Sherlock seated himself lazily at a table on the upper level of Quark’s bar. The dabo table below whirred melodically, and a great cheer erupted from the gathered crowd. Several dabo girls grinned alluringly at the betters. Quark himself was behind the bar, as usual, shouting orders at his brother while attempting to charm the customers.
“I don’t know why you find this place so fascinating,” announced a resolutely bored voice. Mycroft, right on time. Then again, it was easy to be on time when you had the vast, omnipotent powers of the Q Continuum at your disposal. Mycroft sat down in the seat opposite Sherlock. He was appearing in his favorite human guise – a 19th century Earth gentleman in a 3-piece suit. Quite inappropriate for the time and place, but Mycroft had never been one to bow to norms set down by the mortal species of the universe.
Then again, neither had Sherlock.
He glanced at the rowdy group below. “If you must know, I am mostly interested in the people who frequent this bar. It’s practically a den of criminals. For instance, there are two Klingon officers down there plotting to overthrow their captain tomorrow. That young Bajoran male in the corner killed his mother and robbed her estate, and is now waiting for a smuggler to take him to hide on Vulcan. He doesn’t know that the smuggler is actually an undercover law enforcement official. I’m also relatively certain that the Cardassian currently having lunch with Dr. Bashir is a wanted fugitive and spy.” Sherlock crossed his arms, still watching the bar denizens interestedly.
Mycroft sighed painfully. “You’re Q, of course you know those things. You can easily read their minds, or even travel forward or back in time to see what they did. If you wanted, you could change the nature of reality to make anything true. But this is neither here nor there. The Continuum has sent me to deal with you.” He was not smiling.
“Oh, piss off. I’m not harming anyone, Mycroft. Least of all the Continuum.” Sherlock argued.
“That’s another matter, too. If you want to gallivant around the universe calling yourself ‘Sherlock’, that’s fine. But stop assigning names to other Q,” Mycroft criticized. “It’s insulting and disrespectful.”
Sherlock stared blankly back at Mycroft, wishing he could increase the gravitational constant of the universe and smash his rotund body into Deep Space Nine’s deck plating. Unfortunately, universe-wide changes now required a quorum vote after a few too many liberties were taken by a Q on the Enterprise.
“Nevertheless, I am here to discuss more troubling matters.” Mycroft leaned back in his seat. “You’ve been doing it again, after we warned you to stop. Repeatedly.”
Sherlock had assumed that there would eventually be some repercussions from his “hobby”. Not in this century, though. The Continuum was notoriously slow about dealing with troublemakers who were not, in fact, endangering the fabric of reality.
“So what? I’m bored, Mycroft.” His brother sniffed indignantly at the name. “I’ve been bored for millennia, and finally when I found something that interests me you tell me I can’t do it? What’s the point of being Q if there’s nothing left to discover, to learn?” Sherlock tilted his head knowingly. “There are others who are bored, you know. Not just me. I’m the easy target at the moment.”
Mycroft frowned. “It’s a perversion of our nature. Going down to random civilizations, wiping your memory and your power for days on end? We are better than the mortal species. Above them. It’s unconscionable to voluntarily be anything less, Q.” He stated Sherlock’s true name with added emphasis.
Sherlock shrugged. “So I found a loophole to omnipotence. What’s the harm? I spend a couple days engaging my mind in some kind of mystery, enjoying the thrill of discovery. Experiencing the mortal condition. Using my own personal abilities to catch criminals rather than relying on my all-knowing Q nature. Did you know I anonymously uncovered the largest Ferengi black market smuggling ring in history? The Grand Nagus wasn’t happy – turns out he was bankrolling the whole operation. I tracked down the most-wanted serial killers on fifty-three worlds. One time I even helped Starfleet synthesize a cure to an Andorian genetic plague-“
Mycroft waved his hand, willing Sherlock to stop speaking. “We know exactly what you’ve been doing, but that’s not the point. The Continuum has ruled, Q. You are rebelling against your position, and it needs to stop.” Mycroft hesitated for a moment. “I dislike using heavy-handed punishments, but we’ve seen success with certain methods.”
Sherlock felt his eyes grow wide. Certainly Mycroft wouldn’t…
“You will be stripped of your powers, though not your memories. As an act of good faith, we will allow you to choose where we leave you.” Mycroft shook his head sadly. “This is most unfortunate, Q, but probably for the best. Perhaps in time you will see the error of your ways and take your rightful place in the Continuum.”
Mycroft could, of course, read Sherlock’s mind and knew exactly where he preferred to be left. With a quick snap of Mycroft’s fingers, Sherlock’s vision went black.
Lieutenant Commander Lestrade was busy filling out his damned personnel evaluations when the call came in. “The computer reports an anomaly in Bay Three, sir,” came Ensign Anderson’s voice. “Potential security breach.”
“I’ll be down shortly. Do not open the cargo bay until I get there,” Lestrade answered, silently thankful to be pulled away from his tedious task. A Nova-class Federation vessel like the USS Baskerville didn’t have the largest crew (around 80), but it seemed like there was always paperwork to do. Especially for the Chief Security Officer.
Lestrade stood, tugging his gold uniform straight. He grabbed the phaser sitting on his desk, and made his way out the door and towards the turbolift. After a short wait, Turbolift Two’s door swished open, revealing Lieutenant Hooper in her blue lab coat.
“Oh, hello Commander!” she said brightly. “I was just on my way down to the bio labs.”
Lestrade smiled and stepped into the lift. This vessel was positively swarming with scientists. Not surprising, considering its main purpose was scientific exploration. “Deck 5,” he told the computer before turning to Molly. “Anything dangerous going on down there? Lieutenant Donovan said she heard growling coming from your lab.”
Molly blushed slightly. “Just some specimens we’re transporting to Starbase 79. They’re going to a new habitat in Orion system. No need to worry.”
Lestrade nodded as the turbolift halted. Last thing he needed was escaped animals terrorizing Deck 7. He said farewell to Molly, and exited.
Anderson and Donovan were waiting impatiently outside Bay 3. On a science scout vessel, the security team rarely had emergencies not relating to quarantines and lab accidents. An anomalous object appearing in the cargo bay from nowhere? Sounded more like something that would happen on the Enterprise.
Anderson was almost bouncing with energy, hand hovering over the computer pad that would open the door. Lestrade unlatched his phaser from his belt, motioning for Anderson and Donovan to do the same. Once they were arranged in a defensive formation, Lestrade nodded.
The bay door whooshed open, the lights flicking on automatically. Lestrade could see no sign of anything out of the ordinary.
“Computer reported the anomaly in the far left corner,” Donovan offered.
Lestrade slowly made his way around sealed containers and excess lab equipment toward the back of the bay. Indeed, there was someone sprawled unconscious on the floor. “Contact,” Lestrade called. Donovan and Anderson approached the person, angling their phasers.
Lestrade lowered his weapon and leaned closer to the still figure. It was a lean human with dark, shaggy hair. He seemed to be breathing slowly, as if asleep. He was wearing dark unadorned trousers and shirt.
Lestrade tapped his communicator. “Lestrade to transporter room, we have an unwelcome guest in Bay 3 to be transported directly to the brig.”
A moment later, the air around the man’s body shimmered, and he was gone.
“I was hoping for a Klingon,” Anderson said. “Or one of those reptilian things, the Jem’Hadar.”
Donovan scoffed. “You spend enough time looking at the damned lizards in the lab. Last thing we need’s one that’s self-aware.”
“You two, search this bay for a means of entrance. Signs of stowing away, trace transporter energy, evidence of miraculous spontaneous existence, I don’t care. Find me answers. I’m going to the brig,” Lestrade said.
Anderson and Donovan stepped away to begin their scan of the room. Lestrade tapped his communicator again. “Lestrade to the captain. We’ve found an intruder in Bay Three. He’s in the brig now. You should probably come take a look.”
“Good idea. Meet you there, Commander Lestrade,” replied Captain Watson’s voice.
Sherlock woke to a strange feeling in his head. He sat up quickly, and found himself in a small prison chamber. One wall was a force field, looking out into a larger room. Two men were standing outside of the field, watching him.
“Who are you?” asked the shorter, blonde one. “How did you get on my ship?”
Federation officers. Specifically, humans. Sherlock stood, enjoying the odd balance of his body. He head whirled with constrained sentience. Sherlock took a moment to recall everything – the feel of being human, of living like the Earthlings. Unfortunately, most of his time spent that way had been without his Continuum knowledge or memories, making things easier. Now, Sherlock was acutely aware of the empty chasm of the power he had once held as Q. The ability to do whatever he wanted at any time without concern.
“Does he look familiar to you, Lestrade?” the man spoke again.
“I think so, Captain.”
Sherlock finally turned to get a good look at his jailers. Ah, he thought. Obviously Mycroft had sent him to the Baskerville. Sherlock had skulked around the ship a few months prior when it was docked on Andoria. The Starfleet scientists had solved the mystery of the genetic plague, thanks to him. He recognized Captain John Watson in the red uniform, and Lieutenant Commander Greg Lestrade in the gold.
Good a place as any to settle down, Sherlock supposed. Science and exploration? If he was going to be mortal, this wasn’t a bad spot. Best to start things off diplomatically, then.
“I’m Sherlock,” he announced as non-threateningly as possible. “I’ve come in peace to join your crew.”
Watson gave him a strange look, something between disbelief and alarm. Lestrade had his hand to his chin, studying Sherlock.
“How did you get on my ship?” Watson asked again, obviously annoyed.
“No need to repeat yourself. I heard you the first time.” Sherlock replied casually. “My brother sent me here as punishment. I’m powerless, you see.” He spread his hands to emphasize his defenselessness.
“Your brother?” Lestrade inquired.
“Well, I say brother. Mycroft. There aren’t true family units in the Continuum, but Mycroft is the one that talks to me most often.”
They still looked quite confused. Watson ran his fingers through his hair in a frustrated fashion. “The Continuum? As in the Q Continuum?”
“Yes, of course.” Sherlock answered. “Obviously.”
“I think I remember reading about something similar happening on the Enterprise.” Lestrade said. “A de-powered Q. Of course, by the end he was restored and nearly caused the destruction of the ship.”
“Fantastic.” Watson was definitely not pleased. “But we can’t be sure he’s powerless. He could be faking. Or he could be a nutter who thinks he’s a Q.”
“Anderson and Donovan found no traces of entry or exit in the bay, no residual energy. We’ve been at warp seven for the past three days. If you have a better theory, Captain, I’d love to hear it,” Lestrade answered.
“I can help you,” Sherlock said. “Mycroft let me choose where I was sent. Remember the Andorian plague? That was me!”
The captain suddenly looked extremely distressed. “You’re saying you caused the Andorian genetic plague?”
“No, don’t be obtuse! I helped you cure it. I was on this ship, helping. I switched out some of the lab samples. They were wrong.”
Lestrade looked at the captain. “A helpful Q, eh? Forgive me if I don’t buy it. I’d like to keep him locked up here until we get to Starbase 79. Let Starfleet Command deal with him.”
“What if he’s not de-powered?” Watson asked Lestrade. “I’ve read Picard’s reports. I don’t want that kind of chaos on this ship. He could just zap himself out of the brig without anyone knowing.”
“I could set a 24-hour watch,” Lestrade offered.
“That wouldn’t help. If he has powers he could just wipe their minds or make them fall asleep.” Watson said. “The simplest solution is probably best. Computer-monitored imprisonment. If he has the ability to leave, he’ll do it no matter what we do.”
Sherlock walked closer to the force field. “I’d prefer to be in the labs. I’m interested in science and solving mortal mysteries. That’s why I chose to come here.”
“Definitely not,” Watson said, pointedly looking him in the eye.
Watson and Lestrade left, then. Sherlock crumpled onto the bench in his chamber. He probably should have chosen Ferenginar.
It took two hours before Mycroft appeared. Thanks to his new human mind, this was sufficiently long for Sherlock to become as bored as he could ever remember being. He was contemplating testing the effects of touching a force field for progressively longer amounts of time when he realized that he wasn’t alone
“Enjoying yourself?” Mycroft asked from outside the cell, failing to hide a smug tone. He was now carrying a ridiculous umbrella. Why would you need an umbrella in space?
Sherlock rolled off the bench and stood. “Not in the least. The captain wouldn’t let me into the lab.”
Mycroft sighed. Suddenly, he and Sherlock were standing on what was, presumably, the bridge of the Baskerville. Captain Watson, seated in the most prominent chair, was leaning heavily against one propped-up arm, lost in thought as he stared out at nothing in particular. None of the bridge personnel reacted to two people suddenly appearing out of thin air, so Sherlock surmised they were invisible.
“Look at these poor creatures,” Mycroft lamented. “Drifting off through space, thinking they’re coming one step closer to enlightenment with each new discovery. They’re misguided, Q. Spending their microscopic lives in meaningless pursuit of powers that will ultimately destroy them.”
Sherlock drifted closer to Watson, who had broken off his thousand-yard stare to tap on the panel of his chair.
