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.
I'll stay with you darling now,
I'll stay with you till my seas are dried up.
- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)
Marisol had been meeting a Perfectionist operative within the Temporal Integrity Commission, but her errand was to head to the leader’s location, which was where Otra was being kept.
It was not easy to get there. The location was actually fairly close, but getting in - really in - now, that was rough.
She managed to get past the protocols and into where she wanted to be. The leader was none too pleased to see her. “This is foolish,” said the leader, “you cannot stay here.”
“I don’t intend to - don’t worry about that. Just recognize how unstable Yarin is. I can only keep him in line a little. He will and does fight back.”
“It’s the Klingon part, I suppose. News on turning the operatives?”
“Not much. Bernstein and Sherwood still seem to be receptive.”
“And Avery?” asked the leader.
“Annoying as ever.”
“He’s far less of a priority. Concentrate on Bernstein, and Porter, if you can get her.”
“Understood. I need help with faking the visions,” Marisol admitted, “O’Connor did something to the computer system, and now it runs faster. They seem to be uncovering our changes more quickly.”
“Do you know if they’ve made progress on the Manifesto file?” asked the leader.
“I don’t hear them talking about it.”
“Isn’t Cavendish obsessed with solving it?”
“He was,” she said, “but now he’s obsessed with finding Otra.”
“Otra is not too far away. Actually, let’s see what she’s got.” The leader opened up a channel to the storage container. “What’s in your head today, Otra?”
She was about to say nothing, but then decided to do an experiment. There was the possibility that it would hurt her. It was definitely a risk, and a not very well calculated one at that. But it seemed like the only thing to do. So she lied. “I can see thousands of boats. I think it might be a regatta.”
“Year?” asked the leader.
“About 2640, I think; it’s tough to tell.”
“See how nice we are when you cooperate?” asked the leader, but the tricoulamine gas came again, anyway. Once satisfied that she was under, the leader said to Marisol, “You’re medical. I’ll need for you to catheter her.”
“Doesn’t Helen do that?”
“She’s working the odds on her next mission. So you’re elected. Might as well put you to work; your being here remains a spectacularly poor idea.”
“I only come because you weren’t answering my hails.”
“I see. I’ll make sure to, in the future. Now go, take care of her and then get out before any of the others see you. And make sure you never come back. We can’t lose this location.”
She had the face that launched, perhaps, a thousand time ships.
She had been to the Temporal Integrity Commission, and had interviewed for the job that had gone to Marisol. The other newer employees had also been there then, as it had been a group interview in 3109.
A medical doctor - a Professor of Medical History at the Dione Medical School, actually - Helen had seemed an ideal candidate for the Commission. She was smart, attractive but not drop-dead gorgeous, and eager to get started. Carmen was about ready to hire her on the spot.
But then, on the shuttle speeding half of the candidates away from the Temporal Integrity Commission, there had been a malfunction and a forced landing on Berren One.
Berren One was a lousy place for an emergency landing. The atmosphere was saturated with benzene and the planet’s day and night temperature fluctuations were extreme.
Helen had, apparently, died in the crash. HD had even seen her slump forward, a sight that had mortified him.
But it was Marisol who had confirmed the untimely death of Helen Walker.
The shuttle had to be abandoned, and the survivors beamed out safely. There wasn’t enough time to gather Helen’s remains, so the body was lost and burned on an uninhabited alien world, along with the irretrievably destroyed shuttle.
Or so they had thought.
Marisol returned to the Commission, and crawled into her bunk, supremely confident in her stolen vision of a regatta. She would keep a channel open to the room that housed the computers, and wait for the alarms to go off, thereby signifying a change that she would be able to convincingly confirm.
“I bet we could confirm whether we were successful without too much trouble,” Sheilagh said as she and Polly left Datapoint.
“How you figure that?”
“We could go to probably any day in the late 2000s. If there’s any mentioning of the Internet, then I think we’re good to go.”
“And if not?” Polly asked.
“Then I guess we try it again. We’d, um, we’d do Temporal Integration. Did they tell you about that?”
