Spring Thaw by jespah
Summary:

What happens when you fall in love with someone Spring Thaw coverwho you can’t have? 


Categories: Expanded Universes, Enterprise, Alternate Universes Characters: Cavendish, Levi, D'Angelo, Otra, Daniels, Reed, Malcolm, Sato, Hoshi
Genre: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Graphic Het
Challenges: None
Series: Times of the HG Wells
Chapters: 22 Completed: Yes Word count: 38341 Read: 51545 Published: 01 Jul 2012 Updated: 22 Jul 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:

Manfred Mann - The Mighty Quinn

Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn
Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn


- Manfred Mann (The Mighty Quinn)

=/=



It was springtime, and a few months had elapsed. It was March of 3110 - the twenty-seventh, to be precise. A year ago, Rick Daniels had started to go out with Tina April. But she was long gone.

As for Sheilagh Bernstein, his colleague at the Temporal Integrity Commission, he saw her on and off but it was casual and, while fun, had no real depth to it, although the sex was mighty good.

There was no equinox where Richard Malcolm Daniels was, for the Temporal Integrity Commission was actually located on a ship, the USS Adrenaline. He and his coworkers were responsible for maintaining, preserving and restoring the original - and thereby correct - timeline.

But there were others, those who didn’t share the Commission’s vision of allowing history to unfold normally and correctly, warts and all. That group - the Perfectionists - had as its aim the correction and improvement of time. They had begun their assault on history by going after the Human Unit although they really wanted to jigger and improve the history of numerous species.

History, fate or time - or perhaps even God - had made things turn out one, certain, way, and that way was often unfair and cruel. The Perfectionists had no qualms whatsoever about switching things around, changing or adding to or subtracting from the original history.

They could do better.

Their arrogance had no bounds, and no ambition was too great. They were unmerciful, even as they dug in for more mercy over history and time. They had already killed in order to support their vision and protect their secrets. The line had, forever, been crossed.

One of their more outrageous acts had been to kidnap a human-Witannen cross named Otra D’Angelo. Otra had a gift for seeing temporal alternatives. Removing her from the Temporal Integrity Commission’s Human Unit had cut to the heart of that team. They missed her, and wanted her back, and not just because of her gift. She was their friend, and they wanted her to be safe.

=/=



Things had been quiet for a while. Section 31 - a governmental agency that was just as secret and shadowy as both the Temporal Integrity Commission and the Perfectionists - was busy looking for Otra. It had been about six months, and the trail had gone cold. The Perfectionists - the name of that movement was unknown to the Temporal Integrity Commission although it was known to Section 31 - had lain low.

They had been biding their time, working to get memories to fade and chemical and radiation signatures to slip away like just so many golden summer nights.

It was almost time to, again, act.

=/=



Rick was beginning to have a bit of a dilemma on his hands. He didn’t love Sheilagh - he’d never loved any of his women - but she was good company, both in and out of his or her bunk. But she was … there.

That made her available but it also was causing, perhaps, his biggest problem - how could he end it without completely poisoning the entire working environment?

This was not the first time he had bedded a coworker. It had been 3104, and he and his boss, Carmen Calavicci, had had a little too much tequila at a Cinco de Mayo party. One thing had led to another and …

… and at least Carmen had the good sense to nix things the following day.

When it came to Sheilagh, though, she was not so easily scared off. They kept their relationship - such a strange word for two people who, truth be told, were no more than bed buddies, really - quiet. The only person who’d inferred anything was going on was their coworker, HD Avery, but Sheilagh was able to keep him in line. He was less than half her age and bratty, but with her he was generally compliant.

The others, though, were more or less utterly oblivious. Deirdre Katzman, one of the engineers, was in love and blind to pretty much anyone and anything that wasn’t Bruce Ishikawa. As for the other two department engineers, Kevin O’Connor remained lost in his grief over losing his wife, Josie - although it had been over a year - and Levi Cavendish was so caught up in his adult ADHD and Asperger’s - not to mention that he missed Otra terribly -that he was barely aware of anything beyond his own nose.

Departmental doctors Boris Yarin and Marisol Castillo were far too wrapped up in their own affair to notice. He was particularly paranoid about being caught, seeing as he was married and was a mix of human, Klingon and Xindi sloth. The combination made him aggressive, suspicious and more than a little nutty at times.

The other time traveler, Thomas Grant, was not one for gossiping, so he didn’t pick up on the clues. And the last member of the team, Quartermaster Crystal Sherwood, was far too busy trying to decrypt a secret message.

That message was a Manifesto. The department didn’t know that its authors called themselves the Perfectionists. All they knew was that there was some other side, a side that wanted to bend time to its will.

They had been given the Manifesto file when one of the Perfectionists’ operatives had stolen a time ship called the Audrey Niffenegger. The Audrey was an older ship, designed by Levi to run on chronitons. The Perfectionists’ agent had taken the Audrey to Clear Lake, Iowa on February third of 1959, and kept Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson - the Big Bopper - from getting on a private plane and thereby dying that day.

Was it the day the music died? Not after that agent was through with it, for she had turned it into the day the music lived.

Rick had gone in, and fixed that and those three musicians, again, met their deaths in a senseless plane crash. From Rick’s perspective, that had been August of 3109. And so the game of temporal tug of war had begun.

=/=



The Manifesto file consisted of a total of 193 words, divided into five paragraphs. The first two had been deciphered, and read as follows:

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.


The remainder was trickier. The middle paragraph was the longest, clocking in at sixty-six words. The last two paragraphs, respectively, were fifty-one and twenty-seven words long.

The file itself was a corker. It could and did change every few minutes or so, showing all manner of different codes as it went. Random guessing was penalized with faster code changes or hidden pieces. However, correct guesses were rewarded with slower code changes or slightly easier to decipher variations. The Perfectionists wanted the code to be cracked, as they wanted their message to be read, understood and followed. In part, it was intended to be a recruiting tool for them.

But they also didn’t want it to be cracked quite so quickly, as it was useful to them if the Temporal Integrity Commission was kept occupied and guessing. So they balanced the code changes, rewarded educated guesses and did their best to tailor the coding to the talents of the members of the Human Unit.

How did they know that unit’s many talents? Simple. They had more than one operative within the Temporal Integrity Commission, watching the Human Unit’s every move and reporting back as anything interesting happened. At least one of those double agents was firmly ensconced directly within the Human Unit, and she was a good, ruthless soldier who was collecting data, working on weaker personnel who could, potentially, be turned, and available in case any killing was needed, for she was more than willing to do what it took to get the Perfectionists what they needed. She was sitting pretty, and no one suspected a thing.

Her name was Marisol Castillo.

=/=



Everybody's building ships and boats
Some are building monuments, others are jotting down notes
Everybody's in despair, every girl and boy
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Everybody's gonna jump for joy


- Manfred Mann (The Mighty Quinn)

Chapter 2 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Merrilee Rush - Angel of the Morning

Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn


- Manfred Mann (The Mighty Quinn)

=/=



A secret meeting was held.

The number of participants was unknown, and could remain so, because it was a communication without video, a kind of conference call. With no visual cues, and with extremely good vocal masking, the participants’ ages, genders and points of origin could not be readily determined.

Such a level of secrecy was an absolute necessity for the Perfectionists. If any of them were questioned, he or she really wouldn’t know much. The movement could go on, even if a few of them were found out.

The only people who possessed any real knowledge were moles like Marisol and agents like the one who had done the Clear Lake job. Plus, of course, the movement’s leader had knowledge. He - or she - possessed the most information of all. That person had the most at stake, and so utmost confidence and trust were bestowed upon that one person. The leader also had Otra.

The leader spoke, “The time for inaction is finished. We are sending an agent out again.”

“To where?” asked an anonymized voice.

“The event is a beautiful one, cut far too short. The details of it have been lost to all but the most ardent history buffs. Yet it has the makings of being quite the turnkey event,” Boasted the leader.

“So it’s pariotric,” said another, unknown, voice.

“Yes.”

=/=



The three different types of temporal changes were all named after Otra, the Perfectionists’ prisoner.

Otric events were small and insubstantial. A shift from tea to coffee one day was a perfect exemplar of the genre - in the grand scheme of things, it just doesn’t matter.

Pariotric events - such as the one that the leader was referring to - those were more vital. And, just as importantly, they were changes that time travelers had the power to effect. John Hancock not signing the Declaration of Independence was, by all accounts, a pariotric event, or node.

The third kind was megaotric. Those were changes that would be truly enormous if they could be effected, yet it was virtually impossible for humans to pull them off. The formation of the Grand Canyon was, most likely, a megaotric node.

The lines among the three types of possible temporal changes were deliberately kept blurred. No one really knew what would happen if megaotric changes came within humanity’s collective grasp.

=/=



“It’s a good choice,” said one of the unknown persons on the call, “Will we be creating any diversions?”

“Absolutely,” said the leader, “Those are still being worked on. But there will be something, I assure you. The Temporal Integrity Commission will be kept hopping.”

“And what of Otra?” inquired another voice.

“Otra,” said the leader “has been here for a while. I wouldn’t necessarily call her experience of our hospitality wholly pleasant, but she certainly has not been mistreated. Her reactions will be interesting to observe.”

The call ended, but the leader kept Marisol on the line, “Whenever I get a vision out of Otra, I’ll be sure to communicate it to you as soon as possible. It might be directly from me, but it could be from another of our inside people, so be aware.”

“Good, I’ll be able to fake her gift better, the more information I can get.”

“Right. So keep yourself available. I’d also like you to start applying the screws to Yarin a bit.”

“Oh?”

“Give him a few things to worry about.”

“Anything specific?” she asked.

“I have no doubt you’ll come up with something. You always do. When are they bringing in Porter?”

“Soon,” Marisol said, “I understand it will be within the week.”

“Okay. Let me know how that all goes. Polly Porter will either be easy to turn to our way of thinking, or she’ll be nigh impossible.”

“I’ll make sure she’s the former, and not the latter. Castillo out.”

=/=



Polly Porter was a well-known part-Betazoid psychologist who analyzed the most famous of the lovelorn. The shrink to the stars, that’s what they called her.

Of course that wasn’t her only role, but it was her best-known one. She would go to awards shows and banquets, or to premiers or big-time sporting events, and inevitably someone would grab her to talk. She was discreet and pleasant, and her advice made sense to people, for she had a knack for telling them what to do but making them believe that it had been their own idea all along.

A sudden case of stage fright? Call Polly. A batting slump? Call Polly if all else has failed. A celebrity divorce is about to turn ugly? Call Polly. Want to make a career move, say, into politics, but unsure of what to put in that all-important first speech? Call Polly then, too.

Women liked her because she was unthreatening; men liked her because she was firmly in the friend zone from the very beginning, and had been even when she was younger. And she was now over fifty, so any flirtations were bound to be minor. Not that there were too many, for not only was she less than attractive, she also wasn’t too terribly interested. Polly was removed from relationships because they generally didn’t fascinate her. She wasn’t necessarily asexual - it was more that nothing, male or female, human or alien, had ever really struck her fancy.

=/=



Rick had been thinking about how to really end things with Sheilagh, and the only thing that could potentially be effective, he figured, would be to pursue another. He didn’t want to make the error of going after another woman at work. Crystal was cute, and Marisol was quite the hot number, but the situation was not the best one. He figured, with the rest of them, he’d best take a hands-off approach, at least for the nonce.

It wasn’t that he was callous - far from it. It was actually more of a kind gesture. If he broke things off with Sheilagh, she would not be so hurt. After all, he usually tried to hook up in some fashion when he went out on missions. If - when - his next mission occurred, he wanted to be able to go gallivanting off without worrying about hurting her feelings.

He also wanted her to be able to do the same. He felt she was free to do so. No one had said anything about exclusivity. Perhaps she already had another lover, on the days when she went back home to Mars and didn’t stay in her bunk at the Commission. He didn’t know, not for sure. He told himself that was okay, it was more than okay and acceptable.

It was fair.

And so he engaged the Communicator that was permanently implanted inside his left ear.

“I’d like to speak with Tina April, on Triton.”

“Yes?”

“Tee, it’s me.”

“Ha, Rick Daniels, you old dog!”

“Do you, uh, can I see you?”

She thought for a moment, “After classes today. Pick me up at the school.”

“I’ll be there. Daniels out.”

=/=



I like to go just like the rest, I like my sugar sweet
But jumping queues and makin' haste, just ain't my cup of meat
Everyone's beneath the trees, feedin' pigeons on a limb
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
All the pigeons gonna run to him


- Manfred Mann (The Mighty Quinn)

Chapter 3 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Hugh Masekela - Grazing in the Grass

Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn
Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn


- Manfred Mann (The Mighty Quinn)

=/=



Oh, Otra was close, all right. The leader of the Perfectionists had been observing her for months, and was impressed with her resolve.

As a human-Witannen cross, Otra was humanoid but didn’t have hair on her head. Instead, there were chavecoi growing out of her scalp - they were a set of semi-autonomous flower-like appendages which would enable her to photosynthesize in the event of a famine.

Her tiny cell - it was actually a small tricked-out cargo container - was kept pitch black. But the chavecoi would get a little light - which they needed - whenever the hatch was opened, in order to either add a bowl of food or clean up after the effects of same.

She could have talked. She should have talked. But her Witannen side made her stubborn and patient.

Like most sentient creatures, she preferred freedom to captivity, but she was smart enough to wait for the right opportunity, and to gather clues as she bided her time.

On occasions, the hatchway would not be perfectly secured, and so sometimes she got a smidgen of light and could even make out a few colored shapes just outside her prison. The red shapes moved; the grey ones did not, unless there were red shapes nearby. She had concluded that the red shapes were, most likely, people. The grey ones were probably cargo containers or boxes or some other type of equipment or objects.

When the hatch was ajar, and she could see red shapes, she would do her best to move the hatch and call out. However, the meager rations and lack of exercise during her confinement were taking their toll, and she was losing her strength.

Her cries went unheeded - in general, the walls of her cell absorbed most sounds and the cargo area - she had surmised that she was in the cargo hold of some Warp-capable ship - was often loud with the sounds of freight being accepted or removed.

Once she figured out that yelling and pushing on the hatch were doing her no good, she began to concentrate on whether she could make out not only sights, but sounds.

There weren’t many; usually it was just the sound of cartons or the like being moved. But every now and then, she would hear a voice, usually saying something about the cargo. The most interesting thing she ever heard was, once, someone said, “That last batch was really good.”

Batch of what?

Otherwise, the sounds were mundane, and her captors spoke to her with - she didn’t know this - the same vocal masking system they used on their calls. One thing, though, one of the captors had slipped in a ya’ll, so she knew that at least one was from either of the Carolinas on Earth, or from Titania, which had been originally settled by Carolinians and retained not only the South’s gentle, drawling dialect but also its cuisine, politics and mannerisms.

It wasn’t much to go on.

=/=



She was looking sweet.

He hadn’t seen her in a good half a year and had forgotten - man oh man she was pretty.

Tina had the kinds of physical attributes Rick liked: small waist, large breasts, butt high and tight as a drum and legs up to wherever.

Her figure was obvious, it could not be denied, not even in the unadorned shift dress she had worn to work that day. She was a school teacher, and her charges were seven and eight years old. Perhaps the boys were a little too young to have a crush on their teacher. Then again, maybe not.

“Man, you’re a sight for sore eyes,” he said when he saw her. He came over and kissed her neck. They were alone in her classroom. No one would see. Maybe they could sweep her stuff off her desk. That had been something he’d fantasized about.

She turned away, “What’s bringing all this on?”

“I just, I missed you.”

“Really? But not enough to have contacted me for the last few months, eh? Tell me, Richard, who was she and how badly did it end?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Right,” she faced him, “Did you expect I would just be here, waiting for you?”

“No. But I did hope that you’d be available. I’m so glad you were. Can’t we, uh, pick up where we left off?”

Where they had left off had been her getting too nosy about his work, and he couldn’t tell her anything. She had also been pushing him to meet her father, and he had resisted that. All of that was forgotten by him as he saw her again, and wanted her again.

“Richard,” she said, “I haven’t just been hanging around and waiting. Didn’t Eleanor tell you?”

“My sister and I don’t discuss such things.”

“Well, she should have mentioned it. I have someone else.”

“Oh,” His face fell, “Is it serious?”

“Yes, it is,” she said, although that was a bit of spin. There was, indeed, another, but it was far from serious.

“I see. Uh, thanks for letting me know. I guess I should go.”

“I guess you should.”

“Uh, Tee, I’m, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I bothered you.”

He left and she clicked open her Communicator, “I’d like to speak to Troy Scott on Rhea.”

“Yeah?”

“Troy, let’s go someplace fun tonight. And, uh, bring a change of clothes with you.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah,” she said, “I want you to spend the night.”

=/=



Back at the Temporal Integrity Commission, Rick couldn’t put it off any longer. He hated to be alone but he didn’t want to carry on. Sheilagh was in her bunk, reading something on a PADD.

She looked up and smiled when she saw him, “It’s early for you.”

“I, uh, I’m not here for a hook-up.”

“I see,” she said, “You, um, you look a little troubled. Care to tell me about it?”

“I, uh, Sheilagh, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“What do you, uh, what do you expect out of this? Out of, of us?”

“Ah, that,” she said, “Nothing. Really, truly, nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really. I, Rick, we have been having a lot of fun. And it’s been good. But neither of us are looking to really go anywhere with this, right? And it seems like a bad idea to continue on. When we are back on missions, well, things might happen out there. Don’t, um, don’t waste time thinking I’m going to be upset with you if you do what, well, what you usually do when you’re on a mission.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“You are - can I tell you what HD Avery said about you?”

“Huh? I guess so,” she chuckled, “Is it something I can repeat in mixed company?”

“Absolutely. He, uh, he said you are the best one.”

“Oh he did, did he?”

“And while I think he may have meant your figure I gotta say, I do know what he means. You are. Thank you for being so cool about this.”

He left and she sat there, shaking her head. Avery, eh? Hmm.

=/=



Let me do what I wanna do, I can't decide 'em all
Just tell me where to put 'em and I'll tell you who to call
Nobody can get no sleep, there's someone on everyone's toes
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Everybody's gonna wanna doze


- Manfred Mann (The Mighty Quinn)

Chapter 4 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Alex Chilton and the Boxtops - Cry Like a Baby

Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn
Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn
Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn
Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn


- Manfred Mann (The Mighty Quinn)

=/=



Polly arrived the next day. The boss, Carmen Calavicci, came over to greet her personally, “Are all of your other obligations squared away?”

“Yes,” Polly said, “I am free and clear.”

“Excellent. You’ll need surgeries. We’ve got lots of exciting things to do to you, to make you faster and smarter and all that. Will your part-Betazoid heritage pose any problems, do you think?”

“I doubt it. I suppose your department’s doctor would know more.”

“You’ve met Boris, right?”

“I have,” Polly said, “His wife and I know each other socially.”

Carmen sent Boris a PADD message, summoning him, “I know you’ll want to walk around a bit. But you should talk about the medical procedures a little. And here are both of our doctors!” She enthused, as Boris and Marisol both arrived.

“Ah, Darragh will be so pleased you are joining us,” Boris said, referring to his wife, “Allow me to introduce Doctor Marisol Castillo.”

Polly shook Marisol’s hand and sensed … something. Something was not quite right.

=/=



The Perfectionists sent two operatives on their mission. Generally, the plan was for only one operative to go on any given mission. Such was also the case with the Temporal Integrity Commission. However, this specific mission needed two people - an actor and a recorder. Sure, the actor - in this case, actress - could have used a PADD to take photographs. But the angles would be better, the pictures would be more believable, and everything would look better if the snapshots really were taken by a Polaroid camera with real Kodak film.

Plus, there would be negatives.

=/=



Crystal clicked around on her PADD. She was the least-educated person in the department - just a stint in beauty school for her - and she was far from being a cryptographer. Still, the Manifesto file intrigued her, and now she was captivated by its siren song.

She had messed up a few times, with incorrect guesses. They had been stabs in the dark, really, and so the file had more or less punished her by iterating through different coding algorithms even faster than it had been doing so before.

She then remembered something that Kevin had done earlier, with the first paragraph, and to great success. He had, quite literally, taken snapshots.

She did not realize that he had used a second PADD for his photos. Instead, Crystal used the same PADD, and so the file penalized her and the pictures, despite her adjustments to the focus, all came out a bit blurry.

It was possible to tell, though, that there was a series of pictographs, at least in the iteration she had just captured. The graphic elements seemed to have been grabbed from a children’s novel - if she squinted she could tell that there was a picture of a monkey, a donut, a tree, a boat and other basic shapes.

“Are you letters, or are you words? You have no separators,” she said to herself as she worked. She was in the Temporal Integrity Commission’s cafeteria, and so she was not alone. An untouched Caesar salad sat on her table. A Ferengi engineer came over. Noticing a shadow, she looked up, “Uh, hiya, Von.”

“How goes the battle?” he asked.

“Well enough, I suppose. Got any idea what turtle-eyeball-cherry-boat might mean?”

“I do not,” he said, “Have you been busy?”

“Not too much. Our department recently took care of some archaeologists who wanted to watch Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address. I had to make a hoop skirt.”

“It sounds complicated.”

“Oh, it was. It was 1863, right smack dab in the middle of the American Civil War. It had to be fairly fancy - the kind of thing a woman would wear to church - but not in very good shape, like she hadn’t had a chance to repair it or replace any of its older details to keep up with the fashions.”

“That is a delicate balancing act, to be sure. But a profitable one,” Unlike the other member species of the Temporal Integrity Commission, like the Aenar, both kinds of Calafans, the Trill, the Klingons, the Cardassians and the five species of Xindi - and many more - the Ferengi still had a money-based system, and even received salaries for their labors. Their language remained salted with financial metaphors.

“I suppose. Damn! Monkey-apple-basket! It doesn’t seem to mean anything!”

Deirdre came over, “Got the Penar up and running?” she asked Von.

“Almost,” he replied, “There are still a few battered bits. Our agents really should treat our ships better. Have you finished the Flux Capacitor?”

“We have.”

“Tell me, what does that name mean?” Von asked.

“It’s from an old science fiction series of films on time travel, called Back to the Future. The Flux Capacitor is the name for their fictitious technology,” Deirdre explained.

“Why not name your ships after great humans, or places that are important to you?”

“It’s more fun this way,” Deirdre said, “Except for Audrey II, they’re all named for old time travel fiction. HG Wells, Jack Finney and Audrey Niffenegger were all authors. Fluxy I just told you about, and the Elise McKenna, whenever we get a chance to build her, will be named for the heroine of Somewhere in Time.”