“This man here for instance, John Watson,” Mycroft continued. “He was given his first command after serving on a medical ship fighting against the Borg at Wolf 359. His entire bridge crew was killed almost instantaneously. He was the highest-ranking medical officer left on the ship, and saved hundreds of lives when he stepped up to lead. Injured rather badly in the process, as well.”
Sherlock looked at the rest of the crew, all performing their duties diligently. Utterly clueless that an omnipotent being was watching nearby.
“Do you think anything that he did really matters, in the end? Will his mortal life make a difference in the grand scheme of the universe? I think you know the answer. Pointless lives saved in a pointless war against a pointless enemy. They kill each other on these grand stages, but it’s all circular. Nothing is ever gained.”
Sherlock turned finally, facing Mycroft. “I’d like to return to my cell. And don’t bother me again.”
He suddenly found himself back in the brig. Mycroft was shaking his head sadly, as if Sherlock were too stupid to understand a very obvious lesson.
“In time, you will change your mind,” Mycroft said. “But until then, you can at least do something besides lay around pitifully.”
The force field shorted out, and Mycroft was gone.
“This is a terrible idea, Captain Watson,” Admiral Frankland announced grimly over the secure subspace video stream. “I don’t want a Q at my starbase any more than you want one on your ship.”
John sighed. “There aren’t exactly any set procedures for this situation. I’m not even sure we can reliably contain him. Would you prefer I chucked him out the airlock, just to be safe?”
Frankland laughed. “No, that’s not necessary. We’re not equipped to hold high-risk prisoners here, but I’ll have the boys clear out one of the maximum-security enclosures. They’ll have a field day studying his physiology.”
John suppressed a frown. Sherlock may be a risk to the ship, but he hadn’t proved dangerous to anyone yet. The idea of handing him over against his will like a common lab specimen was unsettling.
“I’ll let you get back to your duties,” Frankland continued. “And look after those Romulan swamphounds! Dr. Stapleton can’t wait to begin the relocation process. Studying them in a natural habitat will be the highlight of her career.”
“We’re taking good care of them, Admiral. Watson out.” John turned off the viewer.
He leaned back in his chair, considering the predicament as he looked about his ready room. It was small but comfortable. His commendations and awards adorned the far wall, along with several pictures of his old friends from the USS Bartholomew. Simpler times. It seemed that everything had changed after Wolf 359, and John was still struggling to come to terms with the empty spaces in his life. Commanding the Baskerville had kept him occupied, but there were still plenty of sleepless nights and disturbing nightmares.
John stood, and made to return to the bridge.
Commander Stamford, seeing him enter, immediately rose from the captain’s chair and nodded. “On course and holding steady, Captain. We should arrive at Starbase 79 in 15 hours 39 minutes.” John had brought Stamford with him from the Bartholomew. The crew had suffered a near 70% fatality rate in the battle, and John regularly regretted that so few good officers had survived. Otherwise, he would have populated the Baskerville with far more of them.
At one of the far consoles, Lestrade was standing next to Lieutenant Commander Adler, the ambitious Operations officer. Only four years out of the academy, Irene had climbed the ranks quickly. John suspected that she would have her own ship within five years.
“How’s our prisoner doing?” John asked Lestrade. The security officer turned, giving a rueful half-smile.
“Computer hasn’t reported any change, sir. Still in the brig.”
John took a seat in his newly vacant chair, quickly scanning through the ship’s status data on his console. Something strange caught his eye.
“Ms. Adler, why has the temperature increased by 30 degrees in Bio Lab 2?” John asked. He glanced at Lestrade, silently asking him to check Sherlock again.
“I’m not sure, Captain.” Adler replied, rapidly typing on her console’s control panel. “I completed a ship-wide sweep not thirty minutes ago, and everything was normal.”
Lestrade shook his head. Sherlock was still jailed. Fearing some kind of lab accident, John quickly spoke, “Computer, environment report on Bio Lab 2. Who’s in there?”
“Lieutenant Hooper and one unknown human are in Bio Lab 2,” reported the computer’s calm, feminine voice. “Life support is within established parameters. No hazards detected.”
John leaned forward and tapped his badge. “Watson to Lt. Hooper, is everything all right in your lab?”
“Yes, Captain,” came Molly’s voice, calm. “Oh, but you should have warned me about the consultant scientist you brought on board.” John froze. “He’s quite good, but I don’t think he’s familiar with Starfleet procedures.”
Ten minutes later, John and Lestrade were cornering Sherlock and Molly in the lab. They had somehow hacked the carefully-maintained environment controls to raise the temperature to near hot house levels. Upon revealing that Sherlock was an escaped prisoner, Molly’s eyes grew wide and she began clasping her hands in an embarrassed fashion. Sherlock seemed rather bored by the intrusion, posing languidly against one of the lab tables.
Anderson’s voice came over the comm informing them that the force field in the brig had been spontaneously destroyed. The computer still religiously reported that there was one human in a perfectly functional cell in the brig, and that no one had entered or exited the room since John and Lestrade’s initial confrontation with Sherlock. Lestrade, lost for explanations, repeatedly checked the computer’s information then called down to Engineering to order an in-depth systems diagnostic.
John, of course, suspected that Sherlock was messing around with his Q abilities. It was the most logical answer. But, upon escaping Sherlock had come directly to the labs and begun taking over Molly’s experiments.
“So, really, you actually came here just to solve the universe’s scientific mysteries,” John asked, incredulous.
“I already told you,” Sherlock huffed, obviously waiting impatiently for them to leave so he could continue poking around.
“I would ask how you escaped, but at this point it seems irrelevant. You could obviously harm us if you wanted, whether by your own power or someone else’s.” John shook his head. Why, of all the ships in the entire galaxy, did a lunatic Q have to pick this one? “Why did you raise the temperature? This is a shared lab. You can’t just change the environmental controls. There are sensitive experiments.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes and pointed towards the cages at the back wall, where the Romulan swamphounds were being kept. John still didn’t understand.
Molly spoke up, surprisingly. “The hounds, sir. We don’t know much about them because they’re native to Romulus. They’ve been growling and scratching at their cages since being brought on board, but Sherlock said they were experiencing renal failure due to improper humidity and heat. I ran some tests, and he was right. They probably would have been badly injured by the time we arrived at the starbase and died there before anyone discovered the problem.” Indeed, the beasts seemed to be sleeping comfortably in the cages.
“Basic chemistry and biology, really,” Sherlock added. “And common sense. They’re called swamphounds. Any idiot could guess they probably originally inhabited swamps.”
“I – that’s brilliant,” John said to Sherlock. “Really, thank you. These animals are very important to Starfleet.” He tapped his communicator and asked Lt. Hudson to come to the bio labs.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes. “I didn’t do it for Starfleet.”
There was a moment of silence. “Of course. Well.” John looked awkwardly over at Lestrade, who shrugged. “If you’re going to be staying with us for the rest of the trip, we should probably set you up with some guest quarters.”
Lt. Hudson entered, sniffing curiously at the change in humidity. “Captain Watson! I heard we had a guest, but I thought he was a prisoner!” She was a kindly older woman who had joined Starfleet after her husband died some years ago. It was rare to see a cadet of that age, but Lt. Hudson had more energy and goodwill than most of the ensigns on board. She was the Deck Officer in charge of Deck 2, but John liked to refer to her as the ship’s unofficial Morale Officer.
“Former prisoner,” John clarified, turning to Sherlock. “He’s now a… consulting scientist?” The Q nodded his acquiescence to the title.
“Oh, we have some lovely guest quarters on Deck 2. Not as spacious as those Intrepid-class ships, but quite homey.” She grasped Sherlock’s arm, and led him towards the lab’s exit. “I think you would enjoy 21B. It’s meant to be a dual-occupancy cabin, but you’ll have some extra space!”
With that, they were gone. Molly, still blushing, mumbled something about returning to her tests. John and Lestrade took their leave to return to the bridge.
It was 0400, and the dimly lit mess hall was nearly deserted. A skeleton night crew was manning the ship while a majority of its inhabitants slept. A few scattered maintenance workers with irregular shifts were quietly eating at some of the far tables, but no one bothered John as he walked toward his favorite window. Lines of glowing star matter streaked past in the darkness outside, and the ever-present hum of the ship’s engine rumbled reassuringly.
Another night of fitful sleep. John tried not to think about the images from his nightmare - pale bloodied eyes of his dead shipmates staring judgmentally. Too often, lately, he found himself retreating from his cabin in the middle of the night to come to the mess. No one ever approached him, except for Angelo who always silently left a cup of tea on his table.
Except, this time, someone was already sitting in his usual spot. Sherlock was watching the stars intently, unaware. Curiosity taking the better of him, John sat down on the other side.
Sherlock startled at the noise, clearly unused to being caught off guard. When he saw who it was, he relaxed.
“John. Not sleeping well?” Sherlock eyed him interestedly. It seemed that Sherlock had unilaterally decided that he was now on first name terms with the captain. Not that it bothered John. It was nice to have something resembling a friend, on occasion. John had heard of captains who blatantly crossed the line to become friends with their subordinates, but it wasn’t in his nature to do so.
“How could you tell?” John asked.
“Experience,” Sherlock said simply.
“Do Q even sleep?”
Sherlock shrugged. “No. But I’ve spent enough time with my memories and powers wiped to know that, as a human, I don’t sleep well.” Sherlock went on to describe his habit of searching out interesting criminals, setting himself up in the vicinity, then wiping his abilities for a set length of time to solve the mystery using only his inherent deductive reasoning.
John listened intently. “That’s quite a process just to experience crime solving. And the other Q disliked it, so they banished you.”
“They may have ‘banished’ me, as you put it, but they haven’t left me alone. I’ve run into Mycroft a few times since I came here. He’s the one that broke me out.”
Angelo suddenly appeared, setting John’s usual tea in front of him. He glanced briefly between the two men, smiled, then left as quickly as he had come.
Sherlock continued, “He’s also the reason I’m here in the mess. Mycroft turned the entire ship and all its inhabitants into sponge cake not long ago. His version of humor, you see.” He didn’t look impressed.
John nearly dropped his cup of tea. “What? Sponge cake?” He looked around the mess quickly. Everything seemed perfectly ordinary.
“Yes. The decks, the walls, the furniture, the people, everything. He was trying to get a rise out of me. I sat in my room for nearly three hours until he finally reverted everything to normal.”
John certainly couldn’t remember spending any length of time as baked goods. As preposterous as it sounded, though, he found himself believing Sherlock. He smiled at the former Q. “Well. I hope you didn’t eat any of my crew.”
“I wasn’t hungry,” Sherlock replied absently, eyes fixed out the window.
John sipped his tea for several more minutes, trying to ignore the implications of Sherlock’s answer. “I understand difficult sibling relationships. I haven’t spoken to my sister Harry in several years.”
Sherlock broke his gaze from the window, silently returning it to John.
“We humans like to believe we’ve transcended our selfish, destructive origins,” John said. “Starfleet is full of idealists. They present a very convincing front to the rest of the galaxy, all those noble self-sacrificing heroes. But underneath, as a race, we’re still slaves to our nature.” He frowned down at his half-empty cup. “Harry didn’t join Starfleet like I did. She fell in love and settled down with a nice girl name Clara. The signs were there, early. Increasingly lavish trips to Risa, gambling and drinking away their latinum without a care in the world. We had words, Clara left. Harry was a miserable, broken shell of the sister I once knew when I last saw her. Right before the Bartholomew shipped out with the fleet to meet the Borg.”
Sherlock nodded. “Your ship was almost completely destroyed in the Battle of Wolf 359.”
John chuckled. “You know about that? Yes. After that I got my own commission, and it seemed so much easier to just stay away from Earth. I haven’t been back home since. I don’t know what I would say to Harry if I saw her. I’m not sure it’s best that we reconcile.”
“Perhaps your time together is done,” Sherlock suggested. “Grown irrevocably apart despite your common origins.”
John leaned back in his chair. “Something like that.”
They sat in a comfortable silence for what seemed like a long time. After a while, John said, “I’ve never heard of a Q with a personal name.”
Sherlock grinned. “Yes, most Q consider names to be too disorderly. When you’re omniscient, there’s no difficulty telling individual entities apart.”
“So where did you get yours?”
“Mycroft and I used to make regular trips to 19th century Earth. Victorian England, specifically,” Sherlock answered.
John laughed. “And here I thought you were emulating an English accent just to mock us.”
Sherlock gave him a mild look of annoyance. “It started out as tourism, but over time I convinced Mycroft to try blending in with the population. See what it’s like to be a native. I got rather excited and picked out names for ourselves from census records of the time. Even a last name. Unfortunately, we never had a chance to use them. The experiment stopped before it started because Mycroft felt it was too degrading to our Q nature,” Sherlock smiled at the memory. “He never lost his appreciation for waistcoats. Or English cake, as you can probably guess.”
“Too bad it didn’t work out. You could have caught Jack the Ripper,” John offered humorously.
Sherlock shrugged. “That was the plan. I thought it would be an entertaining case. He was quite ingenious.” John’s face was probably displaying surprise, because Sherlock quickly continued, “Of course, with my omniscience gone, I no longer know who was behind those crimes.”