“Yes, Carmen made sure to tell me. She said you and Tom ended up having to do it without too much prep work. Is it very unsettling?”
“Only when you’re on a ship that’s being temporally integrated at the same time.”
“Got it. Speaking of ships, any reason why we can’t get back to Fluxy and go now?”
Scrap aluminum was fairly cheap at the dump. Rick and Pawel ended up carrying away armloads. Rick promised to help Pawel build a shed with most of it.
Pawel and Noemy had not been told too much about Rick. They learned he was from Illinois, but were led to believe it was the one in America, and not the one on Titan.
Milena and Rick did not mention his birth year or his mission. For the most part, he was just a pleasant summer visitor, and maybe he really was their cousin, a thousand times removed, some long-lost relative visiting the old country and immersing himself in the culture and getting to know the natives.
The native he was spending the most time with was, of course, Milena.
He had to admit to himself that she was unconventionally pretty, kind of sallow and often tired-looking. He was all right with that - many of his conquests would not have won prizes for their pulchritude. So that much didn’t faze him. It was mainly that she often looked so depressed.
On a Friday, she was up early, and grabbing her medical bag. “A house call?” he asked, incredulous.
“It is Mrs. Klinghofer. I don’t believe she will see the sun go down. You, well, you could still preserve her life, I expect. So unless you are planning to do that, I am going alone.”
“I, um, I guess you’re going alone. Please, I just …,” he paused a moment. “I’m just sorry.”
“Do you still use morphine in your time period, Richard?”
“I don’t think so. Why do you ask?”
“You see this?” she opened the bag and held up a vial and a syringe before putting them back. “It is morphine, enough to choke a horse. It is an agreement I made with all of the women who are here in Prague, who are my patients, if they were in Dachau with me.”
“Yes, a promise. You see, we were in the bunk, and there was a new girl. She was nearly as emaciated as the rest of us. She told us she was pregnant. And, well, there can be no delivery, and no infant there, of course. So we decided to do something about it.” She paused.
“There’s no reason for you to tell me this.”
“Oh, but there is. You should know about our primitive state, for your report, if nothing else.”
“I won’t put this in my report. I’m not judging you, Milena.”
“It’s all right. I have judged our actions for over twenty years now. In any event, we had nothing but we made the effort anyway. Noemy and I - our job was to hold the woman down. And the others did what they could. She, the woman, well, it was not just her child who died that day. And I vowed to myself, that if I ever got out, I would heal women instead of harm them. And so Mrs. Klinghofer, she trusts me, and I treat her, even though, truly, she belongs in an oncologist’s care. And my promise to her is that, if she, or any of them, needed a way to smooth the way to the end that I would provide it. All in atonement for a pregnant woman whose name none of us ever knew.”
“Assisted suicide? We have it; it’s legal if you follow certain protocols.”
“Less suicide and more like serious pain relief. But with a fatal consequence. I suppose someday I will be prosecuted for doing something like this.” She stood there for a minute or so. “And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a patient to see.”
It was the following day, in 3110. “Carmen?”
“I was wonderin’. Uh, is it all right with you if I leave the Commission for a few hours?” he asked.
“Well, the line’s not fully restored. We usually discourage that.”
“Oh.” His face fell.
“Are you missing an appointment?”
“Yes. I, uh, …” his voice trailed off.
She caught the hint. “I suspect this is about a woman.”
“I didn’t wanna say.”
“You do realize that your friend might not want to give you the time of day in this alternate line.”
“She knows, uh, that I exist.”
“All right,” Carmen said, “I feel like the mother of a bunch of teenagers.”
“Does this mean ya’ll are givin’ me a curfew?”
“Was your errand successful?” Boris asked. They were in the cafeteria; Marisol had come in for a late snack.
“It was. Thank you for covering for me. This is going to be a fabulous arrangement,” Marisol crowed, “and so much better than our current arrangement.” Alone, she made her way back to her bunk, satisfied that he was beginning to get the message that things had changed and she wasn’t going to be available to him anymore.
I've been waiting so long
I've been waiting so long
I've been waiting so long
To be where I'm going
in the sunshine of your love.
- Cream (Sunshine of Your Love)