“And Audrey II?” Von asked, “Aside from being a successor to the Audrey Niffenegger, I suppose.”

“It’s a man-eating plant from outer space from the movie Little Shop of Horrors,” Deirdre explained.

“Plants eating humans,” Von shook his head, “Good thing your salads don’t normally attack you.”

=/=



Polly and Carmen sat in Carmen’s office, “We haven’t had too much lately,” Carmen admitted, “But I still want to get you in, and up to speed. With Otra gone, I’m dependent upon Marisol to track temporal alternatives.”

“What about the computers?”

“They work just fine, but Otra was faster. I’m hoping for similar performance out of Marisol.”

“And from me?”

Carmen smiled, “This other group, this other side - they seem dangerous. I need a calming influence, and I may need for you to do some negotiations. I’m still hopeful about Otra.”

“Do you think anyone else will be grabbed?”

“Only, possibly, Marisol. So we’re keeping an eye on her. I’m not so sure she likes that. But, for now, she will be staying at the Commission unless she’s at home. No traveling for her, for the time being.”

=/=



When I think about the good love you gave me
I cry like a baby (cry like a baby)
Livin' without you is drivin' me crazy
I cry like a baby (cry like a baby)
I know now that you're not a plaything
Not a toy or a puppet on a string


- Alex Chilton and the Box Tops (Cry Like a Baby)

Chapter 5 by jespah
Author's Notes:

The O'Kaysions - Girl Watcher

As I look back on a love so sweet now
I cry like a baby
Every road is a lonely street
I cry like a baby


- Alex Chilton and the Box Tops (Cry Like a Baby)

=/=



“Ready?”

“Ready.”

The two Perfectionist agents swallowed twin doses of trichronium, held hands and waited for their leader to send them back in time.

The Perfectionists didn’t need time ships, or time portals, like the Temporal Integrity Commission did. Instead, that group’s temporal operatives could come and go into time via the use of a kind of temporal enzyme. In fact, the technology was called the Temporal Enzymatic Drive.

It consisted of a small device that could conveniently be held in one’s hand or worn on a wrist. It only had a few settings, but that was all that was necessary. The leader had the device, and was able to set the time, date and place where an agent would be going. The leader could also recall an agent, although recall was automatic if trichronium levels were too low.

And trichronium! It was quite an interesting chemical. It was a liquid and it smelled and tasted a bit like cantaloupe. You needed trichronium for the Temporal Enzymatic Drive to work. Otherwise, it was useless. And the same was true in reverse. The Drive without the enzyme was just a fancy bit of jewelry.

What the leader did not know was that the inventor of the drive - one of the Temporal Integrity Commission’s engineers - had kept a copy of the Drive. It was safely tucked away in a locker. As for what it would be used for, the engineer did not know. Right now it was just insurance.

=/=



Deirdre and Crystal walked together, “I understand you’re good at this,” Crystal said, referring to the decrypting of the Manifesto file.

“I do all right. I think whoever did the encryption likes crossword puzzles and word games, that sort of thing.”

“Here, let me show you what it looks like right now,” Crystal said. They went into her work space. As the Quartermaster, she was responsible for making sure that time travelers looked like they would fit in with the correct time and place, and would not have any anachronisms on their persons. She cut and grew and colored hair, made and altered clothing, added or subtracted laugh lines and crow’s feet and even, at times, helped a traveler smell a particular way, so as to best blend in.

They moved some bottles of keratin accelerator - it could grow hair quickly, if needed - out of the way and Crystal set down her PADD, “Okay, it’s like this. There are all of these symbols. It starts with what I’m calling monkey, and it ends with boat. I’m just looking at the fourth paragraph of the Manifesto.”

“I see,” Deirdre said, “Looks like boat is the most common. Is it E or S or T, do you think?”

“I tried that, and was slapped for my efforts. I mean, it starts out with monkey-donut-basket-apple-cat-tree-turtle-apple-cat-sun-boat,” she took a breath, “sun-eyeball-basket-handshake-elephant-cherry-hockey stick-boat,” Crystal thought for a second, “And there’s boat again.”

“How many boats are there?”

Crystal counted, “Fifty-one.”

“And monkeys?”

“Five.”

“Maybe it’s not an alphabet,” Deirdre said, “Maybe it’s a syllabary. There are some languages where they don’t really have letters, they’ve got sound symbols so ba, be, bi, bo and bu are all separate.”

“It’s frustrating,” Crystal said.

“I think that’s the idea.”

=/=



“Ah, the zoological park - it’s perfect. Are you set for Czech?” asked the male Perfectionist operative.

“I am,” drawled the female operative, “Let’s go find that hotel.”

“Hostel Possonium,” he said, “It looks to be that way.”

=/=



Boris and Marisol were in his office, “I have half a mind to ravish you on my desk,” he said, nipping a little at her neck.

“Not now,” she said, a little peevishly. He looked downcast so she quickly added, “Later. I don’t like Porter. I don’t trust her. She is part Betazoid. I believe she can sense when we are doing, well, our usual.”

“Then let’s make it unusual,” he said.

“You know what I mean,” she said, “Aren’t you the least bit concerned about her telling your wife something?”

He stopped what he was doing, “I had not been thinking about that. Huh. Perhaps we should confine our activities” he sneaked in one last nip, “to the love nest on Cardassia. It will be so difficult for me to keep my hands off you, my love.”

“I’m sure you’ll manage,” she said, “Now, we are supposed to be working on her surgeries. Maybe we can disable her partial telepathy.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Of course I am joking,” She said, “I wouldn’t want to disable her.”

=/=



The female agent waited in the bar of the Hostel Possonium, “You look very nice,” The male agent said.

“Why, thank ya’ll. Now, stay away, I gotta lay out the bait,” she adjusted her miniskirt, hitching it a bit higher when she saw a pug-nosed man losing his hair.

The man approached her, “You are very … interesting,” he said.

“I am available for a date,” she said.

“I see. And this date, could it be something I could, well, perhaps I could buy you something?”

“Perhaps,” she said, “We can agree on terms later.”

He looked around, furtively. When he was satisfied that no one was looking, he said, “I have a room upstairs. And a nice bottle of whiskey.”

“Then let’s go.”

=/=


“There are four turtle-eyeball-cherry-boat combos,” Crystal murmured to herself. She was alone in her work space, but there was nothing to do beyond decrypting. “And there are four basket-handshake-crescent moon-boat combos, too. Why are there all of these goddamned boats?”

=/=



The hotel room was dingy, “So, your terms?” asked the man, grabbing roughly at the female agent.

“A moment,” she said, “Two thousand korunas.”

“That’s rather rich for my blood.”

“You don’t know what I can do.”

“I can guess,” he said, fingering her brown hair and pulling it slightly, “One thousand.”

“Fifteen hundred,” she said, “That’s my final offer.”

“Still too rich. Eleven hundred,” he said.

“I don’t think so,” she got out of his grasp and opened the door to the room. He intercepted her and shut it again quickly. But it was too late, for that was the signal.

The male agent came over, waiting just outside the door.

“Perhaps twelve hundred,” she said.

The man thought it over, “All right.”

“Have a drink with me,” she said, “You said you had a bottle.”

“Yes, I said that,” he produced it. There were no glasses, “Ladies first.”

She took a pull from it and tried not to gag, and turned away from him slightly. The male agent made a bit of a noise outside, and the john went to investigate. She seized the opportunity, and emptied a tiny vial into the bottle’s opening.

The john looked back at her. She offered him the bottle, “To our business partnership.”

“Yes,” he said. About to take a swig, she pushed him over to the bed, “Ah, and aggressive, too. My wife does not do such things.”

“First the drink,” she said. She stood next to the bed and removed her top, “You’ll see more once you’ve … swallowed.”

“Ah, I am intrigued,” he drank, and the sedative she had put in took effect almost immediately.

She put her top back on and opened the door, “Quickly!”

The male agent came in. It was a Polaroid camera, very easy to use, and the pictures came out almost immediately, “Okay, now, lie over there, uh, that way,” he snapped, “Now without the top. Yeah, that’s good.”

“Don’t be taking these pictures for your own amusement.”

“Oh, sorry, of course. Must’ve lost my head there,” he took some more snapshots, “Let’s get a few with his pants off.”

“Ugh,” she complained, but they worked together and it was fast, “Got enough?”

“I do believe so,” he dropped a bunch of the photographs onto the bed around the half-naked man, along with a letter, typed in Czech, on real paper. Translated, it said: Your wife won’t like these. There will be more of these, and they will be in the press if you vote with the Soviet hardliners like Biľak, Švestka, Indra, and Kapek. Vote with the reformers and you’ve got nothing to worry about.

She got dressed again and they left the man, and the hotel, and ran to a back alley. They held hands - not for affection’s sake, but to make it easier and faster for the Perfectionists’ leader to recall them once their bodies’ trichronium levels hit a certain point.

They were already gone by the time the man - a Communist Party of Czechoslovakia leadership member named Drahomír Kolder - woke up. He took one look at the pictures and his own disheveled state, and cursed the day he was born.

=/=



I know now that you're not a plaything
Not a toy or a puppet on a string
Today we passed on the street
And you just walked on by
My heart just fell to my feet
And once again I began to cry
I know now that you're not a plaything


- Alex Chilton and the Box Tops (Cry Like a Baby)

Chapter 6 by jespah
Author's Notes:

The Rascals - People Got to be Free

I cry like a baby (just like a little bitty baby now)
As I look back on a love so sweet, now
I cry like a baby (just like a little bitty baby now)
Every road is a lonely street
I cry like a baby (cry like a baby)
My heart just fell to my feet, you know I
Cry like a baby (cry like a baby)
You left the water running, now
(Cry like a baby)
I cry like a baby (cry like a baby)


- Alex Chilton and the Box Tops (Cry Like a Baby)

=/=



Otra felt it before anyone actually saw it. It was a change in time. Everything is interconnected, in one big web. So Drahomír Kolder being blackmailed into voting one way versus another was a turning point, a pariotric node.

She saw it. It was a Warp One ship, soaring high over Earth, and then suddenly passing Mars, Jupiter and even Neptune before heading back home, where it landed, not in Bozeman, Montana, but in the outskirts of a large, gleaming city. A sign nearby said Welcome to Big D. And the year! It certainly wasn’t 2063. It seemed later, maybe some time in the twenty-fourth century or even after that, although she could not be sure. And the person who emerged from the ship, which was most assuredly not the Phoenix, that person wasn’t Zefram Cochrane. Hell, that person wasn’t even male.

=/=



The two agents were recalled by the Perfectionists’ leader. The female agent contacted the leader; the message was but one word: success. The leader opened a channel into Otra’s prison. Truth was, the leader was, physically, close enough to Otra that it was possible to simply knock on the hatch. But the communications channel meant that the vocal masking could be performed.

“What have you seen?” asked the leader.

“Nothing,” Otra replied.

“You’re lying. Would you like us to start pulling the chavecoi out of your head, one by one?”

Otra, in the utter darkness of her cell, blanched. That would be like having a fingernail pulled out, “You know I would prefer for you not to do such things.”

“Always so cool and formal. And here I thought we were becoming friends, Otra.”

“You have a funny way of treating your pals.”

“Your visions? We both know that you’re compelled to share them.”

“What do you need to know my visions for?” she asked, trying not to let her voice betray her anger, “If you’re causing pariotric changes, then surely you will know them before I do.”

“Details, Otra! You know how much I love them. And the breadth and depth of your visions - that part’s truly remarkable. You know that you can trace the consequences further than any computer. So tell me, what are you seeing?”

“A big D,” she said, and the leader was unable to get anything else out of her.

=/=



Alarms started going off at the Temporal Integrity Commission, as the computers began to compile yottabytes of new data from the pariotric change. Kevin O’Connor had been monitoring, but he’d tipped his head back and was dozing off. The second the alarm went off, he cried out, “Josie!” before he was again oriented as to time and place.

He engaged the Communicator that was implanted behind and within his left ear, “Carmen, we got changes!”

“All right, team!” she bellowed from her office, “Conference Room six - now!” she had been sitting with Polly, “Come on along, and you’ll see how we do things.”

They arrived last. Crystal and Levi were tapping away on PADDs. Tom and Rick were sitting over to the side, facing Boris and Marisol. HD was eating the last of a blueberry scone. Sheilagh and Deirdre were staring into space. Kevin was at the front of the room.

“What have you got?” Carmen asked.

“First contact doesn’t happen in 2063,” Kevin said, “Instead, it’s 2371, and it’s with the Andorians, not the Vulcans.”

“This is because,” Crystal said, still tapping, “it looks like there’s no Warp Drive until 2364.”

“Obviously, Zefram Cochrane doesn’t invent Warp Drive,” Carmen concluded, “So, who does?”

“Looks like it’s Kathryn Janeway,” Deirdre said, checking.

“Pull up the master time file, HD,” Carmen said, “That name’s familiar.”

“Kathryn Janeway,” HD read off, “Huh, she was a starship captain - the USS Voyager - and then, later, an Admiral. Definitely not an engineer.”

“Marisol, got any ideas as to why this happened?” Carmen asked.

Polly sensed - Marisol was, what? Confused? Nonplussed? Lost. That was the right word for it - lost.

“I, well, it’s still a bit unclear to me,” Marisol said. She was cool under pressure - one of the many reasons that the Perfectionists had hired her to do what she did. But she really did not know anything more than the meager information that Otra had doled out to the Perfectionists’ leader who had, in turn, passed it along directly to her, “It is, I am seeing, it is a big D. I’m unsure as to what that means, though.”

“Tell me more about the first Warp One flight,” Carmen said, “Maybe that’ll knock another vision loose.”

Crystal clicked around, “It’s not in Bozeman, Montana. It’s, this is new. It takes off from, uh, the name of the city is Dallas.”

Big D!” HD exclaimed, then sang -

I mean Big D, little a double L-A
Big D, little a double L-A
Big D, little a double L-A-S
And that spell Dallas
Where ev'ry home's a palace

Cause the settlers settle for no less -


“Er, Mister Avery, that’s quite enough,” Carmen cut him off.

“It’s, uh, it’s from the musical The Most Happy Fella,” HD explained, “There’s a big finish and everything.”

“Maybe you can do the big finish later,” Sheilagh suggested.

“It’s, uh, it’s that, then,” Marisol said, and Polly sensed a relaxing, a bit of relief, “I suspect that the change is Pre-Warp. Er, before Warp Drive was truly developed, in 2063, rather than in 2364 in the new reality.”

“Anything else?” Tom asked.

“No, I’m afraid not,” Marisol said, and Polly sensed that that was the God’s honest truth.

=/=




“I need you both for one more mission apiece,” said the leader. It was a call to the two agents who’d blackmailed Kolder.

“Whaddaya all need?” drawled the woman.

“I need the following work done in 1977 and 1973.”

“Why those years?” asked the male agent.

“These will be so obscure and odd that the Temporal Integrity Commission will throw too many resources at them. First, 1977 - a little treat for their computers specialist, Bernstein. That’s when ARCNET is announced. It’s similar to ETHERNET. It’s an early LAN system. The change should be otric.”

“I’ll take that one if there’s no objection,” said the male agent.

“We haven’t heard the other one yet. Hold yer horses, Donnie,” said the female agent, “What’s needed in ’73?”

“It’s a bit of music to occupy their music guy, Avery. There is a landmark album called Dark Side of the Moon. Make sure it’s not released.”

“How would she do that?” asked the male agent.

“This is a money-based society. I’m sure you can think of something. You can do the same thing with ARCNET. Pay the right people the right amount and those two things won’t get done,” The leader paused for a moment, “More importantly, these two events are odd enough that the Commission will be hopping. We’ll create frustration in those two agents - Bernstein and Avery - and make them question why they’re doing what they’re doing. As their jobs make less and less sense to them, the changing of time for good, positive purposes will begin to feel more and more right.”

“And what of Agent Castillo?” asked the male agent.

“She’s being kept on a somewhat short leash. Her job, for now, is an internal one. Don’t worry about Marisol.”

=/=



All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
Listen, please listen, that's the way it should be
Deep in the valley, people got to be free


- The Rascals (People Got to be Free)

Chapter 7 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Simon and Garfunkel - Mrs. Robinson

You should see what a lovely, lovely world this'd be
Everyone learned to live together, ah-hah-unh
Seems to me such an itty bitty thing should be
Why can't you and me learn to love one another?


- The Rascals (People Got to be Free)

=/=



They were still sitting in Conference Room six when the computer alarms started to go off again, “Now what?” Carmen complained.

“There’s more to compile. Man, oh, man, there’s a lot more,” Kevin said.

“Marisol?” Carmen asked.

“I -” She made a motion around her left ear, indicating that there had been a chime although, truth be told, there was no one actually calling her, “May I take this?”

“Sure,” Carmen said.

Marisol left and Boris followed her with his eyes, “Miss Porter, I expect you will be getting surgery earlier than expected,” he said.

“I’m sure you’re right. How, uh, how soon do we know what happened? Last time seemed to be fairly quick. Are they all like that?” Polly asked.

“It depends,” Carmen replied, “When we had Otra,” Levi looked up at the sound of her name, “things were tighter. Marisol is doing the best she can.”

“Do the other Witannen at the Temporal Integrity Commission have the same gift? Could they help us?” Polly persisted.

“Possibly, but no,” Rick said, “They’re not big on sharing with any other species, we’ve found.”

“Otra isn’t like that,” Levi said.

“Definitely not,” Kevin said, “One of a kind,” he paused, reading, “It’s still compiling. This may take a while.”

=/=



Out of earshot, Marisol contacted the leader of the Perfectionists, “Tell me something, quick!” she said, a bit panicky.

“A moment,” The leader closed a door, “All right. Let me tell you what I had two of our agents do, all right? I haven’t spoken to Otra yet.”

“It is something, at least,” she said, and listened as the leader explained. Ending the call, she felt confident enough to return to the conference room and see just how much she could throw the Human Unit off track.

=/=



A small family - a father and a mother, and their tween daughter - turned and smiled and waved at a bank of cameras. The daughter had frizzy brownish-blonde hair and a mouth full of braces. The father seemed prematurely grey, the mother bookish, “I wish him all the luck in the world,” The father drawled, “And I still believe in a place called Hope.”

Otra watched that scene play out a few times, and then a second scene played out, a more compelling yet violent vision to captivate her while she sat in her dark prison. There was a ship - another Warp One vessel, and another female pilot, but this time it wasn’t the redhead she’d seen before. It was someone else, a brunette.

The Warp One ship cruised out, all daring and bravado. Whereas in the other vision, the pilot had turned around once Neptune was circled, this one went farther. She crossed the Kuiper Belt, a foolish maneuver for a test flight.

And then Otra saw that the move was even more foolhardy, not just a danger of the pilot running low on fuel, so far from home. This one was a far worse danger. There was a large, ungainly, slow-moving and hard to maneuver ship. The brunette pilot failed to stop in time or take effective evasive action, and so there was a collision.

The departing family and the spectacular crash played, alternately, in her head.

=/=



Marisol returned to the conference room and said, “I see, I wish I could read this as well as you can, Mister Avery, but it’s musical notes.”

“Can you recognize a clef or anything?” he asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what that is.”

“Here,” he showed her on his PADD.

“Uh, that one,” she pointed to a treble clef.

“Anything else?” Carmen asked.

“Boxy things. Computers, maybe.”

“Really?” Now Sheilagh was interested, “Can you see a brand or anything? I might be able to narrow it down to a range of years.”

“I’m not as - well, the visions aren’t as detailed as Otra’s were - are. Sorry, I am trying to be positive about what her situation must be, if she is still alive. I don’t wish to give up hope.”

“None of us want to,” Crystal said,

=/=



“Your visions?”

“Just a man, with his wife and young daughter. He wishes another man luck, and they turn and wave good-bye.”

“Huh. You’d better not be lying to me, Otra.”

“I have no bargaining chips,” she said, although that was not strictly true.

There was a sound on the other end of things. Otra recognized it - it was a door chime.

“I have another vision!” she called out, seeing if she could addle her captor a bit.

“Oh, uh …”

The door chimed again. Another voice, as flat and accentless as the captor’s, said, “Brother, the next wine shipment has to go out.”

“A moment!” fumbled the captor.

“My vision!” Otra called out brightly. This was good information - the captor was clearly male, and the batch, it had been a batch of some sort of wine. Progress!

The tricoulamine gas came again. As Otra again passed out, she thought a little of whomever she knew who had a brother, or was a brother. One of those people was Rick Daniels.

=/=



He was in his office. He tapped his left ear, twice, to engage his Communicator, “Uh, Eleanor Daniels, on Lafa II.”

“Ah, how are you, my brother?”

“Pretty good. El, I’m sure I’ll be on another mission soon.”

“I see. Is it hazardous?”

“It’s anybody’s guess,” he said, “I, uh, I figured you should know.”

“Should I tell our parents?”

“Um, either way is fine, El.”

“Richard, may I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Your co-worker, Tom Grant. He, uh, is he seeing someone?”

“I don’t think so. Things not work out there?” he asked. He wasn’t so sure he wanted to get too involved in a discussion about his sister’s love life.

“Things never started,” she said, “He never contacted me.”

“Uh, something preventing you from going ahead and contacting him yourself, El?”

“I, uh, I don’t know. I guess I wanted to know that he was interested, and not have to drag it out of him.”

“Uh, El, this is a weird thing for me to be talking about with you.”

“Can you at least suggest to him that he get in contact with me?”

“You do realize that if he does it before the line’s restored, you may feel differently after it is.”

“I, just, I don’t think I will. Please, will you at least suggest it? I am tired of being the one who does all of the pursuing and ice-breaking.”

She was getting a little teary with frustration, so he agreed before closing the connection. Women! Relationships were, he concluded, too complicated. For wherever he was going, he’d find a quick hook-up and laugh about the idea of a long-term anything on his way back in the Wells.

=/=



“I don’t like her,” Marisol said to Boris. They were in his office, ostensibly to again go over Polly’s surgeries but instead she had her hands down the front of his pants.

“Ah, a little to the right, my love,” he said.

Porter,” she said a little sharply, and moved away a hand so as to emphasize her point.

“Yes, yes,” That seemed to snap him out of it, “She is a friend of Darragh’s. They will have a girls’ night out at our expense, no doubt, if you and I are ever caught.”

“She’s part Betazoid. Do you think she can sense thoughts or emotions?”

“Probably a bit,” Boris allowed, “She does not have their very dark eye. Your eyes are even darker than hers! So beautiful, like twin lakes on Kronos. And your breasts! They are like ….”

