A girl went back to Napoli
because she missed the scenery.
The native dances and the charming songs.
But wait a minute, something's wrong
- Rosemary Clooney (Mambo Italiano)
"What? What? Wait!" Admiral Carmen Calavicci was too shocked to emit more than a single syllable at a time. One of her new hires, a Temporal Agent named Sheilagh Bernstein, had just resigned.
"You heard me. I've had enough," Sheilagh said.
"But this – we, you, you've put so much time in already! Surely you'll get used to it," Carmen tried to reason with the older woman.
"You have, yes," Sheilagh conceded. "But for me, it's more than enough. Way, way too much."
"Perhaps we should have been more careful with how we trained you," Carmen allowed. "It should have been something more, more pleasant. Please, let us know how we can fix this. What can we do better?"
"Nothing. Just, just get these implanted devices out of my head, and my hands, and my feet. I'll go back to hacking into ancient computers."
"Sheilagh, be reasonable," There was a door chime. Carmen, perhaps a bit too annoyedly, asked, "Who is it?"
"Me," Richard Daniels said as he opened the door. Rick was the Senior Temporal Agent for the Human Unit of the Temporal Integrity Commission. "Ah, you're here," he said to Sheilagh.
"But I'm not staying. I'm quitting; I just gave notice."
"Oh," he said, thinking fast, he added, "That's a pity. I was hoping we could go on another jaunt to the past. Something a lot less nasty."
"Nothing's going to change my mind. I don't want to go on another mission."
"Here, we'll do this," Carmen suggested, "Perhaps go on a little vacation. There are all sorts of delightful places and times that you could visit, with no shootings and no squishy moral dilemmas."
"I don't wanna …."
"Richard here can go with you. We'll replicate some money if you go to an era that has it. And Crystal can get you some fabulous clothes. Go, have fun, and recharge your batteries a bit. I, I can't grant you vacation time after every single mission, but at least you can try, and have some fun, and enjoy some of the more positive aspects of all of this marvelous technology."
"You could," Carmen said, "watch Julius Caesar being performed live for the first time, at the old Globe Theatre. Or maybe see old Julius himself. So long as it wasn't on the Ides of March, that should be all right, yes?"
"We could go to New Orleans in 2002, take in some jazz and eat crawfish etoufée until we burst," Rick offered. "Or we could go to San Francisco in 2151 and witness some of the events surrounding the launch of the old NX-01."
"You're not playing fair," Sheilagh complained.
"No, we're not," Carmen admitted. "But I want you to know – in case you're unsure or I haven't said it enough or said it clearly enough – we need you. And I want you to understand that I will fight to keep you. And I fight a bit dirty, when I have to."
"I see," Sheilagh said, "Let me, uh, let me go home and think about it. Can I, uh, can I tell you tomorrow?"
"Sure," Carmen said. Sheilagh left, and Carmen turned to Rick and said, "You know I have little patience for such shenanigans. We need her."
"I know," he agreed. "But what if she really does quit?"
"I suppose she could be farmed out, like Roger Lloyd. But I'd so much rather not have to do that. Richard, have fun, but I need for you to watch her. Make sure she comes back, for one thing."
"Are you sure this'll work?"
"I have no idea. But Mister Daniels – I would advise you – I would normally discourage you from, let's be quaint about this," she made air quotes, "asking her out."
"Don't deny it. You're captivated by nearly anything in a skirt, and the two of you have been thrown together a lot recently."
"I only have eyes for you," he joked, but it was true – he'd spent some time with Sheilagh, and he definitely liked her, even though she was a good six and a half years older than he was.
"Har har," she said, "Richard, I want her to stay. So, uh, if anything happens, kindly don't just up and leave like you do with the female friends you make on time travel trips," she sighed. "Or at least, for God's sake, make her think that you ending things is somehow her idea."
Far away, actually in several places, a secret meeting was set up. It was a call, for an unspecified number of people, in unspecified places, of unspecified ages, genders and faces. This group was, well, it was a movement. It was a loose confederation, but was becoming tighter and more organized by the day.
Whereas the Temporal Integrity Commission – where Rick and Sheilagh and eight others worked for Carmen, and were tasked with restoring original timelines that had gone out of kilter – this loose confederation had as its stated purpose, to do the opposite.
But it wasn't to just mess with time, it was to make it better. Time could be tweaked, and improved, and bent to their will. It could be perfected.
And so they called themselves the Perfectionists.
