Chapter 1

Jessie is a friend

Yeah I know he's been a good friend of mine

But lately something's changed, that ain't hard to define

Jessie's got himself a girl, and I wanna make her mine

- Rick Springfield (Jessie's Girl)

=/\=

The Empress Hoshi Sato stood up and stretched. The Defiant was still a kickin' ship, and she was still the most desirable woman in the Empire – hell, the galaxy! Perhaps even the universe. She smiled to herself. She and the Defiant had been through a number of campaigns together, over the course of three and a half decades. A little paint – in her case, makeup – and no one would see the seams, the threadbare bits, and the sagging parts.

"Andrew!" she called from inside the little bathroom in her quarters. "Let's take a shower together."

There was no answer. "Andrew! Andrew!" She walked into the bedroom. "Sheesh, Andrew, ya lazy bum! Get up!"

He was just lying there in the bed. She shoved him, and his body flopped over to the side. He was dead, a capsule stuck between his teeth. There was a PADD in his hands. There was an open message on it. It simply said, "MM, I'll be with you soon, my love."

"MM?" she asked no one. She performed a quick search for all female Defiant personnel for the past thirty-seven years, ever since she had seized that ship, on January fifteenth of 2155, and then narrowed the search down to only include crew members with the initials MM.

There was one name: Melissa Madden, dead on September twelfth of 2166, a victim of a shuttle crash on Vulcan. The autopsy report had said she was pregnant. Hoshi had figured the girl had been pregnant by someone like Chief Engineer Frank Ramirez. But no – it was now obvious – the father had been Hoshi's lover, the corpse that lay in front of her – Andrew Miller.

She shrugged. She typed a few lines to change Andrew's suicide note.

And now it read: I love you, Hoshi.

Satisfied with the revision, she clicked open her personal Communicator. "Ramirez, Miller is dead. You're now the First Officer."

"Yes, Empress."

"You also get bed privileges."

"Yes, Empress."

"But I'll be looking for another. I've never much cared for your performance. I keep you around because you're a decent engineer. Do you understand?"

"Yes, of course." There was no disappointment in his voice. He had served her long enough to know that the engineering job was a far better one – with a considerably more stable future – than the job of being the Empress's primary bedmate. He'd been clever over the years. Any time she'd tapped him for bedroom services, he had made sure to perform poorly. After a while, she had essentially given up on him. His promotion to First Officer - unlike the one that Andrew had gotten, or Travis Mayweather before him – was due to his performance with his clothes on.

=/\=

In 3110, on August eighth, nearly nine hundred and twenty years later, a Temporal Agent sat at his desk. He tapped his left ear, two times, to engage a tiny Communicator that was permanently implanted behind his left ear. "I'd like to speak with Tina April, on Triton."

"Speaking," there was a pause, "Richard Daniels! To what do I owe this call?"

"I just wanted to know how you were doing."

"Bull. You got dumped by someone."

"Nope. I just, I wanted to make sure you were okay," he said. That was only partly true.

The true part was that he hadn't been dumped at all. But he had met someone. The problem was that she was not of his time period. She wasn't even of the Empress Hoshi Sato's time period. No.

Rather, Milena Chelenska was born in 1928. And she had died in 1969. Richard Daniels – Rick – didn't know many of the details. But 1969 Prague didn't have even one one-hundredth of the technological advances in medicine that a person such as himself – born in 3069 – had access to.

He was obsessed with finding out about the details of the last year of her life, for he had met her a little less than a year before her untimely demise and that period was one large gap for him. It was part morbid fascination, part barely requited longing. She was, as they say, the one that got away.

And he was contacting Tina – an ex – in part to find out how she was, but also to assure himself that, even if he hadn't loved her, he was at least capable of some degree of feeling with a woman other than Milena. Maybe Tina would take him back – more likely, she wouldn't – but she was at least something of a safe harbor for him.

"I said – are you paying attention, Rick? – I am fine," Tina said, "Troy and I are going to dinner tonight."

"Oh, I see," Rick said. Troy was his replacement in Tina's affections.

"You," she changed her tune a little bit, "you sound a bit depressed."

"Me?"

"Yeah, you. Richard, I know you."

"Yes, you do." This was another reason why he had contacted her.

"And it's just, you're not normally like this. Maybe you should talk to someone."

"Naah, I'll be fine. Look, um, maybe we can have lunch some time."

"I dunno."

"Bring Troy along," he said, although that was the last thing he would have wanted.

"I don't think so," she said, "look, I'm your sister, Eleanor's friend. So we are bound to run into each other on occasion. But I think maybe, Rick, you need to stop initiating these calls."

"I've only called you twice since we've broken up."

"I know. And I appreciate your restraint," she said, "I just think, now, that maybe you need to execute a bit more."

"I –"

"Good-bye, Richard."

=/\=

His sister, Eleanor – Tina's friend – was in much better shape than Rick was, at least emotionally. Her time was taken up with her beau, one Thomas Grant. Grant was also a professional time traveler, working with Rick at the Temporal Integrity Commission.

