Timeship Atlantis Logs: My Name is Mudd

Synopsis: Commodore Andreyevich must save Harry Mudd from an untimely
death, while making sure that one of his own bridge officers ceases to
exist.

Timeship *Atlantis* Logs #4: “My Name Is Mudd” by Walt Chmara

In the twenty-third century, Harcourt Fenton Mudd was feeling
miserable.
His brilliant scam to cheat some of the settlers of Pritex Five
had fallen through because of a tiny miscalculation, and he was forced to
make yet another hasty retreat before another rampaging mob who wanted to
separate his head from his body.
Now he was on safe ground on a planet which the Federation had
named Starbase 4, a reasonably pleasant world, but with next to no
opportunity for a con artist of his particular stature to make a living.
That was because within UFP territory, he was still considered on
probation for the previous swindle he pulled (the one that he got caught
at, not the successful one), so if he was going to stay out of rehab
therapy, he had to keep his nose clean…or at least get into something
foolproof.
Currently, he was drowning his sorrows with a mug of beer at a
civilian pub.
Looking over at the other clients the bartender had, Harry
noticed one in particular. He appeared to be an adult human, except he
was the size of a child.
*Unless I am very much mistaken,* thought Harry to himself, *that
is a dwarf. And the poor little fellow seems to have troubles of his own.
I think I’ll go over and strike up a conversation with him. It may prove
to be rather interesting.*
Harry grabbed up his mug and moved to an empty stool beside the
dwarf.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” Harry asked him,
amicably.
“What gave it away?” grumbled the little fellow right back, not
even bothering to look at Harry.
“Well, one doesn’t see too many citizens of the Federation with
your particular, shall we say, affliction.”
The little fellow turned a sarcastic look at Harry’s stomach. “I
could say the same about yours, except I had no choice in the matter of
*my*…affliction.”
“There, there, my friend, I meant no insult. Just stating the
bloody obvious, as is my wont on occasion. Allow me to buy you a drink to
make amends. The name is Mudd. Harry Mudd.”
Harry extended his right hand to the little fellow.
The little fellow sighed and shook it. “Alexander is my name.
Sorry if I seem edgy. I’ve always been rather sensitive about my height.
I guess it’s a defense mechanism. If I perceive someone making fun of me,
my first impulse is to strike back, likewise.”
“Perfecly understandable. You know, I used to be just as touchy
about my weight. Then I said to myself, this is who I am, and if nobody
else likes it — too bad! Is Alexander your surname or given name?”
“It’s my only name. On my world we always found one name to be
sufficient. I’m from a planet called Platonius.”
Harry’s smile broadened into something much more. He couldn’t
believe his luck. A Platonian! Platonius was a rich source of kironide —
power, in its most distilled form. And as far as Harry knew, Platonius
was still outside of Federation jurisdiction.
“You are far from home then. I speak from personal
experience when I say that a man willing to travel that far is either
after something very valuable, or trying to get away from something very
unpleasant.”
Alexander nodded. “My people.”
“Eh?” asked Harry.
“My people. *Extremely* unpleasant. Lazy, arrogant,
good-for-nothing pseudo-intellectuals. It’s all I can do to keep my
nausea down whenever I think about them.”
“Come now. They can’t *all* be that bad. Can they?”
“When you’re the only one among them who isn’t psychokenetic,
you’ll find out. The hard way. Like I did,” Alexander took another gulp
of his drink.

In the twenty-seventh century, an interplanetary war was raging
between the Vorgons and the Digorzik. Although interstellar treaties
forbade the use of temporal weaponry, even in wartime, the conflict had
gotten so completely out of hand that both sides had introduced
chroniton-based armaments. What made these weapons so devastating was the
fact that the projectiles hardly ever failed to miss, since they were
never aimed at where the target was presently, or would be in the future,
but at a known vulnerable point in the target’s past.
However, some were known to malfunction, with unpredictable
results.
A chroniton missile was launched from an interphasically cloaked
Digorzik warship at a Vorgon fleet known to be escorting an important
general to a new command post. Its temporal guidance system became
scrambled by a new Vorgon defense measure, and the missile continued to
penetrate into the past, careening toward randomized coordinates.

