The best things in life are free
but you can keep 'em for the birds and bees;
Now give me money, (that's what I want) that's what I want,
(That's what I want) That's what I want (That's what I want) yeah,
That's what I want.
- Barrett Strong (Money (That’s What I Want))
The pain was excruciating, but there was no time to waste, to lie there on the dance floor and truly experience the pain. Not that Rick wanted to, of course, but the very fact that he’d just been shot at - and hit a few times - gave him pause. He wanted to stay down.
Sheilagh was lying next to him, red stains spreading, one on the side of her face and the other across the front of her chest.
He was hit in the shoulder and the back of his neck. There was still a lot of shouting and the sounds of breaking dishes. He didn’t see the gunman, and didn’t see her make her exit, gunfire continuing as patrons screamed and ducked or ran. All he could think of was to get out, and back to the Wells.
“Get up,” Was all he said. She must have fully realized the seriousness of the situation for, despite her wounds, she got up. She winced. “Out back,” he added.
They made their way through the crowds and the broken dishes scattered all over the floor. A couple of other people were laying on the dance floor, covered in blood, the collateral damage of dancing too close to them. Without stem cell growth accelerator, they were not so lucky.
They got to the back. The other restaurant patrons were so confused, and in such shock, that, even if they noticed that particular bloodied couple walking away, it didn’t really register with them that that reaction was anything out of the ordinary.
He took her hand and engaged the Transporter remote control with his free hand.
Once on board the Wells, they both just stood there, staring at each other. The wound on the side of her face closed up quickly, as did the one in her chest. His neck and shoulder wounds did the same. The entire, itchy process took maybe an hour or so.
He knew enough not to say anything, and just followed her lead. She was silent, finally getting herself into the bathroom and stripping down. The ruined clothes were thrown into the disposer, and she took an inordinately long shower. While she did, he didn’t even realize it, but he was still standing there, in stained clothes.
He, too, needed a shower, to remove the day’s events, if not their memory, from his body. He, too, stripped, until all he had left on was the jewelry he always wore - a simple chain with a Xindi initiation medal which had his initials engraved on it - RMD - and a family heirloom, an old-fashioned skeleton key charm with a solid handle, that to him was close to one thousand years old yet was still a good century and three-quarters from being forged.
He got the replicator to spit out a pair of plain running shorts. They were not for running, just for basic decency. He put them on and ended up sitting on the floor of the bedroom, not even on the bed, quietly thinking about what had just happened.
A brick sailed through a window, and there was broken glass everywhere.
That, and the First Monarch of Krios Prime, Kaitaama, meeting her death via an old-fashioned guillotine, were the things that Otra saw in her dreams.
The computers dinged again, loud, at the Temporal Integrity Commission. “Dammit, we need to get Otra back,” Kevin swore under his breath.
“More changes,” Carmen said, “I’ll bet they’re not good ones,” she engaged her Communicator. “Mister Grant, I’ve got more for you to do. Come on back.”
“Of course. Grant out,” The date was set up. He knew just where to take Eleanor. It would be beautiful, elegant and classy, just like her. That was, assuming the place was still there, what with all of the temporal shenanigans going on.
“Deirdre, you and Crystal are to look at the new 1960. I want to know if there are any John and Jane Does - any new ones since you last checked,” Carmen commanded. “HD and Tom, pull up the master for comparisons. Levi, you and Kevin are to check 3109. Boris, you and I will check some of those other years, uh, 1974, 2016 and I think that’s it.”
“That seems to be it,” Levi said.
“All right, let’s get cracking,” she replied.
“A moment,” Boris tapped his left ear twice. “Yarin to Castillo,” A pause. “Yarin to Otra,” Another pause. “Nothing yet.”
Sheilagh finally emerged, draped only in a towel. “I don’t want to go back there.”
“That’s, that’s all right,” he said, “We need to leave anyway. I think - I know - something has changed.”
“You have the gift, too?”
“No. It’s just, it seems obvious. Otra wouldn’t have suggested this time, and this place, if there was gonna be a shooting. We need to hit 3109 and figure out the divergence point, and then go back and fix it.”
“Yeah. I, uh, I need a shower as much as you did. Get us outta here, okay?”
He got in the small bathroom and she replicated a pair of yoga pants and a plain tee shirt for herself. So attired, she sat down in the pilot’s chair and broke orbit.
Marisol clicked on her PADD a few times, back at the dead john’s apartment. The partial Calafan biosign was gone. “So you are either dead, or you have departed this green and pleasant land. Either way is good,” her trichronium level was dropping rapidly. In just a few more hours, it would be low enough to trigger the Perfectionists’ leader to recall her automatically.
