Limis was not sure how to respond to this unexpected visitor, a time traveler from seven hundred years in the future. Jonas Grabowski had come to her rescue on two different occasions. The first was to help her escape Sindareen custody, and the second to prevent Limis from surrendering herself to a vengeful Cardassian, which wound up altering Grabowski’s history. The time travel technology allowing such a jump to the thirty-first century had paradoxically ceased to exist, and Limis was able to return to the present through the Orb of Time. As long as this visitor was not a representative of Section 31, Limis was in the mood to be more jocular.
“After our night of passionate bliss,” she said with a teasing grin, “I don’t see you for nearly a year. You didn’t call, you didn’t write. Then you just show up out of the blue, and all you have to say is, ‘Hello again, Captain?’"
“I have no knowledge of what you are describing,” Grabowski plainly stated. “I never experienced that timeline.”
“Too bad not all men can use that excuse.”
“Just consider it an aberration.”
After a flash in front of the sofa, a man who appeared human dressed in a Starfleet uniform appeared. He was tall and thin, with medium length curly dark hair. “Oh, if you only knew how many of his ‘aberrations’ I’ve had to correct,” he said acerbically.
Grabowski swiveled his chair to the right to address the newest visitor. “Q, stay out of this,” he grumbled.
“When your organization tampers with something you could barely begin to understand?” Q retorted with a scoff. “I made sure you didn’t cause any irreparable damage from your little tryst with her. You may be more enlightened than the humans I’m accustomed to dealing with, but you still think with your reproductive organs.”
Limis immediately recognized her latest guest. All Starfleet captains were briefed about the individual known as Q, but Limis had always hoped, given his reputation, that she would never cross paths with him—an unrealistic expectation, if ever there was one. “So you’re the infamous Q I’ve heard about,” she said. “And I’m sure Mister Grabowski is here to discuss some very important matters.”
“Infamous?” Q repeated with feigned shock. “But I am rather flattered that your Starfleet briefs its captains about little old me, especially after all the fun I’ve had with Jean-Luc and his entourage over the years. But I digress.” He took a few steps towards the desk and pointed to Grabowski. “His incompetence nearly led to disaster before. So how could you possibly comprehend what he has to tell you?”
“Possibly because we ‘mere mortals’ have already surpassed your expectations on multiple occasions,” Limis offered.
“She’s got you there, Q,” Grabowski suggested. “Now if you don’t mind, I have a few things I’d like to discuss with Captain Limis.”
“Fine,” Q said with a sarcastic chuckle. “I’ll just leave and pretend as if you’re not one little crisis away from causing a disaster of intergalactic proportion.” And in another flash, he disappeared.
Limis rolled her eyes after Q was gone and looked back at Grabowski. “Now that he’s gone,” she said, “you were saying…?”
“I’m here strictly on business,” Grabowski began. Q reappeared behind him. He leaned over Grabowski’s shoulder, mimicking his lip movements. Jonas simply ignored him and continued addressing Limis. “Officially, I’m not authorized to tell you this.”
“And unofficially?” Limis asked.
“I can… should I say… nudge you in the right direction.”
Q appeared next to Limis and rolled his eyes as if asking, “Is that code for something?”
“I did break plenty of rules by bringing you into my century,” Grabowski continued, “and I’m on a very serious probation because of that.”
Q suddenly appeared behind the desk, leaning against the wall, but Limis and Grabowski continued ignoring him and focused on each other. “So am I,” he scoffed, “but that doesn’t stop me.”
“So you wouldn’t be here if both our futures weren’t at stake?” Limis surmised.
“Precisely,” Grabowski plainly stated with a nod. “A faction in the Temporal Cold War intends to unleash a force that would insure total victory for the Dominion. And I don’t simply mean the conquests of Earth, Qo’Nos, Romulus, and their surrounding core worlds. Half of the stars in this region and beyond would go dark, creating the most devastating refugee crisis in galactic history.”