“Focus, Boris!”

“Porter, yes. Darling, when you are here, how can you expect me to think of a woman such as Porter? I only want you, my love.”

There was a door chime. She took her hands away and straightened up. He refastened his pants, willing his arousal to go away by thinking of the prospect of seeing his mother-in-law naked.

=/=



“Looks like the compiling’s done,” Kevin said.

Crystal clicked a little, “Got it.”

“That was lightning fast,” Carmen said, “Where’s Avery with the others? They should hear this.”

In a few minutes, HD walked in with Rick, Marisol and a somewhat redfaced Boris, “Oh, looks like something interesting’s happening,” HD said.

“It is. Crystal, you have the floor,” Carmen said.

“I looked up the first development of Warp Drive and also first contact since those had been affected before. Now they’re even worse.”

“They’re later, yes?” Marisol asked. It was a good educated guess.

“Yep,” Crystal said, “In 2762, Phillipa Green perfects Warp Drive, but the results are tragic, as she dies during the maiden flight of her ship, the Aryan.”

“Phillipa Green, eh?” Rick asked, “I knew her. It was the mission to figure out who the Suliban, Silik, had been talking to and taking orders from in the 2150s. We used to call him Future Guy. It turns out it was a guy named Jim Horan. She was his first assistant,” That wasn’t all of the information he’d uncovered about her. Nor was it the only thing he’d uncovered. She was Horan’s lover and, during Rick’s mission to 2735, she had been his as well.

Aryan,” Sheilagh spat out the word like just so much spoiled food, “I don’t have to tell anyone how my ancestors and I - or yours, Deirdre - feel about that word.”

“Or mine, or probably others you don’t know about,” Rick said, “I’ve got some Jewish ancestry in me,” When he’d known Phillipa, she’d had quite the superiority complex, but she hadn’t, so far as he recalled, been an anti-Semite. That was another change.

“Ya’ll said it was tragic. What’s the tragedy?” Tom asked.

Crystal read off her PADD, “The Aryan collides with a Tellarite freighter, the Grev. The freighter is damaged, the Aryan is destroyed, and Green is killed. And so we get first contact with any non-human species, almost seven hundred years later than it should be, and an interplanetary incident, to boot.”

“Can you figure out, you said music and computers, Marisol, do you think these changes relate to one over the other?” Carmen asked.

“Possibly to the, to the music, although I cannot be sure.”

“Let’s keep digging,” Carmen said, “You had said Pre-Warp before. Kevin, let’s pull up world leaders from the master time file and our new reality. There have got to be some changes there. Perhaps they will help us to narrow down the year for the changeover to have occurred.”

There was some clicking, and then Deirdre looked up and said, “There are issues with two American Presidents in the twentieth century. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton are never elected. I’m not sure about Clinton. But with Reagan it’s somewhat obvious - it appears that the Iron Curtain has come down far too soon.”

=/=



All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
I can't understand it, so simple to me
People everywhere just got to be free


- The Rascals (People Got to be Free)

Chapter 8 by jespah
Author's Notes:

The Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil

If there's a man who is down and needs a helpin' hand
All it takes is you to understand and to pull him through, ah-hah-unh
Seems to me we got to solve it individually, ah-hah-unh
And I'll do unto you what you do to me


- The Rascals (People Got to be Free)

=/=



Carmen heard a communications trill in her ear, “Bryce! I was expecting to hear from you!” Bryce Unger, her boss, was the overall head of the Temporal Integrity Commission. All of the species’ units reported to him, not just the humans.

“Have you seen any current broadcasts?” he asked.

“Just about ready to check them now. Levi, if you please.”

“Huh, oh, yeah,” he said, and clicked around until he found a broadcast for 3110, reflective of the changes that had been made.

“Something else you need from us?” Carmen asked.

“Get Porter ready and put her out there,” Unger said, “There’s no sense in dawdling.”

“Understood. Calavicci out,” she tapped her left ear once, to end the call, “All right. Marisol and Boris, can you do Polly’s surgeries today?”

“I think so,” Boris said, “It will mean a late night. Are you up for it, Doctor Castillo?”

“I’ll be all right,” she said, “Come along,” she beckoned to Polly, “Let’s get started as soon as possible,” The three of them left.

“That broadcast, Levi?” Carmen prompted.

“Right, uh, here,” he fiddled with the PADD a bit, and the video of an anchorwoman was projected onto the wall of the conference room.

The anchorwoman said, “Negotiations with Tellar hit an all-time low point when a Tellarite government official insulted the President of United Earth, referring to him as a unicellular organism. President Brian Mendenhall said that Earth would not stand for such insults.

She paused for a breath and then continued, “In other news, first contact was made with a species called the Suliban. Our first Warp Four ships should be able to visit various Sul helixes within the next year.”

“I bet we’ve got wiped families,” Kevin said, “Probably anyone like me, with mixed species heritage.”

“That would mean Otra’s family is wiped as well,” Deirdre said.

“Weird, I was able to reach my sister, and she and I are both part Calafan,” Rick said.

Tom looked up when Rick said that, “So, uh, so she’s all right?” he drawled.

“Yes, and, uh, I’ll tell you later,” Rick said.

“Moving right along,” Carmen said, “Avery, Sherwood, Bernstein, Katzman, Grant - you and I are all pure human. So is Castillo. So we’re probably not affected. I imagine Boris is affected, though.”

“Checking,” Tom said, “Yeah, Yarin’s family is wiped. Can’t tell what his wife’s up to but she can’t be Mrs. Yarin, I suppose.”

“My family’s gone, too,” Kevin said, “I bet most of the Commission needs to stay in. We got a lotta repair work to do.”

“Once we know exactly what it is,” Carmen said, “The Iron Curtain came down early - before 1980, right? Let’s concentrate on that, for now.”

=/=



“They’ve got quite a mess on their hands,” The Perfectionists’ leader said to Otra, perhaps a half an hour later, “I imagine there’s a great deal of scrambling going on.”

“It’s nothing to me,” Otra replied, still a little woozy from the effects of the gas. The hatch was, again, not as perfectly sealed as it should have been. She couldn’t see much, it was probably just the walls of the cargo hold. Even the grey shapes were gone - perhaps the wine shipment had already gone out.

“Now, I know that that part’s untrue. Tell me, Otra, do you like your cell? If you don’t cooperate, you’ll be in there for an awfully long time.”

“You forget I’ve already been here for a while. How long am I going to be your pet?”

=/=



“Iron Curtain - where are you getting that from, Deirdre?” asked Carmen.

“Here,” she projected an image onto the wall of the conference room. It was of the Berlin Wall coming down, “Here’s the original version of the event. And here,” she clicked a few times to find the image she wanted, “is the new reality.”

The new reality was a similar scene, but the hair and clothes were different, “Bell bottoms!” Crystal exclaimed, “The new version is the 1970s, maybe even the late ‘60s, rather than 1989!”

Tom clicked around, “It says here that the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1969.”

“What’s precipitating this?” Carmen asked.

“1969, 1968,” Kevin said, “Ah, here we go,” he projected a map onto the wall, “This is a 1968 map of Europe; it’s the one that was put up as a background during the Nixon-Humphrey-Wallace Presidential debates.”

“Here’s the original map,” Rick said, projecting it.

“Well, look at that,” Carmen said, “The pink are the Communist countries, right?”

“Looks that way to me,” HD said.

“In the original, there’s pink over, uh, East Germany, Poland, Romania, um, Czechoslovakia, Albania and Bulgaria,” Deirdre said.

“And in the new one, Czechoslovakia is green, not pink,” HD pointed out.

“What happened in Czechoslovakia in 1968?” Carmen asked.

“It looks like there was an uprising, a relaxing of the rules. But in August, there was a vote on whether to bring in Russia to restore order. This resulted in, uh, the Bratislava Declaration,” Crystal read off her PADD, “In the new reality, the vote failed, and Czechoslovakia remained free.”

“And in the original history?” Kevin asked.

“The vote succeeded - the, uh, the Bratislava Declaration - and tanks rolled through the streets of Prague. Communism was restored until the Velvet Revolution, in 1989,” Crystal replied.

“So someone voted the wrong way. We’ve gotta get those tanks to roll on time,” Carmen said.

“Exactly,” Crystal said, “Prague Spring has to end.”

=/=



The surgeries proceeded apace. There was no time to fool around, although Marisol did point out to Boris, once she’d uncovered Polly’s brain, “It’s the paracortex. In pure Betazoids, it’s the seat of their empathic abilities, and it’s rather intricate. Here, it’s only slightly more developed versus what it’s like in pure humans. I doubt she has much in the way of empathic abilities.”

“So she fakes it, eh? Hand me the microscalpel, please.”

=/=



“All right, we’ll have three expeditions into the past, I think,” Carmen said, “Richard, you’ll go to Prague alone, probably also to - where did you say that vote was held?”

“Bratislava,” Crystal replied.

“Right. Make sure that vote tips the right way. Then there’s the other missions. Sheilagh, you’ll take Fluxy and handle the computers mission once we’ve got it nailed down. You’ll take Polly along for training.”

“All right.”

“HD, you’ll have the music mission, whatever it is. Tom will fly you in the Jack Finney. You’ll be nominally in charge of the mission but you are to work on all major decisions together. You will work as a team, is that clear?”

“Sweet - I get to tell ya what to do, Bro’.”

“You heard the lady,” Tom said, “This is a joint venture.”

“What about Marisol?” Levi asked, looking up for the first time in a while.

“She will stay here,” Carmen replied, “so we can benefit from her visions when the timelines start to change. Okay, Crystal, get Richard ready. Everyone else, let’s start by concentrating on the computers problem.”

“Oh, I’ve already found it,” Levi said. It wasn’t smugness - he had simply, quite literally, forgotten to tell them.

“Oh?” Carmen asked.

“There’s no World Wide Web. Uh, not until, um, 2518,” Levi replied.

“What?” Sheilagh began clicking around, “It was supposed to be started in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee. But Levi’s right. There’s no interconnection when there should have been one, a good half a millennium earlier.”

“C’mon, I’ll get you rigged for Prague,” Crystal said to Rick, and they departed.

“What makes the Worldwide Web possible in the first place?” Tom asked.

“That’s a logical starting point,” Carmen allowed.

“Lots of computers - it’s silly to have a network if there are only two or three people who want to talk to each other,” Sheilagh said.

“They, uh, they needed satellites, too, at least in the beginning,” Kevin added.

“Well, there’s your problem - no satellites, or not enough,” Deirdre said, “Reagan’s not elected, so there’s no SDI.”

“SDI?” Carmen asked.

“Strategic Defense Initiative,” Tom said, “It was, uh, it looked good on paper. The idea was that there’s be armed satellites in space, in orbit around the Earth, to intercept Soviet missiles.”

“But,” Sheilagh read off her PADD, “it looks like SDI never got off the ground, except for the satellites. There was nothing else to do with them, so they were used for communications.”

“And you said that the Iron Curtain coming down prematurely caused Reagan to not be elected,” Carmen said.

“Right,” Deirdre replied.

“I can’t help thinking that there’s something more,” Sheilagh said, “There’s more to the Worldwide Web - there’s also LANs. Uh, those are Local Area Networks. They eventually kind of morph into Wi-Fi, which makes it possible for people to really take their laptops anywhere and connect with others around the world. There has to be an idea to link computers, and that all happens before Reagan takes office.”

“Maybe some of the ways to link up computers never happened, or weren’t invented,” Kevin offered.

“Does it go as far back as 1968?” Carmen asked.

“I don’t think so. I think it’s in the 1970s,” Sheilagh said.

“All right, let’s look at the ‘70s.”

“Carmen, do you mind if I look at the music problem instead?” HD asked.

“I suppose not.”

=/=



Shout it from the mountain on out to the sea (out to the sea)
No two ways about it, people have to be free
Ask me my opinion, my opinion will be
Nat'ral situation for a man to be free

Git right on board now


- The Rascals (People Got to be Free)

Chapter 9 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Tommy James and the Shondells - Crystal Blue Persuasion

Oh, what a feelin's just come over me
Love can move a mountain, make a blind man see
Everybody sing it now come on let's go see
Deep in the valley now, we ought to be free


- The Rascals (People Got to be Free)

=/=



HD stared at his PADD after a few hours had elapsed, “Man, oh man, there’s too much to look at!” he whined.

“Well, yeah. There’s yottabytes of data,” Kevin said, “More, except I’m not so sure there’s a name for such a large unit of information.”

“I wish Otra were here. I’m just not that much of a researcher,” HD said.

“Well, we adapt,” Carmen said, “I suspect Crystal would have been singing your song not one year ago. And now she’s embraced it. Just, I’ll tell you what I do. I free associate, trying to find connections among the changes. So tell me what the known changes are.”

“First contact was late, and then it got a lot later,” he said.

“And that first change was due to what?” Carmen asked.

“Probably the first pariotric change. Uh, that was Prague, right?”

“Probably,” Carmen said, “So whatever the other two changes are, they made it considerably later. We also know there are two misplaced American Presidents and the Worldwide Web doesn’t arise on time.”

“Right,” HD said, “and there being no Reagan - because of no Iron Curtain in 1980 - means no satellites or not enough satellites, so no Worldwide Web in, uh, when, Sheilagh?”

“1989.”

“That probably put off the development of Warp Drive a bit,” Deirdre said, “Without the Worldwide Web, there’s less collaboration.”

“Aha! That’s it!” Sheilagh exclaimed, clicking around furiously, “Oh, it’s obscure. I wonder how - or why - the other side thought to do this.”

“Thought to do what?” Tom asked.

“ARCNET,” Sheilagh replied.

“That supposed to mean something to us?” Kevin asked.

“It’s an early Local Area Network. It got replaced by Ethernet and Wi-Fi, that kinda thing,” Levi said, looking up for a second.

“I had no idea you knew such things,” Sheilagh said, with some renewed respect for Levi.

“I know lots of things,” he replied.

=/=



“Okay, I know you’re probably sick of them by now, but you’re gonna wear penny loafers yet again,” Crystal said to Rick.

“Uh, it’s okay. Crystal, most of this stuff looks like what I wore in Italy in 1960. Are you sure it’s right?”

“I am certain,” she said, “You’re heading to a Soviet Bloc country. They didn’t exactly keep up so well with the fashions.”

“Ah, okay. Do I get a hat again?”

“Lemme check.”

=/=



“You know,” Boris said to Marisol after they had left Polly in the recovery area, “until the timeline is fixed, I suspect I am a single man.”

“Oh?” she did her best to feign an enthusiasm at that, “I may have to go on a mission.”

“That’s true. In case you don’t, we will sleep here tonight, yes? Can I count on you to visit?”

“Uh, sure.”

=/=



“You’re certain it’s this ARCNET business?” Carmen asked, “If it was replaced by something else, wouldn’t that have repaired the damage, or at least made it less noticeable?”

“It looks like, with no market for this ARCNET, those replacements Sheilagh mentioned aren’t developed, either,” Kevin said, checking.

“Interesting - I suppose it wasn’t profitable. At least that’s what Von would say, if he were here,” Deirdre said.

“Maybe your musical, uh, thing, is also tied to some profit motive,” Tom offered.

“Well, I’ve got sales info. Let’s see what’s a top-selling album in the new reality,” HD started clicking, “Led Zeppelin IV, Sgt. Pepper, Tapestry, good, good, hey, it’s missing!”

“What’s missing?” Carmen asked.

Dark Side of the Moon,” HD said, “And, uh, Wish You Were Here, and Animals and The Wall, too,” he paused, “There’s no Final Cut, no Momentary Lapse of Reason, and no Division Bell. Ha!”

“And these are?” Sheilagh asked.

“Pink Floyd albums,” HD said, “It’s, uh, they’re a group. In ’73, they put out Dark Side of the Moon. It’s huge! It breaks all sorts of sales records until Thriller comes around. And Dark Side just keeps chugging along, year after year. It’s a top seller for longer than most things. And now it’s gone, so I’m guessing the band went bankrupt or broke up or something,” he said, “And so with no Dark Side of the Moon, those other albums were never made, either.”

“1973, then,” Carmen said, “When’s yours, Sheilagh?”

“1978.”

“All right. It looks like we’ve got our missions defined. Report to Crystal and let’s get started.”

=/=



Rick was walking out of Crystal’s work area when he saw Tom and HD approaching, “Grant, can I talk to you?”

“Uh, sure. Go on without me,” he said to HD, “Yes?”

“I talked to Eleanor. She, uh, she wants you to call her, yanno.”

“I did. And we made a date. But then the timeline got restored and she didn’t know anything about it. It, uh, that’s unnerving. I admit I didn’t try a second time.”

“No time like the present.”

“What if it happens again?”

“Grant, I will not let you hurt her. But, honestly, all ya gotta do is ask her again when the timeline’s restored.”

=/=



“1973, hmm,” Crystal said, looking over HD, “Your hair is a good length. The beard is almost perfect; it just needs to be a tad messier. Blue jeans, boots and a tee shirt,” she produced the items.

“This is kinda plain,” he said, upon looking at the tee, “Can I get something I woulda bought at a concert?”

“Sure. Uh, here,” The new tee had a silkscreened picture of Jimi Hendrix on it.

“Excellent!” he enthused, then dropped his voice a little, even though they were alone, “You, uh, you seem to understand me. And my, uh, needs, Crystal. After I get back from ’73, you wanna, uh …?”

She was about to answer when Sheilagh came in, “Oh, sorry, I can come back.”

“No, that’s all right,” Crystal answered, “The more the merrier!” Whew.

=/=



“Just call her, okay? Or I won’t hear the end of it,” Rick said.

“Uh, okay. Um, Rick, I, uh, I don’t need an audience.”

“Oh yeah, of course not,” he left, bound for the cafeteria.

Once he was gone, Tom tapped his left ear twice, “I’d like to speak with Eleanor Daniels, on Lafa II,” he drawled.

“That’s me.”

“I, uh, this is Thomas Grant,” he said. There was an uncomfortable pause, “I, uh, I’m sorry it took me so long to contact you. It, uh, I tried to, and then we changed things and you didn’t know, and ….”

“It’s all right.”

“But, well, it was lame of me and I shoulda tried again,” he said, “I, uh, that was a bad move on my part. I, I should have persisted.”

“Why, um, why didn’t you?” she asked. The question wasn’t a malicious one, just a bit of curiosity on her part.

“I don’t know,” he paused, “Actually, I do know. I was very concerned that I had blown it. It, it felt like I had missed my only shot.”

“Mister Grant,” he said, and her voice was low and soft; it was forgiving, “if there’s one thing that time travel should have taught you by now, it’s that you can have any number of shots, any species of chances.”

“Do I have a chance with ya’ll?”

“Yes.”

=/=



Rick sat down in the cafeteria, a couple of slices of pizza on a plate in front of him. Three Calafan women came over - two were silver, and the other one was copper, “Yimiva,” he said to the copper one, “Yilta,” he said to the silver one with hair, “Yiria,” he said to the other silver one, who was bald, “did I get all those right? And, uh, won’t you sit down?”

“Sure,” said Yimiva, “And that was correct. We, uh, we saw the changes. It’s rather interesting, the Human-Calafan Alliance, eh?”

“The what?”

“Oh, did ya not see?” asked Yilta. Her Lafa V accent made her sound Irish, and the brogue was pleasant to the ear, “In this current wrinkle in the timeline, there is no United Federation of Planets. But our two species have a smaller, more direct alliance, you are part-Calafan. I take it your family is intact.”

“They are,” he said. He hadn’t known about the Federation never being formed, but that seemed to make sense, given that first contact had occurred so much later, and under less than friendly circumstances, “I, uh, I’ll be off to work it all out.”

“Good,” said Yiria, “Just make sure our two species stay friendly. We do so love humans,” Kevin and HD walked into the cafeteria - HD was already dressed for his mission. Almost immediately, Yiria and the other two began to flick their fingers.

“Who’s the good-looking guy?” Rick asked, well aware that the finger-flicking gesture was a kind of silent catcall.

“The part-Gorn fella,” Yilta said, sighing a little, “So sad! Brings out my nurturing side.”

Rick looked over. HD wasn’t exactly handsome, but he was a damned sight better-looking than Kevin, who weighed nearly a quarter of a metric ton. His sleeves were rolled up, which showed silvery-green scales, not as attractive as the copper or silver scrollwork on the arms of the three women sitting with him. Rick smiled to himself. Sometimes, there was just no accounting for Calafan taste.

HD came over, “I see you’re makin’ time with the honeys. Evenin’ ladies.”

“Who is that human on your shirt?” Yimiva asked.

“Ah, this is the guitar god Jimi Hendrix.”

“A god? Huh, we don’t wear Lo’s image,” Yiria said.

“Lo?”

“Lo is one of their four gods. Uh, she’s a goddess, actually,” Rick said, finishing the last of his pizza and getting up, “I’d tell you more, but I gotta head to 1968.”

“Uh, all right. Lo, huh?” HD asked.

“Yes, Lo!” Yiria said, “She gave birth to our universe.”

“I bet that really hurt.”

=/=



Tom emerged from Crystal’s work area with longer hair than he had, perhaps, ever had - past his collar! He, too, was in jeans and boots, but he had a blue oxford shirt on over his tee.

He entered the cafeteria and sat down with HD and the Calafan women. HD barely recognized him, “Brother, you almost look hip.”

Tom smiled a little at that, “Almost?”

=/=



See that train over there?
That's the train of freedom
It's about to 'rrive any minute, now
You know it's been 'a long, long overdue
Look out 'cause it's a-comin' right on through


- The Rascals (People Got to be Free)

Chapter 10 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Pink Floyd - Money

Jeannie C. Riley - Harper Valley PTA

I want to tell you all a story 'bout a Harper Valley widowed wife
Who had a teenage daughter who attended Harper Valley Junior High
Well, her daughter came home one afternoon and didn't even stop to play
She said, "Mom, I got a note here from the Harper Valley PTA"



- Harper Valley PTA (Jeannie C. Riley)

=/=



Carmen came to the launch bay to see Rick off - this was not a normal occurrence, “I get the feeling that these are larger changes than our Manifesto friends were planning on.”

“Maybe,” he allowed, “Any progress on Otra?”

“None. I think the trail’s gone cold.”

“Do you, uh, do you think she’s contributing to the problem at all?” he asked.

“Definitely not,” she said, “Else, why would they have taken her? If I were trying to really do a number on the Temporal Integrity Commission, I’d keep her here.”

“Going with that theory - assuming you’re right, and I think that at least you’re on the right track - who do you suppose they’re keeping here?”

She thought for a moment, “I wish I knew.”

