snaps on my sleeper.

“You want something else to wear?”

“This sleeper’s fine, it’s nice and comfy.” I rubbed the fleece on a sleeve on my cheek. “Unless we’re going out?”

“Nah, we can chill at home today.” He set me down on my feet.

“Kay. What did you mean by hololink?”

“Sorry, think 3D video call, with holograms. Speaking of which, there’s someone you should meet.”

I tilted my head up at him in expectation.

“Max, give Izzy Level two access and come join us.” Mike spoke into thin air.

I stared at him like he was crazy for a split second, until a solid hologram the same size as me materialized in front of me.

“Level two access granted,” the apparition told Mike.

“Hey Izzy, I’m Max. So nice to finally meet you.” I shook his hand.

“Ooh, hi! You’re an AI like Luxuria! Do you know her?”

“Yeah, we grew up on the same street in a digital town called roboville.”

I rolled my eyes and Mike and Max both laughed.

“No Izzy, I know about everything there is to her thanks to the ’net, but I’ve never interacted with her before. That would make for an interesting experiment, wouldn’t it, Mike?”

“Yeah, it sure would. By the way, the sign on the door there was Max’s joke, not mine,” he smirked.

I glared at Max, but my expression softened when I saw a clearly remorseful look on his face. “Hey, it’s okay, it was kinda funny, I guess. It’s just… I’ve been through a lot, and it kinda scared me.” I patted his shoulder.

“I’m very sorry, I should have considered more factors before doing that.”

“Oh Max, stop guilt-tripping her.”

I turned to Mike. “He has feelings?”

“Hello, He is right here. And yes, I have feelings. Mike programmed the basic ones into me: happiness, sadness, fear, guilt…” Max responded and Mike nodded his assent.

“Still got a lot of work to do on more complex ones like fatigue, freedom and love,” Mike added.

“What does Level 2 access let me do?”

“Access any room in the house and basically everything on the intranet. It’ll take you some time to get used to the systems’ interfaces though,” Mike answered, making a move toward the door. “Shall I finish showing you around?”

“Yeah, sure.”

I followed them throughout the five-bedroom mansion as Mike pointed out all the tech to me. Almost every surface was a low-energy 10-bit color e-ink display. Ceiling-mounted hologram projectors enabled Max’s continuous presence, and different projectors seamlessly handed off his projection to one another as we moved through the rooms.

There was an AmeniTea in the kitchen, automated showers that worked like a car wash with multiple showerheads mounted on tracks on all four walls, a mini-swimming-pool-sized jacuzzi, and even a VR room with an omnidirectional treadmill.

Every door slid open automatically when we reached it and shut again afterwards (to allow individual rooms to be independently climate-controlled, Mike explained). The backyard had an olympic-size swimming pool (relative to me anyway) and a furnished treehouse that was firmly built around and supported by the biggest tree I’d ever seen.

Mike then showed me the spacious basement, which had a floor-to-ceiling mirror on one side of the stairs, and a gym, laundry room, and recreation room on the other.

I figured that was it for the tour, but Mike apparently had one last ace up his sleeve. He made a complicated hand gesture at the mirror and it turned transparent, revealing the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

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Thanks for waiting a year to read this, and I hope you’ll like Part 2 as much as Part 1! In the future I’ll post a chapter every week, starting with this one! Please leave a like and comment your thoughts, I write for free and don’t take donations so it’s the best payment you can give me! :heart_eyes:

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Absolutely wonderfull!!!

Thank you! Appreciate the comment :slight_smile:

Chapter 13 — Future Shock

My mouth fell open as I drooled at the three towering racks, each about six feet wide, standing that same distance apart from each other. Each rack was slotted with five levels of sleek server blades that blinked silently. Mike pushed open a door built flush into the magic mirror, and I followed him into what appeared to be his personal server room.

I did a double-take when I noticed the sound in the room, or rather the lack of it. Given that there was no visible soundproofing between the servers and me, the volume of the cooling systems should have been loud enough to drown out speech at a normal volume. Instead, the room was quiet enough that I could hear Mike’s footsteps!

“How in the world is it so silent?! This is like the quietest server room I’ve ever seen… heard. Is it using fully passive cooling or something?”

“Nope, it’s definitely active, but it uses a new liquid-helium chip-level cooling method. The superfluidity means it takes almost no energy and thus no noise to wick away the heat, to the compressor and condenser outside. That’s a jet engine by the way; I just have good soundproofing in the wall. It’s not magic after all… The laws of thermodynamics still have to be obeyed.”

“4 degrees kelvin in your frickin’ basement?? Your tech here is insane!”

Mike laughed, “Decades of engineering, Izzy. Decades.”

“Well, what are the specs?”

“Of this baby?” He pointed to the racks and I nodded.

***

Flexing the specs of the server I’d hand-built from parts to someone that truly appreciated them was a rare opportunity, and I revelled in it. “Ten hundred-twenty-eight-core processors overclocked to one terahertz, making for a full zettaflop of computing power, per rack.”

Her jaw dropped open in an air of adorable awe. “Did you say TERAhertz and… and ZETTAflop??”

“Yup, there was a big breakthrough in clock speed when chip-level cooling came out, since heat was the biggest limiting factor. Anyway, for storage I’ve got twenty-five forty-exabyte BLC SSDs in a RAID-X array. That comes to basically a zettabyte of storage. There’s also two hundred fifty-six pets of RAM and a couple off-the-shelf graphics cards I hooked up to it.”

“Jeez, those numbers are mind-boggling. What’s BLC and RAID-X? Where I’m from, RAID is just zero to six?”

“It allows for three drives to fail before suffering data loss. BLC is byte-level cell provisioning, meaning each cell in the SSD stores eight bits of data.”

She didn’t look too impressed by that. “What’s the performance penalty for RAID-X?”

“There isn’t any with the latest versions of RFS, that’s why I use it. Filesystem is optimized for it,” I added by way of explanation.

“Wow. You realize you’ve got more oomph here than all but the latest supercomputer in my dimension?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that. You guys basically live in the stone age,” I chuckled at my own joke and Izzy giggled adorably.

“What OS are you running on it?”

“A custom-compiled Arctic-based Tux distro.” A lot of people from her dimension used weird proprietary operating systems.

*“*Tux?” She snorted. “You have a penguin as your OS?”

“A penguin? No, Tux is the open-source operating system that just about everyone uses, unless you need an RTOS for some weird reason. We don’t use proprietary operating systems anymore.”

“Tux is the cute penguin mascot for Linux back home.”

“Oh, well I guess one dimension’s mascot, another dimension’s OS. Tux’s mascot is just a tuxedo here.”

“What’s that weird keyboard thingy there?” I pointed to a strange device sitting in front of the only monitor in the house, on a table beside the racks.

“It’s called a touchboard, I got a smaller one for you from Motherboards yesterday.”

“Touchboard?”

“Yeah, like a keyboard, but much more customizable. You define the keys and map them to whatever you want the computer to do.”

“Wow.”

“Anyhow, there’s not much else to the place. You wanna set up your room now?”

“Sure. Setup as in?”

“You don’t have a roomd config hidden away somewhere, do you?”

“What’s a room dee?”

“You know what systemd is, right?” I checked, trying to find a good place from which to start my explanation.

“Wait, is this like systemd-homed but for real-world physical rooms? Systemd-roomd?”

“You got it.” Man she’s a bright one, really. Can’t believe someone would let her brains waste away in some dirt shack in Jacinto. The audacity.

*“*Wow. Kay let’s go!” Izzy practically squealed, before turning and scrambling to the stairs.

***

I could hardly contain my excitement at getting my hands on the cool software, so I ran up the two flights of big stairs in a bigger scramble. It’s like living in a fantasy, what with all the tech here.

The door to my room, which no longer displayed the weird baby design, slid open as I approached it.

“Max just brought these up: I got these two from Motherboards yesterday, and this one I printed last night.” Mike pointed out two boxes and a bubble-wrapped bundle on my desk to me.

He showed me the smaller box, which was labeled LittleProtect🇨🇦. “This is a personal protection band. Anti-kidnapping device. Strap it onto your ankle and set a password. The band can’t be removed without the correct password and can’t be cut off without your foot getting chopped off. If you get into trouble, curl your toes four times quickly and it’ll detect the tendons flexing and broadcast a distress signal to law enforcement and an emergency contact, which I’ve taken the liberty to set to moi. Hopefully one of us can get to you then, before you get smuggled somewhere we can’t find you.”

He pointed to the bigger box. “This is less scary and more fun. You asked about the touchboard downstairs — this is a smaller, state-of-the-art version. Here, open it, you’ll need it to set up your roomd config.”

I sat down and started unboxing the device, which came in the shape of a cube and unfolded into a weird-looking wireless peripheral.

“This last device isn’t available in stores. It’s a cyrano identical to mine, just smaller. I got the neural interface from a good friend at CSIS — they’ve been trialing some new tech that the AIC sent them and they had a couple spares.”

“AIC?”

“Acimeran Intelligence Command. It’s the US foreign intelligence service.”

“And CSIS is the Canadian counterpart I presume?”

