To: The Temporal Integrity Commission, all employees
From: Otra D’Angelo, Temporal Alternatives Analyst, Human Unit
Re: Holiday Party, December 31, 3110 – January 1, 3111 (old-style calendar)
Where: D’Angelo Family Villa, Siena, Tuscany, Italy, Earth
Dress: Come as you are
Time: 2000 hours – whenever
Accommodations: There are several bedrooms for guests, or you can travel to nearby Firenze
Come and celebrate the somewhat random turning of a virtual calendar page on my father’s home world!
Please RSVP, and let me know if you are bringing a guest so that I can alert Security.
Hope to see you then!
They had all gotten the gracious invitation, and many of them had accepted, although Sheilagh and HD were celebrating on their own, and Rick was taking Milena out and they were double dating with Tom and Rick’s sister, Eleanor. Plus Deirdre and Bruce were out and the rumor in the Human Unit was that he was taking her to a jeweler’s and was going to get on one knee and all that that entailed.
So Kevin O’Connor, and his girl, a Calafan engineer named Yilta who worked in the Calafan Unit, were tasked with transporting nearly everyone else from the Temporal Integrity Commission’s headquarters on the USS Adrenaline to Otra’s coordinates.
They transported group after group, all laden with gifts for their generous and gracious human-Witannen hybrid hostess. Yilta finally looked up. “Yanno,” she said, an almost Irish brogue-sounding accent that betrayed origins on Lafa V, “I could swear the transporter’s workin’ faster than normal.”
“Huh,” Kevin replied, his massive bulk making it a bit difficult for him to maneuver in tight spaces. “Let’s see.” He punched up the records. “Well, I’ll be damned, Darlin’. You’re right. Everything’s about 10% faster. I wonder why that is.”
“The feller that does all the glarin’ ‘n starin’,” she commented, referring to Engineer Levi Cavendish, “I bet he’s behind it.”
“Maybe it’s Levi Cavendish. Eh,” he scratched his scaly head, “probably. But yanno,” he put his arms around her, as they were temporarily alone, “we now have a little time to ourselves.” She put her mottled silver arms around him and they kissed. “So, you, me, and my office?”
“With the whole o’ the Milky Way starin’ at us?” Kevin’s office had a view of the Milky Way galaxy, as the ship was situated just outside the galactic barrier.
“They are how many light-years away, you silly goose?”
“What’s a goose?” she asked. “We don’t have ‘em. Don’t tell me they’re like prako, dumber ‘n the carpets.” She pretended to be annoyed.
He was about to answer her when the door swished open. It was his boss, Admiral Carmen Calavicci, and Levi himself. Carmen was laden with some bags and boxes, and Levi was clicking away on his PADD and nearly walked into a wall.
“Levi!” Kevin bellowed.
“Oh, uh, yeah?”
“Help Carmen,” Kevin commanded.
“Oh, uh, yeah.” He took an envelope from her and went back to his PADD.
“Ya might wanna help her more ‘n that,” Yilta suggested.
“Oh, uh, okay.” This time, at least, he took a few boxes from her. “What are these?”
“Do you not recall, Mister Cavendish,” Carmen explained, and there was a little exasperation in her British-accented voice, “that we passed around information for a few weeks after the invitation was extended? Hell, Kevin here had you hack into Otra’s preferences on just about any retailer. Everyone’s giving her a hostess gift of something on one or more of her wish lists.” She glared at him. “Don’t tell me you didn’t get her anything; you’ve been reminded every day for weeks.”
“Oh, uh,” he shifted from foot to foot. “Can’t I just replicate something?”
Carmen put her burdens down on a transporter pad and approached him. He stepped back, a slight pas de deux between them. Finally, she just threw her hands up at him and yelled, “IO giuro, Levi, ora sta per essere la morte di me!” I swear, Levi, you’re going to be the death of me!
“Uh, is that bad?” Levi asked, not bothering to get the sentence translated.
Yilta tapped on the implanted communicator in her left ear and listened to the translation. “Yeah, that’s not so good.”
Kevin glanced up at the wall chronometer. “I better send you kids out,” he announced, “time’s a wastin’ and I know you said no time ships, Carmen.”
“Right,” she confirmed, “Levi, come on. While we’re there, I will, I suppose, explain to you why making a personal effort is what’s required.”
“Oh, um, okay.”
The two travelers positioned themselves on the pad, with the boxes between them. “Energize, Mister O’Connor,” Carmen commanded.
Once they had disappeared, Kevin turned to Yilta. “So, my office?”
She looked at the console. “Ya might wanna belay that.” She pointed at the screen. “We got no confirmation o’ arrival.”
“Damn!” He fiddled with controls and so did she. “Levi, what the hell did you do to the transporters?”
