Timeship Atlantis Logs: The Other Shoe

Dave:
Here is my new Timeship Atlantis story. I’ve numbered it 3, but
perhaps it should be 4. The ending may be predictable, but I’ve added
some new kinks to each of the characters with this one, which other fan
writers might want to build on.
Walt

Timeship *Atlantis* Logs #3
(Some of the dialogue appearing in this story was originally written by
the authors of the VOY episode “Caretaker.” –WC)

“The Other Shoe” by Walter Chmara

Lieutenant Shelly Casey was off shift on board the starship
*Hood*, when the bridge informed her she had received a coded subspace
message from Starfleet. She diverted to her quarters to view it in
privacy.
The Federation Seal made way on her screen for a black man behind
his desk. He did not wear a Starfleet uniform, nor any rank insignia, and
Casey had never met him before.
“Lieutenant Casey, you do not know me, so I will introduce myself
to you,” he said with a faint West Indies accent. “I am Commodore
Andreyevich’s immediate superior in the Department of Temporal
Investigations. It is my duty to inform you that the commodore has gone
missing, just when we need the *Atlantis* to ship out on her next
assignment. As his chosen first officer, the duty of command now falls to
you. Captain DeSoto will be ordered to shuttle you to coordinates near
the Teralax system, where one of our operatives will pick you up and
bring you to rendezvous with the *Atlantis*. Once you have officially
assumed command, you will be briefed there upon your mission. Discuss
this transmission with no one, not even DeSoto. End of message.”
The Federation seal replaced him on the screen once again.

So, that was why Casey found herself in a shuttlecraft piloted by
none other than Tran Solomere, the biggest bore on the *Hood* bar none.
Solomere was an ensign whose specialty was xenopsychology, and he loved
to remind all of his captive audiences about how much he knew on the
subject — from a technical standpoint. There was a rumor (or was it just
a joke?) that one of the *Hood*’s officers put himself in sickbay after
being exposed to five hours of Solomere’s monologues, just to get away
from him. Listening to him drone on now, Casey tended to doubt it was a
joke, except maybe on the part of DeSoto for making him the pilot on this
trip. Perhaps her captain had a sadistic sense of humor?
“Now, Catspians — *there’s* a race with a unique point of view
in the universe. Their major religion teaches that their homeworld is
paradise and only evil people and fools would want to die and leave it,”
Solomere was saying. “Consequently, they believe that death only happens
to those who deserve it, which is why the concept of ‘funerals’ is so
alien to them. The dead are never honored in their culture, only
ridiculed…”
Casey had been in a dumbfounded stare at him for the last three
hours. The man started speaking just after the shuttle cleared the
docking bay, and hadn’t stopped yet. She didn’t even find a nanosecond to
slip a word in edgewise. Was it actually possible for someone to speak
continuously without even pausing to take a breath?
“This is the shuttlecraft *Aldea*, assigned to the U.S.S.
*Atlantis*,” interrupted a gruff-sounding male voice from the subspace
panel. “Prepare to transport Lieutenant Casey to these coordinates
immediately, then you may return to the *Hood*.”
Casey never thought the voice of the Nausicaan security chief of
the *Atlantis* ever sounded more sweet than when saying those words.
“Acknowledged,” said Solomere. “My, how time flies, Lieutenant. I
hadn’t even realized we were at the rendezvous point.”
“It was nice…talking…to you,” she lied, getting into the
transporter nook after setting it for automatic transfer. Actually, she
hadn’t said anything beyond “hello” during the whole trip.
“Goodbye, then…what did you say your name was, again?”
“I didn’t get the chance to say,” Casey replied before the effect
erased her to the *Aldea*.

When she rematerialized, she felt like throwing her arms around
Krag. Except he didn’t look like the type who would appreciate a gesture
like that. And he seemed even more perturbed now than when she last saw
him.
“Transport acknowledged,” Krag reported to Solomere, before
banking the *Aldea* toward where the *Atlantis* would be waiting for
them.
“Can you tell me any details of the Commodore’s disappearance?”
she asked him.
“No,” he answered gruffly. “Nor is that our concern. Our orders
are for you to assume command of the ship upon our return and to proceed
to our next assignment without him.”
For Casey, this was like falling out of the frying pan and into the
icebox. As talkative as Solomere was, Krag was as tightlipped as an
Aldeberan shellmouth. She sat in silence during the last leg of her trip
— for a completely different reason from the first.

