Ray Jimenez was the liaison for the mirror government. He stood to greet them. There was a little courtyard garden in the center of HQ, and they were meeting there. No one else was around. “Are you sure this is quiet enough?” Rick asked.
“No one will be here. I even got that amateur Ferengi gardener to lay off,” Ray said.
Now Rick knew it was even more serious, for Von hated to leave roses in bloom, even to time travel.
“Now, you’ll go back and undo everything, right?” Ray said, “And then we’ll be all set. Just sign here, here and here.” He presented a PADD.
“What’s this?” Carmen asked.
“It’s a promise that he never pulls a stunt like this again in our universe. Whatever you might do on this side of the pond,” he sniffed a little, with the implication being that it was somehow the inferior side of things, “well, that’s your
mess. But you don’t screw up the Terran Empire. Just clean up this little irregularity and we’ll call it square.”
?” Rick asked, bristling a bit. “My child isn’t just some irregularity.”
“Now, now, Richard,” Carmen said, “It was a poor choice of words. Really, Mister Jimenez, do try to be a bit more sensitive.”
“No matter how I dress it up, this is still a problem, and it still needs to be fixed, post haste. That child cannot be allowed to live.”
“So you’d just have me erase him from existence? Just go back, spend my time in the Mess Hall instead of with Hoshi and that’s it?”
“Not a chance. I want Jun to live.”
“It messes up the timeline! Don’t you see? Admiral, this man is supposed to be a Senior Temporal Agent, is he not?” Carmen nodded, so Ray continued, “So why the hell is he acting like a newbie?”
“He is affected,” she said, “on your side; I know that you have a lot of very good fathers. Don’t tell me that a bonding doesn’t happen between a father and his child. I happen to know that it does. Have you not felt it?”
“I have no children,” Ray said, “and I was tested – I don’t have the Y Chromosome Skew
. There are still plenty of us left who don’t have that three thousand year old genetic mutation. But even if I did, I would recognize that this is wrong. Are you, do you imagine you’ll marry this woman? Are you … is it,” he sneered, “love
or some other weak and soft motivation?”
“We don’t prescribe to your Five Signs of Weakness,” Carmen said, “and even if we did, it would not matter. Your side acts to preserve children. You do it to forward the interests of your state. So why wouldn’t the existence of Jun Daniels – pardon me, Sato – why wouldn’t that further the state’s own interests?”
“Kira MacKenzie Sato is the one, true successor Emperor after the Great Empress. There is no one else. The existence of Jun kills off Kira’s ambitions completely. Hell, it kills off Kira himself. We cannot have that. Not to mention the fact that the whole thing risks all sorts of rips in the timeline.”
“You mean the fact that he can father a child,” Rick said.
“Precisely,” Ray said, “there may be a bastard child in there, to challenge the next Emperor, Hoshi’s daughter Takara’s grandson. We’re not sure, but the percentage chances favor that possibility.”
“What if Jun were sterilized?” Carmen asked, “Would that be enough to allow him to live?”
“No,” Jimenez said.
“Why the hell not?” Rick asked.
“We considered that first, and have run every possible scenario. He still murders Kira.”
“What if we shored up Kira somehow?” Carmen asked, “Maybe found some way to make him more, I dunno, more confident?”
Jimenez punched a few keys on his PADD. “No, no, it’s not enough. Kira is still killed in over ninety percent of the scenarios.”
“What if Kira’s father was around more?” Rick asked. “I know my own father being around has helped me, and probably in ways I can’t imagine. Kira’s father had the skew, right? And I don’t.”
“Yes, Aidan MacKenzie had the skew,” Jimenez confirmed, “And it can be of some help but,” he hit a few keys on a PADD and it compiled the scenarios quickly, “we’re still at a nearly eighty percent chance that Kira would be killed by Jun.”
“What are the differences?” Carmen asked.
“There are thousands,” Ray said, “really, you’re stalling. We cannot be wasting our time going through every possible little scenario.”
“Just the big differences,” she said, getting as annoyed with him as she was with Rick, “I don’t give a rat’s arse if they ate different breakfasts on some random Thursday in 2173.”
“Hmm,” Ray checked, “Cutler is one difference.”
“What happens if the difference is split, and Cutler becomes the sitter for both of them?” Rick asked.
“Huh, that’s odd. In several scenarios, Cutler’s gone not too long after Jun turns one. It looks like she escapes off the Defiant
to some planet.”
“And then Kira has no chance to knife her, right?” Carmen said. She began checking her PADD as well. “Looks like our odds are a bit better, closer to seventy percent now.”
“It’s still unacceptable. We’re wasting time.”
“We have infinite time, don’t we?” Rick said.
“I suppose,” Ray conceded. He clicked around some more. “Taking away Cutler, and making her only Jun’s sitter doesn’t help anything. Jun is still overly confident, and goes after Kira first when he seizes power after Hoshi’s death.”
“Wouldn’t he be less confident if his father were never around?” Carmen asked, a plan forming in her head.
“What?” Rick asked, “This is my kid we’re talking about. I want to try to be there, in some way or another.”
Ray ran a bunch of scenarios. “If Jun’s father is absent throughout his life, Jun apparently becomes less confident in his ability to rule on his own. Hmm, it looks like, this is interesting.”
“Ah, ha!” Carmen smiled, looking at her own PADD.
“Clue me in, all right?” Rick said.
