It's getting near dawn,
when lights close their tired eyes.
I'll soon be with you my love,
to give you my dawn surprise.
- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)
It was just the two of them, Sheilagh and Polly, flying off to 1978. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure thing,” Sheilagh said as she piloted the Flux Capacitor.
“What do you think of our coworkers?”
“Why do you ask? Is this some sort of a professional question?”
“No, not really. I just want to know, a bit, about what I’ve gotten myself into.”
“You should have asked that before you signed on,” Sheilagh said, “not after they implanted you with a bunch of secret stuff.”
“You’re probably right. Still, I’m wondering. I am interested in your opinion of, let’s see, Deirdre.”
“Ah, there’s a safe question.” Sheilagh said, “she’s pleasant, I guess she’s good engineer.”
“And that’s a safe answer. Crystal?”
“More enthused about dressing us up than we are.”
“I can agree with that. What about Boris?”
Sheilagh sat and thought for a moment. The instrument panel read 2817. “He’s nice to me,” she finally said, “but the person he spends the most time with is Marisol. I guess that makes sense, seeing as they’re both doctors.”
“That’s one explanation,” Polly said, “and while we’re on the subject, what about Marisol?”
“I don’t know her that well. No one seems to know her, except for Boris. You thinking anything like that?”
“I, I don’t know,” Polly said, choosing her words carefully, “Boris seems to be rather fond of her,” she finally said.
“You’re, um, you’re social friends with him, right?”
“With his wife, really, way more than him. He’s, uh, he doesn’t seem to be home much, at least, so far as I can tell,” she said, mindful of a few things that Darragh Stratton Yarin had told her in confidence.
“I am back,” Milena said, “and Mrs. Klinghofer is still, well, the woman is a pain much of the time, but I don’t wish cancer on her. Or on most people, except for Hitler.”
Pawel looked at her quizzically, but left.
“Tell me what I can do around here,” Rick said, “uh, except for that.”
“What am I supposed to tell you?” she asked, “that you should sweep floors and carry heavy things for me? You seem smarter than that and, even if you are not, well, you most assuredly have marvelous devices; perhaps even, yes, a spaceship. So you can, you can use those things and really provide help. Yet you do not.”
“It’s not so simple.”
“Then tell me where it is complicated,” she said.
“Only if you keep quiet about it,” Rick said, “you cannot have it both ways.”
Finally, the Jack Finney limped on into the docking bay, with its two weary passengers. After they’d disembarked, Tom engaged his Communicator, “Carmen, there’s something wrong with Jack.”
“Terrific,” she said sarcastically, but then opened up a new window on her PADD. “Uh, Calavicci out.” Turning to the PADD, she said, “Dictation mode. Name of file should be, uh, Possibilities.” She thought for a moment and then continued, “Here I will gather my thoughts on all employees of the Human Unit and any other Commission units who may be somehow involved with the, uh, Manifesto movement. The Flux Capacitor was damaged by a possibly deliberately cut dark matter intake line. I currently suspect most of the engineers, with the exception being Kevin O’Connor.”
She paused, then continued, “Fluxy’s passengers were and are Sheilagh Bernstein and Polly Porter. It remains to be seen whether this action clears them, there is reportedly something wrong with the Jack Finney. That ship’s passengers were Thomas Grant and HD Avery. Again, I cannot be certain whether this act absolves either of them. If the damage to the two ships matches, then my chief suspects will be engineers Levi Cavendish and Von, who has been helping us out. This does not necessarily clear engineer Deirdre Katzman. The final ship, the HG Wells - its current condition is unknown. If it is damaged, then I will consider these to be deliberate acts of sabotage. The Wells’s passenger is Richard Daniels. As with Kevin O’Connor, I have a higher level of trust in him, and so I feel it is a higher hurdle if it comes down to suspecting him.”
There was a door chime. “Yes?”
“Uh, Carmen, can Kevin look at Jack? It was running very slowly,” Tom said, “the, uh, we were low on dark matter and were close to running out when we got in.”
“Really? That is disturbing,” she engaged her Communicator, “Ah, Kevin, would you mind looking at Jack? Ah, good, thanks. Calavicci out.”
“Also, uh, I don’t know how often anybody says this, but HD was really good today. He, uh, he took a few tries before he got started, but once he did, he did the job well.”
“Why, thank you,” she said, “that kind of feedback is always helpful. Can I, uh, I need to get this dictation done.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” He left.
“Now, where was I? Ah, yes, the remainder of the department is Crystal Sherwood, Boris Yarin, Marisol Castillo, Otra D’Angelo and myself. Vouching for my own reliability is hardly advisable or believable. As for Otra, my hope for her to still be alive is, I fear, fading. If she is still among the living, I cannot say with one hundred percent certainty that she remains fully loyal. My understanding is that Witannen cannot get Stockholm Syndrome, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility, given her half-human heritage.”
