Not Quite Right

From 110021.3321@compuserve.com Sun Apr 27 17:30:25 1997
Date: Sat, 19 Apr 1997 00:59:13 -0400
From: WALTER CHMARA <110021.3321@compuserve.com>
To: “djtst18+@pitt.edu”
Subject: Timeship Atlantis series

Timeship *Atlantis* Logs – a new series set in the Star Trek universe. After
reading this “pilot” story carefully (both this part and the conclusion), I encourage
you to contribute your own *Atlantis* stories to this series. It is an experiment in
fan writer cleverness, so anything goes. It will be interesting to see what direction
you and others take this ship and crew.

“Not Quite Right” by Walter Chmara

“Commodore Andreyevich! Glad to see you could make it,” intoned the
unidentified black man, jovially, as he sat in the shadows behind his desk in the
dimly lit office.
“Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, sir,” responded the Russian in kind,
standing before the desk with his hands clasped in front. Both
men were similar in age, about fifty, with deep resonant voices. Whereas the
black man spoke with an accent reminiscent of the West Indies, the Russian
hardly had any accent whatsoever, and was proud of that. Most of his fellow
countrymen had a problem pronouncing certain sounds in English, which,
contrarily, came to him quite easily. The truth was he was gifted when it came to
vocal speech, as his service record amply proved. Andreyevich not only could
speak several Earth languages, but many Federation tongues, as well, without
electronic aid.
Andreyevich knew the man behind the desk was superior to him in rank.
What that rank was, was still a mystery to him. His name, too. But he understood
the reason for that very well. He just didn’t have any idea why this man
summoned him here.
“I will get right to the point, Commodore. We like your style. We want to
offer you command of a very special vessel. You will hand pick your crew, and
take that crew regularly on temporal sentry missions for the Federation.”
The Russian’s mouth dropped open. Temporal sentry missions. Time travel
was something he was not unfamiliar with, but certainly the people in the D.T.I.
could find somebody more experienced for these sort of missions.
“Why me, sir? I am just a Starfleet salt. Surely you have experts already in
your department who deserve this sort of advancement?”
The black man nodded. “And they are getting them, let me assure you. But we
have you in mind when it comes to assignments we feel are especially suited to
your talents and, of course, the talents of those with whom you choose to
surround yourself.”
Andreyevich watched him open a drawer and pull out a thumbscreen, which
he tossed to the Russian, who deftly caught it as though expecting it.
“For your eyes only,” explained his superior. “Pay close attention when you
activate it; it erases the data as it presents it.”
The Russian had only to press his thumbs against the screen as he held it. It
beeped confirmation of his identity. He slid his thumbs aside and watched what
the device had to show him.

Shelly Casey hadn’t *needed* a vacation.
But after her last tour of duty on the starship *Hood*, the ship’s doctor had
pressed his medical advantage and forced her off the ship for some R and R.
Casey had no choice but to find something else to do for two weeks until she
would report back.
Those two weeks proved to be a comedy of errors.
The doctor had suggested — rather sarcastically, she thought — that she get a
real hobby.
“I *have* a hobby!” she protested.
“Yeah, I know. Your Polynesian mumbo-jumbo. A real workout.”
“It isn’t mumbo-jumbo to me, thank you very much. And you know I practice
my martial arts moves in the gym almost every day.”
“That’s not a hobby, that’s combat training. In my day, beating the stuffing out
of people never passed for a pastime.”
“So what do you suggest?”
“My God, woman! It’s the twenty-fourth century! There’s a whole galaxy of
things to do out there. Some people get their kicks jumping out of spaceships and
diving into a planet’s atmosphere. Now *that’ll* get your blood going and make
you forget all your other worries, to boot.”
Casey shot him a sharp look. “That’s exactly how my sister died.”
“I know it,” replied the doctor. “Ever heard the old expression, ‘When the
horse throws you, you get right back on’? It’s tough enough to lose a loved one to
an enemy you can fight. But what do you do when that enemy isn’t a tangible one?
You try to stomach the anger, that’s what. And that’s not good. I understand she
tried to get you to try it, more than once, and you always refused.”
Now, Casey’s eyes were positively bulging.
“I’m amazed at what sort of things end up in Starfleet medical records,” she
told him through her teeth.
“It’s not there for puerile curiosity. As your doctor, I need to be aware of the
baggage you carry, so I can best advise you on what to do about it. You asked me
what I suggest. I suggest you tackle the monster that took Gwen from you and
beat it. You’d be surprised at how much lighter you’ll feel when you win.”
So, Casey took his advice. He seemed to know what he was talking about. As
soon as she was officially on leave, she arranged to take the same
upper-atmosphere friction skiing drop that killed Gwendolyn, her slightly younger
twin.
That’s how she ended up in the dropsuit, staring out the gaping jump-off port
at the huge and beautiful blue and white orb hanging in space before her — and
was frozen to the spot.
Her knees wouldn’t work. And the warning signal inside her helmet was dying
away. Once it became silent, it meant she had missed the jump window and had
to wait until the ship would be over the next window.
She chickened out over that one, too.
When the jump failed to happen for the third time, that brought the instructor
out.
“Look, Shelly, we can either orbit up here forever, or you can do this, or you
can call it off for today. Your choice.”
The signal sounded again in her ears. Casey took a deep breath, made her
choice, then slowly exhaled. “Let’s call it off.”
The instructor seemed a little disappointed. Casey could tell, even though he,
too, was suited up.
“Fine,” was all he said. “Be careful when you go to hang up your skis.”
Casey untensed near the jump port in preparation to back away from it. The
instructor waited for just the right moment, then he put his foot on her behind and
shoved her out of the ship.
After the initial shock, she had to admit that the experience was a blast. There
she was, hanging over the Earth in her own personal orbit. No ship. No cord.
Her instruments soon informed her that her orbit was decaying. She slowly
positioned her skis between herself and the planet. She skimmed the atmosphere,
sparks literally flying out from under her feet. She screamed in delight from the
thrill of it.
Those computer simulations she had gone through in preparation for this
hadn’t done the actual jump any justice. If she lived, she’d definitely do it again.
And there was a good chance of getting killed. If she didn’t keep the brunt of
the friction on her skis, her suit could fail. If that started happening, no
transporter would be able to establish a successful lock on her. She’d burn,
decompress, and just plain die in horrible agony. The way Gwen did. And Gwen
had been a pro at this.
Well, so far, she was doing okay, enough to try some fancy tricks.
*Hey!* she thought. *There’s really nothing to this!*
She attempted to etch her name in the sky, using the smoke created from the
friction before she’d drop below the zone. She lost control on the second “l” in
“Shelly.”
What followed turned a joyful ride into a frightening plunge through the
jaws of death. Somehow, the skis whipped out from under her, putting her into a
backward tumble.
Casey remembered what to do from the simulation. She was able to halt the
tumble, but she didn’t have the strength to reposition her skis under herself. She
was falling, backside first, into the waters of the Great Australian Bight.
Fortunately, her safety chute automatically deployed with a satisfying yank to
her entire person. She knew now that she was going to be all right. She would
learn later that her suit had come dangerously close to failure, measured by the
degree of charring on her butt.
For the remainder of her vacation, she had dropped seven more times, each
time more professionally than the last. Still, she wasn’t able to live down the
nickname of “Hot Cheeks,” which the instructors had branded her with — which
spread like wildfire among the other students.

