I've been waiting so long
To be where I'm going
in the sunshine of your love.
- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)
They stood together in the cemetery, in silence. She finally said, “And you are here from about eleven hundred years from now in order to, to do what, exactly?”
“The, uh, the timeline, it was messed up. There is a faction going around, doing things. My, uh, my job is to put those things back.”
“Good changes, or bad ones?”
“Either kind, actually,” he said, “my job is to put everything back to the way it was. It - when the past is changed, it threatens the future, in all sorts of ways. What look like good changes often have disastrous results, further down the line.”
“So you make sure that Hitler is born, and Rome falls, and there is the big Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and the American President Lincoln, he is shot, and, and that Elijah and my parents, they die.”
She said nothing, but he followed her over to a small monument where names were engraved. She felt along it to find the names she was looking for. First, Kazimir and Zelenka Balcescu, then Abraham and Rivka Chelenska, and then Elijah Kohák. “There is Elijah,” she said.
“And those others? Your parents and who else?
“Pawel’s parents. He and Noemy found each other when we were let out afterwards, we were in a displaced persons camp. They had not known each other before, for he is Romanian, you see. Noemy and I were in Dachau because we are Jews. Pawel was there, he and his parents, because they were Communists.”
Her eyes were far away. “Noemy was fourteen when we were sent to Dachau. I was nearly sixteen. It was 1944. I don’t know how we lived as long as we did in Prague, and even in the house, but my father was the only Jewish doctor. He had no supplies and could do naught for people. I suppose the authorities kept him alive for their own amusement.”
“I take it most of the equipment here was his?”
“Yes, the old brass lamps, the ancient stethoscope, all of it. I was a teenager, I did not know from such things. I used to see Elijah - he was the tailor’s son. He was about a year younger than me. My mother and I, or Papa and I, would go there, on an errand of some sort. And Elijah and I would flirt, like children do.” The way she said children, it sounded like chilren.
“Then when he turned thirteen, it all changed, for he was a man, and he was engaged. You see, they were Orthodox, and I was some shameless modernized hussy. I would go there afterward, usually with Noemy, on some pretext or another. We would see each other briefly, for if his mother had caught him, he would have been beaten. I remember, he had these light blue eyes, with a darker blue ring around the edges. He was slight and blond, with a rounded forehead. He would probably have lost his hair at an early age.”
“But he never got to that age, right?”
“Right,” she said, “we had looting here. It was not exactly Kristallnacht, but it was close enough, I suppose. And it was late, and he brought his mother in. She - it is unspeakable what a gang had done to her. She, she did not survive. He ran out of there, out of my Papa’s office. I did not see him for months. Then we happened upon each other, it was springtime, 1944. The war - we had no idea it was close to being over. All we knew was that our neighbors were being rounded up, and it was only a matter of time. I, he, well, we agreed that life was short.” She stopped for a few minutes.
He held his hand out. “I know we don’t know each other well, Milena, but ….”
She clutched his hand. “I haven’t even told Noemy this, Future Man. But I need to say it. He, well, I lost my virginity, it was behind the cobbler’s shop. We said we loved each other - his fiancée be damned. He certainly didn’t know her. The next day, we were sent on the trains to Dachau. But that morning, you see, they bang on your door and they yell at you to pack. And Noemy and I packed, but my parents were not answering knocks on their bedroom door. We found them - they had taken the last of the morphine and the last of the whiskey.”
“I, I’m sorry.”
“I saw him again, when we arrived. You see, there are two lines. On the right, you live. On the left, you die. Noemy and I, we lied, we said we were over eighteen, and we were seamstresses. So we went to the right. And Mrs. Klinghofer went to the right and others did as well. And Elijah, he was supposed to go to the right. But his father was sent to the left. And he was a good, dutiful son, and so he went to the left.” She stood there, staring into space, not crying. Rick got the distinct impression that the tears had been shed long ago.
“And so your job, Mister Daniels, it is, yes, to assure that my smart father, and my sweetheart of a mother, and the only one I have ever loved, it is to make sure that they die. Am I right?”
“What about the others?” Polly asked.
“Kevin’s sad - it’s like no one can touch him. Von is kinda funny. Carmen is a decent boss, a bit put upon. Tom and I came in together, but I still barely know him.”
“You forgot Rick,” Polly said.
“Ah yes. He’s been kind to me. I, uh, he’s always looking for the next thing, I think.”
“Or the next woman,” Polly said, “you have a history together, right?”
“Do you have the Betazoid empathy thing going on?” Sheilagh asked.
