At that Darlian raised a hand and started counting off on her fingers. "Director Hicks. Deputy Director Bullock. And former Director Hartwell. And those three aren't saying a word to anyone, even under threat of death."
That was about the moment when her brain caught up to her ears. "Wait a minute - surrounded? Who else knows about this?"
"Our new executive officer is fully aware of the threat. He's a Lt. Commander Jonathan Travis. Background in Intelligence and Internal Affairs. Not of O'Dwyer's choosing. He pretty much told me that he's been sent here to 'clean up' practices on this station," Lanis said dryly.
"I think his heart's in the right place, but he's got that Intelligence background and does not hesitate to read people or to note and assess their tells," Lanis said. "He's blunt to a degree that makes even me wince, and I can't imagine that he is at all popular with anyone he supervises. In short, he's regarded as a pain in the ass."
"Do... I have a tell?" Darlian asked, almost as if she hadn't heard anything past the point where Lanis said this Travis fellow could assess a person's tells. "I mean - I'm not good with people. It's why I spend my time with books and artifacts. So I mean, do I have some obvious thing that makes it obvious what I'm thinking?" By this point any semblance of anger was more or less gone. She was too lost in thought.
Lanis blinked. "You're...joking, right?" It had to be some odd Terran form of humor, that a woman who always said quite plainly what she was thinking would claim to be worried about what her subconscious body language might reveal of her inner thoughts.
Before he could say more, the turbolift stopped on deck 5, and the doors opened. Lanis waited for Relena to precede him out of the elevator. It was only a short walk from there to the conference room where, he hoped, O'Dwyer still was.
O'Dwyer, meanwhile, was sat in the solitude of the Conference room, waiting. Waiting for an impending tempest. The wait and anticipation, in his view, were always worse than the real thing, but that didn't mean he could stop running over a great conundrum in his head. What could get Relena so angry, unless something had happened to Winston?
As the door hissed seamlessly open, Patrick took a deep breath and, standing, smiled broadly and greeted the scientist "Ah, how lovely to have you back from the clutches of DTI - the time has simply flown without you. I take it they gave us the clean bill of health?"
"Then you take it wrong, Captain." Darlian flatly answered. "We - and by that I mean all three of us - are up to our necks in temporal horse hockey. NONE of us caught Vossnocker before he initiated. The commanding officer of this station. Vossnocker's immediate superior in HCRI. And the former DTI agent working three labs down the hall from him. As far as DTI is concerned, we're all a bunch of screw ups on the verge allowing a temporal incident of galactic proportions to happen right under noses."
Settling her gaze on Lanis, her eyes half closed in a glare, she simply added, "Anything you'd like to toss in on that note, Doctor?"
"What exactly were we supposed to have seen before Vossnocker started his idiot experiment?" Lanis shot back. He danced his fingers across the PADD he held and flipped it so that the screen faced Relena. "These are the parameters that he sent to us when he submitted his test plan. This is what I approved after consulting with the high-energy physics people and confirming that the math made sense and that the test could provide useful data about those artifacts from Triolis IV. What in _any_ of this piques the DTI's interest?
"Now, obviously, what Vossnocker did while conducting his experiment far exceeded the parameters. But even then, we had no idea that it would affect the time stream. If I had known, I would never have permitted it in the first place. Hells, Vossnocker wouldn't even have received permission from his own superiors to submit the test plan to me."
He eyed Relena and then O'Dwyer. "On a completely different topic, Captain--You wanted to know about those subspace anomalies. I have seen something almost identical before, as part of a very classified...situation that directly relates to my work and my previous service on the _Courageous._. I've requested permission to inform you but haven't received word back yet. Since you're about to fly into the middle of it, you need to know about the danger. The thing is captain's eyes only, and the number of starship captains who know about it is precious few. But you're my commanding officer, and I'm damned if I'll let you fly into...that without being informed. I really don't know why you haven't been informed before now, considering where you're stationed."
Patrick slumped back in his chair. Part out of exasperation, and part theatrically. "Let's just say I have a track record of not being given the full picture by Starfleet lack-of-Intelligence." He replied with a grunt. Looking up and locking eyes with Dhuro, he added, sincerely. "I'd greatly appreciate that, Doc. I truly would. I don't want you to get in trouble though - I'm not worth ruining your career over, trust me." He locked eyes with the man again, seeing the determination in his eyes. "Okay, hit me..."
"My career is insignificant in the face of this," Lanis said simply. "Would you activate all possible security measures in this room, please. Nothing that we say in here about this topic must ever be recorded or scanned."
Patrick smiled mischievously and, as he activated the procedures manually, responded jokingly. "Now you see: that's the bloody problem with all these sneaky bastards and spooks. They make the rest of us paranoid!" He paused to make sure everything had been correctly altered. "Okay: we're good."
"Thank you," Lanis said. "My involvement with this began in 2385, while I was serving as CMO of the USS _Courageous._ The first known incident relating to all of this occurred in 2381, when the man who became my XO, Commander James Whittier, was serving aboard the _Enterprise_ as a Marine fighter pilot. While out on patrol with his squadron, they encountered a bluish radiation cloud of a type there was no previous record of in the sensors. It was emitting what we now call Norbek radiation. There are five types of clouds you need to watch out for, all emitting that. The Norbek radiation is why you can't scan through the damned things."
Lanis tapped and slid his fingers over his PADD. "The cloud Whittier encountered looked like this. It...devoured, for lack of a better term, the entire squadron, save for Whittier's craft. He was able to return to _Enterprise_ and make his report.
"My first experience with this occurred while we were refitting the _Courageous,_ which was being salvaged following the Battle of Chin'toka. One of our crew, Lt. Thomas Joseph, encountered an insane future version of himself that had been, I think, both compromised and driven insane by a race living in subspace that he called the," Lanis paused, "Etauween Sherridlu. I'm not pronouncing it right; the spelling is bizarre in Bajoran.
"The future Lt. Joseph said the name of their race means 'The Frequency of Twelve.' The reason for all of the intense security I requested and for all the secrecy surrounding this is because this future Lt. Joseph had come to warn his past self--or perhaps just to taunt him--that the Etaoin Shrdlu plan to launch a widespread attack on our galaxy on Earth date January 1, 2400. The use of that specific date leads us to suspect the involvement of Earth people in this. We don't know if they will be willing or if they will have been compromised. I personally suspect the latter.
"By 2413, if the future goes as claimed, only a scattered few of the Federation's member cultures or allies will still exist. By 2438, it is claimed that total collapse of civilization across this galaxy will occur. And in case you think this is just our problem--No. They're in the Mirror Universe, too. All of this knowledge was placed under classified seal in hopes of preventing widespread panic.
"No one has ever seen a member of the Etaoin Shrdlu; we've only encountered their slave races. The only evidence we have of their existence right now is their subspace anomalies, the Norbek radiation, and...reports written in the future by myself and various members of my former crew, assessing anything within our fields of expertise that might be used to defeat them."
O'Dwyer sat in stunned silence.
One thought, and one thought only, ran through his mind. "Oh god, not again..."
OFF - To be continued...
Anthropology and Archaeology Section Head
Hromi Cluster Research Institute
Lt. Cmdr. Dhuro Lanis, MD
Expedition Director, HCRI
Captain Patrick William O’Dwyer