“I’ll let that pass, then. Is it strange, though? Being human when you used to have so much power?” John asked.
Sherlock considered the question. “Imagine you are standing in your ship’s engine room. You are free to move and look at the parts, see how they fit together and work. Now imagine you are suddenly shrunken down to one millimeter in height. Your face is pressed into the corner of the wall, and you’re trying to figure out how to build a dilithium-powered warp engine based on inference and guessing. That’s what it’s like. I can remember how it felt to look at the entire engine, but can’t picture any of it. I remember moving wherever I liked, but am now frozen in place. All I see is the wall, just like the other mortal species. They don’t mind, though, because they’ve never known anything else.”
John felt both slightly insulted and tremendously empathetic. He didn’t suppose Sherlock would appreciate the sentiment, however, so he said nothing. Another long period of silence followed.
“Why do you still use your names, even now?” John asked, after a time.
Sherlock paused for a long moment. Quietly, he answered, “I’m not like him.”
The lights in the mess hall slowly increased in luminescence. Day watch was beginning.
John stood, gripping his empty cup to return to the replicator. “No, I don’t think you are. And I’m glad of that.” Sherlock watched him depart. John thought he caught a glimpse of a small smile as he turned.
Only a few hours until they docked with Starbase 79. John had quite a few things to think over until then.
1. The Cardassian eating with Dr. Bashir is, of course, Elim Garak.
2. The Battle of Wolf 359 is the disastrous conflict that took place at the beginning of TNG’s 4th season, when Picard was assimilated into the Borg Collective as Locutus. This is the same battle in which Captain Benjamin Sisko lost his wife. John’s old ship, the Bartholomew, was damaged beyond repair in that conflict.
3. There’s no such thing as a Romulan swamphound in canon.
4. It’s unclear what the rules for Q memory would be when de-powered. Q, in the TNG episode “Deja Q”, does not attempt recall all the data he had access to when thrown out of the Continuum. Arguably, when fully powered Sherlock would never have had to actively look up or research any information due to his omniscience, so there would be no clear way to decide what he “knows” now. As such, de-powered Sherlock here maintains a far greater amount of knowledge than most “regular” people, with extra bias toward facts he was exposed to from direct experience.
Sliding along the wall, Sherlock edged closer to the door to eavesdrop on the starbase security officials in their meeting. It sounded like their fears from this morning had been confirmed: someone had intentionally broken into one of Starbase 79’s most secure labs and destroyed a highly sensitive biological warfare project.
Sherlock already knew most of that, of course. Gaining access to the crime scene had been relatively easy. From a glance at the charts, equations, and chemical mixtures in the lab, he had almost immediately deduced that they were creating a blood-borne virus tailored specifically to Romulans. Sherlock’s investigation had begun immediately.
The meeting wasn’t producing any new revelations, so Sherlock casually removed himself from the wall and strolled leisurely toward the atrium. He tilted his head amiably at some passing scientists. Tedious pleasantries were necessary to blend while investigating.
The multi-story atrium was brightly lit and airy, filled with exotic plants and pleasing architectural designs. Sunlight streamed in through over-large window panes. Outside, staff members walked along stone paths through well-groomed gardens. This was a high-security science facility, but it certainly did not lack for opulence. Sherlock scanned the various scientists and workers, storing every detail in his mind for further processing.
At one of the far seating areas John and Lestrade were talking with Admiral Frankland, the commander of the base. John had informed Frankland of Sherlock’s change in status from prisoner to consultant, but the admiral had nonetheless appeared disappointed as he ordered a steward to arrange guest quarters.
Sherlock had thanked John for his hospitality as he departed the Baskerville. The captain had smiled and looked relieved to be rid of his unexpected guest, but underneath Sherlock identified a hint of reluctance in their parting.
After their chat early that morning, Sherlock had remained in the mess hall, thinking. He wasn’t used to having someone to talk to who would listen without premeditated motive. Even after spending time on other worlds, Sherlock had never been one to make friends. And he had certainly never met anyone as innately interesting as John. He was remarkably easy to converse with, and took Sherlock’s irregularities in stride. Was John his friend, now? Sherlock supposed so. His first and only, who was preparing to depart for regions unknown.
Lestrade, noticing Sherlock by this point, hesitantly waved him over to the group.
When Sherlock was within hearing distance, Lestrade said, “We were just going down to the cargo bays to oversee the offloading of the hounds.”
The group started moving toward the lift, and Sherlock followed. John smiled brightly at him. “Thought you might want to watch, since they’re alive and well because of you.”
They stepped into the turbolift, and the doors whooshed shut. Admiral Frankland spoke their destination, then eyed Sherlock tentatively and asked, “So, Q. How do you like the starbase, then?”
“His name’s Sherlock, sir,” John retorted firmly before Sherlock could speak.
Frankland raised an eyebrow. “Yes, fine, Sherlock, how do you like the base?”
“It’s passable for humans, I suppose. Vulcan-designed bases are far better at capturing the beauty of mathematical symmetry. I’d like to be off as soon as possible.”
The admiral nodded. “There’s a transport leaving tomorrow morning. No offense, but we feel the same way. Secure facilities such as ours can’t abide by unnecessary risks.” The lift stopped, and they exited into a large loading bay. Around two dozen people were milling around - scientists and workers waiting excitedly for their specimens.
“If you’re looking for risks, you should be searching internally,” Sherlock intoned. “That data on your Romulan virus wasn’t destroyed by accident.”
Frankland’s face went blank in shock, and Lestrade coughed into his fist. John appeared almost bemused. “Sherlock, what are you talking about?”
He looked at John. “I found a case. I think I’m close to catching the culprit, I just need to organize all the data in my head. Make the right connections.”
The admiral was now growing red with indignation. “That is highly sensitive information! If you’ve been hacking into our systems-“
“It’s not me who hacked you, Admiral,” Sherlock replied disdainfully. “I don’t need to look through your computer files to figure out what happened. Someone on the inside destroyed all records and data on the virus, intentionally. People these days are so reliant on technology to aid them, and all it took was a little old-fashioned observation to deduce everything.”
The admiral muttered something about checking with security, leaving to talk to some of the base officials standing near a console on the far wall.
Lestrade, eyebrow raised, shot Sherlock a suspicious glance. “You’ve been here less than five hours, and you think you’ve solved what is probably the biggest security breach since the base opened?”
“I haven’t solved it yet, but it’s reasonable to think I’ll have done so by the time I leave tomorrow.”
“Well,” said John, smirking. “If there’s anyone on base that can do it, it’s probably you.”
The loud, unmistakable sound of an industrial-grade transporter beam cut over the din of everyone in the bay. Six large cages materialized. The group of handlers stepped forward to take the hounds into captivity.
Immediately, Sherlock could tell that something was severely wrong. The hounds were enormous – at least 3 times larger since he last saw them in the lab. Their hairless black coats stretched taut over excessive musculature, and their eyes were strangely reddened. The animals’ mouths were frothing as they growled horrifically.
“God almighty,” John said.
Nearby, the handlers were shouting. Tranquilizer rifles appeared in their hands. It was too late, though, as the hounds were already demolishing their cages. The duranium bars groaned and snapped like thin twigs. The hounds stalked menacingly toward their captors, snarling.
Lestrade grabbed Sherlock by the arm, pulling him back and away. Several handlers were attempting to shoot tranqs, which bounced off the hounds’ hides ineffectively. Others were arming phaser rifles, shooting beams of stunning energy. They weren’t working, either. The few security officials present, along with Admiral Frankland, were ushering the scientists protectively toward the wall. There was nowhere for them to go, cut off by the advancing beasts.
“Sherlock, we need to get back,” Lestrade shouted.
The hounds were growling more aggressively, now, as they closed in slowly. Several people were yelling, others sobbed. This didn’t make any sense – Sherlock had seen the hounds earlier that morning before he left the Baskerville. They were completely normal at the time. Nothing in the lab could have caused such rapid mutation. He definitely would have noticed something like that.
There was only one explanation. Mycroft. He wanted Sherlock to panic, to call out and ask him to stop and leave the innocent humans alone.
It turns out that John had thought of this as well. Lestrade was no longer at his side, instead replaced by John tugging at his arm. “Is this your brother’s doing? Stop him before someone gets killed!”
The hounds were within arm’s reach of the handlers. Sherlock could see foam dripping from their mouths, claws digging into the floor. They still hadn’t made any move to bite or otherwise harm anyone.
“Everyone, just stand still!” Sherlock bellowed. “They’re not going to hurt you.”
“Are you insane?” shouted a woman next to him. She was holding onto a male scientist shaking with fear, eyes wide.
John was actually physically turning him, now. Grabbing Sherlock’s shirt to make sure he was listening. “Sherlock! Is your brother responsible? You need to do something!”
“Yes, it’s Mycroft,” Sherlock finally answered. “But I’m not going to ask him to stop.”
John looked appalled, and Lestrade was frowning as he aimed his useless phaser at the approaching animals.
Well, if John was going to give him that scathing stare of disappointment, he might as well push this farce along. “Mycroft!” Sherlock shouted to the room. “If you’re going to kill us all, just do it! I’m starting to get bored.”
The scientists were gawking now, hearing his words.
“Really, Mycroft! If you’re going to sic them on us, be my guest. Should I save you the trouble and shoot myself with a phaser?”
A moment elapsed. The hounds were suddenly completely normal, sniffing the terrified handlers in a friendly manner.
“What the devil…?” trailed Admiral Frankland.
“He wouldn’t have let us die,” Sherlock said reassuringly to John, who still looked completely aghast. “Serial killing is illegal even in the Continuum.”
“Good God, Sherlock,” Lestrade answered.
“You couldn’t just ask him to stop?” John nearly roared. “Those people…” The scientists, clearly unused to physical proximity to uncontrolled danger, looked utterly traumatized.
Sherlock shrugged. “Mycroft was counting on me to ask him to stop on their behalf. If I had done so, he would have won this round.”
“I, for the record, strongly dislike your family,” replied John, shaking his head. “It’s hard to believe you’re not adopted.” He laughed, then caught himself as if embarrassed to find humor in such a somber situation.
Sherlock froze abruptly upon hearing John’s words. Trains of thought were rushing uncontrollably in his head.
“You all right?” he heard Lestrade ask.
“John,” Sherlock said distantly. “You are magnificent. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
John raised his eyebrows in confusion. “What?”
“I know who broke into the lab and destroyed the virus. He stole the data, actually, and I predict we’re going to have some unpleasant company very shortly.”
After the hounds were shuttled off to their enclosures and the alarmed scientists were safely tended, Sherlock anxiously badgered John about helping him capture the criminal on the base.
They were sitting in the atrium. By any sane person’s estimation, John should be on the bridge of the Baskerville travelling away from Starbase 79 at warp eight. Instead, he was half-heartedly trying to placate Sherlock. John wasn’t at all interested in going. Definitely not. Definitely.
“This is Admiral Frankland’s base, Sherlock. If you have theories about his security breach, you should be telling his staff. The Baskerville was due to depart a half hour ago.”
The former Q was growing more impetuous by the minute. “First of all, it’s not a theory, it’s fact. We don’t have much time left. He’s going to be gone very, very soon. And I don’t trust the staff here. I haven’t discovered who helped him get into the lab, so it’s better if you come with me.”
John leaned heavily against his seat. Not sleeping well the night before was starting to take a toll. Annoyingly, Sherlock seemed to be overflowing with boundless energy. “Fine. But only if Lestrade comes along. I’d like at least one Starfleet security officer there. It needs to be official.”
Sherlock scoffed. “If we must. But I’m not wrong.”
Twenty minutes later, Lestrade met them at the specified corridor in the habitation building. The security officer had brought an extra phaser, and handed it to John. “Let’s get this over with,” Lestrade commented with exasperation.
John tapped the chime, and a voice from inside answered, “Come in.”
Sherlock had said that Ensign Henry Knight’s reaction to their accusations would reveal his guilt, but it turned out that simply seeing officers with phasers at their sides was sufficient to gain a response. The ensign, seated at a desk, instantly launched himself toward the bookshelf two meters away. John wasn’t a half bad shot, and managed to stun Knight before his hand touched anything. He collapsed in a heap on the floor.
“Shockingly, my hypothesis seems to have been confirmed,” Sherlock announced sarcastically. The three men entered the room.
“Lucky guess,” Lestrade said. He moved to drag the stunned ensign into the middle of the room.
“Undoubtedly.” Sherlock walked to the bookcase and picked up a small object Knight had been trying to grab. Some kind of small metal insignia. “Mr. Knight, we know what you’ve done. Where’s the copy of the virus data?” commanded Sherlock.
Ensign Knight defiantly stayed silent, staring daggers at the officers.
“Ensign,” John said. “I’m Captain Watson of the Baskerville. Be assured that you will be court-martialed to the fullest extent of Federation law. If you cooperate, things will go far more smoothly for you. I order you to tell us where you hid the data.”
Knight finally relented, tilting his head toward a table supporting a potted plant. Sherlock swiftly walked over and felt under the table until he found a small data storage device. He pocketed it.
