Elenore, gee I think you're swell
And you really do me well
You're my pride and joy, et cetera
Elenore, can I take the time
To ask you to speak your mind
Tell me that you love me better
- The Turtles (Elenore)
“Planet?” he laughed, trying to appear nonchalant. “What a ridiculous question!”
“Not at all,” Milena said, “for, you see, there are many interesting things about you. There’s a wire in your left ear. There are metal discs of some sort in your eyes. You don’t seem to have fingerprints. You’ve got two metallic bands embedded in your left wrist that I suspect have been there since your birth. Your little device,” she produced his PADD from her skirt pocket, “is something I have never seen before. But I do like the pictures that are on it.”
In sleep mode, his PADD had a slide show of family photographs. This tradition had gone back for a few dozen generations. There were people in the slideshow who he could not recognize. “Uh, thanks, I think.”
“Are they family pictures?”
“Who is this?” she asked, showing him the PADD.
“That’s my sister, Eleanor.”
“Uh, I think that’s Chuck Reed.”
“And this family?”
“They are, uh, Joss and Jia Beckett and their kids, Shaoquing and Jay,” he said.
“And these lovely creatures?” it was a picture of four copper Calafans, related, but back a few generations.
“Uh, maybe we shouldn’t talk about them,” he said.
“Are you a human?” she asked.
“I beg your pardon?”
“The Jack’s taking longer than usual. I’m sure of it,” Tom said, “look at that, we’re not even at 2300 yet.”
“Better have Kevin look at it, “ HD said.
Kevin peered out from under the Flux Capacitor. “And there’s the problem right there.”
“Which is?” Sheilagh asked.
“Looks like the dark matter intake line was damaged,” he said, “you’d’ve had to have fixed that by donning an EV suit.”
“Oh,” Sheilagh said, “that would’ve stunk.”
Kevin engaged his Communicator, “Carmen, I got something interesting here, in the launch bay. Come on over, please. O’Connor out.”
“Can you fix it?” Polly asked.
“Absolutely. And it’s a damned sight easier to do it here than in zero G.” He checked a PADD. “So it was you.”
“Who?” Sheilagh asked.
“Nemmind,” Kevin said, “Ah, Carmen, you need to hear about this.”
“You heard me,” Milena said.
“Yes,” he said, but he didn’t add his usual qualifier about being human - more or less.
“Mister Daniels,” she said, “I have read Stanislaw Lem and Karel Čapek, and even HG Wells,” at the sound of the name HG Wells, Rick’s face colored slightly, “and so I am, shall we say, I am open to the possibility - yes, that is a good way of putting it - that you are not what you seem to be.”
“Which is a guy you saw run over.”
“And then I saw heal, at a phenomenal rate, and without my having to lift a finger. Tell me, for I have a patient coming in a half an hour, can you share this beautiful gift you have? For, you see, Mrs. Klinghofer, she has late-stage breast cancer. The main treatment I have for her is radiation. There are no drugs. And I suspect that the radiation will not work, for cancer is a horrible, insidious disease and I doubt that I will get it all. I could amputate, true, perhaps I will do that, eh? But you - you skip away from death’s door in about an hour or so. Tell me, are you strong enough to walk?”
He held her hands for support as he got up, but he really didn’t need that. Her hands were rough, as if she’d been gardening or washing a ton of dishes. He tentatively took a few steps, and then seemed to be all right.
“Would you be wanting to go now?” she asked.
“Well, I’d like to make it up to you. But I suspect you already know that I’m broke.”
“Unless you want to give me this pretty device,” she said. She still had the PADD in her hand, and gave it to him, “although I doubt that it is only a repository for some snapshots.”
“That’s right,” he said, “I, uh, I can’t use these clothes.” They were tattered, as beyond repair as she’d thought his body had been.
“Here, we have some.” She opened up the room’s tiny closet. “This suit was my father’s.”
“I shouldn’t take it. At least, let me do something for you.”
“What you can do for me is tell me the truth about who - and what - you are.”
“I can’t say.”
“If you told me, you would have to kill me?” she asked, and it wasn’t just a playful inquiry.
“No,” he said, “it’s just, it’s a bad idea.”
“Then you can pay me by curing Mrs. Klinghofer? She was in Dachau with us; it’s a shame to survive that and then be felled by something you can’t see until it becomes incurable.”
“I can’t do that, either.”
“I suppose,” she said, “you cannot tell me why you are here, either.”
“That would be correct. Uh, how many people know I’m here?”
“Just three - myself, Noemy and Pawel.”
“Don’t, uh, could you keep quiet about it?”
