Clockwork

Clockwork

By Jessica Krucek. You can email comments to her at allronix@ix.netcom.com


*********************************************************************

This is more a "what if." Another DS9 fan came up with the concept after finding out that Malcom McDowell is the uncle of the artist formerly named Sid...

"Know then, Doctor Bashir, that time and change and all the other aspects of your peculiar existence may be only be a disease." Prophet "Kira" - "Bloodletter" by K.W. Jeter

Perhaps one of these days, I'll tell my friends what I really am. I'll be able to tell Jadzia why I wasn't startled at all when the commander assumed the role of Gabriel Bell, I'll be able to tell Garak that my uncanny ability to listen is at least partially inborn, and perhaps I'll finally be able to accept the horrible things my father has done by trying to escape Time...


I didn't always know what I was. For the longest time, I believed I was fully human, and the examiners at Starfleet Medical didn't (and still don't) know enough about El-Aurians (much less human-El-Aurian hybrids) to challenge me. I aged like a human (I know now that I will continue to age at the same rate for only a few more years, then I'll have to resort to either cosmetic surgery to age me, or faking my death and changing my identity ). I was born on Earth in the Northern part of United Africa, and moved to Europe after my mother's divorce to live with Michael, the person I used to know as my father. I had no reason to suspect I was anything other than human.


It all started when Chief O'Brien started to talk about his previous assignment on the Enterprise...

"I can't believe she was destroyed. And by some beat-up excuse for a Klingon Warbird, too. Why, did I tell you about the time when the ship was in a firefight with the Borg?"

"Better not, Chief," I informed him, gesturing to a nearby table where Commander Sisko was enjoying a "welcome home" drink with Jadzia. She very much needed to be cheered up right now. I could tell that while she was here physically, mentally, she was with that planet that vanished, not to be seen again for another sixty years. My heart went out to her (after all, I still think of Palis on cold nights), but I decided to keep my distance . Knowing how my good sense sometimes vanished when I sat with her, there was a very good possibility that I could make the situation worse.


Seeing Sisko, Chief nodded. "That would be a sore subject to talk about when he's in earshot. Can't say as I blame him at all."

"Any other incident you can tell me about?" I asked.

"Plenty!" he said enthusiastically. "Nothing got on or off that ship without me knowing about it!"

Chief told me some pretty wild tales - including the time where everyone aboard the ship, including him, became addicted to a small game, and the time he took the Tactical station during the Klingon Civil War.

"So," I asked at last, knowing he still wrote letters to some of his former shipmates. "How was the ship destroyed?"

Chief shook his head. "There was this...I don't know - maybe I'll ask Dax about it when she's in a better mood...The closest thing I was able to figure was that it was an energy ribbon. This crazy scientist named Soran o n the Armagosa Observatory called out Lursa and B'Etor to bring their friends and wreck the place. The Enterprise picked him up as a survivor, but LaForge and Data found that he had a solar probe designed to implode the Amagosian sun."

"Dear God," I whispered. "Did the Enterprise get away?"

"Yeah, but so did Dr. Soran. Anyway, he got away with those Klingons' help. It turns out that all he was after was that energy ribbon. He was destroying stars to alter its course. He said he could escape time itself by entering this 'Nexus.' I don't know how, but Captain Picard was able to stop him. In the meantime, The Enterprise and the Klingon Warbird destroyed each other."

I remembered the Enterprise from my visit. There were children and families aboard it..."Casualties?"

"Few injuries, miraculously. Soran's still unaccounted for, but chances are that he's dead."

That night, I sifted through my memory. The Nexus...Nexus. Gods, I hadn't heard that term used for years. I couldn't remember when or where I heard it.

I got out of bed and walked over to the terminal. "Computer, show me a listing of the papers written by a Doctor Soran." "Over one hundred are on file, written by five Doctor Sorans. Specify parameters?" The computer asked. "Any works on the Nexus?" I requested.

On the screen were a list of about twenty titles. I caught the author's given name.
"Doctor Tolian Soran," I said aloud. "Tolian..."

His name was Tolian... I remembered what my mother said one night when she visited me during medical school...

"Julian, sit down." After I sat next to her on the bed, she sighed. "I wanted to wait until you were old enough to understand..."

"Understand what?" I asked, puzzled.

"Julian, dear, do you know anything about Michael and I's divorce?"

I nodded. "Can't say as I blame you for leaving when you could," I said, remembering the generous use of his belt on both my mother and me, as well as the barrage of insults and psychological wounds that were only just b eginning to heal. "He beat you and me..."

"Julian," Mother admitted. "The grounds for the divorce were infidelity. I had an affair, and..." her voice trailed off.

"Did you do it... did you do it to get back at him?" I managed to stutter out. "Was it casual, or..."

"No, dear. I was with him for well over a year. He had to leave Earth when you were still a small child."

I decided not to be judgmental - not right now at least. "Are you seeing him now?"
She shook her head "no," and turned away from me, as if trying to avoid looking at my face. "It was such a long time ago, but you have to know."

"Could you tell me about him?" I asked, trying to get her to look me in the eye. This was hurting her, and I wasn't certain what to do. "Was he good to you?"

Mother smiled. "He was wonderful. his name was Tolian, and unlike Michael, he never hurt me or did anything to frighten me. That's why..." her voice trailed off again, and she dabbed at her eyes.

"Mother, it's all right. I'm here, and I'm listening. Whatever happened..."

"Julian, I had his child," she finally admitted. "Michael isn't your father, Tolian is."

My head started to spin. I didn't want to believe it. Michael might have been a nasty, abusive scoundrel, but he was the one who raised me as his son...My words started to tumble out of my mouth. "Where can I find him? Does he know? Tell me all about him!"

"Julian, I don't want you to go looking for him. He is an important scientist, and although he knows that you are his son, I'm afraid that he might be ruined. He's a controversial figure, and I'm afraid if it came out th at he had a son by a diplomat's wife..." She sighed. "He's already spent time in a reform colony. Another scandal and..."