“And they say I
exaggerate?” Q muttered.
Ignoring Q’s running commentary, Grabowski kept his focus on Limis and the desk monitor. “I have information that can stop that from happening.” He turned the monitor around in Limis’s direction, eliciting her eyes to widen.
Q disappeared, and then reappeared next to Limis staring at the display on the monitor. “That’s fascinating,” he remarked, “but you forgot to carry the seven.”
“Just one question,” Limis asked Grabowski. “How can you be certain I will not use this information and information you’ve already given me to advance my own agenda, to make history unfold in a way other than it has for you?”
“I am keeping all pertinent information on a need-to-know basis this time around,” Grabowski explained. “And this is certainly information you need to know. If you were still to pass this on to any third parties, my associates will be along to minimize any damage you would cause. Good luck, Captain. I hope this data does prove useful.”
Grabowski swiveled the chair around and when it completed its clockwise turn, he was gone. But Q was still standing next to her, flashing a taunting smile.
Limis continued to ignore him, silently hoping that the data on the screen would prove useful even though she didn’t have the first clue what it meant. All that was really registering in her mind was that this data was a means of preventing a major galactic crisis worse than that being wrought by the Dominion.
Kozar, M’Rev, and Sullivan convened in engineering to discuss what Goris had so far compiled regarding the occurrences of gravimetric energy.
A screen on a console in the engineering section’s main entryway showed a star map, centered on the current position of the Lambda Paz
, indicated by a Starfleet delta. All the surrounding star systems on the map were labeled, while the locations that experienced gravimetric spikes were highlighted in red.
“So far, no discernible pattern,” M’Rev commented of the highlighted regions, which were dispersed very haphazardly across the map. “The only common thread is four such occurrences in this sector.”
“What about unusual astronomical phenomena that’s naturally occurring?” Kozar inquired.
Rebecca keyed a sequence to call up additional data on the map’s marked locations. "We've had to tie into various starbase library computers since more comprehensive astrometric databases weren’t a priority for this ship,” she explained in response to Kozar’s look of confusion that the requested data was slow in loading. “It may a bit longer…” Her voice started to trail off once all of the requested data was on the screen. “Here we go. System K-436 experiences occasional ion storms. Sector forty-seven by four by eight has a few minor quasar-like phenomena.”
“While there’s nothing in this sector other than stars that would cause such high graviton emissions,” Kozar added while shaking his head in frustration.
“Correct,” Goris affirmed. “So as I said before, no discernible pattern.”
“I may be able to help with that,” came a familiar feminine voice. Limis had already entered engineering and heard M’Rev’s concise synopsis of the data she had asked him to analyze. She had copied the data Grabowski had given her to an isolinear data chip, which she had in her hand. She quickly strutted up to the display screen and slipped the chip into a data port at the bottom of the monitor. Almost instantaneously, other locations on the star map were highlighted. The areas that experienced unusual gravimetric energy spikes were connected by a straight line to a nearby star system. Each of those star systems were connected by a perfect circle. Yet another location at the center of that circle was highlighted with data appearing below it.
The four of them instantly recognized that particular location at the center of the circle. “All equidistant from the Dyson Sphere we encountered last year,” Kozar observed aloud.
Immediately after adding the final piece of the puzzle regarding the unexplained graviton spikes, Limis contacted Admiral Temlek of the Romulan Star Navy, who served as commander of the Romulan forces in the Seventh Fleet.
Under the terms of the Federation’s military alliance with the Romulan Star Empire, the Tal Shiar disclosed details of covert activities in Federation space. Having dealt with Section 31 and the Obsidian Order, on the other hand, Limis still suspected that the Tal Shiar kept a few such operations off the record. That the attempted reverse engineering of pilfered Dominion technology on the Dyson Sphere was one of those off-book operations was a very strong possibility. Limis still had to go through official channels before investigating what role the Dyson Sphere played in a force that would darken most of the stars, as Grabowski put it.
