You Mixed-Up Siciliano by jespah
Summary:

They went on vacation, just the two of them, to Italy, in 1960. You Mixed-Up Siciliano

And it was fun, until the other side caught up with them. Then it got very uncomfortable, and they debated the morality of it all again.

And again, they wondered – just who is worth saving?

 


Categories: Expanded Universes, Enterprise Characters: Cavendish, Levi, D'Angelo, Otra, Daniels, Sato, Hoshi
Genre: Mystery, Romance
Warnings: Adult Situations, Graphic Het
Challenges: None
Series: Times of the HG Wells
Chapters: 22 Completed: Yes Word count: 35903 Read: 51186 Published: 13 May 2012 Updated: 03 Jun 2012

1. Chapter 1 by jespah

2. Chapter 2 by jespah

3. Chapter 3 by jespah

4. Chapter 4 by jespah

5. Chapter 5 by jespah

6. Chapter 6 by jespah

7. Chapter 7 by jespah

8. Chapter 8 by jespah

9. Chapter 9 by jespah

10. Chapter 10 by jespah

11. Chapter 11 by jespah

12. Chapter 12 by jespah

13. Chapter 13 by jespah

14. Chapter 14 by jespah

15. Chapter 15 by jespah

16. Chapter 16 by jespah

17. Chapter 17 by jespah

18. Chapter 18 by jespah

19. Chapter 19 by jespah

20. Chapter 20 by jespah

21. Chapter 21 by jespah

22. Chapter 22 by jespah

Chapter 1 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Mambo Italiano - Rosemary Clooney

A girl went back to Napoli
because she missed the scenery.
The native dances and the charming songs.
But wait a minute, something's wrong


- Rosemary Clooney (Mambo Italiano)

=/=

“What? What? Wait!” Admiral Carmen Calavicci was too shocked to emit more than a single syllable at a time. One of her new hires, a Temporal Agent named Sheilagh Bernstein, had just resigned.

“You heard me. I’ve had enough,” Sheilagh said.

“But this - we, you, you’ve put so much time in already! Surely you’ll get used to it,” Carmen tried to reason with the older woman.

“You have, yes,” Sheilagh conceded. “But for me, it’s more than enough. Way, way too much.”

“Perhaps we should have been more careful with how we trained you,” Carmen allowed. “It should have been something more, more pleasant. Please, let us know how we can fix this. What can we do better?”

“Nothing. Just, just get these implanted devices out of my head, and my hands, and my feet. I’ll go back to hacking into ancient computers.”

“Sheilagh, be reasonable,” There was a door chime. Carmen, perhaps a bit too annoyedly, asked, “Who is it?”

“Me,” Richard Daniels said as he opened the door. Rick was the Senior Temporal Agent for the Human Unit of the Temporal Integrity Commission. “Ah, you’re here,” he said to Sheilagh.

“But I’m not staying. I’m quitting; I just gave notice.”

“Oh,” he said, thinking fast, he added, “That’s a pity. I was hoping we could go on another jaunt to the past. Something a lot less nasty.”

“Nothing’s going to change my mind. I don’t want to go on another mission.”

“Here, we’ll do this,” Carmen suggested, “Perhaps go on a little vacation. There are all sorts of delightful places and times that you could visit, with no shootings and no squishy moral dilemmas.”

“I don’t wanna ….”

“Richard here can go with you. We’ll replicate some money if you go to an era that has it. And Crystal can get you some fabulous clothes. Go, have fun, and recharge your batteries a bit. I, I can’t grant you vacation time after every single mission, but at least you can try, and have some fun, and enjoy some of the more positive aspects of all of this marvelous technology.”

“I ….”

“You could,” Carmen said, “watch Julius Caesar being performed live for the first time, at the old Globe Theatre. Or maybe see old Julius himself. So long as it wasn’t on the Ides of March, that should be all right, yes?”

“We could go to New Orleans in 2002, take in some jazz and eat crawfish etoufée until we burst,” Rick offered. “Or we could go to San Francisco in 2151 and witness some of the events surrounding the launch of the old NX-01.”

“You’re not playing fair,” Sheilagh complained.

“No, we’re not,” Carmen admitted. “But I want you to know - in case you’re unsure or I haven’t said it enough or said it clearly enough - we need you. And I want you to understand that I will fight to keep you. And I fight a bit dirty, when I have to.”

“I see,” Sheilagh said, “Let me, uh, let me go home and think about it. Can I, uh, can I tell you tomorrow?”

“Sure,” Carmen said. Sheilagh left, and Carmen turned to Rick and said, “You know I have little patience for such shenanigans. We need her.”

“I know,” he agreed. “But what if she really does quit?”

“I suppose she could be farmed out, like Roger Lloyd. But I’d so much rather not have to do that. Richard, have fun, but I need for you to watch her. Make sure she comes back, for one thing.”

“Are you sure this’ll work?”

“I have no idea. But Mister Daniels - I would advise you - I would normally discourage you from, let’s be quaint about this,” she made air quotes, “asking her out.”

“Carmen -”

“Don’t deny it. You’re captivated by nearly anything in a skirt, and the two of you have been thrown together a lot recently.”

“I only have eyes for you,” he joked, but it was true - he’d spent some time with Sheilagh, and he definitely liked her, even though she was a good six and a half years older than he was.

“Har har,” she said, “Richard, I want her to stay. So, uh, if anything happens, kindly don’t just up and leave like you do with the female friends you make on time travel trips,” she sighed. “Or at least, for God’s sake, make her think that you ending things is somehow her idea.”

=/=

Far away, actually in several places, a secret meeting was set up. It was a call, for an unspecified number of people, in unspecified places, of unspecified ages, genders and faces. This group was, well, it was a movement. It was a loose confederation, but was becoming tighter and more organized by the day.

Whereas the Temporal Integrity Commission – where Rick and Sheilagh and eight others worked for Carmen, and were tasked with restoring original timelines that had gone out of kilter – this loose confederation had as its stated purpose, to do the opposite.

But it wasn’t to just mess with time, it was to make it better. Time could be tweaked, and improved, and bent to their will. It could be perfected.

And so they called themselves the Perfectionists.

They had a leader, who set up the call. Voices were masked. The number of participants was made obscure. The visual was knocked out – the call was solely auditory in nature.

The group was secret, the purpose was secret, and the call was secret.

The leader spoke. “Things are going well. Our operatives within the Temporal Integrity Commission report that at least one of the Human Unit’s newer employees is probably receptive to our message. That group has been decoding the Manifesto file we sent them about a month ago. Reports are that they are perhaps twenty percent finished.”

“If we drop some hints for them in the coding algorithm, they could solve the puzzle faster, read the Manifesto earlier, and maybe we would get one of their Agents to come over to our side sooner, rather than later,” said a voice on the call, a voice that was masked so that it was not possible to pinpoint the speaker’s gender.

“Yet making it harder to decipher our Manifesto means that they devote more time to it,” Pointed out another, hard to track, voice. “In particular, it’s been a serious diversion for their engineers. The more time they spend on decryption, the less they can devote to building new time ships, or servicing the ones they’ve got.”

“Remember,” the leader said, “they need time ships. But we don’t,” The leader stroked a metallic device on one wrist. The device was a part of a newly developed Temporal Enzymatic Drive. Swallow a bit of trichronium, which was a specially developed companion enzyme, set a few controls on the device, and the subject could be sent to anywhere, at any time. It also had a convenient recall mechanism for when things out there got dicey.

“True,” Admitted a voice, which may have been one of the ones that had already chimed in. Or maybe it wasn’t. “I understand,” continued that voice, “that we need another traveler. At least, that’s the rumor.”

“Leaks will not be tolerated,” Thundered the leader. “How are you hearing this?”

“I’m hearing it on the news,” Answered, probably, that voice.

“News? This is the first time I’m hearing of this,” said another voice.

“What’s going on?” asked another one, somewhat tinged with panic.

“Tell them,” said, probably, the voice that had initially mentioned the news broadcast.

“Very well,” Sighed the leader. Fiddling with a few keys on a PADD, the leader piped in both audio and video of a recent news broadcast.

=/=

“Authorities on Berren Five today were shocked to find the body of a young man violently killed over the weekend. Death came to Anthony Parker, 26, of Terra. Authorities confirmed that Parker’s remains vibrated on a twenty centimeter radiation band, thereby making him a full-blooded human from the mirror universe, colloquially known as the other side of the pond.”

The anchorman paused for a moment. “Parker’s injuries were extensive, far more than would normally be necessary in order to kill anyone, from either side of the pond. Due to the extremely graphic nature of the injuries, we will not be showing any photographs of the body. Furthermore, this instance of quite literal overkill has led some to speculate that Parker might have been either an Augment or provided with an illegal stem cell growth accelerator. As our viewers may know, stem cell growth accelerator was banned in 2764, when its use began to precipitate unprecedented instances of daredevilry. ‘People who know that most things won’t kill them often do the most foolish things.’ said Marshall Holland, President of the Federation at that time.”


The anchorman paused again, briefly. “Stem cell growth accelerator is now mainly only used in laboratory settings, but also has obvious military applications. It is believed that it is also utilized by the Temporal Integrity Commission. The Commission’s stated purpose is to defend and restore original timelines, but very little is known about it, as it is kept under wraps almost as much as Section 31. Efforts to get the head of the Temporal Integrity Commission, Bryce Unger, to speak with us, were unsuccessful.”

=/=

While the broadcast was playing, the leader isolated the call so as to only speak with a remaining Agent. “You did a good job on Parker.”


“Why, thank ya’ll,” said the Agent.

“Now, really, you need to keep the localisms out of these calls. Someone will figure out you’re from Titania, you know,” Chided the leader.

“Maybe,” Allowed the Agent. “I’m sorry the download didn’t work as expected.”

“We still don’t have the temporal force field technology,” said the leader.

“I can try again,” Offered the Agent.

“No, let’s, uh, go in a different direction,” The leader said.

“Oh?”

“Yes, and I’ll have to hurry to explain this to you, but if we can’t have the field, to protect you and others from any temporal changes that occur, well, maybe what we need, instead, is to just know the changes that are coming, before the Temporal Integrity Commission does.”

“That mean what I think it means?” asked the Agent.

“Yes,” said the leader, as the diverting news broadcast was coming to an end. “I want you to bring me Otra.”

=/=

Hey, mambo! Mambo Italiano!
Hey, mambo! Mambo Italiano
Go, go, go you mixed-up Siciliano
All you Calabrese do the mambo like a crazy with a
Hey mambo, don't wanna tarantella
Hey mambo, no more a mozzarella
Hey mambo! Mambo Italiano!


- Rosemary Clooney (Mambo Italiano)

Chapter 2 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Percy Faith - Theme from A Summer Place

 

Try an enchilada with da fish a bac a lab and then a
hey goombah, I love a how you dance a rhumba.
But take a some advice paisano
Learn how to mambo
If you gonna be a square,
you ain't a gonna go nowhere

-- Rosemary Clooney (Mambo Italiano)

=/=

Otra D’Angelo was certainly desirable to the Perfectionists. She had a gift for seeing alternative timelines – so thorough and accurate was she that one of the Temporal Integrity Commission’s engineers, Levi Cavendish, had named the temporal nodes and change types after her. The name had stuck, and so any changes or decision points in the timeline were referred to as otric, pariotric or megaotric nodes.

An otric node was a trifling change, one that could not alter the timeline in any meaningful manner. Take a right turn instead of a left, or be one of a million extra votes over the top for a winning candidate – or not – or wear a green shirt instead of a blue one, and you are making an otric change.

Of course, a series of otric changes could end up meaning something more. Wear that green shirt seven days in a row? So what. Wear it seven thousand days in a row and now we’re talking. Hence those were pariotric changes, although a pariotric change could also occur from casting a tiebreaker vote in the opposite way, or marrying Sally instead of Mary, or attending college, or not. These changes could, and did, mess with the timeline, although some did so more than others. For most people, the decision whether or not to attend college is a personally meaningful one, but empires rarely fall on such choices. Unless, of course, it’s a future candidate for the Presidency of the Federation, who decides to forego college, follow her bliss, and become a watermelon farmer.

Megaotric changes were far larger, and were presumed to be completely out of reach of humans or the like. The demise of the dinosaurs was a well-known megaotric event that was routinely pointed to in schools as an exemplar of the genre. Could the end of the dinosaurs be prevented? Diverting the asteroid that had splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico sixty-five million years ago and created the Chicxulub Crater would help, but it wouldn’t forestall the inevitable.

Shutting down the many volcanoes that had erupted right about then, that would also help. But it still wouldn’t save the thunder lizards. At that point, students would give up, and ask why. And the truth was that the dinosaurs, as a superorder of animals, had been running out of gas for quite a while. The asteroid and the volcanoes had most definitely been the final nails in the coffin, but the coffin was built by the dinosaurs’ own behavior. There had been fewer and fewer baby dinos born over the course of several generations. All that the disasters had done was hasten the superorder’s impending doom. So, students were told, unless they wanted to take it upon themselves to selectively breed hundreds of different species of dinosaur, and do so for multiple generations, then the thunder lizards were goners. Since no one ever volunteered to perform such long-term and complicated animal husbandry duties, the matter was considered megaotric.

It was this laziness – or, perhaps, practicality – that usually distinguished a megaotric change from a pariotric one. At least, that was what most people told themselves. Even Otra wasn’t one hundred percent certain where the line should have been logically drawn.

=/=

Otra herself was a Witannen-human hybrid. The Witannen had only recently joined the Federation, and so there were few like her. Also, because of the Witannen home world, Dawitan, being far off in the Delta Quadrant, and the existence of an overall superiority complex borne by most pure Witannen, the odds were even greater against getting together.

Her parents had met at a trade show for starship engine parts, as they were both in the business. Her father, Marco D’Angelo, had swept her mother, Chefra, off her feet by being able to name all of the parts of a starship engine in formal Witannen speech, complete with more or less correct pronunciation – including clicks – and a proven mastery of that language’s tortured syntax.

Such devotion to detail and desire to impress her had sealed the deal for Chefra, and so she had fallen, hopelessly, about forty-six years ago.

Otra arrived on the scene about two years later, as Chefra had gotten pregnant quickly, and gestation for Witannen women was about as exquisitely long as that of elephants on Earth – a good two years.

The baby girl was everything they had wanted to celebrate their union. She was delicate and lovely like a purebred Witannen, with the only indicator of her human parentage being that she didn’t have the little vestigial wings her kind sported. And that was about the only outward indicator that she was Marco’s little girl, for she had the Witannen’s other major physical characteristic – chavecoi.

Chavecoi were little flower-like appendages that sprouted from her scalp, rather than hair. Their function was photosynthesis, but only in the event of starvation. They were semi-independent creatures, with an autonomic nervous system that allowed them to feel pain, pressure and temperature changes. Otra’s own feelings, of pain, pressure and temperature changes, not to mention love, boredom, anger, excitement – or any of the panoply of sentient beings’ feelings – were, at times, reflected in the chavecoi’s changing colors. They could be mood indicators when it suited them. As a child, Otra had been embarrassed when a crush on a Kazon classmate had become readily apparent because her chavecoi would turn a bright, cranberry purple whenever Glarek was around.

And so she’d learned to suppress that, almost as well as a Vulcan, for wearing her heart on her sleeve – or, rather, her head – was a bit much for a kind, friendly woman such as herself who didn’t want to be bothered and didn’t want to be hurt.

She also knew that Levi Cavendish liked her, and struggled, at times, with what to do with that information.

Levi had major issues with Asperger’s Syndrome and Adult ADHD. His sensitivity level was barely measurable, it was so low. He simply could not pick up on social cues, no matter how hard he tried.

And he rarely ever tried, for it seemed too much of a burden to him and he was unsure of what to do with that information whenever he had it, anyway. The existence of other people did register in his consciousness, for he was, after all, not deaf, dumb and blind, but, for the most part, he just didn’t care.

He and Otra had first met while in school; she was a Philosophy student and he was in Engineering. He was younger than nearly all of his classmates, for he was a prodigy. He also hadn’t had non-academic distractions such as girlfriends and sports to keep him from his studies.

The only thing that would keep Levi from studying was Levi himself. His mind had few tracks, but they were deep ruts. Once he set his mind to something, he pursued it until he had hit its logical end, long after nearly anyone else would have long ago cried uncle.

He turned his attentions to Otra when they were both taking a compulsory Introduction to Psychology class. Otra was the buzz of Proteus University – the only Witannen, either full or half, that anyone there had ever seen. She became popular quickly, and was pursued by several human and near-human men. The attention had flattered her until she had learned that most of them were just in it to see what colors they could change her chavecoi to, while in bed. Disgusted, she had begun to distance herself from her classmates when she noticed Levi staring at her. She finally confronted him about it, and he admitted that he found her interesting. Impressed with his forthrightness, she had allowed him to hang around. For a final project, they prepared a paper together on the psychology of time travel, and that was when, and why, he’d named the change nodes after her.

Their professor loved the idea so much that he commandeered it for himself. Levi missed the boat on that one, and failed to properly assert his rights for credit in the matter, so Professor Nistik Sloane was listed in history as the coiner of the terms otric, pariotric and megaotric.

But Otra knew better so, when she was hired by the Temporal Integrity Commission, she had insisted that they find a place for Levi. Reluctantly, they had.

=/=

And now here they were, a good ten years later, and Otra was a cornerstone of the Human Unit, even though, due to her appearance, she was forbidden from going to the deep human past on either side of the proverbial pond. But no matter.  There were others who could do that.

In addition to Rick Daniels – the most senior Temporal Agent – and Sheilagh Bernstein, there were, at the moment, three other human travelers. Dr. Marisol Castillo was a medical specialist who reportedly had a bit of Otra’s gift for seeing temporal alternatives. Tom Grant, of Titania, had been a Colonel in the military, and had been hired for any such purposes. HD Avery, the newest hire, was a music and arts specialist, and could pick up hipster credentials for virtually any era. A sixth traveler, Psychologist Polly Porter, was about to be hired.

And Levi wasn’t the only engineer, nor was he even head of that subunit. Instead, the Chief Engineer was Kevin O’Connor, a part-Gorn man who was the most likely person in the group to cry at weddings and who weighed about a quarter of a metric ton. The other engineer was Deirdre Katzman, a Jewish-Japanese girl who Kevin was mentoring. She had named the time ships owned by the department – the Audrey Niffenegger, the HG Wells, the Jack Finney, the Flux Capacitor and the Audrey II, which was in the process of being built. The sixth ship, the Elise McKenna, currently only existed in blueprint form.

Rounding out the team were department physician Boris Yarin – he was part Klingon – and Quartermaster Crystal Sherwood. Together, as a team, their job was to maintain and restore original timelines, both on Earth and Terra.

They knew that there was another side which wanted to undo their work, but they didn’t know much about it. They didn’t know its name or its size or its members, or that some of its operatives had already infiltrated the Temporal Integrity Commission.

They had – the Perfectionists’ information was correct – only cracked about twenty percent of the encrypted Manifesto file. But they did know one thing that the general public did not – that Anthony Parker had been found with a paper copy of the encoded Manifesto on him. So they surmised that he had been one of them. And they were beginning to understand that the other side had few boundaries, and might stop at nothing to get their way.

=/=

Hey mambo! Mambo Italiano!
Hey mambo! Mambo Italiano!
Go, go, Joe, shake like a Giovanno
Hello kess-a-deetch-a you getta happy in the feets a
When you mambo Italiano
Shake-a Baby shake-a cause I love a when you take a me
Mama say "Stop-a or I'm gonna tell-a papa"


-- Rosemary Clooney (Mambo Italiano)

 

Chapter 3 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Brenda Lee - I'm Sorry

And a hey ja drool you don't a have to go to school
Just make-a wid da beat bambino
It's a like a vino
Kid you good a lookin' but you don't a-know what's cookin' till you
Hey mambo, Mambo Italiano
Hey mambo, Mambo Italiano
Ho, ho, ho, you mixed-up Siciliano
it's a so delish a ev'rybody come capiche
How to mambo Italiano!
'Ats nice!
UNH!


-- Rosemary Clooney (Mambo Italiano)

=/=


They had cause to be concerned about the Perfectionists.

There were any number of reasons why someone would wish to change the past. Even in a society devoid of money, people weren’t absolutely, precisely, one hundred percent equal. After all, someone is always smarter, or better looking, or faster, or more dedicated, or stronger, or more skilled and so, somehow, more lovable and worthy.

The value of and in material things had given way to the value of people and what they could do. So some of the Perfectionists wanted a larger slice of that pie than, by all rights, they were truly entitled to. Others wanted a negative, to suppress those they didn’t like. After all, society was far from being utopian. There were still plenty of petty jealousies and feuds to go around.

Still others saw past injustices, and strove to rectify them. If the correction of those injustices just so happened to coincide with helping out an ancestor, then so much the better. They were not above manipulating time to their own ends and, in fact, it was the very reason for their existence.

The Temporal Integrity Commission stood in their way, and so they would head into the past, change whatever suited them, and then head back, seeing if it would stick. They knew – just as any schoolchild knew - that enough otric changes, strung together, could become significant - go pari - at any time. The little bits and bobs of changed time would, eventually, add up.

The members of the movement had varying personal motives. But they all had one, central, vision - to bend and fold, push and pull, the past as it suited them.

They had conducted a series of test runs, culminating in a test wherein they had sent an Agent to 1959 Clear Lake, Iowa. That Agent had delayed the flight of a small private plane that was all set to carry Buddy Holly, Jiles P. Richardson - the Big Bopper - and Ritchie Valens to their deaths. The delay caused the pilot to reconsider taking off at all, the flight didn’t happen, and then they observed as the Temporal Integrity Commission figured out the problem and sent Agent Richard Daniels to straighten out the ensuant mess.

Rick had performed his usual magic, but had left a security guard stunned in a supply closet. That hadn’t occurred in the original history. A tiny change, to be sure, but it was a change.

Then the Human Unit had conducted three training missions, and each of them had resulted in slight otric changes - conversations that, before, had never happened; people facing one way versus another; and even a sexual encounter that had not taken place the first time around. The Perfectionists weren’t so sure that they bought into the theory of otria, pariotria and megaotria - instead, many of them suspected that virtually everything could be changed. And improved.