"Mother, if he is my father, I have to know about him!" I insisted. "If he knows - "

Mother glowered at me. "Not a word to anyone, Julian. I almost decided not to carry you to term. I never told anyone about your father - not even Michael. Tolian and I were the only ones who knew."

"You aren't even going to tell me his last name?"

She shook her head "no." "It was a long time ago, Julian. I'm still ashamed of what I did..."
"Don't be, Mother," I said. "I forgive you. After all, if I hadn't been born, who would have cheered you up when you were going through that hellish divorce?"

Mother started to cry. I opened the nightstand and pulled out a handkerchief. Drying her tears, she managed to smile. "What would I have done without you, Julian? You are so much like Tolian. He was very kind and gentle. A bit of a workaholic, mind you, but a good man overall..."

We spent that night talking about the type of man my father was, how his work about the phenomena of Time, especially something called the "Nexus," was the center of his life. Mother managed to get me off the subject eventually, and we spent the time discussing my upcoming tests. I found out that she actually did keep track of the Starfleet Medical Academy Tennis Team's games, and had boasted to a few of her friends that I had made captain...

We must have spent half the night talking about everything...except Tolian. Surely, my imagination was running away with me. I punched up a personal record on him. Sure enough, it was my imagination running away with me. The computer listed him as an "El-Aurian." Since I was full human, he couldn't possibly be the Tolian my mother knew...

The next day, I walked into the Replimat. Jadzia was sitting alone, brooding over her cup of Ra'ti'jino. She looked miserable. I took my cup of Tarkalian Tea and slid into the seat across from her.

Still having no clue as to what to say, I tried small talk. "Hello, Jadzia. Sleep well?"

She looked up. "Oh, hello, Julian."

"So, anything very unusual happen on your end?" I asked, trying to fill the awkward moment.

And not succeeding. "Just the usual scans," she answered. Fortunately, I had the PADD with me. "I was reading this last night. A paper on space-time disturbances written by a Dr. Tolian Soran. Have you heard of him?"

She looked up at me. "Soran? Most people thought he was nuts. What are you doing reading it?"

"I really don't have any idea," I admitted. "Just thought I'd look it up. You know, you find something interesting on the computer..." I shut up before I started to babble.
Looking it over, then handing it back to me, she said, "You're better off not bothering to read it."

"Well, I'm not so sure. The hypothesis is plausible, and the calculations are accurate."

"Julian, read some of his later work. You're reading what he wrote on Earth, when he was still somewhat respectable. Read some of his work after he left Earth, and you'll find that his hypotheses get more ridiculous." "Oh," I said. She didn't seem to want to talk. I reached out and gently touched her wrist. "Jadzia, you're upset. Can't you at least talk to someone? I know what happened on Meridian, but..."

"I don't think you understand, Julian. I don't think you've experienced anything like what I went through. It was as if I belonged there."

"I may not have experienced what you've been through, but I do know what it's like to leave someone behind..."

"Julian, that's not it."

"Then, what is it?" I asked. "I don't like seeing you miserable."

"It would take too long to explain right now."

"Then, maybe we can discuss it later. Maybe somewhere a little quieter than the Replimat..."

Her eyes turned to ice, and I realized what my last statement must have sounded like...

"You don't quit do you?" she asked angrily. "I thought you had grown out of that."

"Jadzia, I didn't mean..."

"Of course you didn't. Nice try, Julian." She walked off. I was left with a half-cup of Ra'ti'jino, a full mug of Tarkalian Tea, and a mountain of embarrassment. No sooner had she stormed off, then Quark came over to the table. "Break your heart again, Doctor?"
"Go away, Quark. I was only trying to help."

"Uh, doc, I could point you in the direction of some Dabo Girls in need of your assistance."

"Quark..."

"OK, OK. So don't take my advice," he said as he walked off. I drank my tea, kicking myself inwardly. This just wasn't turning out to be my day.

All of a sudden, I got this very odd feeling, a strange, but terrible sense of dread. It was so strong, I forgot the embarrassment and all the things I could do to apologize. Where was it coming from? Why now, and why so suddenly? I couldn't pin down the reason, but it just kept building. I tried to ignore it as I went to the Infirmary to pull another shift.

Fortunately, there weren't too many patients that day. I still had to look into the file of a J'naii captain who had a history of heart trouble and was due to be looked over. Perhaps I could prescribe her...or him (or wh atever, considering that the race is genderless) something that would help.

Still, the odd feeling of dread followed me, but now it was colored with obsession, madness. I wasn't certain if the panic was coming from me or from outside the station. It had to be me. After all, Ensign Talbian, a Betazoid who was here recovering from a severe plasma burn, sensed nothing unusual when I asked him earlier in the day.

Then, what in hell was causing it? Was I going mad?

*Stress, Julian. That's all. And perhaps some of Jadzia's unhappiness is getting to me. God, I wish I could help, but considering how I stuck my foot in my mouth...*

I turned my attention to the terminal. Perhaps I could put it out of my mind. But it didn't. From seemingly out of the blue, I was hit with a sudden wave of panic and urgency. It seemed as if every rational part of me went flying out the window. I was running on instincts I didn't even know I had. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the reason why I was feeling like this. I counted to ten to try and get myself under control.

Overwhelming sensations filled my brain. Feelings of pain, of pressure, and a desperate longing for release...a terrible death-wish. I had to open my eyes to keep this self-murderous impulse from driving me to pick up the nearest sharp object and plunging it through my chest...


I was overwhelmed with a desire to get the hell out of there, off the station. This madness, the obsession with escape, was making me panic. Without thinking, I started to get out of my chair, and run out of the Infirmary.

The science lab was only a short distance away. Jadzia was monitoring some plant samples when I burst in.

Seeing that I was breathless and shaking, Jadzia's eyes grew to the size of dinner plates.

"Julian, what -"

"Can't explain. I think we need to get everyone out of here. Gather as many people as you can. We need to get out of here."

"What are you talking about? Is this some kind of joke?"