After the *Aldea* docked inside the *Atlantis* shuttlebay, Krag
and Casey stepped out to a welcoming party of one — David Gerard.
“Here are your captain’s pips,” he said by way of greeting,
dropping them into her palm. Indicating his own on his collar, he
continued, “I’ve been designated your first officer.”
“By *whom*?” Casey wanted to know.
“I assume by the same mysterious fellow who ordered you here.
It’s going to be strange going out on one of these assignments without
the “old Starfleet salt.” But I wanted you to know that on behalf of the
entire crew, as well as myself, we have nothing but confidence in our new
captain.”
“Thanks, David. Lord knows, confidence is something I really need
right now. You know anything about our current assignment?”
Gerard gave a slight shrug. “Something about discovering what
happened to a Starfleet vessel that went missing a couple of years ago.
We’ll all get the full details once you’ve officially assumed command on
the bridge.”

As Casey went through the corridors and turbolifts of the ship
with her entourage of Krag and Gerard, she passed a few faces she had
gotten to know over the past couple of missions and nodded her greetings
to them on her way. They seemed to be aware of her position, returning
encouraging looks and gestures.
Popping onto the bridge, she smoothly took the captain’s position
and informed the computer that as of this stardate she was assuming
command of the *Atlantis*. No sooner had she done this, the main
viewscreen came alive with her prerecorded orders.
The mysterious black man was back behind his desk in the image.
“Greetings, Captain Casey. I know you must be wondering why you have been
placed in the missing commodore’s chair. Prior to his disappearance, it
was noted in his logs that should anything happen to make him unfit or
unavailable to command, it was his strong recommendation that you should
succeed him — and we happen to agree. The mission you are about to
embark on was to have been commanded by him, but despite his absence, it
will continue as planned.
“Three years ago, a sister ship of the *Atlantis*, the U.S.S.
*Voyager*, commanded by Captain Katherine Janeway, was lost in the
Badlands around Cardassian space while in pursuit of a Maquis vessel.
Your mission is to time jump back to the moment of that pursuit and
ascertain for certain whether that ship and crew were destroyed, or
merely ‘misplaced’. Attempt a rescue, if at all possible. End of
message.”
“*Voyager*,” whistled Casey. “I heard about the disappearance of
that ship. You know, we might just be able to pull off a rescue with all
the added gadgetry this ship has. All right then. Mr. Gerard, get Kollos
up here to start the time jump. Mr. Antonia, get us under cloak.”
“Kollos to the bridge,” said Gerard, touching his com badge.
“Captain, why the cloak?”
“Well, this still is secret technology. When we time jump, I want
to minimize the chances of being observed.”
“By treaty we are forbidden to use the cloak in this particular
fashion.”
“I don’t think the Romulans will find out,” Casey explained.
“History doesn’t mention the *Atlantis* popping in from the future to
save the *Voyager*. We might learn a lot more about the situation, and
more safely I might add, if no one else knows we’re there.”
Kollos, the Medusan in the silvery androidal shell, popped out of
one of the turbolifts and temporarily relieved Saar, the J’naii officer,
for the time jump procedure. Gerard briefed the Medusan on where and when
they needed to be. Kollos immediately began the preliminary work at the
console.
After doing some quick figuring, Kollos announced, “Awaiting your
order, Captain.”
*Captain* Casey rather liked being called that. “Proceed.”
“Time jump in five…four…three…two…”
A slight reassuring shudder went through the ship, letting
everyone know that the controlled chroniton particle timedrive was doing
its job.
“…One…zero. Time jump to zero point successfully achieved.”
“Very good, Kollos,” praised Casey. “Saar, you may relieve
Kollos.”
“Aye, Captain.” Saar once again reassumed the post, as Kollos
relinquished it.
“If I may be excused, Captain, I would like to report to
engineering,” Kollos requested.
“Is there some sort of a problem?” asked Casey.
“Oh, no, Captain. At least not with the ship. As you know, I am a
non-corporeal being housed in a mobile mechanical dwelling. I would like
to discuss with the engineer some possible modifications to it.”
“I see. By all means, then,” said Casey. “And thank you for your
help.”
The silvery being bowed its head slightly and exited the bridge.
Kollos was a civilian volunteer who didn’t really need permission from
the captain to do anything. But Kollos was also quite a courteous being,
as well as being a long-lived one.
Gerard, meanwhile, had sidled over to his station to do a quick
timeline plot, which popped up on the station’s screen. “Captain, the
plotter says that at this particular moment, the *Voyager* is docked at
Deep Space Nine and will disembark from the station in one hour and
twenty minutes.”

