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Chapter Notes:

Frankie Ford - Sea Cruise


Feel like jumpin' baby won't ya join me please
I don't like beggin' but I'm on bended knee

I got to get t'rockin get my hat off the rack
I got to boogie woogie like a knife in the back
So be my guest, you got nothin' to lose
Won't ya let me take you on a sea cruise?

Whoo-whee, whoo-whee baby
Whoo-whee, whoo-whee baby
Whoo-whee, whoo-whee baby
Won't ya let me take you on a sea cruise?


– Frankie Ford (Sea Cruise)

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The Wells was roughly shaped like an arrowhead. It had the latest in temporal propulsive technology, as invented by Kevin. It fed off dark matter and converted it into regular matter as a byproduct. Since the universe will end when all regular matter is converted to dark, the propulsion system had the astounding effect of prolonging the life of the universe by a few nanoseconds, every time it was run.

This kind of pleasant yet profoundly positive consequence pleased Kevin a great deal – in particular because Carmen had insisted that the drive, and even the class of ships, be named for him.

The Wells was the only one of the time ships that was currently so fitted. The others were undergoing a conversion process – the older method made use of chronitons for its propulsion through time.

Kevin was in the process of converting two of the time ships. Another one, the Audrey II, was still being built. He worked with Levi and, sometimes, he borrowed Deirdre Katzman from the Temporal Integrity Commission’s general pool of personnel. Deirdre was a lot easier to work with than Levi.

She had a mischievous sense of humor and enjoyed old time travel fiction, so he had had her name the ships. The Wells, of course, was for HG Wells, the author of The Time Machine. The Jack Finney was for the author of Time and Again. The Flux Capacitor was for a series of absurd films on time travel called Back to the Future.

Absurd ideas about time travel all, they were. A DeLorean? A trancelike state? A machine that looked like it belonged in a Steampunk exhibit?

And then there were the Audrey Niffenegger and the Audrey II. The original Audrey was Rick’s old ship. Designed by Levi, it was old and had become clunky. It had withstood a lot of abuse. But with the newer drive, it was being decommissioned, and replaced with its near-namesake. Once it was declassified it could, and probably would, go into the Lafa II Temporal Museum’s time travel exhibit.

The Audrey II had the sleekest design yet, and was the most fuel-efficient of them all. Whereas the original Audrey was named for the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, the Audrey II was so dubbed as homage to a film that had naught to do with fictional time travel but did cover an alien landing. In the film, Little Shop of Horrors, Audrey II was a singing, man-eating plant from outer space. Despite the lack of a time travel angle, it piqued Deirdre’s interest, and so she had named the ship under construction.

If there was another ship built, she suspected she’d mine the Back to the Future films, and perhaps go with Marty McFly or Doctor Emmett Brown or even Jennifer Parker or Biff Tannen if she needed to conjure up another name or two or four. But that was a ways away, if it would ever be needed.

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Rick went through pre-flight quickly. He’d used the Wells a few times already, and was getting used to the newer system. He figured he’d cloak it and leave it in orbit above the Earth, and then transport down to Clear Lake a few hours before the Holly-Richardson-Valenzuela plane was due to take off. And crash.

After that, his plans were flexible. If there was anything he had learned about time travel in his years of missions – whether it was to help Jonathan Archer, or observe William Penn, or give Empress Hoshi a few well-needed repairs on the Defiant, or help assure the stock market crash of 1929 – it was that things rarely went according to plan. It was best to have the tiniest, barest outline of a plan, and then wing it from there.

He got the Wells up to speed and put it onto auto. There would be nothing to do for hours. He was cruising through time over Dawitan, the Witannen home world, where Otra’s mother was from. It was located in the Delta Quadrant. Emerging into the twentieth century, just above Earth, was a bad idea if uncloaked. Flying above Dawitan would afford ample cover and he could conserve fuel by not running the cloak. For the last two hundred years of time travel or so, the ship would also travel spatially. It would synchronize to 1959 while the Wells was over Ceres, and then he would cloak the ship and make his way to where he needed to be. Only a few geeks with telescopes would have so much as a prayer of spotting the time ship, and they would have to know exactly where to look – and what to look for.

He took a chain out from within his shirt, jewelry that he wore and never took off. There was a Xindi initiation medal with his initials engraved on it, and a skeleton key charm, with a solid handle that was a family heirloom dating back nearly a millennium. He smiled at the two artifacts as the time ship sped along, “If someone were to find me,” he mused aloud to no one, a bad habit of talking to himself was a byproduct of so many solo missions, “I wonder what conclusions they would draw from these pieces?” He shrugged to himself and put them back.

He was as safe as a kitten. Even if he messed up somehow, his life was protected from temporal irregularities, by the application of a field similar to the one protecting the master time file. He was far from immortal but at least he was, personally, protected from any problems with the timeline. And a good thing, too, as no one had yet determined that the act of saving Valenzuela, Holly and Richardson had somehow, also, wiped out his family, and back several generations to boot.

It would be a good use of his time to get some rest, so he went into the back of the ship and crawled into bed. Made for two – or, if he was feeling adventurous, three – the bed was the very essence of bachelor living, what with its black satin sheets and blanket with a sophisticated geometric pattern.

Rick didn’t have an actual home. He could and did bunk at the Commission’s Headquarters, and he also lived in the old Audrey when she used to be his. When away from the Commission, he’d sleep at Eleanor’s, or sometimes at their parents’ home. Or, for the past few months, he would stay with Tina.

Tina!

He had forgotten to tell her he was off again. He had at least told Eleanor, and Carmen would answer if Eleanor called. As for Tina, she’d have to rely on Eleanor, if she cared about where he was. He had no way, of course, to know that Eleanor was, for the time being, no more.

He felt guilty for a moment, and then shrugged. There was nothing he could do about it. The instruments on the Wells read 2994. None of them at Headquarters – not even Kevin – had been born yet.

He settled in and folded his hands behind his head, which showed the silver and copper bands, natural color variants over the skin of his left wrist. They weren’t merely decorative, they were functional. With them, he could have vivid Calafan-style dreams, but those were shared dreams and he was moving through time too quickly to really be able to connect with anyone. So, by definition, if he dreamt at all, it would be more conventional. But that was all right. The Calafan part of him had a heritage of not saying “good night”. Instead, the traditional nighttime wish was, “be with who you desire”. He said that, again out loud, as the ship passed 2912 and continued onward and backward.

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I got to get t'movin' baby I ain't lyin'
My heart is beatin' rhythm and it's right on time
So be my guest, you got nothin' to lose
Won't ya let me take you on a sea cruise?

Whoo-whee, whoo-whee baby
Whoo-whee, whoo-whee baby
Whoo-whee, whoo-whee baby
Won't ya let me take you on a sea cruise?


– Frankie Ford (Sea Cruise)



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