Not Quite Right, Conclusion

Timeship *Atlantis* Logs
NOT QUITE RIGHT (conclusion) by Walter Chmara

From the lead Orion vessel’s point of view, a strange-looking craft faded
in view from out of nowhere. It fired a beam of energy directly at them before
fading out again.
“Damage to our main engine!” cried a subordinate. “Interstellar drive is
inoperative!”
“Switch to secondary drive,” ordered the leader of this fleet. “Maintain
course toward the planet. Somehow, they can hide their ships until they fire,
which gives them away. Gunner, do your best to vaporize these devils when they
become visible.”

“Lead vessel has dropped to sublight velocity,” reported Krag. “Locking
phasers onto the engines of the next ship.”
“Fire when ready,” ordered the commodore.

Once again, *Atlantis* became visible long enough to blast the next
Orion’s engines. But as this happened, the leader’s ship fired one of their nuclear
missiles. As another Orion ship’s engines were disabled, Krag spotted the
projectile heading for them.
“Get us back under cloak, now!” cried the commodore, when he saw that
the *Atlantis* was still unphased and visible to the enemy.
“Trying, sir!” cried Antonia. “Response time on my console has dropped!
She’s acting sluggish, suddenly!”
“I can’t raise the shields!” warned Krag.
*The shields are on the same alternating circuit as the interphasing
cloak!* Antonia knew. *If that burning smell under my console means what I
think it does, we are all about to die!*
“Warp one, then! Get us out of range!” ordered the commodore. “Target
incoming missile and destroy it!”
As Antonia’s finger hit the ‘engage’ icon, she watched it fizzle out and turn
black. Did the command reach the engines? She watched the missile bearing
down on them on the main viewer.
She gasped and stood up, crossing her forearms in front of her face as
though the projectile had been personally aimed at her. Her mind lashed out
instinctively. Then, it felt like something clubbed her on the head, and she lost
consciousness.

Antonia opened her eyes. She was on a biobed in sickbay.
“How do you feel?” asked the doctor.
“Numb…and a little confused.”
“You’ve been unconscious for almost two hours,” said Zhivago.
“Apparently when your station controls started failing you, you took it upon
yourself to telekinetically divert a missile that would’ve otherwise surely
pulverized this ship. In doing so you sustained a form of feedback trauma to that
area of your brain. I’ve given you a local anesthetic to block the pounding
headache you would be otherwise having right now. The rest of us appreciate
what you’ve done on our behalf, but I won’t mince words with you. The damage to
your mind may be quite severe. I have you on a kironide infuser, which seems to
be doing you some good, but it will take some time to understand what has
happened to you. In the meantime, I need to ask you to refrain from attempting
any more telekinesis for a little while.”
Antonia gingerly nodded her agreement. “I assume the ship is out of
danger?”
“If you mean, are we still battling Orions? No. The warp drive finally did
kick in, and whisked us to a safe distance. As far as I know, our interphasing
cloak is still down. But four Orion marauders made it past us to continue on to
Earth. They have probably arrived by now, and only Onji knows how corrupted
the timeline is now.”

“Near as I can tell,” said Zam Poldegin, the Zakdorn engineer, who was on
the bridge holding the blacked HTTHXP434 unit, “the interphasing cloak was
designed for Starfleet standard power draw. Our bio-neural system gave it too
much too quickly. Phasing in, phasing out, phasing in, phasing out. It couldn’t
cope, so blooey! Somebody at Mayark didn’t do his job properly.”
“We’ll worry about who’s responsible when we get home,” vowed the
commodore, controlling his irritation. “Have you corrected the problem?”
“I’ve already replaced this unit with an addition of my own — an inhibitor
fuse. While it should prevent a repeat performance in a similar situation, there’s
no way of being sure what side effects we will experience until we try it out for
real. We’ve mixed two new systems which the drawing board said were
compatible, and clearly all the bugs *aren’t* out, yet. This is what you get when
you test things out in the field instead of in a lab, where they ought to be tested.”
“Very good. Keep running your new configuration on the simulator until
you *are* reasonably sure you know what the outcome will be in a similar
situation. I need to know that all my equipment can be depended upon in a pinch.
So far, it has not shown me that, and it nearly cost us all our lives. And Lieutenant
Antonia may have been permanently crippled because of it. Go.”
“Aye, Commodore,” the engineer said, as she disappeared behind the
turbolift doors.
“Lieutenant Saar, get us back under cloak and compute a pinpoint warp
jump. I want to be back beside the *Challenger*, right now.”

The *Atlantis* found the space shuttle *Challenger* tumbling out of
control in her orbit high above Earth. Her payload bay doors had been ripped
open, and the contents — gone. Sensors indicated no life signs aboard .
“Bodies?” asked the commodore.
“None,” replied Krag. “It is consistent with Orion pirating techniques of
the time. They would attach flying airlocks to the hull of an unarmed vessel, cut
their way in, then loot and kidnap everything of value. The Orion slave market
always considered people of exotic races to be worth a much higher price. And I
will wager no one in their sector has ever laid eyes on a human, before.”
“I want to know what the news services on Earth must be buzzing about,
right now,” said the commodore. “Assign someone to monitor those channels, and
keep me informed. All I can think about, right now, is mounting a few green
hides on my wall, as sick as that may sound. Lock on to whatever trails their ships
leave behind and follow them, warp seven.”

