Mobile Toddler Force
rating: +56+x

Site-608's daycare center was rancorous. Not because of a rapid influx of childcare services, but rather because of the heated discussion between Dr. Banks and Dr. Cortez. From inside MTF Theta-17's bedroom and play area, one could hear harsh whispers from either researcher.

"You can't possibly expect me, the parents, or anyone for that matter, to actually be okay with this," Banks said, his voice slightly compressed into a nasal tone from pinching the bridge of his nose.

"I guess not, though I fail to see why you aren't more on board with this. The parents have already consented to the formation of Theta-17, so that's a non-issue." Cortez walked over to the crib by the North wall, a crib marked "Theta-17-Gamma — Stacy". "You're the only person I've talked to that's directly opposed. So tell me: what's wrong with this team, Colin?"

Dr. Banks stared at Cortez for a brief moment. "Well, gosh, Graham. I don't really know! If I had to pick one thing I didn't like about this team, it's that they're all babies." He nearly slammed his hands down on the edge of a crib before catching himself. It was nap time hours, and even though the crib nested a trained soldier, that soldier was still only 15 months old.

Dr. Cortez sighed. "I know they're babies, but they aren't just babies. They're special operatives, too. Did you read the comprehensive formation document?"

"Yes, I read it." This was a lie. "Stop asking me."

"Then you know that Theta-17 is naturally specialized to handle quite a few different aspects of anomalous situations. It's all there in black-and-white."

"That's absurd. Absolutely ridiculous. You're going to stand there, look me in the eyes, and tell me that—"

A rapport of three gunshots sounds off within the room. Dr. Banks instinctively crouches. Dr. Cortez pulls out his phone.

Banks looks up. "What are you doing?"

"Oh, that was my ringtone. I got a text." Theta-17-Gamma stirs lightly in her crib. Cortez, now aware of the volume of his ringer, switches his cell phone to vibrate and silently hurries to the toy chest opposite of him.

"I will never understand you." Banks resumes his previous standing position. "Look. You can't tell me that these kids are ready for the field. Not like this."

"Think about it, Colin. Low object permanence means that memetic hazards are moot. Small sizes means that they are better at infiltration. An infohazard is practically meaningless to someone who doesn't even know what their own name means. And what they lack has been made up for in rigorous training." Cortez returns to the crib with an emergency rattle1 and prepares himself for a wail. "We're the Foundation. We're not fools. I'd appreciate it if you took this seriously."

Banks vented a sigh. "I am taking this seriously. Very seriously. This is dangerous. This isn't kid stuff that we're dealing with. What if they get hurt?"

"A point was made by Ethics to not allow them to be deployed into deliberate harm."

"What if they get lost?"

"We can track them like we do any other MTF."

"This is going to affect their entire lives."

"Psychiatric review and special childcare services are provided after every mission. Are you sure you—"

"YES, I READ THE GOD DAMN DOCUMENT, GRAHAM."

A full two seconds later, the now awake Theta-17-Alpha and -Gamma cry loudly. Cortez reaches into Gamma's crib and lifts her out, shaking the rattle in front of her while bouncing lightly. He glares at Banks and nods at Alpha's crib.

Dr. Banks, defeated, breathes out his last sigh and begins cooing and shushing Alpha.


Theta-17-Alpha gawks out the window of the van, watching the clouds and houses zoom by. Next to him is a toddler named Beta, but the people in the daycare call him "Josh". Not that Alpha understands what any of this means, as he is only 13 months old.

Dr. Cortez clips together the high-profile lightweight safety vest onto Gamma, putting the preparation procedures to an end. He brings himself back into his seat and waits out the ride to the deployment zone. As soon as he gets the confirmation of an arrival time, he turns himself to the toddlers and recalls his speech.

"Mobile Task Force Theta-17. Today is the day. You've been selected for the capture of quite the elusive anomaly." Cortez retrieves his clipboard and flips the pages to a photograph of an old woman. "Do any of you know what this is?"

Alpha does not look away from the window. Gamma struggles to remove her vest. Beta answers, "Puh… Pom-pom."

"No, it's not a puppy, Beta," replies Cortez. "This is the target. She is capable of inducing forgetfulness in even the most blatant abuser of mnestics. We can't get near her. Everyone else just turns away, absolutely sure they were doing something, but can't remember what. No one has recovered from those effects, and they've even gotten worse in some.

"But today, it is your duty to subdue her so we can put her in containment. You will be released into the grocery store and distract her while one of the adults gets her into the van. Today is the most important day of your lives.

"Make me proud, Theta-17. Secure. Contain. Protect."

Beta gurgled the mantra in response. Probably.

At that moment, the van reached a full stop in front of the Festival Foods grocery store. Dr. Cortez got up from his seat and opened the back door. He turned around, unbuckled Theta-17 from their carseats, and readied them for deployment. When he turned back, a red 2009 Nissan Versa had pulled up to the back door, preventing him from leaving.

Cortez furrowed his brow. "Hey! We're trying to get out. Can you back up a bit?"

The driver exited the car. It was Dr. Banks. He walked up to the backdoor of the van and handed a stack of papers to Cortez. He looked at the cover page.

PETITION TO THE ETHICS COMMITTEE FOR THE DISSOLUTION OF MOBILE TASK FORCE THETA-17 ("MOBILE TODDLER FORCE")

Cortez lifted an eyebrow and pointed his gaze back to Banks.

"Ten thousand signatures across twelve Foundation sites," Banks said, his voice even.

"This doesn't mean anything," said Cortez. "Petitions don't actually constitute for any sort of change. The only thing stopping us from using Theta-17 is an e-mail from Ethics."

A rapport of three gunshots sounds off from Cortez's jacket.

"Might want to check your inbox, Graham."

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