God was still standing looking out the window when the trio entered. Adam and Eve sat down in the two chairs that were placed before the desk. Adam lounged back and put his feet up on the desk. Lassie went to God’s side and licked his hand. He patted her on the head.
“It looks like Peter is going to get his chance. The golds are about to pull ahead. Mary Magdalene just joined the team, and she has a killer serve.”
“Among other talents,” Adam replied. Eve crossed her arms and raised her eyebrow at him. He added, “Or so I have hear, Darling. Jesus will run at the mouth if you get enough tequila into him.”
God cleared his throat as he turned. He coughed a touch and glowered at Adam’s cigarette. “On to business.” The window behind him darkened and the battle scenes God had been watching before the volleyball game had distracted him appeared again. “What are you are looking at is New York City for alternative history date April 27th, 1938.”
Adam sat up and dropped his feet to the floor, leaving scuffmarks on the desk. Eve’s eyes widen, “Who in the world is attacking the United States in 1938? Did something change to give the Austrian twit a head start and advantage?”
As this God blushed, shook his head a little, and mumbled something.
Adam leaned back again, took a long drawl on his smoke, and said, “Sorry, didn’t catch that.”
“It’s Canada, alright?” God exploded. “Canada.”
A laugh burst from Adam’s lips. “How did you manage to let anything between the U.S. of A and Canada get bad enough to lead to war? That’s like getting Tony Blaire to disagree with George Bush.”
God’s eye’s narrowed. “Well, it was such a round-about cause that the computer could not compute the outcome before it happened. You see, it’s all about a girl.”
“It always is,” Eve sighed. “I am really tired of getting the blame for these things.”
“Dearest, no one is blaming you,” Adam comforted her. “At least no one in this room.”
There was a pause. Adam looked up at God, who jumped a little and replied, “Of course not.”
Eve smoothed her skirt with her hands. “Anyway, proceed.”
“It all really starts at a ball in 1910,” God continued, and the picture changed to a huge ballroom light by massive chandeliers, with a band and people in fancy dress dancing a waltz. Then the image zoomed in on a group of young men surrounding a particular young woman. She was talking animatedly which made her elaborately styled, shiny brown curls dance. When she laughed her violet eyes twinkled. She was definitely a beauty, especially decked out in a dazzling cream colored dress patterned with golden embroidery, showing off a tantalizing shoulder and the hint of cleavage.
“You are looking at Mademoiselle Annabella Dione, the belle of Montreal. Now here are the young men we are interested in.” The picture zoomed in on the two young men who were the closest to Annabella, and obviously the most rapt. “The blonde is Gregory Finch. He is an up and coming American. Currently he is working on the staff of the American ambassador. Eventually he will be an adviser to Herbert Hoover. The dark haired fellow is Jonathan Goodling. He is a member of the Canadian Parliament.” Eve walked closer to the screen and tilted her head as she studied the two boys. Men, she corrected herself. She always had trouble calling males around this age men. To her, Gregory Finch looked like a twelve-year-old dressed up in his father’s suit. His hair was curly, almost ringlets, and his nose and cheeks were speckled with faint freckles. His face had an earnest, serious expression as if Miss Dione’s conversation carried the weight of the world. Which, Eve reminded herself, it did in a round about way. Adam came up next to her and turned the attention toward Jonathan. While he shared Gregory’s fair skin, Jonathan had very dark hair, cut in a very straight, severe fashion. His eyes were a very dark blue that seemed to change shade with his mood, which seemed to jump rather quickly. They watch him change from laughing to smoldering rage as Annabella touched the lapel of Gregory’s jacket and then to adoration and passion as her should brushed his when she turned to gesture at the painting behind her. Both men wore very stylish tuxedoes that were tailored to perfection.
God said, “Originally, Jonathan did not make it to the party. It all starts with a feather.”
“Oh this is the part of the story I love,” Adam declared as he plopped himself down in God’s chair. “Let me get comfortable. So what random series of events has led to this catastrophe?”
God squinted at him, but continued. “Well it starts with Goodling’s tailor. He’s rather fond of the seedier side of town, mostly underground, bare-knuckled fighting. He’s a big gambler. Anyway, we have to go back to a round of fights the night before he made the tux Goodling is wearing. Originally, the fights broke up early as no one would come forward to challenge the champion.” The image on the wall turned to a smoke filled basement filled with sweaty and cheering men. In the middle was a human mountain with a shaved head and a face like a bull. He snorted and Adam could have sworn he saw steam leave the nostrils. He gave a long, low whistle. “I can see why.” The man also looked like he hadn’t bathe in a, well, ever.