The trails led back to the three damaged marauders, which had been
emptied and abandoned, then they pointed a straight course for Rigel, their home
star. At warp seven, Andreyevich had every confidence they would catch up with
their quarry long before then. The question was, what exactly would they do when
that happened?
The crew didn’t have long to wait for the answer to that question.
“We are now within transporter range of the Orion fleet,” reported Saar.
“Our status is still cloaked.”
“No indications that any of them are aware of us,” added Krag.
“Hmm,” said the commodore. “Maybe this will be easy. Krag, scan each
ship for human life signs. The minute you locate them, lock on and beam them
aboard.”
“Acknowledged,” responded Krag. In seconds, he grunted. “The hulls of
these ships have something in them which is interfering with our scans. While I
can make out individual life signs, it is impossible to determine which are
specifically human.”
“Okay,” said Andreyevich resignedly. “So it’s going to be hard. No matter.
Computer. Who on board this vessel can speak the Orion language?”
The computer answered instantly. “Only one crewman. Commodore Ivan
Andreyevich.”
The commodore nodded and looked to Casey. “Then I will have to beam
over to each ship, myself, to establish where the hostages are.”
“As the captain of this ship, your first duty is to be on the bridge,” Casey
reminded him.
“Orions aren’t stupid, Commander,” said Andreyevich. “They will be able
to tell instantly when someone is speaking to them with electronic aid. As the
only available crewman who doesn’t need a universal translator in case I am
stopped and questioned, that makes my first duty to be over there.”
“As your first officer,” she continued unfazed, “I am compelled to tell you
that there is a reasonable alternative that fits the bill — which does not require you
to leave your post, sir.”
“And what would that be?”

Gerard, Krag, Casey and Zam were in transporter room one. Zam was
operating the console.
“Got one!” said Zam.
Casey touched her insignia. “Commodore, Zam believes she has detected
one of the life signs aboard the nearest marauder as being isolated.”
“Beam that person aboard, Commander,” returned Andreyevich.
“Energize,” ordered Casey, nodding.
A humanoid form took shape at pad one. It solidified into a green-skinned
man, with a very startled look on his face. Gerard was rather hoping it would have
been one of the Challenger astronauts, but that was not their luck.
The Orion looked about himself in a startled manner. He froze when he
saw Krag aiming a phaser at him.
“What is this?” demanded the Orion in Standard, thanks to the universal
translator, though his lips had formed the question in his own language.
“You are our prisoner,” Krag told him. “I will take you to where you will
be interrogated. Cooperate, and I might not even injure you, though I make
no promises, since I enjoy inflicting pain. Move!”
The Orion jumped at that last syllable, but he presented no argument to
Krag. He marched obediently in the direction Krag had indicated.
Casey waited until Krag and his prisoner left the room before she
exploded into laughter. “I said it before, and I’ll say it again. A Nausicaan security
chief is a great idea!”
Zam, however, was still busy at the transporter console. “Scanning the
Orion’s topological data from the pattern buffer into the matter stream modifier
unit. Transfer complete. Modifier ready and standing by.”
Gerard took a deep breath, stepping up onto the transporter platform.
“That’s my cue. It’s show time.”
“Break a leg, David,” Casey told him. “I still think I should be the one to
go, since it was my idea.”
Gerard gave her a wry smile. “Somehow, I just can’t picture you
convincing anybody that you’re a guy, even with this thing’s help. I’m ready.”
“Maybe next mission, we’ll see. But thanks for the compliment, anyway.
Energize.”

Gerard materialized inside an empty cabin on one of the Orion ships. His
uniform had been rearranged into the same outfit their Orion prisoner wore. After
a quick look around at the strange trappings, he said, “*Atlantis*, are you
receiving my transmission?”
The commodore’s voice came through his aural implant with no problem.
“*Splendidly. Both audio and visually. In fact, I can tell you that the ornament on
the wall ahead of you is a Kzinti weapon, of all things.*”
“Great,” responded Gerard. “So these pirates even pirate *other* pirates.”
“*Let us take a look at you, so we can check your makeup.*”
Gerard watched his hands — *green* hands — reaching for his
communicator, which he plucked off his clothing and turned around to gaze into
it.

Back on the bridge of the *Atlantis*, Gerard’s new face peered at the crew
from the main viewscreen.
Casey had just popped out of the turbolift, and gasped at what she saw. “Is
that Lieutenant Gerard?”
“It’s me,” said the strange green face, with some humor. “How do I look?”
“Exactly like the fellow Krag has strapped down in the brig!” she
answered. “How do you feel?”
“Like a kid in a Halloween costume, but otherwise fine.”
“Another life sign is approaching your location,” warned Saar.
“It’s the moment of truth, Gerard,” said the commodore. “All you have to
do is repeat whatever I say to you, and you should be fine.”

“I’d cross my fingers, except I don’t know what that might mean in Orion!”
said Gerard, replacing his communicator where he hoped it wouldn’t attract too
much attention, yet still give the bridge crew a clear view.
Another Orion male entered the cabin.
“Tel hah no fah naget sel for napa hest,” he said to Gerard.
“*Fum nagah sokai pah diel*,” said the commodore’s voice in his ear.
“Fum nagah sokai pah diel,” Gerard repeated to the newcomer.
“Kao,” said the stranger, who for a moment looked like he was going to
turn to go back out, when he stopped short and turned to face him again with a
strange look. “Komelvah navu sim?”
“*Clear your throat like there is a frog in it and say ‘Kao”!*” urged the
commodore’s voice. “*Damn! We forgot to modify your vocal chords!*”
“Harrumph!,” said Gerard, hoping he didn’t just say something stupid in
Orion. “Kao.”
The other man sneered and left the room.
“*That was a close one!*” said the commodore’s voice. “*Listen carefully,
Gerard. Krag says the man you are impersonating is the captain of this particular
ship. This is good news. You’ll be able to go wherever you want without raising
too much suspicion. Just be certain you don’t smile or nod at anyone. Those are
two things Orion males don’t usually do.”
*Now he tells me,* thought Gerard. “Acknowledged. Here I go.”
Gerard made his way out of the room. As he wandered the corridors, he
saw Orions at work in various places. Some took a moment to make what he
gathered was a gesture of respect before continuing with what they were doing.
“Seems kind of crowded on board,” he mumbled when no one was
looking.
“*Don’t forget that these four ships had to absorb the crews of the three we
disabled,*” the commodore’s voice reminded him. “*This class of vessel had no
brig per se, otherwise it would be a simple matter of beaming out whoever might
be in one. You’ll have to poke your nose into every cabin on that ship to be certain
there are no humans aboard. Casey is monitoring communications, and I am
listening in on the conversations of the Orions you are passing for any clue as to
their whereabouts. We won’t need to worry about the *Challenger* payload,
though. Zam says she has found it, and we can beam it back at any time. I’d prefer
to wait until your recon mission is over.”
“Understood,” Gerard continued his inspection.

