In an infinite multiverse, by definition made up of an infinite number of universes, everything, no matter how improbable, has to happen somewhere. Please keep that in mind throughout the following story.
In several hundred universes, Bashir’s genetically-enhanced “mutant” associates foresaw the devastation of Cardassia Prime at the end of the Dominion War. In three-quarters of those universes, horrified by the inherent loss of life in that outcome, the idealistic Bashir put aside his cautionary Starfleet training and warned his friend Garak. In nearly all of those universes, Garak informed the military head of the Cardassian government who worked with the Dominion, which in some universes was Damar, and in other universes was still Dukat, depending upon whether or not the latter had ever been romantically involved with Tora Naprem in that universe, whether or not their union had produced daughter Ziyal, whether or not the Ravinok had ever been found, whether or not Kira had prevented Dukat from killing Ziyal in the Breen enslavement caverns, whether or not Ziyal had helped Quark to free Kira, Rom, Leeta, and Jake from Dominion arrest, and whether or not Damar had found out and shot her, temporarily debilitating Dukat. In many universes in which Dukat remained in charge, he and Damar hastened to DS9 to meet with Garak, Bashir, and the “mutants,” and learned further that to defy the Dominion sooner in an attempt to prevent the disaster would most likely only make it worse, due to a stronger Dominion not yet weakened by attacks by other Alpha powers, and that their best hope of salvation for their world lay in traveling back in time to prevent the Cardassian-Dominion alliance in the first place. Unfortunately, this would still result in rather drastic consequences for the major powers of the Alpha Quadrant, including their own empire. Dissatisfied, Garak, Dukat, and Damar demanded an even better alternative. In the many dozen universes in which Bashir had also confided in O’Brien, the latter recalled having heard from Picard (formerly Locutus of Borg) that the Borg and the Dominion had all but wiped each other out quite some time before, and that only minor tweaking of the events of that conflict would have been necessary to have destroyed both menaces utterly, which would in turn have saved all of the Alpha Quadrant a great deal of trouble from both of them throughout many subsequent centuries. But the “mutants” determined that the travelers would have to go back more than a century in order to effect that change. In well over half of those universes, no amount of arm-twisting, literally as well as figuratively, would force Kira to attempt to prevail upon the Prophets and the Orb of Time to send the group back to make the effort, owing to her uncertainty regarding whether Odo would or would not also be consigned to oblivion along with the rest of the Founders if the travelers succeeded. In the rest of the universes, in which Dukat exploited Kira’s only Achilles’ heel by trapping her and threatening rape, the Prophets refused to cooperate anyway. In most of those universes, Bashir and Garak both intuited that O’Brien knew of other means by which to manage time travel. In some cases, Bashir’s gentle persuasion convinced O’Brien to be forthcoming as to how else that might be accomplished, and in other cases, Garak’s not-so-gentle techniques were required (without Bashir’s knowledge, of course). In any case, in all of those universes (save one in which a momentarily overzealous Garak accidentally killed O’Brien, resulting in total bitter rejection by Bashir), it was revealed that Starfleet had two means of time travel at its disposal. In the majority of the universes in which O’Brien yielded to Bashir’s urging, the group attempted the light-speed-breakaway method in Dukat’s warship, only to explode in transit due to the vastly different configuration of Cardassian ships from their Federation counterparts. However, in most of the many universes in which Garak’s intervention was involved, the even more desperately confessing O’Brien (owing to the frantic need to escape Garak’s clutches) resulted in the travelers surreptitiously booking quiet incognito passage on a no-questions-asked, unscrupulous Ferengi trader bound for the vicinity of the planet of the Guardian of Forever. In the well-over-half of those universes in which a paranoically-determined-to-maintain-secrecy Dukat disruptored the Ferengi pilot upon arrival, only Bashir protested; the sullen, brooding, and intimidated O’Brien kept his opinions to himself.