=/=

The cornerstone of the Perfectionists’ belief system was a five paragraph Manifesto. When the Agent had gone to Iowa, she had purposefully dropped an encrypted copy of the file at the Temporal Integrity Commission’s headquarters on the USS Adrenaline. Ever since then - for a little under two months - the people in the unit had been laboring to decipher it, even though that wasn’t their job.

They had gotten the unimaginative title - simply, Manifesto - and the first two paragraphs. The remainder consisted of a rather long middle paragraph, and then two more short ones. So far, they had the following:

There is much wrong with history.

Humans have slaughtered each other by the millions. Suffering has been endured by countless innocents. Pain, disease, poverty and starvation have all been borne by too many. War has been the overarching force, rather than a rare accent seen sparingly over the millennia.


As for decoding the remainder, it was a delicate balancing act for the Perfectionists. While they wanted their Manifesto to be read - for they thought it would be convincing to less than stalwart employees of the Temporal Integrity Commission - they also wanted it to delay, confuse and unsettle the Temporal Integrity Commission. The longer their temporal changes were up, the more likely they were to take on more significance, and become harder to undo. And, by sowing discomfiture, they hoped to make the employees of the Temporal Integrity Commission even more receptive to their message.

While they were considering another change, the debate raged within the Perfectionists, with some camps favoring going earlier, or later, than the leader’s prescribed, pet time period - from the launch of Sputnik on October fourth of 1957 - heralding in the dawn of the Space Age - to April fifth of 2063 and Zefram Cochrane’s first Warp One flight, ushering in the era of first contacts, beginning with the Vulcans on that very same day.

It was a short time period, but fraught with meaning, on both sides of the pond.

=/=

The relationship between the two sides of the proverbial pond had been a long and torturous one, going back to the twin Big Bangs of around fourteen billion years ago.

Things progressed in parallel for quite a long time, including planetary formation, dinosaurian rise and fall, and the development of language, on Earth, Terra, Dawitan, Vulcan, Andoria, Tellar and all other planets which harbored sentient life capable of communication. The only indication that the two sides were at all dissimilar was that ours vibrated on a twenty-one centimeter radiation band, whereas the mirror’s frequency was twenty centimeters. It was, in a manner of speaking, the music of the spheres.

But then two divergences occurred. The first happened at around ten or twelve thousand BC. In the Lafa System, where the septum between the two universes was thin, an event known as speciation began to occur and the twenty centimeter band Calafans mutated to a coppery, ruddy appearance whereas the ones on this side of things mutated to a pale, silvery aspect.

Alarmed at the physical manifestation of their differences, the respective Calafan governments built a barrier but allowed a means of communication through using a set of amplifying dishes on both native planets in the two universes. These were dream amplifiers, for the channel of communications was a shared subconscious.

Physical contact was forbidden, but the shared dreaming was so realistic that coppery and silvery Calafans almost didn’t mind. It was almost like the two separate Koreas on Earth, or Berlin before the wall toppled.

The Calafans accepted the barrier and loved the means of breaching it so much that their society accepted it and relationships were formed with dream lovers that were felt to be nearly as vital as those between two Calafans on the same side of the pond. Their wedding vows - “I will love you all of our days, and support you all of your nights” - even took it into account.

The other divergence occurred only on the twenty centimeter side of things and it only happened to humans. At the time of the early Roman Republic, perhaps around 400 BC or so, when Athens and Sparta were fighting for dominance of the ancient Western world, a genetic mutation appeared. It was later studied, and referred to as the Y Chromosome Skew.

The skew made it so that men would produce sperm that were about three-quarters Y and one-quarter X genetically, as opposed to around fifty-fifty on the twenty-one centimeter side. This considerably increased the chances of a baby boy being born. If a man fathered four or five children, chances were excellent that he wouldn’t have more than one daughter, if any.

With fewer females, more traditional, allegedly softer, roles and values began to be crowded out. Agriculture was not nearly as vital as hunting. Peace often gave way to war, as negotiations would be abandoned in favor of a good knockdown drag-out. Justice and mercy never really developed properly, and so rules and punishments were generally draconian, but no one much cared for enforcement, as opposed to out and out revenge.

With little cooperation, progress was slow, but that side – the mirror universe – did not have as deep a Dark Age as was experienced here. That helped them to keep pace with the twenty-one centimeter side’s technology, even as late as 2063, although they did not know that.

The lack of females did not increase their value, so women were usually pushed into situations where they had to bargain for favors or privileges with their bodies. Sex acts were routinely used as currency, even by girls as young as thirteen. But they were not innocent in the progress of the skew. Men carrying the skewing genes were, more often than their nonskewed brethren, selected as mates. The reason was obvious the minute the clothes came off - the skewed men were significantly better endowed and were often better and more skilled lovers. Eager to preserve their genes they were also, ironically, usually better fathers. It was one of the only areas where cooperation reigned in the mirror.

The two universes - except when it came to the Calafans - did not know of each other’s existence until October 28, 2157, when the sous-chef on the old NX-01 began having erotic dreams about what turned out to be the late MACO CO’s counterpart, on the ISS Defiant, in the mirror.

The two of them fell in love and the Calafans and the engineers of the NX-01 and the ISS Defiant made it possible for the man, Doug Hayes, to come over to this side of the pond and be with his beloved.

Like nearly any other man of the mirror universe, Doug was a product of the skew and could pass it along to his offspring. He fathered a total of five children, only one of whom was a daughter. Of his children, only two had descendants – one was the son of his wife, Lili O’Day, and the other was the middle son of a woman who was a kind of second wife/mistress to him, Melissa Madden.

Doug passed on his radiation band to his offspring, but the number differentials grew smaller and smaller as the generations progressed for, until about 2765, there were no other mirror parents with children on our side of the pond. Up until about that time, there had been a few other crossovers but no interactions that had resulted in pregnancies. That changed as crossing over became safer and thereby more common.

But until then, if you had a radiation band that was even the tiniest bit less than twenty-one centimeters, you were, by definition, a descendant of Doug Hayes – who became Doug Beckett in order to leave his old life behind him. And how many people was that? By the time of Richard’s birth - he was, on his mother’s side, a descendant of Doug Hayes Beckett and Melissa Madden - about nine hundred years had elapsed, or a good thirty-six generations.

There had been numerous cousin marriages as much of the older parts of the family were pioneers who were often members of rather small human communities on exotic worlds like Tandar Prime, Ferenginar and Kronos. Plus there was a huge Starfleet contingent, so cousins, close and distant, would meet and, at times, marriages would ensue. Surnames like Hayes, Madden, Reed, Masterson, Delacroix, Crossman, Bernstein and Sulu would repeat again and again. The family had a tradition of naming after ancestors – living or dead – so first and middle names like Charles, Steven, Richard, Kevin, Malcolm, Neil, Jeremiah and Thomas were repeated, as were the names Charlotte, Lilienne, Melissa, Leonora - and then Eleanor, Susan, Jennifer, Jia, Karin and Ines would iterate down through the years.

Richard Malcolm Daniels and his sister, Eleanor, were Doug’s descendants. Kevin O’Connor and Thomas Grant were also descendants, although they were remote from the Daniels branch of the family and they didn’t know about the kinship. Sheilagh Bernstein was also a distant relative, but not a descendant of Doug’s. As for the remainder of the Temporal Integrity Commission, they were remotely related but only in the sense that all humans are related to all others in the overall family of man.

=/=

As for Richard’s part, he was sitting in his office, spinning a quarter. The quarter was from 1969, a small temporal souvenir of the Kent State mission to May fourth, 1970. He didn’t always take souvenirs - just when he had hooked up with someone.

He barely heard the door chime; he was so lost in thought. “Oh, uh, come in.”

It was HD. “You busy?”

“No, not really. What’s up?”

“Very little. But I heard things were not going so well for Sheilagh. You really think she’ll leave?”

“I dunno,” Rick said, “She’s thinking it over. I would rather she didn’t go. I mean, we need her here.”

“She’s the best one,” HD said.

“The what?”

“Of all the chicks. I mean, she’s not young. She’s what, forty?” HD asked.

Rick checked a PADD. “Forty-six. And you might not wanna mention that when you see her again,” If he did - if any of them did.

“Okay, forty-six. But still - yowza! Gotta love curves on a woman,” he looked around Rick’s office. There was a woman’s sash, a plain white handkerchief, a Comm badge from the Enterprise-E, a thin metal bracelet with a blue glass bead on it for decoration, among other things. “What’s this stuff?”

“A few souvenirs,” Rick said, “But don’t get in the habit of taking too many. They can’t be anything that’s worth a lot, or that can’t be duplicated easily in the source timeline. Otherwise, it has the potential to be a pariotric event.”

“I see. What’s the significance of ‘em?”

“That is for me to know,” Rick said.

HD thought for a moment. “Ha, these are from honeys.”

Rick just smiled. The younger man was right.

“You hook up a lot out there?”

“It is … possible,” Rick admitted. “But I don’t recommend doing it too much. It’s also; you need to keep things from getting pariotric.”

“And otherwise hairy, I figure,” HD said, “I mean, what if the chick decides she loves ya or something? Heh, oops. Awkward when ya gotta go, eh?” He turned to leave, and added, “I, uh, it would be bad if she left. And not just ‘cause she’s a dish. She’s, she’s smart and all that.”

“Yeah,” Rick agreed. “Uh, close the door when you go, okay?”

“Sure thing, man.”

Once the door was closed, Rick touched the artifacts. He hadn’t loved any of the women, and it wasn’t like he missed them. But they had all, at some point or another since 3101, had provided a measure of comfort to him. And he wanted to preserve that memory, so he lightly touched Lucretia Crossman’s plain white handkerchief from 1699, Dana MacKenzie’s Comm badge from the Enterprise-E in 2380, the Empress Hoshi Sato’s sash from the mirror 2156, a feather from a boa that flapper Betty Tyler had worn in 1929 and Phillipa Green’s metal bracelet from 2763, among many others.

And now joining the collection, his little museum of conquests, was a 1969 quarter to commemorate Annette Bradley, who he had known as Windy. He spun it one last time before placing it with the other keepsakes.

=/=


Come on baby let's do the twist 

Come on baby let's do the twist
Take me by my little hand and go like this
Yeah twist baby, baby twist
Ooh-yeah just like this
Come on little Miss and do the twist


-- Chubby Checker (The Twist)

Chapter 4 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Chubby Checker - The Twist

My daddy is sleepin' and mama ain't around
Yeah daddy is sleepin' and mama ain't around
We're gonna twisty twisty twisty
'Til we turn the house down
Come on and twist yeah baby twist
Ooh-yeah just like this
Come on little Miss and do the twist


-- Chubby Checker (The Twist)

=/=


Sheilagh - the best one, according to HD, went home. She could have stayed at the Temporal Integrity Commission, for she had a bunk there, like they all did, but she knew it was in everyone’s best interests for her to clear out, at least for the night.

She wasn’t much of a runner, but she could walk far, so she grabbed a player and a pair of earbuds and headed out, into the temperate Martian night.

There was a lot to think about. Beyond the obvious question of whether she wanted to keep her new job at the Temporal Integrity Commission was the more disturbing and encompassing question about what any of them were doing at the Temporal Integrity Commission. Of course, it wasn’t her place to decide whether what they were doing was right or wrong - only whether it made moral and ethical sense for her.

And she was unsure about that.

Her ramblings took her, eventually, to a dog park in Ironville. For centuries, Mars’s economy had been dominated by mining. Most of the cities and larger towns were named after some mineral or element or another and not just minerals that had originated on Earth or Mars. There was a Trellium Town nearby - and trellium was a mineral initially found in the Delphic Expanse.

There was only one other person at the dog park, an older fellow with an equally geriatric poodle that romped as well as its elderly body allowed. The poodle was rolling in the dust, getting its ostensibly white coat reddish-pink. The man was trying to get it to stop, to no avail. “Beau! Oh, c’mon!” sighed the man.

“Is he at least okay with baths?” Sheilagh asked as she entered the park and sealed the enclosure behind her.

“Huh? Oh, he’s all right. I showed him when he - er, both of us, actually - was younger. So he’s used to grooming and everything that goes along with it. Still! You’d think after all this time that science would’ve figured out how to build a better poodle.”

She smiled at that. “But then I don’t suppose the experience would be the same.”

“Huh? Well, probably not. Fewer annoyances, to be sure, but annoyances are all a part of the package. I’m not saying that I enjoy scooping - for I assure you, I do not. But a little barking when I don’t want to hear it, or even a little begging at the table, well, they’re all a part of the experience. Are you a dog owner?”

“Uh, not right now. But we had a Mastiff when I was growing up. Jake was a great dog.”

“And you know, when they’re gone, you kinda forget how difficult they may’ve been to bathe or walk on a lead, eh?” he asked. “Beau, c’mon! Quit rolling!” he turned to her. “I swear I should just give up and dye him red.”

“What if, uh, what if he’d been red all along?”

“All along?”

“Well, as a hypothetical, what if a few of those annoyances you mentioned didn’t exist in him when you got him?”

“Then there would be other annoyances, I suspect.”

“What if there weren’t any?” she asked. “What if Beau was perfect?”

The man thought for a moment. “Then I wouldn’t have gotten him. For, you see, I am far from perfect myself. Having a superior dog would be downright demoralizing.”

“You said you used to show him. Did you win a lot of ribbons?”

“Only a few.”

“But a perfect dog, wouldn’t he have won more ribbons?” she asked.

“He’d’ve won all of them, I suppose. Or, well, more likely it’s that someone else would have a perfect poodle, and they’d tie, or cancel one another out. Twenty perfect dogs, out of twenty in a show ring, well, there’s no judging that, not even by computer. There’s nothing to judge, I figure,” he paused and gazed at the dog lovingly. “I guess they’d all be beautiful. But even all that beauty, it would just be a lot of sameness. All that perfection! Where do you go from there? I think you’d end up with giving the blue ribbon to the most imperfect beast in the bunch. At least, I know I would. Yeah, the biter with eyes that don’t match – he’d be my pick.”

She laughed a little. “Mine too, I think.”

“Any special reason you’re asking about this? I realize that it can sometimes be good to talk to a stranger - someone you figure you’ll never see again, if you’ve got something important rolling around in your head.”

“It’s about my job. I’m trying to decide whether, well, whether I still want it,” Beau came over to Sheilagh, so she petted him, even though he was pretty dirty.

“Without knowing anything about you or your job, my advice to you is to give it six months. That is, if you can stand it that long. Just give yourself a hard deadline. So that would be, um, April of 3110, right? Stick it out, see how it goes. And if you’re still unsure in April, extend it another half-year. And if you’re happy, of course, stay longer. And if you wanna run screaming from the place, then do so.”

“April, eh?”

“April,” he said, “Beau, c’mere, we’ve gotta go home,” he clipped the leash onto the dog’s collar. “I hope this has helped a bit, uh, Miss.”

“Sheilagh,” she said, extending her hand.

“Brian,” he said. They shook hands and he and the dog departed.

Sheilagh stood in the empty dog park for maybe a minute and then quietly said to herself, “That’s the crux of the biscuit right there – when does making things better turn ridiculous? When does it go from extending their lifespans and making them shed less to making them little automatons in fur coats? And when does changing time turn from a tweak here and a jigger there into erasing all traces of adversity? And what do we lose when we do that?”

She turned to walk back home.

=/=


The next morning, Sheilagh returned to the Temporal Integrity Commission. Carmen tried to hide her pleasure – at least Bernstein had come back! If she hadn’t, then the relationship was a goner. But now, with Sheilagh on the premises, there was a fighting chance that she wouldn’t quit.

More to the point, as Carmen saw her employee walking down the hall and approaching, the facial expression was not a negative one. Carmen was hopeful.

“Well?” Carmen asked.

“I’d like to give it six months. Is that all right?”

“I don’t see any reason why not. And you and Richard will still go on vacation, all right?”

“Okay, but I haven’t figured out where, or when.”

Carmen’s implanted Communicator chimed. “Otra! Ah, good, we’ll meet in Conference Room six. And, while you’re on your way, think a bit about where you’d go if you were about to vacation in time. Thanks again. Calavicci out.”

“Something up?”

“Otra might have some information on Anthony Parker,” Carmen quickly tapped out a note on her PADD, calling on the entire department for the meeting. “Let’s go. Information awaits.”

=/=

“Parker’s got an interesting background,” Otra said. She fiddled with her PADD a bit in order to get an image of Parker projected onto the conference room wall. The image was that of a young man, but that was a given as Parker had only been twenty-six when he’d been killed. An additional detail was visible in this photograph, as Parker was wearing a tank top. It was a part of a tattoo, on the man’s left arm.

“Hey, body art!” exclaimed HD.

“That must be from before he was given stem cell growth accelerator,” Doctor Yarin said, “For the accelerator would wipe out any traces of any body art, just like any form of scarification.”

“Precisely,” Otra said, “I’m afraid I don’t have any clear images of the tattoo.”

Kevin clicked on his PADD a few times, to isolate, magnify and enhance just that part of the image. “Best I can do,” he said apologetically. It was, apparently, just the end of a word or a phrase, or perhaps even an acronym, for it was in all capitals - GIUS.

General Issue, United States,” Offered Tom. “If I’m right, it’s to commemorate old Earth military.”

“Maybe it’s not English,” Crystal said.

“It could be Latin,” Marisol suggested.

“Or maybe it’s the end part of a name, like Julius,” Deirdre said.

“I’m sure I don’t know any names like that, human or alien,” Rick said.

“Levi, what do you think?” Carmen asked.

He had been clicking away on his own PADD. “Huh? Oh, uh, it’s not egregious or outrageous. The spelling’s all wrong.”

“Maybe the tat artist just couldn’t spell,” HD offered.

“What do we know about Parker?” Carmen asked.

“Born in 3083, on Pluto, in the mirror. Looks like he first came to our side of the pond in 3099, to visit Enceladus. There was a school band competition,” Otra said.

“What’d he play?” HD asked.

“Uh, clarinet,” Otra read off her PADD.

“Jazz or orchestra?” HD asked.

“Does it matter?” Carmen inquired.

“I coulda met him if he was in jazz,” HD said, “I got friends from then. Someone might have a picture.”

“It doesn’t say,” Otra said, “No, wait; he was a soloist for some piece called Rhapsody in Blue.”

HD grinned. “He was in jazz, then. Where was the competition?”

“The first two rounds were on Enceladus. His band got to, uh, third round, which was held on Bajor,” Otra replied. “You live there, Levi, maybe you saw them.”

“Huh? Uh, no, my mother always says that jazz is the Devil’s music.”

“That’s what makes it so much fun,” HD said. He then tapped his left ear, twice, to engage his implanted Communicator and initiate a call. “Calling Benny Haddon, of Mimas. Yeah, Benny! It’s HD. Yeah, how’s it hangin’? Okay, yeah, we should get together some time; the honeys won’t know what hit ‘em. No? You’re still with Julie? Uh, okay. Look, man, you remember the ’99 competition on Enceladus and Bajor? Yeah? Good. Got any pics?” There was a pause. “Excellent! Pass ‘em to my PADD, willya? Okay, got ‘em. Thanks, man. You’re the best. And, uh, hi to Julie. Yeah. Avery out.”

He clicked a bit to project four pictures onto the conference room wall. One was just of two fellows clowning around, neither of whom was Parker. Another was of a quintet, performing. Again, no Parker. HD clicked and those two photographs disappeared from view.

The other two were of a finale with all of the bands playing together, and the last one was a formal shot of all of the participants.

“Looks like there’s Parker,” Sheilagh said, commenting for the first time, and pointing to a tall kid, playing a clarinet in the first of the two images.

“And here’s our boy again,” Kevin pointed. In the formal shot, Parker stood near the back, one of the tallest kids at the competition.

“What’s his tee shirt say?” Carmen asked.

Saint Catherine’s School for Boys,” Read off Deirdre. “Of Ceres.”

=/=


Yeah you should see my little Sis
You should see my, my little Sis
She really knows how to rock
She knows how to twist
Come on and twist yeah baby twist
Ooh-yeah just like this
Come on little Miss and do the twist
Yeah rock on now
Yeah twist on now
Twist.


-- Chubby Checker (The Twist)

Chapter 5 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Ray Charles - Georgia On My Mind

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
Night-time would find me in Rosa's cantina;
Music would play and Felina would whirl.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

=/=



Meeting concluded, Carmen didn’t really know much more about Parker than she had before. Saint Catherine’s? GIUS? What the -?

So the guy had been, perhaps, Catholic, or at least had gone to a Catholic High School. Had it mattered at all regarding his death some eight or so years after he must have graduated? She didn’t think so.

But Avery, at least, seemed eager, and less of a pain than she had initially thought. With Parker having played the clarinet, the death - and then restoration of singer Chrissie Hynde at Kent State in 1970, and the preservations, and then losses of musicians Jiles P. Richardson, Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly in 1959, Carmen was beginning to wonder if music, perhaps, was important to the other side. It certainly seemed so.

She engaged her implanted Communicator. “Otra, I wonder if you might do a little digging - get Avery to help you - into music. For anything that isn’t already in the master time file, create a file and we’ll load it onto everyone’s PADD. I want us all to be able to pull up music sales; the names of singers, songwriters and musicians; and anything else you can think of that has to do with music that you think might be of help - I want us all to be able to pull those up at a moment’s notice.”

“You mean like the invention of instruments, names of promoters and spinners, that sort of thing?”

“Yes. I’m sure Avery will have plenty of those kinds of ideas. Let’s keep the creative juices flowing. Calavicci out.”

=/=



Otra was about ready to do as she was told when her office door chimed. “Yes?”

“It’s me,” said Rick.

“To what do I owe this visit?”

“I, uh, I was wondering,” he said, “I’ve got a mission.”

“Why wasn’t I told?”

“Oh, it’s a very secret one,” he said conspiratorially. “I’ve been asked to take Sheilagh on a quick temporal vacation, show her that this can be pleasant.”

“I thought she was staying. Maybe you won’t have to,” she pointed out.