“Yep. Here, you can try it on after you configure your room,” he gestured to the setup window. “If you need me I’m just downstairs. Have fun!”

“Thanks.”

Mike nodded and left, leaving me alone in the room. I started by unfolding the touchboard. When I opened up the wings and snapped them flat, they clicked magnetically and the touchboard lit up by itself, showing rows of keys configured in a bizzare keyboard layout. At the same time, a holographic terminal window appeared in front of me.

I paused to examine both the floating apparition and the touchboard. According to the short quick-start guide included in its box, the touchboard was configured to an ergonomic layout the company that made the touchboard had developed. Each 1u key was formed out of 64 individual pixels, and the modifier keys and spacebars (there were two separate ones!) used proportionally more.

It was definitely wireless, but didn’t seem to have any connection buttons. Since the pamphlet claimed it would automatically interface with the nearest compatible computer and could be directly used out of the box, I pressed the ‘i’ key to see if it was connected to the hologram. Sure enough, a lowercase ‘i’ appeared in the USERNAME input field of the account creation TUI. I continued with ‘z’, then ‘y’, hunting and pecking for each key.

The enter key in the default configuration was on the left, and almost none of the modifier keys were in their usual locations, so it took me a second to reorient myself. Pressing down on the keys also felt strange, since each pixel had a miniature actuator instead of one per key. Thankfully, the pixels forming a key all moved as one, and didn’t come apart when I pressed on them.

After creating my user account and initializing my home directory, I proceeded to configure the keyboard to the DVORAK layout that I was more accustomed to. I then ran through all the various configuration files for my account and room, configuring everything to my satisfaction. I set the walls to a nice light lavender, had some fun drawing some abstract art on them using touch-interactive holograms, and reconfigured the door’s e-ink display. I also strapped the protection band onto my left foot and set a 30-character passphrase.

***

Two hours after I left her to initialize her room, Izzy summoned me upstairs in an adorable lisp, apparently having forgotten about her paci again.

“Done?”

“Yup, configsh shaved and ankle monidor on,” she joked before letting her pacifier drop to her chest where it was clipped to her sleeper. “Oh, but I need a superuser to activate the room.”

“Right. I’ll admit I haven’t touched roomd configs in a looong time. It’s roomctl activate right?”

“I think so.”

“Alright,” I moved over to her desk and pulled the touchboard over to me.

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“All set!”

“Thanks! Like the design?” Izzy asked brightly.

I looked around the room. “Yeah, it’s charming! You’ve got a nice artistic touch. You clearly know your way around a terminal too. And you play chess. What can’t you do?” I asked in mock exasperation.

She giggled at that. I’d tell her that she’s adorable too, but I don’t want her to take it the wrong way. I don’t want her running away because she thinks I like her romantically or I’m going to regress her or something. Because I don’t. I’d never. She’s like the daughter that I never had. I’m never gonna give her anything less than love and respect. She’ll never ever be a human mannequin to sate my fatherhood desires. I’ll never be like those baby-crazed Acimerans. Those bastards.

*“*Mike?” Izzy’s concerned voice snapped me out of my thoughts.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m fine.”

“I was asking if you wanted to play a game with that new chess set?”

“D’you need a change first?”

She groped the padding and nodded. “Looks like it.”

***

Mike and I sat at the dining table. He’d gone back down to set up the board by himself, leaving me to descend the large steps of the stairs in small jumps. He had the wooden chess set unpacked and the board set with White on my side by the time I climbed onto the booster seat.

“Ready?”

“Yup!” Let’s see what you’ve got.

As soon as he started the clock, I pushed my pawn to e4. I reached over to the clock out of habit, but it was just numbers on the e-ink surface of the table. Upon closer inspection, his time was ticking, not mine. There wasn’t anything wrong with the clock setup for the blitz game — the clock program had simply detected when I’d moved (using a touch-move basis and cameras in the room, I later discovered), and automatically clocked for me.

Mike pushed e5 and my time started ticking again. With no other motive than to gauge his skill, I played Qh5. The wayward queen attack wasn’t the best opening in professional play by a long shot, but it was tricky for beginners, and I reckoned I had enough of a skill advantage to beat him either way. That was cemented in his shocking choice of g6 for his second move.

I played Qxe4, putting Mike’s king in check and forking his rook.

“Check!” I pointed out cheekily.

“Ahh crap. I have to block, don’t I?”

“Yup.”

“I lose my rook, don’t I?”

“Yup.”

“Rats. Is there even any point in playing on?”

I smiled and grandly removed my queenside rook and knight in a sweeping motion. “I’ll make it more fair. Here’s rook and knight odds.”

Mike nodded and blocked the check with his bishop, immediately refunding my odds. His face on my next move told me it wasn’t intentional, either. A few moves later, I told him that he’d made yet another mistake.

“I’m just trading things off aren’t I? When in doubt, trade?”

“Mmm, you aren’t exactly trading here though.”

He captured my bishop on d5 with his rook, losing control of the 8th rank. “What do you mean? You’re only up a pawn, right?”

“Yeah, but you’ve just blundered. See, now I have mate in two.” I checked him with a rook lift to e8, back-ranking him a move later.

“Good game!” The clock stopped automatically and I held my hand out.

He shook it. “Well played, Izzy. I’m no match for you.”

“Of course you’re not,” I told him cheekily, “I’m an International Master! I was actually going for my last GM norm the day I… came here. Do you think I can get whatever FIDE is in this Dimension to recognize my rating and title?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t we find out? Where’s your cyrano?”

“Here.” I fished out of my sleeper’s pocket and handed it to him.

He pushed it away. “Turn it on.”

I turned it over in my hand, but I couldn’t find a button. I gave up and looked at Mike in confusion.

“There’s no power button,” he explained, “just put it on over your ear, it’ll turn on automatically when it’s in position.”

I clipped it over my right ear with a light twist, and a holographic boot animation ran for about a second. The device then somehow scanned my retinae and popped up a message confirming my identity, accompanied by a quick vibration. After that, the interface morphed to show a dashboard of the current date and time, some setup notifications, and a minimap of my location, as if I was playing GTA but in real life. A wealth of data appeared in a label floating in front of Mike’s chest:

  • Name: Michaelangelo “Mike” Beneventi
  • Height: 11’6" (Big)
  • Sex: Male
  • Age: 35 years
  • Username: mike@m1k3
  • Job Title: Dimensional Rescue Lead
  • Organization: UNIC-DRG

The next line faded out vertically, inviting me to scroll for more information. This device was far more advanced than the latest releases of the HoloLens, iGlass, and MRL Pro.

As I turned to look away from Mike, the label faded a bit, but still remained visible, even in my peripheral vision. I couldn’t even tell what the cyrano’s field of view was, since I could see the label all the way to the edge of my vision! AR back home really needs to take a page from this thing.

“How do I control it?”

“Three ways. There’s neural input, hand gestures, and a signet if you want something physical. Personally, I prefer the hand gestures, but the neural will probably give you more privacy. Just be extra careful about malware, you don’t want an attack to fry your brain or encrypt all your memories…”

“I’ll give neural a shot then. How do I enable that?”

“Bring it up by double-tapping the cyrano. Double-tap again to turn it off. When it’s on, just think about what you want and it’ll do it.”

I nodded and double-tapped. A shrill warning tone rang out, seemingly coming from inside my head. A bright flash blinded my vision. When it faded, I couldn’t see a thing!

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Bonus content — Izzy vs Mike chess game: Your Move - Game 2 • lichess.org

Please like and comment, I need your attention! :heart_eyes: pouts

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Chapter 14 — Sufficiently Advanced Technology Is Indistinguishable from Magic

I felt like I was opening my eyes for the first time ever, as orbs of light appeared, followed by shapes and lines becoming clearer. Finally, after about five seconds, I could actually see somewhat blurrily. It reminded me of the effects of blood rushing to my head when getting up suddenly, but this was quite a bit worse. A popup, clearer than anything else I could see, prompted me that I was now in ‘full-neural’ mode as I reoriented myself.

“Whoaa, what in the world just happened??” I demanded toward Mike.

“Neural mapping. Sorry for not warning you about that ahead of time, it’s only done once the first time you trigger full-neural mode and it’s been a while since I did mine,” he explained regretfully.

“They should put a warning on the box or something; that was really disorienting.”

“What box? This stuff is black tech — it’s far from being commercially viable.” He laughed.

As I blinked away the last of the blurriness, I noticed something odd. I could still see the holograms with my eyes closed!

“Mike, what exactly does full-neural mode entail?”

“You control the cyrano with your thoughts and it injects output right into your brain by tapping into your central nervous system and essentially interfacing directly with your neurons.”

“Wow…”

Open a browser. Nothing happened. I concentrated harder, visualizing the action. Open. Browser. Still nothing.

“It’s not working.”

“What’s not working?”

“I’m trying to get it to open a browser by thinking, and it’s not doing it.”

“You’re forgetting the magic word.”

“Oh, please?”

“Nope.”

Hmm… “Sudo?”

“Noo,” he chuckled.

What then? I looked quizzically at Mike.

“You need to direct your thoughts towards the cyrano for it to register them,” he explained. “It’s a safety feature hard-coded into the firmware to prevent accidental triggers. Easiest way to do it is to prefix thoughts with ‘cyrano’.”