Whenever Rick was depressed or upset, he generally sought comfort in the arms of the women he met during his missions to the past. Those missions, recently, had been to repair timelines that had become battered by a rival faction that was skipping through time, trying to improve it for its own purposes – that group called itself the Perfectionists.

But ever since Rick had met Milena, the idea of hooking up with hotties from the past had paled. That was why he was calling Tina – he had realized that he wanted some meaning in his life. Until Milena, the closest he'd ever come to that was Tina. And so he had sought her out.

For Tom, though, life was different, as his comforts came from Eleanor, who was of their time period. He had no interest in honeys from the past, alluring in hoop skirts or mini dresses or uniforms from the NX-01 and other ancient ships. He was happy, he was satisfied, and he was beginning to think about how to pop the question. A hookup was unthinkable.

As for Rick, there was one major consequence to all of the hookups. There had been one unplanned pregnancy, but it was a doozy. It was in the mirror universe – the other side of the proverbial pond – and it had been in 2156. He had been sent to repair the timeline by performing a few repairs on an advanced star ship. His repairs were deemed more than satisfactory, and so he was rewarded, and not with funds. No, he was given far earthier compensation – his payment was bedroom time with that ship's captain.

She just so happened to be the Empress Hoshi Sato.

Two gametes met, and their son, Jun, was conceived.

And then the dance had really begun, for the creation of Jun was a major temporal paradox. In order to prevent Jun from fathering, perhaps, his own grandfather, the mirror universe Terran government had originally demanded that he be killed, or never conceived in the first place.

For Rick, it was the first inkling of a conscience. He cared enough about Jun to want the boy to live.

Rick had enlisted the help of his boss, Admiral Carmen Calavicci. Together, they had crafted a plan to allow for Jun's existence. First, the boy was sterilized. Then, his next youngest half-brother, Kira, was shored up and made more important. Jun was the first-born, but Kira should have been. There were four other children, but only those two were destined to lead.

Then, as a final concession to the Terran government, it was agreed to let the Empress think that Rick had died, on May the twelfth of 2157, in a shuttle crash on Daranaea, a planet of fox-faced aliens. Rick was forbidden from returning to the mirror universe at any time during Hoshi's long life, even before Jun's conception and even during the last moments just before Hoshi's death in 2245. It was harsh, but at least Jun could live.

The Terran government congratulated itself on its magnanimity.

=/\=

The Empress knew little of this. She only knew – well, she thought she knew – that Richard Daniels, the man she had called Ritchie, was dead, only about six months after her eldest was born. She had shrugged at the time, showing everyone that a dalliance with a known time traveler was not good for a long-term relationship, although inwardly she had, she had to admit, been a bit affected.

She had had the baby, for she wanted to assure the succession. Jun – the name meant truthful – was not meant to be the only one. Instead, her plan was to have as many as possible, but all from different fathers. She kept the upper-level men on the Defiant in line by giving them bed privileges, and sealed the deal via conception.

Kira – dark – the next in line – was the son of Aidan MacKenzie. Aidan had been a secondary Tactical Officer until his disgrace in 2157. He was busted to the rank of babysitter, for the Empress would never stoop so low as to wipe a pabulum-soiled face or change a dirty diaper.

Next were twins, Takara – the only girl – and Takeo – treasure and warrior. Their father was the replacement Tactical Officer, Chip Masterson. But he had fallen in love with the Science Officer, Lucy Stone, and they had devised a plan to escape the Defiant. On February sixth of 2161, they had taken the twins and gotten to the surface of a planet called Lafa II. The Empress considered them all to be dead, although she was mistaken in that area.

Fifth-born was Arashi. At the time of his conception, she was bedding both Security Specialist José Torres and Chief Engineer Francisco Ramirez. Frank Ramirez had proven to be a lousy lover and so she'd concentrated on Torres. Arashi – his name meant storm – soon followed.

Rounding out the set was Izo – iron – the son of Pilot and, at the time, First Officer Travis Mayweather.

She had wanted more, but Mayweather and Torres were both killed in February of 2161, a part of how Masterson and Stone had departed. She was left with MacKenzie and Ramirez in the inner circle, and so she had recruited Andrew, and he had served her well for a good thirty years. She had wanted a child with him but, unbeknownst to her, he had taken the birth control shot. He had wanted a child with Melissa Madden, but not with her.

She was past the age of having any more unless there was some pretty serious medical intervention. She did not trust surrogates or test tubes, and preferred the old-fashioned way of doing things anyway. But she knew that ship had sailed.

There were her four sons – they would have to be enough to assure the succession. They were all in their thirties. Kira and Izo had even married. But so far, there were no grandchildren, although she was unsure about how she'd feel about someone referring to her as their Oba-asan. And she still needed a lover, for she felt that was a necessity in her life.

The men on the Defiant all knew her. Hell, everyone in the Empire knew her. She was bored and restless – Andrew had been boring her for a while, but he had been dependable, and he had been there. And now he was no longer there.

She wondered just where her next conquest would come from, never expecting that he would come from the other side of the pond, or from a good nine hundred years later.

=/\=

And she's watchin' him with those eyes

And she's lovin' him with that body, I just know it

And he's holdin' her in his arms, late, late at night

- Rick Springfield (Jessie's Girl)