Commodore Dmitri Andreyevitch knew only that things had been
normal when he went to bed the previous night. But when he opened his
eyes this morning (was it morning?), things were definitely not normal.
He found himself seated in a peculiar chair. The chair was doing
something to him; he couldn’t move. His arms lay on the armrests, but he
couldn’t lift them, even though there didn’t appear to be any binding
tied to them. The same could be said for his legs.
“That chair is an adaptation of a Slaver invention, believe it or
not,” a familiar voice stated casually. “It sends jamming waves between
your brain and…well…any part of you I wish to paralyze. For the
moment I want you seated there so that we may speak.”
“Tempus Fugitive,” identified the commodore.
The man in the black hood stepped into Andreyevich’s field of
vision. “That’s me!”
“You kidnapped me while I slept?”
“Yes. It’s less hassle that way.”
“For what reason?”
TF paced before him. “We need to have a little talk, you and I.”
“About what?”
“Mostly about you. About your crew, and the *Atlantis*. Not many
commodores left in Starfleet these days.”
“I was hoping we could talk more about you,” contradicted the
commodore. “As for my peculiar rank, well, I guess that as an old
Starfleet salt old habits die hard with me. I never thought the notion of
going from captain straight to admiral was a good idea, and the fleet
command humors me. I don’t care if that makes me an anachronism. I prefer
to lead by example.”
“What would you like to know about me?” asked TF.
“Your true identity, for starters.”
“You will find out one day, I guarantee. But this isn’t the day.”
“Why do you tamper with time, then?”
“We all have to have something to occupy ourselves, otherwise
life becomes dull. Don’t you have a hobby, Commodore?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. I collect languages.”
TF paused. “Interesting. How does one do that?”
“I speak twenty-two fluently. I dabble in a few others.”
“That’s quite a gift you have,” acknowledged TF.
“It has come in handy, more than once.”
“Im sure it has. Commodore, why must you and I always be on
opposite sides when we encounter one another in our travels, hmm?”
“Because you seem to be bent on changing history. My superiors
have charged me with preserving it.”
TF nodded. “I must admit they certainly got an excellent man for
that job. I’ve encountered other DTI operatives who weren’t as on the
ball as you. But, tell me, just what is so great about preserving
history?”

*Atlantis* was still under interphasing cloak when she hovered
near the Bajoran space station, currently designated DS9 by the
Federation. The main viewer displayed the station in all its Cardassian
architectural glory. Docked at one of the upper pylons was a vessel with
the exact shape of the *Atlantis*, but with a different name and registry
number. This was their objective. The starship *Voyager*.
“What can you tell me about the *Voyager*’s captain?” asked
Casey.
Gerard took a breath. “Captain Janeway has a distinguished career
record. No blemishes at all until this incident. Her family tree has
quite a history with Starfleet, and as they say, the apple doesn’t fall
far from the tree. Unconventional in a couple of ways…”
Casey looked at him. “Well, don’t keep me in suspense!”
“It seems she always had an objection to being called ‘mister’ or
‘sir’ –”
“Hey, I know the feeling,” Casey smiled.
“– and it seems that in preparation for this assignment she
sprang one Thomas Paris from a rehab colony on Earth in order to aid her
in capturing the Maquis. Apparently he was once a member of the bunch she
was after.”
“Hmm…Paris. Is he any relation to …?”
“His son,” nodded Gerard, knowingly. “And speaking of apples,
this Thomas was a real bad one.”
“Think he may in some way have been responsible for *Voyager*’s
disappearance?”
Gerard shrugged. “Under normal circumstances, he would be my first
suspect. But without any debris from *Voyager* ever found, my guess is
that the cause is bigger than him.”
“David,” Casey leaned forward and toned down her voice. “What if
whatever happened to the *Voyager* could also happen to us as we follow
her? Let’s face it, our specs and hers are practically identical.”
Gerard nodded. “That thought crossed my mind, too. The last time
a spacecraft called *Voyager* disappeared was back in the twentieth
century. The space probe *Voyager VI, to be precise. It ended up on the
other side of the galaxy.”
“And came back two centuries later, mutated to ridiculous
proportions, almost wiping out all life on Earth,” Casey finished for
him. “I remember that story. Hypothetically, if we ended up on the other
side of the galaxy, and the gateway closed behind us, would our timedrive
be able to bring us back here?”
Gerard shook his head. “No. It doesn’t work that way. The
timedrive can only shift our temporal coordinates, not our spatial ones.
We’d still be stuck over there just earlier or later in time. However, if
by gateway you mean something like a collapsing wormhole, we might be
able to timeshift to a point when it was open and use it to come back,
assuming we don’t collide with our earlier selves heading the other
way…”
Casey sniffed in agreement. “How many other possibilities could
have happened to Janeway’s ship?”
“Complete atomization, leaving absolutely no traceable evidence
behind. While theoretically possible, it is a practical impossibility.
Short of piloting a starship into a sun, we really have not encountered
anything that can erase its existence so totally. No matter how bad the
disaster, we can usually detect *something* left behind.
“Then there are parallel universes to consider. *Voyager* could
have slipped into one of those. And the final, ever-present possibility
that we’ve all come to know and love.”
“Which is?” prompted Casey.
“Something no one has encountered before. The unknown,” Gerard’s
eyes widened in spooky effect.