"I...wish that it were. God, Jadzia, something's out there. Someone heading for the Wormhole. He's crazy..." I slid to the floor, exhausted, leaning against the wall for support. What was happening to me!?

"Julian, I think that you aren't thinking straight..."

"DAMMIT, DAX, I'M NOT GOING MAD!!" I screamed, even though the rational part of me told me that I was a good candidate for a padded cell.

All of a sudden, my worst fears were confirmed when the Red Alert sounded.

"We've..." I said. "We've got to get to OPS. Got to stop him..."

Jadzia shook her head. "Dax to OPS. What's going on?"

"Someone's headed for the Wormhole, Dax." I was somehow able to hear Commander Sisko over the roaring of blood in my ears.

"He wants to escape...leave..." I whispered.

Jadzia slipped an arm around my waist and helped me to stand. "Either we both are going nuts, or you have more of an idea of what's going on outside than everyone else does!"
Together, we limped out of the science lab and into a turbolift. "OPS." I croaked.

When we got there, the situation was bedlam.

"Commander, we're being hailed," Kira said.

The viewscreen flashed on. The pilot of the wayward shuttle was a white-haired man with intense sapphire eyes that I'll never forget as long as I live... "Don't get in my way, Commander," he said. "Time and I have an appointment, and I'm not going to miss it again."

"Who are you?" Sisko asked.

"Soran. Doctor Tolian Soran," he said. "For the past eighty years, I've longed to escape Time. For the past twenty-five, it's been my obsession."

"Dear God, Jadzia," I whispered. "That's him!" Jadzia backed away to look straight at the screen. In doing so, I also came into view, sweat-drenched uniform and all. Soran looked at me and his eyes grew wide with shock. "Julian, is that you?" he asked.

Everyone at OPS looked at me. I was just as stunned as they were. "It can't be Julian. It just can't be," Soran said to himself as he shut down the communication.

Sisko was the first to speak. "Bashir..."

"I don't know him, Commander. I have no idea how he knows me."

Jadzia ran to her station. I managed to stagger over there and lean on the console. Jadzia read the screen. "Impact in thirty seconds. I'm reading some sort of high-frequency waves. I can't seem to identify them." "If he goes in with an unbuffered engine, God knows how much damage he'll cause," I muttered.

Jadzia studied her readout. "Ben, the resulting shockwave will destroy everything in its path."

"He's mad," I muttered. "Entirely mad."

"Is there any way we can stop him?" Chief was pale as he looked up from his console.

"None, sir." Jadzia's voice was leaden. "Impact in ten seconds...nine...eight..."

I looked around at all of them. The strong Commander Sisko; Miles "Chief" O'Brien - family man (Gods, what would this do to Keiko and little Molly?); Kira Nerys, the proud, stubborn warrior woman... And my first friend, Jadzia. If only she could know how much I still cared after these three years... Jadzia's face turned death-white.

"Five...four...three...two..."

Suddenly the Wormhole blossomed open, and the universe seemed to shriek. It was as if the gates of hell had suddenly been thrown open!

I seemed to be fine, but what was happening to the people around me...?! People were twisting, vanishing, becoming stretched and distorted by the shock wave. On some people, flesh dissolved to bones, and then the bones collapsed into a pile of dust. Others just vaporized.

The sounds of death-agony pounded in my ears. Right in front of me, Jadzia was glowing green from everywhere but her abdomen, which was glowing bright scarlet. She was screaming with pain. I reached out and took her arms .

"Jadzia!!" I screamed, but I couldn't hear myself over the awful cries.

Her flesh fell away, revealing bones which just as quickly, turned to powder and vaporized. I could sense everyone dying around me...feel their agony as life itself collapsed around them. Why didn't I seem to be affected ? Let me die with them, God! I thought. Be merciful enough for that! The echo of their final cries still reverberated off the walls. I yelled out their names, only to be met with more insane screaming. I covered my ears and sank to my knees.

When a bright green glow finally enveloped me, I was ready to follow it to oblivion...


"Wake up, Julian. You were having another bad dream." I opened my eyes and saw her. I could feel her body pressing against me, her long legs tangling with mine beneath the bedclothes...

"So, darling husband, do you care to tell me what it was about?" she said, with a giggle.

"Nothing too important, Palis," I said, kissing her.

"So," she breathed after we broke it off. Her finger trailed up my spine, finding just the right spot to make me shiver. "Do you think I could help you forget it?"

"Definitely."

But I didn't forget the nightmare. Long after Palis had gone to sleep, I remained awake, haunted by images of people I no longer remembered...

*"Why, my dear doctor, why do you always look for more than what is really there? I'm just a plain, simple tailor..."* A reptilian man with a grandfatherly air said it with a snicker.
*"This wilderness is my home!"* shouted a woman with short, fire-red hair and an oddly-ridged nose.
*"Let me die on my feet!"* a sturdy man with an honest face yelled as he wiped a stray curl from his forehead.
*"Do as he says, Doctor,"* said a morose, dark-skinned man in a toneless voice. *"This is no time to be a hero."*

The last words brought to mind the most distressing image. She was spellbindingly attractive - dark-haired, tall, and thin. She carried herself with an aristocratic air that suited her goddess-beautiful body. Her eyes we re her most mesmerizing feature. They were the color of Earth's sky, and seemed to hold eternity captured within them...

I immediately opened my eyes. I couldn't stand to look at her any longer. Why did I even see her? I was married to a beautiful dancer, working as chief of surgery at the nearby hospital, living in this large, elegant house. What more could any man ask for? I had the perfect life, but something wasn't right...What in hell was wrong with me? I took the day off from the hospital while Palis went to practice. She had a performance tonight, and I never would miss her performances for anything.

For some reason, I spent the whole day touring the house.

The dining room contained a cupboard which held the replicator. Of course, Palis would hide something like that with a cupboard. She really thought replicators unsightly.
The living room contained some of the most deliciously comfortable furniture I've ever sat in, and the artwork on the wall were mostly landscape paintings (but an exception was a large picture of Palis and me painted by an unknown artist). Everything seemed perfect, too perfect.