When Gerard had combed the entire ship, no human hostages were found.
Andreyevich ordered him back to the *Atlantis*.
“Loading Lieutenant Gerard’s pattern into the modifier,” said Zam, at the
console in transporter room one. “Pattern loaded.”
“Energize,” ordered Casey.
A shimmering pillar of light on the platform coalesced into Gerard.
“How do I look?” he asked.
Casey gave him a “turn around” gesture. As he did so, she looked him
over.
“You seem to be back to normal,” she told him. “Feeling any aftereffects?”
“No.”
Casey touched her com badge. “Casey to bridge. Lieutenant Gerard is
back aboard and seems to be fine. The modifier, at least, seems to be a success.”
“Well done, everyone,” said the commodore’s voice. “We’ll try the same
procedure on the lead vessel, next. Casey, when Zhivago is through with the
captain’s mind-wipe, return him to his cabin and report to me when it’s done.”
“Aye, sir,” came her reply.

Gerard was more successful when he impersonated the captain of the lead
Orion vessel. This time, the modifier changed his vocal chords to suit his new
persona, and he had an easier time of traversing this ship, as it seemed a little less
crowded than the previous one. He was also more successful when it came to
locating the *Challenger* astronauts. This became apparent on the bridge of the
*Atlantis* at the same time as it became apparent to him.
All seven were being kept in the same room, seated on the floor with their
hands tied behind their backs. There were two Orion guards standing in their
midst, who were interrogating their prisoners with their own electronic translator.
They were demanding information from the hapless crew on the invisibility
device which had cost them nearly half their fleet. The commodore instructed
Gerard in what to say in order to dismiss these interrogators. When he was alone
with them, Gerard addressed the hostages.
“This may come as a bit of a shock to you folks,” Gerard told them in
plain English. “But I’m not who I appear to be. I’m from a ship sent here to rescue
you.”
There was a moment of stunned silence among the prisoners.
“This whole day has been one shock after the other,” said one of the
women, with the name “Resnik” on her suit.
“It’s almost over,” said Gerard. “Brace yourselves. The method we’re going
to use to get you out of here is a little disconcerting to people who’ve never
experienced it before, but it’s quick. Are you ready?
The humans all nodded.
“*Atlantis*, are you able to lock onto the seven people in front of me?”
asked Gerard.
“*Positive lock*,” returned Zam’s voice in his head.
“Energize,” he ordered. He watched the astronauts dematerialize. He
probably should have warned them about Zam, too. They had never seen a
Zakdorn before, of course. Oh, well.
He knew there would be a slight delay, while Zam would be recalibrating
the device to restore him as it would bring him back. He just hoped no one would
burst in here, wanting to know what happened to the prisoners, in the meantime!

Back on board the *Atlantis*, the *Challenger* people were looking
around in awe at the interior of transporter room one.
“Yes, I imagine it is quite impressive to first-timers,” said a reasonably
normal-looking man to them in a pleasant way, even though he was standing
beside someone who looked far from normal in there eyes. “Rest assured, you are
among friends now, and are on your way home. My name is Sept Midron, ship’s
counselor, and my colleague, here, who beamed you over, is our chief engineer,
Zam Poldegin. You must have a lot of questions, and I have a lot to discuss with
you, as well. Please follow me to my office.”
“Hello!” Zam completed the setup for Gerard’s return, while the group
filed out of the room after Sept.

Everything went according to plan. Gerard returned safely inside his own
skin again, and the commodore ordered the beam out of the *Challenger’s*
payload to a cargo hold on the *Atlantis*.
“There is still the problem of the Orions knowing about Earth in this time
period,” Casey told the commodore on the bridge.
The commodore nodded his agreement. “We’ve been equipped with a
computer virus that seeks out and destroys anachronisms stored in known
computer systems. It’s called the T-virus. Lieutenant Saar, find a version of the
T-virus which is compatible with Orion technology of this date and transmit it to
each ship. The virus will send an acknowledgment signal back from each one
when its work is done.”
“Aye, sir,” Saar’s fingers tapped the console.
Gerard emerged from the turbolift. “Requesting permission to resume
post, sir.”
“Granted,” smiled the commodore. “Well done, Lieutenant. Counselor
Midron reports that the *Challenger* crew is in good condition despite their
ordeal. They are, right now, being briefed on the whole situation.”
“What’s our next step, sir?” asked Casey.
“Well, the T-virus wipe of their computer data is only one prong of the
attack. We have already relieved them of every bit of evidence they had that there
was something to exploit here. When they get home with three ships lost and
nothing to show for it except stories about an invisible spaceship, they’ll be lucky
if all they get is discredited. Orions love a good fight only when there is a
reasonable chance of winning. I don’t think they’ll be back for a long while. What
troubles me is what they were doing way over here in the first place.”
“Yes, that is very odd,” agreed Gerard. “But there is another more
immediate problem facing you. We have seven American astronauts aboard, who
were supposed to be killed 72 seconds after their ship lifted off. By now, no
doubt, the Earth is aware that they have been captured by something
extraterrestrial.”
“Maybe not,” countered the commodore.
Gerard was incredulous. “How could they not, sir?”
“For shame, lieutenant. You are the student of history here. How did the
major world governments handle UFO incidents during this era?”
“Generally with denial and cover-up, sir.”
“Precisely. We will make a small backward time jump to just after the
moment we found the *Challenger* adrift. We’ll put the shuttle back to rights,
crew included. Memories cleansed, of course. End of mission, we return home.”
It took a moment for what the commodore was implying to sink into
Gerard’s brain.
“Then… you are going to allow this timeline to proceed. You are going to
allow the *Challenger* astronauts to live.”
The commodore nodded solemnly. “I don’t know what it was that gave you
the bad feeling that you experienced viewing the *Challenger* disintegrate via
the Guardian. But sometimes a feeling is all we have to go on. You yourself said
everything fits better in the timeline in which they live. Unless you tell me that it
is imperative to sentence these people to what amounts to an execution, I would
prefer that they go back to their loved ones.”
Gerard felt his heart soar upon hearing this, as well as a grateful sting of
tears in his eyes.
“Aye, sir,” he smiled softly, as he returned to his post.
“T-virus is reporting success from each Orion vessel, Commodore,”
reported Saar. “It is now apparently wiping itself out.”
“As it should,” replied the commodore. “Take us back to Earth, warp
three. Kollos, please report to the bridge.”

