“Now, children, I want you to walk quietly in the museum. And stay together. Does everyone have their buddy?” Tina April asked. Sixteen second graders raised their hands enthusiastically. “Good!”
They entered the Temporal Museum on Lafa II and walked to their destination – the Mirror Universe exhibit. Tina’s friend, Eleanor Daniels, was the docent. Eleanor greeted them. “Class, this is Miss Daniels. She’s going to talk to you about the Mirror Universe today.”
“All right now,” Eleanor said, “I’d like you all to sit in a circle on the floor. We’re going to talk about the Mirror today, and why it’s different from us. Does everyone know what radiation is?” Sixteen little heads – not all of which were human – nodded in agreement. “Excellent. Now, up until about 450 BC, the Mirror and our universe were virtually identical in every way. The only difference was in the radiation band. See, all universes vibrate on a particular radiation band. Ours is twenty-one centimeters. Theirs is twenty.”
A little girl’s hand shot up. “Is there a twenty-two?”
“That’s a very good question!” Eleanor enthused. “There is. But in that universe, the dinosaurs never died out on Earth. So as you can imagine, things are a bit different.” The class laughed. “There’s also a nineteen, et cetera. But the Mirror is very, very close to us. The difference, up until 450 BC, was only a tiny fraction of one percent.” The kids looked confused. “I’ll explain what that means. You see, on any given day, the museum has about one thousand people in it. This includes the staff, such as me, and visitors like you, and visiting scholars and even people who do things like bring takeout lunches to us.” She smiled. “Now think about all those people over the course of three years. Day in, day out, they visit, they work, they listen.”
“They bring food!” called out an over-enthusiastic little boy, interrupting.
“Yes, yes, they do! And they just go about their lives. In the Mirror – assuming the museum existed back in, say, 460 BC – they would have the exact same visitors during that three-year period. Except for one person. So the difference, except for that one person, is virtually nonexistent. Now, there are tiny, subtle differences all the same. But if you wear a red shirt today instead of a blue one, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. That’s what we call an otric change. Time lines can differ by these tiny little otric changes, such as when one person drinks tea today and then in another universe, they drink coffee. Those tiny differences simply do not matter, and the time lines are considered to be identical.”
“What happened in 450 BC?” Tina asked.
“Yes! 450 BC. There was a man; he was a tribune in ancient Rome. His name was Marcus Titinius. And somewhere around then, he suffered what’s called a genetic mutation.”
“Does that hurt?” asked a little girl.
“I don’t think so,” Eleanor said, “and we have no reason to believe that Marcus even knew that it had happened at all. But the change was profound. Now, I’d like for the girls to stand up next to me.” The girls – there were ten in that class – did so. “There are twelve females here – the ten of you, Miss April, and me. And there are six boys. What happened to Marcus is, well, you must understand. Normally, the chances of a man fathering a boy or a girl are about fifty-fifty. But what happened to Marcus is that his scale was tipped. And it became more like seventy-five-twenty-five in favor of him fathering boys. So imagine that we twelve girls are really eight boys and four girls. Therefore, of the original group of eighteen people, we’re left with only four girls. Instead of the twelve we really have. What happens then?”
“We play baseball more!” called out a Tellarite boy as the girls sat back down.
“Maybe,” Eleanor laughed. “Let’s talk about what that all means, to have so few girls. Think about back when there was money. For people who made dresses or makeup, those were not such profitable enterprises, eh? Hence maybe those companies did something different, like make chemicals for warfare, or sew uniforms for armies. Plus they all got a lot more aggressive.”
“Why?” asked a Suliban girl.
“There was a lot more competition for wives. Therefore, men started to become a lot more, let’s just say, proactive in getting mates. But there is more. You see, Marcus also was, by all accounts a ladies’ man. He was married, but that did not matter to him. He had numerous affairs and dalliances with a lot of slave girls, too. Can anybody guess how many children could have called him Daddy?”
Hands shot up. “Ten?” “Twenty?” “Twenty-nine?” “One hundred!”
“Whoever said one hundred is very close. We have direct evidence of ninety-three children. As would be expected with his mutation – which is scientifically referred to as the Y Chromosome Skew – eighty-one of those known children were boys.”