Once she had reported back for duty aboard *Hood*, she was glad to leave the
last two weeks behind herself, so to speak. She found herself sharing a turbolift
ride to the bridge with none other than the ship’s doctor.
“Hello, Lieutenant Casey! I trust your leave went well?”
“Perfectly, Doctor. And you were right. Friction skiing *is* quite therapeutic.”
There was silence for a while during the ride. Casey noticed a gleam in the
doctor’s eye.
“You’re not going to tell me, are you?” he asked.
“Tell you what?”
“What earned you the name ‘Hot Cheeks’?”
Casey’s mouth dropped open. Before she could respond, Captain DeSoto
paged her to his ready room. The lift doors parted, depositing them on the bridge.

DeSoto had one of those no-nonsense looks on his face when she entered.
“Have a seat, Shelly.”
Casey obediently sat down. Could her new nickname have gotten back even to
him? Was *that* what he wanted to see her about?
“I’ve received an order for transfer of personnel from Commodore Ivan
Andreyevich. Bottom line, he wants you among his crew on board the new
*Atlantis*.”
“Uh…*Atlantis*, sir?”
“Don’t tell me my top away mission leader doesn’t keep informed on
current events?”
“I’ve only just returned from two weeks’ leave, sir.”
“I see. Well, it’s one of the *Intrepid*-class vessels at Space Station
Mayark. You are being temporarily reassigned there for a special mission, details
to be given you upon arrival, so there’ll be no need for you to clean out your cabin
just yet.”
“How long will I be away, sir?”
“Bank on about thirty days. Your shuttle will rendezvous with us in five
hours.”
He stood up to shake her hand. “Good luck on your mission. I know you’ll
make us proud.”

The shuttlecraft *Sarek* didn’t even have time to enter the *Hood”s*
shuttlebay. Casey was beamed directly aboard with a small carryall of personal
items, before the shuttle sprang back into warp, on course for Mayark Station.
She stepped out of the transport nook, nodding her acknowledgment to the
Vulcan pilots who had brought her aboard. “Lieutenant Shelly Casey.”
“Welcome aboard, Lieutenant Casey,” said one, blandly, while the other
tended to the flight controls. “Allow me to introduce you to your traveling
companion, Lieutenant David Gerard.”
Gerard, a human male with short brown hair, seemed close to her own
age. He politely rose from his seat to shake hands with her. Another first
impression she got of him was that he seemed rather preoccupied about
something.
“So, another soul with two first names and no last name,” she said
pleasantly.
Gerard grinned his agreement.
“You and I are both *Atlantis* bound, too, Lieutenant,” he told her as they
both took their seats.
She unshouldered her carryall. “Are you at liberty to tell me what this is
about? My C.O. wasn’t.”
He smirked, shyly. “I’m mostly in the dark, too, I’m afraid.”
Casey noticed the Vulcans giving each other a knowing look when he said
that. Even when they didn’t say it, they did. *Illogical.*
“I just came back from a two week vacation I didn’t want, only to be
booted off my ship, again,” she told him. “I’m starting to get the feeling I’m not
wanted.”
“I’m sure it’s just that the commodore wants you more. I’m to be the
mission specialist on this maiden voyage. What’s your specialty?”
“First contacts. I lead away teams. You?”
“History. Yesterday at this time I was three feet away from the Guardian
of Forever.”
Casey’s eyebrows shot up. The Guardian! Only a select few ever got that
near to the famous relic/being.
“I’ve never been within a million miles of it, myself. What’s it like?
“Bizarre. It has an intelligence that makes everyone who visits it feel like
an idiot by comparison. And it never volunteers more than what it judges to be
the absolute minimum you need to know. I’ve seen certain very patient people get
pushed to the limits of frustration by it.”
“Ever talk to anyone who actually went through it?” she asked.
“All the time,” he answered. “I was hoping to get my chance, next. But it
looks as though that’s not going to happen for another month or more. I could lose
my chance for good, through no fault of my own. There’s a long line of people
waiting their turn, you know, and places are rarely saved.”

