In which O’Brien gets plasma burns, cerebral hemorrhaging, and radiation poisoning.
O’Brien is already off to a bad start. The station blew a bunch of plasma in his face and gave him radiation poisoning, and it will take a dose of magic mitigation drugs to fix him. Meanwhile, life goes on. Ships are docking. Important ships with important guests who need to be met at docking, apparently. Also, a Klingon freighter put in for repairs and its crew are already hammered. This will make trouble since there’s a Romulan delegation here to get their intel report on the Dominion, and possibly to deliver some data. Either way, it’s a sub-optimal situation to have the two sets of representatives present at once. Ruan and Karina from the Romulan delegation are fairly abrupt at the door, too.
Quark has caved to pressure from Miles and Julian and is putting up a dart board. Like many proprietors before him, Quark doesn’t understand the appeal of intoxication and sharp objects. Then again, it is the 24th century, and even more mercantile, less scientifically-pure civiliations have organ regrowth technology – Quark is worried about being liable for buying his customers new eyes. And before you bring up Geordi, remember that he was blind from birth and didn’t have functional optic nerves. Those are apparently harder.
While Miles is demostrating darts, he’s suddenly on the Promenade, watching himself and Quark have a discussion about Klingons breaking stuff. Uh oh. He sees himself, then watches himself fade out. Presumably these are flashes either to the future or to a parallel timeline, since he doesn’t remember this happening before and lately time loops seem to be the type that Stay Happened.
Bashir doesn’t find anything wrong with him that radiation poisoning can’t explain – hallucinations and muscle spasms. While this is going on, the Romulans advocate interrogating Odo on the basis that just because he’s a Changeling must mean he’s a Founder. Instead of having the conversation about individual self-determination and racism (which I would expect from Picard) Kira should simply by saying ‘Odo has no relevant information, since he was spawned and immediately shot into space by the other founders, and raised on Bajor.’ That would be a relevant reason for the Romulans to stop asking. They are not, however, satisfied. The tactful way to say this would be that they trust their own intelligence services over Starfleet’s, but Romulan military types aren’t always big on tact.
Shortly thereafter, O’Brien experiences the Klingon conversation from the other side, and sees his past self. Perhaps most interestingly, though, is that he recognizes the conversation while halfway through it this time. This then changes his own subjective past, as he has now witnessed a conversation which will never be completed, thus establishing that the future can be changed by observation. Dax has found internal sensor evidence to back the experience up, which means we’re done with the part where nobody believes him and can skip right to the part where he starts witnessing a personal or general catastrophe which he can prevent. Indeed, our next visit is to a bar fight involving civilians, Klingons, and Romulans in which someone, probably him, almost gets stabbed.
Next problem – minor damage to his brain due to the time shifts. His sigh is perfectly expressive. ‘Nobody else had to deal with this nonsense when they time shifted,’ it seems to say. ‘Why it always gotta be the Irishman?’ Once Bashir assures everyone he can repair the damage for now, Sisko asks if O’Brien knows when the vision was from. Next time, he’s got to ask the computer for a timestamp. Or hell, set it to constant monitoring and automatically state a timecode if it detects two O’Briens. That ought to be possible.
The Romulans are looking to get unrestricted access to the Defiant and personnel who were aboard it during its capture. Presumably they’ve already recalled and debriefed their asset. Sisko encourages her to be diplomatic. Jump cut to her screaming at them in an interview. To be fair, it’s entirely deserved.
O’Brien has Bashir hanging out in Quarks, beating him at darts and waiting for the fight. They’d tried to keep the Klingons out, but their latinum spends and Quark let them in. The resulting barfight interrupts Odo pretending that he’s not in love with Nerys. This time it goes down like he was expecting, because he participates the same way, but as soon as he catches up to his previous vision, he has another. This one is him working on a panel in a corridor, which is trapped and kills him. He still doesn’t ask the computer what time it is, and doesn’t even wake up from his vision before fainting. Although he doesn’t know when it happens, he does recognize the conduit, and Odo opens it from the side just to make sure. It seems the trap hasn’t been installed yet. Another puzzle is – why trap this hallway, since there’s nothing important nearby.
Dax has found a clue. Tetryon emissions consistent with a small quantum singularity. My bet is on cloaked Romulan warbird – they’d go in for intrigues like booby-trapping panels. Apparently, it’s a known factor that radio isotopes temporally displace themselves when subjected to singularity emissions. So well known that Bashir knows this offhand, which must mean Dax felt it was too obvious to mention. The good news is that Bashir can neutralize the radiation which should stop the shifts, with one or two more time jumps before the process is complete.
The replicators are acting up, so Kira has assigned the Romulans to different quarters. Three guesses as to which corridor they’re now in. The saboteur beamed the device into place. Odo’s suspicions land on the Klingons, but he’s going to investigate everyone just in case. Even people who aren’t Quark.
O’Brien changes his plans so as to not get phasered in the heart this time around. Again, as soon as the time of the shift ticks over, O’Brien gets another dose of precognition. This time, the infirmary, with him on a slab. Bashir shows up to explain to O’Brien why he died so he can go back and tell past-Bashir what to look for. This past knowledge will negate that entire timeline, but Miles has limited time so it’s nice that Bashir doesn’t waste it moralizing about the Temporal Prime Directive.
Odo’s traced the source of the transport back to some empty quarters. Of note: Portable transporters exist, but they’re large and bulky pieces of equipment. I’m picturing a 3d-printer form factor with an enclosure for the target object, but what you’d really want is a box with all the machinery and (assuming you need to delimit the transport area) a couple of miniature transport enhancer pylons. However, every crew quarters is already equipped with a matter/energy conversion engine in the form of food replicators. This is an impressive feat of engineering, and the equipment comes from a planet that does most of its trading with Klingons. This is not strong enough evidence, but Odo also has networking that tells him the Klingons on board are a covert ops team, so he’s going to bring them in for questioning.
Bashir fixes O’Brien up and tells us obliquely that there’s probably only one more time shift. Dax has tracked down the singularity and finds out is orbiting the station. During its orbit, it pulses the (five-hour) energy pulses that send Miles forward in time. Which also goes some way towards explaining why he never gets a rest. Speaking of which, his next (final?) vision shows him piloting a runabout away from an exploding station. Unfortunately, Future!O’Brien doesn’t know what the cause was, but as the station finishes exploding spectacularly, the wormhole also flares.
Once he comes back, he explains the situation. They begin taking steps to avert that future, but O’Brien also suggests inducing a jump intentionally. The risk is worth it according to Miles, and he’s the one whose opinion matters here. Bashir rigs up a device to trigger the dosage, and measures it in rads, which have apparently made a comeback in the 24th century.
He turns onj the device and finds himself in his quarters, being acutely radiation-poisoned despite the dose being 2% of an immediately-damaging dose. He wakes up his future self, they have a brief argument about temporal mechanics and get to work. Just as they get to Ops, a Romulan warbird decloaks (called it!) and attacks. We don’t know why, but we know what. Future!Miles yells things they both already know at past!Miles, but past!Miles is too weak to shift in time again, so he gives the device to his counterpart. Don’t ask what how that O’Brien retains integrity since his past self is dead. Just don’t.
Now that they know about the warbird, Sisko confronts the Romulans about their plan of destroying DS9 in order to close the wormhole to prevent a Dominion incursion. He does so with an overwhelming firepower advantage and a team of security guards. Do you think that counts as breach of contract with the Romulan Empire?