The last door I entered was the study. It was the paragon of excellence. Good books lined the shelves. An oak desk sat next to the window, which looked out on the most beautiful garden. There were all kinds of flowers, including my favorites, daisies. Birds chirped in a large cherry tree. The perfume of the air was heavenly. A large fireplace took up the better part of the far wall, and two deliciously stuffed chairs sat near it.

A locked case hung next to the fireplace. I looked up at the locked case that stood in one corner. On the top shelf, a candle was burning rapidly. I tried the handle of the cupboard, and found it to be tightly locked. Where was the key? Never mind, it would burn itself out in time.

On the desk was a set of colored pencils in every hue of the rainbow and a large sketch pad. I laughed to myself. Could I be any luckier? The blank paper was irresistible.
I sat down and turned to the first blank page. I sketched a bronze crown set among stars. Three spikes jutted out from the largest of three ovals. In the background, a spiral of white-green light brightened the area around it, and little jewels (or were they windows? ) glistened all over the crown.

I was tempted to contemplate the drawing, but I heard a voice behind me.

"Happy housewarming, Julian," he said. "How do you like your home?" I turned around. A frost-haired man with sapphire-blue eyes appraised the surroundings. He idly dangled a pocketwatch from his fingers, and smiled warmly when he saw me. I knew Tolian Soran as my father - a kind and brilliant man. There was a part of me, though, that regarded him as a man to be avoided and feared. Why did I feel this way?

"It's a bit bewildering," I admitted. "I can hardly believe that all of this is mine."

He smiled. "A little hard to believe, isn't it? But it is yours. You'll come to love it." He looked around, appraising the elegant furnishings in the study. "Very human...a bit on the mundane side, but a good start, nevertheless."

"Thank you," I said. "Sorry Palis can't be here. She's off performing at the theater tonight."

"Your wife?" he asked.

"Yes, of course, Father. How is Mother?"

"Jasmine is waiting for me at home," Soran said, "But I decided to stop off at your new home before I went to mine. Just to see if your questions are answered and you are happy here."

"I can't remember very much today," I said. "I guess that it might be the stress of the move here."

"I'm sure you are bewildered, Julian. Ask me anything no matter how trivial or silly."

"How did I get here?" I asked, "To this house."

"This house is partially mine. You designed it, and I built it for you."

"As a wedding present for Palis and me?"

"If you want to think of it that way," Soran said. "Is she a good wife for you?"

I nodded. "She is beautiful."

He smiled with delight. "So, when the candle burns out, you'll be adjusted enough to live here."

"What does the candle have to do with this?"

"Julian, I know that since you were raised human, you wouldn't know too much about my people," Soran commented. "So, I will explain. Among my people, it is tradition to give a candle to someone moving into a new home. If the candle burns out on its own, the house will become a happy home."

"Well, then," I said. "By all means, let it burn out."

Soran got up out of his seat. "Glad to see that you are beginning to accept what you are..." he said.

He walked over to the desk. "What are you drawing?"

I handed it over to him. He studied it. "What is this?" he asked, a touch of...(was it anger?) creeping into his voice.

"Just something I sketched, Father. I can't seem to get it out of my head. How do you like it?"

He smiled wanly. "Fine, son, just fine. But you really don't need to draw images like that. Why focus on your nightmares? Focus on your dreams, Julian...You'll be a much happier man for it."

He folded up the paper and put it in his pocket. "I'll come back tomorrow. Maybe you'll have better dreams," he said as he started to walk out of the room.

"Will I see you tonight, at the ballet?" I asked. He smiled.

"Of course." I saw him leave the house. While in the garden, he took my drawing out of his pocket and tore it into shreds, scattering the remnants under the cherry tree.

That night, I attended the ballet to see Palis perform. She was every bit as graceful as I remembered her...

I tried to think back to other memories - to our wedding, perhaps. I somehow couldn't remember it. What I did remember was crouching in some ruins...

*"So, who was she...'Almost, not quite?'"*

It was the honest-faced man. He had pulled a blanket about his shoulders, and while he looked a bit weak, his hazel eyes still had a touch of fight left in them. His Irish brogue was more pronounced this time.

I tried to concentrate on him. Who was he? Did I know him? Was he real?

Soran sat next to me. He shook my shoulder. "Julian, wake up. This is Palis's solo."

I shook that image from my head and decided to concentrate on the ballet instead. But all I seemed able to think about was that man.

At the end, like everyone else in the audience, I gave a standing ovation.

That night, while Palis rested a little bit before dinner, I went up to the study, and I drew.

First, I sketched the Irishman I thought about during the ballet - hunched over a non-functioning piece of equipment.

Then, I drew a reptilian man with a genteel grin on his face sitting in a shop, mending a jacket. On the next page, I sketched that dark-skinned man who carried himself with all the dignity of Othello (in the early acts of the play, of course).

I looked up at the candle. It had burned down to the halfway point, and the green flame was a bit dimmer. Where was the key so I could snuff it out? Well, the case surrounding it was metal - fireproof. It would do no harm to let it burn...

I stuffed those pictures in a drawer, then pulled out another scratchpad.

I closed my eyes and thought about what else I could draw. I drew the angry redheaded woman standing over a computer console. Somehow, she looked calmer, more sedate than in the image where she was screaming at me.

On the next sheet of paper, a man with a face like a water-worn pebble regarded a troll-like man standing behind the bar of an old fashion saloon with an odd mix of friendship and suspicion. I laughed as I put an old-fashioned police uniform on the first, and drew the other pouring a bottle of liquor. Which of the pair seemed more odd?

When I pulled out another sheet of paper, I tried to think about the plants outside the window.

*"So what do you think is wrong with it?"* she said, handing me the drooping plant.
*"In my professional opinion...I'd say it was sick."* I said to her.

I looked up at her face. It was that woman again! The dark-haired, blue-eyed woman. Something about her was pulling me from this place, to where she and the other people I drew were.