She cast about for clothing, anything other than the meager waitress’s uniform. The dead john’s clothes were too big for her, but that was all right. The dead man’s sleeveless undershirt, and a pair of grey woolen slacks, was fine. All she had to do was wait.
Back home in Tyler, Texas, Gene Donnelly paced while his wife, Marion, sat with Gail and Leslie, their daughters.
A doctor finally came out. “Mister Donnelly? I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“Can we see him? asked Marion.
The doctor shook his head.
“Kingston, that’s my son!” Gene thundered.
“He’s under quarantine. And the four of you need to be as well. I’ve contacted the Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta. This is, it’s, it’s almost like germ warfare.”
The head of the First Monarch of Krios Prime rolled into the basket again and again, a nearly endless loop of horror in Otra’s head. Then there was the brick, and the high-pitched crash of breaking glass.
Over and over again, these images tore at Otra, harsh visions which pulled her toward, but didn’t actually get her to, full consciousness.
“There’s a shooting in Rome,” Crystal said, “Two dead John Does, no Jane Does.”
Deirdre clicked around. “Witnesses reported a lone gunman in black. The, uh, I can’t find anywhere, uh, where they apprehended the guy.”
“Curiouser and curiouser,” Carmen said, “Tell me about the John Does.”
“One is, uh, forty, they think. The other is about twenty,” Crystal said, “Isn’t Rick forty?”
“Yes,” Kevin said.
“It’s not him. Look,” Deirdre projected two pictures on the wall of the conference room. Neither of the John Does was Rick.
“Whew,” Carmen could take a breath. “Should we recall them, do you think?”
“Why haven’t ya’ll recalled them already?” Tom asked.
“Recall is rather jolting,” Carmen explained.
“We can injure them, or damage or even destroy the Wells,” Kevin added. “So we only use recall sparingly.”
“Hey, I got something,” Levi said, “Krios Prime isn’t in the Federation.”
“Huh?” HD asked. “My folks live there.”
“Probably not now,” Boris said.
Kevin said, “I got a broadcast from earlier this year. Hang on,” A bit of clicking, and the recorded broadcast began. “The government of Krios Prime appealed to the Federation today, asking for assistance against rebel forces. And once again, the Federation refused to get involved. While Krios Prime is an advanced world, with well-established Warp Drive technology, Federation spokeswoman Helen Walker says that getting involved in a planet-specific conflict is out of the question.”
“Hey, I know that chick!” HD exclaimed.
“We all know her,” Kevin said.
“Who?” asked Levi. Well, maybe he didn’t know her.
“She interviewed for the traveling doctor job, the one that went to Marisol - er, Doctor Castillo,” Boris explained.
“Yeah, she, uh, when we were heading back after the group interview, our shuttle crashed. It was on, uh, Berren One,” HD said, “She, uh, Walker, she died in the crash. Doctor Castillo confirmed it.”
“Well she’s a Federation spokeswoman now,” Crystal said, “And she’s not exactly dead.”
“Perhaps it’s just a coincidence,” Carmen said, “What else have we got on Krios Prime, from 1960 through the present?”
There was the sound of furious clicking. “Looks like there’s been a Reign of Terror going on for at least a good six hundred years,” Tom said.
“And, uh, a few centuries before that, it looks like right about 2152, the peasants started revolting and looting. It was, uh, a lot of breaking glass, almost like an alien Kristallnacht,” Kevin said.
“It’s like 1789 France,” Deirdre said, “They set up a guillotine and everything, except it was a laser cutter, rather than a saw blade. The First Monarch, Kaitaama, lost her head in, um, 2154.”
“Who knows what the connection is,” Carmen said, “Perhaps it’s from the combination of both the shooting and the premature introduction of Ebola, I don’t know. I suspect there’s little need to know the, quite literally, gruesome details.”
Marisol materialized in front of the leader of the Perfectionists. “You’ve had an interesting day,” said the leader.
“It was a few days.”
“Yes, of course. So far, we’ve had lots of fascinating changes,” The leader said, “Otra must be bursting with visions to share.”
The leader smiled. “She’s here, actually.”
“Really?” Marisol asked.
“In the cargo bay. You’ll need to return to the Temporal Integrity Commission. I have an idea for how you’ll cover yourself. And do replicate another Temporal Integrity Commission uniform for yourself. You look ridiculous in that old period garb. But do make sure the uni’s tattered.”
Boris heard the communications hail in his ear as they continued investigating. “Boris, it’s me.”
“I have heard from Marisol!” He practically leapt up in joy.
Your lovin' give me such a thrill,
But your lovin' don't pay my bills
- Barrett Strong (Money (That’s What I Want))