Lestrade rolled Knight over, and placed restraining cuffs on his wrists. John tapped his communicator. “Watson to Admiral Frankland. We’ve captured your saboteur, and recovered the missing data.”
“What?” replied the admiral’s voice. “This better not be a joke, Watson.”
“Not at all, sir. Sherlock managed to discover it was Ensign Henry Knight behind the break-in. Lieutenant Commander Lestrade has taken him into custody here in his quarters.”
There was a lengthy pause. Then, the admiral responded. “I’ve patched in my security group. They’ve sent a team over, but we would like you to explain.”
Sherlock smiled. He looked like a stage magician preparing to reveal his biggest trick. “Certainly, Admiral.” He began pacing. “At first, I didn’t think much of Ensign Knight when I saw him at the cafeteria. Quiet young officer, not prone to loud social groupings of his peers. Suspected childhood trauma. He was drinking a raktajino - a caffeinated drink popular outside of Qo’noS, but usually only among officers who have served closely with Klingons. He had traces of targ fur on his lower legs. Most likely from a pet rather than a lab specimen, judging by the amount of hair and distribution pattern. His hands are callused in a very unique pattern. A specialty weapon. I would imagine he practices long hours with a bat’leth in the holosuites here.”
Lestrade frowned. “How is this connected? Sounds like any young man who idolizes the Klingons.”
“Patience, Commander,” Sherlock said, irritated. “As you say, these observations weren’t particularly special. Until Captain Watson here inspired the link.” He gazed fondly at John, who felt his face grow warm.
“Who would have cause to destroy a blood-borne virus only meant for Romulans? Security is far too tight here for a Romulan agent to infiltrate, even for the Tal Shiar. Human agents are unlikely, as they rarely have the opportunity to meet and conspire with Romulans. No, the culprit would be someone who found the virus threatening for another reason. Tell me, Ensign Knight, how long has it been since you performed the r’uustai ceremony and became bonded brother to a Klingon family?”
Ensign Knight’s face fell at that moment. John could see the shock seeping through his features. “Twelve… twelve years ago,” Knight answered faintly. “After my father was killed.”
“There we have it,” Sherlock continued. “A traumatic death, I’m sure? And for some reason, a Klingon was present at the time and felt responsible for the lost young boy. Ensign Knight was bonded and became a member of the family. Essentially, adopted,” he said, giving John a triumphant look. “It’s rare, but it does happen.”
Admiral Frankland’s voice came over the comm. “This doesn’t explain his guilt.”
“The Klingons, Admiral. As a man of science, you should be keeping up with your medical journals.”
Realization dawned on John, suddenly. “Sherlock – you can’t mean that the virus is effective on Klingons as well? Dr. Crusher’s article a few years ago about Klingon ribosomal similarity with Romulans. They have compatible blood!”
Sherlock’s smile was blazing, pride for John displayed unabated. “Precisely! I’m glad there’s someone listening with some semblance of intelligence. As we all know, a few months ago the Klingons pulled out of the Khitomer Accords over that Cardassian business. There’s a war brewing with the Federation, and both sides are arming. Ensign Knight discovered the Romulan virus in the course of his work, and realized with a few simple alterations it could be used against his family. He destroyed all records of the work, and made a copy.”
“How did you know he would copy the data?” Lestrade asked. “It would be safer and easier to destroy everything."
“True, but the Klingons are not a race to ignore any possible advantage. They were probably planning on keeping it as insurance against future Romulan threats. Admiral, if you were to appropriately adjust your sensors, I believe you would find between three and five cloaked Klingon Birds of Prey in nearby orbit waiting to beam up our ensign. Although, I wouldn’t scan until I was prepared for them to become aware that we’re onto them.”
Stunned silence scoured the room.
“Brilliant,” John said breathlessly, unsure whether he was referencing Sherlock’s train of deduction or the implication of cloaked, unfriendly Klingons. Ensign Knight’s face was resolutely blank, neither confirming nor denying the conclusion.
“We can’t defend a research outpost with a handful of orbiting science vessels and no viable ground-based weaponry,” Lestrade commented.
“No, we can’t,” John answered. “But it looks like that’s what we’re going to do.”
The admiral wasn’t convinced that there were Klingons near the base, but over the next thirty minutes John and Sherlock forced as many preparations as possible. They worked quickly, unsure as to when the Klingons would notice that Ensign Knight was unable to respond.
Lestrade felt it was too much of a security risk to move Knight from his quarters, lest he somehow inadvertently trigger a message to accomplices or the Klingons. Sherlock managed to hack the room’s computer interface to emit a scrambled signal that would block any transporter beams. Frankland’s security team created a perimeter out in the hallway, and John sent Lestrade back to the Baskerville to coordinate defensive strategies with Adler. John stayed with Sherlock in Knight’s room.
Admiral Frankland ordered one of the smaller orbiting Starfleet vessels to casually disembark, making for the closest point of aid – a Vulcan colony two days’ journey away at maximum warp. It was the only insurance that Starbase 79 had, at the moment. The Klingons would probably be long gone by the time help was retrieved. Someone to bury them, if necessary, John thought morbidly.
“This could last for days, you know,” John said to Sherlock. “A siege.” They were seated in opposite armchairs, Ensign Knight between them on the floor.
“It’s possible. Do you think the Klingons would physically invade the starbase?” Sherlock asked.
John shrugged, uncertain. “That would be an open act of war. I know they’ve had a few skirmishes with Starfleet, but it’s hard to tell. It depends on how bold the captains are feeling.”
“I was on Qo’noS once, you know,” intoned Sherlock. John suddenly had a horrific mental image of Sherlock with cranial ridges. “Terrible food. Couldn’t stomach it, so I never went back. I imagine you love Klingon food, though, Ensign. Rokeg blood pie? Heart of targ, perhaps? Some nice fresh gagh?”
Knight, still cuffed, exhaled loudly.
“Captain, we’re going to scan momentarily,” came Lestrade’s voice over the comm. “The starbase will deploy an emergency subspace beacon at the same time. If we’re lucky, there’s a battle-ready ship in the neighborhood. God knows the Baskerville wouldn’t hold up in a fight.”
“Go ahead, Lestrade. We’re ready down here. And tell Commander Stamford I expect to get my ship back in once piece,” John warned.
There was a prolonged period of silence. Sherlock quickly took on a façade of weary boredom, and soon began poking through Knight’s belongings. He picked up the small insignia, still on the shelf, and examined it closely. “A Klingon house emblem.” He tapped on the back. “With a communications device very cleverly hidden inside. I hardly expected such delicate tactics on the part of the Klingons. They aren’t usually known for spineless subterfuge. Was this device your idea, Mr. Knight?”
Ensign Knight grumbled.
“Sorry, Ensign, am I insulting you? How terrible,” Sherlock smirked.
John rolled his eyes at his friend. “Sherlock, don’t heckle the prisoner.”
Admiral Frankland finally called in to deliver a status report. “Captain Watson, there are five Birds of Prey in orbit. The Klingons have been making threats against the base if we don’t release Knight, but so far they haven’t done anything overtly aggressive. They’ve jammed long-range communications, including our beacon, and are claiming that we knowingly made a biological weapon to use against them. No response from Starfleet vessels.”
“Hold steady, Admiral. Either someone will come, or the Klingons will leave of their own accord,” John answered. Or, they’ll beam down and slaughter everyone. Toss of the coin, really, at this point.
A short time later, Sherlock was flipping through a copy of “Hamlet: Complete and Unabridged, Translated from the Original Klingon with foreword by Chancellor Gorkon”.
A deep, thundering boom suddenly sounded. Sherlock’s head snapped up. “Looks like they’ve chosen bombardment.” It was a reasonable strategy – intimidating, but only destructive to the base if the Klingons wanted it to be. Based on the pitch of the blasts, John estimated they were focusing on uninhabited external areas around the facility. Warning shots.
Commander Stamford had orders not to engage the Klingon ships. Their mission was to block attempts to jam short-range communications and act as an extra set of eyes and ears for Starbase 79. They were likely receiving threats, as well, but John didn’t actually think the Klingons would attack them.
Sieges were always dull, after the initial wave of adrenaline had worn off. The distant rolling detonations reverberated off the walls, but John found himself starting to doze off. A hand on his shoulder shook him sharply awake, and John looked up to see’s Sherlock face. Right. Shouldn’t be sleeping when they had a prisoner to watch. Sherlock took a seat in his chair again.
“Would you like to hear about some of my past cases, John?” he asked. John nodded, and Sherlock immediately launched into a tale about a Bolian smuggler who had successfully stolen the Holy Rings of Betazed, nearly getting out of Federation space before he was caught. He described several encounters with a mysterious woman named Vash, an alternately deceitful and cooperative treasure hunter, as well as several blatantly dangerous manhunts on some of the more treacherous worlds in the Alpha Quadrant.
“Your stories are really quite interesting,” John said after listening for what seemed like a long time. “Perhaps you should write some of them down.”
“I’ve not the patience, John. And what would be the point?”
“I think plenty of people would love hearing them. Your thought processes are fascinating, and some of the crimes you’ve run across are positively outrageous,” John said. Sherlock merely shrugged, apparently uninterested in the opinions of the masses.
The barrage, distant until this point, was growing louder. There were unmistakable sounds of solid structures collapsing.
“Captain,” Frankland’s voice reported. “The Klingons are refusing to leave, and they’ve begun destroying our outlying service buildings. Everyone’s been evacuated, but their threats are escalating.”
“Any response from Starfleet ships?”
“None. The subspace beacon is still jammed, and we aren’t receiving long-distance transmissions. We can’t counter the Klingon’s interference,” Frankland said, before adding, “The Baskerville hasn’t been harmed.”
“We’re reaching the tipping point,” John replied. “If it comes down to the wire, they will either give up completely or engage in a full assault. We should prepare all available fighting units for invasion. And all sensitive data should be on stand-by for destruction in case the fighting goes south.”
“Agreed. For now, we pray,” Frankland lamented. “Frankland out.”
A moment passed, and then Ensign Knight began to laugh from his spot on the floor.
“You won’t be so smug if your Klingon friends blow this building to Kingdom Come with you inside it,” John answered.
“It doesn’t matter. I shall have a warrior’s death, and drink bloodwine in the halls of Sto-vo-kor alongside my family’s ancestors!” The young man looked almost manic at the prospect. Adopted Klingon, indeed.
“Can I gag him? Or at least toss him into the bathroom so we don’t need to suffer through this prattle?” Sherlock complained. John shrugged. Either way, Knight wasn’t going to be beamed out. Together, they dragged Knight through the open doorway.
“If you make another sound, I’ll let him do whatever he wants to shut you up, Ensign,” cautioned John as he closed the door.
They returned to their seats, listening to the bombardments in the distance.
John estimated that a half hour had passed when the lights suddenly stuttered and went out. “They’ve hit the main power generator,” Sherlock announced. The door panel remained lit, attesting that the secondary generators were still keeping the computers functional. The transporter interference field wasn’t going anywhere.
“Lovely.” The sun had nearly set, so only a faint evening glow filtered in through the windows. John could barely make out Sherlock’s outline on the opposite chair.
After several minutes, John was growing restless in the dark. “I never asked why you chose to come to the Baskerville. You said Mycroft offered to leave you anywhere.”
The silhouette of Sherlock’s head moved fractionally. “Yours was the first Starfleet vessel I was ever on. Too many rules for my taste, but an environment of law and order is favorable to one where I have to watch my back at all times. Your crew practices scientific exploration, which interests me.” He paused momentarily. “Truthfully, John? Joining the Baskerville was about tied with going to Vulcan or becoming a Trill symbiont. Something subconscious must have triggered the Baskerville to win out.”
John couldn’t see Sherlock’s face, but he was relatively sure that he wasn’t kidding. “Whatever the reason, I’m glad we were more appealing than existing as a sentient abdominal slug.” Sherlock laughed.
John grinned in the dark. “What do you think you’ll do, after this?”
Sherlock’s body moved; probably a shrug. “I don’t know. Mycroft will probably follow me wherever I go, causing trouble. Once I convince him to leave me alone, maybe find some place to set up a consulting business.”
“A location with plenty of crime?”
John had been considering something for the better part of the day. He’d only met Sherlock the day before, technically, but they had inexplicably developed a comfortable discourse right from the start. John didn’t know if he wanted to part with that. “You know, my ship often takes on civilian scientists. Frankly, any Starfleet captain would kill to have a mind like yours on board. I can’t guarantee we would be coming across master criminals on a regular basis, but… there could be a place for you on the Baskerville. If you wanted it.”
Sherlock didn’t respond for a long time. John wished he could see his expression.
“Thank you, John,” he said finally, voice strangely quiet. “I think I would like that very much. And thank for you for something else, as well.”
“What’s that?” John asked.
“Not asking me to beg Mycroft to get us out of this situation.”
It took several minutes before John realized that the sounds of the bombardment had stopped.
“Jesus Christ!” called Lestrade’s voice over the comm, breaking the silence. “Captain Watson, the Enterprise has just dropped out of warp. They’ve taken up a defensive orbit.”