Mayark was a bustling hub of Federation activity. Ships of all descriptions
came and went — and not all of them belonged to Starfleet. But the brightly lit
vessel hanging inside the latticework of drydock two was unmistakably of
Starfleet design. She was *Intrepid*-class, with her warp units in “up” mode. The
name, U.S.S. *Atlantis*, was displayed on her hull, along with her registry
number : NCC-74751.
The new crew had been filing on board for a week, and a few key people
were still on their way. Two, however, were landing at this time in the shuttlebay.
The rear door of the *Sarek* dropped open, allowing Casey and Gerard to
step out with their bags. Both froze in place at the sight of a fang-faced Nausicaan
waiting for them. Fortunately for them, he wore the uniform of Starfleet security
— which let their hearts return to beating .
“Krag, security officer of the *Atlantis*,” he informed them with a breathy
growl. “It is my duty to show you to your quarters.”
Krag’s entire attitude practically said *Want to make something of it?*
The two new arrivals definitely didn’t want to convey *that* impression in
return.
“Uh…very well, Commander…,” Gerard said uncomfortably.
Krag grunted and turned. He moved to the bay’s exit door, and saw that
the humans still hadn’t followed for some reason. “Do you require…an
*in-vi-ta-tion*?”
They snapped themselves out of their amazement, and hurried after him.

Krag took them past Engineering and into a turbolift which brought the
trio to deck two. Duty discharged, he stalked away without another word. Casey’s
cabin turned out to be three doors down from Gerard’s. She unpacked her carryall
and put her few items away. This was going to be home for a while.
Her comm badge came to life.
“Krag to Lieutenant Casey.”
“Go ahead, Commander.”
“I’m testing your communicator channel. The computer must be made to
recognize it.”
“I see. Thank you, sir.”
She took a look out her viewport. All she saw for now was the inside of
drydock two.
Next, her door chime sounded.
“Come.”
The door hissed aside. A red-haired humanoid man entered, smiling at her
in greeting.
“Hello! My name is Sept Midron, ship’s counselor. I’m here to see if there
are any problems in settling in and to help smooth them out. As I’ve told everyone
else I’ve met, I am always on duty, so if you ever need to talk — about anything —
never hesitate to contact me.”
“I appreciate that. I’m Shelly Casey. Your name doesn’t sound Terran.”
“As a matter of fact, it’s El Aurian,” confirmed Midron. “The commodore
is allowing a pretty loose reign while we are in dock, so feel free to mill around
and become acquainted with the ship and the other members of the crew. It will
still be a day or two before we ship out and let the crew know what the mission is
all about, but the commodore eats with the crew at 12 hundred every day in the
lounge. Although it isn’t an order, he strongly recommends that new faces attend
at least once, so that we all get to know one another on an informal basis before
we actually go to work.”
“Good policy,” she praised. “I like the choice of a Nausicaan as a security
chief.”
“Yes. Krag may not show it easily, but he loves his job. To him, it’s not a
good day unless he gets to crack a few skulls. I’ve noticed that the commodore
prefers his people to be overqualified for their positions.”

Gerard wasted no time getting unpacked and reporting to the commodore’s
cabin.
“I know you have worked long and hard with the Guardian, and must be
upset at being torn away from it,” said Andreyevich, getting himself a cup of
coffee from his replicator. “But no one knows better than you about the
implications of your discovery. Research must now give way to action. Would
you care for a refreshment?”
“No, thank you, sir. I agree with you, wholeheartedly,” responded Gerard,
seated by the commodore’s dining table. “Which is why I don’t understand the
logic of reassigning me to a starship instead of letting me finish with the
Guardian. I could take some kind of action there. But here…”
“If all goes as it should, you will be able to take even better action here.”
“How?”
“This entire mission is secretly under the jurisdiction of the Department of
Temporal Investigations. When we launch, Starfleet officially thinks we are on
our way into uncharted space. The truth will be that when the coast is clear, we
will slip backward in time to the moment in question,” Andreyevich raised his
glass and took a sip.
This stunned Gerard speechless for a brief moment.
“Send a whole *starship* through time? But I thought the DTI frowned on
that sort of thing! For a number of reasons!”
The commodore sat down across from the lieutenant.
“They do. But how did you think the DTI enforces the law? You must go
to the source of the problem, and bring the right people and tools with you to get
the job done. Then you go home. In missions past, time traveling involved more
danger and complex calculations and still, more often than not, luck. This is what
sets the *Atlantis* apart from her predecessors. No slingshot maneuvers. No
black holes. ” He leaned forward in his seat. “This ship is equipped with a
self-contained controlled chroniton particle timedrive.”
Gerard whistled.
“So, you’re saying we’ve finally done it,” said Gerard. “We have entered
the age of practical time travel. And if *we* can do it…”
“…Any equally advanced technology can,” Andreyevich finished for him.
“Now you see why we need ships like this one. There are too many places in
Federation history where we are vulnerable to assault from the future. But,
besides that, the opportunity to visit important events in history is an adventure in
itself. Think of the lost knowledge we can recover! The mysteries we can solve.
As of this moment, space has ceased being ‘the final frontier’.”
“All well and good, sir, but why me? There are so many other people
working with the Guardian, people with more seniority, experience…”
Andreyevich smiled. It was the same thing he had asked of his own
superior.
“*You* have the most seniority and experience with Earth’s space
program history. And you are the one who discovered the problem. I need you to
help fix it.”
“Commodore, I’m not even really sure that there is a problem. This whole
feeling I have could well be an overreaction on my part. And, now, the DTI’s.”
“If so, we will have an easy mission. But if not, should we ignore it?”
Gerard had to concede that the commodore had a good point. “Permission
to go to the bridge and familiarize myself with my new post, sir?”
“Granted.”