She thought for a while before continuing, “This leaves our Quartermaster and the departmental physicians Boris Yarin and Marisol Castillo. I have known Yarin longer but have never known him that well. He is here more than a purportedly happily married man probably should be. But the purpose of this file is not to speculate or engage in idle gossip. As for Marisol, she remains a cypher. Her gift for seeing temporal alternatives is vaguer than Otra’s, and seems less reliable. I have nothing from her regarding the most recent changes, and I’m not quite sure why.”
It wasn’t through lack of trying on Marisol’s part, but calls to the leader of the Perfectionists had gone, so far, unanswered that day. She finally resorted to a dangerous move indeed - to meet with another Perfectionist mole within the Commission.
“I would really prefer to be able to tell people,” Milena admitted, “If I can sell the story, I could buy some new equipment. As you can see, the place is falling apart, and everything is old.”
“I can’t help you there,” he said.
“Right. Try to, eh, to understand my position.”
“Only if you make an effort to understand mine.”
She stood there in thought for a moment, “Do you have oppression where you are, where you are from?”
“Yes, is it even still a word where you come from?”
“It’s still a word,” he said, “but we don’t have, well, I can’t say it’s completely gone. Nothing ill is really, truly, gone. But there’s a lot less of it than I know you’ve probably experienced.”
“Are there Jews?”
“Sure there are. I’m, uh, I’m part that, myself.”
“So we are not wiped out?” she asked.
“Far from it.”
“There’s, uh, there’s a danger of that, but probably not in the way you think.” No sense in telling her a word about the Borg. That wasn’t the kind of assimilation she was thinking of, anyway.
“Where you are, is it utopia?”
He had to smile at that. “Uh, no, not, well, I bet you’d see it as closer than here and now. And I’m sure there are plenty of things that I take for granted. But there’s a lot of imperfection. There are still lonely people. There’s still death. Diseases are different, but they still exist.”
“I, I think that makes me feel a little better,” she said, “that you are wherever you are, and it is not ideal. Feels more real that way. You can, uh, I won’t tell anyone. I’ll keep quiet.”
“And I can trust you why?”
She looked at how, a little annoyed, “I keep plenty of secrets here. I know who has terminated a pregnancy. I know who has used birth control before marriage. I know who has gotten a venereal disease while they were married - surefire evidence of an affair. I know who has cancer - most of them are not as forthcoming as Mrs. Klinghofer. I know who cannot have a child, and who has been touched inappropriately and who has a husband who will not touch her at all, because he has decided he would rather touch men. I know the teenagers who have lost their virginity and the older ones who are now frigid. Their secrets are safe with me. Shall I go on?”
“Uh, no, that’s all right. You can understand why I would doubt you, though, right?”
“I suppose so.” She sat down abruptly on the bed.
“I am, I am probably a lot of the things that you are probably thinking.”
“Let’s go outside; it’s oppressive in here,” she said suddenly, thinking of something, “we can walk around the old graveyard. There are trees and it will be cooler. And there will be no cars to hit you. You, uh, you can tell me there.”
“Is it private?”
“Just you and me and the ghosts.”
“What do you think of Levi?” asked Polly.
“Hmm, he’s odd. He has major issues. And I know that people are annoyed by him,” Sheilagh said, “it doesn’t always seem like he’s fairly treated by the others.”
“Do you feel protective of him?”
“Not really; I just want him to get a fair shake.”
“What about HD?”
“He’s infuriating most of the time. But I suppose geniuses are.”
“Finally, I suspect that Quartermaster Crystal Sherwood is playing it straight although I cannot be certain. I’ll add to this file as time permits,” Carmen paused, “End dictation mode.”
“Yeah, there it is,” Kevin said, talking to himself. He contacted Carmen, “Jack and Fluxy have the same problem.”
“Then I bet Richard’s out there, flying blind as well,” she said, “for now, work on Jack and I’ll monitor for any changes. Once you’re done with Jack, let’s consider our options in case we need to use a time portal to get Rick back.”
Milena was right; the cemetery was cooler than inside or just outside of her house. “So, will you tell me?” she asked.
“Okay. You’ll remember our deal, right?” she nodded. “Here goes nothing. You are right. I am … not just some traveler. I am here for a very specific purpose. But I need to perform some technical repairs, and I need raw materials for that, some supplies. That’s, uh, that’s a part of why I want to hang around.”
“I see. Where are you from?”
He smiled. “You won’t believe me.”
“Yes, I will, try me.”
“You know the planets, right? You know Saturn, with the rings? The biggest moon is called Titan. I was born there, in an area called Illinois.”
“Isn’t Illinois in the United States?”
“It still is. This is, you know, one town is named after an older one, or it’s named after a state, or a county. There’s also a New France, for example.”
“I was born in 1928,” she said, “and you?”
I'll be with you darling soon,
I'll be with you when the stars start falling.
- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)