“Yes, well, in the alternative, a short man with a feather in his hat, walks by a taller man. The feather tickles the taller man’s nose, making him sneeze. As he sneezes he stumbles into the ring, and the challenger immediately pounces.” Again the scene played out in front of them. A tall, thin man was doing his best to stay out of the monster’s grasp, trying to get out of the ring, but the men surrounding kept pushing him back in, shouting and laughing. Money was quickly changing hands. “Now, if only this unfortunate man had just gotten knocked out, and everyone gone home, but alas, no.” For a few panicked moments, the tall thin man scrambled around, barely dodging punches, then suddenly his defense seemed to become more structured. He focused on his opponent and got his defense up. His strategy seemed to be, don’t get hit. This went on for fifteen minutes. The champion was wearing down. Slowly his punches got sloppier, and his defenses were lowering. Suddenly the tall thin man threw one punch right at the champions jaw. The champion blocked it with a forearm and his other fist took the tall thin man in the gut throwing him up in the air and across the ring. He didn’t get up, though a small groan escaped his lips before he lost consciousness. A few of the other men, picked him up and carried him away.
With a grimace on her face Eve said, “That was unfortunate.”
“Yes,” God replied. “Especially in that it set this whole sequence of events in motion. See the old man in the back that looks like he is made out of toothpicks and sandpaper?” Both Adam and Eve nodded, and Lassie gave a little affirmative woof. “That is the tailor.” He was jumping up and down and giggling. “He just won a lot of money. This will cause him to spent the rest of the evening spending his winnings getting himself and several mates drunk.” The picture changed to a pub and a raucous group of men surrounding the tailor who was obviously a shot away from passing out, but still had a huge grin on his withered, old face.
“This night of partying leaves him tired the next day, but he is on a deadline to finish the tuxedo for Mr. Goodling.” Now the old man was sitting cross-legged in his shop, desperately trying to keep his eyes open as he put in the hem of a pant leg. He still had the grin on his face. “Right here, during this yawn, he is going to drop a stitch.” The audience in God’s office watched it happen. Then in fast forward, a delivery boy picked up the suit and took it to the Goodling residence. They watched Jonathan Goodling meticulously prep himself for the ball. “What a girl,” Adam muttered under his breath. Lassie growled as him. Finally Goodling was coming out of his dressing room and heading for the staircase in his home when God slowed back to normal speed. “Here is where the feather, the winning bet, and the missed stitch become significant. Right before he reached the first stair, Goodling stopped and leaned down to pick at the string hanging from his cuff. As he did that a cat came streaking across the top stair. God paused the picture and pointed at the cat, saying, “In the original time line there was no string. Goodling kept going and ended up tripping over the cat, taking a spill down the stairs and breaking a leg. Instead he ends up as we saw him at first.” The wall was back to Annabella and her suitors.
Finally Adam said, “Not to spoil a perfectly good story, but why don’t we just go and steal the short man’s hat, or stop him or the tall thin man from going to the fights?”
God shook his head, “Somehow a change in the original code for Earth’s history happened. It is very tiny, within an acceptable margin of error. A glitch, if you will. No matter what scenarios I run, that fight ends up happening. One way or another the tailor ends up drunk and missing that stitch. Even sneaking into Goodling’s room and cutting the thread can’t work. He doesn’t leave the suit from the time it arrives until he dresses, and he won’t no matter what happens in the house. I even tried pushing him down the stairs or a trip wire, and it always ends worse than the broken leg. I even briefly contemplated setting a small kitchen fire, but that leads to a changes well outside parameters.”
“I didn’t think a glitch like that was possible,” Eve commented.
“Neither did I,” God said in a troubled tone. “We will be working on that while you are on the ground.”
The room was silent for a moment as Adam, Eve, and Lassie absorbed the information and watched the characters in their latest drama interact.
“Well, they both have the look of men who would rather draw pistols at dawn than share a beer,” Adam quipped as he turned from the screen back to God. “So, we are looking at the beginning of a jealousy. Which of them gets the girl and which starts a war?”
“Neither of them and both.”
God and Adam started when Eve spoke. God replied quizzically, “That’s right. How did you know?”
“Because our Mdm. Dione has been doing her best to make this young waiter, here, jealous. She is laughing a little too loudly, and every time she touches one of her admirers, she glances at him. And he has been carrying around those canapés on his tray for an hour without serving one of them. He looks more like he would like to see them dumped on the floor as he bashed Mr. Goodling over the head with the tray.”
Adam and God turned their attention to the servant as well.
Adam whistled lowly and said, “My goodness, Danielle Steele couldn’t have created a better boy for her cover art fodder.”
He was an intense fellow with eyes that Danielle Steele often described as dark and smoldering. His black hair was wavy and had a perpetual swept back look as if he had just dismounted from a galloping horse. And he didn’t so much walk, as stalk.
God sighed, “Dear Eve, you have excellent perception. If only you could have developed if before the apple.”
