Chapter 13 - Oh, There's No Place Like Home For The End Of Days
RIVER BEND, MISSOURI, MAY, 1956
Everyone was always happy to see Colonel Sherman T. Potter, and he always had a smile for everyone he knew and everyone he met. But this day, his smile seemed forced-even phony. The Colonel was not his usual self. He wasn't even Sherman Potter.
He was General Bartford Hamilton Steele - the 3rd. There was no common blood between himself and Sherman Potter; Their looking identical was an accident of fate. His family had run the OSS in the PTO during World War Two. Joining together with other well-connected military families, they had formed shadow cells within the newly-formed CIA.
Known as the Syndicate, or The Consortium, their first job was to wipe out all traces of the Ferengi visitation at Roswell. This, meant, of course, wiping out people as well. The exhaustive effort prepared the Consortium well for other visitations-and other erasures. By 1950, they were damned good at it. Several dying alien races would act through them to make a go at colonizing the Earth in secret. The dirty deals in exchange for power were made.
Then the unbelievable occurred. While interrogating a Japanese POW Camp Commander, Steele found out about and obtained through outright extortion of Henry Blake the remains of a meteor strike in Korea, and the deadly gas the rocks gave off. Most died, but those few who lived simply didn't get sick anymore. In fact, they seemed healthier than ever. These few, the Commander would have shot repeatedly in front of his far gentler son, Toshiro, and the CO's half-Korean daughter, Toshiko.
In years to come, Toshiko would try to hide her shame over this by building a bar right over the slaughter spot. Her bar, right across the way from the 4077th MASH, was run by her under a Western name she adopted - Rosie.
Toshiro Hiron's grandson, Yoshiro, would one day marry Max and Soon-Lee Klinger's daughter, Maxine. Maxine and Yoshi's descendants included one Keiko O'Brien, Teacher, Botanist, and loving wife to Miles O'Brien, descendant of Katherine Mulcahy O'Brien, a former Nun who gave up the habit to have a family of her own. This was a decision opposed by much of her family, including John Patrick Francis Mulcahy, a Catholic Priest and Company Chaplain to the MASH 4077th. Steele might well envy these people, because his own family life was not so pleasant.
Events had conspired to rob him of his sanity. The best son of a demanding military family, he never met with approval from his parents. So it was, in 1919, when a simple phone call would have saved them from the effects of the Influenza ravaging the US, Bartford found it far simpler not to make any calls.
When a doctor would have saved his shrewish wife during childbirth, he simply did it himself, saving his son's life at her expense. But his son had grown up ungrateful. After Steele caught a whiff from his own purloined rocks, his brain was damaged. Now he really was the "Flipping General". His son, Bart the Fourth, promptly moved to take his place in the Consortium.
"Son, please, don't...I.."
"I'm leaving you behind and scraping you off, Old Man! You kept Henry Blake around, figuring you had him cowed. But now Pierce and Houlihan have been snooping at Immunita's HQ! I had to kill Blake myself! If that little extra something in his dufflebag hadn't taken his head, he'd have turned us in! Dad, you almost blew things --- again! Dorian, be a love and do something with this---sack."
"It's Doctor Taylor to you, boy. By the way, when do we get Pierce and Houlihan? They were the only survivors of our test run, with those flu shots. The autopsy crew wants a look, soon!"
As Steele was being dragged off, he saw his son, holding a cigarrette, as if he were born with it in his hand. His voice was as cold as ice, barely past 18, and not looking even that old.
"You didn't think I was a boy last night, Dorrie. Now, cut the crap, and forget about Pierce and Houlihan. We want those two producing gods, before too long. Our "people upstairs" will want slaves worth having, and I want our part of the Consortium in at Ground Zero. Translation- Pierce and Houlihan live for now."
"What purpose does that serve? Those two are the key to producing a true better humanity! Soon, we believe we can produce a true leader for this world, a Tzar, an Emperor, a..."
"You forget who's in charge, here, Dorian! Litlle Genghis or Kublai is gonna have to wait! Now, a reminder of your position. Doctor Taylor. Your uniform and undergarments are infected---leave them here, then walk back and wait in my quarters."
No one frightened Dorian Taylor. She was any man's equal, most men's superior. There was simply no way she was giving this little creep what he wanted, she told herself. She saw him leering at her, lustfully. She then looked at the floor and honestly wondered how her uniform and undergarments had gotten there. She still wondered this as she took her humiiating walk back to his quarters.