“I dunno. Until I hear otherwise, I’m gonna assume we’re going. So, uh, I was wondering, since you can see alternate scenarios, what’s a good place and time? You know, where things are pleasant but don’t have too much of a chance of things really blowing up in our faces if things go a little, to borrow Kevin’s word, caca.”

She smiled, chavecoi turning a kaleidoscope of colors and waving a little. “Actually, I don’t really know what would fit the bill completely. But I’d recommend something after October of 1957, after Sputnik goes up.”

“Good idea - there’s much less a chance of a panic or of us being worshiped like gods if we slip up in any way. Carmen had suggested a place with, what did she say? Ah, yes, ‘fabulous clothes’.”

“Crystal would know best, but, huh, there’s always the time and place of one of my absolutely all-time favorite movies.”

“A movie set? Uh, no thanks.”

“It’s not a movie set! It’s a pity, here I am, a half-blooded Italian girl, and I can’t go. But you, I doubt you’ve got any Italian going on, but you could. It’s just not fair sometimes.”

He thought for a moment. “I’ve got Irish, English, French and a smidgen of Chinese going on. There’s Russian Jewish, too. I don’t think there’s any Italian in me. So, uh, Italy. When in Italy, Otra?”

“1960.”

“Really? What movie are we talking about?”

“Give me your PADD a second,” he complied, and she clicked a few things on hers and then tapped the two PADDs together in order to transfer the data. “Here you go. I’ll give it to Crystal, too, so she can be inspired. But now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some research to do.”

Rick left. Once he was out of her office, he looked at the name of the file that she’d transferred to the PADD. It was La Dolce Vita.

=/=



“So I was thinking, we’ve got overall sales figures for music, but we should have the charts, too,” HD said to Otra, after they’d been working a while.

“Charts?”

“They used to do this, you’d have top sellers in various genres, by week.”

“Don’t we get that from the sales figures?” asked Otra.

“This is more granular. Like there’s the album, Dark Side of the Moon. It charts for, like, a decade.”

“Why would it matter if someone changed that?”

“I dunno,” he said, “But it might affect how much money Pink Floyd - uh, that’s the group that put out that album - it might affect how much money they make.”

“Possibly,” she allowed. “It’s so different when a society has money.”

“Well, the Ferengi still do.”

“Yes, and they never let us forget it.”

“That reminds me. Can I buy you a cup of coffee, Otra?”

“There’s no buying here.”

“Of course not,” he said, “I’m just asking if you wanna take a break. Don’t the flowers need a drink or somethin’?”

Chavecoi - they’re called chavecoi,” she said, “But you’re right. They need a break, and I suppose I do, too. But no coffee.”

“Tea? Orange Juice? Milk? Tofflin Juice?”

“Tea is fine.”

They walked to the cafeteria together. The only other people in there were two Calafan women, both silver. One had hair, the other did not. They waved when they saw Otra, and then flicked their fingers.

“What does that mean?” he asked as he got a cup of coffee from a replicator.

“Oh, it is - maybe your lucky day.”

“Mine?”

“Yes. It’s a kind of a silent catcall. They must think you’re attractive.”

“Huh,” he got self-conscious and smoothed his hair back a little with his fingers. “Dunno about the bald chick.”

“She’s the younger one. Most of their signs of aging are the reverse of ours. The one with hair is probably around fifty,” Otra explained. “I doubt the other one is even thirty.”

Kevin and Von, a Ferengi engineer, came in and the Calafan women started to flick their fingers again.

“I guess I’m not the only game in town,” HD said.

“I suppose not.”

=/=



Rick found Sheilagh. “Come walk with me.”

“Uh, all right,” she said.

“I assume we’re still on?”

“For what?”

“Vacation,” he said.

“Oh, uh, yeah, I guess so.”

“You don’t sound that enthused. You really think I’m that bad a traveling companion?”

“No,” she smiled. “I want to give this a chance. I do! I just wonder if it’ll do any good.”

“Well, Otra - who is great with these kinds of questions - she thinks 1960 Italy will be great fun and with minimal chances of anything awful happening.”

“Oh she does, does she?”

“Feel free to veto it if you must.”

“No, um, that’s okay. Another Pre-Warp time, eh?”

“Yep, and with money and all that that entails,” he said.

“I don’t even think that any humans will have gone into space by then.”

“I do believe you’re correct,” he said, “Gagarin doesn’t go up until 1961, if I’m remembering history right. So we can relax and sightsee and pretty much think of anything but here, and now.”

“Does Carmen know of the proposed date and place?”

“No, but I’m sure she won’t object. I doubt that pariotria will be anywhere near us. We’ll do every single one of the touristy things you can do. Head to Rome, Pompeii, Siena, Naples, you name it. We’ll destroy our diets. You’ll shop ‘til you drop, if you like. Whaddaya say?”

“Um, all right,” she said, “Long as I can get comfortable shoes.”

“I think that can be arranged.”

=/=



Crystal was excited once they told her. “Oh, this will be fun!” she clapped her hands in delight. “You’ll get capri pants and boatneck tops for casualwear. I am thinking of Jackie Kennedy and Anita Ekberg,” she said to Sheilagh. “And you!” she said to Rick, “JFK all the way, with a little Marcello Mastroianni thrown in for good measure,” she thought for a moment. “You’ll need a lot of money. I think this is before most big credit cards. Be careful you’re not mugged.”

Carmen came in. “I understand you have a date and a time.”

“Oh, the clothes are the best!” gushed Crystal. “Oh, and Rick, you should be very clean-cut. Your hair shouldn’t even hit the back of your collar. And Sheilagh! Flowing waves for you - very Ekberg, very Ava Gardner, I am thinking. Oh!” she ran out of the room to get something.

“She’s the most excited person in this room,” Carmen said.

“I’m almost sorry we’re not taking her,” Rick said.

From the other room, Crystal replied, “I heard that!”

=/=



Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina,
wicked and evil while casting a spell.
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden;
I was in love but in vain, I could tell.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

Chapter 6 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Marty Robbins - El Paso

One night a wild young cowboy came in,
wild as the West Texas wind.
Dashing and daring,
A drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina,
the girl that I loved.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

=/=



There was nothing difficult about it. They were so careless! Information flowed like a rushing river. The double agents - for there was more than one of them - could easily pick up information from the Human Unit at the Temporal Integrity Commission.

The double agents would, for the most part, stay away from each other. No sense in creating a situation wherein some nosy employee would, by chance, put two and two together.

Therefore, even though they were on the same ship, unless, by chance, they ran into each other in the halls or at the cafeteria or in a meeting or elsewhere, the double agents only conversed when on a call with the remainder of the Perfectionists.

Whereas most of the Perfectionists knew nothing of each others’ names, genders, backgrounds or locations, the double agents did have something of a need to know.

It wasn’t always easy to walk by without a knowing glance, but they were well-trained, so they found it possible to exchange banalities when needed. They could make it look good.

They paid attention to all manner of details, effectively keeping their eyes and ears open, at nearly all times. They transmitted information about the state of time ship repairs, the training of new temporal operatives and, naturally, the times and places where the Human Unit was sending its employees.

There were plans to go after all of the units, of all of the species, but the Human Unit was seen as particularly interesting, and that was because of the mirror.

Except for the Calafans, the humans were the only species with an appreciable, measurable physical difference from one side of the pond versus the other. It was felt that, if they could fall, then the remainder of the Temporal Integrity Commission’s member species would fold like a toppled house of cards.

The Perfectionists were counting on that, so they took great pains to get the information they needed, and to keep their double agents as well-hidden as possible. And the best way to do this was to have one of their double agents do things that were counter to the Perfectionists’ stated mission. That person would help with decrypting the Manifesto, if necessary - even though that person was fully aware of exactly what the Manifesto said. That person would even, if the need arose, go on missions, and even act to undo any changes wrought by the Perfectionists. It was all in the name of keeping that double agent hidden, and trusted and, perhaps, above suspicion for far longer than anyone would have a right to expect.

And what better person to be trusted, than a doctor?

=/=



The engineers worked together, banging away on the newest time ship, the Audrey II. Whereas all of the other time ships had been named, by Deirdre Katzman, after something to do with old time travel literature, the Audrey II’s moniker was different – an outlier, if you will.

The original Audrey was, in full, known as the Audrey Niffenegger. It had been designed by Levi Cavendish, and it ran on chronitons. These chronometric particles could be streamed either forward or backward, hence, time travel was achieved. The original Audrey Niffenegger - the woman - had been the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

But the Audrey II was different. Designed by Kevin O’Connor, she ran on dark matter, the same stuff that the universe is slowly, inexorably, turning into. By converting dark matter and energy back into the regular kind, running the Audrey II could actually forestall the end of the universe by a few nanoseconds. Of course, no one would be around to enjoy the benefit, but Kevin was still pleased with the concept. And, he figured, if Audrey II, and ships like her - for the HG Wells, the Jack Finney and the Flux Capacitor, not to mention the as-yet unbuilt Elise McKenna were being fitted with the new technology - were run enough, the saved time could actually turn into something tangible. It was as Senator Everett Dirksen had once said, "A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

As for her name, the Audrey II was intended to be the successor to the Audrey Niffenegger, which was supposed to be mothballed and sent to the Temporal Museum at Lafa II for exhibition. But that wasn’t the only reason for the appellation. She was also called that as homage to the old Roger Corman film, Little Shop of Horrors. In that picture, the original Audrey II was a man-eating plant from outer space. Deirdre felt that the name was just weird enough to stick.

She, Levi and Kevin, and sometimes also Von, had finished retrofitting the Jack Finney and the HG Wells, and were very nearly done with the Flux Capacitor. To keep from getting bored by it all, they had switched to the Audrey II. Besides, with Sheilagh’s status still a bit up in the air, it seemed to make more sense to work on the time ship that had been promised to Marisol - the Audrey II - as opposed to the Flux Capacitor, which was meant to be Sheilagh’s.

“Okay, why isn’t the cloak working this time?” Kevin asked.

“We’ve got power flowing,” said Von. “And we’ve tested all of the connections, and they’re all holding.”

“Didja check the couplings, Levi?” Kevin asked.

“Um, yeah. They’re all holding.”

“The gauges say we’re doing what we’re supposed to,” Deirdre said. She absently flicked a finger against one, almost the same motion as the Calafan silent catcall gesture. The instrument she hit with her finger showed a slight flash of light, and then went dark. “Looks like we’ve got another loose connection,” she said.

“Okay, let’s check ‘em all,” Kevin said, “These things can be like Christmas tree lights. One’s out and they all are.”

“What a strange system,” Von said.

“It was to get people to buy more Christmas tree light strings,” Deirdre explained.

“Ah, so there was a profit motive. I can get behind that,” Von said. The Ferengi wrinkled his nose even more than it already, naturally, was. “Here, I think I’ve found the problem,” Sure enough, it was a loose wire.

“Well, let’s check ‘em all,” Kevin said, “Just in case there’s somethin’ else.”

=/=



Marisol knew they were working on her ship, but it wasn’t from anyone, actually, directly, telling her. It was because of a certain meeting.

She was dark and beautiful, with raven hair and eyes with irises that were such a dark shade of brown that they were nearly black. Rick had once told Sheilagh that a real beauty wouldn’t be hired to do any time traveling, for it was not in anyone’s best interests for them to stand out. But Marisol, by virtue of her very existence, had made a liar out of him.

For the Perfectionists, she was an outstanding find. Not only was she gorgeous and brilliant, she was utterly ruthless. Their first assignment for her had come years ago, when she was still practicing medicine in Kentucky and attending a medical conference on Phoebe. The assignment had been a simple one - get one of the Temporal Integrity Commission’s doctors to talk.

She had selected Boris Yarin on which to work her magic. He was particularly vulnerable, as his assignment to the Temporal Integrity Commission was based not on any particular skills or experience that he had, but on the good graces of his wife, Darragh Stratton, her brother, Todd, who held an important Federation post, and their connections.

Yarin was bored and henpecked at home - not a good combination for a man who was around ten percent Klingon. She came onto him when they were walking back from a conference lecture together, and the sex that night had nearly broken her in half.

But it hadn’t, so they began their affair. He could, of course, never leave his wife, for that would mean the end of his job, and the good times would no longer roll.

She was a good, undemanding mistress - God knows she had no use for him beyond what she could get out of him and had no wish to wed him - but she made sure that he got her installed in a more than adequate love nest on Cardassia. There, she had continued to work as a surgeon and cultivated any way possible to try to fake Otra’s very real gift for spotting and interpreting temporal alternatives.

She serviced him like any high-priced hooker services a long-term john - it was naught but a job to her. He spouted off words of love and she remained cool, all the while grabbing at him under a desk or pulling him into an unused lab for a midday quickie. Psychologically, she had him thoroughly pegged, and only needed to show sporadic bursts of interest in order to continue to string him along.

When Carmen had recently called for candidates for new Temporal Agent job openings, Boris had eagerly put in her name. He also submitted a few other names, in order to act casual about it and make it look good, terrified of the repercussions if Darragh ever found out. He was, after all, only ten percent Klingon - the remainder was human and Xindi sloth, so he was slight of stature and often on a heightened level of alertness - which sometimes flirted with paranoia - as befits a person who’d received an appreciable chunk of his genome from arboreal creatures.

Marisol had made it in, and was hired, and Boris couldn’t have been more ecstatic. As for Marisol, she had new things to tolerate and pretend to like, such as him bending her over her desk or a tryst in a vacant shuttle.

She heard her implanted Communicator chime. “Are you free?” was the only greeting.

“A moment,” she said, and ducked into a Botany lab. She looked around. The coast was clear. “Ready.”

It was the leader. “I understand they’ve got a little jaunt planned.”

“Yes, but I don’t know where or when yet.”

“Just Daniels and the new girl, right?” asked the Perfectionists’ leader.

“Yes.”

“Good. You’ll come to Berren Five.”

“Under what pretext?” she asked.

“There’s a restaurant opening up. It’s vegan, so Yarin won’t want to go. And it’s spicy – that ought to keep any Vulcans away as well.”

“Good,” she said, and made a face at the very thought of him.

“You’ll be given a dose of trichronium. In exchange for it, tell our representative – you know who it will be – where and when Daniels and the girl are going. Get it down to the coordinate level if you can. We’ll create a diverting problem in some other time period and send you from there.”

“I see. And my assignment? Or do I just watch them fritter away their time?”

“No,” said the leader of the Perfectionists. “Bring a vial of Ebola with you.”

“Ah,” she said, “Understood. Castillo out,” Smiling to herself, she realized she’d better take enough to infect both Sheilagh and Rick. And she’d need something else, a means of violence, to keep their stem cell growth accelerator from repairing damage and curing the Ebola virus in time. She’d need a hammer, perhaps, or a truncheon, or maybe a gun.

Yes, a gun would be superb. It would still, by definition, be messy. But such was the nature of the beast, when dealing with people who had permanent stem cell growth accelerator pumping in their veins.

Her orders were clear, even though the leader had been obtuse. One would be great, but if she could pull off both, it would be quite the coup de grace.

Her orders were, by whatever means worked, to head to the past and kill Rick Daniels and Sheilagh Bernstein.

=/=



So in anger I challenged his right for the love of this maiden.
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore.
My challenge was answered in less than a heartbeat;
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

Chapter 7 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Johnny Horton - Sink the Bismark!

Just for a moment I stood there in silence,
Shocked by the foul evil deed I had done.
Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there;
I had but one chance and that was to run.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

=/=



The trip to 1960 Italy took a while in the HG Wells. It wasn’t the fastest of the time ships, but it was more than adequate for their purposes.

Rick was wearing a suit for the period, with narrow lapels. His tie, also narrow, was currently off. He also had a fedora, but he wasn’t wearing it, either, and it sat on the time ship’s console.

Sheilagh had on a pair of side-zip capri pants, flats and a lipstick pink boatneck top with three-quarter sleeves. There was also a peach chiffon scarf to complete the ensemble, but it, too, was off. Her blonde hair was colored a bit darker, to a kind of honey tone, and fell in loose waves just below her shoulders.

“That’s a good look for you,” he said.

“Thanks. You, uh, you look like, I dunno, like you’re in sales.”

“Are you interested in buying any insurance?”

“Only if I can wear your hat,” she said, trying it on for size.

“Don’t cover the hair,” he said, “Trust me on that,” he gently took the fedora off her and placed it to the side.

“But Crystal said I’m supposed to wrap the scarf around and then kinda flip the ends back over one shoulder.”

“Huh?”

“Oh, and with these!” she took out a pair of oversized sunglasses, and then wrapped the scarf on her head as she’d described.

“Very chic.”

“I feel a little silly. Still, it’s a vacation. I guess I’m entitled to feel silly.”

“And act that way, if you like,” he said, “Uh, take the controls for a sec, willya?”

“Sure,” The instrument panel said 2907.

He went into the back and then emerged a few minutes later, carrying a wallet. “You have a purse, right?”

“Over there,” she pointed. It was a black frame bag with a small handle.

He opened it. “I’m gonna give you, uh, a quarter of the money. Don’t wave it around and don’t go around talking about it too much.”

“Shouldn’t you be giving me half of it?”

“If we were in, uh, maybe 1967 or later, then sure. But I was reading up about this time period. I’m supposed to pay for pretty much everything. I’m also supposed to open doors for you. If you were smoking, I’d be lighting your cigarette, too.”

“Ugh,” she said, “Whatever did people see in tobacco?”

“It was a stimulant.”

“Then they should’ve drunk coffee or something. Lung cancer was a horrible way to go until it was cured, in 2065.”

“No argument here. Ah, look, it’s 2700.”

“Something special about that date?” she asked.

“Not a thing. But I think whatever Kevin and his minions did most recently, it made the Wells faster.”

“That’s good.”

“You looking forward to getting Fluxy?”

“I still feel weird about the whole thing.”

“Well, it is weird,” he admitted. “Our brains really aren’t wired for time travel.”

“It’s the knowing that things could’ve been different - and exactly how they could’ve been different - that really gets to me,” she said, “But Marisol and Tom also had their first trips into the past when I did. Why didn’t either of them have such a cosmic freak out?”

“The week is still young, Sheilagh. I bet we’ll see a cosmic freak out from each of them, sooner or later.”

=/=



The Perfectionists’ leader didn’t waste any time. A call was initiated. “Let’s create a diversion. I need a change that will be good for us if it sticks. And let’s make it musical again.”

“Yes, we’ll keep them on that wild goose chase,” Replied an Agent. “Aha!” After a few moments of a pause, and a PADD was consulted.

“Something promising?” asked the leader.

“Most definitely,” Replied that Agent, “let’s go with December eighth of 1980.”

“It fits in with my favorite time period rather neatly. Tell me more.”

“A singer, preaching peace, is, instead, shot and killed,” A pause. “The name is, um, it’s John Lennon.”

“What’s the location?”

“New York City.”

The leader set the controls on the Temporal Enzymatic Drive. “Ready?”

“I’ve swallowed the dose of trichronium,” Replied that Agent.

“Good,” Replied the Perfectionists’ leader. “Get right on it.”

=/=



Otra and HD were sitting in her office, still working on the music project. “I bet we could load play lists, too,” he said.

“Perhaps,” she allowed. “But what would -?” she wasn’t able to complete her sentence, asking him what that would teach them, as she was smacked with a vision.

“Otra?” he got up, alarmed. He engaged his implanted Communicator. “Yarin! Marisol! I think Otra’s having some kind of a fit.”

Boris answered, rushing in. “What’s the matter?”

“It’s a vision,” Otra said, “It’s incoherent, but something’s definitely been changed.”

“I’ll see if Marisol can confirm,” Boris said. He engaged his own implanted Communicator, but she failed to answer.

HD, a bit alarmed, fired up his Communicator again. “Carmen? Yeah, uh, Otra sees something.”

“Dammit!” Carmen exclaimed. She tapped her left ear a few times and bellowed. “Team! Conference Room six! On the double!”

Kevin, Levi and Deirdre dropped what they were doing - testing relays on the Audrey II - and ran over. Crystal and Tom came in from the cafeteria. HD and Boris got Otra there - she was still a bit shaken. Carmen came in last. “Are we all here?” she asked.

“No, Doctor Castillo is - I don’t know where she is,” Boris said.

“She was going to try a new vegan place on Berren Five,” Crystal said.

“Oh,” Boris said. She hadn’t told him that.

“Plus Rick and Sheilagh are in transit, right?” Tom drawled. “What’s up?”

“They probably haven’t arrived yet,” Carmen said, “So I suspect, whoever messed with the timeline is one of our friends on the other side. Otra?”

“I keep seeing - I know this is strange - but I’m seeing street signs changing?” Otra inquired.

“Street signs?” Crystal asked.

“Yes, it’s also, it’s changed records all over the place,” Otra said, “A couple of planets, a bunch of, of schools and towns. I can’t put my finger on it yet.”

Carmen engaged her Communicator. “Calavicci to Castillo,” There was no answer. “Where’d you say she went?” she asked Crystal.

“Berren Five.”

Boris tapped, fast and furious, on his PADD. His face fell. “It’s - look for yourselves,” he projected a picture onto the wall of the conference room. The planet was a mere shadow of itself - airless and pockmarked with impact craters; it was utterly incapable of supporting life.

“Looks like it was never terraformed,” Kevin offered.

“But she’s got the same temporal force field around her that we all do!” Boris was looking a tad panicky. “Any changes shouldn’t have affected her!”

Deirdre looked at him a little strangely. “Well, if she was on Berren Five when it happened, would that have killed her?”

“No!” Boris thundered, suddenly one hundred percent Klingon in his ardor. “She can’t be dead!”

“Let’s not, let’s, uh,” Carmen was a bit surprised at the depth of his reaction, “let’s not jump to any hasty conclusions. Perhaps she was thrown out of Communicator range, or something.”

Levi looked up. “Uh, is this the change you’re seeing?” he had a picture up, on his PADD, of a school for troubled teens. The sign said The Robinson Academy at Oberon.

“Pull up the master, HD,” Carmen commanded.

He did so. “Well lookee what we have here,” he pulled up a nearly-identical picture, except this time the school’s sign read The Archer Academy at Oberon.

