“So what are you saying, Constable?” Sisko asked, “Do you think this man poses some kind of threat?”
Sisko looked at his security chief. The face was unreadable, but somehow Sisko could tell when he was agitated. He had gotten to know him at least that well in the few months they had worked together.
“What I’m saying, Commander,” Odo replied impatiently, “is that I have no idea what kind of creature this ‘DeVille’ person is, but he managed to get onto the station unseen, and left to his own devices, he could cause no end of havoc. I’m saying that we should be careful.”
Sisko stroked his chin. “Always advisable,” he agreed. He turned to Kira Nerys, the third occupant of his office. “Major?”
Kira stood formally, legs slightly apart, hands behind her back, jaw set resolutely, as if the very act of relaxing her stance would be a threat to the station’s safety.
She looked at Odo. “Is this DeVille a friend of Shatner’s?” she asked.
“No, not a friend, certainly,” Odo replied, “but they do know each other, and it appears as if they come from the same place,” he glanced at Sisko, “or time, if you prefer.”
Sisko sat forward. Damned if he didn’t have to keep an eye on every straggler that wandered through this place. It was getting tiresome.
“Let’s get this over with,” he said tiredly. “I have a feeling that the sooner we get rid of Mister Shatner, the sooner we get rid of this Mister DeVille.”
“You’re going to let him go inside the wormhole?” Kira asked in disbelief.
“Yes, Major, I am.”
“Are you sure that’s advisable, Commander?” Odo asked before Kira could spout any further venom.
“No, Constable, I am not. As a matter of fact, I think it’s damned ill-advised. But my priority right now is to get these men off this station, and get the distraction they bring with them the hell away from here.”
Kira gaped at him, her mouth open, shaking her head ever so slightly.
Sisko sighed. “And I know Sternbach and Okuda. They’re not malicious, they’re just overzealous. And right now, they’re in their rooms, which is the best place for them.”
“You want me to keep an eye on them?” Odo asked.
“Be discreet, Constable,” Sisko cautioned.
“Always,” Odo replied, and, with a curt nod, left the office.
As the doors swished closed, Kira took a step forward.
“Commander,” she said firmly.
“Not now, Major,” Sisko rumbled.
Kira glared at him.
Sisko shifted in his seat, and glared right back at her.
“Dismissed,” he said after a moment.
Kira expelled a large quantity of air out of her nose, then turned on her heel and strode out of the office. As the doors closed behind her, Sisko sighed. Shaking his head, he looked up at the ceiling and spoke to the air.
“Lieutenant Dax,” he said.
“Dax here,” came the voice over the comm-terminal.
“Would you and Chief O’Brien come in here for a moment?”
“On our way.”
A moment later, the office doors swished open again, admitting Lieutenant Dax and Chief of Operations Miles O’Brien.
“Lieutenant. Chief.” Sisko nodded at each of them.
“Commander,” O’Brien replied. Dax just smiled at him.
Sisko leaned forward and rested his arms on the desk. “I have a little job for the two of you,” he said.
Miles O’Brien entered Quark’s place and looked around. After a moment he focused on a table in the corner where a man fitting Shatner’s description was sitting talking with a man fitting DeVille’s description.
Noticing Quark behind the bar, O’Brien sidled up to him.
“Is that, uh—?” he asked Quark, jerking his head towards the table.
“Shatner?” Quark finished the question. “Yes, it is. And the cheapskate’s been nursing that same drink for over two hours now. If he doesn’t order again soon, I’m going to toss him out on his ear.”
“The commander’s already thought of that,” O’Brien said with a quick grin.
“I don’t know who the other guy is,” Quark said, picking up a glass to wipe.
“Neither does anyone else, apparently,” O’Brien replied, and started walking towards Shatner and his companion.
“Mister Shatner?” he said as he neared the table.
Shatner looked up, startled. “Yes,” he said.
O’Brien stuck his hand out. “Miles O’Brien, Chief of Operations.”
Shatner reached up and took his hand. “Good to meet you.”
“I’m, uh, sorry to interrupt your conversation, sir, but I—”
O’Brien did a double take for half a second as he looked over at the other chair. The other man was gone. There had been no sound, no movement, nothing. He’d been there a moment before, and now he wasn’t.
“Uh—wasn’t there someone with you just a moment ago?” O’Brien asked, trying not to let his confusion show too much.
Shatner looked at O’Brien like he had two heads. He was about to say something, then turned to look at the other chair. Almost as if someone had spoken to him, O’Brien thought. A moment later, Shatner looked back up at him.
“Uh, yes,” Shatner said, sounding almost embarrassed. “I was chatting with someone here until just a few moments ago. He left just as you were arriving.”
O’Brien tried very hard not to narrow his eyes or scowl. There was something extremely fishy going on here, and he intended to report it to Commander Sisko. For the moment, however, he had his task to perform.
