Looking up from her desk, President Serena McCall recognized her Secretary of Defense who had arrived with the Secretary of Health. "Yes, I'm pleased with your unusual punctuality, Lawrence, especially since you called for an emergency appointment this morning. I thought the idea of an emergency was unlikely given that the world has been, for want of a better word, quiet."
The SecDef, Lawrence (never "Larry") Hutton, a man she had chosen specifically due to his inability to lead a platoon of marines into a brothel, did not smile. "We had ... a bit of a surprise, ma'am. Forty-two days ago, a female MORF with, if we believe everything she gave us, unusually extensive teleport and chronoport capabilities, appeared in the main command center in NORAD. She delivered a documentation package to us before taking her own life. The chips she left, with video, stills and written material ... provided us with more history than we wanted. We are still sifting through what she delivered and we still have only gone through a small percentage of the material, but, given a whole section of information about the development history of MORFS, we felt it best to call on Helen's department to help evaluate those items we don't have the expertise for."
"First," President Serena McCall said, "What is a chronoport?"
Helen fielded this question, answering "Someone who can travel through time. I've never seen or heard of a chronoport that could jump more than a week or more. I suspect they fall afoul of Niven's Law when it comes to traveling through time and end up, somehow, erasing their own existence. This one, though, was apparently an exceptionally powerful one, having a reach of almost a century."
Turning to Helen Carter, her Secretary of Health, she asked, "And the remark about MORFS?"
Helen sighed. "I'll state the obvious, Madame President. MORFS, the Massive Ontogenetic Regulation Failure Syndrome, has been an intractable problem for some years. The information we have gotten so far indicates that the agent was released early in its development cycle and what we have is nothing, comparatively, to speak of, compared to what the intended end-product was. As you can imagine, the bio-terrorists were working towards was far more nastier pathogen intended to be painful at the same time it would be fatal. From what I've seen of the documentation and briefings from those with far more technical expertise than I, we got off incredibly lightly."
The president nodded, commenting "I think the anxiety over the side effects—especially if you live through the changes—is rather more severe than the reality. The polarization and religious persecution has not helped political stability, either. I think you are all already aware of my irritation with the Attorney General on this issue, along with the rest of the so-called Department of Justice, who are all far too lax on enforcing the Civil Rights Act."
"Well, ma'am, based on what we've managed to understand from the mother-lode of information we've gotten, it may be that the political effects are less of a problem than the more likely alternatives. This hybrid MORFS survivor, a Serena McCall, was a powerful enough chronoport, on top of being a teleport, to be present, albeit intangible, when the terrorist's bio-containment facility was breached and may, based on other remarks she made, have had a hand in ensuring that MORFS was inflicted on the whole world, before it could wipe out all mammalian life."
The president sat up. "Who was she? Is ... was she related to me?"
Lawrence leaned back on the couch opposite Helen and sighed. "Based on her explanations, this Serena McCall was named after her mother, and must have been born in a different time-line than our own. That time line, she believes, should still exist, except that she can no longer follow that fork, having worked to change the past, but she also believes that her time-line had far stronger elementals and other powers. Her mother kept her maiden name and this MORF—and her sister—kept their mother's maiden name. Her brothers had their father's name. This Serena McCall was born in 2037, based on the biographical information she provided, and, ma'am, would have been your daughter, had you ever met the man that fathered her. Granted, from what we've read, you would never have chosen a political career, had you had children. She recorded that one of her last acts, before delivering that packet, was to make sure you missed meeting her father, back before you had to have a hysterectomy. He's not dead, by the way, we looked him up. In any case, this young woman chose to meddle with her history, leading to our history. We can only be glad that it was in small ways."
She sat back, stunned. "How could ... a daughter of mine ... choose to do something so dangerous and stupid?"
The Secret Service agent by the door started laughing. All eyes turned to him, and, when he saw that, he shut up.
"Well?" Serena asked the suddenly anxious agent. "Want to share what you thought was so funny?"
"Ma'am," the agent spoke up, "You were stupid enough to run for the Presidency. You still want the world to be a better place. You care. If that girl you're talking about was your daughter, I can't see the acorn falling far from the tree."
Serena leaned back in her chair. "And you can say that..."