Written For: Multiverse 2009 (multiverse5000), June 25
Captain Kira Nerys tugged her still-unfamiliar Starfleet uniform into place. She took a deep breath. She'd worked with the Emissary for seven years; she could handle this. With a nod to the security guard she walked into the main brig. Only one of the holding cells was in use, force-field glowing gently. In it was a human lying on the bunk, one arm over his eyes. He was there on a drunk-and-disorderly charge.
That, in itself, was not unusual. Given the Federation's common use of synthehol, few humans developed a head for alcohol, and a visit to Quarks was often more than they could handle. This particular human, however, had come through the wormhole to the station in an unknown type of ship. And there was no record of that ship, or any ship with a passenger named John Crichton, going through the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant in the first place.
This particular human had been babbling about wormholes and the people who lived in them.
"Hey, there, how ya doing?" Crichton said, not bothering to sit up. "Nice place you've got here. I'm sorry about the fight. Can I go now?"
"You came through the wormhole," Nerys said. He was wearing far more leather than humans usually did, she noted. It looked good on him.
"Yeah, I did." Crichton sat up. "It's stable in both space and time, and held that way by the aliens living in it. You get a lot of traffic through it." He gave her a challenging stare.
"We do," Nerys acknowledged. "But considering that Earth and all its colonies are on this side of the wormhole, we don't normally get Humans coming through from the other side. Unless they left from here in the first place."
"Wait, wait—Earth and all her colonies? What year is it?"
Nerys eyed him. Was he claiming time travel? Aside from Akorem Laan, there had never been time travel through the wormhole; when the Prophets wished to cause temporal journeys, they did so through the Orb of Time. "Stardate—"
"No, no," Crichton said. "Earth date. Gregorian calendar. If you can."
"Computer, give the current Earth date in the Gregorian calendar."
"August fifth, 2376."
"Frell, frell, frell." Crichton shook his head. "Three hundred and seventy years. Least it's the future, not the past—last thing I need is another unrealized reality. I'm not in the mood for Bizarro-world, right now."
"Unrealized reality?" Nerys asked. Probably not a con artist, then—if he were trying to set himself up as the next Emissary, he would have cooked up a better story, one that was more closely tied to Bajoran faith. Also, he probably wouldn't have started it with a drunk-and-disorderly charge. This left the far more disturbing possibility—that he genuinely was the next Emissary sent from the Prophets.
"Wormhole surprise," Crichton said. "See, most people, they fall through a wormhole like Alice down the rabbit hole—no control over where they end up. Place, time, dimension, yadda. And wind up someplace as surreal as Wonderland. 'Cause there are consequences to frelling around with space-time. And I don't mean just 'can you kill your own grandfather' and paradoxes like that. I'm talking about the big Kahuna, skewed personalities, everyone's wearing beards, everyone's flipped out, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. It really sucks. And it's also really, really dangerous. Why—one of the reasons why—wormholes are generally bad news. Unless you know how to navigate them, and the only people can teach that are the Ancients." He sat back, lounging on his bunk. "Now, your wormhole, you've got a nice considerate bunch of aliens—possibly related to the Ancients, although they never did give me a straight answer—out there living in it making sure no one goes where they're not supposed to. Neighborly of them. Woulda been more neighborly of them if they'd let me back out near my home once they were done talking with me."
"Your home is in the Gamma Quadrant?" Nerys asked. "Not Earth?" He'd used a lot of terms the Universal Translator hadn't been able to help with—probably cultural references of some sort—but she thought she got the gist of it.
"Nah," Crichton said. "Used to be, though. Hell, if this is the future you'll probably find records of me. Astronaut. IASA. Farscape Project, disappeared March 19, 1999—sucked into a wormhole while in orbit above Earth. Spent the last few years being chased around the ass-end of space. Now married, with kids, to a beautiful woman who will kick my ass if I'm not home for dinner on time."
"There's no wormhole near Earth," Nerys said, skeptically.
"Not usually, no," Crichton said. "But wormholes aren't usually as nice and predictable as ol' blue eyes yonder." He waved a hand, and Nerys noted that despite having been drunk when he was brought in, he still knew which direction the wormhole lay from here."
Nerys watched him, wondering what to ask next. His story seemed implausible, but not necessarily more so than other things she'd heard over her time here on DS9. She wasn't sure she believed him, but she wasn't sure she disbelieved him, either. Before she could settle on a line of questioning, the door to the security office opened. She turned in time to see an old man in Vedek's robes enter. "Vedek Havor," she said.