The door to Ensign Knight’s quarters slid open, and John could make out two figures with handheld lights entering the room. One figure quickly attached a small object to the computer panel near the door. Sudden illumination flooded the room, supplied by what appeared to be a compact energy storage device.
John immediately recognized them. The Enterprise-E possessed the most famous crew in the Federation, after all. Commander Riker stepped forward to greet John, while behind him Lieutenant Commander Data scanned the room with his tricorder.
“The Enterprise was passing through this system, and couldn’t resist your invitation,” Riker smiled widely as they shook hands. “Glad we could make the party.”
“Not as glad as we are,” John answered with relief.
“Where’s the guest of honor?”
John indicated the bathroom.
“Sir,” Lt. Commander Data said. “There is a rather ingeniously constructed energy field blocking any transporter activity in this room. We will need to time it perfectly.” He pressed several buttons on his tricorder. “Based on response times of the Enterprise, there will likely be a 1.00032342 second window in which the Klingon ships could theoretically beam out our prisoner.”
“No,” Sherlock criticized, shaking his head. “You’re not factoring in the distributed tachyon sensor technology that the Klingons have recently outfitted in their ships. They’ll have at least 1.007437 sec-”
“Either way, gentlemen,” Riker interrupted, “I’m not concerned about a delay that small.” He tapped his badge. “Riker to Enterprise. Five to beam directly to the bridge. Be prepared to retrieve us the moment you detect the interference field drop.”
“Understood,” came a voice in response.
Data pressed a button on the door panel, and John felt the slightly nauseating caress of transporter energy.
They reappeared in the center of the Enterprise’s bridge. Ensign Knight lay, still bound, at John’s feet.
“Shields up!” ordered the voice of Captain Picard.
John turned quickly, surveying the bridge of Starfleet’s flagship. It wasn’t as brightly lit as the bridge of the old Enterprise-D, but it commanded an undeniable respect. Data and Riker settled into their posts.
Captain Picard was looking at John congenially. “Captain Watson? So very good of you to join us.” They shook hands.
“Captain,” Data announced. “The lead Klingon vessel is hailing us.”
“On screen,” said Picard, striding past John to face the view screen head-on.
The image of a battle-scarred Klingon captain appeared.
“This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise,” Picard said confidently. “You are threatening a Federation starbase and very close to committing an act of war. You will depart Federation space immediately.”
“Not so simple, Captain,” growled the Klingon. “I am General Martok, currently of the Klingon vessel M’Char. I am here on the express orders of Chancellor Gowron. We know of the secret virus being created at this facility.” He eyed Ensign Knight on the ground. “You will send the human to us, along with the data he collected, or we will destroy your ship.”
“You will recall, General, that I served as Arbiter of Succession for Gowron,” Picard replied. “Starfleet uncovered a plot by the Duras family and aided the Empire. Despite the current tensions, I doubt that Chancellor Gowron will enjoy hearing that you fired on my ship with no provocation. I don’t believe Lt. Commander Worf would, either.”
Martok snarled, but leaned back in his chair. “Be thankful that traitorous petaQ is cowering on Deep Space Nine, or I would blow you out of the sky regardless.” The view screen darkened as the link broke off.
“The Klingon vessels are departing, Captain,” reported Data.
Picard looked pleased. “Lt. Daniels, please take Ensign Knight to the brig. Number one, monitor the Klingons to make sure they are leaving peacefully. Captain Watson,” he said, glancing at John. “If you would join me in my ready room?”
Picard turned to leave. Sherlock nudged John’s shoulder. “I don’t think that Klingon was actually a Klingon.” John gave him a puzzled expression. Sherlock shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, I suppose. Not our problem, at the moment.”
John frowned. “I’ll be back shortly,” he said. “Try not to get into any arguments with Lt. Commander Data.”
John walked toward a set of doors that Picard had disappeared into. Inside the ready room, Picard motioned for him to sit. “Tea?” he asked. John nodded.
“Two cups of tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” The cups materialized in the replicator. Picard set one down in front of John as he seated himself at his desk.
John immediately started relaying his entire story, from finding Sherlock in the cargo bay to the Klingon siege. Picard listened attentively, sipping his tea.
“Well, Captain,” Picard said, when John was finished. “I can commiserate with your Q troubles, but it seems to have all worked out for the best, in the end. My experiences have been markedly more… negative.”
“I’m well aware,” replied John. “After we took him into custody I immediately read all of your reports relating to the Continuum. Especially that incident with a de-powered Q. You noted that the Continuum never actually left him alone, and I’ve been seeing evidence of that with Sherlock.”
“It’s a risk, certainly. I should have dropped Q at the first available depot.”
“I’ve offered Sherlock a place on the Baskerville,” John said, “though I’m still waiting on the repercussions of that decision.”
Picard raised an eyebrow. Cleary, he didn’t trust any Q as far as he could throw them. He nodded diplomatically, however.
“Beautiful ship,” John noted, after a moment. “Even more impressive than the old Enterprise.”
“We’re still doing some shake-down trials, which was why we were in the area,” Picard answered. “More powerful than the D, but I still miss her. She carried us through more trials than I care to remember.”
John smiled. “I know the feeling. I still miss my old ship, the Bartholomew.”
There was a pause, recognition of the ship name crossing Picard’s face. “You were at the Battle of Wolf 359,” Picard offered hesitantly. John indentified deep pain behind his eyes.
“Yes,” John replied quietly. “Though I hold no ill will toward you, Picard, I know many survivors who do. My friend Captain Sisko, for one. But I don’t see it the same way they do.”
Picard nodded, obviously unsure of what to say. Whether or not to apologize for something that wasn’t his fault, ultimately.
John kept speaking, though he wasn’t sure why. “God knows I have reason to. My…” he paused, feeling a long-familiar pressure building up in his chest. “My fiancé was an officer onboard my ship. Mary. She didn’t make it.”
Picard stared back, solemn. In the years since his assimilation as Locutus of Borg, he’d probably received hundreds, if not thousands, of angry messages and threats. His position protected him, but the weight of all that judgment had to be unbearable. “I… didn’t know.”
Most people didn’t know, actually. John and Mary had only been engaged for a week, after about a year of dating. He had told Stamford, at the time. No one else who knew about the engagement was alive. Mary, an engineer, had died almost instantly when the warp core breached and exploded. At least, John told himself it was instantly. There was no way to know for sure.
“I’ve spent a lot of time considering what I would say to you, if we met,” John said. “And I want you to know that I don’t blame you. I don’t even blame Starfleet. Mary and I both signed up knowing the risks.” He leaned forward. “It was a terrible situation for everyone, with terrible outcomes. But I firmly believe that we all did the best we could with the hands we were dealt. Even if those hands were beyond unthinkable to play.”
There was a new emotion in Picard’s face, underlying the guilt. A faint trace of relief. “Thank you, Captain,” Picard replied sadly. “But not all of us can be so forgiving. Especially to ourselves.”
Sherlock leaned against the bar, carefully watching the crew members who had come to relax in Ten Forward. Locations of social gathering were always ripe with intrigue and concealed offenses. If he were lucky, someone in here would be a criminal.
John had met him about an hour after he left to talk to Picard. Sherlock noted a weary sadness in John’s face, but listened silently as John informed him that the Enterprise was going to stay in orbit until the morning to wraps things up at the base. Picard had invited the two of them to stay in guest quarters on the Enterprise for the night, which John had accepted.
John had joined him for a brief meal in Ten Forward, looking ready to fall asleep at any minute. He was in his cabin now, presumably resting after the excitement of the last two days.
Not tired in the least, Sherlock had instead prowled about the Enterprise. Unsurprisingly, he had been blocked from the sensitive areas of the ship by the captain. A very untrustworthy man, Picard. John had never denied access to anything on the Baskerville, once Sherlock had escaped the brig.
The bridge was now off-limits, so the only interesting place left was back at Ten Forward. Sherlock narrowed his eyes at a male engineer, eyes a bright artificial blue, seated next to a female companion. Ocular implants, how fascinating!
“Don’t you dare bother Geordi,” a voice behind him said. “He’s on his first date in almost three months.”
Sherlock turned on his seat. Impossible. There, standing behind the bar, was Guinan. She observed him appraisingly, but without anger. “Powerless? How interesting.” The El-Aurian glanced quickly around. “Where’s your brother, Sherlock?”
“Knowing Mycroft, he’s probably watching us right now.” He frowned and crossed his arms on the bar. He’d run across Guinan before, as had many Q. The El-Aurians were a sort of rival species. Not omnipotent, but powerful enough to be an annoyance. Sherlock had never managed to draw the amount of ire as some of his Continuum brethren, however. Particularly Mycroft.
“Hmm.” She shifted back, large circular hat catching the low light.
“Why are you keeping bar on a Starfleet ship, Guinan?” Sherlock asked incredulously.
“It’s my job,” she replied. “I’m here because Captain Picard asked me to be.”
“A being as intelligent as you? So much experience going to waste. You could run circles around them,” Sherlock said.
Guinan raised an eyebrow, almost amused. “You sounded an awful lot like Mycroft, just then.”
Sherlock froze momentarily. She was right.
“I’m here because Picard asked me, and because it’s where I enjoy being,” Guinan explained. Her smile was a little too knowing for Sherlock’s taste. “Not too different from someone else I know, or so I hear.”
Of course. Of course gossip had swept through the whole ship. How often was a Q onboard? It was very late, but it seemed Guinan knew the entire story.
“It’s not at all the same,” Sherlock objected. “I’m going to use my deductive skills to solve problems on the Baskerville.”
“And I’m using my listening skills to solve problems on the Enterprise,” Guinan rejoined, calm as ever.
Sherlock glowered darkly at the countertop.
“I’ve had my problems with the Continuum, but I’ll tell you something, Sherlock,” Guinan continued. “I’ve always liked you, despite what your brother has done. I think turning human is the best thing that could have happened to you.” Guinan smiled. “I saw you when you were in here with Captain Watson. Friends like that don’t come around every day. Not even every lifetime. For the first time since I’ve known you, you actually looked happy.”
Guinan was right. Sherlock no longer felt the same restlessness and loneliness as when he was Q. He realized, suddenly, that he could quite happily spend the rest of his pitifully short mortal life exploring the galaxy, solving mysteries with John on the Baskerville. And he would die not regretting a minute.
If he was allowed to die.
Since the beginning of his whole ordeal, Sherlock had become uncomfortably aware that Mycroft was escalating his tactics. Something unpleasant was definitely coming.
1. Starbase 79 has never been mentioned in canon. Everything about it is made up.
2. The mention of ribosomal compatibility between Klingons and Romulans is accurate, as outlined in the TNG episode “The Enemy”)
3. John is correct that there have been skirmishes in the Klingon-Federation conflict so far; most notably, the Klingons briefly attacked and boarded DS9 a few months prior.
4. The Enterprise-D that appears during the entire run of TNG was, of course, destroyed during the events of Star Trek: Generations
5. Martok is on the M’Char, the Klingon ship formerly led by Commander Kaybok. Martok had him executed for not firing on the USS Defiant in the DS9 episode “The Way of the Warrior”
6. Sherlock referencing that Martok is not actually a Klingon is true; he is a Changeling impersonating Martok. It can be assumed that the infiltration of Changelings in Starfleet is still need-to-know only (at least until the Dominion War begins), so it is unlikely John would understand the implications of Sherlock’s observation.
7. As far as I can tell, there actually is no replicator in the Enterprise-E’s ready room as there was on the Enterprise-D. I altered this detail because Picard deserves easy access to tea, dammit!
8. There’s no solid proof that the Enterprise-E has a Ten Forward, nor that Guinan is still tending bar
Chapter 3: Ultimatum
Sherlock could easily tell that John was relieved to be back on the Baskerville. The senior officers greeted the captain formally yet genuinely, congratulating him on the successful resolution of the Klingon situation. “Really, I didn’t do anything,” John kept saying. “Sherlock figured it out, and the Enterprise handled the rest. I was just a glorified babysitter.”
Sherlock maintained a significant distance from the rest of the crew. Most of the officers shot suspicious glances at him, obviously upset that he had endangered the captain and the ship. They seemed puzzled at his continued presence onboard, but none openly challenged the captain’s decision. Stamford was frowning, an indication that he would be discussing the issue with John in private. Adler eyed him with intense curiosity. Only Lestrade seemed unperturbed by his being there.
“I know what you’re all thinking,” Sherlock overheard Lestrade saying quietly to his security team. “It’s completely mental to allow a Q on board, but I’ve seen him in action. He’s on our side, and I trust Captain Watson’s decisions.” Anderson and Donovan did not look convinced. They mumbled several offensive comments between themselves.
Lt. Hudson informed Sherlock that Deck 2 Cabin 21B was now his, although Sherlock had no real possessions to fill it with. He placed Henry Knight’s now-broken Klingon emblem communicator on a shelf in his quarters. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. He replicated himself some clothes, mostly dark trousers and shirts with Starfleet-issue shoes.
Lestrade gave him a Starfleet communication badge, although Sherlock wasn’t sure whether it was for his own convenience or as a way for the officers to keep an eye on his whereabouts. Sherlock disliked wearing it for the latter reason, but John had smiled approvingly when he saw it pinned on his chest, so he wore it anyway.