Changing the course of the mental image, I grabbed her arm and studied her face. "Who are you?" I asked.

She seemed to be fading. *"You already know...Please remember..."*

My eyes snapped open just as Palis came rushing in. "Julian, who were you talking to?"
I looked around. I was no longer in the gray room where I saw that strange woman. I was back home. But the image was so real...what was happening to me? "No one," I answered aloud.

"I'm hungry," Palis said. "Are you eating with me?"

"Well," I said, getting up and offering my arm. "Let's see what the replicator has programmed for tonight."

Palis caught a glimpse of the drawing on my desk of the policeman and bartender. "Why did you draw this?"

"Just part of that nightmare. I had to do something to get it out of my head."

Palis took the drawing and crumpled it up into a little ball. "Now, you can forget it. Let's eat."

I kept looking back to the crumpled sheet of paper. There was something on it that I felt compelled to remember.

I sat with her at dinner for what seemed to be an eternity before I said a word. "Julian, dear," she asked. "What is wrong?"

I looked up from my untouched supper. "Palis...You've known me for a long time, haven't you?"

"Yes," she said, then her eyes became clouded over. "Why are you asking? You've known me since medical school. What's wrong, Julian? Are you unhappy at work?"

"No, work is perfect. Everything here is perfect. That's the whole problem."

"That is no problem. You've had this life here, with me, ever since I convinced you to get rid of that silly dream."

"What silly dream is that?"

"I don't know what it is, really," she admitted, "But that's why you're having these nightmares all the time."

"The nightmares. That's another thing..."

"Julian, stop it. Your father told me that you should be adjusting to this by now!"

"Adjusting? Adjusting to what?"

"Damn you, Julian! Stop asking questions!" Palis shouted as she threw down her napkin and stormed off.

I closed my eyes and there was another flash...That accursed woman again. "You don't quit, do you? I thought you had grown out of that."

I talked to the empty air as if that woman was seated before me. "Get out of my mind, dammit. Just let me be..."

Palis refused to speak to me any more that night or answer any more questions. After I slid into bed next to her, I closed my eyes and the images and voices returned with a vengeance...

**"Women! That's all you think about!"** the Irishman shouted.
**"Did I ever mention it to you, Doctor,"** the red-haired woman said, **"That heroes often die young?"**
**"You don't know much of anything, do you?"** the reptile-man barked, crazy with pain.
More voices, each more insane than the next. Yelling, charged with emotion, anger, and fear...
**"It's gone,"** whispered the dark-haired woman. She lay on a odd biobed in unfamiliar (or were they?) surroundings. I looked up at her life readings. Faltering, rapidly fading. I turned to the surgical crashcart nearby , looking for a hypospray full of something that could help.
All I saw was the green candle. It was fading at the same rate as her lifesigns...
**"Everything went perfectly,"** I found myself whispering. **"The operation was a complete success."**
The mental image shifted from what I knew as "right." **"The candle...Please save Us."**
**"What does the candle have to do with this?"** I asked.
**"Can't you hear Us? If the candle dies, then We do. We are trapped within that candle."**
**"Why can you change the image? None of the others can."**
The image changed again. She screwed up her face in pain. **"I feel so alone."**

I stared at the candle. Its flicker was weak but stable, like the woman's lifesigns. I brushed my hand across her forehead. I could remember an emotion...I cared for her deeply. In some ways, more than I cared for Palis...Maybe that's why she could speak to me this way.

**"I've got you stabilized,"** I whispered. **"If only..."**

My eyes snapped open. I was only a scant step from knowing why the images haunted me so badly. I had to get to the study...

I ran there, pulling a robe over me as I went. I burst inside and took out the pictures. Something was familiar about everyone there. On an emotional, subconscious level, I could remember everyone...

On a conscious, rational level, they were strangers.

There was one blank sheet left. On it, I sketched her. Her oval face, the lapis-blue eyes, the waist-length, ebony hair. I picked up the brown pencil and lightly drew the detailed pattern of spots down the side of her face and down her neck...

A knock on the door. "Julian, are you in there?" I could hear Soran's voice clearly.

I folded up the drawing and hurriedly put it in the inside pocket of my robe. "Just a minute," I said.

I opened the door. Soran stood there. "Well, not exactly the attire I would have picked, but enough, I guess. Let's go."

"Go?" I asked. "Go where? I'm not dressed to leave the house."

Soran ignored my protest and touched my forehead. "Don't think, Julian. Don't remember. Just enjoy..."

The elegant house faded, replaced by a landscape unlike anything I'd ever seen. Vast desert and mountains...A clear night sky lit with thousands of stars, mountains rising in the distance. Several moons were present in t he sky, and the eastern sky was dominated by a large, ringed planet. Stone arches surrounded where we stood. Each doorway looked out onto another place. Some were lit brightly, others were darker than a black hole.

"This is astonishing..." I whispered. "Where is this?"

"This, Julian, is what I sought for nearly a century. The doorway into other dimensions, the place where there is no past or future..."

Soran enthusiastically grasped my shoulder. "Look at it all! It's glorious, and it's yours. All yours. You wanted adventure, my boy, here it is!"

"Adventure..." I started to think of the odd bronze crown, and of the people...but quickly forgot it when taking in the landscape. All those memories were fading rapidly in the beauty that surrounded me. "Why are we here ?"

Soran smiled. "I'm here to teach you what you are. It was so hard all those years before we came here. You thought you were only human. You didn't know about me, and you thought that all you had was Time. Oh, Julian, you are more than human...so much more."

"What are you?" I asked.

"Julian, we are El-Aurian. Sometimes, other races call us 'listeners.' All of our people are all connected on an empathic level inherently, but we can tune into *other* races and make them let down their mental guards. They talk, and we can listen. The empathic link is why I was able to sense you and bring you here. I didn't want to believe it was you, but when I saw that it was you, I brought you here, to where we are."

"Where are we?" I said.

