Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn
- Manfred Mann (The Mighty Quinn)
A secret meeting was held.
The number of participants was unknown, and could remain so, because it was a communication without video, a kind of conference call. With no visual cues, and with extremely good vocal masking, the participants’ ages, genders and points of origin could not be readily determined.
Such a level of secrecy was an absolute necessity for the Perfectionists. If any of them were questioned, he or she really wouldn’t know much. The movement could go on, even if a few of them were found out.
The only people who possessed any real knowledge were moles like Marisol and agents like the one who had done the Clear Lake job. Plus, of course, the movement’s leader had knowledge. He - or she - possessed the most information of all. That person had the most at stake, and so utmost confidence and trust were bestowed upon that one person. The leader also had Otra.
The leader spoke, “The time for inaction is finished. We are sending an agent out again.”
“To where?” asked an anonymized voice.
“The event is a beautiful one, cut far too short. The details of it have been lost to all but the most ardent history buffs. Yet it has the makings of being quite the turnkey event,” Boasted the leader.
“So it’s pariotric,” said another, unknown, voice.
The three different types of temporal changes were all named after Otra, the Perfectionists’ prisoner.
Otric events were small and insubstantial. A shift from tea to coffee one day was a perfect exemplar of the genre - in the grand scheme of things, it just doesn’t matter.
Pariotric events - such as the one that the leader was referring to - those were more vital. And, just as importantly, they were changes that time travelers had the power to effect. John Hancock not signing the Declaration of Independence was, by all accounts, a pariotric event, or node.
The third kind was megaotric. Those were changes that would be truly enormous if they could be effected, yet it was virtually impossible for humans to pull them off. The formation of the Grand Canyon was, most likely, a megaotric node.
The lines among the three types of possible temporal changes were deliberately kept blurred. No one really knew what would happen if megaotric changes came within humanity’s collective grasp.
“It’s a good choice,” said one of the unknown persons on the call, “Will we be creating any diversions?”
“Absolutely,” said the leader, “Those are still being worked on. But there will be something, I assure you. The Temporal Integrity Commission will be kept hopping.”
“And what of Otra?” inquired another voice.
“Otra,” said the leader “has been here for a while. I wouldn’t necessarily call her experience of our hospitality wholly pleasant, but she certainly has not been mistreated. Her reactions will be interesting to observe.”
The call ended, but the leader kept Marisol on the line, “Whenever I get a vision out of Otra, I’ll be sure to communicate it to you as soon as possible. It might be directly from me, but it could be from another of our inside people, so be aware.”
“Good, I’ll be able to fake her gift better, the more information I can get.”
“Right. So keep yourself available. I’d also like you to start applying the screws to Yarin a bit.”
“Give him a few things to worry about.”
“Anything specific?” she asked.
“I have no doubt you’ll come up with something. You always do. When are they bringing in Porter?”
“Soon,” Marisol said, “I understand it will be within the week.”
“Okay. Let me know how that all goes. Polly Porter will either be easy to turn to our way of thinking, or she’ll be nigh impossible.”
“I’ll make sure she’s the former, and not the latter. Castillo out.”
Polly Porter was a well-known part-Betazoid psychologist who analyzed the most famous of the lovelorn. The shrink to the stars, that’s what they called her.
Of course that wasn’t her only role, but it was her best-known one. She would go to awards shows and banquets, or to premiers or big-time sporting events, and inevitably someone would grab her to talk. She was discreet and pleasant, and her advice made sense to people, for she had a knack for telling them what to do but making them believe that it had been their own idea all along.
A sudden case of stage fright? Call Polly. A batting slump? Call Polly if all else has failed. A celebrity divorce is about to turn ugly? Call Polly. Want to make a career move, say, into politics, but unsure of what to put in that all-important first speech? Call Polly then, too.
Women liked her because she was unthreatening; men liked her because she was firmly in the friend zone from the very beginning, and had been even when she was younger. And she was now over fifty, so any flirtations were bound to be minor. Not that there were too many, for not only was she less than attractive, she also wasn’t too terribly interested. Polly was removed from relationships because they generally didn’t fascinate her. She wasn’t necessarily asexual - it was more that nothing, male or female, human or alien, had ever really struck her fancy.
Rick had been thinking about how to really end things with Sheilagh, and the only thing that could potentially be effective, he figured, would be to pursue another. He didn’t want to make the error of going after another woman at work. Crystal was cute, and Marisol was quite the hot number, but the situation was not the best one. He figured, with the rest of them, he’d best take a hands-off approach, at least for the nonce.
It wasn’t that he was callous - far from it. It was actually more of a kind gesture. If he broke things off with Sheilagh, she would not be so hurt. After all, he usually tried to hook up in some fashion when he went out on missions. If - when - his next mission occurred, he wanted to be able to go gallivanting off without worrying about hurting her feelings.
He also wanted her to be able to do the same. He felt she was free to do so. No one had said anything about exclusivity. Perhaps she already had another lover, on the days when she went back home to Mars and didn’t stay in her bunk at the Commission. He didn’t know, not for sure. He told himself that was okay, it was more than okay and acceptable.
It was fair.
And so he engaged the Communicator that was permanently implanted inside his left ear.
“I’d like to speak with Tina April, on Triton.”
“Tee, it’s me.”
“Ha, Rick Daniels, you old dog!”
“Do you, uh, can I see you?”
She thought for a moment, “After classes today. Pick me up at the school.”
“I’ll be there. Daniels out.”
I like to go just like the rest, I like my sugar sweet
But jumping queues and makin' haste, just ain't my cup of meat
Everyone's beneath the trees, feedin' pigeons on a limb
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
All the pigeons gonna run to him
- Manfred Mann (The Mighty Quinn)