“That’s more than three-quarters, El,” said Tina, “It’s more like eighty-something percent.”
“Right,” said Eleanor, “see, those were the only known children. I happen to know that a Temporal Integrity Commission trip to that era is going to be conducted soon, if it hasn’t happened already. Historians are hoping for a more accurate count. Don’t forget, this is ancient Rome, so it’s entirely possible that unwanted children would, sadly, have been abandoned. But there’s even more.”
The children all looked around. “Marcus was also a very, very good father. He was a violent man, like a lot of denizens of the Mirror are, and even like a lot of the men of our own ancient Rome were. But he had a soft spot for his children, and he did everything he could in order to assure their survival, both boys and girls. And all of his children, both boys and girls, inherited the following traits from him – the Y Chromosome Skew, the insatiable appetite for, let’s just say, adult love, and tenderheartedness for their children. Do you know what that did?”
“He musta had a big Thanksgiving table,” said a little Trill girl.
“I bet he did!” Eleanor enthused. “But what also happened is that this genetic mutation ran through the genome like a house on fire. In about fifteen hundred years, nearly all of the men on Terra – that’s what they call Earth – were sporting the Y Chromosome Skew and Marcus’s other main characteristics. And the rest of their culture changed. See, without so many women, it wasn’t just that it became unprofitable to sew dresses. It also tipped the scales in favor of more traditionally macho pursuits. Hunting was pursued at the expense of agriculture. Peaceful negotiations were abandoned in favor of bloody conflict. And women became very rare indeed.”
“How many of you think,” Tina asked, “that women were treated better because of the Skew?” Four hands shot up. “All right, how many think that women were treated the same?” Ten hands. “Who thinks women had it worse?” Two hands. “The right answer is that women were treated worse.”
“Why?” asked the same Tellarite boy as before.
“Part of it is increased aggression,” Eleanor said, “and part is that women became such a minority that they didn’t have any real political power. Remember, this is also a society that favors brute strength. Women, for the most part, were incapable of competing on that particular playing field. But other interesting nuances come out. Art, believe it or not, was favored. And so young boys, about your age or so, they would go off to a boarding school. And then seven years later, they would be tested. About three-quarters would end up as soldiers, with the ones who scored the best going to elite schools such as West Point. Another ten percent or so would become doctors or scientists. And the remaining five percent would become artists or political figures.”
“What about the girls?” asked a young human girl.
“They also went off to school, but the schools were separated by gender. And the girls were taught basic reading and that sort of thing. But they were tested a lot earlier. The smartest half would get decent educations, for it was understood that all-male ships – and eventually star ships – were not so good for discipline. The bottom half were divided. The prettier ones, they, eh,” Eleanor smiled wanly, “is it a good word to say?”
“Maybe a euphemism,” Tina suggested.
“Very well,” Eleanor sighed, “the prettier girls became what are called ladies of the evening. But for girls who were not that intelligent and not that pretty, they were essentially as enslaved as, eventually, the Vulcans and other subject races became. I know how unfair that sounds. And it is unfair. But that was how the Terran Empire did its business. And that is even through the reign of the notorious Empress Hoshi Sato.” Eleanor looked up at a wall chronometer which showed the time – almost noon – and then the very old-fashioned date – January fourth of 3109. “Oh! I see our time is up. But I hope you can come back soon and we’ll talk some more about the Mirror Universe, all right?”
“Everybody thank Miss Daniels,” Tina reminded the class.
More or less in unison, sixteen young voices called out, “Thank you, Miss Daniels!”
As they departed, Tina saw a young fellow checking her out. He wasn’t too terribly good-looking but there was just … something about him. She smiled back but was then busied shepherding her charges out.
The same fellow walked over to Eleanor. “I see I missed the lesson,” he said.
“Richard!” she enthused.
“Hiya, sis,” he kissed her cheek. “Ready for lunch?”
“I am. My last group was brutal! Say, we were talking about the Mirror. Did you go to 450 BC yet?”
“In a month or so,” he said as they started walking.
“I should introduce you to their teacher, Tina April. She’s single. I bet you’d like her.”
“Yes, Agent Daniels,” she said, grinning, “I know what you like. I’ve seen enough pretty girls on your arm to know. Plus she’s very smart. So, maybe after your mission?”