"Timelessness. We are where shadow is light, where past is future. Where pain no longer exists. Through each of these doorways is another place, a *Time.* The difference between humans and us is that we can exist outside Time. We can listen to, as well as change, the harmonies of the universe itself. You wanted adventure. Here it is. You can sit next to Zenfram Cochrane as he tests the first warp drive. You can explore Earth's moon with Neil Armstrong...You can be anyone, anytime, any universe. You can be what I am. El-Aurian, prince of time itself!" Soran's voice dropped. "You can be my son, have a father who loves you..."

"I'm ready. Let me stay here. This is so beautiful..."

"More than that. Oh, Julian, it's glorious - why go back to your beat-up infirmary, back to being a mere human? You have this. Now do you see how much better things can be for you?"

"I guess," I said, remembering the images I drew. "But I'll miss it. I'll miss them."

"Did you have a *k'estral* among them?" Seeing my incomprehension of his words, Soran rephrased. "Did you love someone in Time, my son?"

I reached in the pocket of my robe and thought of her briefly. "That doesn't matter anymore."

"It does, to me. My son...All these years," Soran approached me. Placing his hands on my shoulders, he savored the moment. "Oh, Goddess, the last time I even got this close to you was when you were a small baby. You were so small, and so beautiful. Eyes like your mother...my face. The last time I saw you, you made me so proud. Michael never bothered to come and see you take your diploma, but I was there. Salutatorian...If Michael couldn' t appreciate that, it's *his* problem. I watched you from afar all these years, having to remain in the shadows and unable to do anything for you."

"But you are my father," I said.

"Yes!" Soran said. "And here, you and I can be together for eternity!"

"What about Mother?"

Soran frowned. "She cannot leave Time. She is human. I can see her at any *Time,* but *Timelessness* is not a place she can be."

"I think I understand."

Soran led me through one of the doorways. We were back in the study. "You'll get used to it. You are only half El-Aurian. Your sense of time isn't as sharp as mine. I can adjust to a new time very quickly, and I'm able to tell how appropriate a timeline is. Being half-human, you might just be disoriented. Don't worry, you're just trying to adjust to being here."

I looked over to the cabinet. The green flame was getting dimmer. Soran pulled out his pocketwatch. He looked at it and smiled. "I won't need this for too much longer, will I.?"

His watch...that's what was missing from here. There were no clocks or watches to be found anywhere in the house...Something was definitely wrong now.

"So, Julian, have I answered your questions? Are you content to stay here?" Soran asked eagerly.

This was paradise. I wanted to stay so badly, but I looked over my shoulder. The pictures lay on the desk, rapidly losing their colors. Looking over at the locked case, I saw the green-flamed candle burning brightly, but wearing down to the last bit of wax. It would go out soon. "Father," I said. "It's wrong for me to be here. Somehow, this isn't right."

"Of course it is, Julian. You belong here, with me. As soon as that candle burns out, you won't be able to lose this ever again. You'll be the prince of Time itself!"

I looked over at the candle and its strange green flame again. Somehow, I got the feeling that Soran *couldn't* blow it out, that he was waiting for it to snuff out by itself.

I looked down at the picture of the fire-haired woman with the odd nose. I gave it to. Soran. "Do you know who she is? If she exists, I want to know."

He grew angry. "Why won't you just be happy with what I gave you? Why do humans always question paradise? Can't you be El-Aurian for once, be my son, and accept this beautiful Forever?"

Human...Something started to come back to me. I gazed at the second picture. The one of the dark-skinned man...He was also familiar, come to think about it. So was the picture of the curly-haired Irishman...But from where?

"Why can't I get them out of my mind?" I said, leafing through the pictures. "Why are all of them so familiar? Father, you know, don't you? My sight through Time isn't as clear as yours."

Soran grew angry. "You don't need those," he said as he swiped the ones in my hand. One by one, he tore them. The voices in my head screamed loudest as each page was turned into scraps of paper. The screams faded from my mind as quickly as they had come.

All but one, the drawing of the woman who I never seemed able to block from my brain. The woman whose picture I still had in my pocket...

Soran opened the case, picked up the candle and spoke to it. "You're doing this to him, aren't you? Trying to stop me? Well, it won't work. I won't let it work!

He took the drawings over to the fireplace and tried to light them with a match. Why didn't he just use the candle? I stared at the last drawing I had. It was of that lovely, aristocratic woman with the odd freckles running down the side of her face. Even though I had just drawn her, the picture was fading into nothingness. She was the most troubling image of all of them. Come on, I had to remember who she was! She was the only drawing I had left, the only thing that was reminding me that I shouldn't be here...Maybe if I tried to say her name...It started with a "D." I could remember that much...

"Di..." No, that wasn't it. "Dex..." No, that wasn't it, either. "Come on, Julian," I muttered to myself. "Remember!"

Soran finally got the fire started. He was turning around just in time to catch me with the drawing. It came in a flash. I remembered everything for just long enough to shout out her name. "Dax!"

Just as Soran turned around fully, I thrust out the drawing. "That's who she is. Those pictures...they weren't just pictures. They're memories..." Soran was frozen with shock. "I remember now! They belong to the Time that's right for me." The words came so quickly. "This isn't right for me. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm supposed to be wherever they are," More came back to me. I didn't know how I remembered, but it became clearer with every second. "Father, take me back! I don't belong here."

"Julian, don't. You don't know what you're saying."

"Yes, I do," I said as I marched up and took the candle out of his hand.

The surroundings wavered and shifted. I felt dizzy again...

The elegant house vanished. Soran and I stood on a huge, barren rockface. Soran glowered at me. "Et, tu, Brute?" he asked. "It's enough to be betrayed, but by your own son..."

"Doctor Soran, please!" I shouted, not wanting to hear the last part of this man's sentence. I didn't want to acknowledge him as that, but when he stared me in the face...I had never really noticed it before, but aside from the sapphire eyes, the resemblance was uncanny. He might as well have been an older version of me.

"I'm here to bring you back, Soran," I said with as much bravado as I could muster, much of which I didn't have.