*Mission log of the timeship *Atlantis*, stardate minus three one zero one
two point three. Final entry. Commodore Ivan Andreyevich recording. After
returning the American astronauts to their restored ship, we are now on course
for deep space, preparing to return home. I am confident I have made the proper
decision concerning them, but that remains to be seen upon our arrival to our
home era.
I have learned much about what this particular ship and crew is capable of
during this mission — as well as some limitations. Hopefully, future missions will
work a little more smoothly as the bugs are all worked out. I am impressed by
how everyone in this crew carried out their responsibilities, and would not
hesitate to call upon their services again. Each is anxious to get back to what they
doing before I so rudely interrupted them. Lieutenant Antonia will apparently
recover completely from the telekinetic trauma she has suffered. Zhivago says she
is already moving small objects around in sickbay. Lieutenant Gerard plans to
return to his work with the Guardian. I’ve already told him that I’m interested in
hearing what it may tell him about what we have done. As for Lieutenant
Commander Casey, I hope we can still remain friends even after I demote her…*

“You want to demote me?”
The commodore ordered Casey to his cabin in order to take back the pips
he had awarded to her at the beginning of the mission.
“I don’t *want* to. It is something I must do. In order to have you as my
second-in-command, I had to field-promote you. Being that this was a secret
mission, it would be difficult to justify to Captain DeSoto why you came back
with a higher rank.”
The commodore held out his hand, palm up.
Casey hesitated.
Andreyevich made a “come, come” gesture with his fingers.
Sighing, Casey removed the pips, placing them in his waiting hand.
“I was just beginning to like it, too,” she said.
The commodore smiled at her, as he jiggled them in his hand. “Not to
worry. I’ll put them in a safe place until you report back for the next mission.
Unless, of course, you earn them outside of the DTI framework.”

Gerard was at his station at this time, reviewing the visual data recorded
by the ship during the mission. It was so different from what he had seen so many
times before. This time, the space shuttle lifted off successfully. Andreyevich had
been proven right, according to the radio transmissions the *Atlantis* had
monitored during the mission. Despite the bizarre data received by Mission
Control and the communications blackout, no big deal had been made in the
major media. The world at large had been spared the knowledge that anything
unusual had happened in space at all. Though some fuzzy images of glowing
ellipsoids would probably turn up in a few tabloid newspapers.
He heard spontaneous applause erupt on the bridge, as Antonia made her
triumphant return to her post.
“Hey, hero,” said Saar. “Welcome back!”
Antonia took a bow and smugly sat down. “Thank you. Everyone. And
Saar, the word I believe you want is ‘heroine’.”
“Ah,” responded Saar. “Gender distinction, again, right? Strange, how a
race that claims both sexes as being equal will still find insult in even being
referred to with the wrong pronoun.”
“Saar, I just got over one headache. Don’t give me another one, okay?
And, you, historian,” she called over to Gerard. “What are you watching? I
understood the mission’s practically over.”
“Something still isn’t quite right,” said Gerard, looking over the new image
of the *Challenger* on the launchpad.
“What?” asked Antonia.
“I’m not sure,” said Gerard. Then something caught his eye.
He zoomed the image into the area of the shuttle’s booster which had the
problem in the previous timeline. He enhanced that area as much as the
equipment allowed. There was no mistake. Slightly, ever so slightly, there was a
perceptible wavering effect near the booster, which he highlighted.
“Computer, what is that?”
The computer answered in a flash. “Best probability suggests it is a
personal cloaking device.”
Gerard hit his com badge. “Gerard to Commodore Andreyevich.”

The commodore had Gerard transfer this discovery to his personal viewer
in his cabin. After seeing it himself, he ordered a course change back to earth, and
another time jump back to stardate -31013.5. He deleted the words “final entry”
from his last logging, and handed Casey back her rank pips.

Krag and a security detail stood ready in transporter room one, when the
commodore ordered the lock on and beam up of whoever it was that was
monkeying around with the *Challenger*.
The pattern in the buffer was modified to deactivate the intruder’s
cloaking device and any weaponry the intruder may have possessed. Then the
intruder was allowed to form on the pad.
It looked like a human male in some sort of white uniform, which included a
black hood which covered his entire head except for the eyes. He held something
in his arms which may have been a weapon, or at least some kind of a tool. He
looked at Krag and the other members of his security team, who all had their
phasers trained on him.
“Don’t move,” warned Krag. “You are under arrest.”
“What’s the charge?” asked the stranger.
“Suspicion of temporal sabotage,” smirked Krag.
“Well. The worst accusation left on Federation books, eh? I am in deep,
deeeeeep trouble.”
Krag didn’t appreciate the stranger’s unserious tone. “Identify yourself!”
“I believe you are required to do that first, my Nausicaan friend. You are
the arresting officer.”
“I am Krag, security officer of the DTI timeship *Atlantis*. Now you.”
“Call me the Tempus Fugitive, or TF for short. I know this will probably
ruin your day, but much as I’d enjoy being your guest, I really need to be
elsewhere right now. My apologies for leaving you now, but something tells me
we will be bumping into each other again.”
With that, the stranger disappeared in an effect that was much quicker
than their standard transporter.

