Zakharov dropped the tomato when the greenhouse door opened. Already detached from the plant, it floated away, a red orb of petty wrongdoing. Wanting to taste fresh fruit after months of spaceship fare was completely understandable, but this was an unofficial sampling, even if it wasn't nearly as serious as what he was having done with the computers. Zakharov scowled at the doorway, hoping to create the appearance of having been interrupted during something important and embarrass the intruder into leaving.
"Don't worry, I know weirdness tends to follow me, but I'm just sightseeing this time," the intruder said as she floated in. Her face lit up in recognition. "And it's lovely to see you again in more pleasant circumstances! I wasn't expecting you here, this struck me as more likely to be Lady Skye's domain."
Zakharov had not heard Lt. Commander Dr. Deirdre Skye, the rank rankled, referred to like that before. Was "lady" a popular title in New Age circles? He forced himself to smile. "Dr. Skye is still on Earth and I'm afraid I don't recall you."
Everyone scheduled to work on the Unity was familiar, but this person was a stranger. She was presumably one of the tourists, paying around fifty million dollars for a few days aboard. Berths were significantly more expensive, but Morgan had bought one. The money for the Unity's construction had to come from somewhere, as the Russian Commonwealth only coughed up six of the twenty billion Zakharov had them pledge before pulling out due to bankruptcy, which desperate politicians were unfairly blaming him for. So he would keep the promise Garland had demanded. He would be minimally polite to sponsors.
"Absolutely not your fault. It was one of my previous incarnations and in your future too," the tourist said, pulling herself towards him along the boxes of greenery. She grabbed the tomato and plopped it in her mouth. "Scrumptious!"
If you were gullible enough to believe in reincarnation, chucking out linear order was no more absurd. "There is no evidence whatsoever for reincarnation." Dismissing nonsense with the forcefulness it deserved was something Garland explicitly classified as rude, so he didn't add that delusions were not evidence, despite the fact that he'd wanted the tomato. Unlike idiots, tomatoes were in short supply, but him taking another would cause no tragedy.
"It's more like time travel and metamorphosis really."
He supposed it was considerate that she was putting on a science fiction sheen. "So what are the scientific breakthroughs?" Zakharov had his own plans for the future. If all went well, he'd be moulding their new society to properly prioritise research even if Lal and Garland disapproved. What Dr. Luttinen's algorithm accomplished in forty years would also be fascinating. The tourist's guesses might be vaguely amusing, but he would be ensuring that real science was given the attention it deserved. No stranger would hear these plans though. Instead, minimal politeness requirements fulfilled, he'd say that he was busy with an important experiment.
She laughed. "There are plenty! I just doubt you'd believe me. You see, I'm not only interested in the practical aspects of time travel, but also in the theoretical. And the most memorable thing you wrote on the subject is: 'Time travel in the classic sense has no place in rational theory.'"
"I've certainly not written that. Though I am a physicist, that isn't my field." Zakharov paused for a moment. The attribution was in error, but it was still the most sensible thing she'd said. "However, based on my current understanding of temporal mechanics, that would indeed be my position."
"Sorry, tense trouble. You will write it. And you are correct." She sounded apologetic. "It's merely that you are making an assumption that is unwarranted in practice..."