By Anchises (a pseudonym)
A remix of The Dani Stories, by Ivory Gates, http://www.kekkai.org/ivorygates/
Readers may wish to ensure that their browsers can display Chinese and Cyrillic characters. It won't help if readers don't read languages written in those scripts, but it makes the author feel morally superior. Like Alexander McCall Smith, in a way.
Readers may also wish to elicit guesses as to Anchises' identity. Anchises, certainly, isn't telling.
Part 1. XX.
It wasn't a butterfly. Chaos theory is impressive, but not that impressive. No, in this case, it was a nuclear fission bomb. 596, 五九六, wu bai jiu shi liu, 0700Z, Lop Nor lake, in the middle of nowhere in the far northwest of 中国, October 1964.
The first neutron snapped into place into the nucleus of the first U-235 atom, starting a process that would have impacts beyond the wildest dreams of 毛泽东 and his glorious Revolution. Three, san, 三 further neutrons whizzed outwards, together with a bit of krypton, some europium and a dash of cadmium. Rinse, repeat three more times. Then nine more. Eighty-one. Sixty-five hundred and sixty one. And before a second has passed, an explosion blossomed into the sky above 新疆, vaporizing everything in its path. Including that damned butterfly.
Some time later, a tiny particle blasted up from the explosion returns to earth, settling slowly (for a particle) down through a building, then some epidermis, keratin and protein. A tiny piece of DNA flicks one connector from off to on, and the world changes.
Shortly later, the world blurs for Melbourne Jackson, and he sinks down onto Claire's bare breasts, nuzzling against them. Inside, tiny pieces of DNA swim towards the west. One passes through the corona radiata and the zona pellucida, eliciting the cortical reaction and the cross-linking of the zona pellucida's glycoproteins. Two cell membranes fuse, meiosis occurs, and the Catholic church believes that a life begins, and one leg of a chromosome doesn't contract, extending instead to a full X shape. 2, 4, 16, 256, sixty-five thousand, five hundred and thirty-six, and nine months later, Danielle Jackson appears into the world. Rather unimpressively, she isn't speaking fourteen languages (mainly because "wah" is much the same across human civilization), nor is she born with glasses. She does sneeze, though, once, daintily.
This universe continues, in some ways, very similarly to our own. 1964 wasn't much different, except for Millicent B. Wentworth, whose craving for cottage cheese was unfulfilled because Claire Jackson needed some right the hell now at the end of December, and there wasn't much left in the market after Melbourne returned home with a gallon. 1965, too, only differed in a slight surplus of blue baby clothes and a slightly larger shortage of pink, owing to a particularly inventive set of wrenchings baby Danielle managed rather too early for her romper-suit's good. From there on, though, things changed, because people changed. People reacted differently to a clever girl, in the late 60s, than they did to a clever boy. And the world began to realize exactly how powerful the mind of a tiny child could be.
Language after language, skill after skill, belief after belief fell before her like trees before a hurricane of synapses, and the hurricane's path takes Miss, later Doctor, Danielle Jackson right to UC Berkeley. She's about as welcome as the hurricane would have been. Perhaps less so, given the drought in California that year. It isn't her fault, though. She's just different, and she doesn't know why. It's all the particle's fault. She doesn't know that, either, which is unusual for Doctor Jackson.
*** *** ***
Part 2. XY.
A butterfly flaps its wings. Oh, fine, it's a butterfly, if it makes you feel better. The particle from the Chinese nuclear test falls differently, because a butterfly flapped its wings at the right time, making the particle spin slightly so that its path causes a pigeon to develop a carcinoma deep in its tiny brain. A carcinoma that would have been terminal had it not been flattened by a rushing car careening towards hospital nine months later to deposit a tiny baby into the world. Also in this world, Millicent B. Wentworth's husband Danforth is less stressed and doesn't shout at Millicent, which doesn't cause a sudden spike in hormones, which means that baby Jennifer Sarah Elizabeth Wentworth doesn't need a prescription of fluoxetine in 1998 for moderate depression that she doesn't have.
Mrs Barbara Johnson has a much wider selection of pink clothes for her new baby grand-daughter, too, which means that baby Johnson doesn't develop a lifelong phobia of cartoon angels. Because, really, who has a phobia of cartoon angels?
Daniel's still Daniel, though, and most definitely not Danielle, except when some neotroglodyte who lives down the road decides that it's funny to turn people's names into their female variants. Daniel's irritated, but not irritated enough to throw the Mandarin grammar at the boy. Or when his mother catches him playing dress-up with a caftan and a mop. She doesn't want to admit that, for the briefest of moments that late October day, she thought that he really did look like a girl.
It happens the same way in LING102, when the barely pubescent Danny Jackson pipes up in a lecture and the elderly Russian professor turns around from the board and mutters, "кто ета?", because none of the girls in the class are sitting in that direction, so it must be that precocious Jackson child, except that suddenly he has longer hair, except that he doesn't, and mightn't it be a good idea to go a little lighter on the водка tonight, ваня, because the кафе here isn't as strong as the кафе back home in владивосток, and he's not likely to be making his way back there any time soon, is he?
And every so often, Cameron Mitchell turns round and blinks, too. Because, as he slams Daniel up against the wall and shoves his cock into Daniel's ass, or spreads his fingers across Daniel's lower back, pressing him down into the noisily sprung bed, he catches a whiff of distinctly female hormones and scent, and doesn't know why. Or, at least, he wouldn't know why if he could actually detect the differences in the hormones and pheromones themselves. It's all the particle's fault. He doesn't know that, either, which is not particularly unusual for Colonel Mitchell.
After all, you can't shoot invisible particles.