In a handful of universes, the travelers’ arrival in the twenty-third century coincided with the arrival of two nearly legendary Federation officials who belonged in that time: Ambassador Sarek and his son Captain Spock. Despite the Vulcans’ reticence regarding their own just-completed mission through time from which they were returning, for the sake of the security of the Federation they demanded to know what two humans from the future accompanied by three aliens of a heretofore totally unknown species were doing in their time period, let alone on the highly-classified Guardian planet. The Cardassians’ evident distrust and obvious hostility toward the two Vulcans only deepened their concerns and increased their determination to learn the mysterious group’s intentions. Predictably, logical persuasion got them nowhere with the highly suspicious Cardassians, who did nothing to conceal their own animosity for and disdain of Vulcans, again only amplifying the Vulcans’ insistence on determining their motives. In a rare moment of genuine cooperation between Cardassians and humans, Bashir and O’Brien were also reluctant to reveal glimpses of the future Dominion War to anyone from the past: even these two venerable figures from their history.
“As I recall, Captain Kirk faced a similar dilemma when we intercepted Gary Seven in the Earth-year 1968,” Spock told his father.
“Indeed,” agreed Sarek. “I read the reports on that fascinating mission.”
With biting sarcasm, Garak remarked, “Yes, we’re tiresomely aware of just how fascinating you Vulcans find absolutely everything, but we have neither the time nor the interest to hear about it.”
“Your impatience is not our concern,” Spock replied blandly. “But your mission is.” At Dukat’s sudden move for his disruptor, Spock even more swiftly and smoothly withdrew his own phaser. “Please desist, sir, from any further combative moves, as I do not wish to injure you.”
“Is he serious?” commented Garak condescendingly.
“Vulcans are pacifists,” Damar reminded his companions in thinly veiled disgust. “They’re no match for us.”
“Don’t get your hopes up,” cautioned Bashir. “This one was in Starfleet.”
“Well then at most that phaser will still only be set on stun,” Damar retorted.
“Of course,” Spock confirmed, unruffled. “However it will still bring a halt to your aggressive movements, and further, you will no doubt find the sensation unpleasant.”
“Somehow, I do not suppose that that will ruin my day,” Dukat returned sardonically.
“Perhaps not, but it will temporarily impair your effectiveness.”
All three Cardassians rolled their eyes at each other.
Spock shifted his gaze to O’Brien. “You will approach me.”
“Why?” O’Brien asked guardedly. When one raised eyebrow was the Vulcan’s only reply, the blond flashed Bashir a rueful look and complied. To his astonishment, Spock caught his arm and pulled him close with one hand, while efficiently passing his phaser to Sarek with the other.
Spock first addressed the Cardassians. “Have no doubt that Sarek can and will fire that phaser as capably as I, and with the same result.” Then he regarded the human quizzically. “I would still prefer that you reveal your purpose here of your own accord, but I understand your reasons for refusal. However, my own demands must take precedence.”
“What do you mean? Now hold on here!” O’Brien tried to pull away as the Vulcan captain reached long slender fingers to his head, but the iron grip on his wrist made escape impossible.
“Hey! Now just a minute!”
“Uh oh,” murmured Bashir as the fingers connected to the Irishman’s forehead.
Garak threw Bashir an inquiring look, but at the same time, Dukat snorted, “Oh yes! Interrogation, Vulcan-style!”
“You’re joking!” Garak challenged his cohort.
“It’s useless,” Dukat told him. “A Vulcan female Maquis tried it on me years ago. It doesn’t work.”
“It works on humans,” Bashir assured them.
“But what is it? What is he doing?” Damar demanded.
“The Vulcan mind probe, and I can tell you that it works on most species. Perhaps yours is an exception,” Bashir informed them.
“Our minds are merging,” Spock intoned. “Our thoughts are one. I feel what you feel. I know what you know.”
O’Brien winced and delivered an uncomfortable grunt.
Bashir said fatalistically to the Cardassians, “Well, gentlemen, we’d better hope that they approve of what we’re doing here, or it’s all over.”
The three reptilians cast him affronted, incredulous expressions, to which the brunette shrugged a hopeless surrender-to-the-inevitable.
After only moments, Spock allowed the now-rather-pale human to stagger back from him. O’Brien gave Bashir a pained look and raised a hand to his head.