“Kevin, go look up the launch of the old NX-01,” Carmen said.

“That’s it,” he said, “The first Captain of a starship called Enterprise isn’t Jonathan Archer at all. It’s AG Robinson.”

“But the change is earlier,” Otra insisted. “It’s, uh, it feels like it’s less than two hundred years earlier.”

“Then it’s most likely it took place on Earth,” Carmen concluded.

Boris began to pace, a bit frantic. “What the hell does this have to do with Marisol?”

“We don’t know yet,” Deirdre said, “Just, try to calm down. You’re making me nervous.”

“But -“

“Boris, sit,” Carmen thundered.

=/=



Marisol couldn’t be found, but it wasn’t due to the changes wrought by her co-conspirator. Instead, she, too, had swallowed a dose of trichronium and had been whisked away to Naples in 1960. Her outfit wasn’t appropriate, but she didn’t care, as she ambushed an unsuspecting lone female, twisted a neck, and took what she needed without remorse.

=/=



Out through the back door of Rosa's I ran,
Out where the horses were tied.
I caught a good one.
It looked like it could run.
Up on its back
And away I did ride,


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

Chapter 8 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Elvis Presley - It's Now or Never

Just as fast as I could from the West Texas town of El Paso,
out to the badlands of New Mexico.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

=/=



The effects of the 1980 change were not felt by Sheilagh and Rick as they sped along in the Wells. In part, that was due to them both being protected by a temporal force field, as were all of the Temporal Integrity Commission’s employees, including Marisol. This made them all extratemporal so, essentially, any changes in time would not affect them personally. This was rather convenient, for what if one screwed up so royally that one’s own parents were wiped from existence? At least that person would continue to exist, unchanged, and be able to correct his or her error.

Another reason they were unaffected was because they were in the process of traveling through time. The present became the future, and it receded further and further into the distant future, the more they sped into the past. Due to the Uncertainty Principle, the future was never, truly, one hundred percent guaranteed. The past was encased in concrete, but the future was one big question mark. A 1980 change could be, potentially, undone by their actions in 1960, whatever they were to be.

And, finally, they were unaffected once they crossed behind 1980, as the change, for them, became a part of the unwritten future. Marisol didn’t feel the change, for the temporal transport via dose of trichronium and the Temporal Enzymatic Drive was nearly instantaneous.

As for Rick and Sheilagh, there was a quick blip on the instrument panel as they crossed from 1981 backwards to 1980 and earlier. “What was that?” she asked.

“Hmm, I dunno. Let’s perform a Level One diagnostic once we’ve gotten in,” They were in the solar system, cloaked, and moving from the orbit of Saturn to the Jovian orbit when it happened.

“Do you think maybe the instruments are more sensitive because of the upgrades the engineers did?”

“Maybe,” he allowed. “I don’t think they were, officially, upgrading anything. Ah, there’s the preterraformed Mars.”

“It doesn’t look like home at all.”

“Titan didn’t look too inviting, either. Okay, here, let’s get to the other side of the moon. Ah, good. I can run the diagnostic.”

“Okay,” she replied.

“Huh, there was a slight power surge,” he said after a few minutes. “I bet that was it.”

“So, there’s nothing to worry about?”

“Probably not. It’s May twenty-ninth, 1960. Looks to be, uh, seven PM in Rome. Care for some dinner?”

“All right,” she said, “You’d better put the tie on.”

“I will.”

She disappeared into the little bathroom on the Wells and emerged a few minutes later, hair tousled just so and makeup refreshed. “Ready.”

He looked up and down quickly; trying to be surreptitious about what he was really doing, which was checking her out. It was going to be a good vacation, he could tell.

=/=



“I believe I’ve found it,” Deirdre said.

“And?” Carmen asked. They had all stayed in Conference Room six in order to try to figure out where the temporal changes had occurred.

“Otra, you were right - I think - about it being less than two hundred years before the launch of the NX-01,” Deirdre said, “It’s December eighth, 1980.”

Otra clicked around on her PADD. “Really? Hmm, Mister Avery, this looks to be right up your alley.”

“Oh? Do I get to play the piano for the Queen of England, or somethin’?”

“Not exactly,” Deirdre projected up a picture onto the conference room wall. It was a newspaper headline from the New York Post on December ninth, 1980.

In screaming print, it said John Lennon Shot Dead. “That’s the master. And here’s the current, incorrect history,” To the side of the correct New York Post, she projected a second New York Post, for the same day but in the new, alternate reality. Instead, the headline read: Iranian Revolution Shows Signs of Sputtering Out. The subtitle was Yule Rites for Hostages Seen as Thawing in Relations.

“Iranian Revolution,” Tom read off. “What’s that got to do with Berren Five never being terraformed?”

“It’s more likely it has what to do with AG Robinson getting the first Enterprise command, instead o’ Jonathan Archer,” Kevin said.

“And then the Robinson versus Archer issue is, possibly, what triggered - or rather didn’t trigger - the decision to terraform Berren Five,” Carmen said.

“Do we - do we have wiped families?” Boris asked. “Except for, perhaps, for Marisol?” he still looked stricken.

Crystal checked. “Can someone confirm? Because I think we’re okay there.”

Kevin clicked around. “You’re right. We’re good.”

“Mister Grant,” Carmen said, “care to go on your first official mission?”

“Of course!”

“It might be best - and I don’t expect you to perform any real training - but I think you should take Avery here, seeing as the subject is a musician and all.”

“Hey! That would be sweet,” HD was all for that.

“Sure, if ya’ll think it’s a good idea,” Tom said.

“I’ll get you your clothes,” Crystal said, “Winter, where?”

“Manhattan,” Deirdre read off her PADD.

“Boots, jeans and turtlenecks, I figure. Plus both of you will need some kind of jacket. C’mon,” she said. The three of them left.

“Aren’t you glad you hired the music guy?” Kevin asked.

“Maybe a little,” Carmen allowed.

=/=



The café they had chosen was small, with outdoor tables. Sheilagh sipped a Campari and soda as they watched the passing pedestrians. “I love the fact that these things are perfect simultaneous translators. Did you see that couple over there? He kept fumbling with that phrase book. It’s a wonder they got any dinner at all.”

“They’re on their honeymoon, Sheilagh. Or at least, I think they are. So I get the feeling that yeah, they’d like some pasta. For, uh, for fortification. But I suspect they could do without in exchange for other things.”

“One track mind?”

“Well, a few tracks,” he said, although that was definitely one of the dominant ones. “Tomorrow, we should go sightseeing. Maybe to Pompeii, would you like that?”

“Old ruins? Huh.”

“It can be very compelling. And, well, I can show you where I landed and all.”

“You, in Pompeii?”

“Sure, I was there in 79 AD. You know those foot implants the surgeons gave you? They saved my bacon that day. It was, um, August twenty-fourth. See, you can screw up a time mission without actually changing history. I mean, I don’t think those archaeologists really wanted to become artifacts themselves. Uh, waiter, another, please.”

“Of course, sir,” The waiter took away Rick’s empty glass bottle of Oettinger beer.

“I have a question,” Sheilagh said. She seemed to be getting a bit tipsy.

“Yes?”

“Where, um, where are we sleeping tonight?”

“I was, uh, thinking of the Wells.”

“There’s only one bed in there,” she said.

“I can, um, I can sleep in the piloting chair or something.”

“Or we can get a hotel room,” she suggested.

“One bed or two?”

“I’m still figuring that out,” she said.

“Check, please.”

=/=



Back in El Paso my life would be worthless.
Everything's gone in life; nothing is left.
It's been so long since I've seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

Chapter 9 by jespah
Author's Notes:

John Lennon - Just Like Starting Over

I saddled up and away I did go,
riding alone in the dark.
Maybe tomorrow
A bullet may find me.
Tonight nothing's worse than this
pain in my heart.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

=/=



She was still a bit tipsy, leaning on him and perhaps a bit more familiar than normal, as they walked through the streets of Rome. Things had really begun to hit her when she’d stood up, and now she was feeling the full brunt of the alcohol. Scooters whizzed by, sometimes with passengers, sometimes not, as the dinner hour turned to full-fledged night.

Sheilagh finally sat down on a bench facing a fountain and took off her shoes. “I’m tired,” she complained, speech a little slurred.

“Just how many Camparis did you have?” Rick asked.

“Uh, four. No, maybe it was six. I dunno.”

He sat down next to her. “I think that’s a good three too many, either way.”

“Huh?”

A couple strode by, chatting in neither Italian nor English, but in some other, more guttural language. German? Czech? Hebrew? They could have adjusted their implanted Communicators slightly and instantly understood the language, if they had wanted to, but it hardly seemed necessary. The couple’s body language was pretty obvious: I want you. If they were saying anything else, it couldn’t possibly matter.

“Y’know,” Sheilagh said, a bit loudly, “time is the weirdest thing. It’s kind of a river, and it’s kind of a crop that we, that we harvest. I mean, things ripen and we just pluck them off, off trees. But sometimes they go in reverse.”

“Fruit doesn’t grow in reverse,” Rick said to her quietly.

“But it’s kinda, uh, it’s the, the fruits of our, of our labor,” she said, volume back up again and slurring more. “We do stuff, and we, we undo it, and then we get, uh, Temporal, uh, what’s it called again when the two bodies merge?”

“Sex, Sheilagh, it’s called sex,” he said, misunderstanding her.

“No, no, when it’s for time, uh, stuff - Temporal, uh, Intercourse.”

“Let’s go home, Sheilagh,” Reasoning with her was futile.

“To the, the Wells?”

“Home.”

A few people had gathered, staring a bit at the drunken woman babbling on about time and intercourse.

“Home is, is on Mars. Yeah!” she saw her audience, and began to play to them. “I’m one of those little green men you’re all so worried about. Uh, little green woman. And him? He lives near Saturn! We come from the future to, to eat your Pasta Alla Puttanesca and drink your Campari!” she started laughing.

Rick glanced around nervously at the other people. It was going to stink to high heaven if her little performance was anything but otric. And if it was, then Temporal Integration - the phrase she’d been groping for but had misstated to be Temporal Intercourse - it hadn’t been tried with someone who was drunk, so far as he could recall. There was the very real possibility that a temporally merged Sheilagh could still be three sheets to the wind.

=/=



The Jack Finney rounded 2100. “Okay, now, we’ll, uh, we’ll engage the cloak,” Tom drawled. “That switch over there,” he said to HD, who was piloting.

“Got it.”

“And now we’ll change course, break orbit around Dawitan and head to the solar system.”

“Changing course,” Replied the younger man. “Got any plans for before we go watch Lennon get bumped off?”

“What? No. We’re here to do the job and get out.”

“Still, c’mon, I mean, it’s New York City! There’s gotta be, like, a billion things to do. And the honeys! Man, anything in here is gonna impress the pants right off ‘em. I am thinking sure thing,” For HD, that was what he needed - a sure thing.

“This is all secret equipment,” Tom pointed out.

“C’mon, Rick’s got honeys!”

“Probably not from showing them anything that’s classified.”

“Huh. Still! We can get in early - we’ve got a freakin’ time ship, for gosh sakes!”

“I, I don’t want to meet anyone,” Tom said.

“Oh,” The light dawned. “It’s Rick’s sister, right? I don’t blame ya. She is quite the tasty dish. You line up anything with her yet?”

“I don’t see where it’s any business of yours.”

“So no, eh? Well, you better act fast. A honey like that ain’t free forever,” HD said.

=/=



Sheilagh finally stopped spouting off about time and ran a finger down the front of Rick’s shirt. “You’re cute when you don’t have sideburns. 1970 was bad for that.”

“We really need to go home,” The other people were dispersing. If he could just find an empty alley or something like that, he’d be able to beam them to the Wells with minimal fuss.

“So you and I can, eh, get naked?” she giggled.

“Maybe, uh, maybe later,” It wasn’t that the thought hadn’t crossed his mind - several times, even - but he didn’t want to take advantage of her while she was so hammered. He did have standards, and that was, most definitely, one of them.

“Okay. And you’ll show me that copper band on your arm, and the silver one,” she slurred. “You got those bands anywhere else on you?” she awkwardly grabbed at him, missing her target, and passed out.

She was dead weight, but at least she was quiet, and couldn’t object. He bundled her next to him and made it look as if they were walking together. He staggered his gait a bit, making it appear as if they were both drunk.

There was no alley, but there was a park, and the hedges were tall enough. He got them behind one and hit the Transporter remote control.

=/=



Nighttime in Manhattan in 1980 was dark. Times Square had not yet been renovated, and the city was a good decade from a lot of cleanup. The Dakota was lit up, though, looking welcoming and ready to receive two of its most famous residents – John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Tom and HD positioned themselves by a lamp post across the street, in front of Central Park. “So, um, what’s the plan?” HD asked.

“We wait. There’s a guy, uh, Mark David Chapman. We make sure he shoots Lennon, in front of the Dakota. And, well,” Tom indicated a period appropriate pistol in the waistband of his jeans, “if he doesn’t, then I’ll hold Chapman at gunpoint to have him do it, if I have to.”

“Just don’t shoot Lennon yourself, okay?”

“Of course not.”

“So we don’t talk to Lennon at all?” HD was incredulous.

“Nope.”

“Seems like you could do this without me.”

“’Course I could. This is kinda for trainin’, remember?

“Yeah, well, I got mad skills and I’m not usin’ ‘em at all. You could be waiting for Mahatma Gandhi to get shot and it would be the same to me,” The younger man then quickly added, “At least, uh, so far as my talents are concerned.”

“You’ll get a chance to use them, I’m sure. But right now, this is what I’ve got. If ya’ll don’t like, ya’ll can go back to the Jack and just wait it out up there, yanno.”

“This is fine.”

=/=



Back on the Wells, in 1960, Rick stripped Sheilagh down to her bra and panties and put her into the huge bed on board. He had half a mind to join her, as he was tired and the effects of one too many Oettingers were beginning to be felt.

He looked at her for a second. He knew she liked him, and he liked her. But it wasn’t right. He put a hand on the side of her hip for a second - he was, after all, still a man - and imagined holding her there, in the bed, kissing her and going farther, fully willing and eager - and sober.

But it wasn’t anywhere near being right; for all intents and purposes, she was passed out. He pulled the satin sheet up to cover her and kissed her cheek.

She smiled at him. “Hmm?”

“Sleep,” Was all that he said. He orally commanded the lights to dim and hustled himself into the shower. He’d sleep in the pilot’s chair, a perfect gentleman.

But he was still a man, so he had to take care of something painful before he’d be able to get any sleep.

=/=



In 3109, they noticed a few changes. Otra and Crystal were watching news broadcasts. Boris was still pacing. The rest of them were clicking on PADDs. An anchorwoman was saying. “A riot broke out on Tellar today when rebel forces threw bread to starving citizens.”

“There’s another change,” Carmen said, “Did you see that one, Otra?”

“No, but there were plenty of other changes,” she replied.

The anchorwoman continued. “And on Berren Five, a new vegan restaurant opened up to mixed reviews. Our Dining Out reporter, Bruce Ishikawa, has more. Bruce?”

“Bruce? That’s, uh, that’s my boyfriend!” Deirdre exclaimed. “Except he’s supposed to be a dog trainer.”

“But Berren Five is back!” Boris could hardly contain himself. He engaged his implanted Communicator. “Yarin to Castillo!”

There was no answer.

=/=



Tom and HD were somber during the trip back. “So you mean to tell me that we spend half our time making sure the right people die?”

“I don’t know ‘bout half,” Tom drawled. “But it does seem to happen an awful lot.”

“Oh, man.”

=/=



And at last here I am on the hill overlooking El Paso;
I can see Rosa's cantina below.
My love is strong and it pushes me onward.
Down off the hill to Felina I go.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

Chapter 10 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs - Stay

Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys;
Off to my left ride a dozen or more.
Shouting and shooting I can't let them catch me.
I have to make it to Rosa's back door.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

=/=



Marisol spent the night in Naples. No money? No problem! She wasn’t above turning a trick if it meant a bed. Once they’d done the deed, she offed the guy in bed with her. No witnesses, just the way she liked it.

And, to boot, she had a base of operations, there was some food in the refrigerator and even a modest stash of money in a drawer. Lire. “Money-based societies are so primitive,” she complained to herself.

The room was a furnished efficiency. Its late occupant hadn’t exactly been a wealthy man, but he hadn’t been starving, either. On a table, there was a photograph of him holding a toddler with a big bow in her hair. Marisol tossed the picture in the trash receptacle so that it wouldn’t be in the way.

She set up her PADD on that same table. First she scanned through all of the news broadcasts she could find. There was a coup in Turkey. The Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, was commenting about the recent capture, in Israel, of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. The news from the United States was of the elections, coming up in less than six months. Senator John F. Kennedy was heavily campaigning in California, in anticipation of that state’s Democratic primary in a little over a week. Vice President Richard Nixon was presiding over the Senate for some reason or another.

There were no broadcasts from nearby systems - at least, none that she could pick up. She could grab some tinfoil and other metal and create an antenna and boost the signal, if that proved necessary. But it most likely would not be needed. There was nothing going on, not on Kronos or Cardassia - two of the home worlds where she could have, with the right signal boosting, picked up a broadcast - that would help or be of interest to her.

What she needed was actually less than two hundred kilometers to the northwest. She adjusted the sensitivity of the PADD. “C’mon, c’mon,” she said, as if her voice could coax the device to perform better.

A few more adjustments and she tested it on herself. Nothing. Good. She was one hundred percent human, so she was not expecting any reading from turning the device on herself. She widened the field and pointed the PADD westward. Smiling, she found a Vulcan biosign - Mestral - in North America, just as expected. The alien biosign detector was working perfectly.

She didn’t expect to get a reading from Sheilagh, who she knew was pure human. But, pointing the device in a northwesterly direction, she fully expected it to pick up a partial Calafan biosign. For that was the source of the copper and silver bands on Rick’s left arm - and nowhere else on his body - he had Calafan blood in him, from both sides of the pond.

She frowned. There were no Calafan or part-Calafan biosigns. Then she remembered - the Wells! She pointed the device up and, sure enough, the biosign came in, clear as a bell.

She’d wait until he was back on the planet before homing in on him. She figured there was every reason to assume that Sheilagh would be with him, for nearly all the time. Once she had found them, Marisol would drop the Ebola vial and get it into their bloodstreams - most likely by cutting them with shards from the destroyed vial. And then, once she knew they were infected, she’d give it a few days to take and then start shooting.

=/=



“Oh, God, my head!” Sheilagh moaned.

“Here,” he came into the bedroom with a hypospray in one hand. I had the feeling you’d be needing this,” he injected her in the neck.

“Did we, uh?” she asked, once she realized she was lying there in just her skivvies.

“No. You were passed out. But, uh, you didn’t lose consciousness until after you’d decided to tell a bunch of Roman tourists about being from Mars.”

“I guess they must’ve just felt I was drunk,” she said, “’Course I was. God, how many of those drinks did I have?”

“You told me you thought it was either four or six.”

“Gawd. Rick, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t normally do that. It was stupid.”

“It’s okay, you’re on vacation. You’re allowed to do stupid things now and again. Is, uh, is breakfast out of the question?”

“Let me, uh, see how I feel when I stand up.”

“Gotcha.”

=/=



Back in 3109, they continued to monitor broadcasts and look at records.

“Carmen, can we talk a moment?” Otra asked.

“Of course; come walk with me.”

The two women left and began to walk toward a little courtyard garden. “What do you wish to tell me?” Carmen asked.

“I - I can never be sure about such things,” Otra said, “But I believe the timeline has been fully restored.”

“So unless Marisol is injured or dead, she should be answering our hails, yes?”

“Exactly. I, well, I don’t want to say bad things about her if she is not here to defend herself.”

“That’s very charitable of you,” Carmen stated. “But if this is the case, if hails are being ignored, that’s a serious issue. Why do you suppose - let’s assume it is, indeed, happening - why do you suppose it is?”

“I don’t think it’s simple goofing off. But I don’t wish to gossip.”

“So you think she has a paramour, or something?” Carmen smiled tightly.

“Yes. I think that’s the case,” Otra said.

“I’ll talk to her when she returns. I don’t give a damn what people do when they leave the USS Adrenaline but I do expect my hails to be answered.”

=/=



Marisol only thought, for a moment, about things like that. She shuddered to herself. The combination of human, Klingon and Xindi sloth made Boris slight but with a penchant toward violence, paranoid and edgy, and an impatient and needy lover. Even if she had actually wanted to be with him, she’d have found him trying at best.

“Ah, you’re back on the Earth,” she said, looking at her PADD. She gathered up the money and found the key to a scooter owned by the late tenant of the efficiency. It didn’t take too long to start up the scooter, which was easier to figure out how to use than any time ship or shuttle. “Let’s see. It should take me, hmm, about two hours to get to Rome. So it’ll be lunchtime, not breakfast, by the time we three meet up. Risotto and Ebola are on the menu today.”

=/=



Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
a deep burning pain in my side.
Though I am trying
To stay in the saddle,
I'm getting weary,
unable to ride.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

Chapter 11 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Connie Francis - Everybody's Somebody's Fool

But my love for Felina is strong and I rise where I've fallen,
Though I am weary I can't stop to rest.
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

=/=



Satisfied that things were more or less in hand, and that Marisol would show up in her own good time - and then she would deal with the insubordination in some fashion or another - Carmen walked Otra back to her office and then strolled to her own. Not bad, she thought to herself. The department was a damned three-ring circus but things were running pretty well.

As for Sheilagh, she might stay, and she might not. It would be unfortunate if she left, but not necessarily fatal. And Marisol, well, if absolutely necessary, Carmen had interviewed, a couple of months previously, another potential traveling doctor, Teresa Marquez. About the only person who would object, Carmen figured, would be Boris - she didn’t know exactly why. He’d learn to work with another doctor if he had to. She was confident of that.

But now she could hire her next employee. This one would be a mature woman, not unlike Sheilagh in that respect, but, most likely, a lot more unflappable. A psychologist - at least, this one - would be better for handling herself in the event of any more difficult moral and emotional situations.

She engaged her implanted Communicator. “I’d like to speak with Polly Porter, on Betazed.”