“I just wanted to tell you,” he said to Shatner, “Commander Sisko has arranged for you to see the wormhole. Lieutenant Dax and I just need about twenty minutes to get the runabout ready, and we can take you in. Can you meet us at Docking Bay Four in about half an hour?”
Shatner looked interested. “That sounds fascinating, Mister O’Brien. I’ll be there.”
O’Brien nodded. “Great. I’ll see you then.”
He walked away from the table muttering flowery Irish curses under his breath.
“I’m telling you, the guy was there one minute and gone the next.”
O’Brien was moving back and forth among the control panels of the runabout like a caged animal. Dax glanced up at him from time to time and smiled sympathetically. She was used to O’Brien’s occasional antsiness, and humored him as best she could. She liked O’Brien, not only because he was a skilled engineer and an interesting person, but also because he had a terrific sense of humor.
Except for times like this.
“Maybe he slipped away from the table while you weren’t looking,” she offered.
O’Brien stopped what he was doing and gave her an insulted glare.
“I’m not blind, Lieutenant,” he said impatiently. “And I’m not deaf, either. I was standing at the table, for criminy’s sake. He would have had to practically knock me over to get out of there. The guy just—vanished.” He snapped his fingers. “Like that.”
He shook his head in remembered confusion. Then he chuckled. “And the hell of it was, Shatner looked at the empty chair like there was someone still in it, talking to him. It was the damnedest thing.”
He returned to his diagnostics. Dax turned her attention back to the sensor array.
A moment later, O’Brien stopped and turned back to her.
“I’m telling you, Lieutenant,” he said emphatically, “there’s something funny going on around here, and it all revolves around that Shatner fella.” He turned back to his display, but only for a moment. “And this business about taking him into the wormhole, well, that just rubs me the wrong way altogether.” Once again he turned back to his work.
Once again, he spun back around again to look at Dax. This time Dax stopped what she was doing and looked back at him.
“I mean, he’s supposed to be a visitor from the twentieth century, right? So, why are we even showing him the station? Was he frozen in some cryogenic process and can’t go back where he came from? If that’s it, then all well and good, but what if he’s able to go back home again? He can change the future, knowing all about what we’ve got here.”
He shook his head and turned back to his panel again. This time, instead of turning back to rant some more, he just muttered at his console.
“I’m perfectly willing to play the gracious host, and all that, but I don’t have to like it. You’d think we were running a bloody vacation resort.”
Dax shook her head, still smiling. “Why don’t we just wait and see what happens, Chief?” she said. “We’ve dealt with more serious situations that this.”
O’Brien just grunted. “Yeah, well, that’s easy enough for you to say, isn’t it?”
Dax just shook her head and continued testing the sensors.
For the second time in one day, Bill settled himself aboard a runabout. This time, however, it was the Rio Grande, and instead of Sternbach and Okuda, he was in the company of the mesmerizing Jadzia Dax and the cocky O’Brien. Beside him sat Lucien DeVille, but only Bill could see him. Dax and O’Brien were blissfully unaware of his “accountant’s” presence.
The ride was smooth. These two seemed a little more capable than Okuda and Sternbach. Maybe they were just a little less enthusiastic.
“Coming up on the wormhole now, Mister Shatner,” O’Brien said. “You should have quite a show in few seconds.”
That was an understatement. The dazzling display of luminosity that treated Bill’s retinas was unmatched in his experience. He was dumbstruck. He stared out the front viewport like a man who had never used his eyes before.
O’Brien looked back at him and chuckled. “Told you it’d be impressive,” he said.
In a moment they were engulfed in the living lights. The ride became more turbulent, but Bill hardly noticed. He just stared, gaped, then stared again.
“Are we slowing down, Lieutenant?” O’Brien asked.
Dax checked her readouts, then nodded confirmation. “It’s just like the first time Benjamin and I went through,” she said. “I haven’t decreased power, but our speed is dropping.”
“Damned peculiar,” O’Brien said, frowning.
“Is something wrong?” Bill asked.
O’Brien looked back at him and shrugged. “Normally I’d say yes,” he replied, “but the lieutenant here seems to have been expecting this.”
Dax looked at him with a twinkle. “Not exactly expecting, Chief,” she said, “but I’ve seen this before and I think I know what’s going to happen next.”
The runabout continued to slow down. O’Brien and Dax worked intently over their consoles for some minutes, then sat back as the runabout came to a complete stop.
Dax nodded. “Just as I thought,” she said. “We’ve landed on a surface, and there’s a breathable atmosphere outside.”
“Breathable?” O’Brien asked incredulously, leaning over to look at Dax’s display. “In a bloody wormhole?”
Dax just gestured at her display. “See for yourself,” she said.
“Bloody hell,” O’Brien muttered.