Later, the senior staff met in the briefing room.
“Somehow, this Tempus Fugitive fellow managed to also abscond with his
data pattern from the transporter buffer, as well,” Zam was saying. “We can’t even
reconstruct him on the holodeck.”
“For whatever it’s worth, the *Challenger* has lifted off again without a
hitch,” added Casey. “We can’t even be sure if he was repairing the O-ring in the
ship’s booster — or did we simply keep him from damaging it?”
“So,” mused the commodore. “All we know about TF is that he is
definitely a player at this game. He recognizes a Nausicaan when he sees one and
understands Federation temporal law, which suggests he is not of this time.”
“I think the personal cloaking device he has gave *that* away,” said Krag.
“That and the fancy transporter he used.”
“Not necessarily,” spoke up Gerard. “In my work with the Guardian, I’ve
had to learn a great deal about the missions of James Kirk. He has somewhat of a
notorious reputation as a temporal violator among certain circles in the DTI.
Anyway, it was during one particular time journey back to Earth in the 1960′s that
he encountered a human of that time who had access to that kind of technology,
which baffled even Kirk’s engineer. The explanation this human gave Kirk was
that he was a descendant of humans taken from Earth by an advanced unknown
race, and trained to be returned among the people of Earth as an adult to help
steer humanity off of its path of self-destruction. In fact, history records that this
fellow, named Gary Seven, and his assistant, Roberta Lincoln had many
adventures which, in hindsight, we can now say they are two unsung heroes who
have saved this world many times over.”
“Hmm,” mused the commodore. “Whoever this advanced race is, they
seem to have evolved a more practical and humane philosophy than our own
Prime Directive. Does history also say if Mister Seven was still alive in the
1980′s?”
“Unless I’m mistaken, I believe he lived until the mid nineties, sir,”
answered Gerard.
“Then we should pay him a visit. If anyone might be able to give us a clue
about this “Tempus Fugitive,” it may be Mister Seven.”

When Casey materialized at the door of Seven’s base of operations in New
York City, she was dressed in the fashion of the day, so as not to stand out from
the crowd.
The sign on the door said “Webber Encyclopedia Research.” That was
Seven’s cover organization. She knocked on the door and waited for a response.
“Come in,” invited a woman’s voice.
Upon entering, Casey discovered the woman at a desk, pretending to be
the receptionist. She was blonde with suspicious eyes. The placard on the desk
proclaimed “Ms. Lincoln.” This was, in reality, Seven’s partner. An ordinary
human with extraordinary intelligence, and legendary loyalty to her boss.
“May I help you?” asked Lincoln, absently playing with a pencil in her left
hand.
“I need to speak with Mr. Seven.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“I’m afraid not. But it is very important that I see him.”
“No one sees Mr. Seven without an appointment. He is rather busy now,
so the earliest I can schedule you is sometime next week…”
Casey sighed. “Let’s just skip the bovine excreta and get to the point. In
1968, you and he encountered humans from the future who interfered in Seven’s
sabotage of the launch of an orbital nuclear platform. Since they returned to the
future, you and he have had several interesting adventures which I could list to
you, verbatim. Do you really want me to?”
Lincoln smirked. “Who are you?”
“My name is Shelly Casey. I’m from the twenty-fourth century,
investigating tampering with the space shuttle *Challenger* which was launched
under a hour ago. In my timeline, the *Challenger* exploded seventy-three
seconds after liftoff, but that has somehow been prevented in this timeline. We
are charged with the responsibility of protecting history, and in order to do that,
we need to know which timeline is the correct one. We believe Mr. Seven may
have information that will help us to determine that.”
Lincoln put her pencil down. She had a very cynical look on her face. “I
assume you can prove everything you say.”
Casey nodded. “If it will help speed things up. Casey to *Atlantis*. Two to
beam up.”
The next thing Lincoln knew, she was standing in an alcove of a
completely different room. There was a strange-looking person operating a
console ahead of her.
Casey was standing beside her. “Go on. Touch everything. I want you to
convince yourself that this is no trick or illusion.”
“Oh, I’ve seen enough out-of-the-ordinary things in my life that I’ve
learned to trust my eyes,” Lincoln replied, slowly turning around and slyly
withdrawing what looked like a pen from a hidden pocket. “All this shows me is
that you have teleport technology. How do I know that you’re some kind of time
police? Maybe you want to change history to your liking. And maybe killing Gary
will accomplish that.”
“Don’t be absurd. We only want to ask him some questions, and then we’ll
be on our way,” insisted Casey.
Lincoln’s pen flicked out two small twinkling spheres while she concealed
it in her hand. “Prove it.”
Casey was losing her patience. “So how exactly would you like me to do
that?”
“Can you give me more details of your mission? More information about
yourselves?”
“Look, I only exposed you to *this* much because I know it’s not new to
you. Any more, and I’m violating our highest noninterference law.”
“I had a feeling you’d say something like that,” Lincoln pressed a button
on her pen, and she vanished in apparently the same way that the Tempus
Fugitive did!

Roberta Lincoln stepped out from behind a false wall inside the office
back in New York.
“Beta Five, where was I taken from?”
A feminine, yet metallic voice answered her. “An interdimensionally
phased vessel of indeterminate origin in synchronous orbit directly above this
location.”
“Could it be Omegan?”
“Probability rates at fifty percent.”
Lincoln rolled her eyes. “Great. Maybe yes, maybe no. That’s a big help. I
need time to think. Put up a teleport screen around this location. They might try to
get me back there.”
“A teleport screen will also prevent supervisor 194 from returning from
his current assignment.”
“That can’t be helped right now.”