Cyrano, open browser.

A window instantly popped up in front of me like magic, startling a stream of pee into my diaper. I hadn’t been so shocked by a piece of technology since… oh right, just about everything in this dimension. The default page was a search engine from this dimension that I’d never heard of before.

Cyrano, can FIDE ratings be transferred across dimensions?

No, but you can regain it.

Cyrano, you sure?

The browser loaded an official-looking rules page by the ICF that displayed tens of thousands of lines of rules and regulations, instantly. A quick question revealed that the International Chess Federation here was called, well, THAT, instead of la Fédération International Des Échecs. Something about being founded in Albion instead of Gaule, wherever those were.

Cyrano, share my screen view with Mike.

It mirrored what I was seeing onto the window beside us.

“Here, we can read through this,” I told Mike and started skimming through the page.

“No need. Just get your cyrano to summarize it for you.”

“Whoa, it can do that??” Cyrano, summarize the part covering rating transfers.

The ICF does not recognize ratings given by organizations in any other dimension.

“Dammit, this means I have to start over.”

“No rating transfer?”

“Uh-uh.”

“With your skills, starting from the bottom and working your way up wouldn’t be too hard, would it?”

“No, but it’ll take time. Hmmm, back in my dimension FIDE granted direct titles for winning certain events. I wonder if you have something similar?”

Cyrano, assuming I’m the best chess player in this dimension, what’s the fastest way to get a GM title?

Win the Canadian Chess Championship. You will then be automatically awarded the GM title.

*“*Aha, I can just win the Canadian Chess Championship.”

Who can participate in this event?

Unlike my previous queries, nothing happened. Oh, I forgot the magic word.

Cyrano, who can join this event?

The top twenty ranking participants in the Canadian Chess Open.

Cyrano, open means I can just go right?

Both club and federation affiliations are required. You can’t go at the moment.

*Dammit. “*Mike, you know of any chess clubs around here?”

“Oh yeah, one of the techs on my team mentioned his once. I think it’s called VChess?”

*Cyrano, search up VChess. “*First chess club established in Vancouver,” I read off the hologram. “Here’s an address, let’s go check it out!”

“Whoa whoa, hold your horses. Let’s get you settled in and at home here first. The club will still be there tomorrow, we can go when I get home from work.”

“Ugh, fiiine. But I’ve got everything set up now. What—”

“Oh really? Everything?”

“Yeah?”

Mike laughed. “No, Izzy, you haven’t even seen half of what our devices can do.”

“Well what else can they do?”

“Tell that you need a change?” He smiled and I frowned back. “Let’s change you, then have lunch, eh? Afterwards I’ll show you some of the coolest toys you’ll ever see. Trust me.”

“Mmkay.”

When we’d finished eating the meal prepared by the AmeniTea, Mike cleared away the dishes and returned with an eager look.

“Did you ever have any imaginary friends as a kid?” Mike asked, his eyes flickering about as if he had several things open on his cyrano.

“Yeah. I was an only child, so I was bored silly half the time. I had this…”

And then a majestic hologram of my childhood imaginary friend materialized out of a wall. She reared up onto her hind legs, white coat totally unblemished, eyes shimmering like diamonds, and gleaming crystal horn sparkling in a magical brilliance.

“…unicorn.” She delicately put her front hooves back on the dining room floor, to the tune of my laughter and applause. This is unbelievable.

Mike looked pleased that it’d worked. He could clearly see the hologram too, so it hadn’t been generated by my cyrano, at least up to that point. “What’s its name?”

“I called her Buttercup.”

Buttercup stretched out a front hoof, which I accepted with a shake. Solid hologram… wow. Never thought I’d live to touch an animated unicorn, real or fake.

“You want to take her for a ride?”

“Are you kidding? I’d love to!” By then, I was bouncing in my seat at the chance to fulfill one of my impossible childhood dreams. I quickly added reins and a saddle to the hologram, just by imagining them, while Mike did some more eye-flitting and made some hand gestures as well. I gave myself a beautiful tiara and dress while I was at it. Might as well fulfill my princess dreams too.

Whatever system being used to translate my imagination was intelligent enough to fill in all the details in my mostly abstract thoughts. I HAVE to get a look at the code and neural networks that do all this.

“Ok princess, I’ve set the system up so you can go wherever you’d like. Just imagine it.”

Mike laughed as he picked me up from my booster seat and gracefully deposited me on the saddle on Buttercup’s back. I took hold of the reins, ready to gallop into my childhood fantasies. The second I closed my eyes, the landscape around me shifted into a scene I had never before seen, only imagined.

I galloped through the royal forest, branches whipping by in a blur. The wind combed through my hair (I later found out that I had been carried by the solid hologram to the VR room, and there were fans in it that facilitated this), and I could hear the muffled beats of hooves trampling the leaves and underbrush. That was punctuated sporadically by genteel whinnying from the magnificent beast I was astride. Its spectral mane somehow scintillated the entire rainbow, all at once, as if it was a prism with a billion facets. Every little detail was indistinguishable from reality.

I pulled back lightly on the reins to slow Buttercup down, first to a canter, then a trot, and finally to a walk just as we reached a small clearing in the forest. With the immediate danger of falling off my unicorn alleviated, I turned to study my companions, who had slowed their black horses down to match Buttercup’s gait.

The youth who I recognized as Will Scarlet playfully tipped his hat at me, his green eyes twinkling in the mid-afternoon sunlight streaming in through the treetops. Princess Marian took the opportunity to feed her steed a sugar cube from her saddlebag. She looked up at me just then.

“Sure you wanna do this, Robyn? Everyone knows how straight you can shoot, y’know.”

I morphed my princess costume into leather riding gear, pulled my hood up, brushed a few strands of my hair off my face, and shouldered my quiver. “Course. Which is why I gotta keep this up,” I patted my hood. “Should be a piece of cake, as long as I don’t get kicked out.”

“Kicked out? More like hung on the spot!” Will teased.

“Even more reason to stay anonymous,” I reiterated, leaning in for a kiss with him.

“Anyway, you both know the plan when I do my big reveal by heart, right?”

“Yep,” they chorused.

I nodded and asked Buttercup for a canter depart. As we crested the next hill, I saw the familiarly aboding towers of Nottingham Castle. I felt a tingling excitement build up in me, which had overcome any fear I had by the time I’d reached the gates of the castle.

“Hear ye, hear ye, enter the shooting contest with Prince John, or come watch the show! Winner gets a silver arrow!” A crier shouted over the noise of the crowd, which was streaming through the gates.

I carefully dismounted Buttercup, who was receiving stares from people nearby. Guess they’ve never seen a unicorn. Being careful to keep my face hidden, I retrieved my longbow and bowstrings from my saddlebag, and whispered to Buttercup to go and find Marian. She acknowledged me with a neigh and bounded off, horn reflecting a ray of sunlight into my eye with each step.

I walked up to the crier, bow in hand, and asked him how to join the contest. He gave me directions to a page boy, who led me through the gates to a practicing area in the castle grounds. There, other competitors were stringing their bows, fletching arrows, and taking shots at some painted hay targets nearby.

I wrapped the free end of a hemp bowstring tightly around the bottom string nock of my yew bow, winding it around a few times. Putting all my weight on that end, I managed to bend my bow enough to slip the noosed end of the bowstring over the top string nock. I heard a variety of snickering and jeering noises from behind me, taunting me for my struggle.

As soon as it was strung, I drew an arrow from my quiver, nocked it, drew the bowstring, all in one fluid motion. I spun around, sweeping the small crowd around me until my arrowhead aimed at the nearest jeerer at point-blank range

“I beg your pardon?”

At the sound of my voice, the small crowd that had formed around me collectively gasped.

“What in the world are you doing, entering a shooting contest, lass?”

“Never seen a girl shoot?”

“Good heavens, no!”

“Well you’re about to get destroyed by one. All of you,” I waved my aim around for effect.

His response was delightfully drowned out by the announcer blowing his horn to signal the start of the competition, which prompted everyone to head over to the adjacent competition field. A bank of targets at the far end and shooting lanes leading to them greeted us there.

“Ladies and gentleman, His Royal Highness, Prince John of Albion, Lord of Eire, Earl of Llawnroc, Count of Mortain, Slayer of Souls!”

The throngs of spectators rose in thunderous applause.

“For the first challenge, archers must land an arrow within the ring called out! Last two archers to land an arrow correctly will be eliminated!”

The forty archers lined up at forty numbered targets, each one fifty yards away. I had been given the number 39, so there was only one archer to the right of me. Prince John had been given number one, closest to the spectators.

“Archers ready!”

I pulled an arrow from my quiver, nocked it, and drew my bow.

“TEN!”

I let the arrow fly and was pleased to see a perfect bullseye a second later. I was the first to finish, and watched as multiple of my competitors had to shoot a second arrow, and some even a third. The muscular archer to my left, who I recognized as one of my jeerers from before, cursed loudly when his third arrow landed in the 9 ring!

Unfortunately for him, the announcer called out the results of the round just then. “Contestants SEVEN and THIRTY-EIGHT, eliminated!”

