We were singing,
"Bye-Bye, Miss American Pie."
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
And singin’, "This’ll be the day that I die.
This’ll be the day that I die."
– Don McLean (American Pie)
Richard Malcolm Daniels was forty years old, and had been a Temporal Agent for nearly thirteen years. This was longer than most humans had lasted in that role, and he had been promoted to Senior Temporal Agent four years earlier, in 3105.
When he had started out, he’d been fresh-faced and eager, little more than a kid in many ways. And the candy store had been all of human history, in both this universe and its imperfect mirror – the other side of the pond, in common parlance. Way back, when he had first started, he’d been assigned to help Jonathan Archer and the old NX-01, the original Warp Five USS Enterprise. It had been 2151, and the Temporal Cold War was on, and he’d gotten himself insinuated into their good graces by originally posing as a steward. He and Carmen and Kevin had also screwed up royally not too long after that, and had almost permanently destroyed their own timeline. But that had been mended with nary a seam showing.
That had been, from his perspective, twelve years ago. In the meantime, he’d seen too much, and caused and repaired too much, and had gotten jaded. It was a lonely life, he had no one – not really – to share it with and, even if he did, he couldn’t say anything, anyway.
He could remember the first time he’d seduced a woman he’d met in his travels. She was a Quaker widow, a neighbor of William Penn’s. It had been 1699. Lucretia, her name had been. Underneath a plain frock and a simple bonnet there had been … something. That was, according to his perspective, eight years ago.
And so he had progressed as his life and his career had gone on, until he’d traveled to 2156 on the other side of the pond and had hooked up with the Empress Hoshi Sato. Unlike in his previous encounters, she’d gotten pregnant. Their son was Jun – it meant truthful, an absurdity, considering the untruths he’d had to tell her about his mission and about his feelings and about everything else.
Then it had been a festival of fancy footwork as he’d negotiated with Carmen as to what to do. Finally, in order to protect the timeline, it was settled that Jun would be sterilized and, as for Richard, he would have to let Empress Hoshi believe that he was dead, and never return. Other rules had been changed, and now no one was allowed to go on a mission without a birth control shot, unless they could prove that they were sterile.
Ritchie, she had called him Ritchie, Hoshi had. In homage to that, he used that name whenever he had a mission in her universe. It wasn’t an act of love – for he loved her no more than he loved Tina April or Lucretia Crossman or any of the countless others – it was more of a salute. It was a salute to a memorable piece.
He had to admit, he had become jaded. The thrills of seeing another time, and fixing things, and being overly secretive, had long since lost their appeal. His mind was regularly stimulated – as was the rest of him – and he was comfortable. But he had a hankering for something more.
Carmen figured that this mission, at least, was mainly positive. So many of them were more morally ambiguous. But this one was generally easier to take. Most of the timeline restoration would be to restore positive, pleasant things – unless you'd been in the Viet Nam war, or your surname was Goodman, Schwerner, Cheney, Holly, Richardson or Valens – er, Valenzuela.
Carmen Calavicci held an Admiral's rank, a vestige of what had been Starfleet and, before that, the Earth's naval forces.
She'd gotten her position after her predecessor, Ray Jimenez, was found doing a Federation secretary instead of his job. Compounding the problem for Ray had been the fact that the secretary had been male.
No one would have batted an eye – not really – but it wasn't the affair so much as the shirking of his duties that had led to Ray's downfall. Ray was now comfortably retired on Tethys. Sometimes, Carmen felt she'd give anything to switch places with him.
She'd been young when she'd taken over – barely thirty – and her tenure had been, on the whole, positive. She knew about Rick's many conquests, and mostly just turned a blind eye and a deaf ear. The man, she figured, was often beside himself, correcting the timeline by causing deaths. If he got some comfort by bedding a few – or a few dozen – women in history, she felt, who was she to stop or blame him?
She drew the line at affairs that led to pariotric changes, so she had cautioned him not to despoil virgins or become the catalyst for divorces. Betty Tyler's near-suicide was more problematic, but it had been neatly solved by having him go back to before the start of the 1929 mission and look, but not touch.
The Empress Hoshi Sato's pregnancy was a far different matter.
The other side of the pond had only recently signed the Temporal Accords, and they were suspicious of her unit's doings. She had much freer rein with our universe, but with that one, there were considerably more hoops to jump through.
She had to get all manner of permissions before crossing an agent over from the twenty-one centimeter radiation band side – ours – to the twenty centimeter radiation band side – theirs. They demanded a much higher standard, when it came to proving need. And the pregnancy had complicated matters even more.
She had been trapped in meeting after meeting, and had had to explain, time and time again, that it was an accident, and there was no intention of diluting the pure twenty centimeter radiation band race. Scenarios had been run, and run again, and then again. It was intended to find some way or another for Jun Daniels Sato to live. The desire to spare him was not shared by the officials from the other side of the pond, and so, a number of details were hammered out. Jun would be allowed to live – and even marry, if he wished – but not father any children. The distribution of the Empress's other five children would not be disturbed. The original first-born, Kira MacKenzie Sato, would have to be given a substantial share of the leadership of the Terran Empire. The succession – through their half-sister, Takara Masterson Sato and Charlie Tucker IV, would have to proceed as in the original history.
And Rick was forbidden from ever again seeing the Empress Hoshi Sato for even one second of her life, even if it was before, or even if it was on her deathbed. She would have to believe him dead, and that would have to stick. There would be no half-measures, not if they wanted the other side of the pond to remain as signatories to the Temporal Accords.
So Carmen knew, even if there was no present need, there could eventually be a need to correct something in the Terran timeline from 2129 through 2245. She needed at least a second traveler to be able to handle situations like that. A doctor? A music guy? A soldier? A computers specialist? She was reminded of one of the more ironic adages she regularly ran across in her line of work – time would tell.
Well, not if they had anything to do with it.
Helter skelter in a summer swelter.
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter,
Eight miles high and falling fast.
It landed foul on the grass.
The players tried for a forward pass,
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast.
– Don McLean (American Pie)