“Are you all right?” the doctor asked in concern.
“I think so. Just…a headache.”
Spock told his recovering victim, “If you had not resisted me, it would have been painless, as we always endeavor to manage.”
The Cardassians were staring from Spock to O’Brien in continuing disbelief. The human shook his head miserably at them, flinched, and then cradled it in both hands with a groan.
Spock now turned an entirely different expression onto the Cardassians: one that seemed to them somewhat wiser, and somehow far more dangerous. “Your mission does indeed have its merits, however, I am not certain that your empire is worthy of survival.”
“How dare you!”
“What impudence is this!”
Both of Spock’s brows ascended at their outbursts, but he clearly stood firmly on his pronouncements.
“O’Brien!” Garak hissed. “What did you tell him??”
Still appearing dazed, the human mumbled weakly, “Everything. There’s no holding-back from a Vulcan. He probably even got my whole life story!”
Spock confirmed by saying to the reptilians, “In which your people figure all too prominently.” His somber expression left them no doubt as to his sudden, thorough knowledge.
Sarek handed Spock’s phaser back to him, which the latter held unwaveringly on the Cardassians. He clearly knew them now, and was taking no chances.
“Gentlemen,” Spock announced to them. “You would be well advised to entertain no doubts regarding my ability to keep you efficiently covered during the next stage of the process.”
Promptly, Sarek turned and applied his own hand to his son’s forehead. The Ambassador’s eyes closed in concentration, but Spock barely blinked.
Clearly aggravated by the continued lack of opportunity to gain the upper hand, Garak turned his irked glance toward the still slightly suffering O’Brien. The latter noticed his regard, quirked an annoyed, crooked face back at him, and muttered, “Why always me??”
Despite his evident irritation, Garak could not help but smile slightly, appreciating the undeniably glaring irony. Meanwhile, Bashir, with hands raised, had slowly and watchfully circled toward his fellow human, with medkit clearly held in one hand for the two Vulcans to see. They made no protest as he meekly tended to his patient, while making exaggeratedly certain to present no threat or challenge to their control.
Sarek emerged from his far more placid mind meld only moments later. Although an observer would swear that his expression hadn’t changed, Sarek still managed to convey disapproval solely with his eyes, an effect that the Cardassians had to make an effort not to find disquieting, even downright disconcerting, unused as they were to nonblatant displays. “I share my son’s misgivings in regard to your empire. However, there is a more important factor. Both the Dominion and the Borg will offer a continuing grave threat to the Federation. So, despite my reservations regarding your questionable civilization, we will assist you in achieving your mission.”
Haughtily, Garak protested, “We don’t need your assistance!”
“In fact, you do,” stated Spock matter-of-factly.
O’Brien countered, “Let them help! Be glad that they’re willing!” His features had begun to clear as a result of Bashir’s ministrations, but his tone was still irritable.
Spock turned toward him in subtle apparent concern. “Do you require my assistance in your recovery from the mind meld? Admittedly, I am not a Vulcan healer, but I assure you that I am quite capable of alleviating any further discomfort that you may be experiencing.”
O’Brien was clearly reluctant. “You mean that the cure is the same as the cause: you would perform another mind meld to remove the pain of the first. No, thanks.”
Shrewdly, Garak intuited, “A compassionate Vulcan? But compassion is an emotion. So much for emotionless Vulcans!”
“Not at all,” Spock clarified, unruffled. “It is simply illogical to allow suffering unnecessarily, as it serves no constructive purpose. Further, the distraction of discomfort would impair his efficiency on our mission.”
The three reptilians stared at each other, this time without even bothering to roll their eyes.
The Cardassians couldn’t help but admire the Vulcans’ ability to drop Borg drones in their tracks with a casual nerve pinch. Still, Dukat couldn’t refrain from saying smugly, “Of course, that wouldn’t work on us.”
“Obviously not,” Spock readily acknowledged. “I can see that your species will present some unique challenges to ours in the future. However, I am confident that we shall prevail, when necessary.”