One thing they had not seen was that an engineer had nicked the dark matter collector line. That engineer had also fiddled with the on-board replicator, making it unreliable. Rick would still be able to get to 1968 Prague, no problem.

But getting back was not as guaranteed.

=/=



HD got up. The three Calafan women were still sitting with him in the cafeteria, “Uh, we gotta go,” he motioned to Tom to get up. The women flicked their fingers at the two men as they departed.

Once they were out of the cafeteria, HD said, “That’s a little unnerving, to be looked over like that.”

“I guess women - or at least some women - are used to that. It is strange,” Tom agreed, “Then again, how do you know you were the one they were, uh, flicking at?”

“Huh? Don’t tell me you’re throwing over the Daniels honey for one of ‘em.”

“No, I’m not. But you gotta be wondering about your options,” Tom stated.

“I dunno. I hear they, uh, they bond easily. Might be, you know, awkward.”

=/=



The other two Calafan women went back to work. Yilta, the silver one with hair, sat by herself. Kevin came over, “You know, you keep doing that to that kid, he’s gonna get ideas,” he imitated the gesture.

“Maybe I wasn’t doing it to him,” she replied.

“Then it was Tommy.”

“No,” she said, “It was you.”

=/=



The Wells lifted off without a hitch. It was over a millennium to 1968 Prague. Rick steered the ship to an orbit over Dawitan, which was where Otra’s mother was from. It was in the Delta Quadrant, and they had had Warp Drive longer than most Milky Way species, so it was a good place to do the bulk of the temporal traveling.

Once he hit the twenty-first century, he’d fly spatially as well as temporally. Once he got to the Asteroid Belt - at around 1980 or so - he’d switch on the cloak. Then, once he’d gotten to Earth, he would get the time ship into a synchronous orbit above the dark side of the moon. The irony of that location, and the name of the missing album, was not lost on him.

But for now, he was over Dawitan, and could see its four oceans and its two huge continents. As he retreated in time, the number and brightness of evening lights slowly began to dwindle. There was no reason to monitor anything, so he threw the ship into auto. It was late, and there had been too much departmental togetherness and too much to try to figure out. He stripped down and crawled into the bed in the back. It was a king-sized affair, with black satin sheets. More than one woman had joked about it looking like a brothel chamber. And most of those women had then shared it with him.

But this time around, it was just him. He was part-Calafan, which meant that, if he hadn’t been temporally traveling, he could have shared his dreams with any Calafan or part-Calafan. Those dreams could often turn erotic - he could have picked up, say, Yiria, and then the following morning they either would have further pursued things, or not, and it would not have affected anything that had happened that night, or that could have happened on any given future night.

But he was traveling through time, so any sort of a hook-up like that was impossible. Even so, he said, out loud, the traditional Calafan nighttime wish: be with who you desire.

As to who that was, that part remained unclear.

=/=



“Me?” Kevin was incredulous.

“Don’t look so shocked,” Yilta said.

“I told you, a few months ago. I’m not, I’m not available.”

“Still too soon?”

“It will always be too soon,” he said. His eyes cast about, searching for any escape he could possibly find, but they were the only people left in the cafeteria.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “Tell me, can ya, how old are ya?”

“Uh, I’ll be seventy-one in a coupla weeks.”

“And your average life expectancy is what, exactly?”

“C’mon,” he said, a bit annoyedly.

“I’ll check, then. Looks like it’s about one hundred ninety years for humans, two hundred twelve for Gorn, let’s split the difference, so, uh, it’s just over two hundred years. You’re sure you’re comfortable goin’ about a good century and a third bein’ alone?”

“Don’t talk to me about this,” he said, “I am, I’m trying not to get angry with you.”

“I, I see,” she said. Then she changed her tone, “Look, I’m not saying these things to hurt you. And I know I’m bein’ crude about it. I got no finesse at all sometimes! But it’s not, please, I hope you’ll understand, it’s not done outta malice.”

He sighed, “I know.”

“I just want you to know, she may be gone, your wife, but you are still entitled to be happy. You can laugh, you can hold someone’s hand, and you can kiss. You can even make love again, yanno.”

=/=



“Ready?” Tom asked as he got the Jack Finney up to speed.

“I am,” HD said, “Onward to 1973, eh?”

“What’s the plan?”

“Well, it looks like the band made the album but then they abandoned it. I’m figuring they lost their nerve. It was kinda out there. Maybe they were scared no one would buy it,” HD guessed.

“Oh, yeah, money. It might’ve been, maybe they were paid not to release it.”

“That could be it, too. They got a track called Money on the album. Wanna hear it?”

“I guess so. Not too loud,” Tom said as he piloted the Jack Finney.

=/=



Rick’s dream began the same way that most Calafan-style dreams do, if you don’t have a set dream partner.

He was walking down a long corridor.

Whereas in the standard Calafan-style dream, the corridor would be filled with people, this time he was alone, a fact that made sense, given the temporal trip he was on.

Then he suddenly was no longer alone. He saw various women he’d been involved with, both on trips and at home, during the present. They were in no particular order.

The Empress Hoshi Sato smiled at him but instead paired off with another - Brian Delacroix, a young Security Crewman from the mirror universe and that time period. No matter.

Then Phillipa Green, alluring and shaking her hips - but leaving with Jim Horan.

Lucretia Crossman dropped her handkerchief, but it wasn’t picked up by Rick. Instead, it was a man from her time period - 1699 - Roger Allgood.

Betty Tyler was standing at the edge of a dance floor, looking for someone. But it turned out not to be him, and she instead found a tall man with a pencil-thin moustache, and they began to Charleston together.

Dana MacKenzie left with an eager and perhaps overly confident First Officer Martin Madden on the Enterprise-E - and not Rick.

Windy Bradley was drinking a beer at a fraternity party in 1970, but she didn’t leave with him. Instead, she left with some football player.

Carmen narrowed her eyes and, oddly enough, left with Von, the Ferengi engineer. Sheilagh winked at him but departed with HD, and then Tina April looked past him, into the eyes of a guy he conjured up out of his subconscious, an Asian fellow piloting a shuttle. Tina got into the shuttle, flashed a little leg, and was gone.

And so on and so forth, as his mind even scrolled through women he hadn’t bedded, like Crystal and Deirdre and even Polly and Otra. But the results were the same - they were close, almost within reach, and friendly enough but elusive, and they all left with others, matched to far better pairings than he could possibly provide.


He was finally, completely, alone, and so he woke up.

=/=



“I’m not so sure I liked it,” Tom said, once the song had ended, “It’s … odd.”

“It’s supposed to be unique. There’s a 7/4-4/4 time signature, which is really rare,” HD said, “It’s a masterpiece of engineering. You listen to it with earbuds and there are all these quadrophonic separations. Sometimes it’s in one ear, and sometimes the other.”

“There’s also the swear word in the lyrics.”

“C’mon, it’s not bad.”

“It’s not something I care to listen to,” Tom said.

“You’re such a Boy Scout!”

“And why not? It’s a proud tradition in my family. It goes back, well, I think it goes back to when we were still on Earth.”

“Your family’s on Titania?” HD asked.

“My parents, yes. I’m born and raised there. But not everyone’s there. I got cousins on Iapetus. You?”

“My folks are on Krios Prime. Almost everyone else - at least everyone I know about - is on Nereid or Miranda.”

“We still got some time,” Tom indicated the instrument panel, which said 2416.

“Yeah. I, um, I think the best way for me to prep is to listen to the rest of that album. And watch any interviews on file that the band did.”

“I’ll check out the interviews, too,” Tom said.

“Okay. Gonna go listen to Brain Damage and Eclipse now,” HD said, easing back into the co-pilot’s chair and closing his eyes as the music started up again, but only as a feed from his implanted Communicator, straight into his left ear.

I hope you don’t get any brain damage from that, Tom thought to himself, as he began to search for any interviews with David Gilmour or Roger Waters or their bandmates.

=/=



Rick got up and checked the instrument panel on the Wells: 2095. Time to break orbit and head to the Solar System.

“Computer, tell me about the Bratislava Declaration.”

“In 1968, Communist Party leaders in Czechoslovakia voted on whether to request Soviet assistance in ending a mostly peaceful uprising subsequently referred to as the Prague Spring.”

“What was the vote? Break it down by who voted for, who voted against.”

“Records show that the voting was done by means of secret ballot. The names and the split are not available in the master time file,” Replied the computer.

“Great. Uh, hmm, were there any party members who publicly talked about their votes, either before or after the meeting where the voting took place?”

“There are none.”

“How about known reformers and known hard-liners? Tell me who they were.”

“The following are known reformers: Alexander Dubček, Josef Smrkovský, Oldřich Černík, and František Kriegel.”

The computer paused a moment, checking its records, “The following are known hardliners: Vasil Biľak, Drahomír Kolder, Oldřich Švestka, Alois Indra and Antonin Kapek.”

“Any others?”

“All other party members were undecided or their intentions cannot be readily ascertained.”

“That’s an awful lot of swing votes,” Rick said as he engaged the cloak just off Ceres. The instrument panel read 1989 - the same year as the Velvet Revolution.

=/=



The note said, "Mrs. Johnson, you're wearing your dresses way too high
It's reported you've been drinking and a-runnin' 'round with men and going wild
And we don't believe you ought to be bringing up your little girl this way"
It was signed by the secretary, Harper Valley PTA


- Harper Valley PTA (Jeannie C. Riley)

Chapter 11 by jespah
Author's Notes:

The Zombies - Time of the Season

Well, it happened that the PTA was gonna meet that very afternoon
They were sure surprised when Mrs. Johnson wore her miniskirt into the room
And as she walked up to the blackboard, I still recall the words she had to say
She said, "I'd like to address this meeting of the Harper Valley PTA"



- Harper Valley PTA (Jeannie C. Riley)

=/=



Prague in 1968 was a medium-sized city with some lovely older architecture.

Rick arrived when it was very early in the morning there, still a little dark, despite the fact that it was mid-summer. He set the ship up in a synchronous orbit on the far side of the moon and went over to the Replicator, “Uh, replicate enough Czech money to be able to, uh, rent a modest room for a few weeks and eat out for all meals.”

He waited. Nothing. “Replicate Czech money 1968,” he said. Still nothing.

“Computer, run a Level One diagnostic on the Replicator.”

A few minutes later, the computer replied, “Diagnostic complete. Replicator power cells are completely drained.”

“Huh? Um, okay, divert power to Replicator.”

“There is not enough power to perform this function. Necessary systems are using all available power.”

“Which necessary systems?” he asked.

“Life support, propulsion and cloak.”

“Okay, let’s get you some more power, Herbert George Wells,” he fired up the dark matter collector. The Wells was of a new design, and ran on dark matter. There was so much dark matter in the universe and its imperfect mirror that a collection of even what would be considered a lot of dark matter was a purely otric event.

He glanced over at the levels after a few minutes. There was no change. “This is not good. You should be full. Computer, run a Level One diagnostic on the dark matter collector.”

A few minutes later came the reply, “There is a leak in the collector intake line.”

“Computer, repair the leak.”

“There is not enough power to perform this function. Necessary systems are using all available power.”

“Great! You don’t have enough power to repair your power drain. Hmm, computer, locate leak.”

“The leak is located on the port side, near panel 271.”

“Show location on schematic,” he said.

The diagram showed a location on the outside of the ship. He’d need to don the EV suit, “Computer, what is necessary to complete repairs?”

“A hyperspanner, thirty grams of aluminoplastic and a magnetic wrench.”

“Is it possible to replicate the aluminoplastic given the current state of power usage?”

“Negative,” Replied the machine.

“Are the tools in the kit?”

“Affirmative.”

“Thank God for small miracles. Can the aluminoplastic be created if raw materials are provided?” he asked.

“Affirmative. Necessary raw materials are twenty-four grams of aluminum and six grams of a polyamide thermoplastic.”

“Do polyamide thermoplastics exist in 1968 Prague?” he asked.

“Affirmative.”

“Sources?”

“Polyamide thermoplastics include nylon.”

“Computer, name any products or locations where polyamide thermoplastics would be common.”

“Women’s non-silk stockings.”

This could get interesting, “Computer, name any products or locations where aluminum would be common.”

“Inexpensive cooking utensils, soft drink cans and electronics casings such as photographic equipment.”

“Is it possible to run the Transporter, given the current state of power usage?”

“Negative.”

“If life support was significantly reduced, say, the ambient temperature was lowered by twenty degrees Celsius, would there be enough power for one round-trip in the Transporter?”

“Number of passengers?”

“Just me,” he said.

The computer took a minute or so to make its calculations, “Such a journey is possible.”

“Good,” he replied, “Computer, lower ambient temperature by twenty degrees Celsius and prepare the Transporter.”

=/=



They made it to 1973, perhaps a bit slower than normal, “I wonder if we’re flying at peak efficiency,” Tom said.

“We’re not?”

“Well, I just remember making the temporal journey a lot quicker before. Let’s check all systems before we head to the surface,” Tom said, “Don’t want any unpleasant surprises when it’s time to leave.”

“Right-o.”

=/=



Alone in his bunk at the Temporal Integrity Commission, Boris wondered what was keeping Marisol from secretly making the trip over in order to keep him company.

Well, not just keep him company.

But she wasn’t around. A bit concerned, he went to her bunk instead, and found it empty.

Chastened, and a tad worried, he began to walk back to his own bunk when Deirdre spotted him, “Doctor Yarin, are you lost?”

=/=



Rick beamed down to a green patch, some sort of a tiny park. Light was just beginning to appear in the eastern sky. Birds were chirping and it almost didn’t feel like he was in an actual twentieth century city.

Then he saw the reason why there was a spot of urban greenery or, rather, he almost tripped over the reason. He’d materialized into a graveyard.

He began to walk out of it, stepping gingerly amidst graves that were narrowly squeezed together as if there were no other places in Prague where the dead could possibly be collected.

He was unsure of where to go, or just what to do. He was dressed in period garb. His implanted Communicator was switched to Czech, although he knew that it was possible that he’d run across someone who spoke German, or Polish, or Russian, or Romanian. But that could be fixed by a simple tap to the ear. The natives would never know.

So he had some things, but he needed aluminum, and he needed plastic - more specifically, he needed nylon. He had no money whatsoever. He wasn’t too terribly fond of the prospect of panhandling, but he knew he might have to resort to it.

He walked through a courtyard and out in the front of the Pinkas Synagogue to finally get out of the boneyard itself. This brought him to a city street - Bilkova. Dawn was creeping in, rosy on the clouds. Fog was burning off. It was looking like it would be a fairly warm day.

He saw two women across the street, and they seemed to be the only other people awake in the entire city. They were dressed smartly, in old-fashioned skirt suits. If Crystal had been there, she would have immediately recognized that the styles were a good ten years old.

Perhaps those two women would give him a few Czech korunas - crowns, or maybe they knew of some place where he could work for a few hours. He wasn’t above washing a few dishes. He began to walk, on his side of the street, in step with them on their side. With little else to do as he gathered his thoughts, he listened in on their conversation.

“And I am telling you,” said the one with auburn hair, “you should feed him. The way to a man’s heart and all of that. Not that you even need to, Noemy. Pawel is completely lovesick over you, if you’d only pay attention, you’d see that,” Even with the perfect translation, she still had a thick accent, and her vowels tended to shift. Telling sounded like tulling. Feed sounded like fid. Lovesick sounded like luffseck.

“Really, you think so?” asked Noemy, a dark brunette who appeared to be the younger of the two, “If he is so interested, why doesn’t he make a move?” Again, the vowels were shifted, and make sounded a bit like meck.

“After all this time, you think he would. Tell me, again, why did you make me get up so early?”

“It’s the Farmers’ Market!” Noemy said, “We are going to get the most wonderful tomatoes! And there will be peas and lettuce.”

“You are the cook, I am not. Say,” said the auburn one, “do you think that fellow over there is following us?” she indicated Rick.

Rick noticed, and began to busy himself by looking at the back of the Pinkas Synagogue as if it were the most interesting thing.

“I don’t know. Perhaps,” Noemy said, and it came out as pareheps, “he is lost.”

The two of them began walking away. Rick waited a while before starting to walk again, hoping they wouldn’t notice that, most definitely, he was following them. Maybe the Farmers’ Market would be a place where he could get some work. It was the only possible destination that he knew of, so it became his destination.

He began to cross Bilkova Street over to their side, not seeing a car coming, and not putting it together that the sounds he was hearing were of a car with a driver who was probably drunk and had no business getting behind the wheel after an all-night bender, for the driver was certainly out of control.

=/=



“Not lost. Just thinking of a late snack,” Boris said, thinking fast.

“Uh, the cafeteria’s over that way,” Deirdre said.

“Yes, yes, of course. Too much on my mind; it makes me forgetful a little. Good night.”

=/=



The impact was hard, swift and sudden - and loud.

But it wasn’t just an impact, for he was dragged a street over before the driver realized an impact had occurred. The driver hit reverse quickly, which dislodged Rick’s body, and then sped away from the scene.

Noemy and the other woman stared at each other, “My God!” Noemy exclaimed. They ran over, “Can you do anything, or is he already -?”

The auburn one knelt over where Rick was lying, “I am a doctor,” she said, “Don’t try to speak.”

“We should get an ambulance. And the authorities,” Noemy said.

“No, no police,” The other one said. Then she stared at the side of Rick’s face. The skin of his cheek had been raw where it had been dragged in the street. But the wound was closing up, at an impossibly rapid rate, “Noemy, look at this.”

“What is this? His face is healing.”

“Do you think the rest of him is?”

“I don’t know. You are the doctor, not I,” Noemy said.

“I’ll be able to tell at the office. Can we lift him together, do you think?”

“Yes, I think so.”

The auburn one replied, “Let’s make this as quick as possible, and hope he doesn’t die on the way.”

=/=



Well, there's Bobby Taylor sittin' there and seven times he's asked me for a date
Mrs. Taylor sure seems to use a lot of ice whenever he's away
And Mr. Baker, can you tell us why your secretary had to leave this town?
And shouldn't Widow Jones be told to keep her window shades all pulled completely down?


- Harper Valley PTA (Jeannie C. Riley)

Chapter 12 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Blue Cheer - Summertime Blues

Well, Mr. Harper couldn't be here 'cause he stayed too long at Kelly's Bar again
And if you smell Shirley Thompson's breath, you'll find she's had a little nip of gin
Then you have the nerve to tell me you think that as a mother I'm not fit
Well, this is just a little Peyton Place and you're all Harper Valley hypocrites


- Harper Valley PTA (Jeannie C. Riley)

=/=



“Wow, Abbey Road Studios! This place is, man, it’s totally legendary!” HD gushed. He and Tom were just outside.

“You got a plan?” Tom asked.

“Not really. We’re gonna wing it.”

Great,” Tom said in a tone that made it obvious that he thought it was anything but.

=/=



Rick drifted in and out of consciousness and his Communicator’s translation of Czech seemed to be working only when it felt like it. The women carried him to their home. At least it wasn’t far from where the car had hit and dragged him. Everything hurt like hell and he had no idea what was going to happen and was hardly in a position to do anything about it, anyway.

They got him onto an examining table, or at least he thought it was some sort of an examining table, but there were stirrups at one end of it, “Help me with this,” The auburn-haired one said, wheeling in a large contraption that he could not identify but looked old, even for the time period.

“Hang on; I’ll get the camera, too,” Noemy said. She disappeared into another room.

“Ah, let me put this on you,” The other one said. It was a heavy apron or blanket with some sort of - what was it? - metal, perhaps, embedded within the fabric. She donned a similar item, “Stay in the parlor!” she called out to Noemy. She added a rectangular metal plate to the contraption, left the room and Rick heard a slight buzzing noise.

She returned to the room, took out the plate and replaced it with another one. She moved his metal-fabric apron a little, left the room again and that same low buzzing sound was heard.

She did this several more times, sometimes repositioning his body as she worked, sometimes not. When she was finally done, she called out, “You can come back, the x-rays are done.”

Noemy came in and set up a tripod, “I took the liberty,” she said, and produced an old-fashioned gold pocket watch with a chain.

“Ah, Papa’s old watch! Have you wound it?”

“Yes, yes, of course. It is almost five in the morning, yes?”

The auburn-haired one peeked at a large grandfather clock in the hallway, “Yes, it looks to be. Now, let’s photograph him, first a full body shot, then you’ll tour around his extremities.”

Rick could hear snapping as the camera was used, “Here, turn him a little,” Noemy said, and the one - her sister, he surmised - complied.

“Mister, you seem to be remarkably resilient,” said the auburn-haired doctor as she turned his left arm so that it faced palm up, “What’s this? You have, it appears to be a tattoo. Come look, Noemy.”

“That is no tattoo. I don’t know what that is,” Noemy said, looking at the copper and silver bands on Rick’s left wrist. She had no way of knowing that they were marks of his part-Calafan ancestry.

“His other side does not match.”

“Maybe because that arm was almost off. Perhaps the colors take a while to, to regenerate,” Noemy offered.

“I’m sure I don’t know. Good thing I have no patients this morning. Have you got any clients for the studio today?”

“No. When do you next have a patient?”

The auburn-haired one consulted a huge book, “Uh, two o’clock. Mrs. Klinghofer. I should not put her off.”

“Then you’ll need this room,” Noemy said.

“Yes, huh, we’ll put him in the extra bedroom. Are there sheets on that bed?”

“I’ll check,” Noemy ran upstairs.

“Mister, you are a lucky man. Of course, I would not blame you if you saw things a bit differently, seeing as not,” she checked the grandfather clock again, “a half an hour ago, you were being dragged in the street by some careless maniac of a driver,” she paused for a second, “But you are here now, and not in some hospital or prematurely dumped into a morgue, or perhaps at the police station, run in for vagrancy, seeing as you have no money and no identification on you. We take in strays here, like puppy dogs. And we don’t trust our government much for, you see, it hasn’t always been this free and easy and I suspect it will not be for too much longer. So for now you will rest in the old extra bedroom and perhaps some of my father’s old clothes will fit you. The neighbors will talk, you know, once they find out we have a strange man in here. We will say you are a cousin.”

Noemy came back, “All set. Look, the arm is all reattached.”

“It’s amazing. Let’s get another set of photographs. And then maybe you will help me get him into the spare room and you will head to the Farmers’ Market alone, yes? We still need groceries. Apparently now we need some more.”

“You shouldn’t be alone with him. What happens if he turns into something else, something horrible?”

“Eh, I will be all right.”

“No, I will call Pawel,” Noemy said, “Although it will be presumptuous of me to do so.”