For Levi and Carmen, the transport felt odd. They didn’t hear the familiar wind chimes-type of sound. They didn’t feel as tingly and slightly itchy as they usually would have. Instead, they were lurched, it seemed.
Carmen looked around. Levi was next to her, as were the boxes, and they all appeared to be normal. But everything else in the transporter room seemed stationary. Yilta and Kevin were not moving. “We didn’t go,” she finally commented.
“Huh?” He looked up. “Oh, grid’s down,” he reported. His PADD’s screen had gone black.
Carmen checked her own PADD, with a similar result. She hopped off the transporter pad. “Mister O’Connor! Yilta!” Even standing next to the two of them, and shouting, did no good. She checked for a pulse. “Do you know what a resting pulse is supposed to be for a full-blooded Calafan?”
“Never mind, I’ll – damnation, I can’t even look up that bit of trivia.” She looked at Levi. “This seems like something familiar.”
“Oh? It’s, um, I temporally interphased the transporter. Looks like it got inverted.” He went back to his PADD and clicked away on it to try to get it to work again, oblivious.
“What? Levi,” Carmen fought to maintain some degree of composure, “this is a bit like Scalosian water. We’re going faster than everyone else is. I doubt that they can see or hear us at all,” she indicated Kevin and Yilta, who had barely moved.
“Huh. All they gotta do is invert the coupler.” He started tapping on his PADD. “It doesn’t work.”
“Of course it doesn’t work! It isn’t temporally interphased. Levi,” she said, “the only things that are temporally interphased appear to be ourselves and Otra’s hostess gifts.”
“Huh, that’s kinda interesting.”
“It’s more than a little bit disquieting,” she gritted her teeth as she delivered the bad news; “this is the only food. Do you understand that? And unless those two people can figure out what the devil’s going on, you and I are,” she sighed and massaged her temples, “stuck here.”
“Oh. Uh, didn’t think that would happen.”
“I don’t suppose you would have!” she yelled, and then she dialed it back several notches. She looked at him. “May I inquire as to what you thought you were doing?”
“I made the transporter faster.”
“Because a fraction of minute isn’t fast enough?”
“Well, um, it was a problem and I solved it.” He looked at her proudly. “Uh, it wasn’t a problem?”
“No, it was not a bloody problem!” Carmen patted down Kevin a little in order to locate his PADD. But when she tried to tap on it, it didn’t work. “I’m moving too fast to register anything.” She put the part-Gorn’s PADD back where she’d found it. She then tried a replicator in the room, but it didn’t respond to her, either. “We’ll need to send a message by some other means.”
Kevin felt a bit of patting on his person. “Darlin’,” he said to Yilta, “we got ourselves a bit of a crisis here. I’m thinkin’ it’s not a good time for hanky-panky.”
“It wasn’t me.” Yilta went back to running a diagnostic on the transporter to try to find Levi and Carmen.
Carmen’s gaze swept around the transporter room until her eyes alit on her packages. “Sorry, Otra.” She mumbled a little to herself and began opening some of the boxes. “Help me with this. Tear the wrapping paper off in strips, see?”
“Uh, sure.” They worked silently for a little while until Levi asked, “Uh, what are we doing?”
“We are going to spell out a message in wrapping paper bits and bobs.” There were some ribbons, too, so she used them as well. “We’re going to spell out invert coupler and hope they’ll figure it out from there.”
“Oh, um, okay.”
Within the span of what felt like several minutes, but was a fraction of a few seconds, in real time, they had most of the message together. “Huh,” Carmen commented as she surveyed their handiwork. “We need a little more. Forgive me, Otra.” She pulled a baguette out of its sleeve and used both the sleeve and chunks of the bread to finish the message.
“They should, um; they need to know it’s from us.”
“You’re right. How the devil are we going to do that?”
The two of them thought for a while. “We could leave our PADDs.”
“They’ll just go into sleep mode if they’ll even work at all,” Carmen countered. “It might not be too clear.”
She gave him a look. “I am not stripping for you, Mister Cavendish.”
“Oh, um, uh,” he squirmed a bit. “We could get stuff from our offices.”
“If the replicator doesn’t work, and I can’t engage Kevin’s PADD, I suspect that we can’t get the doors to trip open.”
“Right. Huh.” He looked over the remainder of Otra’s ruined hostess gifts. There was a bottle of Scotch. “Nothing here.”
“No, no, wait!” Carmen eyed the Scotch. She then explained, “I think everyone knows I like a bit of this.”
“Yes,” she intoned. “I’ll leave this. And I’ll leave it opened. Then it’ll be obvious that at least I’m still in the transporter room.” She broke the seals on the bottle. “Here’s mud in your eye.”
She upended the bottle and took a healthy snort. She brandished it at him. “Hair of the dog, for your troubles?”
“My mother says that stuff is the devil’s own water.”