“So, Kirk took pity on me, and took me with him when he left
Platonius,” continued Alexander, telling Harry his story. “I had such
visions of the Federation. It would be like going to paradise without
having to die first. Oh, was I naive! Have you ever met Kirk?”
Harry was taken aback. “Why do you ask?”
“The sneer on your face every time I mention his name.”
Harry cleared his throat and rolled his eyes. “We-ell, let us
just say our paths have crossed on occasion. What was that you were
saying about your naivete?”
“I believed life would change for me for the better. All it did
was change. New faces, new customs, but people are basically the same
wherever you go. On one planet they try to control you with telekinesis,
and on the next they try to control you using something else.”
“Amen to that,” Harry raised his mug in sympathy, then took another gulp.
“You know, Alexander, it seems to me that you and I are two of a kind.
Both unsatisfied with what fortune has dealt us so far. Both of us
searching for that certain, oh, I-don’t-know-what to make us happy. That
search would be a lot less lonesome if we banded together.”
“And do what?” asked Alexander, suspiciously.
In answer, Harry raised his mug dramatically. “Soldiers of fortune,
laddie-buck! In this universe, the strong will always prevail upon the
weak. When you had the chance to have some of that power for yourself,
you refused it on the grounds of not wanting to be like your tormentors.
Now, look at where that decision has left you. Blowing around like some
fallen leaf in somebody else’s wind. If you had to do it all over again,
would you still make the same choice?”
Alexander seriously considered it. “You know, I probably would not,
knowing what I know now. In hindsight, I was a fool. I could have stayed
home, and no one would have dared to make me their jester again.”
“And Platonius is a big planet,” added Harry. “You would never even need
lay eyes on any of those thirty-odd parasites again, unless you wanted
to. I can see you want to go back. What perplexes me is why you continue
to let those Academicians bully you even from so far away.”
Alexander gazed into Harry’s eyes. “What makes you think I want to go
back?”
“Because like the song says, ‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like
home.’ Let me ask you something. Did you leave behind a Platonian girl,
one who may be missing you right now, as we speak?” Harry was grabbing at
every trick in the book he could think of to secure his Platonian guide
for the kironide expedition he had already planned out in his head.
Alexander’s face reddened slightly. “Now that you mention it, there was
this one…No! She probably has a tall, properly Platonian husband by
now. Although she was nice to me, it’s sheer arrogance for me to think
she could possibly be interested in a throwback like me.”
“Ah, but if she was nice to you even as a so-called throwback, imagine
what her opinion would be of you when you return with twice the power of
Parmen, or whoever happens to be sitting on the throne right now. Don’t
you think it might be worth your while to find out?”
Alexander was almost nodding to himself, when he raised a brow at Harry.
“And you just want to tag along with me all the way back to Platonius?”
“When it’s in the cause of true love, let it never be said that Harcourt
Fenton Mudd didn’t help out. If you are so inclined, I’ve got the
spaceship all ready and waiting. What are friends for, eh? All I ask in
return, is to be able to call upon you for a favor when that time comes.
Whada ya say?”
Alexander winked at him. “Fifty percent of the kironide profits, and you
have yourself a deal.”
Harry had to grin. “Done.”

The chroniton missile continued speeding backwards through time to
deliver its deadly payload to its ultimate destination.

The Timeship *Atlantis* had completed its mission to Ancient Vulcan,
specifically to the mountains of Gol, birthplace of the Vulcan
Reformation, and site of a great ancient library which was lost forever
when it was struck by seismic upheaval and fire. Though the mission did
get hairy in spots, the crew managed to rescue many legendary texts which
would be turned over to the present Vulcan government.
“Time jump in five…four…” began Kollos on the bridge, with a deeper
voice than everyone was used to hearing from the Medusan. There was a
very masculine build to his androidal shell these days, and he wore
clothing that was the current fashion for twenty-fourth century earthmen.
As the temporal warp field engulfed the ship in preparation for the jump
home, Commodore Andreyevich surveyed the bridge crew with his usual
careful eye. Saar, the J’naii, stood beside the Medusan as usual during
time jumps, awaiting to resume the position as soon as it was
accomplished. It was by sheer chance that he had been looking at Antonia,
the pilot from Platonius, when something totally unexpected happened.
Her face changed.
“Antonia!”
The commodore had been looking at her in profile as it happened. When he
called out her name, she faced him dead on. With a new face.
His mouth gaped in momentary hesitation, while she gazed back at him
questioningly.
“Commodore?” she asked.
“…Two…one…zero,” finished Kollos. “Time jump completed.
“H-how did you do that?” the commodore asked the Platonian pilot.
“Do what?” The new Antonia seemed to be completely oblivious to any
change in herself.
Commander Casey, the first officer, who was seated beside the commodore,
now noticed, too. “Your face! It’s different!”
“Different? What do you mean by different?” It was also becoming obvious
that her voice had changed, as well.
“Kollos, please continue manning your post,” ordered the commodore.
“Saar, I want you to relieve Antonia. Antonia, I want you to report
immediately to sickbay.”
“But, sir…”
“That’s an order.”
“Aye, sir.” The new Antonia relinquished her seat to Saar and crisply
moved into the nearer turbolift port.
When the doors slid shut, the commodore touched his communicator.
“Andreyevich to Zhivago. We have a problem…”

Harry and Alexander made their way through the starbase’s shuttleport,
where hundreds of surface-to-space vehicles rested before whoever arrived
in them would return to pilot them home. To Harry Mudd, it was a
smorgasbord.
“Are you serious?” Alexander was asking. “You think you can just take off
in any one of these ships, and just get away with it?”
“I’ve done it often enough, me lad. It’s a piece of cake to someone like
me. But it has to be the right one. Nice enough to do the job, but not so
important to its owner that it’s worth a hard chase to reclaim when it’s
easier to just wait for the insurance service to come with a new one.”
“You must be joking. You can’t tell me people in the Federation take
theft of any spacecraft that lightly.”
“I never said they took it lightly! The success of any operation always
depends upon knowing all the surrounding pertinent values, and then
putting those values to work for you,” Harry withdrew a black box with a
carrying strap from inside his coat. It began to whistle.
“What’s that?”
“It used to be a surplus standard-issue Starfleet tricorder — until I
started poking around inside of it — aha! Objective up ahead!”
Alexander had to run at nearly twice the rate as Harry was moving in
order to keep up with him, but they both came to a stop beside a
spacecraft that was clearly non-Starfleet in it’s design and markings.
“A Leeding Eelbird Mark Seven!” enthused Harry. “And no one is on board!
Perfect!”
Alexander rubbed his hands together. “Nice. So what are we waiting for?”
Harry restrained his new friend, while the small gadget continued to
squeal. “Just triple checking the fact that there are no backup
anti-theft devices set that I don’t already know about and have already
nullified. Haste has it’s proper place, Alexander, but this ain’t one of
’em. Always remember that.”
The screen of his small device had begun to blink “Access Code Search
Mode,” then “Access Code Found,” then, finally, “Transmitting Access
Code.” The hatch on the near side of the vessel popped open at the top
and lowered down to their feet, creating a convenient ramp for them to
climb.
“Your carriage awaits,” Harry bowed to his friend, after silencing the
gadget. He extended an arm at the entrance in an “after you” gesture.
Alexander happily trotted up inside.