The auburn-haired one looked at Noemy skeptically, “You have known Pawel for over two decades and you have never called him first?”

“I, it just doesn’t feel right doing that.”

“Then give me the number and I shall call him. Keep, uh, keep taking pictures, please. And find out if he is in any pain. It’s hard for me to tell and I’m not so sure he does understand everything we are saying. In any event, I have some morphine I can spare, if it comes to that.”

=/=



“Here, let’s do this,” HD said, “You be my agent, and I’ll be some new talent you’re trying to get signed.”

“I am dressed casually, almost exactly like ya’ll are,” Tom said, “It’s not gonna fly.”

“Huh, you’re right. Maybe we’ll just say you’re my brother.”

“Friend, okay? Let’s not make this too complicated. When we get in, then what?”

“There are a buncha recording studios, and there are rooms where they do the mixing and the engineering. We know the album is done, but sometimes there’s post-production, where they re-record a track or add another voice to a chorus or whatever. So we might find the band in one of the studios. There’s also, uh, the sound engineer. It’s possible that he tanked the album.”

“Who would I be looking for, then?”

“Mainly David Gilmour or Roger Waters,” HD consulted a PADD surreptitiously, “The sound engineer is, he’s a guy who did some music recording of his own, but it was later.”

“Name?”

“Alan Parsons.”

=/=



When Pawel arrived, he and Noemy carried Rick up the stairs to a tiny bedroom with a steeply sloped ceiling. The other woman followed, with a small black bag in one hand, “Are you in pain?” she asked Rick, once they’d gotten him into the room’s little twin bed. The word sounded like pin.

He realized she was addressing him directly, but he was just too tired and overwhelmed and pained to say anything. He ended up just staring at her.

“All right, hmm, maybe morphine isn’t needed right now. I will get the tape player. I need to dictate my findings. We, uh, can you develop the x-rays and the film, Noemy?”

“Sure,” she said, “Pawel, can you help me, and come to the Farmers’ Market with me?”

“I should stay here,” he said, “In case he tries anything,” Pawel was almost as slight as the two women were. He didn’t seem to be much of a bodyguard.

“It’s all right, really,” said the auburn-haired one, “I don’t think this one will do much other than sleep. But, uh, thank you for coming over, Pawel. Sorry we had to wake you so early.”

“It’s all right,” he said, and he and Noemy left.

=/=



Back in 3110, it was the morning and Polly was coming to, “Ugh. Oh, uh, hi, Sheilagh. Didn’t see you there.”

“Thinking fond thoughts about 1978? ARCNET was developed at Datapoint Corporation, in San Antonio, Texas. It should be nice there,” Sheilagh said.

“I’ll need, gawd, I’ll need hair,” Polly said, touching her head.

“Not to worry. Crystal takes care of that. She can have you fixed up in less than a minute, no lie.”

“Hmm, ah, now that makes sense.”

“What makes sense?”

“Some of the actors I know - this is all very hush-hush, you see - but sometimes when they’re thirty they look like they’re losing their hair and then suddenly, at age thirty-two, they have more than they ever did before. This must be similar to what they use.”

“It probably is. I can definitely see the application. I’ll, uh, I’ll have Kevin give the Flux Capacitor a last check while you get hair and then we can both get period garb, okay?”

“Sounds good to me,” Polly said.

“I just hope there’s no shooting,” Sheilagh said under her breath, hoping the other woman hadn’t heard her, as she left to get the proper clothes for 1978.

=/=



No I wouldn't put you on because it really did, it happened just this way
The day my Mama socked it to the Harper Valley PTA
The day my Mama socked it to the Harper Valley PTA


- Harper Valley PTA (Jeannie C. Riley)

Chapter 13 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Jim Croce - Time in a Bottle

You got a thing about you
I just can't live without you
I really want you, Elenore, near me
Your looks intoxicate me
Even though your folks hate me
There's no one like you, Elenore, really


- The Turtles (Elenore)

=/=



“Alone at last,” the auburn-haired one said, looking at Rick. He was nearly completely healed, so far as she could tell, “So tell me, can you understand a word I am saying?”

He felt strong enough to nod.

“All right. Are you in any pain?”

Another nod.

“I see. Aspirin pain or morphine pain?”

“Uh, aspirin, I think,” he finally said.

“I suspect it was morphine pain before, but it was hard to tell, and I was unsure whether it would interfere with things. Sorry, I should have given it to you anyway.”

“It’s all right.”

She got him two tablets and a glass of water, and sat him up so that he could drink. She opened the only window in the room, “It’s so stuffy in here,” she took her jacket off, “Damn, there’s some blood on it. Ah well, it’s about the only way I can prove to myself that you were actually injured at all.”

Seeing her bare arms for the first time, he noticed a blue tattooed number on her left forearm - 4142753. He stared at it for a minute or so.

“Have you never seen one of these before?” she asked, “It was a gift from Hitler,” she spat a little, saying the name. “See, it is a prime number. At least, I think it is.”

He just continued staring, so she added, “My sister has one, almost identical. And Pawel has one as well. They were the keys to the Hotel Dachau.”

“Who are you?” he asked tentatively.

“I am Milena Chelenska. I am a doctor - a gynecologist, actually. My sister, Noemy, and I, we saw you hit by a car. Your body was dragged down Bilkova Street, your arm was hanging off, and your face was all torn up. You are now almost completely healed from that, and it has taken maybe an hour.”

“I think I still have internal injuries.”

“You might,” she allowed, “I will not ask you about it today. You should rest instead, I suspect. Are you hungry?”

“A little, uh, Milena,” he said, “My name is Richard Daniels. Please call me Rick. You, uh, you said you would tell people I was your cousin.”

“So you were not passed out when I said that, eh? Well, we will think of something, Richard, some name that will work for you,” Her pronunciation of his name sounded like Reesherd, “Maybe Radek.”

=/=



“There, good as new!” Sheilagh said. She and Polly were in Crystal’s work area, and Crystal had just rubbed on some solution that regrew Polly’s hair.

“San Antonio, eh?” Crystal clicked around on her PADD, “It’s 1978, so it’s a little early for teased ‘80s hair, but I think you still need kinda big hair. Then again, neither of you sound like Texans. How much authority do you think you can wield?”

“I think we could be a bit like outside consultants coming in,” Sheilagh said.

“So suits, then? I’m afraid they’ll be kinda unisex, and the blouses have these awful, big, floppy bows,” Crystal made a face, “At least it’s before really big shoulder pads, although you do get some padding. But you won’t look like linebackers.”

“Gawd,” Polly said, once Crystal had produced clothes for her, “who in their right mind ever thought this was attractive?”

=/=



There was a cacophony of sound inside Abbey Road Studios. People were walking in and out, sometimes carrying guitars or even violin cases or saxophones or the like.

“Can I help you?” the receptionist asked.

“Uh….” HD was momentarily stumped.

“We’re here to see Alan Parsons,” Tom said.

“Room 217. Second floor, to the left of the stairwell. You can’t miss it.”

They thanked her and walked up the stairs, “I can’t do all the talking,” Tom cautioned, “I can get you there, but then you’re on, all right?”

“Got it. And, uh, thanks, man.”

=/=



Milena fed Rick some potato soup she had warmed on the stove, “It’s not your normal breakfast fare, but what can you do?” she said.

“It’s fine. Um, thank you. You’re really going above and beyond.”

“Like I said, we take in stray puppies here. And you are clearly an intriguing puppy. Plus we got the two lovebirds to spend some time together. Maybe she’ll get a proposal out of him yet.”

“Who?”

“My sister and Pawel. She has been a lot more patient than I ever would have been. I mean, I suppose I can understand the longing, but why not put it all together under the auspices of marriage? Neither she nor I may be married, but our parents had a most excellent union - at least, that is what both of us can remember of them. She has a good blueprint, if nothing else,” Milena said.

“My, uh, my parents also have a really good marriage. I wonder sometimes what they’ll do when the first one of them goes.”

“My, uh, my parents did not have such an issue,” Milena replied, and Rick was polite enough to not ask about that.

There was some noise downstairs, “Ah I do believe we have groceries!” Milena exclaimed, “Are you finished eating?”

He just nodded, suddenly overly exhausted again.

=/=



Room 217 was a mixing room. There was a man in there, bearded, in his mid-twenties. He was bent over a large board with several switches, “Uh, I’m busy.”

“Sorry, um, we don’t wanna bother you,” HD said, “You workin’ on the new Pink Floyd LP?”

“Of course, uh, who are you?”

“Fans. And, uh, we just, uh, I just, I mean, look,” HD said, “I know it sounds crazy but I can just tell you, that album is gonna be monster. It’ll be killer.”

“Not if I can’t finish mixing it,” the man said.

“Mister Parsons,” Tom ventured, “what my friend here is saying is, well, have confidence in it. It’s, uh, it’s going to be the crown of their career and possibly yours as well.”

“Me?” Parsons asked, “I got other plans.”

“And I’m sure you do!” HD said, “I am a musician and I know what it’s like - you keep doing gigs, you keep wanna doing gigs, until you get to that great gig in the sky, whatever it is.”

“How do you know what’s on this album?” Parsons asked.

“I just, I know,” HD said, “I, uh, I just know.”

“It hasn’t been released yet. How could you possibly know the name of track number five?”

“It’s not a guess,” Tom said, “he knows. He’s been livin’ with it for hours, probably has it memorized by now.”

“That album isn’t mixed yet. It’s all here, in pieces. And I got offers to not even make it or finish it,” Parsons added.

“Not make it?” HD asked, “Who’s telling you not to make it?”

“Look, Mister, uh, who are you and why am I talking to you?”

“Grant. I’m Grant and he’s Avery,” Tom said.

“There’s, um, the people who don’t want you to release, they’re wrong,” HD said, “they got a copy of some of the tracks - The Great Gig in the Sky, Brain Damage, Eclipse and Money - and we managed to listen to ‘em.”

“That’s artistic theft,” Parsons said.

“I know, and I don’t approve,” Tom said, “and I know how unconventional this all is, but listen to this guy. He knows what he’s talking about.”

“It’s the 7/4, 4/4 time in Money, the Clare Torrey vocal in The Great Gig in the Sky, the dissonant augmented fourth in Eclipse, the laughter in Brain Damage - it is all utterly brilliant!” HD gushed.

“I haven’t added most of those things yet,” Parsons admitted, “I don’t know if any of them will fly.”

“Look, whatever you’re being told, whatever you’re being offered to not make it, to not finish it, well, it’s wrong,” HD said, getting a bit animated, “That album is gonna be enormous. It’ll, it’ll eclipse everything in its path. You gotta be bold, man! Swing for the damned fences! Or, er, whatever the equivalent is in soccer. Shoot on the goal, man!”

“I don’t know much about it,” Tom said, “but whoever’s offering you money or whatever for not finishing, you gotta wonder what their motives are, right? And my guess is that they’re lowballing you. Do y’all honestly think they wouldn’t be trying to do this if they weren’t scared of what you were producing? They probably are some competitor to you, terrified that you’ll run over ‘em. And you will.”

“We will?”

“You will,” HD said, “Swing for the fences. Make that goal. I know you don’t know me from Adam. If I were you, I wouldn’t listen to me, either. But I am the buying public and I know I am right about this one.”

=/=



.Elenore, gee I think you're swell
And you really do me well
You're my pride and joy, et cetera


- The Turtles (Elenore)

Chapter 14 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Alan Parsons Project - Games People Play

Elenore, can I take the time
To ask you to speak your mind
Tell me that you love me better


- The Turtles (Elenore)

=/=



While Rick slept, Noemy developed the film. Milena and Pawel sat together in the kitchen. “So, what are your intentions?”

“My intentions?” he asked.

“Towards Noemy,” she said, “what are you going to do?”

“Milena, we have known each other for over two decades.”

“Yes, and if you don’t propose soon, perhaps some other man will fall out of the sky.”

“Sky?”

“Or wherever he came from.” She shrugged.

“Are you saying I have a rival?”

“Are you saying that will get you to act already? Neither of you are getting any younger, you know.”

“If my father were here ….”

“Your father is a part of the ashes of Dachau. As is a good chunk of pre-war Prague.”

He looked stricken, so she hastily added, “I am sorry; that was insensitive of me. But Pawel, it has been a very, very long time. You love her, even if you are constitutionally incapable of admitting it. And she feels the same for you, even if she is similarly handicapped. Right?”

“Maybe,” he said, then changed the subject, “what are you going to do with him?”

“I am unsure. What did Noemy tell you?”

“Not so much. She said he was badly hurt, but he doesn’t seem to be so injured now. Is he a con artist, do you think?”

“I do not know. Ah, look, photographs!” Noemy came in with the developed pictures and x-rays.

“I would not believe it if I were not seeing it for myself,” she said. She spread the pictures out on the kitchen table. “Look at this.”

There were three pictures together, of the left side of Rick’s face. The pocket watch was next to his face. The first photograph showed a wide gash in his cheek. The watch said 4:31.

The next one showed a time of 4:34 and the wound was nearly completely closed up. In the third and final snapshot, the time was 4:38 and the wound was nonexistent. It was as if it had never been there.

“What’s this over here?” Pawel asked, pointing at the first picture. It was the barest hint of a wire sticking out from Rick’s left ear. It wasn’t present in the other two photographs.

“Have you got the x-rays I took of his head?”

“Here, and here,” Noemy said, presenting them. And, sure enough, a wire showed up.

“Curiouser and curiouser, Mister Daniels,” Milena said.

“Who?” asked Pawel.

“I asked him. His name, he says it is Richard Daniels.”

“So he is American?” Noemy asked.

“I don’t know if America is this advanced,” Milena said, “I don’t think any of us are.”

=/=



“I was thinking,” HD said as he and Tom left Abbey Road Studios, “we could go to 1974 and check and see if we were successful, instead of waiting ‘til we got back to the Temporal Integrity Commission.”

“Oh?”

“It’s all about album sales. We can go to ’74 and do research on album sales, visit a library or something,” HD offered.

“That’s, uh, that’s actually a good idea,” Tom said.

“Hey, I do have ‘em every now and then, Grant.”

“Yeah, uh, I guess you do. Okay, ’74 and we confirm. And if it took, then we go straight home.”

“Works for me. We, uh, I don’t think we fixed everything,” HD said.

“Well, that’s why Rick and Polly and Sheilagh are out, too, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so, man.”

=/=



Milena sat in her office, a room filled with old-fashioned equipment, old even by the standards of the day. She had a reel to reel tape recorder on the desk in front of her and a cup of tea as well. She turned on the recorder. “All right. I, this is, I am unsure of how to begin, for what I have to say is radical - revolutionary even.” She took a breath.

I have conclusive evidence that we are not alone in the universe. And I am well aware of exactly how insane that sounds, so I shall endeavor to explain.” She cleared her throat.

At approximately ten minutes after four o’clock this morning, July the thirtieth of 1968, my sister and I were walking on Bilkova Street in Prague, near our home. We heard, rather than saw, a man being hit by an automobile. The car dragged the body for part of a block, then the driver reversed gears, ran over the body a second time in order to dislodge it, and sped away.

She played the tape back in order to assure herself that the recording was clear, then began to record again. “The victim was still alive, although barely. The body appeared to be irreparably damaged. To my eyes, it seemed as if multiple amputations would be required, and that the victim would have likely lost a great deal of brainpower as well, as there was obvious head trauma.”

She paused and sipped some tea. It had gone cold and she made a face. “As I was tending to the victim in the street, I noticed signs of healing. My sister, Noemy Chelenska, was with me, and she confirmed same. It was then decided to bring the victim to my office, in order to treat him if necessary, and to take photographs and x-rays.” She paused a moment to gather her thoughts.

Numerous photographs and x-rays were taken. The most interesting findings were as follows: the subject - for it seems churlish to continue to refer to him as a victim - showed major wound improvement in less than an hour and was able to speak coherently. Second, it appears that he is oriented as to time and place although I will check that. Third, the subject says his name is Richard Daniels. From his accent, his haircut, his shoes and the remains of his clothes, I suspect that he was made so as to appear to be an American.”

She thought for a moment, and then stopped the tape and rewound it a little so as to go back over the silent part. Then she started recording again. “I have labeled the x-rays and photographs for convenience’s sake. X-ray number one was taken probably at around four twenty-five this morning, and shows a small wire protruding from the subject’s left ear. Photograph 1A confirms the presence of the wire. Photographs 1B and 1C show the same body part but no wire. It is my considered opinion that healing occurred in this area, and that thereby obscured the wire’s appearance. X-ray number two shows the subject’s left forearm, wrist and hand, and was taken at about the same time as x-ray number one. This x-ray shows clearly a pair of x-ray reactive bands on the subject’s left wrist, in the same place where a woman’s bracelet or a man’s cuff jewelry would be worn. Photograph 2A was taken at five-eleven and shows that the distal band is silver in color, and the proximal band is copper, but those are colors and do not appear to be the compositions of these bands. This does not appear to be paint, and it does not appear that these are tattoos. Photographs 2B and 2C were taken later, and show the colored bands without any degradation in size, color, brightness or placement. Therefore, I am forced to conclude that these two colored bands are a naturally occurring feature of the subject’s body.

=/=



“Who wants the Hamill?” Crystal asked.

“The what?” Sheilagh inquired.

The Dorothy Hamill haircut. It’s a wedge, looks like this,” she produced a picture of it on her PADD.

“What’s the alternative?” Polly asked.

“Uh, there’s the Farrah but it probably doesn’t project enough authority. There’s also this,” she produced another picture, “this is Toni Tennille. Or this haircut,” another photograph was shown, “this woman is Kate Jackson.”

“Rock, paper, scissors?” Polly asked Sheilagh.

=/=



Finally, the subject has various x-ray reactive discs in his body. His brain, both eyes, both ears, all ten fingertips and the soles of both feet contain these discs. Their purpose is unknown at this time.

She paused for a moment. “I do not believe that the subject poses any sort of a danger to either myself or my family. If this changes, however, I believe that he could be dispatched by either decapitation or drowning, if he were to be kept under for a sufficient period of time. I am merely speculating as to the amount of time that would be enough to prove fatal, but I do not know of any non-aquatic species that can possibly survive underwater for more than an hour or so. Therefore, my opinion is that twenty-four hours submerged might do the trick,” she took a breath, “let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

=/=



Tom and HD were in a library in London. “And these are the Billboard charts for last week?” HD asked.

“Yes,” replied the librarian, who was an older man, “if you want any further back, I’ll need to get an Interlibrary Loan, which will take about three weeks.”

“I don’t think that’ll be necessary,” Tom said. Sure enough, in the number forty-five spot for the week of July twentieth of 1974, was Dark Side of the Moon.

“Agreed,” HD said, “and, uh, thanks.”

They beamed up from Hyde Park. “Any more detours needed?” Tom asked.

“Not a one,” HD said, “we’re clear to 3110.”

=/=



Milena was still sitting in her office when Noemy came in. “He is awake, and asking for you.”

“All right.”

“How long do you intend to keep him here?” Noemy asked.

“I don’t know. Let’s see how long he wishes to stay.”

“He’ll have to pull his weight,” Noemy said.

“I agree.”

=/=



Properly coiffed and attired, Polly and Sheilagh went to Kevin’s office.

“Come in,” he said.

“Could you please check Fluxy one last time?” Sheilagh asked. “I just want everything to go right.”

“Sure.”

=/=



“Mister Richard Daniels,” Milena said once she was back in the spare room, “or, rather, I should say, Mister Richard M. Daniels,” involuntarily, he clutched his neck to find the jewelry he always wore - a chain with a Xindi initiation medal with his initials engraved upon it, and an old-fashioned skeleton key charm with a solid handle - and was relieved that they were still there, “do you know where you are?”

“Uh, Prague?”

“Very good. And do you know today’s date?”

“It’s late July. I think the thirty-first?” he ventured.

“Thirtieth. That is close enough, a mistake that anyone can make. Do you know which planet you are on?”

=/=



I really think you're groovy
Let's go out to a movie
What do you say, now, Elenore, can we?
They'll turn the lights way down low
Maybe we won't watch the show
I think I love you, Elenore, love me


- The Turtles (Elenore)

Chapter 15 by jespah
Author's Notes:

The Turtles - Elenore

Elenore, gee I think you're swell
And you really do me well
You're my pride and joy, et cetera
Elenore, can I take the time
To ask you to speak your mind
Tell me that you love me better


- The Turtles (Elenore)

=/=



Planet?” he laughed, trying to appear nonchalant. “What a ridiculous question!”

“Not at all,” Milena said, “for, you see, there are many interesting things about you. There’s a wire in your left ear. There are metal discs of some sort in your eyes. You don’t seem to have fingerprints. You’ve got two metallic bands embedded in your left wrist that I suspect have been there since your birth. Your little device,” she produced his PADD from her skirt pocket, “is something I have never seen before. But I do like the pictures that are on it.”

In sleep mode, his PADD had a slide show of family photographs. This tradition had gone back for a few dozen generations. There were people in the slideshow who he could not recognize. “Uh, thanks, I think.”

“Are they family pictures?”

“Yes.”

“Who is this?” she asked, showing him the PADD.

“That’s my sister, Eleanor.”

“And this?”

“Uh, I think that’s Chuck Reed.”

“And this family?”

“They are, uh, Joss and Jia Beckett and their kids, Shaoquing and Jay,” he said.

“And these lovely creatures?” it was a picture of four copper Calafans, related, but back a few generations.

“Uh, maybe we shouldn’t talk about them,” he said.

“Are you a human?” she asked.

“I beg your pardon?”

=/=



“The Jack’s taking longer than usual. I’m sure of it,” Tom said, “look at that, we’re not even at 2300 yet.”

“Better have Kevin look at it, “ HD said.

=/=



Kevin peered out from under the Flux Capacitor. “And there’s the problem right there.”

“Which is?” Sheilagh asked.

“Looks like the dark matter intake line was damaged,” he said, “you’d’ve had to have fixed that by donning an EV suit.”

“Oh,” Sheilagh said, “that would’ve stunk.”

Kevin engaged his Communicator, “Carmen, I got something interesting here, in the launch bay. Come on over, please. O’Connor out.”

“Can you fix it?” Polly asked.

“Absolutely. And it’s a damned sight easier to do it here than in zero G.” He checked a PADD. “So it was you.”

“Who?” Sheilagh asked.

“Nemmind,” Kevin said, “Ah, Carmen, you need to hear about this.”

=/=



“You heard me,” Milena said.

“Yes,” he said, but he didn’t add his usual qualifier about being human - more or less.