“Can I help you?” Came the woman’s voice on the other end of the line.

“I hope you remember me. My name is Admiral Carmen Calavicci.”

“Ah, yes,” said Polly. “The Temporal Integrity Commission,” she paused as she closed her office door, “yes?”

“The very same. Would you like to come and work for us?”

“I have a few patients and a mostly audio-only show,” she said, “I’ll need to wrap those up, and that will all take a few months.”

“Not to worry,” Carmen said brightly, although she was dismayed by the delay. “Take all the time you need. But do come back soon and we’ll start to get you set up. Give you the grand tour and all that.”

“Looking forward to it. Porter out.”

Carmen stared out her office window, which overlooked the Milky Way galactic barrier. “There’s yet another ball in the air. Good thing I’m an excellent juggler.”

She fiddled with a small jar of pebbles and beach glass from Risa, making it just so, before heading back out into the Temporal Integrity Commission’s hallways.

=/=



As Marisol sped along on the scooter, her thoughts turned to how to most effectively and surreptitiously deliver the dose of Ebola.

She did not know how Anthony Parker had been infected, for she was not his killer. But he had been injected with a hyposyringe laced with Ebola a few days before he was mauled, repeatedly, with a sledgehammer. The delay was a necessity, for Ebola virus needs a few days to take root and really get nasty in a body.

Something similar would have to happen here. She needed to open the bodily envelope, somehow, and get the virus in there. She didn’t have a hyposyringe with her, but a 1960 syringe would work just fine. Then the idea finally hit her - she could do it without a syringe!

It was possible that others would be infected. There was even a bit of a chance of becoming infected, herself. But the chances weren’t that high of collateral damage. The virus was bodily fluid-borne. No contact from virus to bloodstream or mucous membranes meant virtually no risk of infection. Not that she gave a damn about others’ welfare, but she sure as hell had a mightily well-developed sense of self-preservation.

She smiled as she sped along. It would be a piece of tiramisu.

=/=



“I’m glad breakfast was possible,” Rick said.

Sheilagh was finishing the last of a piece of plain biscotti. “I just needed to stay away from bacon.”

“That’s the best part!”

“Not when you’re hung over. So, um, whaddaya wanna do?”

“I was about to ask you the same,” he said, “How do you feel about going to Saint Peter’s Basilica? The Pieta is there.”

“Uh, sure. What else is there?”

“Well, I can’t check a PADD from here,” he said. The little café was a bit too crowded for pulling out a device that was over a millennium away from being assembled and several centuries away from being invented.

“Understood. Still?”

“Well, my sister’s in the museum biz. But the Basilica is big, in many ways it’s as important as the Louvre in France. And it’s supposed to be beautiful in there.”

“Sounds good. And then?”

“We don’t need to plan too far in advance, yanno. We’ll have lunch somewhere and then, I dunno. There are all sorts of places to walk, like around the Colosseum.”

“I leave myself in your capable hands,” she smiled at him, and then dropped her voice low. “I, I appreciate what you did for me last night. And, and for not taking advantage in any way.”

“Sheilagh, I’m not that kind of a guy.”

“I didn’t think you were. And I think most of the men we work with aren’t, either. I mean, for Boris it would be a matter of honor to not touch me. Tom wouldn’t want to be thought of as anything other than a gentleman. And Levi, well, uh, I get the feeling he wouldn’t quite know what to do, anyway.”

“Oh, I dunno. Levi observes a lot of things.”

“Then he’d watch me sleep?” she made a face.

“If it was interesting enough to him, maybe,” Rick said, “although it’s more likely that he’d just play around on his PADD. Hey, you forgot Kevin.”

“Kevin? I get the feeling he’s dangerous. I mean,” She said softly so that the other patrons in the café wouldn’t hear her, “is a reptile trustworthy in, um, in that, er, area?”

Rick looked at her intently. “You should spend some time with him, see just how unfounded your fears really are. He is one of - no, the - nicest man I know. You didn’t know him when Josie was alive, and before she got sick.”

“Josie?”

“His wife. She died a little under a year ago. She was Aenar.”

“Holy cow, what an odd couple they must’ve made.”

“He was her world, and she was his,” Rick said, “The only other relationship I’ve ever seen like that has been my parents’ own marriage. For Kevin, it was forever. I seriously doubt he’ll ever remarry. He may not even date again.”

“I’m, I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” she said.

“It’s, uh, it’s okay. He’s just a close friend, and he’s destroyed by her death. You’re finished, right? Let’s get outta here.”

=/=



Lots of people saw Otra head into her office, deposited there by Carmen. Otra was well-known at the Temporal Integrity Commission. It seemed that everyone liked her.

The Witannen contingent often invited her to lunch, and they’d speak the conversational version of their language, tongues clicking in a rhythm that HD Avery would have labeled as staccato.

Or she’d sit with the Ferengi, and Von would present a peony or the like, trying in vain to match one of her chameleon-like chavecoi. They found her interesting, and often openly wondered whether she’d consider show biz. She was inevitably promised what, to them, was a generous cut of the anticipated profits - four percent or so. She always, politely, refused.

Or she’d dine with the Vulcans, as the word fascinating would, more often than not, escape from someone’s lips. The Gorn unit found the swaying of the chavecoi to be nearly hypnotic. The members of the Bajoran department loved her talent for telling stories.

So there were any number of witnesses who saw her enter her office. But no one saw her leave.

And, of course, they wouldn’t have, for she did not use the door, and did not depart voluntarily. She was beamed to some dark place, so dark that she couldn’t even see a shadow of a shadow. Alarmed, she cried out incoherently, and her nose was assaulted by a whiff of tricoulamine gas. Fatal to humans, but ineffective against Witannen, she was half and half, so the dose’s effects split the difference, and she lost consciousness.

=/=



From out of nowhere Felina has found me,
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for,
One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

Chapter 12 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Bobby Darin - Beyond the Sea

Somewhere beyond the sea
somewhere waiting for me
my lover stands on golden sands
and watches the ships that go sailin'


- Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea)

=/=



Otra awoke in perfect darkness.

“Is anyone there?” she asked. She groped around. Her extremities were unbound. Her clothes were intact. She didn’t appear to have any injuries. The chavecoi were a bit droopy, but such was to be expected under such circumstances.

The room was tiny, a cube that was perhaps a cargo container, it was so small. It was maybe one and three-quarters of a meter on all sides and vertically, although maybe a little bigger. She could stand and not hit her head, and could only reach the ceiling if she stood on her tippy toes and really stretched a hand up. Then she could graze the ceiling with her outstretched fingertips.

She traced the thin outline of a door or hatch on one wall. Next to it, there was a bowl containing some sort of soupy food. She tasted it - it was, she couldn’t be sure of what it was, but it was, perhaps plomeek broth, laced with a Kreetassan spice mixture.

So you’re Kreetassan, maybe. She thought to herself. You’re certainly not Vulcan as a Vulcan would never use so much seasoning. But maybe you want me to think that you are, eh? She ate in silence. You’ll have to open this door in order to collect the bowl, she mused.

She contemplated what that could mean for her, in terms of trying to escape or at least seeing her captor or more of the location where she was being kept. She didn’t have much time to think about this as there was another spray of tricoulamine gas. But before she went completely under, she felt a slight tug, as if the gravitational pull of wherever she was, it was somehow shifting. That could only mean one thing.

It was a jump to Warp.

=/=



“Wow, I totally loved the Basilica!” Sheilagh gushed. “They just don’t build ‘em like they used to, eh?”

“I guess not. But there are some pretty amazing artistic sights on Bajor and Betazed. Ready for lunch?”

“I am.”

They did not see, but Marisol had followed the partial Calafan biosign. There were crowds at the Basilica - there always were - and she blended in, effortlessly. To any passing Italians, she was just a lovely tourist, of some indeterminate Native American extraction. She could be Brazilian, or Chilean, or Mexican.

Rick and Sheilagh settled on another tiny café. There was nothing to order - it was just one of those places where they would serve whatever they had, at a table d'hôte.

Marisol smiled to herself. This was beyond ideal. She got herself around to the building’s back, to the door to the kitchen. There was a boiling pot of gnocchi on the stove.

The cook was also the server, and she was in front, gabbing and passing around antipasto plates. Marisol fished the gnocchi out using a slotted spoon. It was a simple matter to grab an unused fry pan and put it on the floor. She placed the Ebola vial in it, and crushed it with her heel. Using a rag so as to try to keep the tiny glass fragments from entering her skin, she shoved bits of dirty, Ebola-laced glass fragments into each of the gnocchi, and then dumped the remainder into a pot of sauce.

By the time the chatty cook came back, Marisol was gone, and the only evidence that anything was at all different was that the small fry pan was in the sink, and no longer hanging from a peg on the wall. The cook put a bit of soap on her fingers to rub onto the frying pan, and cried out. She sucked on her finger - she’d cut it on something.

=/=



In the dark, and even unconscious, Otra felt it, a change in time. It looked like millions of head of dead cattle.

=/=



The tiny café contained eleven patrons. In addition to Sheilagh and Rick, there were two French couples and a family of five from Texas. The father was older, and was regaling his children with tales of the Fifth Army landing at Anzio in February of 1944. He fumbled with a phrase book at times but they were having a grand time until the gnocchi arrived.

“I don’t want this,” said his younger daughter.

“It’s like ravioli, see?” said her brother, eating a piece.

“It looks weird. It’s shiny,” she complained.

“Shiny?” asked their mother.

“Yeah, see?” the girl showed her mother.

“Gene, I think there’s glass in there,” The mother said to her husband, alarmed.

“Ever’body, check!” he bellowed. “Miss!” Phrase book forgotten, he did what he could to communicate his distress.

Seeing the commotion, Rick and Sheilagh hit their Communicators a couple of times in order to reset them from Italian to English. “Is everything okay?” Sheilagh asked.

“No!” yelled the man. “Uh, sorry. It’s not your fault. But it looks like there’s ground glass in my daughter’s food. See there?”

“Ooh, yeah, that does look nasty. Rick, take a look.”

He looked, and then switched back to Italian to tell the cook. She argued with him until he told her that if the food was completely safe then she was welcome to eat his.

Remembering her cut finger, she told her husband that maybe she’d broken a jar of capers, and perhaps that had ended up in the sauce. He yelled a little, offered a thousand apologies to his customers and shooed them all away without finishing serving the meal or asking for payment.

“You still hungry?” Rick asked as they walked away.

“Not after that.”

=/=



The computers in 3109 began to go nuts, as Kevin watched. He hadn’t really been monitoring, but he did like to look while people were away. A bit of a mother hen at times, he couldn’t help but to look out for the younger folk.

He was surprised to see the changes coming in. Otra should have picked up on them before he did. He engaged his Communicator to call her, but there was no answer.

Alarmed, he ran to Conference Room six as fast as his bulk allowed. No Otra. He then went to Carmen’s office. She checked for Witannen and partial Witannen biosigns. The Witannen contingent was completely accounted for, but there was no extra, no Otra.

They went to Otra’s office and found it empty.

“Same as Marisol,” Kevin said.

=/=



Somewhere beyond the sea
she's there watching for me
If I could fly like birds on high
then straight to her arms
I'd go sailin'


- Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea)

Chapter 13 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Queen - The Game

It's far beyond the stars
it's near beyond the moon
I know beyond a doubt
my heart will lead me there soon


- Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea)

=/=



“Maybe we’ll look for some bigger places to eat, not these holes in the wall,” Rick offered.

“I’m all for that,” Sheilagh said, “Ground glass! Don’t these people believe in food safety?”

“Probably, but this is all small, private kitchens. This society isn’t that litigious, too. So stuff like that happens. At least no one got hurt. You didn’t eat any of that, did you?”

“No, just the antipasto, which was only fair. You?”

“Not a bite. So we’re both good. Actually, we’d both really feel it if we downed a foreign object like that, a sharp one, for sure. No worries.”

They dodged traffic to get to the Colosseum. “How old is this place?” she asked.

He surreptitiously consulted a PADD. “It’s from the time of the Emperor Vespasian. Uh, 72 AD. So, uh, it’s around nineteen hundred years old already - and a good three thousand by our reckoning.”

“Bread and circuses, eh?”

“Yep, a lot like the mirror universe.”

“Really? What’s it like? I haven’t been yet,” she admitted.

“It’s pretty bad until you get a lot closer to our own time period. A good four or five hundred years before the Colosseum is built, the genetics in the mirror start to go haywire.”

“Yes, it’s the Y Chromosome Skew.”

“Exactly. So it all tips a lot more violent and aggressive. The mirror universe doesn’t start to kinda get over that until about 2765, when there start to be a lotta pulse shots and crossing over, back and forth, and marriages ensue.”

“So there started to be more women around, right?” she asked.

“Yep, from our side of the pond, of course, but there were still more of ‘em. I guess guys started to realize that they’d better start behaving themselves.”

She smiled. “And here in Rome?”

“It was just a more violent society way back when. But there also - and this doesn’t excuse, although it might explain it a bit - there weren’t a whole helluva lotta entertainment options then. There were no movies, there’s no viewer, no baseball or football or soccer. Museums exist but there are only a few of them, and most people couldn’t read, or at least they couldn’t get their hands on a lot of things to read. Christianity doesn’t really exist yet; it’s not fully formed.”

“So they threw Christians to the lions because they didn’t have viewers?”

“That’s about the size of it.”

“Well, they could’ve always had sex.”

The statement hung in the charged air for a second.

“Yeah, there’s also that.”

=/=



Marisol had retreated, and really had no way of knowing whether Rick or Sheilagh had ingested any Ebola virus, or gotten cut by the pulverized glass and had the virus enter that way.

But that was all right for; while she preferred success to failure - like anyone does - she was patient. If things didn’t work out to her liking this time, she’d have countless other opportunities to see things through. Dealing with Boris and his insecurities had taught her that.

She also knew that the Perfectionists needed her, for the potential for eventual blackmail was huge. She had planted the seeds long ago, but it wasn’t time to harvest them just yet.

=/=



In 3109, they questioned anyone they could at the Temporal Integrity Commission. But it was obvious - Otra had been taken, via Transporter. Without her gift for comparing temporal alternatives, they were forced to rely on the computer. Everyone investigated, even Levi.

The present-day change was a fairly big one - the human population had more than trebled. But why? That was where Otra’s gift would have come in mighty handy.

Boris and HD were given the task of working their way forward from 1960. Kevin and Deirdre were given the reverse task, to work their way backward from 3109. Crystal and Tom checked broadcasts, but there was nothing. As for Levi, he and Carmen took it upon themselves to check the mirror, just in case.

“Huh, how odd,” Boris finally said.

“Something good?” Carmen asked, a bit desperate for anything that could explain things.

“Yeah, huh, wow. It looks like there are four more Queen albums than there are supposed to be,” HD said.

“What the devil is that supposed to mean?” Carmen asked.

“He, uh, his obituary. Freddie Mercury - he dies of, uh, he’s in a car accident in 2016,” HD said.

“What’s in the master file about this man?” Carmen asked.

Levi started clicking around. “Here. He, uh, it’s not a car accident. It happens in, uh, 1991.”

“It says a long illness; he died after a long illness. What kind of a euphemism is that?” Carmen inquired.

“It sounds like something being covered up, something where people might make unfounded judgments,” Boris offered.

“An illness? What kind of an unfounded judgment can you make about contracting an illness?” Crystal asked. “It’s all microbes and a roll of the dice, usually.”

They all sat and thought for a while. “Maybe, uh,” Tom ventured, “maybe it was venereal. We, uh, there’s old military training protocols. We had to follow ‘em when I was stationed on Breen. We were supposed to, uh, when we were going on leave in town, to take birth control shots, and then, afterward, if we’d done anything, we were ordered to report to the Base Doctor.”

“A fatal venereal disease?” Deirdre asked.

“We studied this in school,” Boris said, “It’s an eradicated retrovirus: HIV.”

“So this, this Freddie what’s-his-name, he doesn’t get HIV. So?” Carmen asked.

“Mercury; he’s Freddie Mercury,” HD corrected.

Crystal clicked around, looking at the changed history. “I don’t see any references to HIV in the new timeline, in the last half of the twentieth century.”

“Maybe it got a different name,” Levi offered.

“Let’s keep looking at 1960 and right afterwards,” Carmen said, “I think we can forget about working our way back from the present day, at least for now.”

There was quiet as they worked.

“There,” Deirdre finally said, “In 1974, there was an outbreak of Mad Cow disease. It was eradicated by destroying millions of head of cattle in Texas.”

“And?” Kevin asked.

“And it says here that it was all done as a part of public health protocols that were put into place in 1960,” Deirdre added.

“Ding ding ding!” HD exclaimed.

“Public health, public health,” Boris said quietly as he clicked around. “Aha. There,” he projected a headline onto the wall of the conference room. It said: Local Boy Dies of Mysterious Illness.

“I’m still not seeing the connection,” Carmen said.

Boris began reading, “Tyler, Texas: Christopher Donnelly, fourteen, died today of an illness apparently picked up while the family was vacationing in Italy. Doctors were quoted as saying that the boy’s internal organs appeared to have melted,” Boris looked up. “That’s a hemorrhagic fever, probably Marburg or Ebola.”

“Ebola in Italy in 1960 - that’s a little too damned convenient,” Kevin said.

“Check Italy,” Carmen said grimly.

There was only the sound of furious clicking. Crystal finally said, “The disease isn’t named anywhere, so it’s hard to be sure, and I can only find one victim, a woman.”

“Is it Sheilagh?” Carmen asked.

“No, it’s, uh, Angela Libertini. It’s the same kind of thing, where the doctors say it was like her internal organs just disintegrated,” Crystal said.

“So - let me see if I understand this,” Tom drawled. “Ebola or something like it comes to Italy when Rick and Sheilagh are there.”

“Right,” Kevin said, “And Ebola is not supposed to hit Italy then. Two people die, maybe more, but we definitely know of at least two.”

“And so, I would speculate,” Boris said, “public health and quarantine laws change because of this outbreak, most likely in both Italy and the United States. And so in 1974 the protocols were in place when Mad Cow hit, and a disaster was averted. And a few years later when HIV first started to be seen in America, public officials must have protected the blood supply, distributed condoms and clean needles and so on and so forth, in order to apparently prevent the pandemic from hitting at least the Western World.”

HD clicked around. “It’s amazing. Not only is there more music from Freddie Mercury, it’s also all sorts of people who never become HIV - er, AIDS - victims. Halston, Arthur Ashe, Ryan White, Kimberly Bergalis, Rock Hudson, Brad Davis, Elizabeth Glaser, Liberace - this list is longer than my arm.”

“No wonder the population is tripled,” Carmen said, “The Ebola deaths of two people in 1960 cut off a major check on population growth.”

“Two for millions. I bet the Manifesto authors are pretty pleased with themselves,” Crystal said.

“Possibly,” Carmen allowed. “Let’s see if Sheilagh and Rick are unnamed victims of Ebola. So look for John and Jane Does in Italy, or anywhere, anyone who died of some sort of an illness where the organs appear to have liquefied. We all know that Ebola’s a part of how Parker was killed. It’s all far too coincidental and convenient. This has got to be an attempt on their lives.”

=/=



The leader of the Perfectionists performed a similar check, with similar findings. This was a terrific bit of collateral temporal enhancement. Marisol sure could pick her moments.

There was also a cause for celebration. They had Otra, not one hundred meters away.

=/=



As for Otra, as she began to again regain consciousness the vision of all that dead cattle was replaced with crowds, the look of New York City at high noon on a weekday.

And one phrase echoed in her brain until she awoke.

There are too many people.

=/=



We'll meet beyond the shore
we'll kiss just as before
Happy we'll be beyond the sea
and never again I'll go sailin'


- Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea)

Chapter 14 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Brian Hyland - Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini

Frank Sinatra - Witchcraft

I know beyond a doubt
my heart will lead me there soon
We'll meet (I know we'll meet) beyond the shore
We'll kiss just as before
Happy we'll be beyond the sea
and never again I'll go sailin'


- Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea)

=/=



“Dress up tonight,” Rick said a few days later. “I’ll replicate a lot more cash and we’ll eat at a much better place.”

“I see,” she said, “And then, why don’t we stay out? We could do something fun.”

“That’s what I’ve got in mind,” he said.

“I see.”

They had been warily circling each other. The days were spent sightseeing or shopping. As for the nights, he had slept in the pilot’s chair. She hadn’t extended an invitation to him to share the bed, but he was hopeful.

=/=



“Ya’ll are probably wondering where you are, and who has you and what we want,” Came a voice from what was some sort of a sound amplifier on the ceiling of the tiny enclosure where Otra was being held. The speaker’s gender, age and accent were all being masked, but there was the localism, out there, sticking out like a sore thumb.

“Of course I am,” she replied, as calmly as she could.

“All in good time,” Came another, equally masked, voice. It wasn’t even possible to tell whether either speaker was anywhere near where she was. They could have been patched in via Communicator or some sort of relay system.

“I see. They’re looking for me, you know.”

“They’re not looking that hard,” said the second voice. “And they won’t until - if - the timeline is restored.”

“There are too many people,” Otra said, “And there are a lot of dead cows. So is your movement vegan or something?”

“Ya’ll are funny,” said the first voice. The localism, the localism, Otra couldn’t quite place it.

“Why won’t you show yourselves to me?”

“We’re a little shy,” said the second voice. Otra had no way of knowing this, but the voice belonged to the leader of the Perfectionists.

“Now it’s your turn to be amusing,” Otra said, “What exactly do you expect to get out of me?”

“A little help,” said the second voice. “We make changes, you see the implications, you tell us, and we let you live. See? It’s a win-win situation.”

“And if I refuse?”

“You won’t. Your visions are so compelling to ya’ll. They are meant to be shared.”

Otra knew that that much was true. But she’d be damned if she’d give them anything good to go on. The bit about there being too many people - she felt that was obvious from a cursory check of records. As for the part about the dead cows, that struck her as being something that probably wouldn’t help them that much. As for the rest of the changes she could see - the flourishing fashion scene in the 2010s, the resurgence of free love in 2026, the bread riots of 2412 - she’d keep mum. Or, at least, she’d make every effort to do that.