“I don’t understand the question,” said the commodore.
“I don’t see why not,” retorted TF. “It’s a simple one. Who died
and made the Federation Council God? Why do you and your superiors work
so hard to put back a timeline to the way it was? Or, to put it more
truthfully, to the way you *think* it should be?”
“Time tampering threatens the Federation. It threatens the lives
of individuals. All living things have a right to defend their existence,
no matter which battlefield we’re discussing, space…or time.”
“I think we both know that is a load of megadon droppings,” TF
contradicted. “Why hasn’t the DTI sent you back in time to prevent any
massacres? Surely, by your reasoning, those who have been murdered *en
masse* had a right to exist?”
“They certainly did,” agreed the commodore. “The difference is
that the victims of the normal flow of time have more free will than the
victims of a superior technology from the future.”
TF grasped his hooded chin in thought. “So let me get this
straight. If General Custer’s cavalry gets wiped out by the natives,
that’s okay in your book. Free will, and all that — though I’m sure his
men would have a had very different outlook. But if I go back there and
save their lives, that’s wrong. Tell me, whose free will has been taken
away by my action?”
“Everyone involved, clearly. And beyond. If you change the
outcome of the battle of Little Bighorn, then you erase the legend of
Custer’s Last Stand, something which has stood as an important lesson in
the mind of every commander wise enough to learn from it to this very
day. Saving two hundred lives in the past could very easily ripple effect
to a loss of billions later on.”
“*Could*,” repeated TF. “You hang a lot of your philosophy on
that word, Commodore. What if I guaranteed you that all it would do is
make a lot of people in the past very happy?”
“Then I would have no choice but to call you a liar. Those men
were sent to massacre the natives. Had they lived, they would have done
more of the same, perhaps killing somebody originally destined to be an
ancestor of someone living today.”
“I can make the same argument about the *Challenger* disaster.
You changed history. You eliminated an event that had an equally
important lesson to teach future generations.”
“I never pretended that was an easy decision to make. But the way
things turned out, I’m confident that it was the right one. And it was a
decision I would never have had to make, if it wasn’t for your tampering
in the first place.”
“Ah, but you don’t really know what I was doing there by the
ship’s booster, do you? Was I repairing it, or damaging it?”
“You were there. Why don’t you tell me?”
“The point is you were not sure. You’re still not. But you
changed history to suit yourself, so don’t pretend to have any superior
motives compared to my to my own.”
“We don’t go on any mission to expressly change history. We are
the equivalent of a team of repairmen. Sometimes we must jury-rig a
solution to correct someone else’s sabotage. Such as when you aided Khan
Singh to destroy Kirk’s *Enterprise*. What was your purpose in doing
that?”
TF chuckled. “You take this game far too seriously, Commodore.
Sure, in my version of history Kirk and his crew perished, and Singh got
his second chance to do what he set out to do. Weren’t you ever the
slightest bit curious about how all that would turn out, yourself?”
Andreyevich would have shrugged if he had been able. “Not really.
Kirk’s crew was far from finished contributing to history yet. And Khan
Singh was nothing if not consistent. Totally predictable, which is why it
was imperative that he be stopped.”
“And stop him you did. Yet again. The poor bastard was created by
your own kind to be what he was, a genetically perfect tyrant. Yet time
and again, your kind denied him his destiny. I only wanted to see what he
would have done if he had been allowed to have it. Not guess at it, as
you would, but *see it in real time*.”
The commodore gaped at his captor in realization. “So, to you,
this is just an exercise in curiosity. You use all of time as your
laboratory, so you can experiment with your ‘what ifs’.”
“*Now* you get the idea, Commodore. Who do I really hurt? If you
really don’t like one of my alternate timelines, you are free to ‘fix’ it
back to the way you like it.”
“Tempus, neither you nor I really know what harm we are doing
when either of us tampers with time. Maybe I *can’t* restore any of it
back one hundred percent. Maybe one of your changes can’t be undone,
despite the DTI’s best efforts. To you, what you are doing may be
harmless fun, but what if it isn’t?”
TF shrugged. “If it isn’t? None of you will ever know the
difference. That’s the beauty of this game.”

