Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
while the sergeants played a marching tune.
We all got up to dance,
Oh, but we never got the chance!
‘cause the players tried to take the field;
The marching band refused to yield.
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
– Don McLean (American Pie)
Carmen looked over the list of candidates a few more times. Rick was absolutely right – hiring any of them could potentially expose the project. She had needs to fill, but doing that at the present time seemed foolish.
It troubled her, greatly, that one or more of her team could have turned like that. And, turning – what did it mean, anyway? For someone to use time travel for good – or, at least, a perceived good, well, wasn’t that an admirable thing? Or was it at least, a forgivable one?
She put her head in her hands. Could she even trust Kevin and Rick, who she’d known the longest? For Kevin, there was little motivation, unless he could somehow bring back Josie. As for Rick, he was almost a mercenary time traveler – have time problem, will travel. Keep the Terran Empire going for its full run? Check. Land Neil Armstrong on the moon, and return him safely to Earth? Check.Make sure Genghis Khan dies on the right day, and not earlier? Check. Destroy the Enterprise-C on schedule? Check that, too.
Cavendish and Otra were still on board the Adrenaline. She’d confront them – and then what? She had only a little information. Whoever was messing with things was covering his or her – or their – tracks rather carefully. She had little proof to offer, and she knew it.
She looked over the candidates again. Sheilagh Bernstein, the computers specialist; HD Avery, the musician; Alice Trent, the woman who understood table manners and protocols – were any of them on the wrong side? Or was it Gregory Shaw, the animals guy; or Helen Walker, one of the doctors; or Crystal Sherwood, the Quartermaster candidate? It seemed useless to speculate. She sifted through her list again. If musicians were somehow being targeted, then maybe Avery could be brought in. He was so young. And he had annoyed her a bit. Not like Levi – it was more like he was a surly teenager. HD Avery IV was nearly twenty-one, but he still looked, and acted, like a typical teen. He probably would for a while, she figured. Would she be able to tolerate that? She wasn’t sure.
There was also Daniel Beauchaine, the survivalist; Marisol Castillo, who was a doctor but also similar to Otra in her understanding of alternative timelines; and her pet project, Polly Porter. Porter – it was likely that she had little motive to change things, Carmen figured. Rajesh Kumar? Teresa Marquez? Elston McCoy? Carol Tilson? Some were engineers – she’d probably reject those outright anyway, particularly if she could get Katzman but palm that engineer’s hours off on some other unit. But musicians, musicians? She shook her head. Anything she did, any move she made – other than having Rick fix the timeline – was likely to be the wrong one.
There were another few candidates, but they weren’t as well-defined in their specialties. She wouldn’t be hiring them. But the first nine were all very viable. Then there was Deirdre Katzman, but she was already an employee. Of course she could be the turned one. That was also possible. It was too confusing, and she was getting a headache.
She finally settled on Bernstein. She didn’t need a computers person for the current problem, but she knew she would eventually need one. That decision made some sense. Even Levi, like a blind squirrel finding a nut, was right about that one.
Rick stood by a computer bank and was about to start issuing a command when he thought better of it. Instead, he tapped behind his left ear once to open a channel, “Richard Daniels to Eleanor Daniels.”
“Hiya,” she responded.
“El, I got an assignment. I don’t think it’ll take more than a couple of hours but, uh, I’m giving you some notice, uh, just in case.”
“Okay,” she said cautiously, “Is this a dangerous one?”
“I, uh, I don’t think so,” he said, “But you never know. Tell, uh, please tell Mom and Dad I might be skipping dinner this week, too. I don’t know for sure, not yet.”
“Understood,” she said, “Hurry back, so you don’t miss pot roast.”
He smiled, “Now there’s an incentive. And, uh, thanks, El. I’m out.”
Eleanor Daniels was Rick’s sister. A couple of years younger than he, she worked as a docent at the Temporal Museum, on a charming planet called Lafa II – more specifically, the museum was located in Fep City. The planet was near the intersection of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants – a crossroads near Andoria and Kronos. At one point, it had been strategic. Now it was just a pleasant spot in the galaxy, a home world for staunch allies.
Eleanor and Tina April were friends and she had introduced them because she thought that Richard could use an intelligent companion. It wasn’t necessarily for anything more – she just wanted to see the people she cared about happy.
For her own part, she could use a friend such as herself. Beautiful, elegant, well-read and intelligent, she scared off nearly every man she met, and without even trying. Women looked at her and thought – stuck up. Men looked at her and thought – out of my league.
She had taken the initiative many times, and sometimes that worked, but she was getting tired of making the first move all the time.
She was Richard’s only real confidante, and she took the responsibility seriously. He didn’t entrust much to her, but she did know that he worked to repair and defend the timeline. He generally told her when he was leaving – although not where he was going – and it was she, and not their parents – who was named as his next of kin in the event that things broke down completely and he died in some wasteland time period, on some godawful rock or another.
He had come to her when Hoshi was pregnant, and he had asked her advice when a careless coupling had turned a 1920s flapper named Betty Tyler unexpectedly suicidal. Eleanor had done her best to counsel him, but she was also getting tired of watching others’ adventures. At times, she itched for one of her own.
We started 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)