The missile continued it’s mindless flight through the void of 23rd
century space.

Dr. Zhivago met privately with the commodore in the ready room to discuss
Antonia.
“Yes, this person still answers to the name of Antonia, even though she
obviously is a different person from the one we know,” the doctor was
saying. “She knows all of us, though. ”
“Do you have any idea what happened to her?” asked the commodore.
“I have a theory which seems to fit the facts. I believe something
changed in her ancestry. Time tampering somewhere along her family line
has resulted in one of her ancestors being replaced by someone else. This
new Antonia is the result of a substitution in her DNA.”
“Substitution,” mused Andreyevich. “How can you be certain that time
tampering did this?”
“She is the only one affected. I compared her recent test results with
the ship’s computer records, and, of course, they differed significantly.
I suspect it’s because our records were protected from the temporal
change in the same way the crew was, by the ship being in transit when
the alternate timeline was created. If I am right, Starfleet’s own
records should agree more with who this new Antonia is.”
Andreyevich nodded. “I will check on that, personally. If it does turn
out to be true, it begs the question ‘why?’ Who would benefit from
changing Antonia’s ancestry?”
Zhivago shrugged. “Maybe Tempus Fugitive is striking out at us. Or maybe
this was a side effect of something else. Either way, it looks like we’ll
need to make another jump into history, *if* we want to straighten this
out.”
The commodore noticed the accent the doctor had placed on the word “if.”
“What do you mean by ‘if’? The life of the Antonia we know is at stake.”
“*We* are the only ones who knew her,” clarified the doctor. “To the rest
of this universe, that person never even existed. Are you suggesting we
wipe out the one who does exist now, in order to make way for another who
doesn’t?”
“Of course! As DTI operatives, it is our duty to guard the timeline we
know against changes, and, failing that, *restore* that timeline to the
best of our ability. We know our Antonia existed first, therefore, if I
must choose, her existence must take priority.”
Zhivago raised an eyebrow at him. “Is it really that simple to you,
Commodore? Or do you just wish it was?”
Andreyevich leaned forward. “I realize that in reality it is a lot more
complex than that. But in order to be consistent, I must *make* it that
simple. What would you have me do? Go and talk with her? Get to know her?
Learn what a decent person she is? I grant you that! Does she equally
deserve her own existence? Most certainly. But can I grant them both
existence? No. I must choose between one or the other. And I choose in
favor of the one who was already bumped out against her will.”
“By bumping this one out, you are telling me two wrongs make a right.”
“Really? I thought I was telling you that righting a wrong makes it
right.”

Harry hacked into the ship’s computer to obtain vocal samples of the
ship’s owner in order to program a synthesized voice to ask space control
for permission to take off. He also bypassed the computer’s own voice
recognition system, so that he could verbally command it without any
problems, if the need arose. All the while, Alexander marveled at Harry’s
skill at grand theft.
“It’s a gift, what can I say?” explained Harry, as the ship warped off in
a direction that was not in the direction of Platonius.
Alexander noticed this. “Harry, I think you enter the wrong
coordinates…”
Harry nodded. “For a little while, yes. We’ve got to assume that someone
will be after us, so it is wise to leave a false trail for them to
follow. In a few hours, I’ll ease us out of warp near a conveniently
heavy mass — say, an asteroid — and let its pull throw us in the proper
direction. Then we’ll coast for a few more hours until we are at a safe
range to ease in the thrusters. Their emissions should blend in nicely
with the cosmic gases to be found where we are headed. Then, it’s warp
speed all the way to Platonius!”
“Yes, but while we’re coasting, wouldn’t that give whoever might be after
us time to catch up and spot us on their long range sensors?”
Harry’s voice took on a certain gruffness. “You think you’re dealing with
an amateur, Alexander-me-lad? I happen to know that the same gasses that
will hide our thruster emissions will also befuddle the kind of sensors
normally used on a hunt like this. Trust me, the captain of any ship
following us would have to make a deal with the devil to find our warp
signature again, once they’ve lost it.”