“I never liked this space station,” grumbled Krag to Gerard, as
the two of them moved through the Promenade disguised as a pair of
Pakleds. Pakleds were a dime a dozen on DS9 these days. Most others would
shy away from trying to engage one in conversation, at least not if they
valued their time.
“Oh? Give me one reason why,” asked Gerard.
“It’s a filthy piece of Cardassian junk, claimed by backward
Bajorans who can’t even run it themselves, which is why they called in
Starfleet to do it for them. And the captain of the station allows a
Gamma Quadrant shapeshifter to run security. And the only decent
entertainment to be found here has to be under the ownership of a
particularly annoying Ferengi.”
“Geez, I only asked for one reason!”
“Oh, I can give you plenty of others.”
Gerard gave him as wry a look as he could with his Pakled
features. Since the *Atlantis* hadn’t been built yet, and their younger
selves were officially elsewhere during this time, they could not simply
board the station as themselves without the possibility of raising
certain questions that were better off unasked. Gerard, though, was
personally fascinated by the thought of being in two places at the same
time. He wondered what the other David Gerard was doing at this very
moment.
“Let’s just find Paris without raising any suspicions, okay?”
“The sooner the better,” agreed Krag.
*”That’s a good idea, guys,”* added Casey’s voice through their
aural implants. *”Remember, any comments you make can be picked up by a
shapeshifter disguised as something right next to you.”*
Casey was able to watch what was going on via the main viewer on
the bridge. Both Krag and Gerard were wearing their mission
communicators, which were inconspicuous-looking and had the added
capability of sending video back to the *Atlantis*.
They were passing by the bar, when they heard a raised voice
coming from within.
“Slurs!” it protested in a Ferengi-sounding voice. “About my
people! At the Academy!”
Krag and Gerard moved in to see what was developing. Inside, they
found a young Starfleet ensign with Oriental features seated before the
fuming Ferengi, and looking quite panic-stricken by the Ferengi’s verbal
assault.
“What I meant was –” began the ensign.
“Here I am,” interrupted the Ferengi, “trying to be a cordial
host, knowing how much a young officer’s parents would appreciate a token
of his love on the eve of a dangerous mission, and what do I get?
Scurrilous insults!”
“Speak of the devil and he appears,” Krag quoted the old human
saying to Gerard. “I would like to teach him how a Nausicaan grunt would
insult a Ferengi!”
“Down, boy,” grinned Gerard, more interested in seeing how this
ensign was going to pull himself out of his sudden problem.
The Ferengi, meanwhile, had whipped out a padd. “What was your
name, son?”
“My…name?” hesitated the ensign.
“You have one, I presume?” continued the Ferengi, taking notes.
“Kim. Harry Kim.”
“And who was it at the Academy who warned you about Ferengi?”
“You know,” Kim tried to change the subject by indicating the
tray of baubles which rested between them on the bar, “I think a memento
for my parents would be a great idea! Really! One of these would look
great as a pendant for my mother.”
“Or cufflinks for your father,” added the Ferengi, before taking
the tray away. “They’re not for sale. Now, inform your commanding officer
that the Federation Council can expect an official –”
“How much for the entire tray?” Kim asked.
“Cash or credit?” responded the Ferengi, lowering the tray back
down to the bar.
At this point, another human male joined the conversation,
seating himself by Kim’s side, “Dazzling, aren’t they? As
bright as Koladan diamonds.”
Krag gave Gerard a meaningful nudge. Gerard nodded his
understanding. The newcomer was their objective, Thomas Paris. On the
bridge of the *Atlantis*, Casey ordered the volume to be turned up.
“Brighter,” contradicted the Ferengi.
“Hard to believe you can find them on any planet in this system,”
said Paris.
“That’s an exaggeration,” protested the Ferengi.
“There’s a shop at the Volnar Colony that sells a dozen assorted
shapes for one Cardassian lek. How much were you selling these for?”
asked Paris.
“We were just about to negotiate the price,” explained the
Ferengi, looking to Kim.
Kim had wised up by now, and pushed the tray away from himself,
wordlessly getting up from the bar to leave. Paris followed him, asking.
“Didn’t they warn you about Ferengi at the Academy?”
The two “Pakleds” also followed — but at a discreet distance.

“Commodore, I’ve been at both ends of time, the very beginning of
everything, and the very end of everything — and, yes, it does all come
to an end, eventually. How does this change your outlook, eh? Knowing
that all this butt-busting that you do in the name of preserving time all
ultimately amounts to nothing?”
“I know nothing of the sort. I only have the word of a stranger
in a hood on that.”
TF shrugged. “Why would I lie to you?”
“Because you want me to stop interfering with your games, that’s
obvious.”
TF waved that notion away. “If that was what I wanted, I could
just kill you at any time and be done with you. Be serious.”
“I am always serious, especially in serious situations. You *are*
a killer; you’ve made that plain. So killing me, at least here and now,
doesn’t suit you for some reason. I don’t suppose you would care to tell
me why?”
“Death is something that will always be waiting for all of us,
Commodore. You can postpone it for a while. But cheat it? Never. Once you
die, that uniqueness that is you is gone for good. Even we time travelers
have a limited lifespan. Whatever we intend to accomplish with time had
better be done while the heart is still beating, you know. I, personally,
have nothing against you or your crew. I just won’t let you slam me in a
Federation brig for just being the Tempus Fugitive. There’s just too much
out there just waiting for me to learn before I stop breathing.”
TF sighed. “I’ll let you go, now, Commodore. I’ve said everything
I wanted to say. All I ask is that you think about it. We’ll be having
more encounters, I’m sure of it.”
Andreyevich felt the chair letting go of him. In the next
instant, he was back on top of his own bed, as though nothing out of the
ordinary had happened to him.

