Well I laughed but that didn't hurt,
And it's only her love that keeps me wearing this dirt.
Now I'm crying but deep down inside,
Well I did it to him, now it's my turn to die.
- The Bee Gees (Message to You)
Rick and Pawel finished building the shed in a few days. Rick spent much of his time with the building while Pawel was out delivering milk in the neighborhood, Milena was tending to patients and Noemy worked with clients in the portrait studio.
It was good, honest work, the polar opposite of the jobs he did for the Temporal Integrity Commission. It left a lot to be desired intellectually, but he could sleep at night.
After a day or so of admiring the completed shed, Milena visited him in his room, “I have nylon,” she said.
“And more crowns for you. You may not have money where you come from, but we use it to compensate a person who has worked hard. And you have.”
“I don’t want your money.”
“You will need it in Bratislava. And, just, let me do this for you.”
“Because you can’t do anything else?”
“Because,” she said, “I probably shouldn’t do anything else.”
Carmen called a meeting. HD came in first, looking eager. Others followed, and Carmen noticed, for once, that Marisol and Boris were not sitting together. Odd. The only one who wasn’t there was Tom, and Rick, but he had an excuse. Carmen engaged her Communicator. “Mister Grant, isn’t your lunch done by now?”
“Uh, hang on,” in a much lower voice he said, “Sorry, but I’ve gotta go. When can I see you?”
“Tomorrow,” came a female voice, barely on the edge of hearing.
“Uh, sorry ‘bout that, Carmen,” he said, more loudly, “be right there.”
And on Lafa II, he and Eleanor smiled at each other. “I’ll see you tomorrow, whether or not the line’s restored,” he said. He hugged her, and then left.
“Ah, we are all here, except for Agent Daniels. Crystal, Deirdre, you have the floor,” Carmen said.
“We’ve got paragraph four,” Deirdre said. No one had to be told which document she was referring to.
“Here it is,” Crystal said, and read the paragraph as she projected it on the wall of the conference room.
Pariotric changes can and must be effected for the benefit of mankind. The benefits to our allies will follow. The past is wrong. The future can improve it. And, in time, augment and perfect it. It is our duty, as keepers of this sacred and marvelous technology, to help our forebears.
“Augment?” Kevin asked, “I bet they don’t even realize the kinda fire they’re playin’ with.”
“Maybe they don’t really mean the Augments,” Polly pointed out. “Maybe it’s just a poor choice of words.”
“I don’t know,” Carmen said, “they seem to be making a calculated effort with every word, and every syllable. I bet they knew exactly what they were doing when they wrote that.”
“mankind. … allies … wrong. … … augment … perfect … sacred … forebears.” Levi muttered to himself.
“Excuse me?” Sheilagh asked.
“It sounds a lot like the sermons I used to hear in church, when I went with my mother,” Levi said.
“What church?” Marisol asked. “Doesn’t your mother change them as fast as some people change their socks?”
“I happen to think it may be a good insight,” Boris said, glaring at her slightly, “Levi, do you know which church? Perhaps that is a clue.”
Levi thought for a moment. “It sounds like all of them.”
“You have x-rays and pictures of me healing, right?” Rick asked.
“Yes,” Milena said. She sighed. “I would rather not destroy all of the pictures.”
“I think you’re gonna have to, or at least I’ll have to make sure of that. Negatives, too.”
“Right,” Milena said, and smiled wryly at him. “When will you leave?”
“Then let’s make the most of today.”
On Callisto, Helen Walker sat at home and worked on the odds. “Ah, good,” she said out loud, to no one. She opened a Communicator. “I’d like to speak with Milton Walker, on the USS Saint Eligius.”
“Daddy, it’s me. It’s got a dandy idea for our next little jaunt. But I can’t go alone.”
“And our noble cause?” he asked.
“C’mon, ya’ll know that Marisol and I just do this for kicks. I leave the politics to you, Daddy.”
“You changed your mind?” Rick asked.
“Well, there’s nobility, and then there’s practicality. And desire.”
“What, are you one of those men who think we women don’t have desires?”
“Nope.” He came over to her and kissed her. “How, uh, how far?”
“Can you go? Well, I don’t want a baby. I have the right materials here, though, of course.”
She took his hand, and he kissed her fingers. “I, um, I hope to live up to the hype.”
“Expectation, then.” He sat down on the bed.
She sat down beside him. “This is nicer than behind the cobbler’s shop.”
And that was all that either of them said, for there were no words.
Call with Helen over - that child was still too flighty, he thought to himself - Milton Walker opened up a different channel. “Otra! Any news for me today?”
“Definitely up to expectations,” Milena said. It was the next morning, and they were still together.
“I have to go,” he said, “it’s the last thing I want to do. I hope you believe that.”
“I do,” she said, smiling. “Let’s go destroy the evidence, and then you’ll be on your way.”
Levi stared at the Otra file on his PADD. “Churches,” he said to himself. Boris came in, and he barely looked up.
“Uh, the ships are okay. Except for, uh, the Wells, at least so far as we know. Won’t know about that one until Rick returns.”
“Right,” Boris said, “I was hoping you’d have, well, something.”
“About Otra?” Levi asked.
“Actually, about Marisol,” Boris said, “for I have many things that I am wondering about, when it comes to her.”
“I, uh, I wonder things, too,” Levi admitted.
“Perhaps we can compare notes, then.”
“So this is good-bye,” Noemy said to Rick. They were all standing at the Prague Train station. “Be well.”
“Thanks.” He shook her hand.