Molly was happy to have Sherlock back in the labs. On the first day, she gave him an overly intricate tour of the lower decks. After several introductions with the various other Starfleet scientists onboard, their reactions convinced Sherlock it would be easiest to keep odd hours. Better if he had the labs to himself than deal with intrusive, judgmental stares.
After the first day, life took on a veneer of normalcy, but Sherlock found himself uncharacteristically tense. He couldn’t sleep even when he felt the need to rest. He anticipated Mycroft to unexpectedly appear at all times of the day, to abduct him suddenly and not allow him to return to the Baskerville. Logically, that would be the next step in his methods – remove Sherlock by force until he begged to be let back into the Continuum rather than suffer agonizing boredom elsewhere. Sherlock hoped that none of the Starfleet officers would stupidly try to intervene, if it came to that.
Naturally, John was quite busy with his duties as captain. But, once the Baskerville had embarked on their next warp jump, things slowed down and John was able to meet Sherlock for meals once or twice a day.
John seemed to detect his agitation, but thankfully chose to discuss upcoming lab projects and what to expect from their next destination. Sherlock answered in short, obstinate bursts, which produced increasingly displeased expressions from the captain.
“That’s it,” John said finally, one evening. He set down his utensils and folded his arms. “Has Mycroft come by again?”
Sherlock shook his head, swirling the tea in his cup. Three days since they left Starbase 79, and nothing.
“I hope you will let me know if he does.”
Sherlock felt a muscle in his jaw twitch. “I will if I am able.”
John grimaced, but didn’t reply.
Two days later, Sherlock was alone in one of the labs working on an analysis of soil bacteria. Out of the corner of his eye, he suddenly saw his dapper brother standing patiently by the mass spectrometer. This was it, then.
Mycroft gazed about lazily, as if inspecting a room full of adorably useless novelties. Sherlock didn’t bother to look up from his samples, but sucked in a long breath.
“I’ve come to see if you’re ready to return to the Continuum,” Mycroft said after a short time, words dripping with excessive civility.
“Mycroft, leave me alone.”
Sherlock’s brother smiled sadly. “This is your final opportunity for an easy resolution, Q. We’ve been very patient with you.”
“If you’re going to kidnap me, get on with it. I obviously can’t stop you.”
Mycroft tutted. “Why would I bother doing such a thing? You and I both know it would simply draw out this drama unnecessarily. I prefer to settle matters quickly than waste everyone’s time and energy.”
That finally drew Sherlock’s gaze away from his soil. “Then make your ultimatum and be gone. Is it return to the Continuum or die? You still have my answer.”
“Nothing so barbaric. You’re Q, after all, and shedding kindred blood is wholly improper. Perhaps it’s time we focused on your Starfleet comrades?”
Sherlock felt himself growing enraged. “I said, leave me alone! I have no interest in returning to the Continuum, Mycroft. I’m not fit to be Q, and you will find me determined to reject all of your future offers. You might as well leave now, and never return.” He cringed internally at the edge of desperation in his voice.
“I see,” Mycroft replied, face suddenly predatory at Sherlock’s reaction. His eyes glinted dangerously as he drew himself straighter. He spun his umbrella handle absently in one hand.
Sherlock stared right back, attempting to convey intractable strength. “I don’t particularly care what you do to the crew. I’ll just find another ship, and you’ll have the same problem all over again.”
“I don’t think I will,” Mycroft said, eyes narrowed in rigorous evaluation. “You obviously have an attachment to this place. Let’s see how imaginative I can be.”
Sherlock dropped his gaze. All the tricks Mycroft had played so far – they were child’s play. Incidents to annoy and bother rather than force capitulation. His brother had never truly invoked his full power. And though Sherlock would never it admit openly, Mycroft’s imagination was one of the few things in the universe that frightened him to his core.
Mycroft sighed deeply. “I’ve tried, again and again, to show you the problems with mortal existence. To exhibit our natural superiority. The mortals are unable to control their surroundings. They scare easily and exist at the mercy of greater powers. It seems I must now also demonstrate their fragility. The Continuum has granted certain… allowances due to your stubbornness.”
The ship rattled violently, rocking in a completely unnatural motion. Lab equipment flew off the countertops and smashed on the floor in glittering sprays of metal and glass. Sherlock was thrown off his seat, momentum stopped abruptly when he slammed painfully into the legs of a nearby table. He winced, ribs burning with agonizing ferocity.
Mycroft, composed as ever, stood over Sherlock mournfully. “I want you to know: all that occurs from this point forward is entirely your fault. If you ever cared for the sad little creatures on this ship, you should never have remained here.”
Suddenly, his brother was gone.
John, Sherlock thought, I’m so sorry.
John was attempting to unwind with a book in his quarters when the first heavy jolt shook through the ship. He was thrown to the floor, datapad skittering under the bed and hitting the wall with a metallic crack. John picked himself up from the ground, but another shudder lurched him sideways again. There was an unmistakable groan of twisting support beams in the hull.
“Watson to bridge,” he told the computer, bracing himself against the bed. “What’s happening?”
“Captain,” came Stamford’s voice, “we need you up here immediately.”
John replied that he would be up shortly. Quickly pulling on his uniform, he nearly sprinted out the door and down the corridor to the turbolift. The strange shaking of the ship no longer seemed to be occurring.
On the bridge, the officers were only barely managing to control wild eyes and bewildered expressions. Lt. Commander Adler was frantically typing into her console, shaking her head. Stamford, arms crossed, frowned deeply as he gazed at several panel readouts. “Report,” John said, taking a seat in his chair.
“We’ve dropped out of warp,” Adler replied, “though I’m still trying to pinpoint our exact location. Our sensor readings don’t match up with our star charts.” She continued sweeping her hands across the displays, summoning dozens of astrometric maps.
“Dr. Sawyer reports minor injuries from all around the ship,” Stamford announced. “We’ve been looking for the source of the tremors, but there have been no anomalous energy readings. Engineering says all systems are functional. No permanent damage.”
Adler gasped suddenly. “Captain, I believe I know where we are. It’s nearly impossible.” She angled her head disbelievingly. “I drew up the charts only because nothing else was fitting. It’s only a partial map, sir, but the computer estimates a 98.61% match. We’re in the Gamma Quadrant.”
John swore silently in his head. Dominion territory. “How far from the Bajoran wormhole?”
“Thirty-six hours at maximum warp, Captain.”
John gripped tightly onto the arm of his chair. Thirty-six hours meant they were only on the fringes of Dominion space, and the odds of being caught by a hostile ship were greatly reduced. Reduced, but by no means absent.
“Set course for the wormhole, then. Send a subspace message to Starfleet through the communications relay. Let’s get the hell out of here,” John answered calmly. Stamford eyed John with a disgruntled look. Sherlock.
“Course laid in,” Adler reported.
“Watson to Sherlock,” John said aloud, tapping his badge. “We seem to have been inexplicably transported to the Gamma Quadrant. Do you know anything about this?”
“Computer, locate Sherlock.”
“Unable to comply,” answered the flat feminine voice.
“Is something wrong with our systems?” John asked Adler. “I thought we had the all clear.”
Adler pressed several keys. “The computer detects no problems.”
Stamford shook his head. “It’s highly likely this is related to Q activity, Captain.”
John leaned back, folding his hands in front of his chin. “Acknowledged. Let’s just get out of here, fast and quiet. No unnecessary subspace activity. I want a continual scan for Dominion ships.” Even as he said it, John felt his stomach drop slightly. There was absolutely no way a single Nova-class ship could even begin to fight off a Jem’Hadar vessel. John had read about the disastrous invasion by the Cardassians and Romulans at the Omarion Nebula. Hell, if a Galaxy-class Federation vessel like the Odyssey had stood no chance, the Baskerville was beyond incapable. Their best hopes were either to move unnoticed or appear unthreatening enough to ignore. Which was unlikely.
John managed to get in contact with Lestrade, who was attempting to coordinate recovery efforts on Deck 5.
“I need you to get down to the labs and find Sherlock,” John told his security chief. “He probably has more answers than we do, right now.”
“Donovan and Anderson are already on that deck; I’ll send them to find him,” Lestrade answered.
John clenched his fists unconsciously as he eyed the monitors. Nothing detected yet.
This was completely unacceptable. What’s worse, John knew it was entirely his fault. He had endangered his crew and his ship unnecessarily. For what? A Q with a demonstrated history of bringing destruction? John had been warned repeatedly over the last week that allowing Sherlock onboard was reckless.
But that wasn’t it, not entirely. The Federation believed in self-determination and second chances. No one should be bound by their past, and Sherlock had clearly shown a desire to be rid of his. If anything, Starfleet owed him after the Klingon incident. He hadn’t directly asked for political asylum on the Baskerville, but John knew it was probably due to pride rather than any real objection to the concept.
Sherlock was a friend, now. It wasn’t his fault that Mycroft wouldn’t leave him alone. Friends protected each other, and Sherlock certainly needed help right now.
Besides, he had said that Mycroft wasn’t allowed to murder, even indirectly. Though, at this point, John wasn’t sure he trusted that analysis.
He stared ahead distractedly, weighing the conflicting opinions in his head.
“Captain,” Adler declared tensely after a short time. “We have incoming Dominion ships. Looks like a patrol, only about four vessels.”
“Have they noticed us?”
“Yes. Their sensors must be more effective than ours, because they’ve been heading directly towards us since we spotted them.” Adler looked at the captain. “Sir, reports of Dominion encounters indicate that they are likely to hail us rather than fire immediately if we do not appear to be resisting. I would recommend such a course of action.”
John stood, sharing a resolute glance with Stamford. His first officer nodded.
“It doesn’t matter. Drop out of warp. They can easily overtake us either way,” John said. “If anyone has any brilliant ideas, now would be the time.”
A stressful five minutes followed, as the entire bridge crew waited for Jem’Hadar ships to come within hailing range. In his mind, John frantically sifted through every tactic, every trick he’d ever heard of. This fight was beyond uneven, however, and all John could dredge up were stories of historically catastrophic clashes between obscenely mismatched forces. The Conquistadors in the Americas. The colonization of Africa.
Why did it always seem ships like the Enterprise could pull off miraculous escapes even in the most desperate of situations? There was always a nebula nearby, or a moon with unique magnetic properties, or a star with radiation that would block sensors, or some other ludicrous anomaly.
But space was just that – space. A great majority of it was nothingness. And the Baskerville was surrounded by nothing, at the moment. That left one option: a good old-fashioned bluff.
“They’re hailing us,” Adler said. “Putting it on screen.”
A very pale man with dark hair and violet eyes appeared. A Vorta, and probably commander of the patrol group. “Greetings,” he said, a hint of amused curiosity playing at the edges of his mouth. “A lone Federation vessel? Whatever are you doing all the way out here? I don’t detect any of your friends.”
“I am Captain Watson of the Federation starship Baskerville,” he replied stoically, falling back on rote procedure. “We are heading towards the wormhole and are not intentionally trying to breach Dominion space.”
“How very interesting,” the Vorta said, “although you didn’t answer my question.”
“And you didn’t give me your name.”
He laughed mildly. “I am Weyoun, in service of the Founders.” Weyoun looked at John expectantly.
“We are part of an escort for a Federation trading convoy. Several of our other vessels will rendezvous with us shortly. It’s probably best that we try to avoid any unfortunate confrontations.”
The Vorta paused and looked aside as if checking several instruments. “Your ship seems to have exceedingly light armaments for a convoy escort.”
“We’re a science support vessel. Peaceful. We didn’t come to cause any trouble, though I can’t speak for the cloaked Klingon ships that are part of the convoy.”
“I believe you’re lying, Captain.” Weyoun smiled soullessly. “Besides the obvious fact that the Klingon Empire is currently in hostile straits with the Federation, there aren’t any other Federation ships, cloaked or otherwise, between here and the Idran system. We have faced your “cloaking technology” before, and I assure you we have no problems overcoming it.”
“If that’s a risk you’re willing to take…”
Weyoun’s eyes narrowed. “I hereby claim your ship in the name of the Dominion and the Founders.” Calling the bluff, then.
That was it. John briefly brought a hand to his head. The only option left was booby-trapping the ship. The crew would likely be imprisoned and tortured for information, but that outcome was favorable to instant destruction. “Give us a few minutes. No need for things to get violent.”
“I disagree, Captain. We’ve seen enough of Alpha Quadrant tactics to know better. Omet’iklan!” Weyoun called to someone off-screen. A large reptilian Jem’Hadar appeared in the background. “You will lead an assault on the Federation ship. Incapacitate or kill the crew, I don’t care. But do as little damage to the vessel as possible. Disable it only. It will provide invaluable data.” He turned back to John. “Stand down when we board, and you may yet live, Captain.”
John motioned for Adler to cut off the feed. The view screen flicked to display the four Jem’Hadar ships.
“All noncritical power to shields! Adler, get us to warp as soon as possible,” John yelled, as a photon blast rocked the vessel. “And someone find Sherlock!”