It became obvious to Casey that her operatives were following
Paris to the upper pylon where the *Voyager* was docked. Clearly, he and
Kim were going to report in, but two Pakleds would have a difficult time
doing the same, so she had Krag and Gerard returned to the *Atlantis*.
Meanwhile, down in engineering, Zam Poldegin had finally made
some time to see Kollos.
“What can I do for you, Ambassador?” asked Zam.
“Please, call me Kollos. I haven’t been an official ambassador in
ages.”
“Kollos it is then,” agreed the engineer.
“I would like to discuss some possible modifications to my
androidal shell.”
“I wasn’t aware that there were any problems with it.”
“Oh, it is functioning quite well within its design limits. It
gives me solidity, mobility, manual dexterity, a pleasing artificial
voice, as well as protecting you corporeals from the maddening effects of
my appearance. It is just that my personal quest into the corporeal word
is an ongoing one, and it is about time for some improvements.”
“Very well. Tell me what you have in mind, specifically.”
“I would like to have sexual organs.”
For a moment, Zam just stood there, a slight grin showing up on
her face. “I see. What type would you be interested in?”
“Well, the truth is, I haven’t quite decided, yet. I’ve done a
lot of research on the subject, and it seems to me that in the corporeal
world the top choices would be male or female, although, as you well
know, the Federation has certainly come across plenty of lifeforms that
fall under the category of *other*. Perhaps you could
recommend…something?”
“I am just a mechanic, Kollos. While I could fix you up
with…parts…you are going to have to settle on exactly *which* parts,
yourself. What I can suggest is this: we have some fine examples of
males, females, and others right here on this ship. What not ask them all
what they think, and then decide for yourself?”
“That is a capital idea, Chief! I think I will begin with none
other than Doctor Zhivago. Deltans are renowned for their expertise on
matters sexual.” Kollos thanked her, then headed for Sickbay.
“Good luck,” waved the engineer. “And call me Zam.”

“Is there any way we can beam aboard the *Voyager* without
setting off the intruder alerts?” asked Gerard, back in his own form and
in the briefing room.
“Not if she is exactly like this ship,” stated Krag proudly.
“Up until the last mission, I would have said the same thing,”
muttered Casey. “But TF found a slick way on and off our bridge and not
one panel so much as blinked. If he can do it — we can do it.”
“TF has access to technology which we don’t have under our
fingertips at this moment,” Gerard reminded her.
Casey sighed. “That’s okay. Even if we did, the last thing I want
to do is risk losing any member of this crew when whatever happens to
*Voyager* happens. I was thinking small. All we really need over there is
just one of our mission communicators in a good location on the bridge.
Then we could stay at safe range and watch what happens on our own
viewscreen.”
“That is a good idea!” said Gerard. “But we still have the
problem of how do we place it there?”
“Easy,” said Krag. “Nanites.”
“Nanites?” repeated Gerard.
“Of course,” said Krag. “Microscopic robots programmed to build a
mission communicator from supplies they could easily acquire once they
are over there. And getting them over there would be child’s play. We
simply sprinkle them on a crewmember who hasn’t boarded yet.”
“Krag! You are an evil genius!” cried Casey. “I’m glad you’re on
our side!”