Commodore Andreyevich was visibly sweating when Casey reported
Lincoln’s disappearance to him in his ready room.
“Zam says the transport effect was just like the one used by the Tempus
Fugitive,” she told him.
“Which opens up the possibility that it is the same model of transporter at
least, or even the same exact machine at most,” said the commodore.
“If that’s the case, Tempus Fugitive may be in league with Seven. Hell, he
might even *be* Seven,” continued Casey.
Let’s hope not. But we must make certain of it. We know where their base
is. Did she return there?”
“Zam almost locked back on her, but lost her signal. She might have
beamed to some other location, but one thing’s certain. There’s a sophisticated
transporter shield around that office, now. We can’t get through it.”
*I’m just a Starfleet salt,* thought Andreyevich to himself. *And I thought
this was going to be a simple observation mission. Good thing I did come loaded
for bear. This is going to be more complicated than anyone bargained for.*

“Beta Five, is there any way I can eliminate that vessel as a threat
*without* costing anyone aboard any permanent injury?” asked Lincoln, pacing
back and forth in front of the computer’s interface console.
“Computing,” it answered, its thinking processes kicking into overdrive.
“There are four ways currently available to you.”
“Give me the details of each way.”

The Red Alert klaxon began to blare again on board the *Atlantis*,
bringing the commodore and first officer to the bridge in a hurry.
“Report,” ordered the commodore.
“Something is happening outside of the ship, sir,” explained Saar. “I’m not
exactly sure what that is yet, but it is affecting the attitude controls.”
“It’s as if something has us by the interphasing cloak and is pulling us
down to the planet by it,” added Antonia. “Bizarre as that sounds.”
The commodore knew that as long as the cloak was running, they did not
physically exist in the normal universe. Nothing here should have been able to
touch them. Unless…
“There must be something else in I-space besides us,” concluded the
commodore aloud.
“But our sensors have all been calibrated to perceive normal space,” said
Casey.
“We can’t decloak, and Zam won’t be able to recalibrate before whatever
has us does what it wants with us,” said the commodore. “Fine, then. Go to Blue
Alert. Antonia, prepare the ship for landing. We will decloak when are below the
radar horizon. Where exactly are we being pulled to?”
“Somewhere in the middle of the north Atlantic Ocean, assuming we
continue on this path,” said Antonia.
Casey’s eyebrows went up. “Is this ship capable of landing on water?”

Supervisor 194, code named Gary Seven, was pinned down by gunfire in a
Brazilian jungle. He had followed up on clues left behind by two Omegans he had
bumped into several times since he first came to live on Earth, and that led him to
his current predicament. They were a wily pair, and always had managed to elude
his grasp in the past. There were also some hairy moments in his dealings with
them in which he barely escaped with his own life. This time looked like it was
going to be a case of the latter. He hoped.
His companion, Isis, had scouted on ahead in the form of a tropical bird.
She hadn’t returned in hours, and he was beginning to worry about her. Isis was
not a native to this planet at all, even though she had lived here just as long as he
did. She had the ability to transform herself into a reasonably passable imitation
of any other form of life she had gotten to know thoroughly, and over the years
they had worked together she had grown quite cocky about it.
*Almost reckless*, Seven thought. *In the jungle, a small brightly-colored
bird may not stand out to the eyes of man or Omegan, but she will to every
hungry beast that runs, flies, or slithers. I hope she’s okay.*
His fears came to an end when he heard the flap of wings and a welcome
telepathic voice in his head. *Gary, you should know by now that I’m always
okay.*
“You can’t blame me for worrying, sometimes, though You are not
indestructible.”
Another hail of bullets zinged through the air, just over his head.
*Look at it this way. If I was, life would be a lot less interesting. The
Omegan base is about half a kilometer due north. If we head west, we can put
some distance between us and the snipers, circle around clockwise and surprise
them from the north.*
Seven took out his pocket audio recorder, the one he was using to keep a
vocal diary of this mission. He had removed the chip which held his notes,
popped in an empty one, and recorded a few minutes’ worth of
machine gun sound effects. Then he turned up the volume and set it to continuous
play.
“Let’s go,” he told Isis, leaving the device behind. She flew off in the
direction she had indicated, and he followed, staying close to the ground.
Several hours later, when one of the snipers discovered that it was a small
machine that had kept them all back all that time, he put a few bullets through it
in disgust. His superiors would definitely not be amused.

Isis was waiting for Seven just a few meters north of the Omegan bunker,
back in human form and with her back against a tree. When he joined her, he
tossed her a spare servo, which she activated with a flick. Hers sent out a
detonating signal which would jar any explosive booby traps ahead of them,
prematurely.
A mine went off just in front of the north entrance. Another explosion
could be heard inside the bunker. Seven and Isis nodded to each other, then
stormed the entrance.
The inside was a shambles. Everything was on fire and smoke was rapidly
filling up inside. Quickly, the two of them performed a quick search before the
heat and smoke forced them back outside, coughing.
Seven noticed that Isis had found a piece of paper, which she was reading.
It caused her to burst into laughter. Noticing his inquisitive look, she passed it to
him.
It said, “Not today, my friends.” It was signed with a small Greek letter –
an omega.

The *Atlantis* was now rapidly approaching the surface of the ocean.
“Deploy aqualanding gear,” ordered the commodore. “On my mark, drop
interphasing cloak and ease her down as gently as you can. …Mark!”
Antonia acknowledged the orders.
Underneath the ship, several pontoon-like projections clicked into place,
as the vessel itself sprang into visibility, gliding only meters above the water.
“All hands, prepare for splashdown!” cried the commodore, as the ship
was suddenly assaulted by atmospheric pressure on all sides.
The ship’s thrusters slowed their descent to a manageable speed. The
pontoons began skimming the water, showering white spray in their wake.
Everyone continued to hold their breath until all forward motion came to a
dead stop. The main viewer showed a gently rising and falling horizon of blue
water. They were afloat.
“Andreyevich to all hands. Splashdown successful. Well done, everyone.”