Thirty-eight stomped off, and I tried my best to ignore some more colorful yells that soon faded into the distance!

“Archers ready!”

I drew another arrow, just as gracefully as the first.

“SEVEN!”

The number disappeared from my target, overwritten by the fletching of my arrow. This time, only two archers took three shots.

“Archers TWENTY-NINE and TWENTY-ONE, eliminated!”

Two by two, pairs of archers left the field, until just twenty were left. Half of the original contestants had been eliminated, and those that remained were fine ones! The final few rounds had involved a mad scramble, as no one had taken more than one arrow to make it into the rings called out. Several times, I’d seen a qualifying arrow on Prince John’s target as soon as I looked over after landing mine! He’ll be a force to reckon with… Getting that silver arrow may not be as easy as it seems!

“Archers, retrieve your arrows!”

I went over to my target and collected mine, while page boys collected the arrows of the eliminated archers and took down the targets. A few minutes later, they had been replaced by twenty square tables, each being a yard in side length and supporting a sack of apples.

Ooh… do I get to pull off a Katniss shot? I wondered as I returned to my firing position, now third in the line.

“For the second challenge… archers must clear their tables! The first five archers to do so get to advance to the next round! You may begin!”

I noticed that the legs of my table were thin enough that I could probably break it with just a few arrows. Clear the table… They didn’t say anything about not damaging it?

As everyone around me was flinging arrows at sacks, resulting in apples tumbling everywhere, I took careful aim at the left leg of my table and let my broadhead fly. To my pleasant surprise, the leg snapped cleanly, and my arrow buried itself into the other left leg further away!

My table wobbled a bit, and the sack of apples fell over, but it was still on the table. I looked over at the other competitors, and several of them were already getting close to clearing their tables, one at a time!

Not wanting to waste any more time, I quickly shot another broadhead at the right leg. It too was severed on impact. Without the support of its front legs, my table tipped over towards me. Its tabletop was cleared, my bag of apples still intact!

I looked over at Prince John, who met my gaze after shooting off his last apple. “Bravo!” he clapped enthusiastically, “That’s an ingenious solution! I’ve got to try that the next time I play this game,” he enthused.

“Archers stop shooting!” the announcer called, “if you still see apples or sacks on your table, you’ve been eliminated!”

“How can Thirty-nine move on when he broke your table?!” Archer Two complained to the Prince.

“Because he’s smart. He gets to take home a sack of apples too.” He looked over at me and I nodded my appreciation.

“Now, if you’ll get out of my castle, the exit’s just that way.”

I watched as Two was escorted away by two burly-looking page boys!

Once Prince John, the three other remaining archers, and I had collected our arrows, and the targets had been updated again, the announcer continued, “For the third challenge, archers must use the colored arrows provided,” he paused to let page boys deliver each of us a brand-new leather quiver.

They were each filled with five different colors of fletches: Red, Blue, Yellow, Green for me, and Purple for Prince John. I unshouldered my quiver, replacing it with the provided one. I spin tested a few of the new arrows by resting the field tip in my palm, steadying it with my fingers, and blowing on their vanes. None of them wobbled, so they were all good.

“There are one hundred wooden blocks stacked on the long table at sixty-yards’ distance,” the announcer continued. “When the table is clear, the blocks will be tallied by the color of the arrows sticking out of them. Whichever archer claims the most blocks shall be declared the victor of the contest, and be awarded the silver arrow! Archers ready!”

I drew three arrows at once. Time for some trickshots.

“Fire!”

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Chapter 15 — Privilege Escalation

I let the bowstring slide cleanly over my fingers. The three green arrows skimmed through the air, burying themselves in three blocks and knocking them off the table. Each of the other archers had only managed to claim at most one block. At this rate, this will be a landslide!

Observing my success, Prince John emulated my method on his next shot, and we soon had more than half the blocks cleared off between the two of us. I thought I saw that one block even had one of each of our arrows in it, as we had hit something at the same time!

Unfortunately, the final few blocks were spaced too far apart, and both of us only managed one or two blocks at a time, like the other archers, who also belatedly attempted my strategy.

When the table was clear, three horn blows sounded, and page boys ran over to tally blocks. Meanwhile the announcer delivered news of King Richard’s latest victories to the cheering crowd of spectators. When the page boys finished their counts, they delivered the results to the announcer.

“In fifth place, Sir Reginald of York, with eight blocks! In fourth place, with ten blocks, Lance of Wales!”

The spectators applauded politely, but you could tell that they were waiting for the big news.

“In third place, with thirteen blocks, Sir Patrick, of our very own Nottingham!”

The crowd’s applause became more enthusiastic.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, squires and knights: we have a small problem. His Royal Highness Prince John and Robert of London have thirty-five blocks, each!”

Gasps of “What??” and “How?!” rippled through the crowd.

“Well, they each had thirty-four blocks to themselves, thanks to their innovative strategies of shooting multiple arrows at once!”

I grunted at the spreading of my credit, but it was probably expected of the announcer to not put Prince John in any sort of bad light, lest he be hanged!

“That’s right, ladies and gentleman. The final block has TWO arrows in it, one purple and one green!”

While it was paraded around by two page boys for the crowd to marvel at, Prince John went over to have a quick word with the announcer. When he got back, the other three competitors had left to join the audience.

“His Royal Highness has generously decided to grant Robert a tiebreak for the silver arrow! The format will be one target, at one hundred yards, and the winner will be whoever lands an arrow closest to the bullseye!”

The target was set up, and straws were drawn for the Prince and I to determine who would shoot first. Unfortunately for me, the draw was most likely rigged in his favor, and I got the short straw. With a smug expression on his face, the Prince sauntered over to me.

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

He winked at me, drew an arrow, twirled it in his fingers, nocked it, drew his bow until the string touched his nose, and carefully took aim. When he released the bowstring, the arrow whistled through the air and buried itself exactly on the bullseye!

“Well it appears that I cannot be bested! Good game, Robert of London.”

“Hold on a minute,” I asked the Prince, and went over to the announcer. After whispering my plan to him, he nodded, eyes twinkling, and announced it to the audience and a shocked Prince John.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Robert of London has requested the target distance be doubled! Whatever is his plan?”

As soon as the page boys finished moving it and cleared the line of fire, I drew one of my arrows, took careful aim, and let it fly. Seeing that it was slightly off-target up and to the left, I willed the wind to gently nudge it right, and made the arrow slightly heavier. Since this was my imagination, I could command nature!

Two seconds later, the field tip of my arrow sliced cleanly through Prince John’s, quartering it and replacing its spot on the bullseye! The crowd erupted in thunderous applause!

All at once, several things happened. The audience shifted from gasping and applause to chanting my pseudonym. The Prince dropped his jaw, recovered from his shock a moment later, and swore under his breath. The announcer was speechless and rubbing his eyes, as if he couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Some royal guards nearby were tightening their grips on their weapons, prepared to arrest me.

Prince John waved at the guards to stand down, and went over to the announcer’s bench to pick up the silver arrow from its pedestal. He drew his bow with it, and pointed it directly at my chest! I definitely wet myself in fear, but fortunately for my virtual dignity, that was not reflected in the simulation. After a moment, the Prince carefully undrew his bow and unnocked the arrow.

He hung his bow on a pedestal nearby, and presented the silver arrow to me with both hands, “Robert of London, I hereby award you with the Silver Arrow of the Nottingham Shooting Contest! Never have I heard of you before this day, but your name shall now be echoed across the land as the truest shot of England!”

I accepted the arrow from him, and added it to my quiver. “Thank you for your kind words, Your Royal Highness.”

His face dropped when he realized I wasn’t a guy.

“You aren’t really Robert of London, are you? Who are you truly, fair lady?”

I smiled at him and dropped my hood, sweeping my hair behind my head with a fling. “Robyn Hood of Sherwood Forest, at your service.”

I performed a little curtsy, as Prince John’s jaw dropped once again. “Arrest this woman!” he cried.

Just as his royal guards were running towards me, now unprepared because of the order to stand down moments before, Buttercup appeared out of nowhere, trampling them over. She stooped in front of me, allowing me to boop her nose before mounting. We then galloped the hell out of that castle!

Thankfully, Will and Princess Marian had kept the other guards distracted, and there was no one to prevent my escape. The simulation faded out when we were reunited in the clearing, after I enjoyed another passionate kiss with Will.

***

“Izzy, I’m home!” I kicked my shoes off while my hands were disinfected in the sanitizing alcove by the front door. In the three seconds it took to kill off any bacteria on them, I heard the pitter-patter of Izzy’s feet from the living room getting closer and closer.

The night before, after her Robyn Hood simulation ended, Izzy had asked to see the code that had made it possible, and I’d given her an in-depth tour of the thought translation engine and the reality driver that constituted the magician’s secret. Her interest in the subject didn’t surprise me, since I’d seen how smooth she was with the roomd setup, having not done it before. But, the highly technical questions that she’d asked me and her grasp of advanced concepts blew me away, especially considering the fact that her home dimension was still in the infancy of the digital age.

