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Chapter Notes:

The Rascals - People Got to be Free

I cry like a baby (just like a little bitty baby now)
As I look back on a love so sweet, now
I cry like a baby (just like a little bitty baby now)
Every road is a lonely street
I cry like a baby (cry like a baby)
My heart just fell to my feet, you know I
Cry like a baby (cry like a baby)
You left the water running, now
(Cry like a baby)
I cry like a baby (cry like a baby)

- Alex Chilton and the Box Tops (Cry Like a Baby)


Otra felt it before anyone actually saw it. It was a change in time. Everything is interconnected, in one big web. So Drahomír Kolder being blackmailed into voting one way versus another was a turning point, a pariotric node.

She saw it. It was a Warp One ship, soaring high over Earth, and then suddenly passing Mars, Jupiter and even Neptune before heading back home, where it landed, not in Bozeman, Montana, but in the outskirts of a large, gleaming city. A sign nearby said Welcome to Big D. And the year! It certainly wasn’t 2063. It seemed later, maybe some time in the twenty-fourth century or even after that, although she could not be sure. And the person who emerged from the ship, which was most assuredly not the Phoenix, that person wasn’t Zefram Cochrane. Hell, that person wasn’t even male.


The two agents were recalled by the Perfectionists’ leader. The female agent contacted the leader; the message was but one word: success. The leader opened a channel into Otra’s prison. Truth was, the leader was, physically, close enough to Otra that it was possible to simply knock on the hatch. But the communications channel meant that the vocal masking could be performed.

“What have you seen?” asked the leader.

“Nothing,” Otra replied.

“You’re lying. Would you like us to start pulling the chavecoi out of your head, one by one?”

Otra, in the utter darkness of her cell, blanched. That would be like having a fingernail pulled out, “You know I would prefer for you not to do such things.”

“Always so cool and formal. And here I thought we were becoming friends, Otra.”

“You have a funny way of treating your pals.”

“Your visions? We both know that you’re compelled to share them.”

“What do you need to know my visions for?” she asked, trying not to let her voice betray her anger, “If you’re causing pariotric changes, then surely you will know them before I do.”

“Details, Otra! You know how much I love them. And the breadth and depth of your visions - that part’s truly remarkable. You know that you can trace the consequences further than any computer. So tell me, what are you seeing?”

“A big D,” she said, and the leader was unable to get anything else out of her.


Alarms started going off at the Temporal Integrity Commission, as the computers began to compile yottabytes of new data from the pariotric change. Kevin O’Connor had been monitoring, but he’d tipped his head back and was dozing off. The second the alarm went off, he cried out, “Josie!” before he was again oriented as to time and place.

He engaged the Communicator that was implanted behind and within his left ear, “Carmen, we got changes!”

“All right, team!” she bellowed from her office, “Conference Room six - now!” she had been sitting with Polly, “Come on along, and you’ll see how we do things.”

They arrived last. Crystal and Levi were tapping away on PADDs. Tom and Rick were sitting over to the side, facing Boris and Marisol. HD was eating the last of a blueberry scone. Sheilagh and Deirdre were staring into space. Kevin was at the front of the room.

“What have you got?” Carmen asked.

“First contact doesn’t happen in 2063,” Kevin said, “Instead, it’s 2371, and it’s with the Andorians, not the Vulcans.”

“This is because,” Crystal said, still tapping, “it looks like there’s no Warp Drive until 2364.”

“Obviously, Zefram Cochrane doesn’t invent Warp Drive,” Carmen concluded, “So, who does?”

“Looks like it’s Kathryn Janeway,” Deirdre said, checking.

“Pull up the master time file, HD,” Carmen said, “That name’s familiar.”

“Kathryn Janeway,” HD read off, “Huh, she was a starship captain - the USS Voyager - and then, later, an Admiral. Definitely not an engineer.”

“Marisol, got any ideas as to why this happened?” Carmen asked.

Polly sensed - Marisol was, what? Confused? Nonplussed? Lost. That was the right word for it - lost.

“I, well, it’s still a bit unclear to me,” Marisol said. She was cool under pressure - one of the many reasons that the Perfectionists had hired her to do what she did. But she really did not know anything more than the meager information that Otra had doled out to the Perfectionists’ leader who had, in turn, passed it along directly to her, “It is, I am seeing, it is a big D. I’m unsure as to what that means, though.”

“Tell me more about the first Warp One flight,” Carmen said, “Maybe that’ll knock another vision loose.”

Crystal clicked around, “It’s not in Bozeman, Montana. It’s, this is new. It takes off from, uh, the name of the city is Dallas.”

Big D!” HD exclaimed, then sang -

I mean Big D, little a double L-A
Big D, little a double L-A
Big D, little a double L-A-S
And that spell Dallas
Where ev'ry home's a palace

Cause the settlers settle for no less -

“Er, Mister Avery, that’s quite enough,” Carmen cut him off.

“It’s, uh, it’s from the musical The Most Happy Fella,” HD explained, “There’s a big finish and everything.”

“Maybe you can do the big finish later,” Sheilagh suggested.

“It’s, uh, it’s that, then,” Marisol said, and Polly sensed a relaxing, a bit of relief, “I suspect that the change is Pre-Warp. Er, before Warp Drive was truly developed, in 2063, rather than in 2364 in the new reality.”

“Anything else?” Tom asked.

“No, I’m afraid not,” Marisol said, and Polly sensed that that was the God’s honest truth.


“I need you both for one more mission apiece,” said the leader. It was a call to the two agents who’d blackmailed Kolder.

“Whaddaya all need?” drawled the woman.

“I need the following work done in 1977 and 1973.”

“Why those years?” asked the male agent.

“These will be so obscure and odd that the Temporal Integrity Commission will throw too many resources at them. First, 1977 - a little treat for their computers specialist, Bernstein. That’s when ARCNET is announced. It’s similar to ETHERNET. It’s an early LAN system. The change should be otric.”

“I’ll take that one if there’s no objection,” said the male agent.

“We haven’t heard the other one yet. Hold yer horses, Donnie,” said the female agent, “What’s needed in ’73?”

“It’s a bit of music to occupy their music guy, Avery. There is a landmark album called Dark Side of the Moon. Make sure it’s not released.”

“How would she do that?” asked the male agent.

“This is a money-based society. I’m sure you can think of something. You can do the same thing with ARCNET. Pay the right people the right amount and those two things won’t get done,” The leader paused for a moment, “More importantly, these two events are odd enough that the Commission will be hopping. We’ll create frustration in those two agents - Bernstein and Avery - and make them question why they’re doing what they’re doing. As their jobs make less and less sense to them, the changing of time for good, positive purposes will begin to feel more and more right.”

“And what of Agent Castillo?” asked the male agent.

“She’s being kept on a somewhat short leash. Her job, for now, is an internal one. Don’t worry about Marisol.”


All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
Listen, please listen, that's the way it should be
Deep in the valley, people got to be free

- The Rascals (People Got to be Free)

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