The bridge had few people on it when the turbolift brought Gerard there,
two security guards, who confirmed his right to be there, a human-looking woman
in the pilot’s seat, and a pair of legs sticking out from under the pilot’s console.
Except for the guards, no one else took any notice of him.
“Aha!” said a voice belonging to the legs. “Found you, you little
*kudgema* you! Antonia! I want you to call up panel HTTHXP434, again, but
this time touch ‘Menu,’ then ‘Disable’.”
The pilot touched a few icons on her panel which beeped their
acknowledgment. “Done.”
There was a yanking sound under the console.
“The console just died,” said the pilot.
“Good. It’s supposed to. Hold on…”
Whatever they were doing, Gerard hoped it wouldn’t impact on his station,
mission operations. He sat down and began to touch icons. The data he had sent
on ahead should have arrived at this station long before he did.
And, bingo, there it was.
Gerard ran a visual file on the screen before him. An old-style launchpad
popped into view, upon which stood an old-fashioned space vehicle. It was this
image he began to rotate and zoom in on. Different detailed viewpoints presented
themselves.
It wasn’t long before that feeling on the back of his neck informed him
that he was being watched. He turned to look. He was right. The pilot had been
looking over his shoulder for who knows how long.
“Hey, I know what that is!” she enthused. “Space shuttle *Challenger*,
right?”
“Right,” agreed Gerard. “This disaster represented a major turning point in
the way the American space program was being run. Seven bright people were
killed before the eyes of the world because of sheer mismanagement. I must have
viewed this hundreds of times during my work with the Guardian of Forever. Just
one of many senseless tragedies I’ve tried to make sense of. The people in that
ship could have contributed greatly to the advancement of space exploration in
their time, if their lives had not been cut short so suddenly.”
He touched his console, and the view came to life with a close-up of the
engines. The shuttle went from showering sparks to full thrust, lifting off from the
pad. The view changed to long range, showing the vehicle speeding through the
sky, when without warning it was engulfed in smoke. A wider angled view
showed the vehicle’s vapor trail terminating in a bulbous cloud raining debris,
while the two solid-fuel boosters continued to twist aimlessly in the sky.
The image was suddenly replaced by the words “END OF FILE.”
“Every time I see this, I get this eerie feeling that something has changed
about this particular moment in history. Something is…not quite right.”
“Sounds like you are the reason the rest of us are here,” said the pilot.
“That’s your conjecture,” replied Gerard. “I’m Lieutenant David Gerard,
mission specialist.”
“Ensign Antonia,” shot back the pilot. “The Zakdorn under my console is
Lieutenant Commander Zam Poldegin, our chief engineer.
“Just…Antonia?” asked Gerard.
“Where I come from, nobody uses surnames.”
“Curious. Where is that?”
“Platonius.”
Gerard thought about that for a moment. “Your people are telekinetic.”
“That’s right,” said Antonia. “Almost a hundred years ago, James Kirk
gave my entire planet a bad reputation because of the actions of a few of us.
History never seems to want to tell what happened to him a few weeks after he
gave himself a massive overdose of kironide.”
“Why? What happened?”
“He nearly died in a bizarre sort of way. You see, my people absorbed
minute amounts of it in the food they ate over long periods of time. *We*
became acclimated gradually, and over the decades, kironide-induced telekinesis
became second nature to us. To most other humanoids, it is still a toxin.”
“It must be wonderful to be able to move things with your mind,” mused
Gerard.
“I suppose it must seem that way to someone like yourself. To someone
like me, it is a small gift for the price of dependency. Kironide is rare. If I don’t
get my daily amount, I get sick. I could even die. So my replicator is programmed
to add trace amounts of it to my food. Enough to keep me well, but not enough
for me to be fully telekinetic.”
“So how much *can* you move with your mind?”
In answer to his question, Gerard felt himself being lifted into the air and
gently deposited on the other side of the bridge.
“Wooo! That was fun! Can you do that again?”
Antonia was holding a hand to her head. “It takes a lot out of me, and
you’re not exactly light. I might drop you.”
The Zakdorn engineer had come out from under the console she was
working on to watch. “Serves you right for showing off, Antonia. Now get back
here; I need you to touch “Menu” and “Enable.”
“Sickbay to Lieutenant Gerard,” paged an unfamiliar man’s voice from his
comm badge.
“Gerard, here.”
“Please report for your crew physical.”
“On my way.”