“Mister Daniels,” she said, “I have read Stanislaw Lem and Karel Čapek, and even HG Wells,” at the sound of the name HG Wells, Rick’s face colored slightly, “and so I am, shall we say, I am open to the possibility - yes, that is a good way of putting it - that you are not what you seem to be.”

“Which is a guy you saw run over.”

“And then I saw heal, at a phenomenal rate, and without my having to lift a finger. Tell me, for I have a patient coming in a half an hour, can you share this beautiful gift you have? For, you see, Mrs. Klinghofer, she has late-stage breast cancer. The main treatment I have for her is radiation. There are no drugs. And I suspect that the radiation will not work, for cancer is a horrible, insidious disease and I doubt that I will get it all. I could amputate, true, perhaps I will do that, eh? But you - you skip away from death’s door in about an hour or so. Tell me, are you strong enough to walk?”

He held her hands for support as he got up, but he really didn’t need that. Her hands were rough, as if she’d been gardening or washing a ton of dishes. He tentatively took a few steps, and then seemed to be all right.

“Would you be wanting to go now?” she asked.

“Well, I’d like to make it up to you. But I suspect you already know that I’m broke.”

“Unless you want to give me this pretty device,” she said. She still had the PADD in her hand, and gave it to him, “although I doubt that it is only a repository for some snapshots.”

“That’s right,” he said, “I, uh, I can’t use these clothes.” They were tattered, as beyond repair as she’d thought his body had been.

“Here, we have some.” She opened up the room’s tiny closet. “This suit was my father’s.”

“I shouldn’t take it. At least, let me do something for you.”

“What you can do for me is tell me the truth about who - and what - you are.”

“I can’t say.”

“If you told me, you would have to kill me?” she asked, and it wasn’t just a playful inquiry.

“No,” he said, “it’s just, it’s a bad idea.”

“Then you can pay me by curing Mrs. Klinghofer? She was in Dachau with us; it’s a shame to survive that and then be felled by something you can’t see until it becomes incurable.”

“I can’t do that, either.”

“I suppose,” she said, “you cannot tell me why you are here, either.”

“That would be correct. Uh, how many people know I’m here?”

“Just three - myself, Noemy and Pawel.”

“Don’t, uh, could you keep quiet about it?”

“Why should I? I have, I believe, solved one of mankind’s greatest questions - whether we are alone in the universe. It turns out we are not, yes?”

=/=



In her cell, in 3110, Otra felt movements in time. First contact and the first Warp One ship changed back, the pilot going from the brunette to the redhead, the ship going from the Aryan to the Coffee, and the year going from 2762 to 2364.

So far, so good, but then things changed again, and she saw millions of rabbits overrunning and infesting an alien world.

=/=



The alarms went off while Kevin and Carmen were talking. “That’s something new, isn’t it?” she asked.

“Yeah, I got it rigged so that temporal restoration is a different tone,” he said.

There was a bong sound.

“And there’s the tone. So, something’s good. And something’s, er, not so good,” Kevin said.

“And then there’s this,” Carmen said, “are you sure as to who was on the inspection detail?”

“Positive. It looks like Von did the prep work on all three ships, and Levi signed off on it.”

“Let’s hope the other two don’t have this same problem,” she said, then dropped her voice so that only he - and not Sheilagh and Polly - could hear her, “do you think the line was deliberately cut?”

“Let’s just say the jury’s still out on that, okay?”

=/=



“Please?” Rick asked.

“I don’t think you have many bargaining chips - or, at least, few that you are willing to part with. I am giving you clean clothes and I kept you from being run into the cops. They could still, very easily, see you as a vagrant.”

“I see,” he said, “tell you what; let me see what I can do around here. I don’t know if I can convince you but at least, maybe, I can repay you a little. At least I can show you that I’m sincere.”

“Sincere? Such an interesting word from one who is clearly keeping a lot of secrets.”

“I could, I suppose I could tell you if you kept it secret. And I mean really secret - not just secret as in you tell one person.”

“Secret, eh? But you forget that I have made this extraordinary discovery. I could be famous, like Marie Curie.”

“You could,” he allowed, “or you could do the right thing. Please?”

Pawel came in. “Mrs. Klinghofer is here..”

“Oh! The time! It passes so quickly! I will be back in perhaps an hour. Pawel, can you help Mister Daniels, and see if any of my Papa’s old clothing will fit him?”

“Sure.”

=/=



“All fixed,” Kevin said, “you should be ready to go.”

“Thanks,” Sheilagh said, “be back before you know it.” She and Polly got into the Flux Capacitor and departed.

Carmen turned to Kevin as soon as the ship was safely out of view, “If I were a saboteur, and I knew that recall had been disabled, I would make my move on the time ships now, right?”

“And if you were a saboteur, you’d make your move while Levi - Mister Distraction himself - was charged with doing the checks.”

“Unless it’s Levi who’s responsible,” Carmen said, “huh, but my money’s on Von. Literally. What do we know about him?”

“Same things we know about any Ferengi,” Kevin said, “he’s motivated by profit. He’s a competent engineer, and he does the gardening in the courtyard in his spare time.”

“If I were an idealistic organization out to change time to my own purposes, would I want a man motivated by profit on my team?” she asked.

“Hmm,” Kevin thought out loud, “he might be easier to control, or at least they might think that. If they have problems with him, well, they just make it more worth his while. They don’t have to kill him, like we figure they did with Parker, that other agent of theirs.”

“Just you and I are on this,” Carmen said, “and no one else, not even Deirdre, at least for now.”

“Okay, boss.”

=/=



Rick was swimming a bit in the dead man’s clothes, “You are out of style,” Pawel said, “or at least I think you are. I can never be certain about such things,” he rolled up his sleeves in the stuffy little room and Rick could clearly see the number on his arm: 4142734.

“What do you, uh, do?” Rick asked.

“Me? I drive the milk truck most days, also do day labor. And you?”

“I, I clean things up,” Rick said, and that was, in a way, true.

=/=



“I found the change,” Deirdre said. She had come to the launch bay, in search of both Kevin and Carmen, and had found them both.

“What have you got?” Carmen asked.

“It was, it seems that first contact with the Andorians in 2371 now had a far different effect that, well, than first contact with the Vulcans did in 2063. Instead, uh, humanity was actually expecting first contact.”

“I wonder how they knew,” Kevin said, “anyway, what does that do?”

“Well,” Deirdre said, “it looks like there was a movement to make planets a lot more like home. Which is nice, I guess, but the planetary engineering wasn’t done so well.”

“And?” Carmen prompted.

“It was kind of like Australia. In fact, an aspect of it was exactly like Australia,” Deirdre said, “humans came to Cardassia and released rabbits into the wild. Rabbits being rabbits - and having no natural predators there - they did what rabbits do. They overran the planet, and destroyed its ecosystem.”

“It’s like death by fluff,” Kevin said.

=/=



Elenore, gee I think you're swell ah-hah
Elenore, gee I think you're swell ah-hah
Hah


- The Turtles (Elenore)

Chapter 16 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Cream - Sunshine of Your Love

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?”

“Oppression?”

“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.”

“Or assimilated?”

“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?”

“3069.”

=/=



I'll be with you darling soon,
I'll be with you when the stars start falling.


- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)

Chapter 17 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Sly & the Family Stone - Everyday People

I've been waiting so long
To be where I'm going
in the sunshine of your love.


- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)

=/=



They stood together in the cemetery, in silence. She finally said, “And you are here from about eleven hundred years from now in order to, to do what, exactly?”

“The, uh, the timeline, it was messed up. There is a faction going around, doing things. My, uh, my job is to put those things back.”

“Good changes, or bad ones?”

“Either kind, actually,” he said, “my job is to put everything back to the way it was. It - when the past is changed, it threatens the future, in all sorts of ways. What look like good changes often have disastrous results, further down the line.”

“So you make sure that Hitler is born, and Rome falls, and there is the big Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and the American President Lincoln, he is shot, and, and that Elijah and my parents, they die.”

“Elijah?”

She said nothing, but he followed her over to a small monument where names were engraved. She felt along it to find the names she was looking for. First, Kazimir and Zelenka Balcescu, then Abraham and Rivka Chelenska, and then Elijah Kohák. “There is Elijah,” she said.

“And those others? Your parents and who else?

“Pawel’s parents. He and Noemy found each other when we were let out afterwards, we were in a displaced persons camp. They had not known each other before, for he is Romanian, you see. Noemy and I were in Dachau because we are Jews. Pawel was there, he and his parents, because they were Communists.”

“And Elijah?”

Her eyes were far away. “Noemy was fourteen when we were sent to Dachau. I was nearly sixteen. It was 1944. I don’t know how we lived as long as we did in Prague, and even in the house, but my father was the only Jewish doctor. He had no supplies and could do naught for people. I suppose the authorities kept him alive for their own amusement.”

“I take it most of the equipment here was his?”

“Yes, the old brass lamps, the ancient stethoscope, all of it. I was a teenager, I did not know from such things. I used to see Elijah - he was the tailor’s son. He was about a year younger than me. My mother and I, or Papa and I, would go there, on an errand of some sort. And Elijah and I would flirt, like children do.” The way she said children, it sounded like chilren.

“Then when he turned thirteen, it all changed, for he was a man, and he was engaged. You see, they were Orthodox, and I was some shameless modernized hussy. I would go there afterward, usually with Noemy, on some pretext or another. We would see each other briefly, for if his mother had caught him, he would have been beaten. I remember, he had these light blue eyes, with a darker blue ring around the edges. He was slight and blond, with a rounded forehead. He would probably have lost his hair at an early age.”

“But he never got to that age, right?”

“Right,” she said, “we had looting here. It was not exactly Kristallnacht, but it was close enough, I suppose. And it was late, and he brought his mother in. She - it is unspeakable what a gang had done to her. She, she did not survive. He ran out of there, out of my Papa’s office. I did not see him for months. Then we happened upon each other, it was springtime, 1944. The war - we had no idea it was close to being over. All we knew was that our neighbors were being rounded up, and it was only a matter of time. I, he, well, we agreed that life was short.” She stopped for a few minutes.

He held his hand out. “I know we don’t know each other well, Milena, but ….”

She clutched his hand. “I haven’t even told Noemy this, Future Man. But I need to say it. He, well, I lost my virginity, it was behind the cobbler’s shop. We said we loved each other - his fiancée be damned. He certainly didn’t know her. The next day, we were sent on the trains to Dachau. But that morning, you see, they bang on your door and they yell at you to pack. And Noemy and I packed, but my parents were not answering knocks on their bedroom door. We found them - they had taken the last of the morphine and the last of the whiskey.”

“I, I’m sorry.”

“I saw him again, when we arrived. You see, there are two lines. On the right, you live. On the left, you die. Noemy and I, we lied, we said we were over eighteen, and we were seamstresses. So we went to the right. And Mrs. Klinghofer went to the right and others did as well. And Elijah, he was supposed to go to the right. But his father was sent to the left. And he was a good, dutiful son, and so he went to the left.” She stood there, staring into space, not crying. Rick got the distinct impression that the tears had been shed long ago.

“And so your job, Mister Daniels, it is, yes, to assure that my smart father, and my sweetheart of a mother, and the only one I have ever loved, it is to make sure that they die. Am I right?”

=/=



“What about the others?” Polly asked.

“Kevin’s sad - it’s like no one can touch him. Von is kinda funny. Carmen is a decent boss, a bit put upon. Tom and I came in together, but I still barely know him.”

“You forgot Rick,” Polly said.

“Ah yes. He’s been kind to me. I, uh, he’s always looking for the next thing, I think.”

“Or the next woman,” Polly said, “you have a history together, right?”

“Do you have the Betazoid empathy thing going on?” Sheilagh asked.

“Not really. I have so little of it in me. Yanno, being at the galactic barrier, it’s supposed to increase your psionic ability, but I still got nothin’. It is as if I was all human.”

“So how do you do what you do?”

“Oh, I make educated guesses, mostly,” Polly said, “people have a tendency to telegraph their emotions and their intentions a lot. I try to ask direct questions. I suppose in another life, I could’ve practiced law.”

“Look, it’s 2253.”

“Is that good?”

“It’s fast. I’m glad Kevin fixed things,” Sheilagh said.

=/=



“I,” Rick suddenly noticed he was still holding Milena’s hand, but he made no move to drop it, “my task is to restore the original line. And it’s not always fair or right or good or positive. But that’s what we’ve got.”

“Let me ask you something. You, well, you live in a good time with pleasant things, yes? But if you didn’t, if you were in some sort of an awful dystopia, I imagine you would not be in such a hot hurry to restore what you are calling the original timeline, yes?”

“I guess I know the story has, essentially, a happy ending, so I’m more than willing to assure that happy ending. I can’t say how I’d behave if we were in an all-out war or something.”

“Are wars abolished?” she asked.

“Not completely. Humans, well, we haven’t made war on each other since, uh, well, it’s about one hundred years from now, give or take a few years.”

“World peace - how extraordinary! Is everyone as fixed up as you, with fast healing?”

“No, they aren’t. I have it - it’s called Stem Cell Growth Accelerator - I have it because I’m a professional time traveler. And a lot of older medical care is really primitive.”

“You must find me horribly backward.”

“Well, I’m thinking more like leeches and shamans.”

“I see. You have been back to those eras?” she asked.

“I have.”

“To biblical times? You know the story, yes, where every Jew knows every other Jew - even converts - because we were all present at Mount Sinai, both the living and the dead and even the as-yet unborn, we were all there when Moses was bringing the law to the people. So, were you really there for that?”

“I’m afraid not,” he said, “the earliest I’ve been to is, um, the time of Julius Caesar.” Well, that was this side of the pond, this universe. In the mirror universe, he’d gone back to the time of the Roman Republic, to 450 BC, as historians had traced the origin of the Y Chromosome Skew back to a man named Marcus Titinius.

“Did you see Caesar killed?”

“Yes,” Rick said, “it was observational, though, not to correct anything.”

“Extraordinary.”

“I can say with absolute certainty that Brutus is guilty,” he said, smiling a little.

“What is it you are changing here? Or, I suppose I should say, changing back?” she asked.

“It’s, you know, of course, about how things have been here for a few months.”

“Yes, it’s a relaxing of the rules. I have heard it is called Prague Spring.”

“I, I’m sorry, but I’m here to make sure it ends.”

=/=



Carmen engaged her Communicator. “Calavicci to Unger. Bryce, we’ve got issues with at least two of the ships. The dark matter collector lines were tampered with.”

“I see,” he said, “that’s fairly dangerous to our agents.”

“Exactly what I was thinking. I suspect the culprit wanted to harm our people.”

“I don’t have much from Section 31,” he said, “but they tell me - I guess they felt it was all right to release this information - they said that the Manifesto writing group is called the Perfectionists.”

“Has Section 31 got an operative in there?”

“They’re working on it. And I want you to hire him.”

“I’ll have to interview him, at least to use it for a pretext.”

“No need. You’ve already met him - Daniel Beauchaine.”

“He’s a friend of Grant’s. Do you suppose Grant knows his pal is working for the Section?”

“Most likely not,” Unger said.

“I’ll talk to Grant,” Carmen said, “it won’t be anything too obvious. I certainly won’t mention the Section. I just want to smooth the way. I suspect Mister Grant can help me to create my pretext.”

=/=



“Ends?” she asked, “so will it be as oppressive as before, or worse?”

“About the same. It - uh, I really shouldn’t be telling you too much more.”

“When will Communist rule end?”

“I notice you didn’t say if,” he said, “So are you a bit of an optimist?”

“I am a realist,” she said, “even Rome fell eventually. So I figure the Soviet Union will end at some point.”

“Uh …”

“A hint? Give me a little hope, Richard. Please.”

“It’ll be during this century. You need to remember our deal, and say nothing, not even to Noemy,” he reminded her.

“Of course. There are thirty-two years left in this century. And I am just barely forty. I suspect I will be alive when it happens. A bit of hope, it’s a good thing, no?”

“It’s a good thing.”

“You mentioned you needed to do some technical work.”

“Yeah, I, uh, I need nylon and aluminum.”

She chuckled a little. “Whatever for?”

“Secret things.”

=/=



I'm with you my love,
The light's shining through on you.
Yes, I'm with you my love,
It's the morning and just we two.


- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)

Chapter 18 by jespah
Author's Notes:

The Moody Blues - Departure/Ride My See-Saw

I'll stay with you darling now,
I'll stay with you till my seas are dried up.

- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)

=/=



He finally did something about the fact that they had been holding hands for a while, and dropped hers. “Uh, I meant no disrespect.”

“It’s all right. It’s not like I haven’t had boyfriends. It has been over twenty years, you cannot expect me to have gone that long without, well, without it.”

“That’s a personal thing.”

“Well, of course, but we are sharing intimate details, eh? Now, Richard, I have little doubt that I will star in some report or something.” The way she said something, it sounded like somesing. “But at least I hope you will say I was beautiful, or brilliant, or whatever tickles your fancy. It will be about how you were helped by a very, very important person, all right?”

He smiled. “I usually don’t physically describe the people I meet in my reports.”

“But you do mention us, eh? Tell me, do you meet a lot of women?”

That question brought him up a little short. “A few.”

“So you don’t go several years without it, either, am I right? Unless there is a wife at home, although I imagine it would be like wedding a traveling salesman. You are never home, you are missed, the children,” chilren, “they never see Papa, that sort of thing.”

“Maybe let’s not talk about my private life. Now, do you know where I can get nylon and aluminum?”

=/=



Another day had passed in 3110, and it was morning and again Boris had been denied in the night and had missed Marisol. He finally caught up to her, in her office. “Where were you last night? And the night before?”

“Out.”

“You were supposed to be with me.”

“I was?” she asked, “I tried you, but both times, you were sleeping.”

“I have not slept. Tell me, Marisol, have you another lover?”

“What’s it to you? You are married, Boris - a fact that you continue to conveniently forget.”

He put a hand on her shoulder and a finger on her throat, just over her windpipe. “You have such a pretty neck, my love. It would be such a pity to snap it.”

=/=



“Here we are in 1978,” Sheilagh read off the instrument panel on the Flux Capacitor. The ship was already cloaked, and they were about ready to set up a synchronous orbit on the dark side of the moon.

“How do you wanna work this?” Polly asked.

“I think we can go in and speak with someone in charge. Let them know that ARCNET is a good, commercially viable, idea.”

“Do you think we need to make some sort of a business case?” asked Polly.

“I can’t really put together anything with graphs or financial projections, if that’s what you’re thinking. At least, I can’t make anything that wouldn’t be found out as BS in about five seconds. But I can show them on a computer, if it comes to that, just what this kind of technology means.”

“And this isn’t even the technology that becomes wildly popular.”

“Right,” Sheilagh said, “this change was maddeningly obscure.”

=/=



Something changed, and Otra felt it. The millions of rabbits had hopped out of her subconscious and that bit, at least, had been corrected.

=/=



Carmen heard a loud bong sound as the timeline was beginning to be restored. “All right, Agent Daniels. Or, perhaps, Porter and Bernstein. Either way, good going.”

Kevin contacted her. “The bunnies are gone.”

“That’s good. So, the implication is, humanity didn’t know that first contact was coming, which is how it’s supposed to be. Now for the remainder of it. I don’t like first contact and Warp Drive coming down the pike so uncomfortably late. Makes me feel like a damned primitive.”

=/=



“Let’s go back inside, I’ll see what I can find for you,” Milena said, “But it can take some time to get consumer goods around here, Prague Spring or no. For example, Noemy and I have silk stockings, not nylon. So we will have to try to find a place to purchase them. And as for aluminum, there are soft drink cans but it can be tough to find soft drinks. And I don’t imagine anyone wishes to part with their cookware.”

“You don’t have any nylon at all?”

“No,” she smiled, “you should have been taken in by women who were not quite so highbrow. It is, well, it is one of the few luxuries that we allow ourselves. I do fear, though, that it may take a week or more to locate what you need.”

“Well, the offer still stands,” he said, “let me know what I can do around here.” They had arrived at the house and she was fumbling for her key.

“Oh, hi!” she called out to a neighbor. “This is my cousin, Radek.” Then, more quietly, she added, “Smile and wave now, Radek.”

He did so.

The neighbor, an old man, came over. “Where are you here from?” he said as he shook Rick’s hand.

“Uh, Bratislava.”

“Did you come by the train?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“That’s nice. Have a nice visit.” The old man left.

“It’s like a small town around here,” he said.

“This is the Jewish section. It was a ghetto originally; now we just live here because our friends and our families do. And Pawel lives nearby because, well, he is in a mental stalemate, I suppose, but he remains hopeful.”

“At some point, they’ll figure it out.”

“I don’t know,” she said, “they’ve had over twenty years and they’re still fumbling.”

=/=



“Those are strong words coming from one in your position,” Marisol said.

“Which is?”

“I don’t have to do much, and things for you can become rather … interesting.”

“You love your home on Cardassia,” Boris said, “I know you would rather not give it up.”

“And you like your job here,” Marisol said, “especially how it keeps you out and away from your home, with an absolutely valid reason for being away. It is much like a perfect alibi.”

“And you like it here as well,” he said, “and I don’t think you wish to jeopardize that. You do forget that I have seniority over you.”

“You know, Polly is a delightful woman. And I am sure she would appreciate a few heart-to-heart chats with a new friend such as myself,” she paused.

“There are many topics of conversation,” Boris said. He was outwardly fairly calm, but inside, he was in turmoil, and couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen to him if Darragh were to find out.

“But only a few subjects are truly of interest,” Marisol said, “such as your detours on your commutes home. Or some of your real estate acquisitions in the last few years. Or the records of the calls made on your implanted Communicator - those are all rather fascinating things to discuss, don’t you agree?”

“What, what is it you want from me?” he still had his finger on her throat, but he knew that that wasn’t doing him a damned bit of good.

“I’ll think about it,” she said, “but right now just a bit of coverage, as I will be leaving the Commission today for an errand that I must run. You can be a good boy and tell Carmen I’m exercising or something, can’t you?”

“Yes,” he said, and removed his hand from her neck. His palm was moist with sweat, a bodily betrayal of his nerves.

=/=



Phil Ray was head of R & D for Datapoint, the company that developed ARCNET.

“Sir, the consultants are here to see you,” said his receptionist.

“Consultants? I don’t, uh, send them in.” He stood up, a jack in the box on new springs, when he saw that they were two women. “Won’t you ladies come in?”

“Hiya,” Sheilagh said, and then introduced herself and Polly, “We’re here to see ARCNET in action.”

“Uh, I’m afraid that project’s being scrapped.”

“Scrapped? But why?” Polly asked.