Pawel came over. “Got your ticket?”
“Yep. Uh, Pawel, can I tell you something?” Rick asked.
“Will ya marry her already?” he indicated Noemy.
“Yeah, I suppose I should.”
“Suppose?” Noemy said.
“I suppose enough time has passed,” Pawel said, recovering quickly, “and we can bury the dead once and for all.”
Rick and Milena didn’t talk much. They mainly just kissed. “And you will wear warm clothes in the wintertime?” she asked.
“And you’ll smile every now and then, right?”
“Right. Thank you for my shed. Go, so you don’t miss your train.”
Carmen engaged her Communicator once the meeting was over. “Daniel Beauchaine, on Earth, in Antarctica.”
“My name is Carmen Calavicci, of the Temporal Integrity Commission. I hope you remember me. How’d you like to come work here? Within your current parameters, of course.”
He knew she meant Section 31. “Of course,” said Beauchaine. They agreed to when he’d come in for surgery, and the call ended.
“Milton Walker, on the USS Saint Eligius.”
“They bought it.”
Bratislava was a larger city than Prague, with different amenities. The train was a bit late, but not by too much. The other passengers were too close, so Rick didn’t feel comfortable checking his PADD. Instead, he had looked out the window and had also gazed at the thing Milena had given him. It was the only temporal souvenir he had that anyone had actually given to him voluntarily - a small picture of herself, taken by Noemy. It was taken, perhaps, a year previously, and she had a faraway look in her eyes, like she had been caught in the act of scanning a distant horizon for a ship.
He found himself an alley, and checked the PADD there. “All right,” he whispered to himself, “let’s go with known hardliners first. So that’s, uh, Vasil Biľak, Drahomír Kolder, Oldřich Švestka, Alois Indra and Antonin Kapek. I wish I knew for sure where you were.”
He went back out into the streets of Bratislava, and ducked into a drug store. He asked the clerk, “I understand there’s supposed to be a government meeting here of some sort. Know where?”
“What do I look like, a hooker?”
“Uh, thanks.” Rick left, but that was definitely the right idea. He had to wait for nightfall, but then the girls came out, and were easy to spot. A payment of a few crowns - thanks to Milena for that - got him the information he needed - the Hotel Possonium.
Polly engaged her Communicator. “Darragh Stratton Yarin, on Kronos.”
“This is she. Polly!”
“I’ve been watching Boris, whenever I can.”
“And so far, all I’m seeing are a lot of glances.”
“Well, thanks. Um, let me know if there’s anything more,” Darragh said, “I, I don’t like not trusting him.”
“The jury’s still out,” Polly said, “maybe your fears are unfounded.”
“I hope so.”
The hotel was cheesy, a bit of faded glory. A few crowns to the desk clerk got him room numbers, surprisingly easily. It was an era of trust and carelessness. Rick tried a few rooms and most of them were empty. But then one knock of his was answered - Drahomír Kolder’s room.
“I suppose you are here to confirm,” Kolder said.
“Confirm?” Rick asked.
“The American girl was here a couple of days ago, and her photographer friend. I take it you are his associate.”
“Uh, tell me more,” Rick prompted.
Kolder pulled from a bottle before responding. “I have a lot on my mind, you see.”
“Of course. Tell me about the American girl.”
“Tell? Hell, I have a picture.” He dug one out. “Here. Nice shape, eh?”
Rick stared at the picture. He knew that face; he’d seen her during his 1959 mission to Clear Lake, Iowa. “Can I keep this?”
“I suppose. There are several more.”
“What did she tell you?”
“That I will vote the way she asks, or else my wife will be treated to, as they say, an eyeful.”
Rick thought for a moment. “Have you ever thought of telling your wife? I mean, just beating them to it?”
“You don’t know my wife.”
“True, of course,” Rick said, “and I can’t promise that it won’t be unpleasant. But if you tell her first, you’re the one who gains control, and she,” he held up the picture of the American girl, “can’t do anything. You can vote any way you damned well please, too.”
“She is a difficult woman, my wife.”
“How bad can it possibly be?”
“A divorce would not be good for my position in the party,” Kolder said.
“Of course not. But looking over your shoulder would be worse, right?”
Kolder thought for a moment. “Hand me that phone.”
And in her cell, after Milton Walker had ended his conversation with her, Otra saw the changes in time, as the Iron Curtain stayed up as long as it was supposed to, Warp Drive was developed right on schedule, and the Vulcans happened on Earth at just the right time.
“We got restoration!” Kevin exclaimed, as the bonging sound was heard repeatedly throughout the Human Unit’s offices at the Commission.
Back on the Wells, Rick used a phaser to melt the nylon and aluminum together. He got into the EV suit, grabbed the hyperspanner and the newly-created aluminoplastic and made his repairs.
He returned to the interior of the Wells. “Computer, is there enough power to return safely to 3110?”
“There will be. Temporal travel can begin in five minutes.”
Dark matter was collected, and the leak was repaired and holding. “Computer, is the repair sufficiently strong so as to allow for a stop in 2000 and then a restart?”
“Negative. The repair should not be stressed. A proper, fully reinforced repair should become available once the ship has returned to the Temporal Integrity Commission.”
“All right,” he said to himself, “I’ll catch you during my next mission.” He jingled the few remaining korunas in his hand and then looked at her picture, as he waited to get underway.
I’ve just got to get a message to you, hold on, hold on.
One more hour and my life will be through, hold on, hold on.
- The Bee Gees (Message to You)
Next: Part V: Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’ Down the Plain