“For Deltans, sexuality is not merely limited to genitalia,” said
Zhivago, when Kollos dropped by in Sickbay. “We have learned that
eroticism starts first and foremost in the brain, but it is different for
every individual. Have you ever had any brushes with corporeal
sexuality?”
“Well, my mind was once inside a male Vulcan a long time ago, but
the circumstances were critical, and I didn’t have much time to explore
anything, much less sexuality.”
“How very fortunate for you, Kollos. The Vulcans are exceedingly
repressed as a people, particularly sexually. Worse than humans, whom we
consider sexually immature, although even *they* do show some promise.”
“So, what you are saying is that the shape of the organs has less
importance than the state of the mind?”
“Not precisely. The mind and body have to be a single unit.
Pleasures of the flesh are nothing without the mind, and a mind without
pleasure is little else but a computer chip. Female and male both have
many desires that need quenching, a lot in common and some that are,
necessarily, different. I’m not certain as to how to explain this in
detail to an asexual being.”
“We Medusans are not exactly asexual, Doctor. I suppose the
closest genderal analogy I have is to the males of corporeal species. You
see, some Medusans are positively charged, and others, like myself, are
negatively charged. During the mating season on Medusa, when the
*melagarks* just begin to *fleel*, the ones who are extremely negatively
charged display this fact by dancing the *ogonok*. This attracts the
attention of the extremely positively charged ones, who must join into
the *ogonok* by *shmanking* their *ozerons*, which is quite a naughty
thing on my world — even during the mating season…Doctor, are you
feeling all right?”
Zhivago’s breathing had begun to get shallow during Kollos’
description. He was wiping a bit of perspiration from his forehead.
“Yes…yes, I will be. I just have some private business to
attend to, right now. Please excuse my abrupt leaving. Computer, if I am
needed, I will be in Holodeck four!” With that, Zhivago left Sickbay in
somewhat of a hurry.
“Hmm,” thought Kollos. “Perhaps Deltans need to dance the
*ogonok* sometimes, as well.”
Kollos considered the alternative of asexuality. This was
precisely what the androidal shell was, humanoid, but with no particular
clue to gender. At first Kollos thought that not having an obvious gender
among humanoids would tend to make one a freak. But then, no one ever
treated Saar, the J’naii, a freak. The J’naii people did away with gender
a long time ago, and considered themselves all the better for it. Perhaps
Saar would have some insights of interest to Kollos.
Kollos caught up with Saar in one of the corridors on level two,
asking to have a word on the subject. Saar listened patiently, then
almost exploded from surprise.
“You want *what*?”
“A gender,” explained Kollos, “for my androidal shell. I am
curious about the experience, plus I believe it may make it easier for
humanoids to relate to me.”
“Why? Humanoids relate to me just fine, even though I am
technically an ‘it’ by their standards.”
“I realize that. As an asexual corporeal, yourself, I knew you
must have a lifetime’s worth of wisdom that you could impart to me.”
“You are better off without gender, my friend. By its very
definition. it is divisive, unfair, a proven generator of psychosis, and
an unnecessary distraction from the true pursuits of life. My people
consider it animalistically vulgar and archaic. Ever since we liberated
ourselves from it, there hasn’t been one recorded incident of adultery,
rape, pregnancy, prostitution, or gender bias. No other people can say
that.”
“Doctor Zhivago would say that your people have disposed of one
of the most pleasure-filled aspects of corporeal living.”
Saar sniffed. “Deltans. They are so obsessed with this particular
type of backwardness. There’s a rumor going around about Zhivago that
proves my point exactly, if true.”
“Why? What’s the rumor?”
“Some say that the reason he joined Starfleet and took his vow of
celibacy is that he once engaged in sexual relations with a human female
and killed her. A life lost on account of this much vaunted, but
notoriously fleeting, pleasure.”

“Keep going, straight ahead,” advised Casey.
She was watching Gerard’s progress on the bridge’s main viewer.
He had returned to Quark’s bar in his Pakled persona with a small capsule
full of nanites in his right hand. Casey was guiding him to a crewman who
would carry the nanites to the *Voyager*, unknowingly, on his person.
The image was actually split on the screen, with Gerard’s video
coming in on the left, and video from Krag on the right. The right side
showed the DS9 security chief, Constable Odo, surveying everything on
another part of the Promenade. Casey wanted to be sure of his exact
location, because Odo had a reputation of doing his job very well. Even
if he changed shape, she could still reasonably keep tabs on him. She
didn’t want him interfering in this critical part of the plan.
On the left side of the screen, the image of a man in a Starfleet
uniform sitting at a table by himself drew closer.

From the officer’s point of view, he had been minding his own
business, trying to enjoy his Aldeberan whiskey here on the station,
since back on board ship the closest he could get to actual alcohol would
be synthehol, and synthehol did nothing to kill his inner pain. Then a
hand came down on his shoulder. It appeared to be a roaring drunk Pakled.
Just what he needed.
“I am a Pakled,” Gerard told him, hoping it was a good
impersonation. “I need a restroom, where I can go.”
The officer pointed him in right direction, not bothering to say
anything. Gerard lumbered off in that general direction.
Gerard entered the restroom, forgetting for a moment that he was
still transmitting a visual back to the bridge. “The seeds have been
planted,” he said.
A Yridian, who had been using the facilities, said, “That’s
nice,” before walking out.
“Good job, David,” said Casey’s voice in his ear. “Only warn us
next time when you’re gonna show us somebody relieving himself. There
*are* ladies here, you know.”
“Sorry. Coast is clear; ready to beam out.”
Gerard then dematerialized.

The officer at the table finished his drink, getting up with a
sigh. Time to report back on board. He left a generous tip for the
waitress. Before he could even take one step forward. He almost ran into
an elderly oriental man in civilian clothes.
“Excuse me,” said the officer, trying to get by.
The older man was not dissuaded, taking the officer by the
shoulders. “This will only take a minute, Paul.”
He ran a handheld device over Paul’s left shoulder.
“Wait a minute! What are you doing?” protested the officer. “Do I
know you?”
“Not yet, but we will have plenty of time to get to know one
another in the coming months. I’m just getting rid of something somebody
else sprinkled on you, that’s all. There. Got ’em all.”
Paul figured this was just an eccentric old man. “Great. Thanks.
Now, I really must get going.”
The old man let him go with what looked like a smile of memory.