As Gerard was about to enter the sickbay, he met Lieutenant Casey, of all
people, on her way out.
“Wait till you get a load of his name,” she chuckled to him, as she
disappeared around the corner ahead.
“Who?” he asked, but she was already gone.
Taking a breath, he stepped through the swishing door.
Inside was a bald man with lieutenant commander’s pips. This had to be
the CMO.
“Lieutenant Gerard, reporting as ordered, sir,” he told the doctor.
“Lie down on the biobed, please,” was all the doctor said, indicating one
in particular.
Gerard obliged him. Immediately, the sensors began to scan his body.
“Just breathe normally, and let the machine do the work,” continued the
doctor. “By the way, I am Zhivago of Delta Four. Pleased to make your
acquaintance.”
Gerard sat up and took notice. “Doctor Zhivago? As in –”
“As in the Pasternak novel, yes, as most Terrans are wont to remind me.
Just before I remind them that I am definitely no relation. ”
Silence predominated for a while during the exam. Gerard took it upon
himself to lighten the mood.
“Doctor, is it true what they say about Deltans? That they must take a vow
of celibacy before serving in Starfleet?”
“Yes, it is. When non-Deltans have sex with us, they usually die. Albeit
with smiles on their faces. Thank you, Lieutenant; this examination is complete.
Clean bill of health. You may go.”
Deltans were an aloof lot, Gerard thought as he left sickbay. *But they
have to be. They can’t trust themselves, eh?*
On his way out, he passed another crewman coming for his physical. Or
was it a crewwoman? He couldn’t tell. It was probably a J’naii, a member of the
race that had stopped using sex entirely. How ironic. An oversexed doctor
examining a sexless patient. He wished he could have eavesdropped on that
conversation.
It was then that it had dawned on him that he had actually seen very few
human faces on this ship. Pretty strange for a vessel that would soon be deployed
into Earth’s past. Common sense seemed to dictate a mostly human crew to
interact with a mostly human planet, especially in light of the Prime Directive.
But the commodore was no fool. Gerard never knew him not to have a good
reason for anything he did.

After her examination was finished, Casey toured the ship from stem to
stern. She had heard of the new *Intrepid*-class vessels. They were smaller than
what Starfleet had been building in recent times, and had the revolutionary new
bio-neural relay system. The Zakdorn chief engineer even showed her one of the
gel packs, explaining that these made ship commands at the speed of thought
possible.
When lunchtime hit, she went to the lounge to take up on the
commodore’s offer to meet his new crew. She found him to be a rather charming
fellow.
“Captain DeSoto is not one to give praise easily,” Andreyevich told her
over a bowl of borsht. “I, of course, went over your entire record, personally. I
particularly enjoyed reading about how you handled the Porai villagers, who
wanted to remove the hands of one of your teammates. It was inspired.”
“The captain now calls me his top away mission leader since that incident,
sir.”
“As will I. You will serve the same position for this ship, when you are not
discharging your duties as executive officer.”
Casey’s eyes lit up. “Exec? Me? Sir, my rank is only lieutenant.”
“Do you see that as a problem?”
“I understood that lieutenant commander is the minimum rank permissible
for executive officer.”
“Oh, dear,” said the commodore, taking another spoonful of his borsht.
He rolled it around on his tongue before swallowing, appearing to be deep
in thought. “Well…I suppose I have no other option but to promote you. Unless
you can think of another solution?”
“No, sir,” she told him, a wide grin forming on her face.
“Excellent. Problem solved. Now, perhaps you can clear up a little
mystery about yourself that I really would like to know.”
“Of course, sir.”
“This is just out of curiosity, you understand. How did you get saddled
with a nickname like ‘Hot Cheeks’?”

Two days later, all hands were aboard and the ship was ready to
disembark.
Andreyevich was in his cabin, preparing to head to the bridge, when
Doctor Zhivago entered. Maybe part of the reason the commodore asked for him
on this mission was because he had such a solid Russian name, but mostly it was
because he liked the doctor’s reputation. Deltans also had some strange abilities,
which gave Zhivago an edge over most other physicians.
“The report you wanted on Lieutenant Gerard, sir,” the Deltan reminded
him. “Psych scans indicate no abnormalities.”
“So, we are dealing with a totally sane individual?” asked the commodore.
“Sane and honest. He passed all the tests, except the ones for extrasensory
perception. In addition, there has never been a history of ESP in his family, either,
so where he gets his ‘feeling’ from is still a mystery. As is his obsession with the
*Challenger* disaster. But I must point out that the humanoid brain is still full of
surprises, even in this day and age.”
“I have a feeling the DTI agrees with you, doctor. I just wanted to hear
your professional assessment for my own piece of mind. Thank you. If there is
nothing else, I’ll be heading for the bridge.”
“Well, now that you mention it…”
Andreyevich froze during his exit, returning his attention to the doctor.
“I understand that this vessel is equipped with the controversial
matter-stream modifier device in a few of the transporter rooms. Is this true?”
Andreyevich wasn’t told he had to keep that a secret. And it obviously was
no secret, since the doctor knew about it.
“Actually, it was installed in transporter room number one, only. Is there a
problem?”
“Yes, Commodore. With me. I don’t know if you have ever seen victims of
transporter malfunctions. I have seen more than my share during my career.
‘Hideous’ does not begin to describe how creatively this device can mutilate a
person, sometimes irreversibly and often fatally. There have been cases of people
split in half, or reformed inside-out, or –”
“Time is growing short, doctor,” interrupted Andreyevich.
“The point is, even unmodified, the transporter inspires real fear in many
people…for quite a few legitimate reasons. The Federation has outlawed any such
modifications of transporter technology that *intentionally* changes a person’s
form. Why would you allow such a thing aboard a vessel you command?”
“Doctor, let me ask you. Have you ever had to perform a medical
procedure that was not entirely legal in order to save a life?”
“You know very well I have. Not all Deltan techniques are accepted by
Starfleet Medical.”
“That is the reason I allowed the device aboard. In case the situation
becomes so desperate that using it becomes an option, I want it to be there.
Anyway, It has been fully tested and approved. It isn’t as if we are making guinea
pigs of the crew. And as far as observing the law is concerned, I intend to see to it
that we heed the absolute letter of the it.”
“Meaning you’ll find a loophole. There is a difference between saving a
life and playing God with someone’s matter stream for convenience,
Commodore.”
“Thank you, doctor. I will always keep that in mind. Anything else?”
The Deltan gave him a hard look. “For now…no.”