Sherlock slammed his shoulder against the large metal cabinet again, but the obstruction refused to budge. He was still stuck in the lab, alone and blocked off from the hallway. The last convulsion of the ship, right after Mycroft disappeared, had thrown the bulky storage locker in front of the door. Sherlock’s comm badge didn’t seem to be functioning, and the room’s computer system was not responding to questions.
He stepped back from the doorway. This wasn’t working, and time was being wasted. Sherlock needed to figure out what Mycroft had done to the ship.
Sherlock vaulted over several lab tables to reach the far wall; on the other side was another lab, and hopefully an exit point to the rest of the deck.
It took him a little over fifteen minutes to override the ventilation system controls and slide through the crawlspace to Bio Lab 3. Sherlock kicked the duct cover out and dropped into the room. As would be expected for the late hour, the staff was not present. Like the previous lab, broken equipment littered the floor, but the door was thankfully unblocked.
A small noise came from under a nearby table. Sherlock paused, then bent down to look underneath.
It was Lt. Hooper. She was clutching her left arm to her side, a pained expression contorting her face. The lights in the lab suddenly dimmed to their minimum setting, and several panels on the larger machines blinked off. Power had been rerouted somewhere else.
“Sh-Sherlock?” Molly asked faintly in the dark. “What’s happened?”
“I’m not sure.”
The ship rattled violently, but the feeling was distinctly different from whatever Mycroft had done. This was enemy fire, no doubt about it.
The doors to Bio Lab 3 slid open, revealing Lt. Donovan and Ensign Anderson. They had their phasers raised, clearly searching for something. They set their sights on Sherlock, but barely lowered their weapons.
“We’re to take you to the bridge, Q,” said Donovan. “Captain’s orders. He knows you’re behind this."
The ship rumbled several times in quick succession, almost knocking everyone off their feet.
Sounds of a transporter beam floated in from the hallway. Three bulky Jem’Hadar warriors with plasma rifles materialized. Anderson and Donovan barely had time to react, turning to fire at the invaders. One of the reptilian soldiers collapsed instantly, but another gripped Anderson by the neck and threw him viciously against the wall of the corridor.
Donovan dove into the lab. She fired and managed to hit the second Jem’Hadar, who fell dead where he stood. The third launched himself through the open door, scattering volleys of plasma shots that sizzled where they hit the walls. He began choking the life out of Donovan.
There was a clear tube attached to the Jem’Hadar’s neck; a white substance flowed through it into his body. Sherlock knew a weak spot when he saw one.
One swift kick dislodged it from the Jem’Hadar, who instantly convulsed and turned toward Sherlock. Milky fluid sprayed from the tube, coating the front of his armor. The distraction was enough; Donovan got her hand back on her phaser, and fired. The Jem’Hadar didn’t move again.
Donovan dropped her head back, breathing labored. Sherlock stood, and saw the cause – several of the plasma rifle’s shots had hit her in the abdomen and legs.
“Anderson,” she gasped. “Check him.”
Sherlock peered into the corridor. Anderson hadn’t moved from where he had hit the ground.
“I don’t think he’s alive, Donovan,” Sherlock informed her, pressing the door panel to close it.
“Get… to… bridge.” She closed her eyes, gulping frantically for air. There was blood seeping into her uniform. Curious, that a heated plasma round wouldn’t simply cauterize the wound. Sherlock continued to watch her, but Donovan didn’t move. Her breathing stopped altogether after a short time.
He travelled back to where Molly was laying under the table, still painfully holding her arm. There were tears on her cheeks.
Sherlock looked her over. “I need to get to the bridge. How bad is your injury?”
“I… I think it’s broken.”
“I’m not medically trained, Molly. There are probably more boarding parties. I’ll need to travel through the Jefferies tubes. You can’t climb with that arm, so you’re going to have to stay here.”
Fear was spreading across her face, but she nodded firmly. “Lock the door, then, and hand me Donovan’s phaser.”
A short time later, Sherlock was crawling upward through the darkened Jefferies tubes. Based on available observations, it appeared that Mycroft had transported the Baskerville to the Gamma Quadrant. That would explain the Dominion soldiers. The jolting of the ship had continued briefly when he began his ascent, but had stopped just as quickly. Which meant they likely intended to disable rather than destroy the ship. The Jem’Hadar felt comfortable enough to take their time to claim their prize.
As he climbed, Sherlock couldn’t help being distracted by a nagging thought in the back of his mind. Where was John? Was he all right? Still alive? Thinking of him lying dead somewhere on the ship produced a nauseated feeling in Sherlock’s stomach. He very much hoped the captain was unharmed.
Sherlock reached a junction in the tube system. Large painted words read “Deck 4 – Medical”.
Pushing out the wall grating, Sherlock emerged into the surprisingly busy sickbay. Around a dozen personnel in various states of injury sat around the room, nurses attending them. At the door, a makeshift barricade was being manned by several crewmen, phasers pointed outward. Some were milling in the hallway just outside, as well. Likely creating a perimeter against the Jem’Hadar. Lestrade was talking animatedly with Dr. Sawyer, the Chief Medical Officer.
“Lestrade!” someone yelled, getting his attention.
Lestrade turned, eyes brightening in his ashen face when he saw Sherlock. “Where the devil have you been? We’ve got a full-scale invasion going on here.” Lestrade was bleeding profusely, a makeshift bandage wrapped tightly around his midsection.
“Stuck in a lab.” Sherlock leaned closer to look at the blood on Lestrade’s uniform. “They must have anti-coagulants integrated into their plasma rifles,” he analyzed.
“No kidding. We brought as many injured people to the sickbay as possible, but Dr. Sawyer can’t stop the bleeding.” Lestrade pointed to his binding. “We’re down to Medieval-level technology, here.”
Several weapon blasts sounded from the hallway. Two crewmen dragged a wounded man through the doorway, setting him down on the floor and quickly returning to their posts.
Lestrade pulled Sherlock aside. “The captain ordered me to find you over half an hour ago. We’re somehow in the middle of the Gamma Quadrant. I know this has something to do with you.”
Sherlock returned his gaze, but ignored the accusation. “Is John still alive?”
“I don’t know. We lost contact with the bridge. Several of the photon torpedo strikes hit the upper decks of the ship.”
Sherlock didn’t say anything. Something deep down was starting to panic uncontrollably.
Sighing, Lestrade continued, “I thought you said Mycroft couldn’t kill anyone? I’ve lost half my security team, Sherlock. There are people dying in here, right now.”
“It seems the rules have changed.” Sherlock frowned. It was probably time to supplicate himself to Mycroft. Dead crewmen and a disabled ship were unsettling, but the thought of never again having a late night cup of tea with John was what finally pushed him over the edge.
Sherlock stepped back, and spoke aloud to the room. “Mycroft! Stop this! I’ll go wherever you want, just leave these people alone. Return them home."
Nothing happened. Several injured crewmembers watched him dispassionately from their positions on the floor.
“Really, I’m not joking, Mycroft! You’ve caused enough damage! I relent. Take us back to the Alpha Quadrant.”
Still nothing. Lestrade grimaced, hand at his side.
Why wasn’t Mycroft responding? Wasn’t surrender what he wanted? “I’ll rejoin the Continuum. I’ll do whatever you want! Just stop it.”
Sherlock looked over at Lestrade, unsure what else to do. The security officer shook his head dejectedly, then suddenly collapsed onto one shaky knee. He clutched onto the nearby console, steadying himself. Dr. Sawyer noticed and immediately walked over to where Sherlock was standing.
“You need to take it easy, Commander,” Dr. Sawyer scolded.
“Dr. Sawyer, you already told me you couldn’t stop the bleeding. I might as well be useful before I pass out and die.” Lestrade raised his eyes defiantly to the doctor.
“Computer,” Dr. Sawyer ordered, “activate the Emergency Medical Hologram.”
A hologram of a middle-aged balding man appeared. “Please state the nature of the medical emergency.”
“Triage,” answered Dr. Sawyer. “Start with Lestrade here. He needs his bandages changed.”
The EMH pulled Lestrade over to a nearby biobed and made him sit.
“Listen, you need to make sure that the ship self-destructs. There’s no way out,” Lestrade told Sherlock, wincing as the holographic doctor began peeling away bloody cloth. “All of my officers are dead, bleeding out, or trying to prevent the Dominion from taking the ship. You’re all I have left. At this point, preventing information from falling into the wrong hands is all we can do. Destroy it all, Sherlock.”
“But the crew…” Sherlock questioned. “Wouldn’t it be better if they gave themselves up?”
“In the short term, maybe. They’ll still be facing imprisonment and probably torture. The more important issue here is the ship’s data. This crew signed on knowing the risks. They believe in the Federation, and are willing to give their lives to protect it. I’ve already given mine. This-” he looked down, indicating the wound, “-is just a formality.”
Sherlock watched the EMH discard Lestrade’s blood-soaked wrappings.
“Computer,” Lestrade said, finally. “Transfer all security command overrides to Sherlock. Authorization code Lestrade nine-Sigma-Yellow.”
“Authorization code recognized,” stated the computer. “Overrides transferred.”
Blood dripped onto the biobed. The thin, unassuming fluid that was the difference between mortal life and death. Sherlock watched it warily.
Lestrade sucked in a pained breath as the EMH tightly tied a fresh dressing. “God, Sherlock, just get up to the bridge. Find the captain. Do what’s necessary. There’s no one else.”
Sherlock paused as he turned to leave. “Lt. Hooper is injured and trapped in Bio Lab 3. She’ll need medical attention.”
Lestrade stared at Sherlock for a long moment, unmoving. Then he smiled grimly. “We’ll send someone as soon as we can.”
Sherlock almost wanted to believe the lie.
The Jefferies tubes between Deck 4 and the bridge were significantly more damaged than those on the lower decks, and it took Sherlock far longer to navigate them. There was a great deal of exposed wiring, shattered paneling, and shredded metal blocking various routes or making them too dangerous to traverse. He backtracked several times, finding new paths in the upward climb.
An unstoppable stream of worst-case scenarios swept through his brain. John already dead, John drowning in his own blood, John trapped and suffocating, John able to be helped but dying before Sherlock could get there. It was ridiculous – Sherlock’s goal was to blow up the ship and everyone onboard, but all he could think about was whether John was currently alive. His hands numbly gripped the rungs as he urged himself to climb faster.
Sherlock found the access port to the bridge blocked, so he was forced to cross into the nearby turbolift shaft. Gripping tight to the wall, he tried not to look down 8 decks’ worth of empty space. The bridge’s turbolift door was slightly ajar, and it only took a few pushes to open it enough to see clearly through.
The bridge itself was exceptionally dark and cluttered. Floating plumes of debris dust and leaking gases clouded the air. Downed cables sparked and sputtered, lighting the room in flashes of artificial color. Several support beams had collapsed, protruding from the walls and through various smashed consoles. A few small plasma fires burned, iridescent against the dark.
“John!” Sherlock called into the room. There was no audible response, so he carefully pulled himself up and through the doorway.
Sherlock rushed to the nearest undamaged console, tapping on the screen. It remained black. The main power relays in the bridge must have been destroyed. None of the other consoles on the bridge were lit.
He nearly tripped over something on the ground - it was Lt. Commander Adler, dead. She had a gruesome burn along the right side of her body. Her eyes stared lifelessly up at Sherlock, an expression of faint shock on her face. There was nothing to be done. As he surveyed the console stations along the back of the bridge, he could see several other unmoving bodies. All wearing blue or gold.
Sherlock spotted a red uniform collapsed against the far wall, but didn’t bother going to check it. Even from this distance, the size told him it was Stamford.
He stepped carefully over the railing into the main command area. A tight pressure seized his lungs - John was sitting on the floor in front of the captain’s chair, legs outstretched. Though viewing him from behind, Sherlock could tell that he was breathing and moving slightly.
Despite all the destruction, Sherlock felt himself tempted to smile. He crouched down beside John.
That’s when Sherlock saw it. A rod of duranium was spearing his friend clean through the chest, pinning him to the chair and floor. Sherlock’s mind went completely static for a moment, and he felt his stomach go into freefall. John’s eyes were closed.
“John! John...” Sherlock gently touched his shoulder.
He was breathing unsteadily, but John opened his eyes. They were unfocused, and he squinted briefly at Sherlock.
“Tell your brother he’s piss poor at picking holiday destinations,” John rasped, and Sherlock’s chest flooded with relief. The captain sounded relatively coherent. “And he owes me a ship.”
Sherlock broke into a full smile. He moved to touch the metal rod, but John lifted a hand to stop him. “Don’t.” John dropped his arm heavily, as if it were too much of an effort to maintain aloft. “If you remove it, I’ll just bleed out faster. I was a doctor, remember?”
“I tried calling for Mycroft. He didn’t come,” said Sherlock, voice constricted.
John shut his eyes briefly before opening them again. His inhalations were strained. “So we’re on our own.”
“I never wanted this to happen.” Sherlock felt his chest clenching.
“I know, Sherlock,” John said. His eyes seemed shinier than normal. “God, I know.”
“It was a mistake. I shouldn’t have stayed.”