“Tandem rule,” she said, showing him her PADD. “We don’t get one Emperor after Hoshi’s death. We get two, if we sterilize Jun and keep you out, Aidan in, and Cutler departs just after Jun turns one. They rule together until Kira’s death, then Jun rules on his own until his own death. He’s succeeded by the right person, their sister Takara’s grandson.”
“What does this mean?” Rick asked.
“It means you never contact him. If you wish for him to live, that will have to be the condition, that you never have contact with Jun, ever. I’m sorry,” she said.
“He’s my son!”
“And he’s temporally paradoxical,” Jimenez reminded him. “These are the consequences of your carelessness, Agent Daniels.”
“It does bring it down to only a twenty percent chance of Jun killing Kira. Those are very good odds, you know,” Carmen said.
“It would be best if that number were zero,” Jimenez sniffed.
“Now wait a second! I thought we were all set!” Rick was beginning to feel queasy. Nothing seemed to be going right.
“You created this mess,” Jimenez said, “and I am not going to rest until it’s fully resolved. Now, let’s see, the chances of Jun killing Kira are considerably higher when Jun is, hmm, eighty-nine years old.”
“Eighty-nine?” Rick asked, “What could possibly happen then that would trigger that?”
“Hang on,” Carmen said as she clicked. “There. It’s Hoshi’s death.”
“It’s not just her death. It’s a visitor to her death bed.” Ray ran the scenarios. “It’s you, Daniels. It seems like you never learn to stay away.”
“It looks like there are a lot of chances that you would go there to make your good-byes, and then your boy gets his mojo back,” Carmen said.
“We can’t have that,” Ray said, “One of the conditions will have to be that you never, ever contact Empress Hoshi during her lifetime. Not even at its very end, or even before she conceived Jun in the first place. We also don’t want to risk another child being created, you know.”
Rick swallowed hard. “So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. Jun becomes sterile. He and Kira and the others are mainly raised by Kira’s father as the babysitter. And I don’t get a chance to ever see Jun or Hoshi, ever. Is, is that it? Or do you want another pound of flesh out of me, you bastard?”
“Now, now, Richard, Mister Jimenez here is doing his best to be accommodating.” Carmen turned to Ray. “Are you absolutely certain?”
“There’s a zero percent chance of Kira dying any way other than in his own bed,” Ray said, clicking and looking over the figures.
“I could see to the sterilization myself, personally,” Carmen said, “Oh, don’t look at me like that, Richard. I’ve time traveled before, you know. I’ll even give a cover story so as to fake your death. Then we’ll have crossed the Rubicon and you really won’t be able to go back, ever. Are we in agreement?”
“My government will accept this,” Ray said.
“And you, Richard?” Carmen asked, again, in a surprisingly gentle tone of voice.
“I, I guess so.”
She awkwardly patted his arm. “There’s a good soldier.”
Carmen stepped off a time portal a few days afterwards. “The deed is done. It was just the application of the tiniest bit of delta radiation, and we’re all set with the sterilization. It was in utero – he’ll never miss it, never even know he’s got anything to miss. He’s still functional, of course. Plus I set up a bit of wreckage on Daranaea.”
“Yes, our fox-faced friends never suspected a thing. It was all nicely burned up, and they certainly didn’t want to go nosing around in there. The story is that your shuttle crash-landed there. The Empress accepted it. Funny, the Empress called you Ritchie, not Rick.”
“Yeah, she called me that.”
“Did you love her?”
“No,” he said quickly, “but I can’t help but to love my own child.”
“Understood,” Carmen said, again surprisingly gently. “I’ll have to hire someone, at some point, to handle mirror universe missions during Jun and Hoshi’s lifetimes, but I don’t see any reason why you can’t go to that side of the pond in, say, 500 BC or some such.”
“Right,” he said, and walked with her back to their offices, as he decided that, any time he was in the mirror, from then on, that he would remember and, in commemoration, he would call himself Ritchie
Back at the museum a few days later, he stood back and watched as Eleanor talked to another tour group, little knife in her hands again. “This knife,” she said, “was owned by the Empress Hoshi Sato. She gave it to her first born son, Jun, on the occasion of his first birthday. Jun was under the care of babysitter Elizabeth Cutler then, but not too long afterwards, Cutler departed with the Chief Engineer, Charles Tucker III. Hoshi replaced Cutler with Aidan MacKenzie, and soon had his son, who she named Kira. She had four other children – three boys, and a girl. The one girl, Takara, married the son of Cutler and Tucker, a fellow named Charles Tucker IV. Now, it was Jun and Kira who, ruling together, succeeded Hoshi, with the help of their brothers Arashi and Izo. Arashi did the books while Izo ran the secret police. Takara and her twin brother, Takeo, didn’t take part in ruling, as they had only recently been picked up from the surface of Lafa II, the very planet you’re standing on right now. When Kira died, Jun was the sole ruler of the Terran Empire, and on his deathbed he designated his successor, Charles Tucker VI, who we all know from history as the Emperor Charles I.”
A Tandaran man in her tour group asked, “For most of the Empress’s children, paternity is known, or can be inferred. But not for her first born, Jun. Does anyone know who his father is?”
She looked beyond the Tandaran, straight at Richard, and said, “His father is unknown, and probably always will be. A pity, for a child should know his father. And the father, I am sure, wanted to know his son.”
Rick swallowed hard. He’d have to live with the consequences. But at least there would be a Jun. It meant truthful
– an absurdity considering the number of lies being told to assure his survival. Rick looked at a museum display of pictures of the Empress’s family, lingering on one such photograph. “My boy,” he said softly, “My first born.”