I know beyond a doubt
my heart will lead me there soon
We'll meet (I know we'll meet) beyond the shore
We'll kiss just as before
Happy we'll be beyond the sea
and never again I'll go sailin'
- Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea)
“Dress up tonight,” Rick said a few days later. “I’ll replicate a lot more cash and we’ll eat at a much better place.”
“I see,” she said, “And then, why don’t we stay out? We could do something fun.”
“That’s what I’ve got in mind,” he said.
They had been warily circling each other. The days were spent sightseeing or shopping. As for the nights, he had slept in the pilot’s chair. She hadn’t extended an invitation to him to share the bed, but he was hopeful.
“Ya’ll are probably wondering where you are, and who has you and what we want,” Came a voice from what was some sort of a sound amplifier on the ceiling of the tiny enclosure where Otra was being held. The speaker’s gender, age and accent were all being masked, but there was the localism, out there, sticking out like a sore thumb.
“Of course I am,” she replied, as calmly as she could.
“All in good time,” Came another, equally masked, voice. It wasn’t even possible to tell whether either speaker was anywhere near where she was. They could have been patched in via Communicator or some sort of relay system.
“I see. They’re looking for me, you know.”
“They’re not looking that hard,” said the second voice. “And they won’t until - if - the timeline is restored.”
“There are too many people,” Otra said, “And there are a lot of dead cows. So is your movement vegan or something?”
“Ya’ll are funny,” said the first voice. The localism, the localism, Otra couldn’t quite place it.
“Why won’t you show yourselves to me?”
“We’re a little shy,” said the second voice. Otra had no way of knowing this, but the voice belonged to the leader of the Perfectionists.
“Now it’s your turn to be amusing,” Otra said, “What exactly do you expect to get out of me?”
“A little help,” said the second voice. “We make changes, you see the implications, you tell us, and we let you live. See? It’s a win-win situation.”
“And if I refuse?”
“You won’t. Your visions are so compelling to ya’ll. They are meant to be shared.”
Otra knew that that much was true. But she’d be damned if she’d give them anything good to go on. The bit about there being too many people - she felt that was obvious from a cursory check of records. As for the part about the dead cows, that struck her as being something that probably wouldn’t help them that much. As for the rest of the changes she could see - the flourishing fashion scene in the 2010s, the resurgence of free love in 2026, the bread riots of 2412 - she’d keep mum. Or, at least, she’d make every effort to do that.
Another dead john, another place to sleep and plot - that was how Marisol rolled. Since Rick and Sheilagh stayed in Rome, except for a short jaunt into Pompeii, it made sense to move her base of operations to Rome permanently. It was a similar situation, a cheap apartment, but she had the key and no one was bothering her.
As she did her nightly tour of the news broadcasts, she heard a story about a divorced man in Naples who was found dead, his apartment ransacked. The cause was unknown - some sort of burning to the chest. The Italian authorities, of course, knew nothing of phaser fire.
So it made even more sense to stay in Rome, rather than return to Naples, where she could potentially become a person of interest. She rationed her money and her trichronium carefully. She could replenish the former but not the latter.
It was dinner time, and Rick was getting antsy. “C’mon!”
“What, do we have reservations or something?” Sheilagh asked from inside the little bathroom.
“No, it’s just that I’m hungry,” he complained.
The Wells was orbiting the moon, and they were on the far side, invisible to the Earth, so he fired up the dark matter collector and grabbed a little more fuel. There. They’d be set for the trip home, which would be - when? In a day or two, most likely.
“Uh, ahem,” she was standing right behind where he was sitting.
He swiveled the pilot’s chair around. “Oh. Wow,” That was all he could manage to stammer out.
She was wearing a black strapless gown and a long pink shawl draped carelessly over her shoulders. There was a slit up the side of the gown, showing her right leg to just above the knee. She had on heeled sandals and was carrying a matching clutch purse. Her hair, a wild thing, was loose, flowing honey around her shoulders.
“Will you get your fedora so that we can go to dinner?”
“Uh, uh, of course,” he said. He put the ship into auto and fumbled for the fedora.
“So, what is it you expect me to tell you?” Otra repeated.
“Nothing for now. So ya’ll just rest and we’ll check on you later.”
Otra heard a slight click, the sound of a communicative connection being broken. Local expression, what the hell is that? She asked herself. There was nothing else to do in the tiny confined space. She kept as silent as possible. Even if the channel was closed, there was a possibility that she could be heard. She was bound and determined to not give them anything to really go on.
Then she put two and two together. The localism could only have two possible origins. It was used by someone who was either from either of the Carolinas on Earth, or from Titania, which had been settled by people from there. She could not place the other voice in any way. Still, this was something. The tricoulamine gas came again, and she still had visions of food riots and art salons and slaughtered steer, but things were a tiny bit, less hopeless.
Conversation flowed effortlessly. She laughed at his jokes, a loud, musical laugh where her voice went up, perhaps, a half an octave. HD Avery would have known the specifics. Avery. He had said she was the best one, Rick remembered. He definitely had to agree.
The restaurant had a dance floor, and a halfway decent band. They played older tunes, and a crooner sang Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby songs, in English or Italian as, perhaps, he knew them.
“How’s the gnocchi?” he asked.
“Oh, it’s great. No glass,” she smiled. She speared one on her fork and fed it to him.
“Um, thanks,” he had fettuccine and returned the favor with a piece. He watched her eat it from his fork and realized there were a few other men in the restaurant who were also watching. “Do you know you’ve got an audience?”
“Really? Good thing this isn’t Bananas Foster.”
He smiled at that. “Do I get to see how you handle that later?”
“Ask me to dance and find out.”
He got up. “Wanna dance?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Marisol didn’t have proper attire for the front of the restaurant. But she was dressed just fine for the back. It was a simple matter to grab a waitress who’d gone to the back for a smoke break. The waitress uniform fit her well enough although it was a little tight and short. Hence, when she raised the pistol she was carrying, she knew her skirt would go up. So what?
“Gene, I think he’s worse,” Marion Donnelly said to her husband.
“I don’t trust these foreign hospitals,” Gene said to her quietly. Then, more loudly, he said, “Kids! Let’s pack! Leslie, Gail, pack for Christopher. We’re going home.”
Marion leaned over her fourteen-year-old son, pale and sweaty in their hotel room bed. “Chris, we’ll be home soon. Just hang on until we can get you to Doctor Kingston in Tyler.”
The song was Frank Sinatra’s Witchcraft. The crooner did a passable job with it. Rick held Sheilagh close. “Have I stepped on your feet yet?” he whispered in her ear.
“Not once,” she said, and then kissed his ear.
He would have called it a night right then and there, and he was about to. He stopped moving, and pulled her even closer to kiss her.
It was the perfect opportunity for Marisol, who dropped a full plate of rigatoni she was holding onto a Swedish tourist’s lap. The man was about to protest when he saw the gun.
She aimed at the stationary couple, and fired.
Across the centuries, Tom sat in his office, alone. He’d left the conference room; it was a little too much departmental togetherness for one day. Plus, he had a mission.
He had her info, and he figured she was unaffected by the temporal changes. He engaged his implanted Communicator. “I’d like to speak to Eleanor Daniels, on Lafa II,” he drawled.
“Do ya’ll remember me? Tom Grant - I work with your brother.”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
“Ya’ll wanna go to dinner?”
No more sailin'
so long sailin'
move on out Captain
- Bobby Darin (Beyond the Sea)