Some time went by. The bridge crew of the *Atlantis* watched the
*Voyager* disconnect from the docking pylon and swiftly disembark on her
doomed mission.
“How long before the nanites finish their work and we get a
picture?” asked Casey.
“Something must have gone wrong, Captain,” said Zam’s voice from
engineering. “We should have been getting something from them by now.”
“Damn the luck!” cursed Casey. “All right, Antonia, let’s follow
them. Keep the cloak up, but be ready for evasive maneuvering if it
doesn’t protect us from whatever happens to the *Voyager*.”
“Aye, Captain,” Antonia touched the appropriate icons on her
panel, and placed her stomach on yellow alert. She had learned the hard
way that a machine can let you down when you need it most, and it almost
left her permanently telekinetically crippled.
“Captain!” Krag’s features betrayed astonishment. “We are
receiving a subspace visual message!”
Casey’s eyebrows went up. How could that be? No one was supposed
to know they were there! “Put it on the main screen.”
A white-haired old man with a mustache and oriental features
appeared before them. “Captain Casey! I’m afraid I was
the one who rounded up all your nanites before Paul took them to
*Voyager*. I know what your mission is, and I must ask you to abandon
it.”
Gerard, at his station, thought this man looked and sounded
familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on who he was.”
“I’m afraid I don’t take my orders from you, whoever you are,”
responded Casey. “And how did you know we were here, and who I am?”
“This is all part of history to me, so of course I know you were
sent here by the DTI to discover what happened to *Voyager*, and rescue
the ship if possible. The leadership of the DTI in your time had good
reason for wanting you to do this. But in my time it was discovered to be
a mistake. *Voyager* must be allowed to go unhindered where she’s going,
otherwise too many very important events in galaxy history will never
happen. Trust me, that would be a really bad thing. I must also ask you
not to pursue the ship. To do so would mean the eventual destruction of
the *Atlantis*, and you people still have a lot of work ahead of you to
do in the Alpha Quadrant.”
“How do I know this isn’t some kind of trick on your part?”
demanded Casey.
“You don’t,” said the old man, reasonably. “But all DTI timeships
have had a random password generator in their computer systems since the
agency began. No one knows what the passwords for a given interval are
going to be until they are generated, but they become a part of the
record when the ship returns to its home base. I can tell you what your
password is right now, and what it will be five seconds from now and five
seconds after that, *ad infinitum*. I could only do that if I am telling
you the truth.”
Casey looked to Gerard. The DTI never bothered to inform her
about that detail.
Gerard nodded to her. “He’s right. I can put the passwords up on
the screen as they are generated. If he matches them, he’s genuine.”
Casey reached her decision. “Do it. Both of you.”
Gerard made the passwords blink at the bottom of the screen in
subtitle style, while the stranger seemed to be reading them from there
(which, of course, he couldn’t).
“Gorn, halibut, sitar, election, gravy, psychoanalysis, kroyka…”
Every five seconds a new word was born, and the old man recited each one
flawlessly.
“Enough,” said Casey.
Everyone seemed to be looking at her to make the right move. She
just wished she knew what the right move was.
“Convinced?” asked the man.
“For all I know, you could be from the Q continuum.”
“That’s really reaching. The Q wouldn’t bother to engage your
cooperation, would they?”
Casey had to admit that made sense. “Antonia, break off pursuit.”
“Aye, Captain. All stop.”
The stranger smiled. “Wise choice, Captain. I’m transmitting a
coded message to your computer for your superior when you report back.
I’m sure after he reads it, he will approve of your decision, as well.”
The screen now showed a still starfield.
“I’ve got it!” Gerard suddenly exclaimed.
“What?” asked Casey, startled.
“I know who that guy is! It’s the same fellow Krag and I saw in
the bar haggling with the Ferengi! Harry Kim!”

When Kollos showed up on the bridge to take the ship home, the
Medusan was the subject of everyone already there.
“Kollos,” said Casey. “Everyone here tells me you have been
shopping around for a gender. Have you settled on one?”
“Yes, Captain. I have decided to try them all, one after the
other. No offense, Lieutenant Saar, but I’ve been genderless ever since I
was placed in this body. I believe I will try being male, first.”
“No offense taken, Kollos; it’s your life. Just be sure you start
wearing clothing when you do, or you will risk offending the ladies,”
said the J’naii.
“Where did you get *that* notion from, Saar?” Antonia wanted to
know.
“Isn’t that what the captain implied when Gerard sent us the
image of the Yridian performing a perfectly normal biological function?”
returned Saar.
“Some functions are just not spectator sports, Saar,” Antonia
tried to explain. “You wear or don’t wear whatever you want, Kollos. I
promise you I won’t be offended.”
“That is comforting,” Kollos said, while replacing Saar at ops.

*Atlantis* leaped forward through time towards home.

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