Bill followed Dax and O’Brien out into the amazing whiteness that surrounded the runabout. DeVille stepped out close on his heels. Everywhere Bill looked, all he could see was white. There would be no way to travel any distance on foot in this. The disorientation would have you walking in circles or falling flat on your face.
Dax and O’Brien had their tricorders out and were scanning in every direction.
“Fascinating,” Dax said.
“Except for the atmosphere,” O’Brien said, “I’m not picking up a damned thing.”
Dax shook her head. “Nothing,” she replied.
“Wait a minute,” O’Brien said, turning his tricorder slightly to the right. “That wasn’t there a minute ago.”
“I’ve got it too, Chief,” Dax said, moving to join him. “A faint energy pulse. No, it’s stronger now. Moving towards us.”
They all looked in the direction the tricorders were pointing. A faint shadow was visible in the whiteness. In a moment it grew both in size and in darkness. Bill stared at it, trying to discern some kind of shape. It looked like it might be a figure of some sort, sitting on something. Sitting on a chair.
No, a throne.
The shadowy shape drew closer, and as the light and dark portions of it began to sort themselves out in Bill’s visual field, he could definitely make out the figure of a man, dressed in a white cloak, sitting on a white throne.
The throne slowed its approach, then stopped a few meters away.
“Hello, Bill,” a voice echoed through his head.
The voice was familiar. Bill squinted, trying to make out the washed-out features. Suddenly, the man’s face resolved into coherence. Bill gasped, and took a step back.
“Yes, Bill. It’s me.” The face and voice were softer than he remembered, but it was the same person.
Dax and O’Brien looked back at Bill incredulously.
“You know him?” O’Brien marveled.
“It’s good to see you, Bill,” Gene’s voice echoed.
Bill’s mind raced. “How—how?” he sputtered.
“Don’t be afraid, Bill,” Gene said. “This is my home now. All this is mine, as is the dimension into which you traveled with Mike and Rick.”
“Yes, Bill. The dimension containing Deep Space Nine, Bajor, and all of the Federation. I created it with just a thought. All things are possible here.”
“It’s okay, Bill. I have the seal of approval.”
Bill frowned. What was he talking about?
Suddenly, he noticed another throne, bigger and brighter, to the left of Gene’s. On it sat an impressive figure, wearing a long white beard and a glistening crown. To the left of the throne, at its base, sat a lion. At its right, a lamb.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” O’Brien rasped.
“Fascinating,” Dax whispered.
“Like I said, Bill,” Gene continued, “I have the seal of approval. My vision has always been good and true. Now I have confirmation of that. And in this place, beyond the restrictions of mortal life, I can create whatever I want. And what I want is for my vision to be seen by more people, and be easier for those I left behind to produce. So now the technology is real, the places are real, and the characters are real. No more sets, no more make-up, no more hassles. Just entertainment the way I always envisioned it. And nothing could give me more pleasure.”
Bill was shaking by this point. He tried to form words, but none came.
“Unfortunately, Bill,” Gene said, “there’s a sour note in all of this. And that’s you.”
“Yes, Bill. You see, I knew what you were up to all along. I just couldn’t do anything about it until now. I wasn’t really senile, or paranoid, or megalomaniacal. I just knew that was what you wanted me to be. I didn’t like it, but I played along, hoping I was wrong about you. Turns out I wasn’t. I don’t like what you did, Bill. And I don’t like the company you keep.”
The impressive figure next to Gene raised its right hand, brandishing a glowing staff. There was a bright flash of light, and all eyes turned towards Lucien DeVille.
“Where the hell did he come from?” O’Brien yelled.
“I think you pretty much nailed it,” Bill replied.
“Get thee back, demon!” the impressive figure’s voice boomed. “From whence thou camest, get thee back! Begone from my court, and trouble my pastures no longer!”
DeVille grinned nervously. He looked around for a speedy exit, but found none. He glanced at Bill, and shrugged. “Well, Bill,” he said, “it’s been a slice.”
There was another flash of light, and DeVille was gone.
“As for you, Bill,” Gene said, “We’re not going to banish you anywhere, but rather leave you with knowledge of two things: One, that your soul will indeed rot in hell, and two, that the character of Captain Kirk will be killed on-screen.”
Bill screamed. “No! Anything but that!”
But the thrones and their occupants were already gone.
As the runabout slid out of the wormhole, Bill didn’t even notice the spectacular display of lights. He was focused inward, on the dark fate that awaited him. Every once in a while, O’Brien would look over his shoulder to check on him.
His destiny. His grim destiny.
To be killed on-screen and never appear in Star Trek again.
He shuddered, and pulled his jacket tighter around him.
“You know, the commander’s never going to believe this,” O’Brien said to Dax.
Dax continued to monitor her panel.
“Hell, I don’t even believe it.”
Dax said nothing. She just looked out at the stars, and smiled.