“We have no record of any military or intelligence activities on this so-called Dyson Sphere,”
Temlek stated with the calmness of a Vulcan. Limis knew that was only an act since Romulans were notorious for denying that their behavior was consistent with that of a Vulcan. “We would have disclosed that information, as well as any progress made in integrating Dominion technological advances into our ships, with the Federation as part of our alliance.”
“I understand perfectly,” Limis replied with her best poker face. “But of course, there are extremist elements within the Tal Shiar who oppose the alliance despite Chairman Koval’s sudden change of heart. I’m sure your government would not mind if we conducted an investigation of an area that is on our side of the Neutral Zone.”
“Except the sector in question is under Romulan protection,”
Temlek offered, starting to become impatient. “As a show of good faith, we have been allowed to conduct our affairs there as we see fit. I can assure you in no uncertain times that snooping around will not be tolerated.”
Then with a devious smile, he added. “Good day, Captain.”
“Same to you, Admiral,” Limis replied. Once the admiral signed off, she scoffed. Clearly he was hiding something if he was being that emphatic in denying permission. Another thought that came to mind was the convenience of the Romulans driving away Dominion forces in the sector where the Dyson Sphere was located. Perhaps it was the result of back door deal Section 31 made with the Romulans.
Speaking of Section 31, her messages to Cole had gone unanswered. Perhaps her assumption that the agency wanted nothing more to do with her after bringing to light their role in the disease that was killing the Founders was true. A text message from Starfleet Intelligence, though, did appear on the briefing room’s monitor. It stated that it could not authorize any kind of investigation in the sector where the Dyson Sphere was located, and even added that an off-book black ops mission could go wrong and jeopardize the alliance. Now that was rather curious,
“Oh, diplomatic red tape,” said a familiar voice from the other end of the table. “It’s so terribly inconvenient.”
Limis turned her chair around to see Q seated at the other end of the table and glancing out of the viewports with a dumfounded look on his face. She shook her head in annoyance and stacked up three padds perched at the edge of the table. “I’m busy, Q,” she huffed. “Why don’t you go pester some Jem’Hadar?”
“Oh, yes,” Q snorted. “You’re busy. Your crew’s busy. Everyone is busy. When is anyone not
busy? Why do you even ask some admiral’s permission? You’ll just do it anyway.”
“I have a better question,” Limis said while looking Q intently. “You could just snap your fingers and make all these problems go away—the war, whatever is happening with the Dyson Sphere, the same old ‘diplomatic’ red tape as you called it. So why don’t you? Why make us ‘mere mortals’ do all the dirty work?”
“I’ll let you in on a little secret, Limmy.” He disappeared in a flash and reappeared next to Limis while kneeling on the floor. “We weren’t always omnipotent, godlike beings,” he said with his lips a few inches from her left ear. “We didn’t become the race we are now overnight. We achieved this level of existence through growth and struggle. We have a responsibility not to make life too easy for mortals like yourself. That is what your… what do you call them? Prophets? That’s what your Prophets have in mind. Even after all that has happened for your race in recent years, can you honestly still say the Cardassian’s occupation of your world was not
part of some great divine plan?”
Limis swiveled her chair away from Q and gathered up the padds. “I’d doubt any god who remains indifferent to all the suffering and death those fifty years caused us,” she snapped.
“Careful who you say those blasphemous words to,” Q retorted, circling around Limis so that they were again face-to-face.
“Q, if you have something to say to me, say it, and get the hell out,” she demanded.
“Right to the point, then. The pending disaster is one that transcends political powers and lines on a map. You need to do what must be done. The question is, are you willing?”
Limis rolled her eyes, stood up and headed for the bridge entrance. “I would hardly call more riddles ‘right to the point’,” she grumbled.
Q leaned up against the side of the doorway, blocking Limis’s way. “If I said any more, that would be making things too easy.” And with those words, he disappeared again.
Almost immediately, the comm chimed and Kozar’s ominous voice followed. “Captain to the bridge.”