Detective Sergeant Maurice LeBlanc of the Federation Interstellar Police
Force unit housed at Starbase Four materialized inside transporter room
twelve of the main spacedock. Already waiting for him there was his
partner, Detective Sergeant Tamela Funt. She handed him a PADD the moment
he stepped down from the pad.
“What’ve you got?” he asked, scanning the data.
“List of possible suspects on the stolen Eelbird. I think you’re familiar
with who’s at the top of the list.”
LeBlanc’s normally hard face lightened up. “Harry, again? Honestly, this
guy’s been through rehabilitation therapy more times than a Vegan ice
eater has teeth.”
“That’s why they want us to apprehend him,” said Funt. “You’ve brought
him in more times than any other cop on the force. You seem to understand
the way he thinks.”
“I’m his personal devil,” agreed LeBlanc. “Well, it certainly looks like
his M.O. Let’s go get him before his warp trail gets cold.”

In the twenty-fourth century, Commodore Andreyevich finished researching
the new Antonia’s history at Starfleet Headquarters on Earth, before
going to meet with his superior in the DTI for debriefing on the
*Atlantis’* last assignment.
“Having successfully completed the mission, we time jumped back to the
present. During transit, I noticed the face of Lieutenant Antonia
changing. She became a different person. Doctor Zhivago suspected that
temporal tampering with her ancestry was the cause. Fortunately, the
temporal wake around the ship protected the rest of us, as well as our
computer records of the old Antonia, from the change in the timeline.
Comparing them to the records Starfleet has of her in this altered
timeline, I’ve been able to pinpoint where in her ancestry the change
happened. Her maternal grandfather is the difference. In the original
timeline, he was a dwarf named Alexander. In this one, he was an
Academician named Parmen.”
“Hmm,” mused the black man at the desk before him. “Were you able to
determine what specifically caused this particular alteration?”
“Not precisely,” answered the commodore. “In the first case, Alexander
left his world with the intention of never coming back, but he was
convinced to return by a rather notorious confidence trickster of that
era, a man by the name of Harcourt Mudd. In the second case, Alexander
left home and never did return, his disappearance a total mystery. Mudd
also vanished in the new timeline at about the same time, whereas in the
old, he continued to lengthen his already quite lengthy criminal record
for some time.”
“I see. Commodore, you and the rest of the *Atlantis* crew will remain
aboard ship, while we collect the artifacts and examine your computer
records for our own in-depth research on them before we can make a
recommendation for you on how to proceed. Expect to hear from us within
twenty-four hours. Is there anything else you would like to add to your
report?”
“No, sir.”
“Fine. You are dismissed.”

In the twenty-third century, the stolen Eelbird spacecraft dropped out of
warp near a tumbling giant asteroid. Despite the fact that the viewscreen
image was breaking up horribly, Harry managed a practically unpowered
swing around it which threw the ship in the general direction he wanted
it to go, but the maneuver had put the ship itself into a spin. Alexander
and Harry didn’t get dizzy, because the artificial gravity field aboard
was working overtime to compensate, but neither one of them felt like
staring at the scrambled viewscreen, anyway. Each time it did momentarily
stabilize, all they could see were the same stars streaking around and
around them.
When Harry saw that the picture was beginning to clear up, he knew they
were leaving the gaseous pocket. It was time to straighten the ship out
and ease her back into warp to strike that fine balance between hurrying
away from the vicinity, yet keeping the warp signature faint enough to be
missed by any pursuers. He would kick it up to top speed in a few more
hours.
An alarm went off inside the cabin.
“What is it?” yelled Alexander.
“I-I don’t know,” stammered Harry. “Proximity alert! Something out there
is closing in on us!”
Harry got a picture of it on the screen. Zooming in on it, he could
clearly see it was a missile of some sort.
“Can you get us out of its way?” persisted Alexander.
“I’m going to give it my best bloody try!” answered Harry, wide-eyed.
Harry pushed the warp engines as high as they would go. He took manual
control of the steering. Nothing he tried seemed to matter a whit. The
hellish device seemed to be locked onto them. Mere seconds later, it hit
them, scattering their atoms brilliantly across the heavens.