They had a leader, who set up the call. Voices were masked. The number of participants was made obscure. The visual was knocked out – the call was solely auditory in nature.
The group was secret, the purpose was secret, and the call was secret.
The leader spoke. "Things are going well. Our operatives within the Temporal Integrity Commission report that at least one of the Human Unit's newer employees is probably receptive to our message. That group has been decoding the Manifesto file we sent them about a month ago. Reports are that they are perhaps twenty percent finished."
"If we drop some hints for them in the coding algorithm, they could solve the puzzle faster, read the Manifesto earlier, and maybe we would get one of their Agents to come over to our side sooner, rather than later," said a voice on the call, a voice that was masked so that it was not possible to pinpoint the speaker's gender.
"Yet making it harder to decipher our Manifesto means that they devote more time to it," Pointed out another, hard to track, voice. "In particular, it's been a serious diversion for their engineers. The more time they spend on decryption, the less they can devote to building new time ships, or servicing the ones they've got."
"Remember," the leader said, "they need time ships. But we don't," The leader stroked a metallic device on one wrist. The device was a part of a newly developed Temporal Enzymatic Drive. Swallow a bit of trichronium, which was a specially developed companion enzyme, set a few controls on the device, and the subject could be sent to anywhere, at any time. It also had a convenient recall mechanism for when things out there got dicey.
"True," Admitted a voice, which may have been one of the ones that had already chimed in. Or maybe it wasn't. "I understand," continued that voice, "that we need another traveler. At least, that's the rumor."
"Leaks will not be tolerated," Thundered the leader. "How are you hearing this?"
"I'm hearing it on the news," Answered, probably, that voice.
"News? This is the first time I'm hearing of this," said another voice.
"What's going on?" asked another one, somewhat tinged with panic.
"Tell them," said, probably, the voice that had initially mentioned the news broadcast.
"Very well," Sighed the leader. Fiddling with a few keys on a PADD, the leader piped in both audio and video of a recent news broadcast.
"Authorities on Berren Five today were shocked to find the body of a young man violently killed over the weekend. Death came to Anthony Parker, 26, of Terra. Authorities confirmed that Parker's remains vibrated on a twenty centimeter radiation band, thereby making him a full-blooded human from the mirror universe, colloquially known as the other side of the pond."
The anchorman paused for a moment. "Parker's injuries were extensive, far more than would normally be necessary in order to kill anyone, from either side of the pond. Due to the extremely graphic nature of the injuries, we will not be showing any photographs of the body. Furthermore, this instance of quite literal overkill has led some to speculate that Parker might have been either an Augment or provided with an illegal stem cell growth accelerator. As our viewers may know, stem cell growth accelerator was banned in 2764, when its use began to precipitate unprecedented instances of daredevilry. 'People who know that most things won't kill them often do the most foolish things.' said Marshall Holland, President of the Federation at that time."
The anchorman paused again, briefly. "Stem cell growth accelerator is now mainly only used in laboratory settings, but also has obvious military applications. It is believed that it is also utilized by the Temporal Integrity Commission. The Commission's stated purpose is to defend and restore original timelines, but very little is known about it, as it is kept under wraps almost as much as Section 31. Efforts to get the head of the Temporal Integrity Commission, Bryce Unger, to speak with us, were unsuccessful."
While the broadcast was playing, the leader isolated the call so as to only speak with a remaining Agent. "You did a good job on Parker."
"Why, thank ya'll," said the Agent.
"Now, really, you need to keep the localisms out of these calls. Someone will figure out you're from Titania, you know," Chided the leader.
"Maybe," Allowed the Agent. "I'm sorry the download didn't work as expected."
"We still don't have the temporal force field technology," said the leader.
"I can try again," Offered the Agent.
"No, let's, uh, go in a different direction," The leader said.
"Yes, and I'll have to hurry to explain this to you, but if we can't have the field, to protect you and others from any temporal changes that occur, well, maybe what we need, instead, is to just know the changes that are coming, before the Temporal Integrity Commission does."
"That mean what I think it means?" asked the Agent.
"Yes," said the leader, as the diverting news broadcast was coming to an end. "I want you to bring me Otra."
Hey, mambo! Mambo Italiano!
Hey, mambo! Mambo Italiano
Go, go, go you mixed-up Siciliano
All you Calabrese do the mambo like a crazy with a
Hey mambo, don't wanna tarantella
Hey mambo, no more a mozzarella
Hey mambo! Mambo Italiano!
- Rosemary Clooney (Mambo Italiano)