=/=



Another dead john, another place to sleep and plot - that was how Marisol rolled. Since Rick and Sheilagh stayed in Rome, except for a short jaunt into Pompeii, it made sense to move her base of operations to Rome permanently. It was a similar situation, a cheap apartment, but she had the key and no one was bothering her.

As she did her nightly tour of the news broadcasts, she heard a story about a divorced man in Naples who was found dead, his apartment ransacked. The cause was unknown - some sort of burning to the chest. The Italian authorities, of course, knew nothing of phaser fire.

So it made even more sense to stay in Rome, rather than return to Naples, where she could potentially become a person of interest. She rationed her money and her trichronium carefully. She could replenish the former but not the latter.

=/=



It was dinner time, and Rick was getting antsy. “C’mon!”

“What, do we have reservations or something?” Sheilagh asked from inside the little bathroom.

“No, it’s just that I’m hungry,” he complained.

“Almost ready.”

The Wells was orbiting the moon, and they were on the far side, invisible to the Earth, so he fired up the dark matter collector and grabbed a little more fuel. There. They’d be set for the trip home, which would be - when? In a day or two, most likely.

“Uh, ahem,” she was standing right behind where he was sitting.

He swiveled the pilot’s chair around. “Oh. Wow,” That was all he could manage to stammer out.

She was wearing a black strapless gown and a long pink shawl draped carelessly over her shoulders. There was a slit up the side of the gown, showing her right leg to just above the knee. She had on heeled sandals and was carrying a matching clutch purse. Her hair, a wild thing, was loose, flowing honey around her shoulders.

“Agent Daniels?”

“Y-yes?”

“Will you get your fedora so that we can go to dinner?”

“Uh, uh, of course,” he said. He put the ship into auto and fumbled for the fedora.

=/=



“So, what is it you expect me to tell you?” Otra repeated.

“Nothing for now. So ya’ll just rest and we’ll check on you later.”

Otra heard a slight click, the sound of a communicative connection being broken. Local expression, what the hell is that? She asked herself. There was nothing else to do in the tiny confined space. She kept as silent as possible. Even if the channel was closed, there was a possibility that she could be heard. She was bound and determined to not give them anything to really go on.

Then she put two and two together. The localism could only have two possible origins. It was used by someone who was either from either of the Carolinas on Earth, or from Titania, which had been settled by people from there. She could not place the other voice in any way. Still, this was something. The tricoulamine gas came again, and she still had visions of food riots and art salons and slaughtered steer, but things were a tiny bit, less hopeless.

=/=



Conversation flowed effortlessly. She laughed at his jokes, a loud, musical laugh where her voice went up, perhaps, a half an octave. HD Avery would have known the specifics. Avery. He had said she was the best one, Rick remembered. He definitely had to agree.

The restaurant had a dance floor, and a halfway decent band. They played older tunes, and a crooner sang Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby songs, in English or Italian as, perhaps, he knew them.

“How’s the gnocchi?” he asked.

“Oh, it’s great. No glass,” she smiled. She speared one on her fork and fed it to him.

“Um, thanks,” he had fettuccine and returned the favor with a piece. He watched her eat it from his fork and realized there were a few other men in the restaurant who were also watching. “Do you know you’ve got an audience?”

“Really? Good thing this isn’t Bananas Foster.”

He smiled at that. “Do I get to see how you handle that later?”

“Ask me to dance and find out.”

He got up. “Wanna dance?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

=/=



Marisol didn’t have proper attire for the front of the restaurant. But she was dressed just fine for the back. It was a simple matter to grab a waitress who’d gone to the back for a smoke break. The waitress uniform fit her well enough although it was a little tight and short. Hence, when she raised the pistol she was carrying, she knew her skirt would go up. So what?

=/=



“Gene, I think he’s worse,” Marion Donnelly said to her husband.

“I don’t trust these foreign hospitals,” Gene said to her quietly. Then, more loudly, he said, “Kids! Let’s pack! Leslie, Gail, pack for Christopher. We’re going home.”

Marion leaned over her fourteen-year-old son, pale and sweaty in their hotel room bed. “Chris, we’ll be home soon. Just hang on until we can get you to Doctor Kingston in Tyler.”

=/=



The song was Frank Sinatra’s Witchcraft. The crooner did a passable job with it. Rick held Sheilagh close. “Have I stepped on your feet yet?” he whispered in her ear.

“Not once,” she said, and then kissed his ear.

He would have called it a night right then and there, and he was about to. He stopped moving, and pulled her even closer to kiss her.

It was the perfect opportunity for Marisol, who dropped a full plate of rigatoni she was holding onto a Swedish tourist’s lap. The man was about to protest when he saw the gun.

She aimed at the stationary couple, and fired.

=/=



Across the centuries, Tom sat in his office, alone. He’d left the conference room; it was a little too much departmental togetherness for one day. Plus, he had a mission.

He had her info, and he figured she was unaffected by the temporal changes. He engaged his implanted Communicator. “I’d like to speak to Eleanor Daniels, on Lafa II,” he drawled.

“Yes?”

“Do ya’ll remember me? Tom Grant - I work with your brother.”

“Yes, yes, of course.”

“Ya’ll wanna go to dinner?”

=/=



No more sailin'
so long sailin'
bye-bye sailin'...
move on out Captain


- Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea)

Chapter 15 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Barrett Strong - Money (That's What I Want)

The best things in life are free
but you can keep 'em for the birds and bees;

Now give me money, (that's what I want) that's what I want,
(That's what I want) That's what I want (That's what I want) yeah,
That's what I want.


- Barrett Strong (Money (That’s What I Want))

=/=



The pain was excruciating, but there was no time to waste, to lie there on the dance floor and truly experience the pain. Not that Rick wanted to, of course, but the very fact that he’d just been shot at - and hit a few times - gave him pause. He wanted to stay down.

Sheilagh was lying next to him, red stains spreading, one on the side of her face and the other across the front of her chest.

He was hit in the shoulder and the back of his neck. There was still a lot of shouting and the sounds of breaking dishes. He didn’t see the gunman, and didn’t see her make her exit, gunfire continuing as patrons screamed and ducked or ran. All he could think of was to get out, and back to the Wells.

“Get up,” Was all he said. She must have fully realized the seriousness of the situation for, despite her wounds, she got up. She winced. “Out back,” he added.

They made their way through the crowds and the broken dishes scattered all over the floor. A couple of other people were laying on the dance floor, covered in blood, the collateral damage of dancing too close to them. Without stem cell growth accelerator, they were not so lucky.

They got to the back. The other restaurant patrons were so confused, and in such shock, that, even if they noticed that particular bloodied couple walking away, it didn’t really register with them that that reaction was anything out of the ordinary.

He took her hand and engaged the Transporter remote control with his free hand.

Once on board the Wells, they both just stood there, staring at each other. The wound on the side of her face closed up quickly, as did the one in her chest. His neck and shoulder wounds did the same. The entire, itchy process took maybe an hour or so.

He knew enough not to say anything, and just followed her lead. She was silent, finally getting herself into the bathroom and stripping down. The ruined clothes were thrown into the disposer, and she took an inordinately long shower. While she did, he didn’t even realize it, but he was still standing there, in stained clothes.

He, too, needed a shower, to remove the day’s events, if not their memory, from his body. He, too, stripped, until all he had left on was the jewelry he always wore - a simple chain with a Xindi initiation medal which had his initials engraved on it - RMD - and a family heirloom, an old-fashioned skeleton key charm with a solid handle, that to him was close to one thousand years old yet was still a good century and three-quarters from being forged.

He got the replicator to spit out a pair of plain running shorts. They were not for running, just for basic decency. He put them on and ended up sitting on the floor of the bedroom, not even on the bed, quietly thinking about what had just happened.

=/=



A brick sailed through a window, and there was broken glass everywhere.

That, and the First Monarch of Krios Prime, Kaitaama, meeting her death via an old-fashioned guillotine, were the things that Otra saw in her dreams.

=/=



The computers dinged again, loud, at the Temporal Integrity Commission. “Dammit, we need to get Otra back,” Kevin swore under his breath.

“More changes,” Carmen said, “I’ll bet they’re not good ones,” she engaged her Communicator. “Mister Grant, I’ve got more for you to do. Come on back.”

“Of course. Grant out,” The date was set up. He knew just where to take Eleanor. It would be beautiful, elegant and classy, just like her. That was, assuming the place was still there, what with all of the temporal shenanigans going on.

“Deirdre, you and Crystal are to look at the new 1960. I want to know if there are any John and Jane Does - any new ones since you last checked,” Carmen commanded. “HD and Tom, pull up the master for comparisons. Levi, you and Kevin are to check 3109. Boris, you and I will check some of those other years, uh, 1974, 2016 and I think that’s it.”

“That seems to be it,” Levi said.

“All right, let’s get cracking,” she replied.

“A moment,” Boris tapped his left ear twice. “Yarin to Castillo,” A pause. “Yarin to Otra,” Another pause. “Nothing yet.”

=/=



Sheilagh finally emerged, draped only in a towel. “I don’t want to go back there.”

“That’s, that’s all right,” he said, “We need to leave anyway. I think - I know - something has changed.”

“You have the gift, too?”

“No. It’s just, it seems obvious. Otra wouldn’t have suggested this time, and this place, if there was gonna be a shooting. We need to hit 3109 and figure out the divergence point, and then go back and fix it.”

“Go back?”

“Yeah. I, uh, I need a shower as much as you did. Get us outta here, okay?”

He got in the small bathroom and she replicated a pair of yoga pants and a plain tee shirt for herself. So attired, she sat down in the pilot’s chair and broke orbit.

=/=



Marisol clicked on her PADD a few times, back at the dead john’s apartment. The partial Calafan biosign was gone. “So you are either dead, or you have departed this green and pleasant land. Either way is good,” her trichronium level was dropping rapidly. In just a few more hours, it would be low enough to trigger the Perfectionists’ leader to recall her automatically.

She cast about for clothing, anything other than the meager waitress’s uniform. The dead john’s clothes were too big for her, but that was all right. The dead man’s sleeveless undershirt, and a pair of grey woolen slacks, was fine. All she had to do was wait.

=/=



Back home in Tyler, Texas, Gene Donnelly paced while his wife, Marion, sat with Gail and Leslie, their daughters.

A doctor finally came out. “Mister Donnelly? I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Can we see him? asked Marion.

The doctor shook his head.

“Kingston, that’s my son!” Gene thundered.

“He’s under quarantine. And the four of you need to be as well. I’ve contacted the Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta. This is, it’s, it’s almost like germ warfare.”

What?”

=/=



The head of the First Monarch of Krios Prime rolled into the basket again and again, a nearly endless loop of horror in Otra’s head. Then there was the brick, and the high-pitched crash of breaking glass.

Over and over again, these images tore at Otra, harsh visions which pulled her toward, but didn’t actually get her to, full consciousness.

=/=



“There’s a shooting in Rome,” Crystal said, “Two dead John Does, no Jane Does.”

Deirdre clicked around. “Witnesses reported a lone gunman in black. The, uh, I can’t find anywhere, uh, where they apprehended the guy.”

“Curiouser and curiouser,” Carmen said, “Tell me about the John Does.”

“One is, uh, forty, they think. The other is about twenty,” Crystal said, “Isn’t Rick forty?”

“Yes,” Kevin said.

“It’s not him. Look,” Deirdre projected two pictures on the wall of the conference room. Neither of the John Does was Rick.

“Whew,” Carmen could take a breath. “Should we recall them, do you think?”

“Why haven’t ya’ll recalled them already?” Tom asked.

“Recall is rather jolting,” Carmen explained.

“We can injure them, or damage or even destroy the Wells,” Kevin added. “So we only use recall sparingly.”

“Hey, I got something,” Levi said, “Krios Prime isn’t in the Federation.”

“Huh?” HD asked. “My folks live there.”

“Probably not now,” Boris said.

Kevin said, “I got a broadcast from earlier this year. Hang on,” A bit of clicking, and the recorded broadcast began. “The government of Krios Prime appealed to the Federation today, asking for assistance against rebel forces. And once again, the Federation refused to get involved. While Krios Prime is an advanced world, with well-established Warp Drive technology, Federation spokeswoman Helen Walker says that getting involved in a planet-specific conflict is out of the question.”

“Hey, I know that chick!” HD exclaimed.

“We all know her,” Kevin said.

“Who?” asked Levi. Well, maybe he didn’t know her.

“She interviewed for the traveling doctor job, the one that went to Marisol - er, Doctor Castillo,” Boris explained.

“Yeah, she, uh, when we were heading back after the group interview, our shuttle crashed. It was on, uh, Berren One,” HD said, “She, uh, Walker, she died in the crash. Doctor Castillo confirmed it.”

“Well she’s a Federation spokeswoman now,” Crystal said, “And she’s not exactly dead.”

“Perhaps it’s just a coincidence,” Carmen said, “What else have we got on Krios Prime, from 1960 through the present?”

There was the sound of furious clicking. “Looks like there’s been a Reign of Terror going on for at least a good six hundred years,” Tom said.

“And, uh, a few centuries before that, it looks like right about 2152, the peasants started revolting and looting. It was, uh, a lot of breaking glass, almost like an alien Kristallnacht,” Kevin said.

“It’s like 1789 France,” Deirdre said, “They set up a guillotine and everything, except it was a laser cutter, rather than a saw blade. The First Monarch, Kaitaama, lost her head in, um, 2154.”

“Who knows what the connection is,” Carmen said, “Perhaps it’s from the combination of both the shooting and the premature introduction of Ebola, I don’t know. I suspect there’s little need to know the, quite literally, gruesome details.”

=/=



Marisol materialized in front of the leader of the Perfectionists. “You’ve had an interesting day,” said the leader.

“It was a few days.”

“Yes, of course. So far, we’ve had lots of fascinating changes,” The leader said, “Otra must be bursting with visions to share.”

“That subhuman?”

The leader smiled. “She’s here, actually.”

“Really?” Marisol asked.

“In the cargo bay. You’ll need to return to the Temporal Integrity Commission. I have an idea for how you’ll cover yourself. And do replicate another Temporal Integrity Commission uniform for yourself. You look ridiculous in that old period garb. But do make sure the uni’s tattered.”

=/=



Boris heard the communications hail in his ear as they continued investigating. “Boris, it’s me.”

“I have heard from Marisol!” He practically leapt up in joy.

=/=



Your lovin' give me such a thrill,
But your lovin' don't pay my bills


- Barrett Strong (Money (That’s What I Want))

Chapter 16 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Bobby Vee - Devil or Angel

Now give me money, (that's what I want) that's what I want,
(That's what I want) That's what I want (That's what I want) yeah,
That's what I want.


- Barrett Strong (Money (That’s What I Want))

=/=



“They caught me,” Marisol said, back at the Temporal Integrity Commission. “I was just eating lunch and I was accosted. They got me into a shuttle, but I managed to get out once I could see the timeline had changed a second time.”

“And Otra? Didja see her?” Kevin asked.

Marisol shook her head. “The - my two captors - they were pure Witannen males.”

“Would you recognize them?” Carmen asked.

“I don’t know. It was fast and then I was knocked out. I had visions that finally woke me up, they were so strong. I wonder what they would want with Krios Prime.”

“Who knows? The point is that ya’ll are safe,” Tom said.

“We can’t have this happening,” Carmen said, “Kevin, is there any way to rig it so that a transport out isn’t available unless you follow some sort of established protocols? Perhaps you’d have to punch in a code or something?”

“Levi, Deirdre, let’s get Von on this, too,” Kevin said, “It might make recall impossible, though.”

“Well we never really use it anyway,” Carmen said, “I think it’s an acceptable trade-off.”

=/=



On the Wells, they were rounding 2630. They were both sitting, at the pilot and copilot stations, saying nothing.

Sheilagh finally spoke. “Why did you take me there?”

“I had no idea it would go this haywire. Hell, I didn’t know it would go haywire at all.”

“But it did. What are we doing out here? Do we know what we’re doing at all?”

“Our job,” he said, “is to put timelines back so that they coincide with the master time file.”

“But that file isn’t complete.”

“It’s not possible for it to be completely comprehensive,” he allowed. “Otherwise, it would be time itself.”

“Huh. Still, I, I, I just think this is getting to be too much. We almost died.”

“No. We wouldn’t have died. Just a gunshot wound, even to the brain, wouldn’t have been enough to kill either of us. Killing a person with stem cell growth accelerator involves misdirection in the body. You saw what happened with Parker. He was hit with Ebola and then he was whacked with some sort of blunt instrument.”

“But if there was a virus, and then we were shot, would that have done it?”

“Possibly,” he said, “I bet we weren’t the targets at all. There were other people who were hit, yanno.”

“I didn’t see much in the confusion,” she admitted. “Do you think anyone saw how quickly we were healing?”

“Probably not. It was like a war zone in there.”

“Whenever I go to the past, it seems to involve bullets.”

“You’ve only got the two examples. Your sample size is too small, Sheilagh.”

“But wasn’t there a shooting where Tom and Kevin went for training?”

“Yes. But there was no shooting when Marisol was trained. There was no shooting when I went to 1959, or 1929, or 1699, although there was in 1757 but that was during the French and Indian War.”

“So I’m the lucky one, eh? What’s in store for next time? I just, I think it’s, it’s almost like really bad old days, yanno? Like before world peace on Earth - everyone just is looking out for themselves.”

“I bet we’ll hear that that shooting somehow did some good. I suppose anything can, if you trace it far enough, eventually turn to something good. That doesn’t make it the right thing to do.”

“What if it was?” she asked. The instrument panel showed 2810.

“Huh?”

“You said it yourself. The master time file is, by definition, incomplete. What if that shooting, as improbable as it seems, is something that was meant to happen? Or, at least, what if it did something really good? What if it prevented World War Three from ever happening?”

=/=



“What have you seen?” asked an unseen, masked voice from the speaker at the cell’s ceiling.

“Nothing significant.”

“I’ll be the judge of that, Otra.”

“My chavecoi are wilting in the utter darkness. And I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Tell me and I will let you into some light and let you, ahem, go to the powder room.”

She was really only having the two visions, of Kaitaama’s head rolling and the brick flying through the window. She chose the latter.

“I see a round brick flying into a round window, shattering the glass into a million fragments,” Otra said, “Now will you let the chavecoi have a little light?”

“What else? What about Krios Prime?”

This took Otra aback. Whatever that change was, it was being independently verified. “I don’t know. What about it?”

“It was found, it was a recent news broadcast. It’s a state of near-anarchy there. I know you’re seeing that, or some portion of it. It’s far too large for you to be missing it.”

“Then if you are so well-equipped to see the temporal changes, why keep me at all?”

“You forget,” the voice said, “but your gift is - I will be the first to admit this - it’s faster and can be more comprehensive than even the computers. It’s why you’re still alive at all.”

“What exactly do you need all this information for?” she asked, but the tricoulamine gas came again.

Once the leader realized that Otra was completely under, an Agent was summoned. “A task, for your specialty. You’re medical; I’m not.”

The two of them dragged Otra’s limp body out of the container. The chavecoi basked in the light and perked up considerably. And the Agent, making a face all the while, cathetered Otra, so thoroughly that she would not complain for several more days.

=/=



2900. Almost there.

“We’ll get back. And you’ll see, this isn’t gonna be a good change,” Rick said.

“What makes the original timeline so great?” she asked. “It isn’t fair. It isn’t just. It isn’t merciful. We evolved bad knees that need to be replaced, and eyesight that falters when we hit our nineties, and we can’t digest half of the food in the galaxy.”

“Those are the cards we’ve been dealt.”

“So let’s deal some new cards. I just don’t see what the big deal is,” she said.

“That’s what they think. And they want you to think that, too. They want you to start to wonder what else can be tweaked, and what happens when your thumb goes on the scale, or whatever.”

“Well, what happens isn’t necessarily wrong.”

“Are you one of them?” he began getting angry. “Are you?”

“One of who?”

“The Manifesto writers - remember them? Are you one of ‘em?”

“Me?”

“I’m not talking to anybody else. You’re sounding an awful lot like ‘em - they seem to think the human race has screwed up in all sorts of nasty ways. And we have, I won’t deny it.”

“Then if you could fix it, why the hell don’t you?”

“Because it’s wrong! It’s playing God, Sheilagh! You gonna trust the Earth, and Terra, and both halves of the human race to me? To you? To them?”

“It’s all messed up. What if we didn’t put back the parts that were messed up?”

“You are one of them. You don’t even know it, but you are already. Do you condone all of it? The killing of Parker - is that - is it okay in your book?”

“Is Allison Krause’s death okay in yours?”

The last mission, the one to 1970, that one had resulted in Krause’s death, as per the original timeline. “I only condone it because it’s a part of the timeline.”

“We could have saved her,” she protested.

“And that would have messed up so many other things. I, I get the feeling that the shooting at the restaurant, I’ve changed my mind. I think it was about us. I don’t know why they didn’t try any sort of immune system misdirection, by injecting us with the Marburg virus or something.”

“So it wasn’t about us.”

“No - it was. Don’t ask me; this is just a gut instinct. And if I’m right, well, we already know they killed Parker,” His voice dropped. He was tired, no longer angry. “Sheilagh, they are playing for keeps.”

=/=



“Doctor Castillo and I need to discuss Polly Porter. Are you still planning on bringing her in?” Boris asked Carmen.

“What? Oh, yes. I had forgotten all about her. Don’t know if we’ll do her surgeries right away but, please, go and discuss what you need to.”

=/=



In his office, they got down to it quickly. “That torn uniform is quite a turn-on,” he said.

Really?”

“Yes, indeed. It makes me think of doing it the fully Klingon way.”

“You’ll be too loud.”

“True,” he said, “Let’s get on the desk.”

Papers swept to the floor, he climaxed at almost the same time as the Wells arrived in the docking bay.

=/=



Money don't get everything it's true,
What it don't get I can't use


- Barrett Strong (Money (That’s What I Want))

Chapter 17 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Roy Orbison - Only the Lonely

Now give me money, (that's what I want) that's what I want,
(That's what I want) That's what I want (That's what I want) yeah,
That's what I want.