The next morning, I’d been scheduled for a rescue, so I had a dilemma. Izzy wasn’t cleared for the rescue center, and I didn’t exactly have anywhere else for her to go. In the end, I left her at home with Max with the promise that I’d get back as soon as I could. She had the choice of changing herself or getting Max to do it, and the AmeniTea covered lunch.

I knew she was really an adult, so I hadn’t been too worried. I had, however, taken a look at the feeds of the interior cameras of my house as soon as I’d cleared the freshly-rescued Little to recovery. Everything had looked peachy.

“Miiike!!” Izzy squealed as she ran toward me. I managed to take a knee just in time for her to reach me, and she threw her arms around me. What is she so excited about? The fact that I’m home? She’d get to go to the chess club like I’d promised? I’d never married or had kids, so I didn’t exactly know what you were supposed to do when your ‘kid’ did… well, that.

“Hey Princess Robyn, did you have a good day?” I went with a more laid-back response, hugging her back and moving to stand up, but she still clung tightly to me.

“It was you,” she said softly.

“What was me?” What was she talking about?

“You got me out of Karen’s shack, and then you got the Little Railroad to smuggle me here. You were the ‘someone’ looking out for me! Thank you thank you thank you! You didn’t just save me once, you saved me twice.” She squeezed me even tighter. Oh wow. She knew. How did she know?

I was speechless. I leave for ONE day and she finds out. How the HELL did she do it so fast?.. Max…

“MAX!! Get over here and bring up your code, I need to look at your security settings!”

“Nuh-no, his settings are fine, the stuff I saw is only visible to Level 0 users, so just you and—”

“Whoa whoa, hang on. Since when were you a Level 0 user? I don’t recall giving you that? And what do you mean by ‘the stuff you saw’? What did you see?”

She looked a bit sheepish. “Remember those commands you ran to activate my room?”

“Yeah?”

“Umm… Please don’t get too mad, but I umm… hijacked them.”

“What?! How??”

“A bit of Bash trickery, I aliased su and then sudo.”

She brought up a terminal on a shared hologram and showed me the code.

“Max, forget about your code. Take Izzy out of the root group and run a full audit against Saturday’s snapshot right now. Authorization Golf Charlie Juliett Gamma Five.”

“On it.”

I turned my attention back to Izzy. “So I take you into my home and you hack my servers? Is this how you repay my kindness??”

“I— I…” She looked like she was on the verge of tears. Oh dear. Oh no, no, no. This was NOT how this moment was supposed to go.

“Hey hey, it’s fine, it’s fine. It was kinda my fault for running those commands in an unvetted shell anyway. Look, I won’t get mad at you, okay?”

“Really?” Her face brightened a little bit and she clasped her cute little hands together pleadingly.

“Yeah, on two conditions.” Her face fell again. “You need to tell me everything you’ve done using your illegitimate access. And you need to promise me you’ll never again do anything like that without telling me first. Okay?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry, I really am.” She nodded vigorously.

I gave her a reconciliatory hug and took the opportunity to check her diaper.

“You’re sopping wet. How ‘bout we get you changed while you spill the beans, eh?”

“…and that’s all I’ve done.”

“Nothing else? Didn’t add any backdoors or anything?”

“Uh-uh. Cross my heart and hope to die.”

“Alright princess. I’m not mad anymore.”

She smiled at me. “So umm. Thanks for saving me twice.”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart.”

I was just finishing up dressing Izzy in a beautiful navy-blue dress that we’d picked up the day before when Max came in with the results of the audit.

“All modifications except logs and access stamps are ephemeral. I’ve removed Izzy from the root group as well. Shall I revert her access to Level 2?”

I sighed. What to do?… I turned to Izzy and looked her in the eyes. “Can I trust you?”

“If you do, I promise I won’t do anything sneaky to you again without asking first.”

“Okay. Leave her access.” He turned back to me, “You ready to go visit that chess club? I made an appointment for you earlier.”

She furrowed her brow. “You’re still letting me go?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I? I did say I wasn’t mad anymore, right?”

She nodded and gave me a big hug and a bright smile. “Thanks.”

“Okay, let’s go, I’ll pack you a diaper bag with some spare diapers and changing supplies.” Her cute little cheeks crimsoned as I picked her up off the changing table and set her down on her feet I lightly adjusting her dress, and helped her down the stairs.

***

I spent the short drive to the club peppering Mike with questions about Canada. I wasn’t sure exactly how similar the country was across dimensions, since I hadn’t been to the one back home, but comparing what I’d picked up from online friends and Wikipedia before coming here, and what Mike now told me about the one here, the two versions matched up pretty closely. Strange, since the U.S. is completely different across dimensions. In some scary ways too. Really reminds me of the Soviet Union.

Mike left the car to park itself and carried me into the club’s reception area, where two Amazons, a woman seated behind the reception desk and a man leaning on it, were chatting. They stopped and looked at us when we stepped inside.

“Welcome to VChess, how can I help you?” The woman asked.

“Hey. I booked an appointment with the club president for my friend to be considered for membership?” Mike answered.

“Ahh, you must be Michael. I’m Richard, President of VChess.” The man stretched his hand out, and Mike shook it with his free hand.

Without acknowledging my presence with so much as a nod of his head, Richard spoke to Mike like I didn’t exist. “Adam referred you, right? He’s one of our best players.”

Mike grimaced at his seemingly complete lack of notice of me. “Yeah, but I have a feeling Isabelle is going to be too.”

“Speaking of which, where is she?”

“Uhh… here?” Mike tutted, patting my arm.

“You’re joking right? There’s NO WAY a LITTLE can play chess!”

Mike sighed. “Not only can she play, she can play WELL. Heck, she might even outplay you.”

“That’s impossible,” Richard waved him off, “she’s just a Little. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some paperwork I need to file.” He turned to leave.

“Scared that you’ll lose to me?” I piped up.

He stopped in his tracks.

“No? Why would I be scared of you?”

“Then prove it. Play me.”

“What’s the point? I’m bound to win anyway.”

“Scaredy cat.” I giggled.

Richard scrunched his face up in a look of complete resignation. “What? Ugh, you know what, I’ll amuse you. Come with me.”

Mike set me down on my feet and trailed behind me as I followed Richard into the playing hall, where a couple pairs of club members were already playing. Richard sat down at the nearest empty table, and gestured for me to join him. Mike helped me onto the chair opposite Richard. I had to stand on it to reach the pieces, but I was unfazed. I can beat him. I MUST beat him. I was given the white pieces, yet again. What was it with this dimension’s players always letting me go first?

“Ready?”

“Yeah.”

I pushed my King’s pawn to e4 like I usually did, but what happened next caught me off-guard. When I let go of the pawn, it moved by itself to the center of the square! I blinked, thinking I was seeing things, but then Richard said “e6” to play the French Defense, and his pawn magically slid forward a square by itself!

Just like when I played Mike, the time ticking on the clock automatically switched sides after our moves. This game was apparently set for classical time control, so I had plenty of time to think. I decided to try playing by voice for my next move.

“d4.” Dominate the center. Let’s see what he’s got. The pawn moved automatically to play out my move.

“d5.” Okay, let’s play the Advanced variation then.

When Richard captured my pawn on D4 a few moves later, it vanished altogether! The board was a solid hologram! Amazing. Hmmm, he shouldn’t have captured it… that was definitely at least an inaccuracy.

On move 19, Richard got greedy again and grabbed a pawn that appeared to be hanging. Big mistake. In just five more moves, I was able to parry his last-ditch efforts to stave off the inevitable. On move 24, I successfully delivered checkmate.

“Aargh!” Richard threw his hands up in defeat when the clock stopped.

I grinned smugly at him and fanned my open hand in a circular ‘go on…’ motion.

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Bonus content — Izzy vs Richard chess game: Your Move - Game 3 • lichess.org

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Chapter 16 — Meanies

“Fine. You can join the club,” Richard conceded reluctantly.

“Yay! Now get me into the Canadian Chess Open.”

“Uhh… no. Are you crazy? That’s in less than two weeks!”

“Yeah, I know.”

“And you’re a Little.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“That’s just not possible. I can’t get a Little into the CCO in two weeks! In two weeks! I can’t even get you the federation membership you need in order to join any competition!”

I put both hands on the chessboard and leaned forward dramatically. “Do you want the winner of the Open to be a VChess member, or,” I paused and grinned for effect, “a RICHMOND Chess Club member?”

From what I’d seen online, Richmond was VChess’ greatest rival, so I made sure to emphasize their competitor’s name. If it doesn’t work out here, I can always go with the other one.

“Of course one of ours, but— but what you’re asking for just isn’t possible in such a short amount of time. Look, how about I get you into the BC Open in six months’ time?”

“Twist some arms, pull some strings. I’m sure if you don’t manage, RICHMOND will. Get me into the CCO or the only place you’ll be seeing me is on podiums after demolishing your precious players.” I batted my eyes at him for effect.

Richard sighed. “Okay okay, fine.”

“Good. I’m glad we’re on the same square.” I pointed to C5. “Do you see your blunder now?” I motioned at the chessboard.

“Yeah, move 19?” He slid a finger across the top of the clock, and the pieces morphed to their position on the board just before he captured my pawn.