In the twenty-fourth century, Commodore Andreyevich was relaxing in his
cabin, sipping a cupful of *plomeek* broth, while listening to a formerly
lost composition of Vulcan music and reading a formerly lost work by
T’Plana-Hath (in old Vulcan) on his terminal screen, both rescued from
certain destruction by his ship. Even though it was a far cry from being
the *Kolinahr* ritual, it had the desired effect of putting him in a
“Vulcan” mood.
*I should take a vacation on Vulcan one day soon. Give my pesky emotions
a rest and mingle among a rational people.*
His door chimed.
“Come.”
The stranger calling herself Antonia entered. The Vulcan bubble which the
commodore had placed himself inside suddenly popped.
“Computer, pause! Yes, Lieutenant?” asked the commodore, when the music
stopped.
“I needed to ask you a question, sir. It’s about your intentions.”
“My intentions relating to what?”
She was blunt. “Do you and the DTI intend to erase me?”
“Erase you,” repeated the commodore, instantly suspecting that the doctor
had something to do with this. “What put this notion into your mind?”
Her gaze was unwavering. “I’m not stupid, Commodore. I know what happened
just as well as you do. Maybe better. From your point of view, I’ve
changed into a different person. Someone you’ve never even met before.
Someone who has usurped the life of another person you knew and might’ve
even cared about. But have you considered what it looks like from *my*
point of view?”
Andreyevich shook his head. “I must confess that I haven’t.”
“From my point of view, it’s the rest of you who have changed. Before the
last mission, you all knew me. I had friends among this crew. Now you all
look at me like I’m some kind of unwanted intruder. While I was in
sickbay, I had a chance to bone up on my personal files. Or should I say,
the *other* Antonia. And you know what I discovered? I’m a vast
improvement over her! She was a kironide addict, who would die if she
didn’t get regular doses of it in her food. I suffer from nothing like
that! Yes, my telekinesis diminishes, but I won’t *die* from lack of
kironide! She has throwback genes in her family tree, genes which could
express themselves in her offspring! I do not.
“I like who I am, Commodore. I want to continue being who I am. That is
my right as a citizen of the Federation, isn’t it?”
“It is,” agreed Andreyevich. “However, consider this. Suppose *she* were
here with us right now, standing to your immediate right. What do you
suppose she would have to say to you or me on her own behalf?”
“Immaterial, since she is *not* here.”
“All the more reason why she needs someone else to stand up for her
rights and speak for her. But speaking is the most I can do at the
moment, Lieutenant. Because I am not a renegade, I take my orders from my
superiors. If they decide this alteration to your history is to stand —
and I believe this to be likely — then my opinion on this matter also
becomes immaterial.”
The lieutenant eyed the commodore suspiciously. “Why would you believe
this to be likely?”
“Because they are as much a part of this altered timeline as you are.
They know *you*, not our Antonia. They may decide that this is not worth
bothering with when they have bigger fish to fry. Believe me, it would
not be the first time,” Andreyevich thought back to the DTI archive he
was privileged to read which explained why the historical depiction of
Gabriel Bell looked so much like the captain of Deep Space Nine. Then, an
inspiration hit him. “Lieutenant, I have an idea…”

The commodore led the new Antonia inside one of the holodecks. As the
doors resealed themselves behind them, he addressed the computer.
“Computer, I want you to recreate a member of this crew. Lieutenant
Antonia of the planet Platonius. Interactive mode.”
The Antonia of the ship’s records faded into being before them. The
hologram wore an identical Starfleet uniform to the one the new Antonia
wore, but the face, of course, was different. There was no denying there
was an almost sisterly resemblance, however.
“Commodore, who is this woman?” asked the hologram. “She seems oddly
familiar to me.”
“She should,” answered the commodore. “She is the person you would have
become, if you had a different maternal grandfather.”
The hologram smiled incredulously. “You’re kidding me, right?”
The commodore frowned and gave her a single shake of his head.
“You’re not kidding,” the hologram’s smile melted away. It looked over
the new Antonia with an interested eye. “So where did you get her from?
Some alternate timeline?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact,” answered the commodore.
“What is this supposed to accomplish?” broke in the new Antonia.
“Computer, freeze simulation,” ordered the commodore.
The hologram was suddenly motionless.
“Outside of asking a member of the Q continuum for help, this simulation
is the best that I can do to introduce you to her,” he explained. “Here
she has solidity, a reasonably faithful presentation of her intellect and
personality, and her own voice. In effect, your other self can speak for
herself, now. All I ask is that you spend the next thirty minutes or so
getting to know one another. Just talk to her with an open mind. And no
turning her off or freezing her or telling her she is a hologram. When I
return, I intend to have a nice long talk with both of you, understood?”
“Understood, sir,” said the new Antonia.
“Good. Computer, resume.”

The commodore left the holodeck to go directly to sickbay. Thinking
“Vulcan” to himself all the way, he hoped he would be able to keep his
rising anger in check when confronting the doctor. He found the doctor
inside his office.
“Commodore,” greeted the doctor. “What brings you here this evening?”
“Did you tell Antonia that I mean to erase her from existence?”
“Something to that effect may have slipped out as I spoke to her, yes.
Why do you ask?”
“Then you are telling me it was an accident, rather than intentional?”
“Nothing of the sort. You didn’t tell me to keep your plans for her a
secret. So I didn’t.”
“Doctor, I thought you had more common sense than that. Not only have you
made what I must accomplish more difficult, you have frightened that
young woman unnecessarily.”
“Good. Mission accomplished.”
Andreyevich felt his blood pressure rising. *Vulcan, keeping thinking
Vulcan.*
“Do you know what the penalty for insubordination is?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. Have I specifically disobeyed any order of
yours, Commodore?”
“No,” Andreyevich had to admit. “But you are becoming a wiseguy, aren’t
you?”
“If that is what it takes to uphold my oath, so be it. Commodore, you
don’t just send me a patient to find out what is wrong with her, only to
tell me later that you intend to end her life.”
The commodore gasped. Understanding had dawned. “So that’s it. Of course.
She is your patient, and you are duty-bound to save her life. Without
thinking, I placed you in a difficult position. But you are a member of
my crew, also, and are duty-bound to follow my orders.”
“Somehow, I get the feeling you are going to make it even more
difficult,” added the doctor.
“You have declared her fit for duty?”
The doctor hesitated. “Yes.”
“Then she is no longer your patient. I am placing you under strict orders
to not discuss my plans for her with anyone. Is that understood?”
“I understand your orders, Commodore, but not your reasoning.”
A wry smile came to the commodore’s face, as he left the office. “Good.
Mission accomplished.”

