A World Without Love

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Beware of pretty faces that you find.

A pretty face can hide an evil mind.

Oh, be careful what you say. You'll give yourself away.

Odds are you won't live to see tomorrow.

– Johnny Rivers (Secret Agent Man)

=/\=

As Rick sped along in the Wells, his thoughts turned to a woman he had met in his travels. He was already well past the end of her lifetime when he had been on Lafa II, for Milena Chelenska had passed away on July twentieth of 1969.

Milena.

She had saved him, in a way, as a person, even as he had worked to assure that, as had happened in the original history, Prague Spring was crushed. She was a Czech Holocaust survivor, a gynecologist in Prague who had seen too much in her life but had, still, given him her all.

Before her, he had had women. Oh, there had been women! But none of them had touched him where it had really, truly counted – his heart. He had been thinking he was thoroughly incapable of romantic love. Yet she had proven him wrong.

He had known that he was capable of other forms of love. He loved and admired his sister, and rooted for her relationship with his coworker, Tom Grant. He figured they would get married fairly soon, and he'd, in a way, have the brother he'd never had.

He loved his parents, too – and would have given anything to have a love like theirs. Steven Daniels and Chloe Masterson had forged a bond a good four decades previously, and it only seemed to strengthen over time. He knew just how lucky they were, and wished for a similar happy ending for Eleanor and Tom.

And then there was Jun.

Rick had hooked up with all manner of women in time, from a prim Quaker widow in 1699 to a 1929 flapper to the engineer on the Enterprise-E, and even a 1970 hippie chick. He had not loved any of them, and those attachments – which was far too strong a word for what was, essentially, a long string of one-night stands – had no hold on him.

But in 2156, he had been sent on a mission to the mirror universe in order to repair the Defiant, the advanced star ship captained by the legendary Empress Hoshi Sato.

His repairs had been deemed satisfactory and he was paid with nighttime frolics with the Empress. But the Empress, like many people, was not immune from what happens when two people engage in unprotected intercourse. Gametes met, and a child was conceived.

That was Jun.

His existence was such an enormous temporal paradox that the mirror government of Rick's time demanded that Rick return to 2156 and erase the child's existence. Rick refused, and Carmen helped him to craft a means for allowing Jun to live. The boy was sterilized and his younger brother, Kira – who, by all rights, was supposed to be the first-born – was shored up so that Jun's existence would not keep him from his rightful destiny of eventually ruling the Terran Empire. But that was not enough, so Rick also agreed to never, ever go to the mirror during Hoshi's entire long lifespan. Hence he was forbidden to set foot in the mirror – the other side of the proverbial pond – from July ninth of 2129 through and including May twelfth of 2245.

As luck would have it, her last day was the eighty-eighth anniversary of the date when Hoshi was told Rick had died – crash-landed on Daranaea, a planet full of sentient marsupials with foxlike faces and a rigid social hierarchy.

Faking Rick's death was the only way to, finally, get the mirror government to accept Jun's life, and allow him to survive. It was harsh, but Rick accepted the myriad of conditions. He knew that he would never, ever see his son, and he had to live with that, and comfort himself with the fact that, at least, he had given Jun a fighting chance. Jun knew naught of this, and had grown up with few positive influences in his life. He had the makings of being a ruthless dictator.

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