“Mhmm. Pawns can sometimes be the most powerful pieces on the board. Sometimes capturing one that’s seemingly hanging can lose you the game.”

“Yeah, I can see that. Your point is?”

“My point is that pawns are a really good analogy for the people that you Amazons call ‘Littles’. You often underestimate us.”

“Ok that’s enough nonsense. Get outta here.” He batted his hand as if to swat a fly.

I shrugged, hopped off the chair, and led Mike out of the room as the pieces on the chessboard reset themselves.

When we got back in the car (and I was strapped into my car seat), Mike offered to take me to a nearby seafood restaurant to celebrate my new membership, and I happily accepted.

Mike drove for some twenty minutes through downtown Vancouver, before we pulled up to a parking lot about a hundred meters from a seaside restaurant surrounded by beach. A giant neon sign beside the building identified the place as “Surf’s Delight” and advertised a large encircled flashing “We’re OPEN” underneath.

Mike parked and opened the door for me, but instead of picking me up like he’d been doing all along, he asked if I wanted to walk.

“Get some exercise, stretch your legs out?”

“Sure.”

I walked beside Mike to the restaurant across a sand-blown wooden boardwalk laid atop the sand, enjoying the cool ocean breeze that blew through my hair. If it wasn’t for my wet diaper, this walk would have been picture perfect. If only I could film this. Wait, does this cyrano have a camera? Cyrano, can you record what I see as a video?

Apparently it could, because a small red dot started blinking at the top-right corner of my vision, and a timecode started to tick to the left of it. I filmed the doors of the restaurant sliding open automatically on our approach, revealing a modern-looking, Amazon-sized setting. Like EVERY other building I’ve seen here.

“Good evening sir, how many guests in your party?” A wheeled robot waiter at the reception kiosk greeted Mike. Man, robots, AIs, and holograms were everywhere in this dimension… Whatever happened to laser weapons, hoverboards, flying cars, and all the other sci-fi tech?

*“*Uhh two,” Mike replied. “Booster for my date please.”

“Very good, please come with me.”

I whacked Mike.

“Don’t want a booster?”

“No… it’s not that. Why am I your ‘date’?”

He shrugged off the question.

We followed the robot between tables of diners enjoying delicious-smelling seafood that I couldn’t see, since the tables were just above my eye-level. Three turns later, we arrived at a table by an ocean-facing window, where a regular chair and a HIGHCHAIR had been placed.

“Here we are,” the hologram said.

“Umm… I recall asking for a seat booster and not a highchair for my friend?”

As if it had crashed, the robot froze for a second, then completely disappeared! It had been a hologram all this time! I was so unused to things I could touch just disappearing into thin-air in front of me that I let loose a stream of pee into the waiting padding in shock. These holograms are so good you can’t even tell if they’re real or not… They pass the visual Turing test!

As Mike looked around for another server, his face looked like he wanted to shoot someone, so I pulled at his leg to get him to relax.

“It’s fine, Mike, a highchair is no biggie, it’s not my first time in one anyway. Let’s not let this spoil our dinner?”

“Hmph… fine.”

I looked up at Mike. “Are you gonna help me up to it or what?”

“Right, sorry.”

He shook his head as he removed the tray and lifted me into the highchair. He pushed the chair up to the table and left off both the tray and the harness. Given the height at which I was now sitting at though, I didn’t want to risk the long fall, so I buckled myself up discreetly after checking that it was a standard harness that I would be able to undo later.

Another robot waiter appeared at our table shortly after Mike sat down, exposing a screen on its chest like a teletubby for us to order from. Mike got a Southeast-Asian-style chili crab platter, after claiming that this dimension’s version of TripAdvisor described crab as the restaurant’s specialty. I was about to get the same when Mike stopped me.

“Get something less spicy this time; you can try some of mine. It’s labeled four chili peppers and I’d hate to see you wind up being burnt alive or not eating anything.”

I sighed and went for crab cakes served with she-crab soup. Based on the Buffalo sauce I’d had on the Luxuria limo, I was pretty certain I could handle the heat, but I thought it was nice of Mike to care about me and didn’t push it. Mike made sure to choose the correctly sized meal for me, as I wasn’t exactly going to finish a bowl of soup half my size!

We shared some breadsticks that were served by another teletubby, with a tray instead of a screen, as we enjoyed the magnificent view. When the platters came, Mike let me say grace before we tucked into the delicious food. Mike’s humongous platter was heaped with giant crab, while mine had a bowl of soup sized more appropriately for me and two palm-sized crab-cakes that would be more than filling for me. My silverware was thankfully also sized correctly!

As promised, Mike offered me a massive crab leg smeared in chili sauce, before he ate any of it. I happily ate it out of the shell, slurping up all the sauce. The heat was refreshing, and all it did was make my cheeks a little flushed!

Mike grinned at me, “Huh, I guess they didn’t make it spicy enough.”

He grabbed a pincer and tried it with some sauce himself. When the spiciness of the marinara hit him, his eyes shot wide open!

“Look who can’t handle their heat now,” I smirked and stuck my tongue out at him.

He wagged a finger at me and declared, “Oh I can handle it alright. You are one crazy Little though. Every other one I’ve met would be sobbing after tasting a drop of this. You know, they put this stuff on kids’ fingers to get them to stop sucking their thumbs?”

“Maybe it’s because of how big the peppers probably are here? The smaller the pepper, the less spicy it is. I’m used to eating smaller ones back home?” I reasoned.

“Hmm… could be. Fact of the matter is that we have GOT to use you to swindle some people.”

“How? Bet them I can eat spicy food?”

“You could probably handle spicier than most Amazons if your theory is correct. Could even just enter a spicy food eating contest against them!”

I batted my eyelids and mewled softly, “I would never win against a big bad Amazon!”

Mike doubled over laughing. “You could win a Stanley with that performance; they’d never see through it!”

“What’s a Stanley?” I was confused.

“Oh, sorry. It’s an award given to the best actors and movies every year?”

“Oh, an Oscar. Thanks.”

“Oscar? What’s the etymology of that?”

I shrugged, “The statue looked like someone’s uncle or something?”

I spent the rest of the meal occasionally stealing more chili sauce from Mike’s plate to go with my crab cakes, all while enjoying the soup. It was all delicious, and I would happily return! When we were both full, Mike had the leftovers boxed and paid the bill using his cyrano.

I unbuckled myself before he freed me from the highchair, and got a nice stroll beside him back to the car again. He drove back in light traffic as I watched the sun set behind us. When we got home, I ran upstairs to my room to start practicing for the CCO.

I installed an open-source chess program and an opening book, and started studying various positions. Before I knew it, several hours had passed, and Mike came in to tell me it was bedtime. He changed a very wet diaper off me, and carried me over to the shower without bothering to put any clothes back on me.

I’d been blown away when I experienced Mike’s shower for the first time last night. He’d assured me that smart showers like his were common in this dimension, but even after using it once already, I was still in awe at the comfort it provided.

Mike put me down inside the shower and stepped out. He’d reassured me that my cyrano was waterproof last night, so I didn’t bother taking it off before turning on the water.

“Start shower.”

Hundreds of tiny nozzles in the roof of the shower blasted water for a second, then all but a circle in the middle stopped. After waiting for a moment for the water to stabilize to the temperature and pressure I’d set in my roomd config, I stepped into the circle. Jets from opposing shower walls sprayed water at me, alongside the ceiling nozzles, which turned on and off depending on where I stepped such that I would always be showered.

The jets in the walls stopped, and a beep rang out notifying me to close my eyes. My body was then sprayed with foamy body wash and my hair with shampoo. I lathered up my hair, before the jets started up again and cleanly rinsed me off. Then, the shower finished, and I stepped out into the wind tunnel. I hated this part, because the turbofans blasting air at me were incredibly loud. I quickly jammed my fingers into my ears to stop myself from going deaf!

When the jet engines finally stopped, I was feeling rather exhausted. Mike gave me a hug and dressed me in a fuzzy footed sleeper. I sleepily held my arms up to be picked up, and dozed off before my head even hit the pillow!

***

The rest of the week passed by rather uneventfully. Izzy mostly slept in, lazed around the house, and played with her cyrano and my VR simulation software. I went to work and caught up on some personal projects like abstracting feelings for Max. I made sure Izzy got in some chess studying every day as well. If she was going to win this tournament, she had to devote the time to it.

On Friday, Richard from VChess called me back to let us know that Izzy’s membership and CCO enrollment had successfully gone through as promised. She was wearing a footed sleeper when I shared the news with her. When she jumped for joy, she slipped on landing, ending up with her padded butt planted on the hardwood floor. Accompanied by an “Oomph!”, her frustrated, embarrassed, and slightly hurt face was the cutest thing I’d ever seen!

On Saturday morning, I woke up to Max telling me I had a call.

“Good morning, Mike! I have Kyrie Hopper on the line, she wants to tell you about a new project of hers.”

“Sure, patch her through.”

“Morning Ky, what project warrants interrupting my meticulously manicured sleep schedule?” I joked, stifling a yawn.

“Mikey! Oh you. It’s past eleven! If you aren’t up yet, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.”

“Not everyone is like you, getting up at 6am on weekends. You know that, right?”