Soran turned away in disgust. "Back to time? Back to your narrow reality? I can't accept that. Of all people, I should think my own son would understand."

"So you are my father," I said. "That wasn't a lie. Everything in that universe was a lie except that."

"It was no lie, Julian. It was paradise. What is it with you damnable humans? Why is it that when all the fruit trees of Eden are laid before you, all you want to eat is apples?"

"We were never meant for paradise, I guess," I said. "Paradise is wonderful, but it is also eternal...stagnant. Stagnation is deadly to humans."

Soran turned and walked away from me. "Are you happy now, Julian? You're back here. Back in the void that's left of your universe. All your friends that you drew, even that pretty girl you call Dax, are gone."

"She's hardly a girl," I snapped. "She's just as old as you."

"Three centuries? Perhaps there is a touch of El-Aurian in you after all," Soran laughed bitterly. "We do tend to prefer the ancient." Soran sighed. "I could have told you everything, Julian. I could help you learn to listen to the new cosmos. Teach you what it means to live for centuries...Here, we could have been *Gods*, Julian. Gods!"

I shook my head and gazed at Soran. *He has so many answers about what I am. I hardly know what an El-Aurian is, much less know what I'm in store for. What if he's right - what if I will someday be able to sense temporal changes before sensors do and what if my lifespan is closer to a millennia instead of a century and a half?*

When I thought of my life on DS9, I gathered my strength. "But I'm not a god," I said. "Neither are you." The words came so fast, that my swimming mind couldn't censor them. "We are men. Men were never meant to be gods. I need a father more than I need power over time and space. I don't need to have a family, if all family does is run away or destroy. I *chose* my family...the friends I have on the station." I tried to reach him. "My mother wasn't ancient. What about her? If you destroy Time, she'll die, too."

"I've come to accept that, Julian. She and I could never be together again. I've accepted that and gone on, haven't I?"

"By destroying Time?"

"Yes, can't you see? Here, I can be anyone, anywhere, and any *when* I choose! Maybe your narrow, human mind can't see the beauty in it, but I will stay here, and to hell with cruel Time."

"My mother told me that you were a good man," I said as I came closer. "What happened? What turned you into this?"

The harsh stare softened. "You did."

"What?! "

He walked down the slope, touching my shoulder. "Michael knew all along that you were mine and not his. Jasmine probably didn't tell you about that night, did she?"

I shook my head. Soran seemed to understand.

"I lost everything that night. Your mother had divorced Michael by then. She and you were living with me in Khartoum. One night, when I was studying at the university, Michael came over to the house drunk and violent. He and Jasmine got into an argument over who should have custody of you, and he started to use his belt on her. I got home in the middle of it. She was bleeding all over and was barely conscious. I struggled and got hold of the belt. Then..."

"Then you started beating Michael," I said.

"More than that. I went mad. Completely. I must have broken his arm and collarbone. Of course, when the police arrived, they caught me in the act. Even though Jasmine told them that Michael had beaten her and not me, they still believed Michael because of his political clout. To make matters worse, Jasmine was declared unfit to be a mother and you wound up with that blackguard Michael." Soran's voice was bitter. "I was put in a reform co lony for five years, and told that I was never to see Jasmine or you ever again. My credibility as a scientist was gone as well. I lost everything, Julian. EVERYTHING I loved and treasured within Time was taken away." His sapphire eyes burned with mad obsession.

"My search for the Nexus was all I had left. I used the past twenty-five years to make up for lost time, so to speak. Michael had everything within Time, so I was determined to go to Timelessness, where I could have anything - even you and Jasmine..."

"I'm here now, Father," I whispered. "But I belong to Time. My life is on the station. People I loved were ripped apart by the disturbance. Heal the disturbance, come back to Time, and my friends will live." I reached out my hand. "You won't lose me again. I swear it."


"Maybe, Julian," he said. "But there is nothing left of the man your mother loved. I am a killer. Not counting your friends on the station, I've murdered at least a dozen people to escape Time - including the greatest starship captain of all time. I will not go back to Time, even if it means killing you."

"So, Father, it comes down to this. Do you want your fantasy in Timelessness, or do you want me? I am your son. Real and in Time. You'd be willing to kill your real-life son so you can live a dream?"

"I won't have you. All I will see for the rest of my years is a reform colony. I am El-Aurian - do you have any idea how long we live? Well over a millennia and a half, Julian. Of course, you would probably live only about eight hundred years, due to your mother's genes. I've accepted the fact that you and Jasmine will die before me. Hastening that death will cause me a little grief, but what has to be done..."

He took a small device out of his pocket. "The Destroyer," he said. "The Beings in the Wormhole cannot tolerate its frequency. This device kills Time, and everything within it."

He aimed it at me. "I'm sorry, son. Sorry that we couldn't enjoy Timelessness together..."
Just as he was about to fire it, a green light surrounded him. He screamed and I ran up to help him out of sheer healer's instinct. The green glow faded, and...

Sisko had mentioned that the most visible of the Wormhole Beings took on the form of his dead wife. When he said that They got things dead accurate...Well, he wasn't kidding! The Being looked haggard and aged, obviously dying of exhaustion, but I recognized the form She took. Even though I knew it wasn't her, I whispered. "Jadzia..."

Soran turned around. "You bitch! Stay out of this!" I used the moment, grabbing the Destroyer. It went off in my hand. There was this awful surge of power and intense shock coursing through me. A fire-red glow shot out of it.

It hit Soran square in the chest. He staggered back, dropping the gold watch he had in his left hand. He fell to the stone below, moaning in pain, phasing in and out of existence...*My God, what have I done?* I thought i n complete shock, *I just killed my own father...*

He looked up at me, rapidly fading. "You did what you had to, Julian..." he whispered before he faded away totally, leaving only his gold pocketwatch. Absentmindedly, I picked it up and stuffed it inside my uniform.

I tried to block that from my mind. The Being, "Prophet," or whatever She was called, lay on the marble, shaking, and I could almost see the life draining from Her. I touched Her as Her shape began to destabilize and turn into fading green light.

