But I do know that one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be
- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)
“Your line?” Sheilagh persisted. “Where is it drawn?”
He sat, quietly, looking out the window. After a while, he glanced at the instrument panel - 2156. That year, it was right in front of him.
“Please,” he finally said softly.
That finally registered with her. “It’s - you told me not to fall in love, that we’re not allowed to fall in love. So, one of your honeys, is that where the line was drawn?”
Rick just stared, instruments flipping back to 2073 and earlier. “We need to break orbit soon.”
“Yeah. I, uh, I won’t ask anymore. At least, not today. I, I can’t promise I will never, ever ask again, though. And I suggest you at least think about it, Rick.”
“Understood. Uh, you’ll need to prepare for temporal integration.”
“Right. It was, it was about love,” she drew her own conclusion, and touched his arm lightly, a gesture of sympathy if not understanding.
Well, not exactly, or, at least, it wasn’t the kind of love she was thinking of. It certainly wasn’t love for the Empress Hoshi, a woman who, if she had been loved at all during her long life, had most likely only been loved by Captain Maximilian Forrest of the ISS NX-01.
No. It was Rick’s love all right, but it was for his and Hoshi’s son, Jun.
Rick knew that, even under the best of circumstances, he could never raise Jun. He would never discipline the kid, teach him how to fly a shuttle, play catch, tell him the facts of life or build a fort with him out of living room couch cushions.
The only thing he could do for his one and only child, who was innocent, at least when it came to the whole temporal blunder, the pariotric love affair with the Empress Hoshi, was to assure that the child could live at all.
Jun, of course, did not know about the sacrifices his father had made. He knew only what his mother had told him, that Ritchie Daniels had fixed the ISS Defiant, they had had a grand love affair, he had left soon afterwards, and she had learned later that he’d been killed on May twelfth of 2157 when his ship had crashed on the surface of a planet called Daranaea.
Otherwise, Jun had been raised by his half-brother Kira’s father, Aidan MacKenzie, and the royal children’s teacher, a woman named Susan Cheshire. When Hoshi had died, Jun and Kira had ruled the Empire with tandem iron fists, with half-brother Arashi collecting the onerous taxes and controlling the purse strings and little half-brother Izo in charge of the secret police.
After he and Kira failed to sire heirs, Jun had hit upon the idea of finding their two missing siblings, locating the twins on Lafa II. Takara, the only parent of the six of them, was already a grandmother by then, so there was an heir, who became the Emperor Charles I, upon Jun’s death in 2258. Kira had already died, in 2255.
Rick couldn’t tell Sheilagh any of that. It was all too much, to explain any of it. But that was, most assuredly, exactly where the line was drawn - not for the love of a woman, but for the love of a child.
Red shapes, red shapes, what did they mean? Otra was sure she didn’t know, but it was at least something that she knew. Nothing smelled in any strong manner, so she couldn’t even use that as any sort of an indicator of where she was, or of who might have a hold of her.
She went over the clues in her mind. There was the Vulcan plomeek broth, laced with far too much Kreetassan spice. There were the red shapes. There was the Southern local expression used by one of her captors. There was the fact that they knew about at least a few of the temporal changes, so they potentially had access to some sort of major, sophisticated computers. There was Parker, with his GIUS tattoo and his St. Catherine’s tee shirt and his clarinet playing. And, finally, there was the fact that someone in the captors’ organization knew enough, medically, to be able to catheter the heck out of her - a doctor, perhaps, although that work could have been performed by a nurse.
She felt a tug as the gravitation shifted ever so slightly. They were - it was highly likely - dropping out of Warp. She sat down, and pretended to be knocked out.
He changed his mind while he was sitting there, watching the years fall away. “We, uh, we don’t need to go to the surface at all.”
“I thought we were doing temporal integration,” Sheilagh said.
“We are. But from the very beginning. We, uh, this needs to happen anyway, so let’s just get it over with.”
“You mean, we’ll integrate the two ships?”
“Yes. And that will temporally integrate you and me as well,” Rick said.
Temporal integration was the act of putting together, and more successfully than Humpty Dumpty’s king’s horses and men, more than one version of a person or an item. The multiple versions would arise because of time travel and then going back to the same place and time for a do-over. This was precisely what had happened in 1960 Rome.
It was a form of version control, for otherwise you’d end up with two Carmens, or two Borises, or, God forbid, two Levis. All that the two - or more - versions of a person had to do was to touch. Then they would come together, appearing like the youngest version but with the knowledge of the eldest of the versions.
The same could and did happen with time ships. Their means of temporal integration, however, was considerably more unnerving. The two versions would have to collide, although that would, fortunately, not result in any sort of a fireworks display. Still, if you were on board during temporal integration, it could be damned unsettling.
If Rick and Sheilagh had not returned to 1960 Rome, and if a different ship had been taken - say, if Tom and HD had been elected to correct the problem, and had flown there in the Jack Finney - there would be no need whatsoever for temporal integration.
No one ever reported that it hurt. Just, that it was odd.
“What do we need to do to prepare?” Sheilagh asked.
“Not much. I know our earlier selves are going around the moon clockwise.”
“You’re certain of that?”
“I always do it that way - for this very purpose.”
“Oh, good thinking, I suppose,” she said.
“We’ll go counterclockwise of course. It’ll only take a few seconds.”
“I just don’t want to watch.”
Below, Marisol was arriving - but for her, it was the one and only time. She worked to set up her alien biosign detector, oblivious to what was going on above.
“Okay, get ready,” Rick said.
Sheilagh gritted her teeth and shut her eyes.
The proximity alarms tripped, and the air was filled with wailing sounds. But then, nothing, no sounds, as the ships merged and transformed, from the later version to the earlier one, and then the people transformed, from older to younger, but retained any later information they had gotten.
“You okay?” he asked, once it was all over.
“Huh? I guess so. Hey, you’ve got on your older clothes.”
“Yeah, I do. Ready to go back?”
And on the 1960 Earth, Marisol raised her alien biosign detector and found nothing - no partial Calafan biosigns whatsoever. Disappointed, that version waited for the recall back to 3109.
Angela Libertini happily made sauce and gnocchi, and didn’t cut her finger and there was no glass in the food. She and her husband made a good living at their café and awaited more customers - the tourists were coming in droves.
Gene and Marion Donnelly took their three kids, Christopher, Leslie and Gail, to Italy and had a wonderful time, as Gene regaled them all with stories of Anzio and the kids got to climb around Pompeii and the Colosseum. Christopher, in particular, enjoyed himself so much he figured he’d become an archaeologist when he grew up. Healthy and strong, he did grow up, as would be expected.
In 1974, millions of head of cattle lived, even though there was a brief outbreak of Mad Cow, for the public health protocols were not yet in place.
In 1981, HIV was recognized in the United States but the blood supply was not adequately protected. Squeamish health officials did not distribute condoms or clean needles and the infections spread until it became a global pandemic and such luminaries as Freddie Mercury, Brad Davis, Elizabeth Glaser, Rock Hudson and Halston succumbed, and people who went in for no more than a simple medical procedure, like Arthur Ashe and Kimberly Bergalis and Ryan White - those people died, too.
Free love did not experience resurgence in 2026. The peasants of Krios Prime did not revolt in 2152, and their First Monarch, Kaitaama, did not lose her head in 2154. There were no bread riots in 2412.
The Wells sped past all of that, its mission completed.
But I'm trying to be
So maybe by being an "A" student baby
I can win your love for me
- Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)