Andreyevich assumed the captain’s seat on the bridge. At their stations, he
saw Krag, Gerard, Antonia, Lieutenant Saar (the J’naii officer), as well as a few
techs of ensign rank. Beside him sat Casey with her shiny new lieutenant
commander’s pips.
“The time has come for this great bird to leave the nest, Commander,” he
told her. “Proceed.”
“Release moorings,” she ordered, standing up.
“Moorings released, sir,” responded Krag.
“Ensign Antonia, exit drydock at thruster speed.”
“Aye, sir. Exiting drydock, thruster speed.”
The vessel smoothly slid out of the structure into the space dead ahead.
“Clear of drydock, sir,” Casey told the commodore, while sitting back
down.
Andreyevich nodded. “Take us to course 115 mark 7, three quarters
impulse speed.”
Antonia executed and echoed the order. Minutes later, she announced they
were leaving the solar system.
“Go to warp factor nine.”
The ship lurched forward. The stars on the viewscreen stretched into
multicolored lines.
“Andreyevich to Kollos.”
“Yes, Commodore?” said a pleasant voice that somehow sounded
artificial.
“We will be needing you soon.”
“I am on my way to the bridge, sir. Kollos out.”
Andreyevich cleared his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have spoken
with all of you in the days leading up to this mission, so I have gotten to know
each of you. I know you are curious about what our mission is, exactly. Now that
we are underway, I am at liberty to tell you what that is. One month ago, our
Lieutenant Gerard discovered what could be evidence of temporal sabotage
revolving around a certain moment in Earth history, namely, the disaster of the
space shuttle *Challenger*. The plan is to travel backwards in time to make sure
that history has not been tampered with by outside forces. Secondarily, we have
been given some new equipment which we are going to use ‘out in the field.’ In
fact, we are only moments away from testing the first piece, now.”
One of the turbolifts opened up. Out stepped what looked like a nude
humanoid made of silver with red lenses where the eyesockets should have been.
“I know some of you haven’t met Kollos yet, so allow me to introduce you.
Kollos is a civilian Medusan, a non-corporeal lifeform who resides inside this
androidal shell. Kollos will be the one at the controls of our time drive when we
shift to the past, and then again when we return to the present. One thing all of
you should know is that in the unlikely event that Kollos’ shell should break, it is
imperative that you not look directly into that break. A Medusan’s true
appearance will cause serious brain damage, hence the shell, which also provides
a solid presence for our friend.”
“And a very nice synthetic voice,” added Kollos, causing everyone on the
bridge to chuckle.
“Lt. Saar, you will allow Kollos to relieve you for this procedure.”
The J’naii stood up, and the Medusan assumed the seat beside the pilot,
working the console. “Ready and standing by, Commodore Andreyevich.”
“Commence.”
“Time jump in five…four…three..two…”
The ship shuddered slightly. That was the only perceptible indication that
that something happened.
“One…zero,” finished the Medusan. “Time jump complete. We are now
temporally located at stardate minus three one zero one four point six.”
“Bullseye, Kollos! ” smiled the commodore.
“But it is the truth,” protested the Medusan.
“Uh…’bullseye’ means ‘right on target,’ Kollos. Thank you. Lt. Saar, you
may relieve Kollos. Lt. Antonia, reset course for sector zero zero one. Use
standard approach to Earth, then place us in stationary orbit above Florida.”
“Aye, sir. Estimated time of arrival is at twenty hours, thirteen minutes,”
announced Antonia.
The commodore once again addressed the bridge crew. “The *Atlantis*
has been equipped with some devices whose use would be illegal in our time, one
of which is our new interphasing cloaking device. Our treaty with the Romulan
Star Empire forbids us the use of such devices in the Alpha Quadrant of our
galaxy. However, since that treaty isn’t due to be ratified for another two
centuries, we are on safe legal ground using it here and now. In fact, in order to
prevent detection of this vessel in this time period, it becomes essential
equipment. Lieutenant Antonia, I want you to call up the HTTHXP434 panel on
your console and select the icon “Cloak.”
As she did so, the commodore explained further. “This automatically
engages the device when the long-range sensors detect any probability of our
discovery. Once engaged, this ship not only becomes invisible, but also partially
phased in the fifth dimension. We can still use all our sensors in this plane, even
though we will have no substance here. This gives us a means of temporary
invulnerability. Theoretically, we should even be able to pass through the heart of
a supernova with no ill effects, though I don’t foresee putting that theory to the
test any time soon.”
The commodore stood up. “Commander Casey, I want to see you and
Lieutenant Gerard in the briefing room. Commander Krag, you have the bridge.”