- Barrett Strong (Money (That’s What I Want))

=/=



Rick blew by what was almost an ad hoc welcoming committee in the docking bay.

“Hey! Hey!” Carmen called to him. “Richard, report!”

He stopped for a second, and turned to face her. “We were shot at,” he then continued. His office was his destination.

He got in and shut the door. Seeking any form of comfort he could find, he grabbed one of his souvenirs, the sash that the Empress Hoshi Sato had worn. She had been violent and impatient, and her whims had changed by, seemingly, the nanosecond, but he’d been able to keep her from killing him.

It had been January of 2156, late in the month, and he had been sent to the ISS Defiant as it badly needed repairs. The structural integrity of that ship was vital to the temporal integrity of the other side of the pond. He wasn’t an engineer, but he was still able to reroute and upgrade some power couplings.

With the ship again capable of going to Warp, she had rewarded him with time in her bed. It had been a rollicking four days of near-constant relations - he was younger then - only interrupted for meager meals and very little sleep.

He finally had returned to the Temporal Integrity Commission, sash in hand, convinced that the entire matter had been a purely otric affair.

Instead, she had emerged from the experience pregnant. He and Carmen had fought with the mirror government about his and Hoshi’s son - Hoshi had named him Jun - and whether he had the right to exist at all.

After all, in the original history, the Empress only had five children, although they had been by four separate fathers. The eldest, Kira, had been the son of the second Tactical Officer, Aidan MacKenzie. Aidan had been a passable Tactical man but his real talent was as a father figure. Hoshi had busted him to Babysitter, and had dangled herself around like bait to him while she bedded the remainder of the men on her senior staff, an effective ploy designed to keep them loyal to her.

After Kira had come Arashi, most likely the son of the head of security, José Torres, but there was a possibility that he was the Chief Engineer, Francisco Ramirez’s very own. Arashi - it had not yet been confirmed - did not appear to have the Y Chromosome Skew. So it was much more of a certainty that he’d been sired by Torres, who was similarly handicapped and had never acknowledged him as his own. Next in line were twins - a boy, Takeo, and the one and only girl, Takara. They were the product of a liaison with the replacement head of Tactical, Chip Masterson. And then the last one in the brood was Izo, son of the First Officer, Travis Mayweather.

But Rick had changed all that by fathering Jun and, to boot, before the rightful first-born, Kira. The mirror government didn’t want the kid around at all, and it wasn’t beneath them to, by any means necessary, assure that Jun was either never conceived or never born.

Carmen had gone to bat for him, and a compromise was reached - Jun could live if he were sterilized, and if Kira and he could share power after Hoshi died in 2245. The other condition was that the twins had to be separated from the clan from an early age until Hoshi’s death. If those conditions could be met, the boy would be suffered to live.

The timeline was changed, and all of the conditions were fulfilled. It was, as in the original history, Takara’s grandson who succeeded what became the Jun-Kira tandem government. Things were repaired with nary a seam showing.

And so Rick knew all about a little jiggering, and that it was possible to leave some of it in place without completely destroying the timeline. His son had been able to live, and it was but a blip, barely a pariotric event that wasn’t pariotric at all, after a lot of impressively fancy footwork. All it had taken was sterilization and a promise that he would never again cross the pond during the lifespan of the woman who had called him Ritchie.

=/=



Carmen left Rick alone for the nonce and instead concentrated her attentions on Sheilagh. “Richard said there was a shooting. A restaurant in Rome, am I right?”

“Yes,” Sheilagh said tentatively. “It must have turned out to be a pariotric node.”

“Absolutely,” Carmen confirmed. “How are you feeling?”

“Shaken up, still.”

“Do you feel ill at all? I’d like Boris to examine you.”

“I feel healthy.”

“Huh. It does have a bit of an incubation period,” Carmen said.

“What does?”

“Ebola.”

What?”

“Sheilagh, Ebola was brought to Italy far earlier than it’s supposed to get there. Given that you were shot at, I am forced to conclude that the two incidents were related, a concerted effort to murder either you or Richard, or the both of you.”

“My God,” she trembled a bit. It was worse than she had thought.

“We’ve had other things as well. The abduction of Otra and Marisol, for starters. Then there was also a side issue in New York City. Thank God we’ve got Marisol back.”

“Wait, Otra was kidnapped?”

“Yes,” Carmen said, “I have to believe that the Manifesto writers are responsible.”

“I, I see.”

“Here, let’s get you checked out,” Carmen engaged her Communicator. “Boris, I know it’s been a long day and you’d prefer to go home to your wife, but I need for you to take a look at both Sheilagh and Richard.”

“By all means. Yarin out,” he was lucky there was no visual component to the communication as, at that moment, he was pulling his pants back on.

=/=



“Where does it all end?” Rick whispered to no one. “When do a few little changes turn into too many? When is it right?”

His door chimed. “Uh, come in,” he hastily put the sash down on his desk.

It was Boris. “My task is to check you and Bernstein for Ebola. Come to Sick Bay with me.”

=/=



“I think we can stop working, children,” Carmen said wearily. “I only want to see Richard, Sheilagh, Boris and Marisol. As for the rest of you, I don’t recommend going out there as we’ve still got major changes. But feel free to head to the cafeteria or use your bunks. Bright and early tomorrow, everyone.”

Her Communicator trilled in her ear. “Bryce!” it was her boss. “We’ll send Richard and Sheilagh back to 1960 Rome to fix the problem. But tomorrow, all right? They need some rest, and so does the Wells.”

“Any ransom demands for Otra?” Bryce Unger asked.

“Not a one. This wasn’t for any sort of ransom - we both know this. They want her gift.”

“It’s probably keeping her alive at this point,” Unger commented. “Admiral, let me know if Castillo has any good info.”

“She said her captors were two pure-blooded Witannen males. But those might just have been whoever was charged with bringing her back via shuttle.”

“Why would they use a shuttle instead of a Transporter?”

“That’s another thing for us to think about. One thing’s for certain. There’s too much going on, too many helpful coincidences, for this to not be some sort of an inside job.”

“Agreed. We haven’t had incidents in any of the other species’ units - just humans. I’d concentrate on your own people and, quite possibly, the Witannen contingent.”

“I’m not so sure who to put on that, except for Kevin and Richard, my most reliable team members. After that, I’m not so sure what I can expect.”

“Trust no one. Unger out.”

=/=



“Huh. Not a trace of Ebola,” Boris said, “Can you confirm, Doctor Castillo?”

Marisol was checking Sheilagh over at the next biobed. “Nothing. You are free and clear,” she smiled at her patient.

“Do you know when the Ebola virus was introduced? I mean the day,” Rick said.

Boris consulted his PADD. “June second.”

“Any pictures?” asked Rick. Sheilagh cringed.

“I have, wait, there’s a photograph of the American victim,” Boris said.

“American victim?” Sheilagh asked. “We were in Rome.”

“But there were all sorts of tourists,” Rick said, “It could be anyone.”

“Here,” Boris said, showing. “This is Christopher Donnelly.”

“That kid looks familiar,” Sheilagh said.

“Any more pics?” Rick asked.

“Here’s the Italian victim,” Boris said, “Her name was, uh, Angela Libertini.”

“The cook!” Sheilagh exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Rick said, “She came out with plates and she practically sat down with us.”

“So you know this woman?” Marisol asked.

“Not really. But we were at her café, and I bet it was on the second,” Rick said.

“That was the bad gnocchi,” Sheilagh said.

“Ebola isn’t spread through eating,” Boris said.

“No, there was something else,” Rick said, “There was stuff in the food that wasn’t supposed to be there.”

“That’s right. We left - the owner kicked us out, actually - because the cook had broken a bottle of capers and the glass had gotten into the food,” Sheilagh said.

“Perhaps this Angela Libertini is the assassin,” Marisol said.

=/=



Well, now give me money, (That's what I want)
A lotta money, (That's what I want)
Oh yeah, I wanna be free, (That's what I want)
Oh, lotta money, (That's what I want)
That's what I want (That's what I want) yeah,
That's what I want.


- Barrett Strong (Money (That’s What I Want))

Chapter 18 by jespah
Author's Notes:

The Drifters - Save the Last Dance for Me

Well, now give me money, (That's what I want)
A lotta money, (That's what I want)
Whoa, yeah, You need money (That's what I want)
Gimme money, (That's what I want)
That's what I want (That's what I want)
That's what I want.


- Barrett Strong (Money (That’s What I Want))

=/=



The following morning, Sheilagh and Rick were about to head to the Wells when Marisol stopped them. “How far back do you think you’ll go?”

“I dunno. We’ll probably head to the café where the Ebola virus was introduced,” Rick said, “Why the sudden interest?”

“Oh, just curious. I, it’s rather unnerving to be abducted,” Marisol replied.

“So is being shot at,” Sheilagh said, a little snappish.

“True, just don’t want anything bad to happen to either of you. I still can’t believe Otra is gone.”

“She’s probably not gone forever,” Rick said. He heard a trill in his ear. “Yeah, Carmen, I’ll be right there. ‘Scuse me, ladies,” he left.

“And Levi! He’s barely affected,” Sheilagh pointed out.

“Well, he has his issues.”

“Still! I’d’ve thought he’d be a bit more, I dunno, broken up about it,” Sheilagh said.

“I suspect that what we are witnessing of Levi’s behavior is him getting all broken up.”

“Marisol, do you have any idea where they were trying to take you?”

“None. It’s a good thing the visions woke me. Or else I imagine I’d still be with my abductors.”

“I wonder why the visions didn’t wake Otra.”

=/=



Of course they had, but by the time that had happened, Otra was in no position to try to go anywhere.

As for Marisol, all of the talk of visions and abduction was another in a long, convoluted string of lies.

In her cell, Otra awoke. The chavecoi felt slightly perkier. She knew that her unconscious body had been brought out into light, although it was probably briefly. And there was something that she had not seen before, and she held it in her heart as hope. When she had been returned to her cell, the hatch had not been absolutely, perfectly refastened.

There was a tiny, almost millimeter-wide shaft of light.

=/=



“Yes, Boss?” Rick said as he walked into Carmen’s office.

“Oh, I do so love when you call me that,” she joked. “Richard,” she turned serious, “exactly which bit of the Italian trip are you planning on returning to?”

“The, uh, we’ll return to the day when we ate at the café where Libertini worked. I figure that’s, somehow, the vector for Ebola.”

“Have you told anyone this yet?”

“Sheilagh and Marisol and I were talking and it came up.”

“Huh. Do me a favor.”

“Depends what it is,” he said.

“Very funny, smart aleck. Go earlier. But don’t tell anyone you’re doing that, not even your traveling companion.”

“Oh?”

“I want very badly to trust my people - all of them. But I’m afraid the list of those I trust is getting shorter.”

“Am I on that list?”

“You are.”

“Is Sheilagh? Is Marisol?”

“Let’s just say for now and leave it like that, all right? With Otra gone, we won’t be able to quickly tell if you’re fully successful. But if you go earlier, and without the possibility of anyone’s interference, then at least I will know that your chances will be considerably better.”

“Um, okay.”

“Let’s make this work. I want these changes cleared away so that we can start looking for, well, for clues.”

“Clues? Isn’t Section 31 looking for Otra?”

“They are. But, well, there’s a lot I can’t say. Prick up your ears, all right?”

“What am I looking for?”

“I wish I knew.”

=/=



Levi was supposed to be working on Fluxy, but instead he was clicking around on his PADD, often stopping to silently think. Deirdre spotted that. “Whatcha doin’?” she asked.

“Uh, nothing,” he said, and quickly slid his thumb over the PADD’s little screen, thereby hiding the file he was really studying and replacing it with one called Dark Matter Drive.

=/=



The Wells took off as planned. Marisol stood at the docking bay and waved, seeing them off and then watching the docking bay reseal itself.

Apart from prying eyes, she engaged her Communicator. “They’re going back, to try to undo things. I don’t think they’re going back quite far enough.”

“Hard to say,” Replied the leader of the Perfectionists. “Not dispatching Daniels was a major blunder on your part.”

“How was I to know he wouldn’t ingest the gnocchi? I can’t exactly watch every move he makes, you know.”

“I know.”

“Plus, you need me. So I’ll thank you not to think of me like you did Parker,” she said.

“Ah. Well, Parker did not have your - talents, or your placement. We still have Otra, though, and that remains a major coup for us. Perhaps we can suffer Daniels to live for a while longer.”

“So long as he stays where he is and doesn’t make a move. I’ve got enough on my plate dealing with the neurotic part-Klingon,” she complained. “Is Otra talking?”

“Only a little, but I think it’s enough. If there are any new visions, we will tell you immediately. You’ll either hear this way or via an inside operative.”

“I’m counting on that. This has got to look good.”

“What about Bernstein?” the leader asked.

“She seems unsettled and dissatisfied,” Marisol reported.

“Good, good,” Replied the leader. “Keep the pressure up.”

Unseen and unheard, a nearby door slid open, and an engineer stepped into the docking bay. The engineer’s purpose was to take a dark matter reading in the docking bay, and compare it to the fuel tank for the Flux Capacitor, which seemed to have sprung a bit of a leak.

The engineer was within earshot when Marisol said, “She’ll go first, most likely. Then the music guy will cave. Then, possibly, the Quartermaster will be receptive. I’ll keep doing what I have been. Castillo out.”

=/=



The tiny shaft of light did not permit Otra to actually see much of anything, but at least it was something to relieve the otherwise unrelenting darkness of her cell. The chavecoi kept jostling each other to try to get closer to the light, and she kept quietly batting them back. They needed the light, but she knew that too much movement would arouse suspicion and then she’d be, most likely, knocked out again and the hatch fastened as tightly as it had been before.

Holding her breath, and holding the chavecoi back with both hands, she squinted and peered through the opening. She could not truly focus - a paradox, considering how clear her visions of alternate timelines were - but she could see a little, tiny bit.

There were red shapes, moving, some small and some large, outside her cell.

=/=



Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know much about the French I took


- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

Chapter 19 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Bobby Rydell - Volare

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be


- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

=/=



The Wells flew along, circling Dawitan as the years fell away.

“Do you think the Witannen want Otra back?” Sheilagh said, breaking an uncomfortable silence. “I mean maybe that’s why they took her.”

“They, uh, they probably wouldn’t have also grabbed Marisol then,” Rick pointed out.

“I dunno. I mean, the other species’ units at the Temporal Integrity Commission don’t seem to be getting targeted. Just how many human-Witannen crosses are there, anyway?”

“I’m sure I don’t know, but I’d say less than a hundred, if I had to guess.”

“Hmm. Maybe they just wanted to be able to get their insights into temporal changes, and leave us dead in the water, in that area.”

“Now you’re talkin’, assuming Marisol can see the alternatives at all.”

“You had mentioned your skepticism before,” she said, “Some special reason you feel that way?”

“Well, for one thing, Otra tends to be more specific. She usually doesn’t talk about years, more about visions. Before I went to 1959, she saw the nuke run on Saigon. And she saw an old man wearing glasses - we later figured out, that was Buddy Holly - singing at some big awards show. With Marisol, it’s, I dunno, it’s days and dates, she says there’s a change in 2912,” they had just passed that year, and the digits flashed on the Wells’s instrument panel before decreasing to 2911, “or in the 2900s, and sometimes she has a general place, but, I dunno, that just seems to be it.”

“Well, I don’t think Marisol’s got any Witannen in her.”

“Probably not - just a look at her can tell anybody that.”

“True. So maybe she has the gift but it’s just manifested differently.”

=/=



Marisol stepped out of the docking bay and into the hallway. Her orders were, in some ways, changing. Killing Rick and Sheilagh - that order was on the back burner. But other aspects hadn’t changed. Turning Sheilagh, and then HD and possibly also Crystal and others to the Perfectionists’ way of thinking - that bit of the job was still very much in play.

=/=



“So we’ll go to that café or maybe not to it this time, or find the Ebola, or what?” Sheilagh asked. “What’s the plan?”

“Actually, we’re going earlier.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Does it matter so much?” he asked. “We do temporal integration and you’ll still remember the earlier parts of the trip.”

“I guess that’s right. It’s a shame, yanno. We save two people from the Ebola virus and millions of others die later, of HIV.”

“But there are also a few million who starve because the Earth is pretty overpopulated in the early 2100s.”

“Right. But I was reading about this disease,” she said, “There was such a stigma attached to it for quite a while. People put a value judgment on the victims, depending on how they’d contracted it.”

“Really?”

“Yep. If you got it through a blood transfusion, or some sort of medical snafu, you were something of a sainted martyr. Ryan White, Kimberly Bergalis and Arthur Ashe kinda fit into that category. If you got it through intravenous drug use, you were vilified, but not as much as anyone who got it through heterosexual sex, like this basketball player named Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. And God forbid if you got it through gay sex, like this singer HD knows about, Freddie Mercury. The prejudice was horrific.”

“Another singer,” Rick said.

“Yes. And we’ve got the power to save them all, or at least to assure that things don’t go back to what they were before.”

“Sheilagh, we’ve been over this before. We are here to restore timelines, not cherry-pick happy outcomes for people.”

“I know. But don’t you ever, just sometimes, wish that something good could just stick? You do some sort of an inadvertent good deed, and you just let it go?”

He sat there in silence for a few seconds. “I’m not made of stone,” he finally said, as the instrument panel showed they were at 2833.

“Where does the line get drawn for you?”

“I -”

“Where?” she asked. “It seems to me that there just might be some, some special place where, for you, it feels somehow, I dunno, justified, like it’s okay for time to be bent.”

“Bent?”

Bent.”

=/=



Much of the remainder of the department assembled in the cafeteria. Being at the Temporal Integrity Commission overnight was unsettling to some of them. “I miss Bruce,” Deirdre said.

“Your mother and I here,” Kevin joked, indicating Crystal, “wanna know about this here fella you’ve been keepin’ company with.”

“He’s a dog trainer,” Deirdre said, “Although if the timeline isn’t fully restored, I guess he’ll be a sideline reporter.”

“Huh. I wonder if he can help me with my Jack Russell terrier,” Crystal said, “Petey’s decided he likes to chew my shoes.”

At a nearby table, Boris quietly said to Marisol, “Thank you for stopping by. Sorry it’s such a narrow bunk,” he grabbed her knee under the table.

HD and Tom sat at yet another table. “I wish it was all fixed already,” Tom said, “I’ve got something I wanna do.”

“And what would that be?”

“Not your business, Avery.”

“The date with the honey,” HD said, “am I right? You, uh, you probably shouldn’t make the move until the timeline’s back all the way.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Well, she could, yanno, forget she’d said yes and all. That’s gotta stink.”

“I guess it would,” he hadn’t quite thought of that. He had asked Eleanor out while things were still unsettled. Maybe he’d have to screw up his courage again.

Levi walked in, looking a little lost - more lost than usual. He got some orange juice from the replicator and walked over to where Boris and Marisol were sitting. Completely uninvited, he sat down at one of the empty chairs at that table.

“Levi, Doctor Castillo and I are discussing Polly Porter’s medical procedures,” Boris said, glaring at Levi a bit with the very Klingon part of his stare.

Levi stared back, but at Marisol, not Boris.

“You should try the cranberry-walnut muffins,” she said, and then turned away from him. He continued sitting there, staring.

“Doctor Castillo, you and I need to, to perform lab work,” Boris got up.

Kevin noticed. “Levi, come sit over here with us. We’re givin’ Deirdre the third degree.”

“Boris is a bunch Klingon. Would he whack Levi?” HD asked Tom.

“I don’t know,” Tom said, “Levi, ya’ll can sit over here.”

“Take a picture with your PADD. It’ll last longer,” Marisol said to him.

“Good idea,” Levi said, and did just that.

Kevin got up and put his hand on Levi’s shoulder. “Come along, son. Not everybody’s like Otra, lettin’ you stare like that.”

Hearing Otra’s name must have done something to unstick Levi’s one-track mind, and he allowed Kevin to lead him over to the other table. They sat down.

“What was that all about?” Crystal asked as soon as Marisol and Boris had departed.

=/=



“Where’s your line drawn?” Rick asked.

“At good things, I suppose. It kills me to not be trying to help make the world a better place,” Sheilagh admitted.

“I do understand that impulse.”

“So I’ve told you, and you?”

“Don’t ask me.”

“I am asking,” she insisted.

“This conversation is over,” The instrument panel read 2696.

“It’s not over until I say it is.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said, “I won’t tell you.”

“What I wanna know, Rick, is why my conditions for bending time, why they’re some grand mistake. But yours are, somehow okay - whatever they are. Why is that? Can you at least answer me that? What makes it okay for you to bend time, and not me? And not that other side, the Manifesto writers, either? They eliminated a pandemic from history, completely wiped it. It’s like it never existed. And while I will be the first to admit that there were some not so nice side effects, I’m willing to bet that the positives far outweighed the negatives. Yet their bending is wrong, while yours is right. Why is that?”

=/=



“Are you all right, my love?” Boris was solicitous once he and Marisol were in the lab and the door was shut. He put his hand under her skirt.

“I don’t like him.”

“With Otra gone, he has no one to obsess over.”

“Well, I’d rather not become his new target.”

“True, besides,” he kissed her throat, “what would you do with yourself, with the both of us obsessing over you?”

=/=



Two silver Calafan women came over to where most of the department was sitting. “We saw,” said the one with the hair. “Is he always like that?”

“Better ask him,” Deirdre said. Levi was sitting next to her, oblivious, clicking away on his PADD.

“I see. Fella,” said the bald Calafan woman, her Lafa V accent making her sound Irish, “are ya sure that glarin’ and starin’ at folks is such a good idea?”

“Uh, what?”

“That may be your answer right there,” Kevin said.

“We heard you lost Otra,” The Calafan with the hair said. Her voice, lower, almost sounded whiskey-soaked. She had the same accent as the other one.

“We miss her,” Deirdre said.

“Such a pleasant lady,” said the bald one. “Yilta and I had tea with her sometimes.”

“And water,” Added Yilta. “At least the chavecoi drank the water. It must be a little strange to have the little hitchhikers on one’s body. I suppose the Trill can relate though, eh? Are ya Gorn, if I may ask?” she turned to Kevin.