“Why should I? I have, I believe, solved one of mankind’s greatest questions - whether we are alone in the universe. It turns out we are not, yes?”
In her cell, in 3110, Otra felt movements in time. First contact and the first Warp One ship changed back, the pilot going from the brunette to the redhead, the ship going from the Aryan to the Coffee, and the year going from 2762 to 2364.
So far, so good, but then things changed again, and she saw millions of rabbits overrunning and infesting an alien world.
The alarms went off while Kevin and Carmen were talking. “That’s something new, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Yeah, I got it rigged so that temporal restoration is a different tone,” he said.
There was a bong sound.
“And there’s the tone. So, something’s good. And something’s, er, not so good,” Kevin said.
“And then there’s this,” Carmen said, “are you sure as to who was on the inspection detail?”
“Positive. It looks like Von did the prep work on all three ships, and Levi signed off on it.”
“Let’s hope the other two don’t have this same problem,” she said, then dropped her voice so that only he - and not Sheilagh and Polly - could hear her, “do you think the line was deliberately cut?”
“Let’s just say the jury’s still out on that, okay?”
“Please?” Rick asked.
“I don’t think you have many bargaining chips - or, at least, few that you are willing to part with. I am giving you clean clothes and I kept you from being run into the cops. They could still, very easily, see you as a vagrant.”
“I see,” he said, “tell you what; let me see what I can do around here. I don’t know if I can convince you but at least, maybe, I can repay you a little. At least I can show you that I’m sincere.”
“Sincere? Such an interesting word from one who is clearly keeping a lot of secrets.”
“I could, I suppose I could tell you if you kept it secret. And I mean really secret - not just secret as in you tell one person.”
“Secret, eh? But you forget that I have made this extraordinary discovery. I could be famous, like Marie Curie.”
“You could,” he allowed, “or you could do the right thing. Please?”
Pawel came in. “Mrs. Klinghofer is here..”
“Oh! The time! It passes so quickly! I will be back in perhaps an hour. Pawel, can you help Mister Daniels, and see if any of my Papa’s old clothing will fit him?”
“All fixed,” Kevin said, “you should be ready to go.”
“Thanks,” Sheilagh said, “be back before you know it.” She and Polly got into the Flux Capacitor and departed.
Carmen turned to Kevin as soon as the ship was safely out of view, “If I were a saboteur, and I knew that recall had been disabled, I would make my move on the time ships now, right?”
“And if you were a saboteur, you’d make your move while Levi - Mister Distraction himself - was charged with doing the checks.”
“Unless it’s Levi who’s responsible,” Carmen said, “huh, but my money’s on Von. Literally. What do we know about him?”
“Same things we know about any Ferengi,” Kevin said, “he’s motivated by profit. He’s a competent engineer, and he does the gardening in the courtyard in his spare time.”
“If I were an idealistic organization out to change time to my own purposes, would I want a man motivated by profit on my team?” she asked.
“Hmm,” Kevin thought out loud, “he might be easier to control, or at least they might think that. If they have problems with him, well, they just make it more worth his while. They don’t have to kill him, like we figure they did with Parker, that other agent of theirs.”
“Just you and I are on this,” Carmen said, “and no one else, not even Deirdre, at least for now.”
Rick was swimming a bit in the dead man’s clothes, “You are out of style,” Pawel said, “or at least I think you are. I can never be certain about such things,” he rolled up his sleeves in the stuffy little room and Rick could clearly see the number on his arm: 4142734.
“What do you, uh, do?” Rick asked.
“Me? I drive the milk truck most days, also do day labor. And you?”
“I, I clean things up,” Rick said, and that was, in a way, true.
“I found the change,” Deirdre said. She had come to the launch bay, in search of both Kevin and Carmen, and had found them both.
“What have you got?” Carmen asked.
“It was, it seems that first contact with the Andorians in 2371 now had a far different effect that, well, than first contact with the Vulcans did in 2063. Instead, uh, humanity was actually expecting first contact.”
“I wonder how they knew,” Kevin said, “anyway, what does that do?”
“Well,” Deirdre said, “it looks like there was a movement to make planets a lot more like home. Which is nice, I guess, but the planetary engineering wasn’t done so well.”
“And?” Carmen prompted.
“It was kind of like Australia. In fact, an aspect of it was exactly like Australia,” Deirdre said, “humans came to Cardassia and released rabbits into the wild. Rabbits being rabbits - and having no natural predators there - they did what rabbits do. They overran the planet, and destroyed its ecosystem.”
“It’s like death by fluff,” Kevin said.
Elenore, gee I think you're swell ah-hah
Elenore, gee I think you're swell ah-hah
- The Turtles (Elenore)