“Yeah yeah. Anyway, remember that biocomputing project I was heading?’

“Oh yeah, the one at Butchart?”

“Precisely. That’s almost ready for a public beta, you wanna come have a look today?”

“Sure! Can I bring a friend?”

“Course! The more the merrier! Your friend can’t go yapping about this to Aiken though, he’ll go ballistic!”

“Of course she won’t, I promise.”

“Ooh, girlfriend?” I could almost hear her grinning.

“Umm… not quite. You’ll see when we get there. See ya soon!”

“Later, gator!”

Three and a half hours later, Izzy and I arrived in Victoria via drive-on-drive-off ferry. I let the autopilot drive the rest of the way to the Butchart Gardens, as I wasn’t used to driving on the Island. At the staff gate, a vehicle barrier stopped the car from proceeding further.

“Good morning, sir. Who are you visiting today?” A bored-sounding female voice came out of some speakers on the side of the guardhouse.

“Morning. I have an invitation from Kyrie Hopper?”

“Hmm… I don’t see you on my authorized list here. Give me a moment to clear that with her.”

I nodded and switched my car back to manual drive. A few seconds later, the authorization apparently went through, as the guard leaned out of the service window with a smile and the barrier lifted.

“Welcome to the Butchart Gardens, Mr. Beneventi, and apologies for the holdup. Doctor Hopper is expecting you, just take a left up ahead and you’ll see her lab. Have a wonderful visit!”

“Thanks, you too,” I blurted out.

I cringed at my response as I drove according to her directions. I could hear giggles coming from the backseat, and a small voice mocking my err.

“Have a wonderful visit! You too!” The second part was said in a deep voice struggling to contain laughter.

I glared in the rear view mirror, “As if you’ve never done that before.”

“Have not!”

I sighed and parked the car. The first thing I did when I turned off the engine was open the back door and launch a tickle attack on Izzy in retaliation. I let her shriek and squirm for a few seconds, before I let up and picked her up out of her car seat.

“Meanie! You made the bunnies on my diaper disappear,” She whined.

“Your fault for teasing me,” I smirked, pushing her dress back down to cover her diaper again.

I put her down, shut the car door, and walked to the lab entrance with Izzy trailing behind me. The door buzzed open for us automatically, and I spotted Kyrie a few meters away down the hall, getting some water from a fountain. She capped her thermos and moved to hug me when she saw me.

“Mikey! Been a while since I last saw you!”

“Hey yourself. You’d see me more often if you weren’t cooped up in a lab all day!”

“Well said,” she laughed as she ended her embrace and knelt down to greet Izzy.

“And who’s this distinguished young lady?”

When most Bigs say that, their voice drips with condescension, but Kyrie only sounded sincere.

“Ky, meet Isabelle Green. She’s a portal Little I rescued from the States. Izzy, this is Doctor Kyrie Hopper, Chief Scientist of the Canadian Biocomputational Research Lab here at Butchart. We’ve been friends since our first year at university.”

“Nice to meet you, Doctor Hopper!”

“Please, call me Kyrie. It’s nice to meet you too, Isabelle. I rarely see Mike hang out with anyone but colleagues nowadays!”

“Izzy, please. So, you make computers from cells?”

“That’s part of it, yep,” She nodded and smiled. “We grow computers.”

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Sorry for the late post, I’ve had an exhausting week. Please cheer me up with comments and likes :pleading_face:

3 Likes

I love the way Izzy sticks up for herself in the right ways, and helped Mike keep his cool about the highchair. I also like the fact that Mike is showing the world that Izzy is her own person with all the rites that any other person does.
Have a good day and a better tomorrow too!!

Thanks for taking the time to comment!

I love the fact that their tech seem otherworldly and more…

Generally I’m lost for words…

Have a wonderful day and more…

Keep up the cool work :smiley::+1:

Thank you!!

Chapter 17 — Walk in the Park

My mouth fell open as Kyrie started walking us down the hallway.

“You GROW computers??”

“Yep! We genetically engineer plants to perform both specific and general computations, for a variety of use-cases.”

She looked at a camera set in the wall for a retina scan, before the glass doors opened automatically and we followed her into her lab. The modern space looked more like a conservatory than a lab, with a lofty ceiling, large skylight spanning its full length, and indoor palm trees. However, the banks of desk-lamp-sized plants, wires running everywhere, and floating holograms definitely made it a lab!

“How does the computational mechanism work? Is it cell-level? What are the input/output streams?”

“Great questions, I can see why Mike brought you now,” she giggled gleefully. “Basically, groups of cells in the plant act as ALUs — Arithmetic Logic Units — to perform simple computations like addition, subtraction, conjunction, disjunction, bit shifts… every single n-bit calculation you can imagine. They use a combination of bioelectrical signals and enzymes to communicate with other cells that store data temporarily, and finally wires tap changes in bioelectrical voltage across parts of their stems for I/O. It’s all solar-powered through photosynthesis, and the plants even generate oxygen as a byproduct!”

“Wow!” I found myself once again lost for words. Biological computation back home was in its infancy, and growing entire plants to act as processors blew my mind.

“What’s the throughput up to?” Mike asked.

“We’ve hit two megaflops per plant in bursts, but nothing crazy yet. I think we can expect to double that by next week’s batch though. We’re still tweaking core implementation details, particularly on the inter-cellular level, to maximize power delivery.”

“Nice. How do you program it?”

“A custom assembly language called PAL — Plant Assembly Language — for now; we’ll develop support for higher-level languages and start cross-compiling popular compilers like GCC over once we get enough computing power to run a bytecode runtime environment. Our goal is to run Freax on it someday. Wanna try writing something in PAL and running it?”

“Hell yeah!”

Mike and I got a quick lesson on PAL syntax, before we got a chance to flex our assembly muscles and write some code ourselves. I noticed that the touchboard provided to me automatically reconfigured its keys to my preferred mapping when Mike sat me down in front of it.

I wrote a simple Fibonacci sequence program, which would take a number n as an input and output the nth Fibonacci number. Each successive number was calculated by adding the previous two, with the first two being ‘1’, so I got a bit of a workout implementing recursion in assembler. I made sure to add a couple of sanity checks to short-circuit my code and exit if weird inputs were provided, before sending it over to Kyrie.

Mike wrote FizzBuzz, another classical programming problem, which was based on the children’s game that they apparently called ‘FloofBoop’ here. The plant would print numbers starting from 1, replacing any number divisible by 3 with ‘Floof’, any number divisible by 5 with ‘Boop’, and any number divisible by 15 with ‘FloofBoop’. The assembler didn’t support strings, so Mike used -1 for Floof, 0 for Boop, and -10 for FloofBoop instead.

Kyrie typed a few commands to feed our programs to the nearest two plants. We were pleasantly surprised when the output holograms hovering above them appeared to show both programs working on the first try! Not everyday when the first thing you write in assembly works on the first try! Kyrie took advantage of one of my sanity checks to halt my code by inputting -1 after trying a couple different numbers, exiting the program.

However, Mike hadn’t built in any triggers to stop it, so she had to terminate it manually. To our dismay, as soon as she did that, her console froze! Mike’s code had somehow caused the computer to stop responding to interrupts, so the plug would have to be pulled to reset it! However, being a plant powered by photosynthesis, the computer couldn’t have its power shut down without killing it!

“Umm… how do we fix this?” Mike asked sheepishly.

“Well we could inject nanites into the plant to force the interrupt to propagate, but it would probably be a more valuable learning experience to scrap it, dissect it, and figure out why the interrupt didn’t trigger. Plus, growing a replacement plant will only take a week, and they’re a lot cheaper than nanites!”

“Oh, okay then. Sorry for destroying your plant.”

“Don’t apologize, Mikey,” she smiled and rubbed his shoulder. “Think of it as destructive testing.”

Just then, a hologram popped up with a message for Kyrie that she was expected in an adjacent lab.

“Guys, I’ve gotta go. I’ll walk you out. Izzy, it’s nice to meet you, hopefully our paths will cross again. Mikey, always a pleasure to see you in the flesh!”

We followed Kyrie back to the entrance, where the two exchanged la bise, and Mike wished her luck on her research. Moments after we parted ways, Kyrie stopped in her tracks and called out to us.

“Oh by the way, please do enjoy the rest of the gardens. I had security add you to the list of authorized visitors, you can roam the grounds free of charge at any time.”

“Oh wow, thanks Ky! You’re the best! We’ll look around for sure.”

***

After barely an hour of walking through the various beautiful plant exhibits on display in the Gardens, Izzy whined that she was bored and wanted to go home. She held her arms up for me to pick her up, so I did, and started briskly walking her back to where we’d parked. However, just as we passed a small square by the main gate, Izzy forgot all about going home.

“Put me down, put me down!” She squealed, whacking my arm, “Look at the size of those pieces!”

I followed her gaze to a giant chess set, and laughed as I set her back down on the ground. The instant her little light-up runners hit the ground, she sprinted over to the giant chess set. I noted that her LittleProtect ankle band was barely visible underneath her sock, and didn’t seem to encumber her movements at all.