“It’s not her fault you made the damned nodes to your planet computer edible, my dear creator,” Adam retorted. He took one last puff on the cigarette, then dropped it to the floor where he stamped it out. “I’d say that makes us all even.”
“Well, I couldn’t have…”
There was a whine from behind him, and Lassie butted her head against his knees. God cleared his throat, “Right, well, no use going over that territory again.”
God smiled, a little sadly, at Eve. “Very perceptive, my dear. In three days, Annabella will be running away with the dashing waiter, Henri.”
Adam clapped God on the shoulder, “You know you have to be thankful for one thing.”
God arched an eyeball at him, “And that would be?”
“At least when the planet computer went crazy, it only spewed out a finite amount of basic human predicaments.”
God folded his arms across his chest, “Yes, I suppose that is something, but they do excel at making them all tangled messes.”
Lassie reached up to the screen and scratched at the feet of Gregory and Jonathan and a low whine escaped her lips.
“I agree, Lassie,” Adam said nodding and giving the dog a quick scratch behind the ears. “And instead of commiserating over my suggested plethora of beers, they choose to blame each other?”
After a thoughtful pause, God replied, “Well, I suppose it is something more along the lines of hurt pride. You see, as these stories often go, Annabella’s family would never approve of the waiter. To keep everyone from finding out before the elopement, Annabella is leading both men around by the nose hairs, rather publicly. Then to add to the confusion, she accepts both of their marriage proposals the evening before she and Henri make their escape. Again, this wouldn’t have happened originally as Goodling was convalescing at the time. One Finch was given the chance to proposed and consequently was the only one spurned.” At this point the screen started flipping through the various scenes of the drama as God explained them. It should Gregory and then Jonathan both down on one knee in front of a flushed and giddy Annabella, followed by Annabella climbing down a ladder from a bedroom window with Henri waiting at the bottom, looking around anxiously. “Once the truth is discovered, both men are humiliated, naturally. The only target to take that humiliation out on is each other as Annabella and Henri are happily on a ship to France with all of her and most of her mother’s jewels.” Here an image of Annabella and Henri in a stateroom, half clothed, laughing, surrounded by a scatter of excessively large and gaudy jewelry.
“Hm, you have to give the eloping couple credit for style and out and out, well, balls,” Adam said. Both Lassie and Eve nodded in agreement.
“More than you may realize. Annabella and Henri will open a hotel and dance hall when they get to Paris. It will become rather well known. Come World War Two, it will be a favorite of the Nazis.” Again the screen flicked. Henri and Annabella change into a middle-aged, well-dressed couple welcoming men in SS uniforms with French ladies on their arms. “However, they are also high ranking members of the French resistance. Thanks to their free flowing liquor and charisma, they become a top source of crucial information that will be used against the Nazis. Their elopement and presence in Paris is essential.” The classy middle aged couple was shown going through the pockets and luggage of one of the officers while he was passed out on the bed, snoring. A half-clad young lady was aiding them.
“The Nazis certainly knew how to appreciate a nice set of bosoms,” Adam commented as the prostitute turned freedom fighter leaned over, giving her unknown audience a view of nicely spaced breasts.
Eve glared at him, “You know, for someone who was never a baby or breast feed, your breast obsession is rather disturbing.”
“It comes from having access to the very first pair ever made, darling,” Adam replied to appease her. He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close, making sure to notice the objects of conversation in the process, for a quick peck on the lips. They pulled apart at the slam of a desk drawer and turned their attention back to God, in time to seem him plop two Alka-Seltzers into a glass of water that had appeared on the desk in front of him.
“So run along to Montreal, keep Misters Finch and Goodling from becoming bitter enemies while making sure the future of the object of their shared love or hatred, however you choose to look at it, is not changed.”
Adam and Eve exchanged a glance. Lassie emitted a series of short barks and then whined inquiringly.
The screen changed to a chart. “Well, Lassie, that area of concern should make you feel a little better,” God directed to the dog as he changed to screen one more time. This time it was covered with complicated looking equations and charts. “After calculating it out, I think that you can get away with a relatively large margin of change for these two young men’s lives. We should be safe if we stay within 7.4354 and 10 percent.”
Eve let out a long breath. “Well, that is greater than usual, I suppose.”
“Yes, they lead rather boring lives as moderate level bureaucrats in the original timeline, so changing that a little either way isn’t too terribly complicated. It shouldn’t be enough to bring the COBC down on us. As long as they don’t manage to get anyone killed.”
“But bureaucrats are so good at that,” Adam commented.
“Yes, well, your job is to keep them from doing what they are good at.” God paused. “Or something like that. Anyway, Lassie will be your researcher and point of contact. Tech has wings waiting for you. And Peter will have all of your luggage at his desk.”