“That may be true.” John looked around the destroyed bridge, then back at Sherlock. “But I’m glad you did. I know I shouldn’t be. But I am. I’m glad I met you. Even though it’s ended this way.” John rested more of his weight against the chair, grunting as the rod shifted with him.
It really, truly was not fair. Sherlock thought of all the things he wanted to tell John - that he was the best and only friend Sherlock had ever had. That a week wasn’t enough, not by a long shot, but that it had been the best week of Sherlock’s life. That he wanted to solve all the mysteries and murders in the galaxy with John at his side, someone who would laugh with him and find the chase just as thrilling. That he wanted to take John to Qo’noS to eat terrible Klingon food. That he wished they could attend science symposiums on Vulcan, or visit Earth and have John show him where he grew up. That Sherlock would never forgive Mycroft for what he’d taken away, even if he only had a few minutes more of his life to feel that anger.
“We should probably set the self-destruct timer. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” John asked, a new hardness emerging in his expression.
Sherlock nodded. “Lestrade gave me authority to make command overrides on his behalf.”
“Computer, initiate auto-destruct sequence,” John announced. “Authorization Watson five-North-zero.”
“Secondary command code required,” answered the computer.
“Computer, confirm auto-destruct sequence, authorization Lestrade nine-Sigma-Yellow,” Sherlock said.
“This is Captain John Watson. Destruct sequence one. Two minutes, silent countdown. Enable.” John coughed painfully.
“Auto-destruct engaged,” the computer reported. “Warp core overload in two minutes. There will be no further audio warnings.”
John managed a weak smile, gazing up at Sherlock. “Dying as a human. Was it worth it?”
It was a rhetorical question, lightly made.
Sherlock glanced down at the rod protruding from his friend’s body. Blood was seeping around the wound, slowly draining John of life. He carefully took John’s hand in his own. “Yes. It was.”
The look on John’s face was enough to break the last of whatever strength was holding Sherlock together. For the first time since he was de-powered, Sherlock wished he were Q. Just for a single second. That’s all it would take to put John’s life back in his body and take him far away from this doomed place.
And that’s when time stopped.
“An unexpected reaction,” said a calm voice behind Sherlock.
John was frozen in time, like the rest of the ship. Like the rest of the universe, probably. He was still gazing at Sherlock with that expression of utter loss. Sherlock was not an overly emotional person, but even he could read John’s feelings as clear as day. They echoed his own: not enough time. Never enough time.
“Fascinating species. Such a range of emotion,” Mycroft mused.
Sherlock gently let go of John’s hand, and slowly stood. He turned to stare at his brother. And, to Sherlock’s great internal satisfaction, whatever Mycroft saw on his face was enough to make the Q physically recoil a fraction of a millimeter.
“You may be omniscient, Mycroft, but you don’t know everything. Not even close,” Sherlock said, dangerously quiet.
Mycroft still seemed taken aback. He gave the barest hint of a reaction, but it spoke volumes for a Q. “I’ve come to take you home, Sherlock. This demonstration is over.”
Sherlock didn’t move.
His brother was growing impatient. “You requested my presence earlier, and here I am.”
Sherlock remained by John’s still form.
“I see,” Mycroft nearly whispered, brows furrowing. “It seems I may have waited too long. Nevertheless, I am willing to transport this entire vessel back to the Alpha Quadrant. If you accompany me. Now.”
“I think I’ll stay here, thanks.”
“Sherlock, I will restore them. The whole crew. John will be fine,” Mycroft reasoned.
It was sorely tempting. To have this entire nightmare wiped away.
“No, Mycroft.” Sherlock briefly glanced down at John again, feeling his resolve steel. “This isn’t about simply putting things right, not anymore. This is about you and me, and your desperate need for control.”
Mycroft raised an eyebrow, a thunderous expression surfacing.
“This whole Gamma Quadrant stunt? It’s not at all to do with demonstrating “mortal fragility” or however you want to put it. There’s nothing natural about this situation. It’s entirely artificial. You placed the pieces, you set it up. No, this is about showing me your level of control. How easily you can destroy anything I ever find for myself. It’s a game, Mycroft. And guess what: I’m not playing anymore.”
“These measures would not have been necessary if you simply submitted early on,” warned Mycroft. “Never has a Q so willfully abandoned their kin. It’s sacrilege.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem much longer. Restore the timestream and everything will be resolved shortly.”
Mycroft stared furiously at Sherlock, mouth tight. “I won’t abandon another Q to die.”
“Must I remind you that I’m currently human?”
“No, you’re delusional, Sherlock.”
“Let me go, Mycroft. For once in your existence, trust me to make a decision for myself. I know what I’m asking.” Sherlock paced a few steps, spreading his arms slightly in honest petition.
“You are unequipped to fathom the consequences of your actions. Even when omniscient, you failed to see the bigger picture.” A note of worry now touched Mycroft’s voice. “I’ve only ever tried to look out for you. To protect you from yourself and the grossly negligent decisions that lead down the improper path. I do this because I care about you.”
“It’s not the same path as yours, Mycroft, but it’s the correct one for me. And your ‘care’ would be better served from a significant distance.”
“You may claim you wish to be mortal, but we both know the truth. You’ll end up bored, aggravated, and frustrated. Even if I rescued you from this scenario and allowed you to live as a human until you inevitably died, you would regret abandoning your former power. It’s already happened.”
Sherlock shifted where he stood. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I read your thoughts. Right before I intervened, you would have done anything to be able to save him.”
“Maybe so,” Sherlock conceded reluctantly, stepping back towards the captain. “But I don’t think John would want to be saved if it meant becoming everything I despise. Sometimes there are things worth dying for, and sometimes you need to take a stand. That’s what I’ve learned from this crew. From John.”
“A fine lesson, but that to which you are referring is nothing more than a thinly-veiled rationalization to accept mortal death. A comforting excuse for the weakest of species. John here, as well as the rest of the crew, will simply pass into obscure oblivion when this is over.”
“You keep using that argument, Mycroft, but you’re missing the entire point,” Sherlock countered. “The mortals may never have the sweeping impact of a Q, but they have something more profound. The capacity for personal growth, to shape and change and learn from each other. It’s something the Continuum will never possess. You’re so blind you can’t even detect your own stagnation. Here, each person has an effect on another, like ripples in a pond. I’ve learned more in this past week than you could ever hope to understand. I’m better for it. John may not have changed the universe, but he’s changed me. And that’s enough. His life has meant something. To me.”
Mycroft positively seethed, clutching his umbrella in an iron grip.
Sherlock continued. “You’ve pushed me as far as I can go, Mycroft. So, congratulations. This is me, not breaking in the storm, but voluntarily lying down and being swept away. This is my final choice.” Sherlock knelt down again, and took John’s frozen hand.
Mycroft didn’t reply. If Sherlock didn’t know better, he would say his brother was actually experiencing some kind of internal dilemma.
“On your own head be it, Sherlock.”
Everything went dark.
John slowly came back to consciousness, the unmistakable cold press of a hypospray against his neck.
“He’s coming around,” said a familiar voice.
Opening his eyes weakly, John adjusted to the light in the room. Was that – Julian? Blurry haze dissipating from his mind, he sat up quickly only to be met with a wave of dizziness. John was sitting in a bed in a strange room. Guest quarters, Cardassian design. Dr. Julian Bashir stood next to his bedside, holding a hypospray, and Lt. Commander Lestrade loitered restlessly near the far wall.
“Good to see you, Captain,” laughed Julian. “No need to overexert yourself.”
“What… are we on Deep Space Nine?” John asked, voice rough from disuse.
“Indeed we are.”
John’s feeling of bewilderment must have shown on his face, because Lestrade took notice and quickly stepped forward to explain. “Captain, we’re back in the Alpha Quadrant. The entire crew is recovering here on the station.”
Julian gave a warm half-smile. “Your ship suddenly appeared outside the station almost three days ago. Extremely damaged, probably couldn’t have reached impulse speeds if it tried. Captain Sisko sent emergency rescue teams onboard and managed to bring all injured crew here for treatment.”
“Captain,” Lestrade confirmed, “they’re alive. All of them. Officers I saw bleed to death in front of me are walking and talking. It was a Q that saved us, wasn’t it?”
John exhaled and reclined against the headboard. The last thing he remembered was setting the self-destruct timer on the bridge with Sherlock, waiting to die. And being painfully impaled on very sharp piece of metal. He wouldn’t be forgetting that sensation any time soon. John looked down, touching a hand to the front of his shirt, and took a deep experimental breath.
“I had to perform extensive microsurgery on your damaged lung, but you’ll be fine,” assured Julian. “We moved you to guest quarters after the operation to make room in the sickbay.”
“Thank you for taking care of my crew, Julian. They’re really all fine?”
“There were some major bleeding wounds, but luckily we’ve had experience with the Jem’Hadar. I’ve developed methods to counteract some of the more… unpleasant side effects of their weaponry. Everyone should survive.”
“It’s a bloody miracle,” Lestrade commented.
John was relatively confident that miracles had nothing to do with it. More like the casual whim of an omnipotent being. “I expect Starfleet has a significant number of questions for us.”
“I’ve filed my report,” intoned Lestrade. “Commander Stamford is still recovering. But yes, Starfleet Command has informed me that they want to talk to you personally. At length.”
Fantastic. John let his head fall back and hit the wall with a loud thud.
“Well, I’ll leave you to rest,” said Julian. “When you’re feeling better, you should join Chief O’Brien and me in the holosuites. We have a thrilling Battle of Britain program I think you’d love, John.”
“I’d enjoy that, but if the Admiralty has their way I may be unavailable for quite some time.”
Dr. Bashir smiled and departed.
John looked at Lestrade. “The Baskerville?”
“I’m sorry, Captain, but she’ll need extensive repairs. Right after they sweep every deck for Dominion leftovers, of course. Might not be fit for duty for quite some time.”
“And Sherlock? Is he still here?”
Lestrade seemed uncomfortable. “Yes, Captain. He’s out in the living area. Hasn’t been far from your side since we arrived. I’ve asked him several times what happened, but he’s not answering any questions. He knows perfectly well how we got back here, though.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The entire crew blacked out, see. We were all basically unconscious when the rescuers beamed onboard. But they said they found Sherlock sitting next to you on the bridge, perfectly awake. Apparently he was quite pushy while they were trying to cut you free.”
John sighed. “I’ll go talk to him.” He carefully swung his legs around and lifted himself off the bed. His balance was a bit shaky, but John felt relatively normal. Lestrade accompanied him out to the sitting area.
Sherlock lay on the couch, presumably dozing off based on his horizontal position. When John neared and looked over the back rest, however, Sherlock was staring up at him with wide eyes.
“I’ll go check on the crew again,” Lestrade said, departing into the hallway. John made his way around the couch and settled into an armchair across from Sherlock, who sat up immediately.
There was a long silence. Sherlock appeared to be staring at John’s chest where the rod had been protruding.
“So,” John began. “Mycroft?”
Sherlock nodded faintly.
“Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“Not really. But I don’t think he’ll be bothering me again.”
“That seems hard to believe.”
Sherlock shrugged. “He saved us of his own free will. Partially because he refused to let me die. But he didn’t have to bring the entire ship back here, and he didn’t have to revive everyone. Mycroft could have taken me off the ship at any moment and left it to explode.”
“So why didn’t he?”
“My position was very clear.”
That meant nothing to John. He gave Sherlock a confused look.
“I made my choice, John.”
John glanced down at his hand, realizing. “Oh.” He could distinctly remember those last minutes, when both he and Sherlock knew they were going to die. Not that John had ever discounted such a death for himself. But he certainly never expected to face his imminent demise with so many regrets, especially when they were related to a newfound friendship barely a week old.
“I’m interpreting the outcome of all this to mean that Mycroft has accepted my decision.”
“So, you’re staying?” John asked hesitantly, the ‘with me’ hanging like a phantom in the air.
There was an uncharacteristic softness in Sherlock’s eyes, suddenly. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. And I can’t think of where else I’d want to be.”
A smirk surfaced on John’s face. “I’m not certain Starfleet Command will allow it.”
Sherlock leaned forward pointedly. “I’d like to see them try and stop me.”
A pause gripped the room as they stared at each other.
John cleared his throat. “So, let’s take inventory, then. No ship. A crew indisposed. A load of questions from Starfleet. And a former Q with an unhealthy penchant for catching criminals.”
“Don’t forget the mad starship captain.”
John rubbed tiredly at his eyes. “I think I’m going to need a holiday after this.”
Sherlock looked contemplative. “How about Earth? You could show me around. Maybe we’ll run across some murderers.” He grinned with excitement at the thought, and John couldn’t help but laugh.
“If you’re going to be human, you’ll need a name.”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow, puzzled. “I have a name.”
“No, a full name.”
His friend smiled. “Ah, yes. Better late than never, I suppose.” He extended a hand to John across the coffee table. “Sherlock Holmes.”
They shook. “John Watson. Pleased to meet you.”
As much trouble as his affiliation with Sherlock had caused thus far, John could only imagine what insane predicaments awaited them in the future.
He couldn’t wait to find out.