“Your mother is, uh,” Carmen thought better of what she was about to say, and replaced the cap on the bottle. “She has her opinions, and I’ll wager they’re rather strong ones. Was it difficult growing up, just the two of you?” She placed the bottle on the transporter console so that it would be noticed.
“Huh? Um, a bit, I guess.”
They were quiet for several minutes. “It’s a bit frightening,” Carmen admitted, “to think that they are right there, and we are here, and they have no idea.”
“If we don’t catch their attention,” Carmen explained, “the only food we have is the Scotch and the baguette. We wouldn’t last a week.”
“It, uh, they won’t be that slow.”
They waited another two hours, or at least it felt that way.
“I can’t find anything,” Yilta complained.
“Do you smell booze?” Kevin asked. There was a trill in his ear, and he answered it. “O’Connor.”
“Where are Levi and Carmen?” It was Otra. “I thought you said everyone transported over three hours ago.”
“I did. But, uh, dammit, Levi altered the transporter somehow. Yilta and I dunno where they are.”
Otra sighed. “Oh, my. Let me know if you make any progress, or you need any help. I’ve got the Vulcan Unit’s engineers in the main dining room, and they’re taking apart my old sound system. Should I send them along?”
“Uh, not yet. But tell ‘em to put your stuff back together,” Kevin suggested. “O’Connor out.”
“It feels like it’s close to midnight,” Carmen commented, “although Lord knows what it truly is. Tell me, Levi, do you ever think of meaning?”
“Life. Do you ever ponder its mysteries? Do you think you know its meaning?”
“Sure I do.”
“I beg your pardon?” Carmen blinked a few times. Maybe she’d had more of the Scotch than she’d thought, or their temporally interphased existence was multiplying the effect.
“The meaning of life is order.”
“Yes. Life is chaos. My job is to put it in order.”
“But Mister Cavendish,” Carmen stated, “I don’t mean to insult you, but surely you are abundantly aware, that you are likely the most disorganized person I or anyone else has ever known.”
“That’s why I have to put things in order. I have to make sense out of them. When I do that, when everybody does that, the universe will end.”
“Uh, not to derail your plans, but I am suspecting that the end of the universe is a somewhat, well, it’s a bit of a negative goal, is it not? Wouldn’t you just end everyone’s existence?”
He shrugged. “I dunno. I just know that the Big Bang happens and everything is chaotic and then when it’s all organized will be the other end.” He paused. “And, and it’ll be good. My mother says that’s heaven. That’s, that’s what I think of as heaven, and she says that’s okay.”
Carmen seriously considered taking another swig of the Scotch. “Do you want to know what I think is the meaning of life?”
Levi glanced around him. He tapped on his PADD again, just to be absolutely certain that it was still not working. “Um, okay.”
“It’s this,” Carmen explained. “Interpersonal interactions. It’s contact, at whatever level is appropriate or is even so much as possible. It’s conversations, it’s first contact, it’s gardening and animal husbandry, it’s tapping someone on the shoulder. Bloody hell, it’s even eating other living things, and, and it’s even fighting and firing weapons.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I never thought of it this way before, but it makes sense, you see. It’s the, well, it is interactions. It’s not behaving like a bloody island. That’s life’s meaning, and its purpose, you see. You don’t need to marry or even like anyone else, but you shouldn’t be a damned hermit.”
“What’s that on the floor?” Yilta pointed at the sudden appearance of wrapping paper and the remains of a baguette.
Kevin took one look at a partly-drunk bottle of Scotch that had just appeared on the transporter console. “Carmen!”
“It says here,” Yilta read off the odd message on the floor, “Invert coupler. I’m thinkin’ that’s Cavendish’s idea.”
Together, they worked as quickly as they could. “Okay, try it now,” Kevin said.
Yilta hit the controls and they were able to retrieve their two lost travelers. “Aha, it worked!” she crowed.
“Thank God,” Carmen said, stepping off the pad. “That was an experience I’m not inclined to repeat. And, Mister Cavendish, you will not experiment on vital equipment, if you please, unless you tell others that you are doing so. That means any of the people in this room, or Deirdre. Have you got that?”
“Uh, yeah.” Click click. “Hey, the grid’s back.”
“Ah, hmm, and there, good as new,” Kevin said. “I’ve put it all back. It’s an interesting hypothesis, Levi. And it did work a few times. But maybe we’ll work on this some other time, all right? I’ve got everything back to its original state and can send you both to Siena.”
“Uh, no,” Carmen stated, “could you please, instead, send us to that large department store on Enceladus? I’ve got to replace Otra’s gifts. And Mister Cavendish?”
“You will also be going shopping. And you will find something nice for Miss D’Angelo. It will be something personal that she will like.”
Carmen fully expected to hear some bellyaching, but instead Levi said, “Yeah, um, maybe a music box. Or a, a, an old-fashioned calendar.”
“Maybe something like that. Energize, Mister O’Connor.”