“What a difference granddaddy’s sperm can make,” remarked the holographic
Antonia. “So, who was your granddaddy anyway? An Academician?”
“Parmen, himself,” answered the new Antonia, with a hint of
pride.
“The top dog, eh? I always thought he already had a wife.”
“That bitch didn’t want to bear him any children. Even when the
revolution came, she still clung to the belief that Platonians should
keep their numbers low and rely on their longevity to carry on the race.
The fool.”
“You and I agree on that. Though it served our people for ages, it was
still a stupid policy in light of what a hostile universe this is. It’s
obvious to me that there’s more of a difference between you and me than
just genetics. You carry yourself with a smug arrogant attitude, don’t
you?”
“Are you referring to my quite justified pride in myself? Strange, I was
thinking something similar about you. It looks as if when you are the
product of poor breeding you develop an irreverent attitude in a vain
attempt to hide all your shortcomings.”
“So that’s my problem,” said the hologram. “Somehow, I always thought I
just had a cheerful outlook on everything. Okay, tell me, do you enjoy
being an anal orifice, or does it just come naturally to you?”
“I’ll show you what comes naturally to me,” the new Antonia sent a
telepathic blow to the hologram’s midsection
The hologram doubled over with a surprised look on its face.

When Commodore Andreyevich re-entered the holodeck later, he found the
new Antonia waiting for him with her arms folded in boredom. There was
holographic blood all over the floor, and bits of the holographic Antonia
were scattered everywhere. It was as if a person had literally been torn
limb from limb.
“Well, at least I didn’t switch her off!” the new Antonia said in her own
defense. “I doubt she’s in any shape to answer your questions, though —
unless you reboot her. Personally, I think you ought to wipe that program
out, and fill that memory space with something more useful like Parrises
Squares scores.”

The following day, Andreyevich was summoned back to DTI HQ.
“We have poured over all the available data and have determined that the
situation with Lieutenant Antonia is indeed a symptom of an instance of
time tampering,” his superior told him. “The focal point is a
chroniton-based weapon of unknown origin which was responsible for the
deaths of Harcourt Mudd and his companion, Alexander of Platonius. Both
of these people, in spite of themselves, made enough important
contributions to Federation history to warrant a mission to that point in
time. And since the *Atlantis* is currently free, that is the ship we are
assigning to it.
“The deaths of these two men had remained a mystery up until now, since
the chroniton had not yet been discovered, much less harnessed, at the
time it happened. If you neutralize the weapon before it can do any
damage, history should resume its previous course. You should be aware
that there is a good chance that this weapon came from the distant
future, making it difficult to disable. It would be nice if you could
bring it back to us for examination, so that we know what we are up
against, in case there is another such attack, but your priority will be
the safety of your crew and the restoration of the timeline. But if you
should be able to bring it back, understand that the temporal equivalent
of the Prime Directive applies to your crew, as well. Minimize exposure
of future technology to your people as much as you can. Any questions?”
“Yes, sir. When do we leave?”

The *Atlantis* time jumped to the coordinates where Harry and Alexander
would meet their doom, but they arrived under cloak about a day ahead of
time to plan out their strategy. The commodore called a meeting in the
briefing room for all senior staff, including Antonia.
“Our current assignment is to prevent the destruction of a stolen Leeding
Eelbird Mark Seven spacecraft and its pilot, a man named Harcourt Mudd.
This individual has a police record longer than your arm, but according
to history a few of his escapades had beneficial side effects to the
Federation, so the DTI has determined that he must live to scam another
day.
“What we are facing is some kind of chroniton-based weapon, most likely a
time-traveling missile of unknown origin from the future. So, not only do
we need to prevent the destruction of Mudd’s ship, we must also see to it
that the weapon does no other damage to this era, and, if possible,
return that weapon intact to DTI headquarters without exposing ourselves
to technology we should not know about.”
“That’s bureaucracy for you!” laughed Gerard. “So we should all put on
blindfolds and try to hit it with a baseball bat!”
Andreyevich grinned. “Of course there will be a certain amount of
exposure. All they ask is that we keep it to a minimum. First things
first, however, how do we save Mudd with a minimum of temporal
interference from us?
“Well,” said Gerard. “You mentioned the ship was stolen, so it would not
be unusual for Mudd to assume the police would be after him, right? If we
set the outside holo-emitters to make the *Atlantis* look like a police
ship, he would do one of two things. Either he’d try to make a break for
it, in which case we’ve chased him away from where the missile was going
to hit him, or he’d surrender, in which case we tow his ship to safe
space. Either way, problem solved.”
“Yes, but it ties up the *Atlantis*,” said the commodore. “I want the
ship to be free to tackle the missile.”
“Okay, how about this,” said Casey. “We set one of the holodecks to look
exactly like the interior of the Eelbird. We transport Mudd into it, and
take the real Eelbird into our shuttlebay. We go and tackle the missile.
When the crisis is averted, we put the Eelbird back into space and beam
Mudd back, none the wiser.”
Andreyevich nodded. “A plan with even less overt interference. Unless
anyone has a better suggestion, I think this is the one to go with.”
No one disagreed. After discussing the logistics with everyone, the
commodore dismissed everyone back to duty. All filed out of the room but
for Antonia, who lingered behind waiting for permission to speak.
“Yes, Lieutenant?” invited the commodore.
“Sir, I was wondering,” began Antonia. “When you last spoke to the top
brass, did they say anything to you about my fate?”
“Only that the change in you was not enough to justify any special DTI
mission. It appears you will be staying with us,” said Andreyevich. Was
any of that a lie? No. But it was misleading, which is what the commodore
wanted. To mislead this stranger into a sense of security until the
moment she was painlessly replaced by the one who had more right to be
here. At least in his mind.
The stranger immediately brightened. “Thank you, sir! Permission to
return to duty?”
“Granted.”
He watched her leave the briefing room. *I just better make damn sure you
don’t find out who else we’re rescuing besides Mudd.*

