The Institute:Daddy Issues(5)

By: Evangeline Anderson

“Hello.” He smiled at both of us but he didn’t seem en­cour­aged by our re­sponse. I was scowl­ing at him and Salt was giv­ing him that pat­en­ted blank Rus­sian stare that most people find so un­nerv­ing.

“Dr. Stevens holds a PhD in Psy­cho­logy with an em­phasis in Al­tern­ate Sexu­al­ity,” the cap­tain said, mak­ing the in­tro­duc­tions. “He’ll be con­sult­ing with us on this case. And Dr. Stevens, this is De­tect­ive Salt and De­tect­ive Sug­ar­baker.”

Pro­fessor Stevens looked sur­prised. “Are those your names? Really? ‘Salt’ and ‘Sugar?’”

“Ant­oinette Josephine Sugarbaker, De­tect­ive First Class,” I said, em­phas­iz­ing the last part of my name. With a mouth­ful like that, is it any won­der I go by Andi? My mom read way too many ro­mance nov­els when she was preg­nant with me.

“And I am Viktor Pet­ro­vich Saltanov, also de­tect­ive,” Salt growled. “If you are here to ex­plain our as­sign­ment, please get on with it.”

“Uh—okay.” The pro­fessor cleared his throat.

“Ex­plain to them about Age Play,” the Cap­tain said en­cour­agingly. “Go on—just like you did for me, if you would, please Pro­fessor.”

“Of course.” The little man straightened his tie and as­sumed a lec­tur­ing air. I could al­most see him stand­ing in front of an aud­it­or­ium full of bored stu­dents with a pointer in one hand and a sheaf of notes in the other. “Age Play,” he began, “Par­tic­u­larly Age Play in­volving a per­son as­sum­ing the role of a younger child is of­ten widely mis­un­der­stood. Con­trary to what some people be­lieve, Age Play­ers are not pe­do­philes.”

“How can they not be?” I ob­jec­ted, break­ing into his lec­ture. “I mean, one of them is pre­tend­ing to be a kid and the other one is hav­ing sex with that one. It’s dis­gust­ing.”

“Age Play is not al­ways sexual,” the Pro­fessor answered smoothly. “Age Play­ers as­sume the roles of chil­dren be­cause they find com­fort in it. When they go into Little-space, they get to ex­press their most deeply bur­ied feel­ings from child­hood and re­lin­quish re­spons­ib­il­it­ies and in­deed, con­trol of their en­tire life to an­other per­son.”

“Num­ber one,” I said, “What is ‘Little-space’? And num­ber two, why would any­one want to give con­trol of their en­tire life to someone else?”

Pro­fessor Stevens laughed po­litely. “Surely you’re jok­ing my dear. Just ima­gine not hav­ing to worry about pay­ing the bills, do­ing the laun­dry, cook­ing the meals—ima­gine someone else do­ing all that for you. Just like when you were a child—wouldn’t that be worth the loss of con­trol?”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said bluntly. “My mom was an al­co­holic so I pretty much did all those things for my­self when I was a kid.”

“Andi is a very con­trolled per­son,” Salt put in, sur­pris­ing me. “She is not anxious to al­low any­one to help her—even when she needs the help.”

“Hey!” I frowned at my part­ner but he just gave me his best blank look as if to say, You know it’s true. After a minute, I dropped my eyes.

“I see,” the pro­fessor said. “Well, on to your second ques­tion, then. Little-space is the head­space or mind set an Age Player gets into when they re­gress. It’s al­most an altered state of con­scious­ness when they go into it deeply enough.”

“So—like some kind of drug?” I asked, frown­ing.

He nod­ded. “It can be, in a way. It changes your per­cep­tion and your judg­ment. For Littles, or the play­ers who be­come ‘younger,’ it’s of­ten a more open, simple place for them to be in. Again, many find it sooth­ing to be­come a child again and not have to think about adult prob­lems.”