I stopped to see a weeping willow
crying on his pillow
Maybe he's crying for me.
And as the skies turn gloomy
Night winds whisper to me
I'm lonesome as I can be
– Patsy Cline (Walking After Midnight)
The remaining candidates, back in 3109, had gone through a couple of way stations already, and some had been split off, so as to further obscure the Temporal Integrity Commission’s location. HD Avery found himself with Sheilagh Bernstein, Marisol Castillo and Rajesh Kumar, on some Minshara-class planet or another.
“Do you,” HD ventured, “do you think they lose shuttles very often?”
“Oh, probably not,” Marisol said distractedly, checking her PADD for messages.
“Listen, uh, you may be used to seeing people breathe their last right in front of you, but I’m not,” he said.
“Oh, yes, yes, of course,” she said, “It really is a terrible tragedy. She was a rather young woman.”
“You think they got any other areas where they regularly mess up?” HD asked.
“It’s probably not a regular mess-up,” Sheilagh pointed out.
“The pilot will probably be disciplined,” Rajesh said, “Or, she should be. The craft should have been thoroughly checked before use. We could’ve all been killed today.”
“Huh, maybe,” Marisol said, again distracted, “Look, uh, I’m sorry. You learn to be a bit removed from things. It’s a survival skill when you’re in the medical field.”
“This is somebody’s death, though,” HD said, “We don’t know anything about her, except she was a doctor.”
Rajesh clicked a bit on his PADD, “Here, I’ll look her up. It says here,” he said after a pause, “that she was also a Professor of Medical History at the Dione Medical School.”
“That’s quite a loss for them,” Sheilagh said.
“I hope she didn’t have a family,” HD said.
“I hope none of us do,” Rajesh said, “Imagine being killed in the Dark Ages because someone thinks you’re a witch.”
“And then your poor family never being able to learn the truth about your death – it’s horrible,” Sheilagh said, “Still, the job looks to be a fascinating one.”
“Definitely,” Marisol said, “You’d learn a lot, and know about so many different things in time.”
“There’s certainly an attraction,” Rajesh allowed.
“I still gotta wonder why they’re hiring. Does anybody stay in these jobs?” HD asked.
“They said there’s a senior guy. I forget his name,” Marisol said.
“I’d feel a lot better about this if I coulda met him today,” HD said.
“Yeah,” Sheilagh agreed, “I’d love to see how people feel about these jobs, over time.”
“Time,” Marisol said, “I imagine expressions about time will become a bit amusing to us, eh?”
“Ready to transport,” said their escort from the Temporal Integrity Commission, “You’re all going home with this trip. You’ll hear from us soon about the jobs,” she set the Transporter’s controls – they were on Rigel IX – and began to send them all home.
Once she knew that the candidates were all back in their homes – or at least, gone from the Temporal Integrity Commission’s auspices – Carmen made a call to Sheilagh Bernstein, “So, would you like to join our merry little band of misfits?”
Sheilagh didn’t have to think too much about that, “Probably,” she said, trying not to betray her excitement at being chosen, “But Id like to meet your senior agent first. Can I do that?”
“That can be arranged,” Carmen said, “He will also train you. If you decide to come on board, that is,” she added hastily.
“Of course. Let me know when. Bernstein out.”
Carmen closed the connection on her end and looked up when she heard a throat being cleared, “Ah, Boris, what brings you here?”
“I heard about the crash. A pity about the death. She was, so far as I was concerned, the top candidate.”
“Oh? Do you have any replacement recommendations?”
“I think Castillo could be acceptable.”
“Good to know. I’ll think it over. Oh, and Boris?”
“You brought in Helen Walker as a candidate. Would you think it appropriate to accompany me when I go to tell her next of kin?”
“That would be fine,” he said, “It’s a most unfortunate tragedy,” he left.
Boris Yarin was one of the only people in the Temporal Integrity Commission who was married. That made some sense, for the operation was so secret that a spouse was not supposed to share even an iota of detail about the Commission.
He’d been given a cover story, a lie, to provide some sort of a plausible explanation for his absences from home. But it wasn’t needed with his wife, for he had married Darragh Stratton.
Darragh was the sister of Todd Stratton, who held a major Federation position. Boris’s hiring had been through her connections. He owed her, and she made sure he never forgot that.
It wasn’t that his work required too much in the way of expertise. He spent time providing new employees with stem cell growth accelerator, so that they wouldn’t have to take their chances with ancient medical care. He administered a more temporary dose of same for all temporal observers.
He’d also be adding augmentations to anyone who was hired, too, things like memory boosters and the sensory enhancements that Rick had – Rick had enhanced hearing and sight, both courtesy of Boris. He would add certain trackers as well, pads within the feet and fingertips, to assist with locating someone in time if an emergency recall was required. The fingertip trackers had the added bonus of being able to wipe or change fingerprints. He implanted tiny communicators, too.
He also performed some minor cosmetic surgery, in case a particular look was desired or required, and couldn’t be faked otherwise. Plus, he was on call in case a traveler like Rick returned with some sort of a disease or injury that the stem cell growth accelerator would not be able to adequately keep up with. So far, he hadn’t had to do anything like that with the human unit, although he had spent some days a few years ago attempting – unsuccessfully, it had turned out – to save a Cardassian traveler who had strayed too close to an automated grain processing machine from 2482 on that world.
Bored and underutilized, and less than happy at home, his thoughts had often wandered and the rest of him had followed.
He was back in his office when his implanted communicator chimed, “Ah, yes,” he said, once he’d heard the voice on the other end of the line, “You got home all right?”
“Yes,” The voice purred.
“Good,” he smiled, “I had to go suddenly last night. There was a dinner I was forced to attend.”
“That’s too bad. I was hoping for some dessert.”
“For some, or to be some?”
A chuckle, “A little of both.”
“What are you wearing?” he asked.
“As little as possible,” Came the response.
“Oh? Well maybe tonight you can put on the zebra-striped outfit. You know the one,” he smiled and breathed a little louder, his hand beginning to reach down.
There was a chime. Damn.
“Darling, I have to take that,” he said.
“Let it go.”
“I’m sorry, but I must. But I shall call you back as soon as I am able. I love you.”
“Then prove it by not answering that.”
The chime was repeated, “I will call right back,” he promised and tapped his ear once to end that call, then a second time, to answer the new call, “Ah, Darragh my love! The light of my life! I was just thinking about you.”
I'm out walkin'
out in the moonlight
Just hoping you may be
Searching for me
– Patsy Cline (Walking After Midnight)