**"The Destroyer,"** "She" whispered. **"Stop it."** I nodded. Picking it up, I smashed it against the stone, breaking it in half.


She seemed a bit stronger after that. I ran over to Her. "It was you all along, wasn't it?" I said. "What are you?"

**"Our Bajoran Children call Us the Prophets. Sisko calls Us the Beings. Whatever you choose to call Us is fine."**

"Sisko..." I said. "Do you have any idea? Is he? Was he?"

**"You are Julian...healer. Friend of Sisko?"**

"Yes."

**"We save him and those who journey with him. He is a creature of what you call Time. The Destroyer keeps them trapped."** That voice was so beautiful...a chorus of everything that ever called out to me - everything that I ever loved, including my lost friends...

**"We see them in your mind and try to speak to you through them. You remember them more through emotion than through your mind. The image We take now is one of your most powerful emotion-memories. We...remember her. She existed with Sisko briefly during his visit..."**


"Is there anything I can do?" I asked.

She reached out. **"Sisko and the others can come back to Time through you, Julian-healer. Through your mind and life-force we can be healed and restore them. Will you take Our hand?"**

Again, my healer's instinct got the best of me. "If it will help you, yes."

Thousands of green lights came out of the swirling chaos. "Jadzia" faded as well, turning into another sphere of light. They surrounded me and glowed with such brightness, I could scarcely keep from being blinded, even with my eyes tightly shut.

I'd like to say that it felt rather like being in a transporter beam, but the effect was much more surreal. It seemed as though I was melting into nothingness. For an instant, it felt as if I didn't exist at all, except as a mental force, my own consciousness acting as a center, pulling thousands more consciousnesses toward me. Actually, the feeling was so much more than that, but the English language has no words to describe it. Perhaps the Bajorans do, but I'm hardly a linguist.

Finally, everything felt centered, and I came back into existence again - utterly spent. Trust me when I say this - paying a house call to the local deities is no picnic. It may feel glorious while it lasts, but you feel *terrible* afterwards. I immediately collapsed.

When I was finally able to pry open my eyes, a multitude of faces peered down at me.

"So, ye finally decided to wake up, eh?" Chief asked.

"Where in hell have you been?" Major Kira chimed in.

"Can't you see he's exhausted? I almost lost a good customer..."

"Ha! Good to see that you're looking out for his welfare, Quark," Odo laughed bitterly.

"Good morning, my dear doctor. I believe you have a bit of explaining to do." I didn't have to see Garak to recognize that practiced, genteel voice.

"Welcome back, Doctor. We were beginning to think you'd never wake up," Commander Sisko said, a huge grin spreading over his face.

"Good morning, sleepyhead," Jadzia said. Her ageless eyes and Mona Lisa smile was by far the most welcome sight of home (but of course, you probably guessed that). "What happened to you?"

*If I told you, you would never believe me.* Aloud, I asked. "I hardly remember. What did happen?"

Kira started off. "After Dr. Soran's shuttle entered the Wormhole, you vanished in a flash of green light. Your commbadge was all we were able to find."

"We had the entire station looking for you," Sisko said. "And then, we look in your quarters, and here you are, sound asleep."

"Kyla told us that your vital signs were stable, but that you were completely exhausted. You've been asleep for twelve hours," Jadzia informed me.

"Twelve? I must have been utterly spent," I muttered. "Tell me, have you been able to find out what happened to Dr. Soran's shuttle?"

Jadzia decided to explain. "There were some odd readings in the Wormhole. After we found you, the pieces of the shuttlecraft came out of the Wormhole's mouth. We think that Soran tried to use some device against the Wormhole's inhabitants, but it must have destroyed him instead."

"And so the Prophets use their swords on the wicked..." Kira muttered out a passage from her people's Holy Book.

I was home. All of these wonderful people I call my friends...no, more than that - my *family* - surrounded me. They were all alive and well, Time was restored, and I was in the proper universe. Perhaps the life I had was the very thing my father sought, but could never have. Is this kind of life worth killing for - or for that matter, dying for? I'll never know, I guess, but Gods, it's wonderful.


I got out of bed. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I could use a nice, long shower."

One by one, they politely excused themselves. The last person in the room was Jadzia. "Feeling better?" I asked.

She smiled. "I was just about to ask you the same thing." "Well, considering that you were still depressed..."

"That's the funny thing, Julian. When you vanished, and all of us were keeping vigil here in your quarters, I thought about how stupid I was at breakfast. I should have known that you were just trying to help." She got up and walked over to me. "I was offered paradise on Meridian, but when you vanished, I guess it hit me that so much of my life is invested here."

"I can't really blame you for wanting paradise, Jadzia," I said. "I got offered a chance at paradise. I'm just glad I didn't take it! My life is here, same as yours."

As I approached the door to the bathroom, Jadzia ran ahead of me. She folded her arms and guarded the door to the bathroom. "You still have some explaining to do," she said. "I don't think you were telling the full truth back there."

"You're very right, Jadzia," I said. "I wasn't."

"All right," she said, face and body taking on the form of no-nonsense scientist. "What happened to you, Julian?"

"You would never believe me if I told you," I said. "It's almost as absurd-sounding as the prospect that perhaps I'm not fully human."

"Considering your records say you're full human, Julian, I'd say it would have to be pretty absurd."

I grinned wickedly. She's definitely the person I'll tell my little secret to, *if* I ever decided to tell it. "I told you it was ridiculous. I'll tell you when I've been able to sort it all out."

"I can wait awhile, I suppose," she said.

"So can I," I told her.

"I'll see you later, Julian?" she asked.

"Count on it."

As she turned to go out the door, she stopped. "Oh, wait." Reaching into her uniform, she pulled out something small. "We found you with this in your hand. I wanted to ask you about it, but since you're not about to give me any answers..."

She walked up and handed it to me. "Maybe this will help you sort it out," she said before leaving.

I opened my hand. The gold pocketwatch seemed to smile enigmatically as its second hand swept the dial.

30