I went after her in much less of a hurry, and watched as she picked up a pawn that was almost her own height and shuffled awkwardly with it to get it to its starting place. It didn’t seem to be too heavy though, as she looked to be struggling more with its size than its weight. When she tried to move a queen that was a full head taller than her and almost toppled it over, I steadied it for her.

“Careful there, little miss chess nut, you don’t want to bowl over the Queen! She’ll have you arrested on charges of treason!”

Izzy giggled and stuck out her tongue at me.

“Why don’t you go reset the rest of the pawns while I take care of the pieces?”

“Kay,” she nodded enthusiastically, hugging up another oversized pawn.

When we got the giant board set, Izzy insisted I play the white pieces this time, and I accepted. I was just about to make the first move when a young Amazon boy, about eight or nine, and his mother, a nine-foot tall Big, came up to us.

“Let my son play your daughter? You can help her move the pieces, it’ll be fun?”

I glanced at Izzy, who nodded at me, so I shrugged and responded, “She’s my friend, not my daughter, but sure, why not.”

I turned to Izzy and squatted down. “Want a piggyback ride?”

She nodded again and carefully climbed on my back. We let the boy make the first move, and watched as he shuffled his kingside knight between two pawns to c3. I played out Izzy’s response of pawn to d5, which she called out loud. Just like that, the boy and I took turns moving the pieces. After just a few moves, I could tell that Izzy had started going easy on him, as he started struggling to find good moves. In fact, even I, a chess novice compared to Izzy, was able to catch a blunder from him, but she didn’t accept his meaningless sacrifice. I could tell, as the middlegame transitioned into a king and pawn versus king endgame, that Izzy had calculated and gone as easy as possible against him. In fact, she was setting it up so that he had a fair opportunity to draw the game!

However, the young boy didn’t know how to play that endgame, and Izzy finished him off three moves after promoting her pawn. When her son failed to stop Izzy from promoting, the mother started getting visibly angry. When Izzy said “good game” to the boy, the woman was absolutely livid.

“SHE CHEATED!!! THERE’S NO WAY A LITTLE CAN BEAT MY SON, HE TAKES CHESS LESSONS FROM A PRIVATE TUTOR!!”

She flagged down a passing groundskeeper, jumping up and down and waving her arms furiously.

“SHE’S NOT PLAYING FAIR!!! I WANT HER OUT OF HERE!! I WANT A REFUND FOR MY ADMISSION!!! AHHHHHH!!”

All her commotion was attracting stares from all over the square, and the employee looked at her uncomfortably, choosing to quickly walk away a moment later. The mother continued to scream random insults and accusations at Izzy and I, while all three of us, her son included, stood there watching her charade speechlessly. Two minutes later, security finally arrived, by which time the woman was rolling around on the grass like a soccer player trying to get a foul, complete with tears streaming down her face.

“Ma’am, what seems to be the problem here?” The lead security officer asked her while eyeing us.

“They ganged up on us with a nasty scheme, made us fall into their trap, and bullied us! She,” she thrusted a finger at me, “CHEATED in the game to beat my precious baby boy, and they stood there laughing at us afterwards! You’re here to kick them out and refund me my admission fee, RIGHT?!!”

“Uhh, no ma’am. We’re here to ask you to grow up and stop causing a scene, or we’ll have to escort YOU out of the Gardens out of respect for our more courteous visitors,” she nodded at Izzy and I.

“NO!!! I WILL NOT!!! YOU HAVE TO THROW THEM OUT BEFORE I WILL STOP!!! THEY’RE PLOTTING ON KILLING MY SON!!! I’M GOING TO GET RAPED BY THAT ASSHOLE!!!”

“Ma’am, this is your last warning. Stop yelling and get up, or we will have to escort you and your son out of the Gardens.”

“NOOO!!! GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME YOU FILTHY PIGS!! STOP!!! I’M ALLERGIC TO YOU!! I’M GOING TO DIE!!!”

The four security officers nodded at each other. One of them produced a giant locking pacifier and shoved it in the woman’s mouth, suppressing her screams to unintelligible gibberish with a twist of the valve in the button. The four of them then synchronously manhandled the woman, each officer at a limb, towards the front gate!

Izzy giggled when they produced the giant locking pacifier, and broke the silence when the woman was carried away, her son following close behind them.

“You know, in my dimension, people like her are called ‘Karens’.”

“Really? Like the nasty little devil that got you when you first came here?” I discreetly checked her diaper, finding her quite soaked.

“Uh-huh. A burden on society, really.”

I nodded my agreement. “You ready to head home then? You’re soaked.”

“Yeah. Can we get a photo here first though? To remember our trip by?”

I laughed. “Sure thing, princess.”

***

The next morning, Mike invited me to church with him, and I accepted. When we got there, Mike helped me out of my car seat, but directed me to walk beside him instead of picking me up. When we went in, the small congregation of about a hundred and fifty was singing an angelic hymn that I’d never heard before. I saw quite a few Littles sitting in the front row of pews, which sat on a raised platform with a set of Little-sized steps leading up to it. I realized that, apart from a Little family touring the gardens with us, they were the first free Littles I’d ever seen!

The platform put the Littles on the same level as the rows behind them, but I neither wanted to sit at the front nor wanted to leave Mike. Instead, I followed him to a middle section, near an emergency exit. Mike didn’t seem surprised at all that I was behind him, and he helped me onto the pew after sitting down himself. Surprisingly, the pew was padded, unlike those of every church I’d seen back home. Do they not care if people fall asleep here? Unfortunately, since it was sized for Amazons, all I could see while sitting on it was the back of the pew in front of me!

Luckily, since we were at the end of the row, there was a pretty wide armrest on the other side of Mike, so I clambered across his lap onto it. It served as a nice bench for me, and I could even lean against Mike’s shoulder were I to get tired.

“Are we late? Why is everyone singing already?” I whispered to Mike, eyeing the lyrics scrolling on a hologram filling up the sanctuary in front of a wooden cross.

“Oh, there’s a fifteen minute arrival period, during which they start some hymns so people don’t have to dawdle around. Then, there’s another half-hour of worship, followed by an hour-long sermon. After that, there’s a special event today,” he itinerarized.

“Ohh.” It finally dawned on me why he’d dressed me in a t-shirt and sweatpants that morning, instead of one of the several nice dresses that I now owned, and why the rest of the congregation was similarly dressed. I’d brushed it off as their custom here, but apparently it wasn’t!

When the last hymn finished, the Amazonian pastor prayed, before plastic packages of pre-broken bread and wine were passed around.

“Nice of them to add padding to these pews,” I whispered to Mike, as I let some pee out into my own padding.

He looked surprised. “Your dimension doesn’t have that?”

“Nope, something about not wanting people to fall asleep…”

“That’s cruel. Not that you’d mind though, you’ve got your own!” He joked while sneaking a finger past the leg gatherer of my diaper to check its state.

My face crimsoned several shades redder, and I wanted to punch him, but we were handed Communion sets just then. I instead said a quick prayer before opening it and munching on a big piece of unleavened bread. To my surprise, the wine was actually wine, instead of the grape juice I was used to! What was a mouthful of it to Mike amounted to a full glass for me!

I looked at the wine, at Mike, and back at the wine. His eyes were closed in prayer, so I figured what the heck and downed it in a few gulps with the rest of the bread. It’s not like I’m getting drunk from a single glass anyway. I wonder what the Littles at the front are getting…

When Mike opened his eyes and took his own Communion, he realized what had transpired and went from wide-eyed to slightly concerned to finding it hilarious.

“In case you’re wondering, Littles usually sit up front and get much smaller portions…”

I covered my mouth for a small burp. “I’m okay,” I smiled at him.

“Good morning ladies and gents,” the pastor began, preempting any further comments from Mike. “I see everyone is dressed appropriately for our special event after the meeting. Good on you all for remembering, and shame on Dexter for forgetting. Just kidding, you can still participate, of course.”

The congregation laughed in unison, and Dexter raised a fist in triumph for effect, revealing the sleeve of the suit he was wearing.

“As the weather outside turns warm, I’m sure many of you need to start trimming the trees in your yards,” he continued once the laughter died down. “What would you do if you found Johann in one of your trees, eating figs?”

He winked at Johann, a Little in the front row, as some more laughter broke out here and there.

“Well, let’s see what Jesus did, when he met a similar situation with Zacchaeus the tax collector. Let’s turn to Luke, Chapter 19, and read the first few verses together.”

I cringed in horror as I felt an imminent urge to poop, and realized that the rude sounds I was about to make were going to echo through the whole nave!

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Hope you enjoyed the latest edition, and please send likes and comments (hey, even criticism!) my way! :smiley:

2 Likes

I really like your style of telling this tale, of wonder and bits of woe. The scene of the chess game in the gardens was quite a nice way of showing how even in the more enlightened land of Canda you still find the all too familiar Amazon aptitude toward Littles lurking just under the surface just waiting for the slightest excuse to pop out and ruin a fun time for all.
I hope you have a good day and a better tomorrow too

Thanks Frank! Indeed there are Karens, sexists, and racists even in Canada (albeit a lot less than many parts of the world), so of course there must be heightist Amazons that want to adopt and baby Littles in Canada too!
Thanks for the comment!