“Our CEO - Mister O’Kelley - feels it would not be profitable,” he said, but it was clear that he didn’t believe that.

“That’s, uh, that doesn’t make any sense,” said Sheilagh.

“I don’t know about that,” Ray said, “he’s a much shrewder businessman than I’ll ever be, and he seems rather convinced.”

“But you aren’t convinced,” Polly said, “in fact, I think you’re frustrated because you know in your gut that this thing can really work, and you’re wondering why he’s just squandering what to you seems like a surefire opportunity.”

“It’s, it’s not my call to make.”

“It is, though,” Sheilagh said, “I mean, isn’t your opinion valued around here at all? This dog can really hunt! Don’t you think it’s strange that such a potential winner would be just dismissed out of hand? What’s in it for your CEO if this product is never released to the general public?”

“Just who do you ladies consult for again?”

“Uh, TIC,” Sheilagh said, “here, I can show you the potential, if you would be so good as to fire up two computers linked by ARCNET.”

“Come to the lab,” he said, “and show me what you’re talking about.”

=/=



Rick had been in Prague for about a week, and July had slid into August. Milena had put him to work, and he had moved heavy things and cleaned up, just as she had said. This had included not only her office but also Noemy’s photographic portrait studio, also known as the home’s old parlor.

Rick and Pawel had also spent some time repairing the ancient icebox. Rick got his hands dirty, trying to get it to stop rattling quite so loudly. He was reminded of how he’d fixed the Warp Drive on the ISS Defiant. For that repair job, he’d been rewarded with a few days of playtime with the Empress Hoshi Sato.

With Milena Chelenska, though, he figured the reward might be a bit less earthy. And it was, for one day she handed him several Czech korunas, the coins heavy in his palm and pocket. “Your wages, sir,” she said.

“Ha, how strange. We don’t have money,” he said. It was just the two of them.

“No money! How do you decide on value, then?”

“It’s more based on ability and the like,” he replied, “if you’re smarter or faster or whatever, there’s a higher value. I mean, there’s a guy I work with who’s a serious musician. I’m sure his playing a Beethoven sonata is valued considerably higher than me trying to hum out Happy Birthday on the kazoo.”

“No doubt. A musician! What could your organization possibly want with that?”

“Well, he’s kind of a hip guy; he can fit in better with people who are a lot younger than me, like in their twenties.”

“But still, music is a very specific skill,” she insisted.

“Yeah. The, uh, the people who are messing with time seem to care about it for some reason or another.”

“Perhaps that is, as we say, a red herring.”

=/=



“So check this out,” Sheilagh said, “we can share data pretty readily. I mean, I don’t need to teach you your own system. I’m sure you know all of this.”

“But it’s the business use,” Polly said, “if I’m in Chicago, and Sheilagh’s in New York, or here in Texas, we can share information, like files.”

“But we can always fax,” Ray said.

“Show me how you fax,” Sheilagh said.

He did, and the paper jammed. “See,” Sheilagh said, “you’ve got a problem right there. Use ARCNET, and there’s no paper to jam. And, eventually, I bet you’ll be able to figure out how to communicate with people outside the company.”

“Outside?” he asked.

“Yes!” Sheilagh gushed, “let’s call this, uh, an intranet, what you have here with ARCNET. This is where you can talk to your coworkers in Scranton or wherever. But if you could talk to, say, suppliers, or potential customers outside of your company, well, packet-switching already exists, right? It’s just a matter of companies adopting a standard. I mean, I figure that a means for Datapoint to communicate to other companies, sort of like the corollary to the ARCNET intranet, it would be called an internet.”

=/=



“You may be right,” Rick allowed, “so is this enough for me to purchase nylon and aluminum?”

“Sure, if you can find a place that carries such things. Even with a relaxing of the rules, supplies are neither consistent, nor are they reliable.”

“But this is a pretty big city,” he said.

“It is. Eh, an irregular supply chain is yet another gift of Communist rule. But also, I should tell you - I should purchase the nylon if we can find it.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. It will look strange if a man purchases stockings. Unless, of course, you enjoy such things for yourself. I am not here to judge you.”

He smiled a bit at that. “Maybe I’ll just say they’re for you.”

“That would be a rather intimate gift you would be giving me, Richard.”

“Well, seeing as we now know each other and all ….”

“My neighbors will really start to talk then, eh? In the meantime, maybe we concentrate on getting you your aluminum. We may be able to get scraps.”

And that was how it had gone, thrust and parry, a bit of flirting or teasing on his part, and then she would bat it back. She was friendly, and his attempts never truly seemed to annoy her, but she never said yes.

=/=



Harold O’Kelley, the President and CEO of Datapoint, was impressed. Ray had called him over. “I guess I didn’t realize ARCNET had the potential to do all that.”

“Why did you try to scrap the project?” Polly asked.

“There was a consultant - maybe a competitor of yours - he came in and said the system was gonna go bust in less than a year. He had a lot of supporting data for that; it seemed rather convincing.”

“What company was he from?” Sheilagh asked.

O’Kelley thought for a moment. “Perfectionist Industries.”

=/=



I've been waiting so long
To be where I'm going
in the sunshine of your love.


- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)

Chapter 19 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Spirit - I Got a Line on You

I'm with you my love,
The light's shining through on you.
Yes, I'm with you my love,
It's the morning and just we two.
I'll stay with you darling now,
I'll stay with you till my seas are dried up.


- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)

=/=



Marisol had been meeting a Perfectionist operative within the Temporal Integrity Commission, but her errand was to head to the leader’s location, which was where Otra was being kept.

It was not easy to get there. The location was actually fairly close, but getting in - really in - now, that was rough.

She managed to get past the protocols and into where she wanted to be. The leader was none too pleased to see her. “This is foolish,” said the leader, “you cannot stay here.”

“I don’t intend to - don’t worry about that. Just recognize how unstable Yarin is. I can only keep him in line a little. He will and does fight back.”

“It’s the Klingon part, I suppose. News on turning the operatives?”

“Not much. Bernstein and Sherwood still seem to be receptive.”

“And Avery?” asked the leader.

“Annoying as ever.”

“He’s far less of a priority. Concentrate on Bernstein, and Porter, if you can get her.”

“Understood. I need help with faking the visions,” Marisol admitted, “O’Connor did something to the computer system, and now it runs faster. They seem to be uncovering our changes more quickly.”

“Do you know if they’ve made progress on the Manifesto file?” asked the leader.

“I don’t hear them talking about it.”

“Isn’t Cavendish obsessed with solving it?”

“He was,” she said, “but now he’s obsessed with finding Otra.”

“Otra is not too far away. Actually, let’s see what she’s got.” The leader opened up a channel to the storage container. “What’s in your head today, Otra?”

She was about to say nothing, but then decided to do an experiment. There was the possibility that it would hurt her. It was definitely a risk, and a not very well calculated one at that. But it seemed like the only thing to do. So she lied. “I can see thousands of boats. I think it might be a regatta.”

“Year?” asked the leader.

“About 2640, I think; it’s tough to tell.”

“See how nice we are when you cooperate?” asked the leader, but the tricoulamine gas came again, anyway. Once satisfied that she was under, the leader said to Marisol, “You’re medical. I’ll need for you to catheter her.”

“Doesn’t Helen do that?”

“She’s working the odds on her next mission. So you’re elected. Might as well put you to work; your being here remains a spectacularly poor idea.”

“I only come because you weren’t answering my hails.”

“I see. I’ll make sure to, in the future. Now go, take care of her and then get out before any of the others see you. And make sure you never come back. We can’t lose this location.”

=/=



Helen.

She had the face that launched, perhaps, a thousand time ships.

She had been to the Temporal Integrity Commission, and had interviewed for the job that had gone to Marisol. The other newer employees had also been there then, as it had been a group interview in 3109.

A medical doctor - a Professor of Medical History at the Dione Medical School, actually - Helen had seemed an ideal candidate for the Commission. She was smart, attractive but not drop-dead gorgeous, and eager to get started. Carmen was about ready to hire her on the spot.

But then, on the shuttle speeding half of the candidates away from the Temporal Integrity Commission, there had been a malfunction and a forced landing on Berren One.

Berren One was a lousy place for an emergency landing. The atmosphere was saturated with benzene and the planet’s day and night temperature fluctuations were extreme.

Helen had, apparently, died in the crash. HD had even seen her slump forward, a sight that had mortified him.

But it was Marisol who had confirmed the untimely death of Helen Walker.

The shuttle had to be abandoned, and the survivors beamed out safely. There wasn’t enough time to gather Helen’s remains, so the body was lost and burned on an uninhabited alien world, along with the irretrievably destroyed shuttle.

Or so they had thought.

=/=



Marisol returned to the Commission, and crawled into her bunk, supremely confident in her stolen vision of a regatta. She would keep a channel open to the room that housed the computers, and wait for the alarms to go off, thereby signifying a change that she would be able to convincingly confirm.

=/=



“I bet we could confirm whether we were successful without too much trouble,” Sheilagh said as she and Polly left Datapoint.

“How you figure that?”

“We could go to probably any day in the late 2000s. If there’s any mentioning of the Internet, then I think we’re good to go.”

“And if not?” Polly asked.

“Then I guess we try it again. We’d, um, we’d do Temporal Integration. Did they tell you about that?”

“Yes, Carmen made sure to tell me. She said you and Tom ended up having to do it without too much prep work. Is it very unsettling?”

“Only when you’re on a ship that’s being temporally integrated at the same time.”

“Got it. Speaking of ships, any reason why we can’t get back to Fluxy and go now?”

“None.”

=/=



Scrap aluminum was fairly cheap at the dump. Rick and Pawel ended up carrying away armloads. Rick promised to help Pawel build a shed with most of it.

Pawel and Noemy had not been told too much about Rick. They learned he was from Illinois, but were led to believe it was the one in America, and not the one on Titan.

Milena and Rick did not mention his birth year or his mission. For the most part, he was just a pleasant summer visitor, and maybe he really was their cousin, a thousand times removed, some long-lost relative visiting the old country and immersing himself in the culture and getting to know the natives.

The native he was spending the most time with was, of course, Milena.

He had to admit to himself that she was unconventionally pretty, kind of sallow and often tired-looking. He was all right with that - many of his conquests would not have won prizes for their pulchritude. So that much didn’t faze him. It was mainly that she often looked so depressed.

On a Friday, she was up early, and grabbing her medical bag. “A house call?” he asked, incredulous.

“It is Mrs. Klinghofer. I don’t believe she will see the sun go down. You, well, you could still preserve her life, I expect. So unless you are planning to do that, I am going alone.”

“I, um, I guess you’re going alone. Please, I just …,” he paused a moment. “I’m just sorry.”

“Do you still use morphine in your time period, Richard?”

“I don’t think so. Why do you ask?”

“You see this?” she opened the bag and held up a vial and a syringe before putting them back. “It is morphine, enough to choke a horse. It is an agreement I made with all of the women who are here in Prague, who are my patients, if they were in Dachau with me.”

“An agreement?”

“Yes, a promise. You see, we were in the bunk, and there was a new girl. She was nearly as emaciated as the rest of us. She told us she was pregnant. And, well, there can be no delivery, and no infant there, of course. So we decided to do something about it.” She paused.

“There’s no reason for you to tell me this.”

“Oh, but there is. You should know about our primitive state, for your report, if nothing else.”

“I won’t put this in my report. I’m not judging you, Milena.”

“It’s all right. I have judged our actions for over twenty years now. In any event, we had nothing but we made the effort anyway. Noemy and I - our job was to hold the woman down. And the others did what they could. She, the woman, well, it was not just her child who died that day. And I vowed to myself, that if I ever got out, I would heal women instead of harm them. And so Mrs. Klinghofer, she trusts me, and I treat her, even though, truly, she belongs in an oncologist’s care. And my promise to her is that, if she, or any of them, needed a way to smooth the way to the end that I would provide it. All in atonement for a pregnant woman whose name none of us ever knew.”

“Assisted suicide? We have it; it’s legal if you follow certain protocols.”

“Less suicide and more like serious pain relief. But with a fatal consequence. I suppose someday I will be prosecuted for doing something like this.” She stood there for a minute or so. “And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a patient to see.”

=/=



It was the following day, in 3110. “Carmen?”

“Yes, Thomas.”

“I was wonderin’. Uh, is it all right with you if I leave the Commission for a few hours?” he asked.

“Well, the line’s not fully restored. We usually discourage that.”

“Oh.” His face fell.

“Are you missing an appointment?”

“Yes. I, uh, …” his voice trailed off.

She caught the hint. “I suspect this is about a woman.”

“I didn’t wanna say.”

“You do realize that your friend might not want to give you the time of day in this alternate line.”

“She knows, uh, that I exist.”

“All right,” Carmen said, “I feel like the mother of a bunch of teenagers.”

“Does this mean ya’ll are givin’ me a curfew?”

=/=



“Was your errand successful?” Boris asked. They were in the cafeteria; Marisol had come in for a late snack.

“It was. Thank you for covering for me. This is going to be a fabulous arrangement,” Marisol crowed, “and so much better than our current arrangement.” Alone, she made her way back to her bunk, satisfied that he was beginning to get the message that things had changed and she wasn’t going to be available to him anymore.

=/=



I've been waiting so long
I've been waiting so long
I've been waiting so long
To be where I'm going
in the sunshine of your love.


- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)

Chapter 20 by jespah
Author's Notes:

Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower

The preacher talked to me and he smiled,
Said, "Come and walk with me, come and walk one more mile.
Now for once in your life you're alone,
But you ain’t got a dime, there's no time for the phone."


- The Bee Gees (Message to You)

=/=



No alarms went off, for the temporal changes were minor - and what Polly and Sheilagh had done had already been confirmed. It had worked! But there was no regatta of course, so no alarm was tripped for that. And Marisol, undisturbed, slept, finally rousing herself, very late, at about 1130 hours.

Tom was walking back to the bunks, so she accosted him. “Did I miss anything?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I, I had a vision.”

“I guess you’d better tell Carmen, then.”

“Yes, of course,” she said, and departed.

=/=




It was a Friday night in Prague, August tenth, 1968. Milena came in, exhausted. “You look like a truck hit you,” Noemy said.

“I lost Mrs. Klinghofer today,” Milena said, “I, I have to go to synagogue. Everyone is welcome to join me.”

“I’ll get a suit jacket,” Pawel said, hustling himself out the door to do so.

“Is it okay if I wear your Dad’s suit?” Rick asked.

“You need not come,” Milena told him.

“I’ll go. It’s okay.”

“Are you Bar Mitzvahed?”

“No”, he said.

“Just how far back are you Jewish?” Milena asked.

Noemy was standing there with them, so Rick just said, “A while. I have an ancestor named Rebecca Shapiro Reed.”

“Did she teach you to read Hebrew?” Noemy asked.

“I’ll muddle through,” he said, mindful of the translating job that the implanted Communicator could do.

=/=




Crystal was sitting in her work area, going over the Manifesto file. She’d left it for a few days; to see if that would help things. So far, it hadn’t.

Carmen came in. “May I ask you for something?”

“You’re my boss, of course you can.”

“May I have a haircut?”

“Oh, of course.” Crystal put her PADD away.

She was nearly finished when Marisol came in. “Carmen!” Marisol said. “I had a vision but Kevin tells me there were no indicators from the computers.”

“Interesting. What was the vision?”

“Lots of boats, possibly a regatta.”

“I wonder what that means,” Crystal said, “All done.”

“Ah, good,” Carmen said, admiring Crystal’s handiwork in a small hand mirror. “Boats, eh? And the computers didn’t pick that up? Hmm, I do so hope the computers aren’t breaking on us.” She and Marisol left together.

=/=



The four of them walked back from the synagogue after services. “Oh, you should take that off,” Milena said, pointing to her own head.

Rick complied, removing a yarmulke.

“Have you ever been to their services before?” Pawel asked.

“Only a few times, plus a cousin’s wedding. Does that count?”

“Sure,” Noemy said.

“You know,” Milena said, “I am tired of bad times.”

“They don’t have a lot to recommend them,” Noemy said, “perhaps we can make a nice dinner tomorrow, and that can help to take your mind off things.”

“Maybe. I don’t know. There is far too much suffering in the world,” Milena said. She wasn’t looking at Rick when she said that, but he couldn’t help feeling that that had been a bit of an accusation.

=/=



Crystal went back to the Manifesto file. “All right, hmm, monkey-donut-basket-apple-cat-tree-turtle-apple again-cat again-sun-boat-then sun again, then eyeball and another basket! Wait, hmm, what about this combination of boat-turtle-tree-boat? Is it too many boats? Are boats important?”

Marisol, overhearing her, came in. “Yes, I think boats are somehow important.” She peered over Crystal’s shoulder at the file.

“I wonder if the vision is somehow related to the file.”

“What an interesting theory,” Marisol said, “I know you and I don’t talk much, but what do you feel about everything? Are you comfortable putting back time if it changes a positive event into a negative one?”

“We’re here to put back time, not judge our ancestors,” Crystal said.

“Yes, but what if a little change could improve things?”

There was silence for a while. Crystal finally said, “Little changes turn into big ones. It’s like a snowball effect. Good, bad or indifferent, it all goes careening out of control no matter what we do. Are you, uh, here for something?”

Thinking fast, Marisol answered brightly, “Yes. I, too, would like a haircut.”

=/=



Back in the spare room, Rick changed back into the dead man’s more casual clothes. There was a knock. It was Milena. “I, uh, are you busy?”

“Not at all.”

“I want you to understand, I am making an effort to comprehend your position. You have a, well, a situation to protect. And I only have your word that it is a good one. Perhaps it is horrid, and you are just telling me stories in order to get me to help you.”

“It’s, um, here,” he said, and dug his PADD out from the drawer of a nightstand. “Let me show you my Jewish ancestors, okay?”

“All right, Future Man. I take it they have not been born yet.”

“Definitely not.” He smiled and fiddled with the PADD a bit. “Okay, here’s the NX-01. This ship is, uh, was, uh, will be called the Enterprise. It’ll be launched in 2151.”

“Almost two hundred years hence - it looks rather slick.”

“It can fly at speeds up to Warp Five.”

“What does that mean in layman’s terms?”

“It can travel at five times the speed of light.”

“Einstein said that was not possible! Don’t you get infinite mass, or something like that?”

“Nope, you’re okay. We, uh, we can go faster now. I won’t bore you with the details.”

She chuckled at that. “I look at that thing, and all I can think of is treating people for motion sickness.”

“Well, I have ancestors who met on that ship. Can’t vouch for whether they suffered from motion sickness. Now, here’s one set - they aren’t Jewish, but, well, you’ll see what I’m talking about. This guy here is Malcolm Reed.”

“You mentioned the name Reed. Was it a mixed marriage, then?”

“Yes, but not him,” Rick said, “Malcolm was the Tactical Officer, fourth in command, and then he was second in command on the next ship he was assigned to, and then he became captain of, uh, this ship, the USS Bluebird.”

“That’s a sweet name,” Milena said, “I would have thought you would have much tougher names.”

“Most of them are, but he asked them to name it that because of her,” he showed a picture of a very pale woman in chef’s whites, “Lili O’Day. He loved her, and she loved the color blue, so he had them name it that.”

“So he married her. Men always pick the one who can cook, eh? So I am doomed to eternal spinsterhood.”

Rick laughed a little. “Uh, I think you’ll be all right. So, Malcolm, he was her second husband. She was his one and only. They had a son named Declan.”

“Did you meet them?”

“I did, but it was before they were married. She was still married to her first, and had kids with him - Joss and Marie Patrice.”

“Where are the ones you wanted to show me?”

“I’m getting there. Now, this is Ethan Shapiro, and this is Karin Bernstein.”

“Ah, now here are the members of my tribe.”

“They both worked for Malcolm. And they had two daughters. The younger daughter, Rebecca, married Declan. The younger son of Declan and Rebecca was Stuart. Stu is my father’s ancestor. Direct line.”

“So that is the Rebecca Reed you spoke of.”

“Right.”

=/=



Marisol gone, Crystal looked at the file again. “Maybe the names of the pictograms are related to the letters they represent,” she said to herself, “Then again, there’s a cherry and a clover, and there’s a teardrop - well, maybe that’s just supposed to be a drop - a turtle and a tree. Well, here goes nothing.” She tried T for turtle, and was shocked that it worked.

“Amazing!” she called out to no one, “But now this makes me wonder what the heck it is that a tree is supposed to represent.”

=/=



“I have other ancestors on the NX-01,” Rick added, clicking around. “There’s Deborah Haddon and Chip Masterson. Their son, Ken, is a direct ancestor of my Mom’s. And, uh, this is Brian Delacroix.”

“Another chef!”

“Yes; he was taught by Lili, and replaced her when she got married the first time and left the ship. Anyway, his granddaughter, Susan, is the one who marries Stuart Reed. And, uh, here’s a picture of Stu and Sue.”

“Lovely. And what about the copper people?”

“Ah, you remembered seeing them.”

“Hard to forget them,” Milena said.

“They’re relatives, too, but from a lot later. They’re why I have this,” he showed her the copper band on his left wrist. “I also have ancestors who gave me the silver band.”

“I am sure,” she thought for a moment,” so you are here not only to protect yourself, but also to protect all of them.”

“That’s right.”

“I don’t know if saving Mrs. Klinghofer would have jeopardized them,” she said, “and I can understand your being protective of them. But surely there are some positive things that you can do that would not threaten Stuart and Lili and also all the rest of them, yes?”

=/=



“So there are eighteen Ts,” Crystal said, “assuming I’m counting right. And a vowel can come before or after a T, it can start or end a word, and consonants can come before or after it.” She sighed. “I need help.” She engaged her Communicator. “Deirdre, are you free?”

=/=



Tom got to Eleanor right on time, meeting her at the Temporal Museum on Lafa II. “I understand you’re free for lunch,” he said.

“No, I have a very important engagement.”

“Oh.” He was crestfallen.

“With you!” she smiled wickedly. “I got you, I guess.”

“You did. Uh, that’s all right.”

The restaurant was nearby, one of those places where the building has been a restaurant forever and just the name has changed over the years. In 3110, it was called Ursula’s.

‘This is a pretty place,” she said, after they had sat down. The decorations were elegant; vases in cutouts on the walls, interesting molding around the windows and a pressed-tin ceiling.

“I was hoping ya’ll would like it.”

“You’re from the Carolinas or Titania, right?”

“Titania, guilty as charged.”

“We grew up on Titan, in Illinois,” she said, “there’s family here, though, purebred Calafan cousins, and humans as well. Have you any non-human ancestry?”

