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Try an enchilada with da fish a bac a lab and then a
hey goombah, I love a how you dance a rhumba.
But take a some advice paisano
Learn how to mambo
If you gonna be a square,
you ain't a gonna go nowhere

-- Rosemary Clooney (Mambo Italiano)

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Otra D’Angelo was certainly desirable to the Perfectionists. She had a gift for seeing alternative timelines – so thorough and accurate was she that one of the Temporal Integrity Commission’s engineers, Levi Cavendish, had named the temporal nodes and change types after her. The name had stuck, and so any changes or decision points in the timeline were referred to as otric, pariotric or megaotric nodes.

An otric node was a trifling change, one that could not alter the timeline in any meaningful manner. Take a right turn instead of a left, or be one of a million extra votes over the top for a winning candidate – or not – or wear a green shirt instead of a blue one, and you are making an otric change.

Of course, a series of otric changes could end up meaning something more. Wear that green shirt seven days in a row? So what. Wear it seven thousand days in a row and now we’re talking. Hence those were pariotric changes, although a pariotric change could also occur from casting a tiebreaker vote in the opposite way, or marrying Sally instead of Mary, or attending college, or not. These changes could, and did, mess with the timeline, although some did so more than others. For most people, the decision whether or not to attend college is a personally meaningful one, but empires rarely fall on such choices. Unless, of course, it’s a future candidate for the Presidency of the Federation, who decides to forego college, follow her bliss, and become a watermelon farmer.

Megaotric changes were far larger, and were presumed to be completely out of reach of humans or the like. The demise of the dinosaurs was a well-known megaotric event that was routinely pointed to in schools as an exemplar of the genre. Could the end of the dinosaurs be prevented? Diverting the asteroid that had splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico sixty-five million years ago and created the Chicxulub Crater would help, but it wouldn’t forestall the inevitable.

Shutting down the many volcanoes that had erupted right about then, that would also help. But it still wouldn’t save the thunder lizards. At that point, students would give up, and ask why. And the truth was that the dinosaurs, as a superorder of animals, had been running out of gas for quite a while. The asteroid and the volcanoes had most definitely been the final nails in the coffin, but the coffin was built by the dinosaurs’ own behavior. There had been fewer and fewer baby dinos born over the course of several generations. All that the disasters had done was hasten the superorder’s impending doom. So, students were told, unless they wanted to take it upon themselves to selectively breed hundreds of different species of dinosaur, and do so for multiple generations, then the thunder lizards were goners. Since no one ever volunteered to perform such long-term and complicated animal husbandry duties, the matter was considered megaotric.

It was this laziness – or, perhaps, practicality – that usually distinguished a megaotric change from a pariotric one. At least, that was what most people told themselves. Even Otra wasn’t one hundred percent certain where the line should have been logically drawn.

=/=

Otra herself was a Witannen-human hybrid. The Witannen had only recently joined the Federation, and so there were few like her. Also, because of the Witannen home world, Dawitan, being far off in the Delta Quadrant, and the existence of an overall superiority complex borne by most pure Witannen, the odds were even greater against getting together.

Her parents had met at a trade show for starship engine parts, as they were both in the business. Her father, Marco D’Angelo, had swept her mother, Chefra, off her feet by being able to name all of the parts of a starship engine in formal Witannen speech, complete with more or less correct pronunciation – including clicks – and a proven mastery of that language’s tortured syntax.

Such devotion to detail and desire to impress her had sealed the deal for Chefra, and so she had fallen, hopelessly, about forty-six years ago.

Otra arrived on the scene about two years later, as Chefra had gotten pregnant quickly, and gestation for Witannen women was about as exquisitely long as that of elephants on Earth – a good two years.

The baby girl was everything they had wanted to celebrate their union. She was delicate and lovely like a purebred Witannen, with the only indicator of her human parentage being that she didn’t have the little vestigial wings her kind sported. And that was about the only outward indicator that she was Marco’s little girl, for she had the Witannen’s other major physical characteristic – chavecoi.

Chavecoi were little flower-like appendages that sprouted from her scalp, rather than hair. Their function was photosynthesis, but only in the event of starvation. They were semi-independent creatures, with an autonomic nervous system that allowed them to feel pain, pressure and temperature changes. Otra’s own feelings, of pain, pressure and temperature changes, not to mention love, boredom, anger, excitement – or any of the panoply of sentient beings’ feelings – were, at times, reflected in the chavecoi’s changing colors. They could be mood indicators when it suited them. As a child, Otra had been embarrassed when a crush on a Kazon classmate had become readily apparent because her chavecoi would turn a bright, cranberry purple whenever Glarek was around.