“Not really. I have so little of it in me. Yanno, being at the galactic barrier, it’s supposed to increase your psionic ability, but I still got nothin’. It is as if I was all human.”
“So how do you do what you do?”
“Oh, I make educated guesses, mostly,” Polly said, “people have a tendency to telegraph their emotions and their intentions a lot. I try to ask direct questions. I suppose in another life, I could’ve practiced law.”
“Look, it’s 2253.”
“Is that good?”
“It’s fast. I’m glad Kevin fixed things,” Sheilagh said.
“I,” Rick suddenly noticed he was still holding Milena’s hand, but he made no move to drop it, “my task is to restore the original line. And it’s not always fair or right or good or positive. But that’s what we’ve got.”
“Let me ask you something. You, well, you live in a good time with pleasant things, yes? But if you didn’t, if you were in some sort of an awful dystopia, I imagine you would not be in such a hot hurry to restore what you are calling the original timeline, yes?”
“I guess I know the story has, essentially, a happy ending, so I’m more than willing to assure that happy ending. I can’t say how I’d behave if we were in an all-out war or something.”
“Are wars abolished?” she asked.
“Not completely. Humans, well, we haven’t made war on each other since, uh, well, it’s about one hundred years from now, give or take a few years.”
“World peace - how extraordinary! Is everyone as fixed up as you, with fast healing?”
“No, they aren’t. I have it - it’s called Stem Cell Growth Accelerator - I have it because I’m a professional time traveler. And a lot of older medical care is really primitive.”
“You must find me horribly backward.”
“Well, I’m thinking more like leeches and shamans.”
“I see. You have been back to those eras?” she asked.
“To biblical times? You know the story, yes, where every Jew knows every other Jew - even converts - because we were all present at Mount Sinai, both the living and the dead and even the as-yet unborn, we were all there when Moses was bringing the law to the people. So, were you really there for that?”
“I’m afraid not,” he said, “the earliest I’ve been to is, um, the time of Julius Caesar.” Well, that was this side of the pond, this universe. In the mirror universe, he’d gone back to the time of the Roman Republic, to 450 BC, as historians had traced the origin of the Y Chromosome Skew back to a man named Marcus Titinius.
“Did you see Caesar killed?”
“Yes,” Rick said, “it was observational, though, not to correct anything.”
“I can say with absolute certainty that Brutus is guilty,” he said, smiling a little.
“What is it you are changing here? Or, I suppose I should say, changing back?” she asked.
“It’s, you know, of course, about how things have been here for a few months.”
“Yes, it’s a relaxing of the rules. I have heard it is called Prague Spring.”
“I, I’m sorry, but I’m here to make sure it ends.”
Carmen engaged her Communicator. “Calavicci to Unger. Bryce, we’ve got issues with at least two of the ships. The dark matter collector lines were tampered with.”
“I see,” he said, “that’s fairly dangerous to our agents.”
“Exactly what I was thinking. I suspect the culprit wanted to harm our people.”
“I don’t have much from Section 31,” he said, “but they tell me - I guess they felt it was all right to release this information - they said that the Manifesto writing group is called the Perfectionists.”
“Has Section 31 got an operative in there?”
“They’re working on it. And I want you to hire him.”
“I’ll have to interview him, at least to use it for a pretext.”
“No need. You’ve already met him - Daniel Beauchaine.”
“He’s a friend of Grant’s. Do you suppose Grant knows his pal is working for the Section?”
“Most likely not,” Unger said.
“I’ll talk to Grant,” Carmen said, “it won’t be anything too obvious. I certainly won’t mention the Section. I just want to smooth the way. I suspect Mister Grant can help me to create my pretext.”
“Ends?” she asked, “so will it be as oppressive as before, or worse?”
“About the same. It - uh, I really shouldn’t be telling you too much more.”
“When will Communist rule end?”
“I notice you didn’t say if,” he said, “So are you a bit of an optimist?”
“I am a realist,” she said, “even Rome fell eventually. So I figure the Soviet Union will end at some point.”
“A hint? Give me a little hope, Richard. Please.”
“It’ll be during this century. You need to remember our deal, and say nothing, not even to Noemy,” he reminded her.
“Of course. There are thirty-two years left in this century. And I am just barely forty. I suspect I will be alive when it happens. A bit of hope, it’s a good thing, no?”
“It’s a good thing.”
“You mentioned you needed to do some technical work.”
“Yeah, I, uh, I need nylon and aluminum.”
She chuckled a little. “Whatever for?”
I'm with you my love,
The light's shining through on you.
Yes, I'm with you my love,
It's the morning and just we two.
- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)