No Loving in the New Reality

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How, exactly, could he put back time if he'd been erased from history? And once it was back, did he have even an outside shot at happiness?

There's a man who leads a life of danger.

To everyone he meets he stays a stranger.

With every move he makes, another chance he takes.

Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow.

– Johnny Rivers (Secret Agent Man)


Senior Temporal Agent Richard Malcolm Daniels sped along, from 2192 to 3110, as fast as the HG Wells could carry him. He was moving, not just temporally, but also spatially, from Lafa II, where he had just been, to the USS Adrenaline, a large ship that patrolled just outside the Milky Way galactic boundary and was also the top secret headquarters for his employer, the Temporal Integrity Commission.

Rick's errand was partly business, but mostly personal. Time had changed, somehow, prior to 2192, and it had wiped him from historical existence. The people he had been staying with – forebears, actually – had all known and been friendly with him. And then, suddenly, he was a stranger, and his great-great-however many greats grandfather was pointing a hand phaser at him and ordering him off the premises.

To say that this was unnerving would be an understatement.

It was what is called a pariotric change. That is, it was a change that was small enough to be effected by humans, but large enough to really make a difference. It was the kind of middle ground between otric – relatively tiny and meaningless temporal alterations, such as tea for coffee – changes and megaotric ones, which were huge and, by definition, impossible for mere mortals to effect. Preventing the extinction of the dinosaurs was a fairly standard example of a megaotric change. There were just some temporal runaway trains that no one could ever hope to catch.

Rick was not completely gone from existence, however, due to the use of a temporal force field in 3110 – which, to him, was the present. The field kept him intact, as he was, to be precise about it, outside of time itself. The same field covered all of the employees of the Commission and it also protected a master time file. The master time file contained information on all major events and a lot of data on more minor ones as well. It was not absolutely, thoroughly comprehensive, as that would make it time itself, and thereby too large and unwieldy to use at all. But it was complete enough for his purposes.

He had the ship in auto so that he could read. He clicked on his PADD in order to open the portion of the master time file that he had downloaded. Keeping everything on him, at all times, would have ground the PADD's operations to a screeching halt. Hence the information was sketchy, but it was still troubling.

There was ancestor information, and he checked that first. It went back to 2192 and earlier, back into the twentieth century. Prior to that, records were less reliable. Back to 2213, all was well, except for his lack of existence. His parents, Steven and Chloe, were intact, as was his sister, Eleanor.

But in 2213, his ancestor, Declan Reed – his forebear Malcolm's only child – was supposed to marry one Rebecca Shapiro. Instead, he had wed Rebecca's elder sister, Alia. There had been no Rebecca. Instead, there was a brother named Richard.

And then, earlier, their mother was Karin – that part was right – but her maiden name was Schwerner and not Bernstein. Beyond that, it was tough to tell where the change had taken place. He needed to get back to base in order to pinpoint the moment of divergence. Then, he figured, he would go back out and fix it. Somehow.

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