“I don’t,” he said, “and I’m not quite sure why. What, uh, is that a favorite?” he asked about a bracelet on her left wrist, “I saw you wearing that when I met you.”

“Oh, you noticed.”

“I did.”

“Well,” she reddened a little, “it’s ancient, probably a few millennia old. See where it’s all softened and faded? It’s a Calafan national treasure.”

“And you have it?”

“I do indeed. It has family significance as well.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I’m supposed to give it to my true love.”

=/=



I’ve just got to get a message to you, hold on, hold on.
One more hour and my life will be through, hold on, hold on.


- The Bee Gees (Message to You)

Chapter 21 by jespah
Author's Notes:

The Chiffons - He's So Fine

I told him I'm in no hurry,
But if I broke her heart, won't you tell her I'm sorry.
And for once in my life I'm alone,
And I’ve got to let her know just in time before I go.


- The Bee Gees (Message to You)

=/=



Saturday night in Prague, dinner finished, and Rick and Milena were washing the dishes. Pawel had taken Noemy to the movies.

“I have entertainment,” she said, as she handed him a plate to dry.

“I see. And what does it entail?”

“Well, you wanted nylon and I still cannot get it for you, but I did get some vinyl the other day, when you and Pawel were gathering your scrap aluminum.” She reached into a cabinet and took out a bottle and two glasses.

“I don’t think vinyl will work for my purposes.”

“Perhaps not, but it will definitely work for mine,” she said, “C’mon, we can finish the dishes later."

They drank first. “God, what the hell was that?”

“Slivovitz - Polish plum brandy,” she said.

“I think you can strip paint with it.”

“Probably.”

She led him into the parlor, where there was an old record player. “At least it’s not a Victrola.”

“I’ll look that up, uh, later.”

“We have, uh, I don’t think these are very new, but they are new to me. There is Chubby Checker, Paul Anka, Lesley Gore and this is, uh, I can’t read this print. I am going to need eyeglasses one of these years. Can you read this, please?”

“It’s Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly.” He smiled. “I had a chance to meet him.”

“Oh, that’s marvelous! But we can talk about that later. Right now, my question to you, Future Man is, can you dance?”

“Rather badly,” he said, but that wasn’t strictly true. He’d been perfectly fine when he’d danced with Sheilagh in 1960. But there was something about the moment that was making him shy about it.

“Then I shall lead,” she said. She stacked up the records in the player and started the turntable. “First, Chuck Berry.”

Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans …

She took his hand and tried to get him to dance, but he wasn’t lying - he really wasn’t that good. So instead she ended up just kind of dancing around him as he mainly stood there, transfixed.

=/=



Deirdre and Crystal sat in Crystal’s work area. “You sure you’re free?” Crystal asked.

“I am. Jack is repaired, and Kevin says we’re going to hold off on the Audrey II for now. So, you got the T. That’s fantastic! Let’s see what comes after all of the Ts in the paragraph.”

Apple, boat, cherry, eyeball, boat, eyeball, hockey stick, tree, eyeball, boat, eyeball, diamond,” Crystal took a breath, “boat, cat, boat, boat, boat, boat, feather, eyeball and one more cherry.”

“Count them up, and then tell me the top three.”

Crystal counted. “Uh, there are eight boats, four eyeballs - ugh - and two cherries. Everything else is just singles.”

“I bet one of those is an H and another one is an O.”

“How do you figure that?”

“The H comes in for common words like the, this and that. The O is for to, another really common one,” Deirdre said.

Crystal tried. “Looks like the eyeballs are Hs. But neither the boat nor the cherry is an O.”

“Huh. What’s the most common letter that comes after TH?”

“There are four of them, and they’re all cherries.”

“Bet you anything that the cherry is the E.”

Crystal checked. “Oh, you are good at this.”

“Thanks. Now let’s see what we’ve got so far.”

=/=




The Slivovitz was taking effect, so Rick ended up dancing anyway. He wasn’t totally graceless, and was much better for the slower songs.

The last song was medium tempo.

Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang
Do-lang, do-lang
He's so fine


The record ended and there was just the staticky popping of a scratch or two. Milena went over and turned off the record player. “And so concludes the entertainment portion of our evening.”

“No,” he said, putting his hand on her waist and drawing her closer, “it’s just beginning.”

=/=



Boat isn’t S, is it?”

“I already tried that,” Crystal said.

“Wait, look. We have the in a few places, and boat is after it. Try M or N.”

“Nope, neither of them work.”

“Does Y work?”

“Uh, no.”

S?”

“We tried that.”

“Oh, sorry, I forgot.” Deirdre thought for a moment. I think only D or R is left of what could possibly come after T-H-E.

“You forgot I,” Crystal said.

“Ah, there’s that, too. Anything?”

“Nothing.”

“Then, hmm, I bet it’s not a letter at all,” Deirdre said.

“Yanno, with the words all smooshed together, maybe, uh, maybe it’s a way to show where the two words are separated from each other,” Crystal guessed.

“You’re good at this.”

=/=



“I don’t know if we should be doing this,” Milena said.

“I, um, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

“I, it’s not that I have no desires,” she said, “but I know you will be leaving. And soon, yes?”

“Yes, whenever I can get nylon, I guess. Or by the twentieth, something like that. There’s a vote and I can’t miss that.”

“Damn,” she said.

“I’m not making this move to try to hurt you.”

“I know, Future Man, I just figure it will all end badly no matter what. I like you. I truly do. We are intellectual equals, or at least I think we are. We get along well. We laugh. I can tell you things. Everything feels comfortable. But there is more to it than that. I am not so young anymore. I think about consequences and the future these days, before I take the plunge. There is no future here, am I right?”

=/=



“Okay, here’s what we’ve got,” Crystal showed Deirdre her PADD, which said: ____ot___ _h___e_ ___ ___ ___t _e e__e_te_ _o_ the _e_e__t o_ _______ the _e_e__t_ to o__ ____e_ ____ _o__o_ the ___t __ __o__ the __t__e ___ ____o_e _t ___ __ t__e, ____e_t ___ _e__e_t _t _t __ o__ __t_, __ _ee_e__ o_ th__ ____e_ ___ ____e_o__ te_h_o_o__ to he__ o__ _o_e_e___

“The first word is four blanks, O, T and then three more blanks,” Deirdre summarized.

Crystal spelled it out in her head. “I wonder if that word is pariotric.”

“Only one way to find out.”

“Aha! Pay dirt!”

“Okay, let’s see how it looks now,” Deirdre said.

Now Crystal’s PADD said: Pariotric c_a__e_ ca_ a__ ___t _e e__ecte_ _or t_e _e_e_it o_ _a__i__ t_e _e_e_it_ to o_r a__ie_ _i__ _o__o_ t_e pa_t i_ _ro__ t_e __t_re ca_ i_pro_e it a__ i_ ti_e a___e_t a__ per_ect it it i_ o_r __t_ a_ _eeper_ o_ t_i_ _acre_ a__ _ar_e_o__ tec__o_o__ to _e_p o_r _ore_ear_

“I think it’s gonna go a lot more quickly now.” Crystal said.

=/=



“I will admit that I have had a lot of hook-ups.” Rick said, “It’s been a lot of one and two-night stands.”

“Am I one of those?”

“No, that’s not my intention. You’re different.”

“And how can I be sure? It is all the same to you, is it not? I don’t doubt your sincerity for right now, but what happens after you are gone, and a pretty copper girl tickles your fancy? For I will be long dead by then, gone to join Mrs. Klinghofer and my parents.”

“You forgot Elijah.”

“I don’t forget Elijah,” she said, “and I had told myself these past several days, Richard, that Elijah was long gone and I could maybe, finally, let him rest in peace.”

“I think you can do that, with or without me,” Rick said, “hell, I think you should do that.”

“I, I know. But is it merely to trade one obsession for the other?”

“What makes you think I won’t think of you, too, after I’m gone?”

“Do you think of any of them? Did you love any of them?”

There was an uncomfortable silence. “I, um, I didn’t love them,” he said carefully, “but I do think of them at times.”

“Which one do you think of the most?”

“Hoshi, I guess.”

“Why?”

“It’s, um, it’s not so much because of her. It’s because of Jun.”

“Who is she?” Milena asked.

He,” Rick corrected, “Is our son.”

“And you have seen him how many times?”

Rick sighed. “Never in person. I have some pictures. I can show you on the PADD, if you like.”

“Perhaps later. Is it, uh, why have you not seen him?”

“I’m not allowed to. That was the condition. He’s not supposed to exist at all. We had to manhandle the timeline in order to save his life. His younger brother, Kira, had to still have his own life and all that went along with that. Jun had to be sterilized, and I had to be kept away, for the entirety of Hoshi’s life, so that there wouldn’t be any chance that any of his siblings would be fathered by me, and that I wouldn’t be able to influence him much. Hoshi dies pretty late in his life. I suppose I could see him in his last decade. I don’t know. The cover story is that I’m dead.”

Milena thought for a moment. “Do you have other children?”

“No, just the one.” Rick sat down, hard, on the parlor sofa. “He doesn’t deserve this.” He began to weep.

Milena took out her handkerchief. “I am unused to seeing men break down. Even Pawel doesn’t, and I am sure he has had many reasons to cry.”

“It’s just, I haven’t done this,” Rick said, “I’ve kept this in for years. When they said I had to undo the timeline, and that, that he would never be born, Carmen and I made all the arguments.”

“Carmen? Who is this Carmen?”

“My boss.”

“Huh, men working for women. The future is a strange place. Go on.” She sat down next to him and put an arm around him.

“The first thing we argued was to, to sterilize him. I mean, just like that, and take away a fundamental right of his! But that wasn’t enough. We had to shore up Kira, make it so that he wasn’t quite so secondary. Then we came up with to say that I was dead. That was Carmen’s idea.”

“I would think that would be enough.”

“But I’m even banned from going to see her before he was conceived, too.”

“That seems overly strict.”

“It’s, well, it’s complicated,” he said, “but it also had to do with her position at the time.”

“I won’t ask. Are you, are you feeling any better?”

“A bit,” he said, “I can talk to you about this. I can’t talk to anyone else, not really.”

“You don’t talk to this Carmen about it?”

“Not anymore. It’s considered a done deal, a closed case. My role in Jun Sato’s conception is considered to be a government secret anyway.”

“Have you ever seen any of your other women again, after you have departed?”

“None. I don’t, well, I don’t want to.”

“Tell you what. You come see me for New Year’s Day of 2000. That will be a glorious sight to behold, eh? I will be, eh, in my seventies then. Can you do that?”

“I’ll try.”

=/=



“You sure about it?” Deirdre asked.

“I am,” Crystal replied.

“Very well.” She engaged her Communicator. “Carmen, we’ve got the fourth paragraph of the Manifesto file.”

=/=



“I, um, I guess I’d better turn in,” said Rick, getting up.

Milena stared at him. “You know, Future Man, I’d have thought it would all be sunshine and roses, your life. It couldn’t possibly have pain, or any other bad things. But it does.”

“It’s not perfect. My job, actually, is kind of to keep it imperfect, in a way.”

“And you have sorrow. Your melancholy is very real.”

“Yes.”

She kissed him, and he kissed back, lingering.

“I’ll build you your shed,” he said, “and get my nylon somehow, and leave for Bratislava. And then you won’t have to think about me anymore.”

=/=



I’ve just got to get a message to you, hold on, hold on.
One more hour and my life will be through, hold on, hold on.


- The Bee Gees (Message to You)

Chapter 22 by jespah
Author's Notes:

The Bee Gees - Message to You

Well I laughed but that didn't hurt,
And it's only her love that keeps me wearing this dirt.
Now I'm crying but deep down inside,
Well I did it to him, now it's my turn to die.


- The Bee Gees (Message to You)

=/=



Rick and Pawel finished building the shed in a few days. Rick spent much of his time with the building while Pawel was out delivering milk in the neighborhood, Milena was tending to patients and Noemy worked with clients in the portrait studio.

It was good, honest work, the polar opposite of the jobs he did for the Temporal Integrity Commission. It left a lot to be desired intellectually, but he could sleep at night.

After a day or so of admiring the completed shed, Milena visited him in his room, “I have nylon,” she said.

“I see.”

“And more crowns for you. You may not have money where you come from, but we use it to compensate a person who has worked hard. And you have.”

“I don’t want your money.”

“You will need it in Bratislava. And, just, let me do this for you.”

“Because you can’t do anything else?”

“Because,” she said, “I probably shouldn’t do anything else.”

=/=



Carmen called a meeting. HD came in first, looking eager. Others followed, and Carmen noticed, for once, that Marisol and Boris were not sitting together. Odd. The only one who wasn’t there was Tom, and Rick, but he had an excuse. Carmen engaged her Communicator. “Mister Grant, isn’t your lunch done by now?”

“Uh, hang on,” in a much lower voice he said, “Sorry, but I’ve gotta go. When can I see you?”

“Tomorrow,” came a female voice, barely on the edge of hearing.

“Uh, sorry ‘bout that, Carmen,” he said, more loudly, “be right there.”

=/=



And on Lafa II, he and Eleanor smiled at each other. “I’ll see you tomorrow, whether or not the line’s restored,” he said. He hugged her, and then left.

=/=



“Ah, we are all here, except for Agent Daniels. Crystal, Deirdre, you have the floor,” Carmen said.

“We’ve got paragraph four,” Deirdre said. No one had to be told which document she was referring to.

“Here it is,” Crystal said, and read the paragraph as she projected it on the wall of the conference room.

Pariotric changes can and must be effected for the benefit of mankind. The benefits to our allies will follow. The past is wrong. The future can improve it. And, in time, augment and perfect it. It is our duty, as keepers of this sacred and marvelous technology, to help our forebears.

Augment?” Kevin asked, “I bet they don’t even realize the kinda fire they’re playin’ with.”

“Maybe they don’t really mean the Augments,” Polly pointed out. “Maybe it’s just a poor choice of words.”

“I don’t know,” Carmen said, “they seem to be making a calculated effort with every word, and every syllable. I bet they knew exactly what they were doing when they wrote that.”

mankind. … allies … wrong. … … augment … perfect … sacred … forebears.” Levi muttered to himself.

“Excuse me?” Sheilagh asked.

“It sounds a lot like the sermons I used to hear in church, when I went with my mother,” Levi said.

“What church?” Marisol asked. “Doesn’t your mother change them as fast as some people change their socks?”

“I happen to think it may be a good insight,” Boris said, glaring at her slightly, “Levi, do you know which church? Perhaps that is a clue.”

Levi thought for a moment. “It sounds like all of them.”

=/=



“You have x-rays and pictures of me healing, right?” Rick asked.

“Yes,” Milena said. She sighed. “I would rather not destroy all of the pictures.”

“I think you’re gonna have to, or at least I’ll have to make sure of that. Negatives, too.”

“Right,” Milena said, and smiled wryly at him. “When will you leave?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Then let’s make the most of today.”

=/=



On Callisto, Helen Walker sat at home and worked on the odds. “Ah, good,” she said out loud, to no one. She opened a Communicator. “I’d like to speak with Milton Walker, on the USS Saint Eligius.”

“Yes?”

“Daddy, it’s me. It’s got a dandy idea for our next little jaunt. But I can’t go alone.”

“And our noble cause?” he asked.

“C’mon, ya’ll know that Marisol and I just do this for kicks. I leave the politics to you, Daddy.”

=/=



“You changed your mind?” Rick asked.

“Well, there’s nobility, and then there’s practicality. And desire.”

“Desire?”

“What, are you one of those men who think we women don’t have desires?”

“Nope.” He came over to her and kissed her. “How, uh, how far?”

“Can you go? Well, I don’t want a baby. I have the right materials here, though, of course.”

She took his hand, and he kissed her fingers. “I, um, I hope to live up to the hype.”

Hype?”

“Expectation, then.” He sat down on the bed.

She sat down beside him. “This is nicer than behind the cobbler’s shop.”

And that was all that either of them said, for there were no words.

=/=



Call with Helen over - that child was still too flighty, he thought to himself - Milton Walker opened up a different channel. “Otra! Any news for me today?”

=/=



“Definitely up to expectations,” Milena said. It was the next morning, and they were still together.

“I have to go,” he said, “it’s the last thing I want to do. I hope you believe that.”

“I do,” she said, smiling. “Let’s go destroy the evidence, and then you’ll be on your way.”

=/=



Levi stared at the Otra file on his PADD. “Churches,” he said to himself. Boris came in, and he barely looked up.

“Anything new?”

“Uh, the ships are okay. Except for, uh, the Wells, at least so far as we know. Won’t know about that one until Rick returns.”

“Right,” Boris said, “I was hoping you’d have, well, something.”

“About Otra?” Levi asked.

“Actually, about Marisol,” Boris said, “for I have many things that I am wondering about, when it comes to her.”

“I, uh, I wonder things, too,” Levi admitted.

“Perhaps we can compare notes, then.”

=/=



“So this is good-bye,” Noemy said to Rick. They were all standing at the Prague Train station. “Be well.”

“Thanks.” He shook her hand.

Pawel came over. “Got your ticket?”

“Yep. Uh, Pawel, can I tell you something?” Rick asked.

“I suppose.”

“Will ya marry her already?” he indicated Noemy.

“Yeah, I suppose I should.”

Suppose?” Noemy said.

“I suppose enough time has passed,” Pawel said, recovering quickly, “and we can bury the dead once and for all.”

Rick and Milena didn’t talk much. They mainly just kissed. “And you will wear warm clothes in the wintertime?” she asked.

“And you’ll smile every now and then, right?”

“Right. Thank you for my shed. Go, so you don’t miss your train.”

=/=



Carmen engaged her Communicator once the meeting was over. “Daniel Beauchaine, on Earth, in Antarctica.”

“Speaking.”

“My name is Carmen Calavicci, of the Temporal Integrity Commission. I hope you remember me. How’d you like to come work here? Within your current parameters, of course.”

He knew she meant Section 31. “Of course,” said Beauchaine. They agreed to when he’d come in for surgery, and the call ended.

“Milton Walker, on the USS Saint Eligius.”

“Yes?”

“They bought it.”

=/=



Bratislava was a larger city than Prague, with different amenities. The train was a bit late, but not by too much. The other passengers were too close, so Rick didn’t feel comfortable checking his PADD. Instead, he had looked out the window and had also gazed at the thing Milena had given him. It was the only temporal souvenir he had that anyone had actually given to him voluntarily - a small picture of herself, taken by Noemy. It was taken, perhaps, a year previously, and she had a faraway look in her eyes, like she had been caught in the act of scanning a distant horizon for a ship.

He found himself an alley, and checked the PADD there. “All right,” he whispered to himself, “let’s go with known hardliners first. So that’s, uh, Vasil Biľak, Drahomír Kolder, Oldřich Švestka, Alois Indra and Antonin Kapek. I wish I knew for sure where you were.”

He went back out into the streets of Bratislava, and ducked into a drug store. He asked the clerk, “I understand there’s supposed to be a government meeting here of some sort. Know where?”

“What do I look like, a hooker?”

“Uh, thanks.” Rick left, but that was definitely the right idea. He had to wait for nightfall, but then the girls came out, and were easy to spot. A payment of a few crowns - thanks to Milena for that - got him the information he needed - the Hotel Possonium.

=/=



Polly engaged her Communicator. “Darragh Stratton Yarin, on Kronos.”

“This is she. Polly!”

“I’ve been watching Boris, whenever I can.”

“And?”

“And so far, all I’m seeing are a lot of glances.”

“Well, thanks. Um, let me know if there’s anything more,” Darragh said, “I, I don’t like not trusting him.”

“The jury’s still out,” Polly said, “maybe your fears are unfounded.”

“I hope so.”

=/=



The hotel was cheesy, a bit of faded glory. A few crowns to the desk clerk got him room numbers, surprisingly easily. It was an era of trust and carelessness. Rick tried a few rooms and most of them were empty. But then one knock of his was answered - Drahomír Kolder’s room.

“I suppose you are here to confirm,” Kolder said.

“Confirm?” Rick asked.

“The American girl was here a couple of days ago, and her photographer friend. I take it you are his associate.”

“Uh, tell me more,” Rick prompted.

Kolder pulled from a bottle before responding. “I have a lot on my mind, you see.”

“Of course. Tell me about the American girl.”

“Tell? Hell, I have a picture.” He dug one out. “Here. Nice shape, eh?”

Rick stared at the picture. He knew that face; he’d seen her during his 1959 mission to Clear Lake, Iowa. “Can I keep this?”

“I suppose. There are several more.”

“What did she tell you?”

“That I will vote the way she asks, or else my wife will be treated to, as they say, an eyeful.”

Rick thought for a moment. “Have you ever thought of telling your wife? I mean, just beating them to it?”

“You don’t know my wife.”

“True, of course,” Rick said, “and I can’t promise that it won’t be unpleasant. But if you tell her first, you’re the one who gains control, and she,” he held up the picture of the American girl, “can’t do anything. You can vote any way you damned well please, too.”

“She is a difficult woman, my wife.”

“How bad can it possibly be?”

“A divorce would not be good for my position in the party,” Kolder said.

“Of course not. But looking over your shoulder would be worse, right?”

Kolder thought for a moment. “Hand me that phone.”

=/=



And in her cell, after Milton Walker had ended his conversation with her, Otra saw the changes in time, as the Iron Curtain stayed up as long as it was supposed to, Warp Drive was developed right on schedule, and the Vulcans happened on Earth at just the right time.

=/=



“We got restoration!” Kevin exclaimed, as the bonging sound was heard repeatedly throughout the Human Unit’s offices at the Commission.

=/=



Back on the Wells, Rick used a phaser to melt the nylon and aluminum together. He got into the EV suit, grabbed the hyperspanner and the newly-created aluminoplastic and made his repairs.

He returned to the interior of the Wells. “Computer, is there enough power to return safely to 3110?”

“There will be. Temporal travel can begin in five minutes.”

Dark matter was collected, and the leak was repaired and holding. “Computer, is the repair sufficiently strong so as to allow for a stop in 2000 and then a restart?”

“Negative. The repair should not be stressed. A proper, fully reinforced repair should become available once the ship has returned to the Temporal Integrity Commission.”

“All right,” he said to himself, “I’ll catch you during my next mission.” He jingled the few remaining korunas in his hand and then looked at her picture, as he waited to get underway.

=/=



I’ve just got to get a message to you, hold on, hold on.
One more hour and my life will be through, hold on, hold on.


- The Bee Gees (Message to You)

=/=



Next: Part V: Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’ Down the Plain

This story archived at http://www.adastrafanfic.com/viewstory.php?sid=1328