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But my love for Felina is strong and I rise where I've fallen,
Though I am weary I can't stop to rest.
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

=/=



Satisfied that things were more or less in hand, and that Marisol would show up in her own good time - and then she would deal with the insubordination in some fashion or another - Carmen walked Otra back to her office and then strolled to her own. Not bad, she thought to herself. The department was a damned three-ring circus but things were running pretty well.

As for Sheilagh, she might stay, and she might not. It would be unfortunate if she left, but not necessarily fatal. And Marisol, well, if absolutely necessary, Carmen had interviewed, a couple of months previously, another potential traveling doctor, Teresa Marquez. About the only person who would object, Carmen figured, would be Boris - she didn’t know exactly why. He’d learn to work with another doctor if he had to. She was confident of that.

But now she could hire her next employee. This one would be a mature woman, not unlike Sheilagh in that respect, but, most likely, a lot more unflappable. A psychologist - at least, this one - would be better for handling herself in the event of any more difficult moral and emotional situations.

She engaged her implanted Communicator. “I’d like to speak with Polly Porter, on Betazed.”

“Can I help you?” Came the woman’s voice on the other end of the line.

“I hope you remember me. My name is Admiral Carmen Calavicci.”

“Ah, yes,” said Polly. “The Temporal Integrity Commission,” she paused as she closed her office door, “yes?”

“The very same. Would you like to come and work for us?”

“I have a few patients and a mostly audio-only show,” she said, “I’ll need to wrap those up, and that will all take a few months.”

“Not to worry,” Carmen said brightly, although she was dismayed by the delay. “Take all the time you need. But do come back soon and we’ll start to get you set up. Give you the grand tour and all that.”

“Looking forward to it. Porter out.”

Carmen stared out her office window, which overlooked the Milky Way galactic barrier. “There’s yet another ball in the air. Good thing I’m an excellent juggler.”

She fiddled with a small jar of pebbles and beach glass from Risa, making it just so, before heading back out into the Temporal Integrity Commission’s hallways.

=/=



As Marisol sped along on the scooter, her thoughts turned to how to most effectively and surreptitiously deliver the dose of Ebola.

She did not know how Anthony Parker had been infected, for she was not his killer. But he had been injected with a hyposyringe laced with Ebola a few days before he was mauled, repeatedly, with a sledgehammer. The delay was a necessity, for Ebola virus needs a few days to take root and really get nasty in a body.

Something similar would have to happen here. She needed to open the bodily envelope, somehow, and get the virus in there. She didn’t have a hyposyringe with her, but a 1960 syringe would work just fine. Then the idea finally hit her - she could do it without a syringe!

It was possible that others would be infected. There was even a bit of a chance of becoming infected, herself. But the chances weren’t that high of collateral damage. The virus was bodily fluid-borne. No contact from virus to bloodstream or mucous membranes meant virtually no risk of infection. Not that she gave a damn about others’ welfare, but she sure as hell had a mightily well-developed sense of self-preservation.

She smiled as she sped along. It would be a piece of tiramisu.

=/=



“I’m glad breakfast was possible,” Rick said.

Sheilagh was finishing the last of a piece of plain biscotti. “I just needed to stay away from bacon.”

“That’s the best part!”

“Not when you’re hung over. So, um, whaddaya wanna do?”

“I was about to ask you the same,” he said, “How do you feel about going to Saint Peter’s Basilica? The Pieta is there.”

“Uh, sure. What else is there?”

“Well, I can’t check a PADD from here,” he said. The little café was a bit too crowded for pulling out a device that was over a millennium away from being assembled and several centuries away from being invented.

“Understood. Still?”

“Well, my sister’s in the museum biz. But the Basilica is big, in many ways it’s as important as the Louvre in France. And it’s supposed to be beautiful in there.”

“Sounds good. And then?”

“We don’t need to plan too far in advance, yanno. We’ll have lunch somewhere and then, I dunno. There are all sorts of places to walk, like around the Colosseum.”

“I leave myself in your capable hands,” she smiled at him, and then dropped her voice low. “I, I appreciate what you did for me last night. And, and for not taking advantage in any way.”

“Sheilagh, I’m not that kind of a guy.”

“I didn’t think you were. And I think most of the men we work with aren’t, either. I mean, for Boris it would be a matter of honor to not touch me. Tom wouldn’t want to be thought of as anything other than a gentleman. And Levi, well, uh, I get the feeling he wouldn’t quite know what to do, anyway.”

“Oh, I dunno. Levi observes a lot of things.”

“Then he’d watch me sleep?” she made a face.

“If it was interesting enough to him, maybe,” Rick said, “although it’s more likely that he’d just play around on his PADD. Hey, you forgot Kevin.”

“Kevin? I get the feeling he’s dangerous. I mean,” She said softly so that the other patrons in the café wouldn’t hear her, “is a reptile trustworthy in, um, in that, er, area?”

Rick looked at her intently. “You should spend some time with him, see just how unfounded your fears really are. He is one of - no, the - nicest man I know. You didn’t know him when Josie was alive, and before she got sick.”

“Josie?”

“His wife. She died a little under a year ago. She was Aenar.”

“Holy cow, what an odd couple they must’ve made.”

“He was her world, and she was his,” Rick said, “The only other relationship I’ve ever seen like that has been my parents’ own marriage. For Kevin, it was forever. I seriously doubt he’ll ever remarry. He may not even date again.”

“I’m, I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” she said.

“It’s, uh, it’s okay. He’s just a close friend, and he’s destroyed by her death. You’re finished, right? Let’s get outta here.”

=/=



Lots of people saw Otra head into her office, deposited there by Carmen. Otra was well-known at the Temporal Integrity Commission. It seemed that everyone liked her.

The Witannen contingent often invited her to lunch, and they’d speak the conversational version of their language, tongues clicking in a rhythm that HD Avery would have labeled as staccato.

Or she’d sit with the Ferengi, and Von would present a peony or the like, trying in vain to match one of her chameleon-like chavecoi. They found her interesting, and often openly wondered whether she’d consider show biz. She was inevitably promised what, to them, was a generous cut of the anticipated profits - four percent or so. She always, politely, refused.

Or she’d dine with the Vulcans, as the word fascinating would, more often than not, escape from someone’s lips. The Gorn unit found the swaying of the chavecoi to be nearly hypnotic. The members of the Bajoran department loved her talent for telling stories.

So there were any number of witnesses who saw her enter her office. But no one saw her leave.

And, of course, they wouldn’t have, for she did not use the door, and did not depart voluntarily. She was beamed to some dark place, so dark that she couldn’t even see a shadow of a shadow. Alarmed, she cried out incoherently, and her nose was assaulted by a whiff of tricoulamine gas. Fatal to humans, but ineffective against Witannen, she was half and half, so the dose’s effects split the difference, and she lost consciousness.

=/=



From out of nowhere Felina has found me,
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for,
One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)



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