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Just as fast as I could from the West Texas town of El Paso,
out to the badlands of New Mexico.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)

=/=



The effects of the 1980 change were not felt by Sheilagh and Rick as they sped along in the Wells. In part, that was due to them both being protected by a temporal force field, as were all of the Temporal Integrity Commission’s employees, including Marisol. This made them all extratemporal so, essentially, any changes in time would not affect them personally. This was rather convenient, for what if one screwed up so royally that one’s own parents were wiped from existence? At least that person would continue to exist, unchanged, and be able to correct his or her error.

Another reason they were unaffected was because they were in the process of traveling through time. The present became the future, and it receded further and further into the distant future, the more they sped into the past. Due to the Uncertainty Principle, the future was never, truly, one hundred percent guaranteed. The past was encased in concrete, but the future was one big question mark. A 1980 change could be, potentially, undone by their actions in 1960, whatever they were to be.

And, finally, they were unaffected once they crossed behind 1980, as the change, for them, became a part of the unwritten future. Marisol didn’t feel the change, for the temporal transport via dose of trichronium and the Temporal Enzymatic Drive was nearly instantaneous.

As for Rick and Sheilagh, there was a quick blip on the instrument panel as they crossed from 1981 backwards to 1980 and earlier. “What was that?” she asked.

“Hmm, I dunno. Let’s perform a Level One diagnostic once we’ve gotten in,” They were in the solar system, cloaked, and moving from the orbit of Saturn to the Jovian orbit when it happened.

“Do you think maybe the instruments are more sensitive because of the upgrades the engineers did?”

“Maybe,” he allowed. “I don’t think they were, officially, upgrading anything. Ah, there’s the preterraformed Mars.”

“It doesn’t look like home at all.”

“Titan didn’t look too inviting, either. Okay, here, let’s get to the other side of the moon. Ah, good. I can run the diagnostic.”

“Okay,” she replied.

“Huh, there was a slight power surge,” he said after a few minutes. “I bet that was it.”

“So, there’s nothing to worry about?”

“Probably not. It’s May twenty-ninth, 1960. Looks to be, uh, seven PM in Rome. Care for some dinner?”

“All right,” she said, “You’d better put the tie on.”

“I will.”

She disappeared into the little bathroom on the Wells and emerged a few minutes later, hair tousled just so and makeup refreshed. “Ready.”

He looked up and down quickly; trying to be surreptitious about what he was really doing, which was checking her out. It was going to be a good vacation, he could tell.

=/=



“I believe I’ve found it,” Deirdre said.

“And?” Carmen asked. They had all stayed in Conference Room six in order to try to figure out where the temporal changes had occurred.

“Otra, you were right - I think - about it being less than two hundred years before the launch of the NX-01,” Deirdre said, “It’s December eighth, 1980.”

Otra clicked around on her PADD. “Really? Hmm, Mister Avery, this looks to be right up your alley.”

“Oh? Do I get to play the piano for the Queen of England, or somethin’?”

“Not exactly,” Deirdre projected up a picture onto the conference room wall. It was a newspaper headline from the New York Post on December ninth, 1980.

In screaming print, it said John Lennon Shot Dead. “That’s the master. And here’s the current, incorrect history,” To the side of the correct New York Post, she projected a second New York Post, for the same day but in the new, alternate reality. Instead, the headline read: Iranian Revolution Shows Signs of Sputtering Out. The subtitle was Yule Rites for Hostages Seen as Thawing in Relations.

“Iranian Revolution,” Tom read off. “What’s that got to do with Berren Five never being terraformed?”

“It’s more likely it has what to do with AG Robinson getting the first Enterprise command, instead o’ Jonathan Archer,” Kevin said.

“And then the Robinson versus Archer issue is, possibly, what triggered - or rather didn’t trigger - the decision to terraform Berren Five,” Carmen said.

“Do we - do we have wiped families?” Boris asked. “Except for, perhaps, for Marisol?” he still looked stricken.

Crystal checked. “Can someone confirm? Because I think we’re okay there.”

Kevin clicked around. “You’re right. We’re good.”

“Mister Grant,” Carmen said, “care to go on your first official mission?”

“Of course!”

“It might be best - and I don’t expect you to perform any real training - but I think you should take Avery here, seeing as the subject is a musician and all.”

“Hey! That would be sweet,” HD was all for that.

“Sure, if ya’ll think it’s a good idea,” Tom said.

“I’ll get you your clothes,” Crystal said, “Winter, where?”

“Manhattan,” Deirdre read off her PADD.

“Boots, jeans and turtlenecks, I figure. Plus both of you will need some kind of jacket. C’mon,” she said. The three of them left.

“Aren’t you glad you hired the music guy?” Kevin asked.

“Maybe a little,” Carmen allowed.

=/=



The café they had chosen was small, with outdoor tables. Sheilagh sipped a Campari and soda as they watched the passing pedestrians. “I love the fact that these things are perfect simultaneous translators. Did you see that couple over there? He kept fumbling with that phrase book. It’s a wonder they got any dinner at all.”

“They’re on their honeymoon, Sheilagh. Or at least, I think they are. So I get the feeling that yeah, they’d like some pasta. For, uh, for fortification. But I suspect they could do without in exchange for other things.”

“One track mind?”

“Well, a few tracks,” he said, although that was definitely one of the dominant ones. “Tomorrow, we should go sightseeing. Maybe to Pompeii, would you like that?”

“Old ruins? Huh.”

“It can be very compelling. And, well, I can show you where I landed and all.”

“You, in Pompeii?”

“Sure, I was there in 79 AD. You know those foot implants the surgeons gave you? They saved my bacon that day. It was, um, August twenty-fourth. See, you can screw up a time mission without actually changing history. I mean, I don’t think those archaeologists really wanted to become artifacts themselves. Uh, waiter, another, please.”

“Of course, sir,” The waiter took away Rick’s empty glass bottle of Oettinger beer.

“I have a question,” Sheilagh said. She seemed to be getting a bit tipsy.

“Yes?”

“Where, um, where are we sleeping tonight?”

“I was, uh, thinking of the Wells.”

“There’s only one bed in there,” she said.

“I can, um, I can sleep in the piloting chair or something.”

“Or we can get a hotel room,” she suggested.

“One bed or two?”

“I’m still figuring that out,” she said.

“Check, please.”

=/=



Back in El Paso my life would be worthless.
Everything's gone in life; nothing is left.
It's been so long since I've seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death.


- Marty Robbins (El Paso)



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