And so she’d learned to suppress that, almost as well as a Vulcan, for wearing her heart on her sleeve – or, rather, her head – was a bit much for a kind, friendly woman such as herself who didn’t want to be bothered and didn’t want to be hurt.

She also knew that Levi Cavendish liked her, and struggled, at times, with what to do with that information.

Levi had major issues with Asperger’s Syndrome and Adult ADHD. His sensitivity level was barely measurable, it was so low. He simply could not pick up on social cues, no matter how hard he tried.

And he rarely ever tried, for it seemed too much of a burden to him and he was unsure of what to do with that information whenever he had it, anyway. The existence of other people did register in his consciousness, for he was, after all, not deaf, dumb and blind, but, for the most part, he just didn’t care.

He and Otra had first met while in school; she was a Philosophy student and he was in Engineering. He was younger than nearly all of his classmates, for he was a prodigy. He also hadn’t had non-academic distractions such as girlfriends and sports to keep him from his studies.

The only thing that would keep Levi from studying was Levi himself. His mind had few tracks, but they were deep ruts. Once he set his mind to something, he pursued it until he had hit its logical end, long after nearly anyone else would have long ago cried uncle.

He turned his attentions to Otra when they were both taking a compulsory Introduction to Psychology class. Otra was the buzz of Proteus University – the only Witannen, either full or half, that anyone there had ever seen. She became popular quickly, and was pursued by several human and near-human men. The attention had flattered her until she had learned that most of them were just in it to see what colors they could change her chavecoi to, while in bed. Disgusted, she had begun to distance herself from her classmates when she noticed Levi staring at her. She finally confronted him about it, and he admitted that he found her interesting. Impressed with his forthrightness, she had allowed him to hang around. For a final project, they prepared a paper together on the psychology of time travel, and that was when, and why, he’d named the change nodes after her.

Their professor loved the idea so much that he commandeered it for himself. Levi missed the boat on that one, and failed to properly assert his rights for credit in the matter, so Professor Nistik Sloane was listed in history as the coiner of the terms otric, pariotric and megaotric.

But Otra knew better so, when she was hired by the Temporal Integrity Commission, she had insisted that they find a place for Levi. Reluctantly, they had.

=/=

And now here they were, a good ten years later, and Otra was a cornerstone of the Human Unit, even though, due to her appearance, she was forbidden from going to the deep human past on either side of the proverbial pond. But no matter.  There were others who could do that.

In addition to Rick Daniels – the most senior Temporal Agent – and Sheilagh Bernstein, there were, at the moment, three other human travelers. Dr. Marisol Castillo was a medical specialist who reportedly had a bit of Otra’s gift for seeing temporal alternatives. Tom Grant, of Titania, had been a Colonel in the military, and had been hired for any such purposes. HD Avery, the newest hire, was a music and arts specialist, and could pick up hipster credentials for virtually any era. A sixth traveler, Psychologist Polly Porter, was about to be hired.

And Levi wasn’t the only engineer, nor was he even head of that subunit. Instead, the Chief Engineer was Kevin O’Connor, a part-Gorn man who was the most likely person in the group to cry at weddings and who weighed about a quarter of a metric ton. The other engineer was Deirdre Katzman, a Jewish-Japanese girl who Kevin was mentoring. She had named the time ships owned by the department – the Audrey Niffenegger, the HG Wells, the Jack Finney, the Flux Capacitor and the Audrey II, which was in the process of being built. The sixth ship, the Elise McKenna, currently only existed in blueprint form.

Rounding out the team were department physician Boris Yarin – he was part Klingon – and Quartermaster Crystal Sherwood. Together, as a team, their job was to maintain and restore original timelines, both on Earth and Terra.

They knew that there was another side which wanted to undo their work, but they didn’t know much about it. They didn’t know its name or its size or its members, or that some of its operatives had already infiltrated the Temporal Integrity Commission.

They had – the Perfectionists’ information was correct – only cracked about twenty percent of the encrypted Manifesto file. But they did know one thing that the general public did not – that Anthony Parker had been found with a paper copy of the encoded Manifesto on him. So they surmised that he had been one of them. And they were beginning to understand that the other side had few boundaries, and might stop at nothing to get their way.

=/=

Hey mambo! Mambo Italiano!
Hey mambo! Mambo Italiano!
Go, go, Joe, shake like a Giovanno
Hello kess-a-deetch-a you getta happy in the feets a
When you mambo Italiano
Shake-a Baby shake-a cause I love a when you take a me
Mama say "Stop-a or I'm gonna tell-a papa"


-- Rosemary Clooney (Mambo Italiano)

 



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