“Away missions are going to be handled slightly differently aboard
*Atlantis* during temporal missions,” began Andreyevich. “Because of the touchy
nature of what we are doing, I will need to monitor all aspects of what is
happening away from the ship on the bridge. This means that new communicators
have been designed which transmit visual data as well as audio. Team members
will wear them in place of the standard model. When wearing mission
communicators, team members will also be outfitted with aural implants, so that
only team members will hear incoming transmissions. The upshot is, we will be
able to see and hear what you see and hear, and we will be able to secretly advise
you every step of the way. Because of this, in many situations, we will be able to
pull you out of danger faster than you can say ‘beam me up.’
“Sounds perfect,” said Casey.
“Well, it isn’t, really,” continued the commodore. “We still must insure
that our technology is not exposed to anyone in this time period, so don’t expect
to be beamed up from a native’s plain sight, unless there is absolutely no other
way. I’m briefing you both on this for your edification. We are here to make sure
that this moment in history wasn’t the result of someone’s temporal tampering. I
don’t anticipate needing any away team missions for this assignment, but one
never knows. It is best to be prepared for any eventuality.”
Andreyevich rose up from the table, and took a breath. It looked to Casey
and Gerard that what he was about to say next was difficult for him.
“This vessel has also been equipped with a matter stream modifier in transporter
room one.”
“But, isn’t that illegal?” asked Gerard.
“To use, not to install,” corrected the commodore. “And no law forbids its
use in this time period. You may have noticed that almost half of this crew is
non-human looking. That is because humans do not have a monopoly on skill and
talent. But it does present a problem when it comes to away teams blending in on
planets like Earth. The doctor isn’t enchanted with this device, and I, myself, am a
little antsy at the thought of using it, too. I just wanted you to be aware of it, in
case we ever have a real need for it. I am led to believe that it is quicker and less
uncomfortable than appearance-altering surgery. Also less detectable. But I would
never order anyone through it, and I will countermand anyone else’s order. This
must be a strictly voluntary choice for each team member in question.”
“Understood,” replied Casey and Gerard, in unison.
“Another thing you must understand is that every DTI mission has a
department mole among the crew. No one knows who it is, but this person sees to
it that the Prime Directive and the laws governing time travel are strictly adhered
to. There may even be more than one aboard. Just keep your best Starfleet foot
forward at all times, and no one will have to worry about any special
investigations when we return home.”

*Atlantis* entered into synchronous orbit over Cape Canaveral under
cloak. The local date was January 28, 1986. The main viewer displayed the space
shuttle on launch pad 51-L. The tension on the bridge was felt by human and
non-human alike.
“You could fill the Grand Canyon of Platonius with all the junk these
people have thrown into orbit,” mentioned Antonia to Saar, referring to all the
artificial satellites her sensors were counting.
“Without that junk, the people of Earth would never have climbed their
way to the stars,” Saar answered.
“Lieutenant Gerard, refresh my memory. Precisely what destroyed the
*Challenger*?” asked the commodore.
“To this very day, some will say it was the number thirteen,” Gerard
began.
“What?” Antonia was incredulous.
“Well, previous to this launch, there had been a mission designated as
Apollo thirteen. An explosion in that craft’s service module nearly cost the lives
of all three astronauts on board. When this particular *Challenger* mission lifted
off, it disintegrated one minute and thirteen seconds later.”
“So, because of the number of that other mission, this coincidence was
considered the cause of this disaster?” Antonia wanted to know.
“Not exactly,” said Gerard. “There has always been a cultural stigma
attached to that number, especially to humans who suffer from
triskaidekaphobia.”
“It’s a wonder these people *ever* made it to the stars,” said Antonia to
Saar.
“The real cause was a plume of flame erupting from the starboard
solid-fuel booster. It was a blow torch effect which led to the booster slamming
against the liquid fuel tank, totally destroying the vehicle,” Gerard finished with a
noticeable croak in his voice.
“What created the plume of flame from the booster?” asked Andreyevich.
“Mismanagement. The O-rings between each segment of the boosters had
shown signs of wear to begin with. Add that to the fact that the local weather had
been oscillating from frost to heat in a short time, well, leaks were bound to
happen. And did. NASA was aware of such flame plumes on previous launchings,
but the management was unconcerned with them. In this era of American history,
sadly, it was all too common to wait for a tragedy to happen before taking
necessary corrective steps.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. Everyone, look sharp. The time is almost upon
us,” said the commodore, gazing at Casey.
“Aye, sir,” Casey stood up and addressed the bridge crew. “Yellow alert
status!”
Seconds later, Saar reported that all decks were now on yellow alert.
Andreyevich’s eyes were focused on the main viewer. Gerard and Krag were
monitoring their stations. Antonia gulped.
The *Challenger* lifted off from it’s launch pad. One minute later, she
kept right on climbing. Two minutes. Three.
The vehicle was still in one piece!
“What’s going on here?” asked Casey, still on her feet.
“Our first clue as to what is wrong, I think,” said Andreyevich.

