“Where are you going again?” asked Crystal Sherwood. She set about tidying up her work station, moving old fashioned combs and scissors around in manner that was a tad obsessive-compulsive.
“1699 Penn’s Woods,” replied Temporal Agent Richard Daniels, who sat in a chair and was wearing a smock to protect his clothing.
“Hmmm. I gotta grow your hair. Hang on.” She mixed up a concoction that looked not unlike Asian plum sauce, and more or less had its consistency. She grabbed a wooden paddle that was about the shape and heft of an old tongue depressor, and began daubing the stuff on his head.
“That stuff’s cold!” he complained. Behind him, the viewer showed a strange Tellarite sport and then the crawler showed the time – 1417 hours – and the date – February the 12th of 3101.
“Hold still or you’ll get major hair growin’ outta yer ears.” She replied. “’Course that might explain my Uncle Dave. You know, he’s the kinda guy who’s got eyebrows that look like caterpillars and ear hair that sticks out like a pair o’ antlers.”
“It’s still freezing.”
“Yeah, well, it doesn’t work so good if it’s warmed up. And you don’t wanna be here for an hour, right?”
He looked her over. She was twenty-something, blonde, and quite easy on the eyes. Actually, that wouldn’t be so bad at all. “Uh, yeah, right.”
“Why isn’t your place doin’ this, anyway?”
“I told you, they don’t have a Quartermaster.”
“What? So you go zinging around in time and nobody suits you up?” Crystal was incredulous.
“I think they’re trying to automate it,” Rick explained. “It’s a pity and it really doesn’t work right, anyway, so far as I can tell. I mean, there have to be subtleties. I guess the computers would know that, but then I wouldn’t be treated to your company.” She was wearing a low-cut blouse and he none too subtly peeked as she leaned over a little to redistribute the stuff on his head. She turned around to grab something from a table and he got the opposing view, which was equally appealing. She threw a tumbler full of water at him. “Hey!”
“Dammit, I meant to get your scalp. Just a sec.” She grabbed a second tumbler full, and this time was a lot less cavalier with its placement, and doused his scalp. He had cold, wet – whatever it was that looked like plum sauce, plus water – stuff dripping down his neck and the smock.
“You must really hate me, Crystal.”
“It’s how you stop the hair growth. Sheesh! I am trying to make you presentable for uh, what was the time period again?”
“And so you see, keratin growth accelerator is a fun invention and alla that, but ya gotta stop it. Otherwise, you end up with more hair than, well, than anything on ya. There were these experiments done with it, I dunno, it was a century ago, somethin’ like that, and they rubbed it all ovah monkeys. Now, you could not give me enough to give a monkey a full body massage, know what I’m sayin’? But anyways, they didn’t stop it in time and so’s the keratin growth accelerator, what it does is, it takes the proteins outta your body and converts them into hair. This is fine for a few minutes or so, am I right?”
“You let it go for a few hours, and your body converts all your proteins to hair. Poor things! It’s supposed ta be a really lousy way ta go. And then I guess they got nothin’ to bury but a big, wet hairball. Now, where were we?”
“Heh, uh, you had doused me with ice water,” he reminded her.
“Yeah, well, that stops the process. So ya got no chance of becoming a big, wet hairball. At least, not today.” She grinned at him. Then something caught her eye, and she grabbed another tumbler of water.
“Cool yer jets! This is just the finesse work, see here?” she pulled lightly on a clump of strands that were already past his elbow. “This is no good.” This time, she plunged her fingers into the water. “Man, that is cold!”
“See, I told you.”
“Never mind, you.” She pressed her wet fingers against the roots of the clump of runaway strands. “There, that should work. Now let’s get you washed up.”
She led him over to where there were sinks and, again, he none too subtly checked her out. Her boss, a Tellarite, nodded at them, and then went back to his own client and a lively discussion of the latest Kreesta matches on Tellar, one of which was currently on the viewer.
This was the best part of a haircut. The coconut shampoo, the grapefruit conditioner, the hands massaging his scalp, the low-cut blouse more or less at eye level, albeit upside-down. He smiled up at her. “I wonder if my department will ever want to hire a Quartermaster.”
“Well, it’s not such a bad idea. Not that I’m lobbying for the job or anything. But I cannot believe that nobody knew this!”
He didn’t tell her that the computers were more or less familiar with the era. He just liked getting away from the Temporal Integrity Commission and heading out on occasion. Plus this one promised to be a decent and pleasant outing. He’d go along with a historian and observe William Penn. Nothing more. It wasn’t like being the replacement tail gunner on the Enola Gay, while that mission’s historian infiltrated and observed as a replacement assistant flight engineer. Or the trip to Pompeii, AD 79, where Vesuvius had erupted and there was no way to stop it or save the panicked citizens of Pompeii and neighboring Herculaneum.
“You daydreamin’ there?”
“Uh, a little,” he admitted.
He followed her back to the chair, and she started cutting and shaping his now-shoulder-length locks. “Why don’t you use a phase cutter?”
“Those things make me nervous. I prefer scissors. That way, I can’t just slip and take the top o’ yer head off.”
“Is there a danger of that?”
“Only from him, when he’s watchin’ Kreesta.” She gestured over at the viewer with the hand that was holding the scissors. “I dunno how he can watch that, particularly while eating!”
“Technique!” replied her boss, turning back to his client.
“Whoever decided to combine table tennis and competitive eating, well, let’s just say they was smokin’ the good stuff when they did that,” Crystal said. She snipped a little more, and then dried his hair with a hand-held unit. She grabbed a mirror. “Whaddaya think?”
“Don’t I need to wear it in a ponytail?”
“Oh, yeah. Computer, make me a grosgrain ribbon.”
She tied the ribbon to his hair. “Now, Yer Majesty?”
“It’s great. And, um, what do you think I should be wearing?”
“You gonna be wealthy or poor or in between?”
“In between, I think.”
“Knee breeches, I’m thinkin’. Stockings and a long coat, too. Maybe a little faded, like you’ve had ‘em for a while. And a tricorner hat, too.”
“Yes!” she playfully swatted him on an arm. “Those guys always wore hats. And you get these buckle shoes, too, I think.” She paused for a second. “I don’t think your department doesn’t know this. I mean, they’d be kinda incompetent if they didn’t.”
“You got me,” Rick admitted. “Can’t a guy just get a haircut in peace?”
“Yeah,” she smiled at him. “And watch Tellarite sports and listen to me babble. Alla that’s okay. You come back if ya need any more psychotherapy with scissors, ya hear?”