The stolen Eelbird spacecraft dropped out of warp near a tumbling giant
asteroid. Despite the fact that the viewscreen image was breaking up
horribly, Harry managed a practically unpowered swing around it which
threw the ship in the general direction he wanted it to go, but the
maneuver had put the ship itself into a spin. Alexander and Harry didn’t
get dizzy, because the artificial gravity field aboard was working
overtime to compensate, but neither one of them felt like staring at the
scrambled viewscreen, anyway. Each time it did momentarily stabilize, all
they could see were the same stars streaking around and around them.
When Harry saw that the picture was beginning to clear up, he knew they
were leaving the gaseous pocket. It was time to straighten the ship out
and ease her back into warp to strike that fine balance between hurrying
away from the vicinity, yet keeping the warp signature faint enough to be
missed by any pursuers. He would kick it up to top speed in a few more
hours.
An eerily familiar feeling overtook Harry, like the sensation one felt
when being transported, only much quicker. In panic, he looked around
himself. Nothing had changed, however.
“Alexander, did you just get the feeling that…”
“…Like I was in a transporter beam? Definitely. But we’re still here!”
“Hmm. We may be just out of range of our would-be abductor’s beam. I’m
stepping up to warp drive now, my friend. It’s obvious someone is already
on to us.”

Commander Krag beamed aboard the now-empty Eelbird, and took charge of
the controls, maneuvering the small craft to coordinates near the rear of
the *Atlantis*.
“Krag to *Atlantis*. Decloak and open the shuttlebay.”
The ship faded into sight, the doors opened before him, and the Nausicaan
brought the ship inside.

The new Antonia was a damned good pilot, so it was no secret to her that
their current mission had taken them to a sector of space which contained
her own home world, at a point in time just prior to her own birth. And
when she asked the doctor what he knew about this coincidence, he had
told her that the commodore had ordered him not to discuss the mission
with her.
With suspicions in her mind and her heart pounding in her chest, she
privately consulted the LCARS database about the man in the holodeck,
Harcourt Fenton Mudd.
The computer told her that he was a small-time crook, a human, who crimes
were rarely injurious to anyone else but himself. So far, so good. It
wasn’t until she learned the name of the accomplice Mudd had during this
era that she became enraged enough to cause the terminal screen she was
using to explode. A Platonian dwarf named Alexander.
When she returned to the bridge, she didn’t even bother to hide her anger
from anyone there.
“Liar!” she exclaimed at Andreyevich upon stepping out of the turbolift.
“You have that throwback in the holodeck along with Mudd, don’t you?!”
Krag, who had emerged from the other turbolift at the same time,
immediately drew his sidearm and aimed it at her. Before he could fire,
his arm was wrenched back with enough telekinetic force to break it at
the shoulder joint. As he cried out in pain, his phaser skittered across
the deck.
“Too slow, Krag!” barked Antonia. The phaser levitated into the air and
pointed at the commodore, who was seated at the captain’s position.
“Answer my question, Commodore! Is Alexander in the holodeck with Mudd.?”
The commodore saw no point in lying. “Yes, he is. Antonia, pointing a
weapon at your commanding officer is a court-martial offense.”
The phaser pointed upward and spun around to show him the setting. It was
on heavy stun, then, by itself, it sprang all the way to the highest
setting before resuming its aim at him. Not only would one shot totally
vaporize him — it would do likewise to whoever was in the line of fire
on deck two.
“Don’t make me laugh, you bastard! I don’t need a phaser to kill you
where you sit. But it is a cleaner way to go, I have to admit. You just
get erased from existence, as if you were never born, you piece of lying
human filth! Just like what you are planning to do to me! Well, I won’t
have it! How about you?” her eyes narrowed. “Ready to die today, Dmitri?”
“If I must, I must,” answered the commodore. “I take full responsibility
for the plan to restore you during this mission. Since your quarrel is
with me alone, may I suggest you tone the weapon down a few notches? We
don’t need to hurt anyone below this deck.”
“Point well taken,” said Antonia. The phaser beeped a few times were it
hung. “As for the rest of you, listen up! You can save the commodore’s
life, if you wish. I only have one demand. Eject Alexander out into
space. It was meant to be his grave. Mudd and his stolen ship can
continue on as you planned. Federation history is restored, and I
continue to exist. We can come up with a plausible explanation for the
DTI as to what happened, later. Cooperate with me, and we can all go home
to my court-martial. Resist, and I will kill the commodore and anyone
else who stands between me and my continued existence!”
At that point, a proximity alert sounded from Antonia’s vacant position.
“Sounds like the chroniton weapon is arriving, right on schedule,”
surmised Andreyevich. “If you don’t take your position, Lieutenant, and
put some distance between us and it, it may lock on to us. In that event,
we *all* will end up in Alexander’s grave — including you.”
“No, Commodore! *You* take the helm. If you care about your crew, then
you save them! Now!”
Andreyevich nodded. As he rose up to take the pilot’s seat, he noticed
Doctor Zhivago coming out of the ready room. “Was this your doing,
Doctor?”
“I didn’t say anything to her, Commodore, as per your orders. Antonia
isn’t stupid. Did you expect her to react in any other way? She’s only
doing what she must in order to survive, as any of us would.” Zhivago
explained, as he moved to stand beside her.
Antonia smiled at the doctor. “I knew I could count on you to understand
me.”
“I understand you very well, Antonia,” Zhivago said, looking warmly into
her eyes and gently placing a hand on her shoulder.
Suddenly, Antonia felt as if her entire body was on fire, from the
inside! She screamed. The phaser dropped to the deck. In a heartbeat,
Casey scooped it up, reset it to heavy stun and fired it at Antonia. The
Platonian fell, unconscious.
Zhivago hit his comm badge. “Zhivago to Transporter Room. Beam Antonia,
Krag, and myself directly to Sickbay. The rest of the bridge crew watched
as the three dematerialized.
“Casey! Take Krag’s post!” ordered Andreyevich. “Report!”
With a nod, Casey jumped over to tactical. “Object appears to be a
missile, trailing a decreasing chroniton wake. It is altering its course.
It’s now heading directly for us!”
“I’m going to try some evasive maneuvers,” said the commodore, touching a
few icons.
“Object appears to have a lock on us!” reported Casey.
“Do you think you can throw a tractor beam on it without detonating it?”
“Insufficient data on that, sir! If we try and it does, the feedback
could be enough to shake us apart!”
*Too risky*, thought the commodore. “I make its speed as warp eight point
two. I am matching warp velocity in order to keep relative distance
constant; any less we’ll be within its blast radius, any more and we
could evade the lock it has on us.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” asked Casey.
“It is for what I have in mind.”
The *Atlantis* changed course for the nearest star. Minutes passed, but
the weapon following them showed no sign of running out of whatever was
fueling it. The huge ball of flaming gas soon filled the main viewscreen.
The crew could make out sunspots on its surface.
Perspiration beaded the commodore’s forehead, even though the temperature
on the bridge had not changed.
“Engaging cloak!” he suddenly cried, tapping the icon. For a moment, he
looked indecisive about something, then, “Decreasing speed to warp
seven!”
The ship interphased and slowed. The chroniton missile passed right
through the *Atlantis* and continued into the star’s corona, its
sophisticated programming struggling against the massive gravity and
radiation, ultimately disintegrating into nothingness. Still under cloak,
and no longer being affected by the star, the ship diverted away from it
at a leisurely warp seven.
Gerard heaved a sigh of relief. “I thought you were going to try going
through the sun.”
“I thought about it,” admitted the commodore. “But I chickened out at the
last second. This ship probably could have done that, but she doesn’t
need to prove it just yet.”