*Mission log of the timeship *Atlantis*, stardate minus three one zero one
three point five. Commodore Ivan Andreyevich recording. After an uneventful
arrival at our destination point, we have witnessed history unfold in a manner not
consistent with common knowledge or records. The American space shuttle
*Challenger* has somehow survived its launch. Even as I record this, one of the
passengers, Christa MacAuliffe, is televising her first lesson back to Earth as the
first teacher in space.
So far, all I have is theories to explain how this happened, not the least of
which is suspecting that someone among my crew may be the temporal saboteur.
Regardless of who has done this, I must now ask what is my responsibility to
history? Will the Department of Temporal Investigations expect me to execute
seven innocent people in order to return everything to the status quo? And do I
have the nerve to do it, if the answer is yes?*

Moments after the commodore finished that log entry, Krag stopped into
the ready room to report his findings.
“I found nothing,” he said. “There is no record of transporter use on this
ship which would account for the change in the timeline. But it is my duty to
point out, Commodore, that were I to pull something like this off, I would erase
all evidence of it beyond trace. My failure to find evidence does not negate the
possibility of our guilt.”
“I know that, Krag,” the commodore’s head was in his hands as he sat by
his desk. “I want you to concentrate now on motive, and who among this crew
was in the best position to commit this crime. And do be discreet. There is a
small chance the criminal is not aboard this ship.”
“Aye, sir,” said Krag, turning to go. Then he stopped and faced the
commodore once again. “Sir, I am not a temporal expert. I am what you would
call a Nausicaan grunt. But it seems to me that even if we do not find the
responsible party, our next duty is clear. We must return to zero-event and
re-create the disaster with a pinpoint phaser shot.”
“I am not a temporal expert, either, Krag, which is why I must ask what if
*this* is the actual timeline, and what you just suggested is the interference?”
Krag considered this a moment, then shook his head with a grunt. “Then
your problem is bigger than I initially thought. My philosophy is not to play with
knots, but to cut them with a sword.”
The commodore nodded. “What upsets me, Commander, is that you may
be right. Dismissed.”
When Krag went back to duty, Andreyevich called Gerard via
communicator.
“Gerard here.”
“Lieutenant, how are you coming along with the temporal plotter?”
“I’m not quite finished yet, sir. So far, I don’t see how this change has had
any long lasting repercussions through time. In fact, in my judgment, everything
seems to fall into place better this way than in the timeline where *Challenger*
was destroyed.”
“Explain.”
“According to this, the following years were extremely successful for the
space program. The *Enterprise* class model was retired by 1995, to be replaced
by the *Copernicus* class DY series. In the other timeline, the *Enterprise* class
was used well into the twenty-first century. This may explain why this whole
Challenger disaster always affected me as being not quite right. It wasn’t
supposed to happen!”
“You’re jumping to conclusions, David, before all the fact are in. Keep
working, then give me a full report on your findings when you are through.”
“Aye, sir.”
“Andreyevich out.”

The commodore didn’t have much time to think about the problem at
hand, when he heard the red alert klaxon sounding off.
“All decks, red alert!” spelled out the computer’s voice.
When he entered the bridge, Casey directed his attention to the main
viewer.
“Orion marauders, sir,” she explained. “Seven of them detected on long
range, just coming into view now.”
The commodore knew very well that Earth wasn’t supposed to be
contacted by any outside visitors during this time period. Especially not Orions.
At this point in history they were pirating all their neighboring systems and
dealing heavily in the slave trade.
The screen showed seven glowing ellipsoids definitely making a beeline
in Earth’s direction at warp speed.
“We must not allow them to approach Earth. Intercept course, warp six!”
commanded Andreyevich. “Let’s hope they haven’t been picked up by anybody on
the planet. Open hailing frequencies.”
At the sound of channels opening, the commodore immediately began
speaking in a language no one on the bridge had ever heard before.
“Nevah hah poot na shoh keh . Tais naka shoh gor fum. Ji kao slah ma go,
sim kao grah ma tewer. Vorkeb.”
There was a pause, then a gruff sounding voice responded, “Kao kep hoh
va.”
“Kao shoh lepik di doam. Sim shoh shegmol fum, na sim drata kao e chala
vornaga pit serpo jexonau,” replied the commodore.
“Sim kao znak nao ip tanarep. Kwi zarnel. Kao sveleh toh tipla sopa
kao durba sepoliten. Naka ma bolga nima. Ji naka blemer sim, sim kobelah kao.”
“Transmission has ended,” announced Krag.
“Well,” said the commodore. “That is their answer, then. That leaves us no
choice but to fight. I tried to warn them off, but they insist on either trading with
us or fighting us and taking whatever they want. I say we give them a bloody nose
and send them running back to their mommies. That will make them think twice
about bothering Earth again, which is as it should be.”
“Commodore, we may have a technological advantage over them, but
there are seven of them,” said Casey. “Against those odds our technology might
not be enough.”
“Under normal circumstances I would agree with you, commander. But
we have two enormous advantages. One, they can’t see us or even touch us. Our
Orion friends think they have just spoken with the captain of the *Challenger*.
Two, they no nothing about our weaknesses, while we know everything about
theirs. Krag, data on that model of Orion marauder.”
“Primitive warp drive, sir,” responded Krag. “Capable of only warp three
point two on our current scale. No shielding beyond debris deflectors. Weaponry:
laser cannons and nuclear missiles.”
“Entering firing range,” warned Saar.
“Slow to half impulse,” ordered the commodore. “Target the warp engines
of the lead vessel. Tone down the power of the forward phaser array to disable,
only.”
“When we fire, sir, we will be momentarily visible…and vulnerable,” Krag
reminded him.
Andreyevich didn’t see that as a problem. “You may fire when ready.”

WATCH FOR THE CONCLUSION, COMING IN MAY!

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