"You heard me," Rick said.
"I suppose I did. But why? What the hell do I – we – any of us – have to do with the future?"
"A lot more than you think."
"Tell me everything."
Five minutes must have been up, as Tag rejoined them. "So, everything okay, Coach?"
"Yeah, it's fine. Can you help the others look for another gig? I kinda need the cash. We're okay here. Really, we are. Thanks." He left and she turned to Rick. "I take it I can't share this information. Is that right?"
"You can share it with some people. Commander Madden, for example – you can share it with him. Hell, you should."
"Damn, that reminds me, I asked the Enterprise-E to come over as I wasn't sure of your intentions."
"Are you sure now?"
"Not particularly." Mack paused. "But I am enough to be okay with being alone with you. But I still won't call them off."
"It's just as well. You can tell Madden in person then."
"Have we done enough dancing around the topic? Can you tell me what the hell is going on now?"
"Yes, of course, Mack. But some of what I have is considered highest level of confidentiality in your time period. This means I can't reveal it to you, either."
"You're bound by our confidentiality rules? That seems nuts."
"I'm not, but Madden is. And if I tell you certain things, fingers will end up being pointed at him. So, I'm afraid in one area, I have to be pretty cryptic. The reason I am here has to do with something he is investigating. You can tell him that much or I suppose I will in this iteration."
"Back up, what iteration?"
"This is the fourteenth time I'm doing this."
"Oh, boy. Do you always take so many tries to get these things done?"
"I don't. But this one was tricky, and it still is. See, I'm here to prevent one of the people on this ship from doing something which will rip a hole in history."
"That sounds kinda serious. So, who is it?"
"I can't tell you everything, Mack. I wish I could. But there are some things that I have to keep close to the vest because of how history is supposed to unfold. This person has to make the attempt and be caught. That's what we need – not for them to be prevented from the very beginning. That's why I'm here now, rather than during tryouts."
"So, it's an athlete."
"Maybe," Rick said, smiling. The creases under his eyes were nowhere near as defined as Mack's but they did crinkle a little.
"Can you at least tell me when? A ballpark, heh, figure?"
"The Enterprise-E will be here in a couple of days. And the attempt will be made while they're in the vicinity."
"What do you need for me to do?"
Deep within the bowels of the ship, as far away from the others as possible, Yi'imspi meditated. This was not for her personal enjoyment, prayer, release, or edification. Instead, it was a means for her to make contact.
Her target wasn't Calafan. He was human, kind of. But he wasn't even from the right universe. He was from the Mirror. There was no way to perform a direct meditation to meditation connection as he just didn't have the right brain chemistry. But he had an amplifier so he could do just fine. This amplifier was an old Calafan coin, made of pure callidium, a particular metal which was also a part of Yi'imspi's own biological makeup. He clutched it in one dirty, pawlike hand as he slept; it was the best means of making contact.
He was the deposed Terran Emperor in exile, the notorious Charles VI. He had lost his crown and his throne and his castle – such as it was – a good ten years previously. He made contact once it was clear it was her.
"Well?" he asked.
"It's taking some time to get into position. But I assure you I will, and I will be able to get my hands on the advanced tech this ship has to offer."
"How much will we be able to sell it for? Or is it better for a tactical advantage?"
"One, I'm not sure. And two, quite possibly, yes."
"Aha! So, when my ancestors got the Defiant and then built the Charon, they had major tactical advantages – superior speed and fire power, of course. How will this help with either?"
"Stop thinking quite so literally and one-sidedly," she complained. "Think of other potential advantages."
"You've lost me."
Even in meditation, Yi'imspi rolled her eyes. Charles VI was nowhere near as bright as much of his ancestry had been. Then again, many of them weren't really blood relatives at all. He was more of an unknown than anything else. He could have had the Empress Hoshi Sato and the Emperor Phillipa Georgiou's DNA – but he probably didn't.
Instead, it was far more likely that he or an ancestor had been grabbed from a pool of willing applicants, the poorest of the poor with more children than provisions for them. The poorest Terran families, when the Terran Empire was still going, would eagerly sell their children. Often this was into slavery, but sometimes a slave would be elevated. Often these slaves had to pass numerous tests of intelligence, strength, cunning, and bravery.
Whoever was elevated was welcomed into the extended royal family, and a backstory was cleverly created for him or her. He – or she – was some cousin's long-lost child, or the product of a never-before revealed night of passion. It was always something like that.
And then his or her biological family was wiped out completely, to a person – even infants. There would be no one to contradict the official story. There would be no old life to remember, and no curiosity or nostalgia to try to find it. All the chosen one would know was that they were now a Charles Tucker or a Hoshi Sato or a Phillipa Georgiou, in an unbrokenish line back to the start.
But the testing had gone by the boards. Charles VI wasn't as carefully vetted as any of his predecessors had been.
Yi'Imspi regained her composure. "Here are a few ideas. How about better replicators?"
"Better medical care?"
"Better scanning and tracking."
"I'm not here to map."
"Then how about better defenses? Live to fight another day, and another and another – quite literally."
"That might be useful. Maybe," he allowed. "When will I get the goods?"
"In a few days. The captain has taken on a passenger who may or may not be able to travel in time. So, give it a few days for that to shake out."
"Why aren't you going for that time traveler's ship?"
"Because the truth is, unless you feel like taking a hostage who could potentially just escape in time, neither of us would know how to work anything he might have. Whereas on the Cookie, we have a fighting chance of figuring everything out and being able to really make use of it. Stealing something you don't know how to use, and you've got no one to ask or beat it out of? That's just as bad as never stealing it at all."
"Hmm, you may be right. In any event, I will drop off and leave you to your planning and the execution," he paused for a moment, and Yi'imspi could almost hear him smile, "of said plan."
She broke herself out of her meditative trance. "Of course, I'll be trying for that time traveler's stuff. You just don't need to know about that, you cretin."
YOU ARE READING
A temporal fix, and Dana 'Mack' MacKenzie and her barnstorming sports team were restored to the original timeline by the employees of the Temporal Integrity Commission, in the 32nd century. But there was a Temporal Cold War raging, and the faction...