Later, the Eelbird Mark Seven was piloted out of the shuttlebay by Krag,
whose shoulder was repaired expertly by Zhivago’s staff. When its course,
speed, and coordinates matched the version playing out in the holodeck,
Alexander and Harry were transported back to it.

The commodore visited Zhivago and his patient (who was still out cold on
a biobed) in Sickbay.
“You certainly were right about she might try to do,” commented
Andreyevich. “And your timing was excellent. After some of the words you
and I exchanged, I admit I was a little worried about your loyalty.”
“You are my commanding officer. I must obey you — unless you are crazy,
of course — no matter how much my opinion differs from yours. Much as I
don’t want to see her die, I can’t stand idle while she threatens to take
the lives of others.”
“Just out of curiosity, what was that thing you did to her up on the
bridge?”
“Well, I just…it’s…it’s a Deltan thing, Commodore.”
Andreyevich just looked at him and nodded. “I see. For whatever it’s
worth, she’ll feel no pain when the timeline change finally reaches her.”
“Would your own execution be something less to dread, if you knew it
would be totally painless, Dimitri?” asked Zhivago.
Before the commodore could answer, Antonia’s face morphed back to the way
it was before this whole affair began. The Doctor quickly deactivated the
anesthesia field. She opened her eyes and looked around.
“Sickbay? What am I doing here?” she asked.

When the stolen ship landed on Platonius, Harry stood on its open ramp
and inhaled the fresh air. He felt energized. He wanted to start
prospecting right away.
“Now, Alexander me lad, how does one find kironide on this world?”
“You’re never gonna find it in its pure form, Harry. It’s in the soil,
the plants, the animals, and the people. You can extract it from any or
all of the above. I learned all about it from Mr. Spock. I’ll show you,”
said the dwarf.
In about a week, the two of them managed to squeeze out about two ounces
of the stuff from their surroundings, and that was only after a lot of
hot sweaty labor, the type of thing Harry didn’t care for at all. He
began to wonder if it was worth the effort.
Alexander filled a hypo with his share, and took it with him when he went
to look up some old friends. Harry didn’t hear from his little friend for
another two weeks., but that was fine with him. He continued extracting
kironide during that time, planning to hop back into his ship when he had
what he deemed was enough, and leave Alexander behind. What he didn’t
know was that his association with the little fellow was not destined to
be that short.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Since this is an *Atlantis* story, it ends here. To find
out what happens to Harry Mudd and his new partner, stay tuned to this
website for further developments.

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