He ignored her as he tottered over to the cell holding Crichton. He was on the station for a pilgrimage to the wormhole, possibly the last trip he would make in his lifetime. The years hadn't dimmed his mind; she wasn't surprised he'd heard of this and come to see for himself. He stood outside the cell for a few seconds, and then turned irritably to her. "Well?"
Nerys stepped forward and dropped the force field.
"So, young man, you claim to have spoken directly with the Prophets," Havor said.
"The ones who live in the wormhole," Nerys said. She glanced at Havor; after years of working with Federation citizens, she was used to dealing with them on religious matters. "Humans generally consider them very powerful aliens."
"And you don't?" Crichton said, glancing between the two of them. "Prophets—you think they're some kind of gods?" He shook his head. "There's something you don't see every day. Am I free to go?" He stood up.
"Yes," Havor said. "You're coming with me to the temple. It's small, but since we're so close to the wormhole it does possess its own Orb. And then we shall see if you speak the truth, and then you will tell us of your time with the Prophets."
"Oh, no," Crichton said. "No. I'm no kind of religious figure. And I've got a family to get back to that's gotta be worried about me, so if you'll just let me go I'll be on my way."
"As station commander and a devout child of the Prophets, Captain Kira will ensure you stay," Havor said.
"I wish I could," Nerys said with a shrug. "But he's already close to the hold limit for a drunk-and-disorderly charge, and aside from nearly starting a fight in Quark's he hasn't done anything while on the station. He has no unpaid fees, no warrants for his arrest, and I have no legal reason to hold him."
"What?" squawked Havor. "In my day, when the Temple wanted to talk with someone, they talked! And the person was honored for the attention!"
Nerys bit her tongue to keep from pointing out that in his day, the Temple had only had to deal with Bajorans, members of the same faith. He was the oldest living member of the Vedek Assembly, and had been a member for over twenty years before the Cardassian Occupation. It made a difference when you were dealing with aliens who didn't believe in the Prophets. "I'm sorry," she said. She really was. She had enough trouble with the Vedek Assembly; there was no need to add to it.
"Look, all they wanted to know was what I knew about the Ancients," Crichton said. "That's all. If you want anything more than that, you'll have to ask them about it. I really don't know much about this particular brand of wormhole alien."
Nerys snorted. The Orbs were difficult to interpret and the Prophets rarely spoke directly. When they had, it was usually to Captain Sisko their chosen Emissary, who was … not currently available.
"Alien!" Havor stopped and took a deep breath. "The Prophets must have brought you here for a reason, instead of sending you to your own time and place."
He must have been listening in on the security monitors, Nerys realized. "Yes, but we have no way of knowing what that purpose was. It may be as simple as wanting to reassure us they're still there, even now that the Emissary has left us."
"In that case, they would have chosen a devout Bajoran to carry their message," Havor said.
"They didn't choose a devout Bajoran to be the Emissary in the first place," Nerys pointed out.
"I can't make them talk to you if they don't want to," Crichton said. "But if I tell you how to get their attention, will you let me leave?"
"Yes," Nerys said, relieved to have something to placate her people with.
"Fine. Give me something to write on, then."
Nerys got him a PADD and showed him how to use it, then watched as he spent a few minutes typing in a complex mathematical formula.
"What are you writing?" Havor asked.
"I'm telling you how to navigate a wormhole," Crichton said. "Part of it, anyway. Not enough for you to figure out anything dangerous on your own. But enough to get their attention, the next time you go through."
"Blasphemy!" Havor said. "Only the prophets can guide the Celestial Temple!"
"Maybe they want us to learn," Nerys said. "Maybe they sent Crichton here so he could teach us the first steps."
"That's between you and them," Crichton said. "You won't be able to do anything with this unless they give you the missing pieces." He handed the PADD to Nerys and stepped out of his cell, heading toward the door. "See ya," he said without turning, waving a hand.
"Well?" Havor said. "Is it worth anything?"
"I'm not sure," Nerys said, studying it. "I'm no scientist. It does look vaguely like the equations for piloting a ship in warp. My guess is, there's no way to know until we try." If she waited for the Vedek Assembly, they would take years to argue who should be the one to try. It was a tricky question—who was worthy to talk with the Prophets in the Celestial Temple itself? Certainly, Nerys wasn't, but she wasn't sure anyone was. And then there was Sisko. They had become good friends during their time together on the station, and while he was truly blessed to be with the Prophets, she missed him. She had never thought to be able to see her friend, the Emissary, again. She tapped her combadge. "Kira to Ops. Prep the Rio Grande. I'm taking a short trip."