It was times like this that Julian Bashir wished he’d spent more time on his temporal mechanics studies back at the Academy.
He’d only taken the one required course, and that experience had been more than enough to threaten him with everlasting headaches. At every meeting the class was confronted with new possibilities for the impact of a single person meddling with a single strand of the tapestry they called the space-time continuum, and then they were required to calculate these possibilities with formulae and theorems that were, even to his enhanced mind, not only impractical given the infinite nature of the universe, but also utterly impossible to prove.
All actions and subsequent reactions had their consequences, the instructors had said. Some minor, others drastic. So, just like every other intrepid cadet hoping to build an illustrious career with an organization well known for its propensity for encountering the strangest of the strange in the great unknowns of outer space, he had faithfully participated in training simulations designed to teach proper conduct for the unintentional time traveler. Non-interference was always the first priority, but the rules did grudgingly acknowledge that sometimes contact with the locals is inevitable and necessary.
Although Julian had carefully rehearsed the first rule of engagement -- if you must lie, stick as close to the truth as possible –- none of his role-playing assignments had ever involved anything so perversely mundane as having to explain away his rather fashion-forward uniform to another Starfleet officer.
“Is that one of the new designs?” Julian tried not to fidget as a young Andorian Ensign in a red jacket and white collar gave him an appraising look. “I think I like it. More flattering on a wider variety of skin tones.”
“Erm, yes. One of them. And the shirt comes in different colors, you see, to indicate the different divisions. I was just testing it out for a friend of mine, he’s one of the designers, actually–”
“Well sir, that’s fine, but you’d better change into standard uniform. There’s a dress code for tonight’s reception.”
“Right. Well, about that. I’d like to, but my things got mixed up in transport. Do you happen to know where I could borrow a coat for a few hours?”
“Follow me, sir.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, Julian followed the Ensign through the pristine corridors of the Babel Conference Halls and into a small locker room.
Barely an hour ago he and Jadzia had been standing on a transporter pad aboard the Defiant, ready to beam down to Babel to run a quick salvage mission for medical supplies. Provisions had been scarce since the day Starfleet was forced to abandon Deep Space Nine, and all ships in the fleet had standing orders to collect essentials from unoccupied Federation infrastructure whenever possible. Babel’s northern hemisphere had been all but abandoned after the residents fled the fallout of a Jem’Hadar strike on a shipyard orbiting above, and the planet itself was too far away for the Dominion to hold down without wasting precious manpower. So the famed Babel Conference Halls -– proud site of some of the most important diplomatic summits in Federation history -– were left alone, in ruins.
Or at least they were in his time.
Somehow during beamdown, their transporter patterns had been disrupted by a rogue temporal anomaly passing undetected through the region. By the time the technician at the controls noticed the problem it had been too late to safely pull them out of the transporter sequence. And so they’d arrived on Babel. Only the problem was they’d arrived a good couple of decades earlier than they’d planned.
And as if that wasn’t complicated enough, they’d also arrived a good ten miles apart: he had landed smack in the middle of a conference that was taking place in the Halls, while Jadzia had been dropped at the local Starfleet base clear across town.
Fortunately their combadges still worked, and although they were unable to establish communication with the Defiant, Jadzia was confident that she would be able to piece together a solution from her location. Since simply strolling out of the Babel Halls in the middle of a conference was sure to get him stopped and questioned by security, they’d decided that blending in with the locals was probably the safest thing for him to do. For the moment, Julian’s sole job was to stay out of history’s way.
His Andorian guide pulled a red wrap coat from a locker and punched a few buttons on a clunky PADD before extending both to Julian. “Here you are, sir. Just sign here.”
An aphorism Garak had once shared with him –- the truth is usually just an excuse for lack of imagination -– slithered across the back of his mind. He sincerely hoped his creative mettle wouldn’t be put too strongly to the test before he could get out of here.
After only the slightest hesitation he took the proffered PADD, signing Dr. Singh on the line.