“Unidentified space vessel has vanished from interspace,” reported the
Beta Five computer, back at Seven’s office in New York.
“Where is it, now?” asked Lincoln.
“Am no longer able to track.”
Lincoln sighed. She hoped she had done the right thing. She couldn’t wait
for Gary and Isis to get back from Brazil.
“All right. Return the drone from I-space, and let me know if Gary or Isis
calls in.”
“Am already in contact with 194.”
Roberta’s eyes widened. “Well, why didn’t you say so?”
“Contradiction of fact. I did say so two sentences ago.”
Now she was rolling her eyes. “Just put him on.”
Seven’s voice came rolling in, loudly and clearly. “Roberta, why are you
under teleport shield?”
“Gary, do you remember when we first met back in 1968? Those two guys
who said they came from a spaceship from the future?”
“Yes. The Vulcan and his commanding officer. Have they returned?”
“I’m not sure. Some woman teleported me to another place, possibly their
spaceship. They claim they are some sort of time police from the twenty-fourth
century. Specifically, she said the space shuttle launch today was supposed to
blow up after liftoff and it didn’t. They say they want to question you about that.
Beta Five says there’s a fifty-fifty chance that they are Omegans.”
“Beta Five,” asked Seven. “Where is this vessel now?”
“Am unable to track.”
” Uh…Gary?” came Lincoln’s hesitant voice. “I…had to make some kind of a
decision about them, sooo…”
Over in Brazil, Seven felt the beginning of a headache. His hand went to
his forehead. “What did you do?” he asked, not unkindly.
“Well…I sorta had Beta Five try to soft land them…in the ocean.”
There was silence for a long moment, then Seven’s voice said, “Beta Five,
drop the teleport screen and bring us home.”

Once Seven and Isis were back, Lincoln briefed them on all the details,
with the Beta Five computer filling in supplementary data.
“I know you did what you thought best, Roberta,” admonished Seven. “But
even on the chance that they were Omegans, they still deserve better than to
drown. We have had a few encounters with ones who were on our side, you
know.”
“Okay, smart guy,” was her retort. “What would you have done?”
“That’s become moot. The question is, what do we do now? Beta Five, has
any of the world’s communication channels mentioned any reference to sighting
this unknown craft?”
“Negative,” said the computer.
“Well that’s something, anyway. I want to take a look at them, myself, if
that is possible. Beta Five, I want you to locate for me any oceangoing vessel
near that splashdown point, preferably one that carries aircraft that I can borrow.
When you find it, set the teleport coordinates for me.”
“Ready,” said the Beta Five.
As Seven went to the teleport nook, Lincoln asked, “So, how did the
mission go, anyway?”
“Isis will fill you in,” he said, dematerializing.
Lincoln turned her attention to the dark haired “woman,” who merely
smiled back at her.

“The good news is,” reported Zam from engineering, “nothing was
damaged during the landing. Theoretically, we can lift off, recloak, and get back
into orbit at any time, though, as far as I know, a water liftoff has never actually
been attempted by one of these ships.”
“Understood,” acknowledged the commodore, on the bridge. “Actually,
this is not a bad situation at all. We can save enormous power by just floating
here out in the middle of nowhere. Who needs the cloak, when there is no one
here to see you? And with whoever brought us here thinking we’ve been
eliminated, we can resume our investigation.”
“That’s an assumption, Commodore,” said Gerard, at his post. “For all we
know, being brought here was just phase one. Phase two may be to sink us at any
moment. And how do we lift off without the cloak running? The whole world
would start tracking us. And if we engage it, that whatzit in I-space could seize us
again and continue to tow us who-knows-where.”
“Worrying about that is my job, David,” said the commodore, jovially.
“Do you see any signs of worry on this face?”
“…No, sir.”
“Excellent. That is because worrying is way down on the bottom of my list
of things that need accomplishing. Antonia, keep an eye on the sensors and steer
us way clear of the range of any other craft that may approach the vicinity. In the
meantime, I want to hear suggestions in the briefing room on how to reach Mister
Seven.”

Seven had appeared on the deck of an aircraft carrier on NATO
maneuvers a few hundred miles to the northeast of the *Atlantis* with his servo
set to temporarily paralyze certain voluntary nerve impulses from the brain. He
allowed himself to be apprehended and brought before the captain as a stowaway.
Once the servo had done its magic to the officers on the bridge, they were open to
any suggestions he cared to make. He suggested that the captain order a few
subordinates to take him up in a VTOL aircraft for a little spin towards the
southwest.

Commodore Andreyevich had been called back from the briefing room by
Antonia, who insisted that an aircraft was approaching too rapidly to move the
ship out of its sight. It was already on the screen when he emerged back on the
bridge. “Sensor data!”
“Vehicle is identified as a Bell-Boeing V-22, used by the military for
rescue operations,” reported Krag. “There are three men aboard. They are
transmitting a radio message. To us!”
“Let’s hear it,” sighed the commodore.
Attention U.S.S. *Atlantis*. Can you hear me?”
Andreyevich realized that the pilots must have read the ship’s ID on the
hull. “No response. Ready tractor beam. I want them brought inside the shuttle
bay as gently as we can.”
“Aye, sir,” acknowledged Krag. “Tractor beam standing by.”
The voice continued to speak. “If you can hear me, this is Seven. I
understand you have been looking for me.”
This stunned everyone on the bridge. Could it be true? Gary Seven had
come to them?
“The voiceprint does match what we have on file, sir,” reported Krag.
“Krag,” said the commodore. “Can you encase a radio transmission inside
of a laser beam and aim it at that aircraft, so that my response is only picked up
by them on this frequency? I don’t want whoever else may be monitoring to hear
it.”
“No problem, sir,” said Krag, touching a few icons. “Laser-focused
transmission ready.”
“Put me on.”
A sound effect signified the microphone was live, and the commodore
sent his message. “Standby, Mister Seven. We will be bringing your craft aboard
ours momentarily. On my signal, you will cut your engines. Understood?”
“Understood, *Atlantis*,” came the reply.