One particularly sturdy drone, originally from a species unknown to any of them, never remained unconscious for any convenient length of time, continually reawakening and plaguing the travelers anew. With a flash of regret toward Sarek, Spock reached behind the nuisance’s neck, and snapped it just with the pressure of one well-placed finger.
It was an obvious struggle for Garak to refrain from being visibly impressed, especially placed as he happened to be, in a position to observe the process at an ideal angle. Perhaps to cover his own unwanted reaction, he declared, “Whatever that was, it would not work on our people either.”
“The method is called tal shaya, a merciful form of execution since ancient times.” Spock studied Garak contemplatively. “You may be correct. Since you have double spinal columns, both would have to be severed quickly enough to incapacitate you prior to your own inevitable retaliation. Not impossible, perhaps, but certainly more difficult.”
“Tal shaya,” Garak repeated. “That term is remarkably similar to the Romulan term Tal Shiar, that empire’s intelligence organization.”
“Quite true.” Spock acknowledged the value of his deduction. “Vulcans and Romulans have a common root, and therefore a common root language. Tal Shiar was chosen for the name of that organization in order to figuratively refer to ‘the symbolic breaking of the neck of the enemy,’ whether that of an individual, or of an entire civilization. Or to put it colloquially, the Romulans call their agency ‘The Neck-Breaker.’”
Garak struggled not to be awed, and grudgingly admitted, “While I can break necks easily and efficiently, this method is undeniably far simpler.”
Spock cocked his head at the other. “I do not take such extreme measures lightly, but our task is vital. Also, I do not believe that I have terminated a high-quality life, valuable to its owner, in this instance.”
Garak was rueful, but more tolerantly so than previously. “And you always go through this critical evaluation before deciding to kill someone?”
“Indeed. One must be cognizant of all of the parameters.”
At Garak’s skeptical look, Sarek put in, “Perhaps you have heard of our basic philosophy that ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.’”
More ruefully, the Cardassian replied, “One would be hard-pressed to avoid it, yes. But that doesn’t mean that I subscribe to it.”
Completely unbothered, Sarek said, “That, of course, we acknowledge as your privilege, in our respect for ‘infinite diversity in infinite combinations.’”
Patience wearing thin for Vulcan homilies, now Garak rolled his eyes, just as Dukat urged impatiently, “Let’s get on with it!”
But Spock and Sarek readily nodded to the logic of that, unflappable as always.
Although a bit later, at a less pressed moment, Bashir commented, “You know, you Vulcans and Cardassians are more alike than unlike.” At the resulting affronted Cardassian expressions and the raised Vulcan eyebrows, he explained, “You’re both much stronger than we humans are, and you are both extraordinarily intelligent species. The major difference is in how you employ that intelligence: whether for straightforward logic or for intricate cleverness. Consider how that differs you from the all-action, little-thought-or-talk, bludgeoning Klingons.” Thus mollified, the unusual allies once again efficiently proceeded with their efforts.
With all necessary historical tweaking completed, and having returned uneventfully to the Guardian planet, the two groups exchanged a still wary, rather subdued farewell.
Perhaps due to Spock’s long acquaintance and familiarity with humans, before departing with Sarek he asked O’Brien and Bashir, “Are you certain that you wish to accompany them?” His brief nod indicated the Cardassians. “And do you believe that you will be all right?”
“Yes to both,” Bashir answered confidently, with a trusting smile especially for Garak, which O’Brien notably did not echo, but neither did he dissent.
“Very well. Live long and prosper.” He offered the standard Vulcan salute to all five of the others, as did Sarek.
Heroically, the Cardassians managed not to roll their eyes.
Upon return to the twenty-forth century, the travelers not surprisingly discovered a whole new “history” awaiting them, particularly including the legendary, likely unsolvable mystery found in the Gamma Quadrant of vast numbers of wrecked starships of bizarre designs, some green and cube-shaped, some green and spherical, and others resembling large purple bugs. Archeologists had swarmed the huge sector ever since the discovery of the wormhole, but were not optimistic of ever understanding much about the clearly colossal, long gone war.
In a rare show of solidarity, the travelers agreed never to reveal the other more somber, alternate past that they had averted.
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