“Partly.”

“The scales, the textures, the patterns, they’re so very interesting,” said Yilta. She flicked her finger at him, twice. He looked down.

“Deirdre, Levi, we gotta go work on Fluxy,” Kevin finally said, “Sorry, but engines await.”

After they’d left, HD turned to Tom,” Didja see that?”

“See what?”

“She totally came onto him. And he couldn’t wait to get outta there!”

“I expect that kind of attention scared him a bit. It’s a pity; they seem like nice girls ‘n’ all.”

=/=



Don't know much about geography
Don't know much trigonometry
Don't know much about algebra
Don't know what a slide rule is for


- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

Chapter 20 by jespah
Author's Notes:

The Ventures - Walk, Don't Run

But I do know that one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be


- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

=/=



“Your line?” Sheilagh persisted. “Where is it drawn?”

He sat, quietly, looking out the window. After a while, he glanced at the instrument panel - 2156. That year, it was right in front of him.

“Please,” he finally said softly.

That finally registered with her. “It’s - you told me not to fall in love, that we’re not allowed to fall in love. So, one of your honeys, is that where the line was drawn?”

Rick just stared, instruments flipping back to 2073 and earlier. “We need to break orbit soon.”

“Yeah. I, uh, I won’t ask anymore. At least, not today. I, I can’t promise I will never, ever ask again, though. And I suggest you at least think about it, Rick.”

“Understood. Uh, you’ll need to prepare for temporal integration.”

“Right. It was, it was about love,” she drew her own conclusion, and touched his arm lightly, a gesture of sympathy if not understanding.

Well, not exactly, or, at least, it wasn’t the kind of love she was thinking of. It certainly wasn’t love for the Empress Hoshi, a woman who, if she had been loved at all during her long life, had most likely only been loved by Captain Maximilian Forrest of the ISS NX-01.

No. It was Rick’s love all right, but it was for his and Hoshi’s son, Jun.

Rick knew that, even under the best of circumstances, he could never raise Jun. He would never discipline the kid, teach him how to fly a shuttle, play catch, tell him the facts of life or build a fort with him out of living room couch cushions.

The only thing he could do for his one and only child, who was innocent, at least when it came to the whole temporal blunder, the pariotric love affair with the Empress Hoshi, was to assure that the child could live at all.

Jun, of course, did not know about the sacrifices his father had made. He knew only what his mother had told him, that Ritchie Daniels had fixed the ISS Defiant, they had had a grand love affair, he had left soon afterwards, and she had learned later that he’d been killed on May twelfth of 2157 when his ship had crashed on the surface of a planet called Daranaea.

Otherwise, Jun had been raised by his half-brother Kira’s father, Aidan MacKenzie, and the royal children’s teacher, a woman named Susan Cheshire. When Hoshi had died, Jun and Kira had ruled the Empire with tandem iron fists, with half-brother Arashi collecting the onerous taxes and controlling the purse strings and little half-brother Izo in charge of the secret police.

After he and Kira failed to sire heirs, Jun had hit upon the idea of finding their two missing siblings, locating the twins on Lafa II. Takara, the only parent of the six of them, was already a grandmother by then, so there was an heir, who became the Emperor Charles I, upon Jun’s death in 2258. Kira had already died, in 2255.

Rick couldn’t tell Sheilagh any of that. It was all too much, to explain any of it. But that was, most assuredly, exactly where the line was drawn - not for the love of a woman, but for the love of a child.

=/=



Red shapes, red shapes, what did they mean? Otra was sure she didn’t know, but it was at least something that she knew. Nothing smelled in any strong manner, so she couldn’t even use that as any sort of an indicator of where she was, or of who might have a hold of her.

She went over the clues in her mind. There was the Vulcan plomeek broth, laced with far too much Kreetassan spice. There were the red shapes. There was the Southern local expression used by one of her captors. There was the fact that they knew about at least a few of the temporal changes, so they potentially had access to some sort of major, sophisticated computers. There was Parker, with his GIUS tattoo and his St. Catherine’s tee shirt and his clarinet playing. And, finally, there was the fact that someone in the captors’ organization knew enough, medically, to be able to catheter the heck out of her - a doctor, perhaps, although that work could have been performed by a nurse.

She felt a tug as the gravitation shifted ever so slightly. They were - it was highly likely - dropping out of Warp. She sat down, and pretended to be knocked out.

=/=



He changed his mind while he was sitting there, watching the years fall away. “We, uh, we don’t need to go to the surface at all.”

“I thought we were doing temporal integration,” Sheilagh said.

“We are. But from the very beginning. We, uh, this needs to happen anyway, so let’s just get it over with.”

“You mean, we’ll integrate the two ships?”

“Yes. And that will temporally integrate you and me as well,” Rick said.

=/=



Temporal integration was the act of putting together, and more successfully than Humpty Dumpty’s king’s horses and men, more than one version of a person or an item. The multiple versions would arise because of time travel and then going back to the same place and time for a do-over. This was precisely what had happened in 1960 Rome.

It was a form of version control, for otherwise you’d end up with two Carmens, or two Borises, or, God forbid, two Levis. All that the two - or more - versions of a person had to do was to touch. Then they would come together, appearing like the youngest version but with the knowledge of the eldest of the versions.

The same could and did happen with time ships. Their means of temporal integration, however, was considerably more unnerving. The two versions would have to collide, although that would, fortunately, not result in any sort of a fireworks display. Still, if you were on board during temporal integration, it could be damned unsettling.

If Rick and Sheilagh had not returned to 1960 Rome, and if a different ship had been taken - say, if Tom and HD had been elected to correct the problem, and had flown there in the Jack Finney - there would be no need whatsoever for temporal integration.

No one ever reported that it hurt. Just, that it was odd.

=/=



“What do we need to do to prepare?” Sheilagh asked.

“Not much. I know our earlier selves are going around the moon clockwise.”

“You’re certain of that?”

“I always do it that way - for this very purpose.”

“Oh, good thinking, I suppose,” she said.

“We’ll go counterclockwise of course. It’ll only take a few seconds.”

“I just don’t want to watch.”

“Fair enough.”

=/=



Below, Marisol was arriving - but for her, it was the one and only time. She worked to set up her alien biosign detector, oblivious to what was going on above.

=/=



“Okay, get ready,” Rick said.

Sheilagh gritted her teeth and shut her eyes.

The proximity alarms tripped, and the air was filled with wailing sounds. But then, nothing, no sounds, as the ships merged and transformed, from the later version to the earlier one, and then the people transformed, from older to younger, but retained any later information they had gotten.

“You okay?” he asked, once it was all over.

“Huh? I guess so. Hey, you’ve got on your older clothes.”

“Yeah, I do. Ready to go back?”

=/=



And on the 1960 Earth, Marisol raised her alien biosign detector and found nothing - no partial Calafan biosigns whatsoever. Disappointed, that version waited for the recall back to 3109.

Angela Libertini happily made sauce and gnocchi, and didn’t cut her finger and there was no glass in the food. She and her husband made a good living at their café and awaited more customers - the tourists were coming in droves.

Gene and Marion Donnelly took their three kids, Christopher, Leslie and Gail, to Italy and had a wonderful time, as Gene regaled them all with stories of Anzio and the kids got to climb around Pompeii and the Colosseum. Christopher, in particular, enjoyed himself so much he figured he’d become an archaeologist when he grew up. Healthy and strong, he did grow up, as would be expected.

In 1974, millions of head of cattle lived, even though there was a brief outbreak of Mad Cow, for the public health protocols were not yet in place.

In 1981, HIV was recognized in the United States but the blood supply was not adequately protected. Squeamish health officials did not distribute condoms or clean needles and the infections spread until it became a global pandemic and such luminaries as Freddie Mercury, Brad Davis, Elizabeth Glaser, Rock Hudson and Halston succumbed, and people who went in for no more than a simple medical procedure, like Arthur Ashe and Kimberly Bergalis and Ryan White - those people died, too.

Free love did not experience resurgence in 2026. The peasants of Krios Prime did not revolt in 2152, and their First Monarch, Kaitaama, did not lose her head in 2154. There were no bread riots in 2412.

The Wells sped past all of that, its mission completed.

=/=



But I'm trying to be
So maybe by being an "A" student baby
I can win your love for me


- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

Chapter 21 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Paul Anka - Puppy Love

Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know much about the French I took


- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

=/=



In her cell, Otra felt and saw the changes. There were men in hospital beds, wasting away, worried doctors and nurses rushing by, afraid to touch or comfort them, unable to cure them. Krios Prime’s First Monarch - in 2642 - signing the Federation charter, with smiles all around. The 2412 bread riots she had seen were replaced with a scene of a large outdoor concert where members of a quintet played guitars or drums and a beautiful Xyrillian singer opened her mouth to begin.

Otra fully expected someone to speak with her via the sound system in the cell, but that didn’t happen. Instead, there were moving shadows. She got up, quietly, and again held back the waving chavecoi. There were red shapes, then grey ones, then more grey ones.

She was particularly surprised to hear a voice outside the cell. “Make sure they don’t take the big one,” was all that she heard. The voice belonged to a man.

The big one - whoever it was had to be referring to a big box - and it was most likely her little prison. She concluded that the grey shapes around her weren’t moving - probably, they were smaller boxes. Cargo was about to be offloaded for some reason or another. Perhaps she was on a cargo ship?

She internally debated whether to call out. Perhaps whoever was stacking the boxes wasn’t in on her abduction. Maybe they’d be able to help her. She listened a little while longer, and heard the sounds of feet leaving the area. The light flickered and then went out. She cried out for help but the gas came again, and she was again knocked out.

=/=



The reintegrated Wells, with its two newly reintegrated passengers, sped past 2001.

“Do you think we put it all back?” Sheilagh asked.

“Probably,” Rick said, “Unless someone saw the collision, but that’s impossible, given the state of 1960’s technology.”

“Do you think Otra is back?”

“I - no. I wish she was. But I doubt that we just fixed that.”

“Do you think they’ll hurt her?”

“I, I don’t know,” he said tentatively. “I want to believe that they won’t, but we know what they did to Parker, and what we both figure they tried to do to us.”

“I never signed on for this.”

“I, well, I don’t suppose I did, either. Yet here we are, Sheilagh. I don’t think that this battle is over, not by a long shot.”

“I almost wish,” she said, “that I was like Deirdre’s boyfriend,” he looked at her oddly, so she hastened to add, “I’m not looking to go out with Deirdre. It’s just; It’s the not knowing part. Having it all change around me, and me not realize it at all.”

“That’s, uh, that’s kinda the problem if you date someone outside the Temporal Integrity Commission. One day, they may love you. Next day, they’ve never heard of you.”

Tina April - things had been a lot like that with her. Plus there was the secrecy thing. It was, ultimately, what had killed that relationship. She had been asking too many questions, and Rick was finally feeling bad about lying to her or evading her inquiries. She had deserved a full-time boyfriend with full-time truth, not the half measures he had provided her. It had been all he could provide to Tina, and so he had performed what Eleanor had said was his most mature act, ever - he had ended it with Tina.

“I said, Earth to Richard! What happens if you hook up with, uh, someone from inside the Temporal Integrity Commission?”

Her question sat in the air. He glanced at the instrument panel. 2061. Plenty of time. He threw the ship into auto, and then stood up. “Uh, this does.”

She stood up, too, and it was like they were standing together on the dance floor in Rome, except there was no music and she was in a top and slacks, not the killer dress. Yet there was also no unknown assassin to interrupt anything.

He went as far as he had then, before the first shot had rung out and hit the back of his neck. He touched the side of her cheek and smiled at her. As before, she smiled back at him, and glanced down for a split second, and then looked him straight in the eye.

He half-expected a gunshot, but of course there was none. He brought his face close to hers and touched her mouth with his.

=/=



“I think we got full restoration,” Kevin said, “Whaddaya see, Marisol?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes, there are far fewer people. Pity about that awful disease. Then again, I suppose that keeps doctors such as myself in business. Need me for anything else?”

“I guess not,” he said, “Glad you’re back.”

“Thank you. Doctor Yarin and I will be finalizing our plans for Polly Porter’s surgery. Ciao.”

=/=



The kiss started off light and close-mouthed, not exactly a brother and a sister or anything like that, more like a pair of school kids. But neither of them were anywhere near that young - they had both seen forty or more summers.

Then their mouths opened, and they weren’t kissing like children anymore.

She broke away first. “I know we have to work together.”

“Yeah.”

“How badly will this interfere with that?”

“I can’t,” he smiled, “I can’t predict the future.”

She laughed a little at that. “Is this a really big mistake?”

“Everything’s a mistake. Everything has imperfections. Unless you wanna rewind time a few times, try it over and over and over again until somehow it’s perfect.”

“It, it doesn’t have to be perfect,” she said.

“You sure?”

“I am. I, I don’t want to be hurt. And I don’t think you’ll try to hurt me deliberately.”

“I won’t.”

“But I also know that I may very well be hurt just the same, or you will. But through it all, if I just cocooned myself and stayed insulated from hurt, things like this wouldn’t happen,” she kissed him.

“They wouldn’t. And, uh, this feels like a good thing.”

“It does,” she said, and they kissed again.

“Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

=/=



But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be


- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

Chapter 22 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Sam Cooke - Wonderful World

La ta ta ta ta ta ta
(History)
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
(Biology)
La ta ta ta ta ta ta
(Science book)
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
(French I took)


- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

=/=



“I’d like to speak with Eleanor Daniels, on Lafa II,” Tom drawled.

“Speaking.”

“Are we still on for tomorrow?”

“I beg your pardon?” she asked. “Who is this?”

It had been a mistake to ask her out before the timeline had been completely reset. Feeling like a fool, Tom smacked himself in the forehead as he broke the connection.

=/=



She led him to the bedroom. “Yanno, your bed is ridiculous.”

“Yeah, it is,” Rick admitted. “Still, it’s comfortable.”

“Just, really, you could use regular old cotton sheets and be perfectly happy. Right now, it just looks cheesy.”

“Well, that’s kind of the idea.”

“Huh?”

“Look at me,” he said.

She did so, and kissed him. “And?”

“And I am not exactly the best-looking guy out there, or even the best-looking guy in the department. I’d say Tom’s got that title all sewn up.”

“Probably. So? I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Yes,” he kissed her neck. “And while that is fantastic I, uh, the bed is the way it is because, uh, if you laugh at the bed, maybe you won’t laugh at anything else.”

“Laugh? Uh, why would I laugh?” Sheilagh asked.

“You would maybe laugh because things aren’t perfectly ideal.”

“It’s never perfectly ideal. Yet I am still here.”

He stared at her for a second. He was normally supremely confident - in fact, overly so. Tina had found that to be charming, Empress Hoshi had found it to be sexy, and Lucretia Crossman and Betty Tyler had found it to be masterful. Even Phillipa Green and the others had commented on it at least. Why was he suddenly tongue-tied and overly nervous, terrified of screwing up? What the hell had gotten into him?

“I’m really glad you’re here,” he finally got out.

“Me, too,” she said, “We, uh, our imperfections, I think they make us interesting. In a way, I think they make us better.”

=/=



Levi looked over the file he had in front of him. It was, simply, entitled Otra.

In it, he had everything he could think of about her - what she’d been wearing when she was abducted, the last words she’d said to him that day - everything. He was supposed to be helping to get the Flux Capacitor up to speed for Sheilagh or working on decrypting the Manifesto file. But all of that was forgotten as his mind was now firmly ensconced in a new, deep track - to find Otra.

=/=



They just stood in front of the bed, kissing. Sheilagh finally ended up moving Rick’s hands. “It’s, it’s okay. I want you to touch me.”

That seemed to snap him out of it and he reached underneath and behind to unfasten her bra. She, in turn, unbuttoned his shirt and pulled at the sleeves to get it off him. She then worked on his pants as he worked on her slacks. Finally, they were both naked, except for her panties and his briefs, and the two items of jewelry he always wore and never took off, on the chain around his neck.

“I guess you like me,” she said, indicating his arousal.

“You know I do.”

“And I like you.”

She lay back on the bed and let him remove her panties. Smiling up at him, she said, “You don’t really need these,” as she took off his briefs.

He got into bed next to her and kissed her arm, then worked up to her neck and her face. She took his face in her hands and kissed him. “See how imperfect I am?” she said.

“No,” he replied. The best one - well, it was entirely possible. Perhaps with a qualifier - the best one so far - yeah, that was the truth.

=/=



Kevin sat in the cafeteria, alone, rolling the most recent events over in his mind.

“I said, is this seat taken?” It was an Irish accent, seemingly whiskey-soaked - Yilta, the Calafan with the hair.

“Oh, uh, no.”

“She’ll turn up,” Yilta said.

“Hmm?”

“Otra. She’ll turn up eventually.”

“Yeah, I suppose so,” he said.

“Something else bothering you?”

“I, uh, why do you do that?” he imitated her finger-flicking gesture.

“Haven’t ya worked with Calafans long enough to know what we mean by it?”

“I guess I have. But, uh, why do you do it to me?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” she asked.

“Don’t bother.”

“Oh. Are ya spoken for, for both your nights and your days, then?”

He thought for a moment. Neither. “I’m just, I’m not, I’m not available.”

“Just to me, or are ya not available to anyone?”

“To, uh, to anyone,” he fought to not turn defensive.

“I see. Was it sudden?”

“Was what sudden?” he asked.

“Your loss,” she said, “For that is the source of your unavailability, and your discomfort, too, I suspect. For I mean ya no harm, yet you’ve got your shields up a hundred percent.”

“You don’t know anything about it,” he turned, trying not to get angry or weepy.

“I will tell ya what I do know,” she said, accent even more Irish-sounding, as if that were possible. “About six years ago, I had a baby girl. I got permission - we get permission for names since we don’t have surnames - to name her Brinka. It means Stormy.”

She paused for a second. “And she was tiny and she didn’t survive the week. My husband, Darywev, he blamed me for her death. And I blamed myself, too. I could have done something more, I thought. And you know, that kind of thinking, it’s not productive and it’s not true, but it doesn’t matter, for I thought it, just the same.”

She looked at him, trying to determine whether what she was saying was registering at all. “So I blamed myself. And Darywev did as well. He came to feel that it was not possible to stay with me, so he left, less than a year after, after Brinka went to join our, our ancestors. It has taken me years to separate the two losses out in my mind, and to understand that I could not have done anything for Brinka. She was, you see, she was born without calloo - you know the markings on our arms and legs? Purebred Calafans cannot survive without it. It was a fatal genetic flaw and no one’s fault. It simply happened.”

She sighed. “As for Darywev, I have come to realize that he needed to blame someone. And the only thing I am guilty of there is letting him place blame on me.”

“He sounds like a real SOB.”

“It was his grief talking. It consumed him until he did the only thing that he felt he could do - kill our marriage. You need not take up with me, you know,” she said, “All I suggest to you is, don’t let your grief kill off the rest o’ your life.”

She got up and left, leaving him to wonder just what she meant by that.

=/=



She was soft and curvy and smelled faintly of coconut body wash. He spent a lot of time kissing her breasts - Betty and Hoshi had been woefully inadequate in that area - and then worked downwards. Sheilagh touched his arousal a bit, but he mostly kept out of her grasp in order to stay focused on what he was doing.

When she’d climaxed, he came back to her and kissed her, his hand planted on the side of her hip. He recalled doing that earlier, when she’d been passed out. He had only looked at her and touched her there that time, for he was too much of a gentleman to take advantage of her inebriation. But he had fantasized about doing this very thing. And now he was about to.

“Sure you want to?” he asked. It was mainly a rhetorical question; her kisses made the answer obvious.

They merged and he busied himself with kissing her neck. Moving together, he could feel her panting, hearing her breathe a little and tasting a little salt on the back of her neck.

She held his hips as they moved, pushing him to the side to get on top. She leaned back - out of the way of kissing range for the moment - as he held her breasts and looked up at her face.

She smiled at him and another climax rocked her. This time he rolled her back onto her back and they continued to move together until, finally, he, too, climaxed.

=/=



Sitting in his office wasn’t doing Tom any good. Getting up didn’t help, either. Carmen had already told them all that they could, apparently, leave. The timeline seemed secure.

It wasn’t much like when he’d been assigned to the Breen home world. There was so little discipline! There were few rules. There was no routine. All of the things, all of the trappings of sameness that he needed to keep him happy, all of the stability - it seemed gone, irretrievably missing.

His door chimed. “Uh, yeah?”

“You got plans?”

“Avery, uh, don’t you?”

“Not really,” The younger man admitted. “Deirdre and Crystal are gone, I can’t find Marisol and Boris, Kevin’s fit to be tied about something and you know about Sheilagh and Rick, where they are. And, and Otra.”

“You left out Carmen and Levi.”

“I think the reason for that should be kinda obvious,” HD said.

“No clubs,” Tom said.

“Fair enough.”

“Don’t you have a place to go?” Tom asked.

“I moved outta the ‘rents’ house. I, this is the only place I got.”

“Me, too, I guess.”

“Did the honey say no?” HD asked.

“Not your concern.”

“I know. Just askin’. I’m, uh, I’m not in competition for her,” HD said, “I’ll, um, you’re busy. We can do something some other time. G’night,” he left before Tom could say anything, but it was just as well. Tom sat in his office, alone, thinking about missed opportunities.

=/=



On the Wells, as it shot past 2914, they lay together, her hair wild on his chest as she put her head down. “I can hear you breathing,” she said.

“Good. I, uh, glad to know the parts are all working.”

“They are definitely working.”

He took her face in his hands. “C’mere a sec,” she moved closer, face to face.

“Do you think we’ll do the next mission together?” she asked, kissing him.

“I dunno, but probably not. You’ll get Fluxy, and start to go out on your own, mostly.”

“So I guess I’ll mostly see you when we’re both in the office.”

“I guess so,” he said.

There was no time for another go-‘round so they got up and put on clothes, not saying anything else, for there was nothing else for them to say.

They sat and awaited 3109.

=/=



But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be


- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

=/=


So concludes the first section, Repairs.

Next: Part IV: Spring Thaw

This story archived at http://www.adastrafanfic.com/viewstory.php?sid=1299