“Roberta understandably panicked,” Seven told Andreyevich in the
briefing room, later. “We’ve had some unpleasant experiences with the Omegans
since the last starship came here from the future almost twenty years ago. We
even had to appropriate some of their own technology in order to fight them.”
The V-22 was allowed to return to the carrier, when Seven assured
Andreyevich that the two men would not remember seeing the *Atlantis*, nor
even meeting Seven.
“You’re referring to the object she put into I-space which forced us down
here?” asked the commodore.
“Exactly. It was the best way she could think of to keep from being
teleported by you again without outrightly destroying you. I’m just glad your
vessel can float.”
“As are we,” agreed the commodore, with a grin. “Tell me, Mister Seven,
how is it that you were certain we weren’t Omegans?”
“I know them well. Roberta wouldn’t have been able to defeat you that
easily with one of their own weapons if you were. And not all of them have bad
intentions for the Earth, but the ones who do would never have hesitated to kill
her and ransack my base of operations rather than try to talk to her or enlist her
aid. Little things do add up to safe hunches. Now, it’s your turn, Commodore.
Roberta told me a little about what you want from me, but I’d like to hear the full
story now.”
Andreyevich took a deep breath and explained the entire *Challenger*
story to him, up to the appearance of the Tempus Fugitive.
“Well,” said Seven after absorbing it all in. “I can see why you suspected
me. All I can tell you is that I am not the one you’re looking for. If you have any
Vulcans aboard your ship, I will be happy to submit to a mind meld, for proof. I
haven’t tampered with a space shot since 1968.”
“That won’t be necessary,” said the commodore. “However, could you at
least point me in the right direction as to who this Tempus Fugitive might be?”
Seven shook his head. “He sounds most likely to have come from your
time. If he went to the trouble of implicating me to you, I would imagine it was
because he wanted you to waste your time with me, rather than interfere with
what he is doing now. A diversionary tactic.”
“For what?” nodded Andreyevich. “That’s what troubles me. Very well,
Mister Seven, I won’t keep you any longer from your current mission. I know how
vital it is that you capture the two Omegans who stole the computer component.”
Seven actually grinned. “So I get them this time, eh? Listen, I know you
can’t tell me everything you know, so I won’t ask. But maybe you can return the
favor and point *me* in the right direction. I lost track of both of them in Brazil,
and I don’t have any clue right now as to how to proceed.”
“I don’t know…”
“It is your history I’m trying to save,” Seven prompted.
Andreyevich’s expression didn’t change. “I hear Melbourne is lovely this
time of year.”
“Of course,” nodded Seven knowingly. “I understand. Thanks.”
He stood up, withdrawing his servo.
“One more thing, before you go…” added the commodore.
“Yes?”
“In three month’s time, you will be in the Soviet Union. Be sure to stay
away from the region north of Kiev on April 26th. You were probably going to,
anyway, but I am telling you this to be sure. If you think you’ve lived through
interesting times so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

When Seven returned to New York, Andreyevich ordered the *Atlantis* to
recloak and liftoff. The ship maneuvered brilliantly, and soon they were headed
away from Earth. At the turnaround point, the commodore ordered Kollos to time
jump them home about a month after they initially left. This would make it look
to everyone outside of the DTI that the *Atlantis* had been on a normal Starfleet
mission for that long.
As the ship was on final approach to spacedock back in the twenty-fourth
century, Casey turned in her pips to the commodore, while he dictated his final
log entry of the mission. Everyone aboard prepared to return to their previous
assignments, until called upon again to serve on this ship.
They safely docked. DTI specialists came aboard and began clearing
crewmembers for leave. Commodore Andreyevich congratulated each of his
department heads for a fine maiden voyage as they disembarked and cautioned
each one not to speak of the mission to anyone outside of the DTI. If called to
another secret temporal mission, he would definitely use them again. In no time,
*Atlantis* was empty, save for a few mysterious DTI operatives, and the
commodore.
Andreyevich readied his report for his shadowy superior. He was certain that the
DTI chief wouldn’t be very happy with the commodore’s decision to let the
averted disaster stand, but he was prepared to defend it tooth and nail when he
entered the black man’s office. Instead, he got an odd surprise.
“Welcome back, Commodore,” smiled the other man, behind his desk. “I
just finished reviewing the *Atlantis* data records of your mission. I knew you
could do it. I am glad you didn’t disappoint me.”
“May I ask to what you are referring, sir?”
“Why, the *Challenger* mission, of course. You successfully preserved
the timeline, *and* discovered the probable saboteur, despite some hairy
moments. It is a shame you didn’t learn more about this Tempus Fugitive. But
there will be other missions. Right now, *Atlantis* is being readjusted, so that the
bugs you found won’t be happening again. As a seasoned time traveler myself, I
can tell you these sort of missions get both easier and harder with every
assignment. Easier, in that you’ll soon be an old hand at it, and harder, in that with
every success you’ll be getting tougher assignments. And not only concerning
Earth history, either. Was there something you wanted to personally add, before I
close this file?”
“No, sir.”
In actuality, the commodore was astonished. He hadn’t expected this. Was
it some kind of test? *Did* he actually succeed in restoring a perverted timeline?
Or did he create a new one by saving the *Challenger* crew, only nobody here
knew it because they were all part of it?
He didn’t know. Only time would tell. If time did tell, that is.

Lieutenant Shelly Casey returned to her position aboard the *Hood*
wondering how fair it was for Starfleet to allow her to be drafted for these kind of
missions, get field promotions, then get busted down again when they no longer
needed her talents elsewhere (or elsewhen). The more she thought about it, the
more it angered her. It just wasn’t quite right.
When a shipmate jokingly referred to her as “Hot Cheeks,” she came
dangerously close to striking a fellow officer.

As for Lieutenant David Gerard, he relived the successful launch of
America’s first teacher in space via the Guardian of Forever, when he got his turn
with it. Had the crew of the *Atlantis* done the right thing? Who knew?
All *he* knew was that it felt right.

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