Two people who had been repeatedly betrayed by the young nicotine freak met in Sherman Potter's office. Steele's resemblance to Potter had given Taylor complete control over Pershing General. It would become Immunita's new base, in a place of patriotism and few questions. The perfect place to check on the unwitting Korean War vets who were their test subjects. For all this, both still wanted revenge.
"Good afternoon, General!"
"What're you doing in my office, Taylor? I run this hospital! You said that with Potter asleep..."
"Does the word figurehead have any meaning for that virus-addled brain of yours, Steele? That you look like Potter, and can give me effective control over Pershing General sums up your only use to me. Your son scared me, General. You don't. You are a shell, an old nothing that I could push aside at any time. By the way, did you send for that Doctor Bashir? I have him in custody, along with Edward, Potter, and our delusional Mrs. Klinger. I don't need other Immunita bases moving in, now! Especially ones that can produce accelerates without side-effect."
At that name, Steele's head cocked.
"Bashir. Ally to the Emissary, the Sisko."
"What did you just say, Steele? I do hope you've been taking your medicine, because I need you to be coherent a while longer. Babbling won't do."
"Well, then, listen up, Doctor Taylor. Let's you and I talk about the way the universe was made, way back when. Let's us talk about The Prophets Of Bajor......"
Taylor gasped as Steele's eyes turned red and crackled with energy.
".....And about my new nearest and dearest, The Pagh Wraiths! The Pagh Wraiths, you see, don't much like the way Creation is set up, and damned if I don't agree with em'. See, they'd been beaten by trickery, like me, so we found one another......"
Taylor grasped at her clothes, while realizing that the senior Steele didn't want to take them from her -- he wanted her power. She could deal with public humiliation. But the son's father wanted the only thing she had that she really cared about -- her illusion of power over others.
Back at the Potter household, Benjamin Sisko awaited two things : the arrival of Miles O'Brien and Max Klinger, and Father Francis Mulcahy's explanation of how he and Mildred Potter knew who he and Kira were. He was upset that the Chief told Max about who they were, but the presence of Immunita made it neccesary. As they saw with Doctor Bashir, the effects of the Eugenics Wars were long-reaching ,and worth investigating, even at the risk of The Temporal Prime Directive. Major Kira looked worried.
"Major? What's wrong?"
"They're here, Captain. I can feel them."
"Who? Oh...my God! Nerys...THEM!?"
"I fought them on behalf of the Prophets, Captain. They're here."
"The Pagh Wraiths. Damn. I felt something, too. A twinge from those visions that were planted in my brain, that still remain -shrouded by silence. I think the battle that Kai Winn delayed on the station..NO! It can't be!"
Kira wondered why her Captain shouted. Mildred and the Padre ran out, wondering the same. He was staring at a magazine. Kira stared in wonder, too.
"Captain, what's wrong? I said I would explain my knowledge as soon as Max...Oh, My!"
"Oh, that's just a silly science fiction pulp that Sherman buys for our grandson. That cover story is good, but the ending is a bit of a letdown. The "Captain" is only the dream of a convict."
Francis, Benjamin, and Nerys all stared in wonder at the magazine's cover. It stated : Inside : A New Benjamin Russell Story---Science Fiction At Its Greatest --"The WormHole At Deep Space Nine." Something more than the O'Briens and the Klingers intimacy was being put at stake. Sisko had always believed that Benny Russell had no more substance than Jonathan Tuttle. The Prophets were on the move. But so were the Pagh Wraiths.
Back at Pershing General, Julian Bashir had a depressingly real-world task at hand.
"Eddie! Where's Eddie? HELP ME FIND EDDIE! OHHHH!! I Promised to take care of him!"
Keiko O'Brien, now back in real clothes, was reviving Colonel Potter. By authority of Temporal Prime Directive Addendum 5, the Colonel, being the Chief Authority there, was informed of the incredible truth. Julian, unlike Miles, did use his phaser as proof -- by giving the Colonel a shave.
"Much obliged, Julian! Guess the future is lookin' pretty darn..."
Then Edward, another test subject of Doctor Taylor's began to scream. The guards ignored this regular occurence which had nearly driven Keiko out of her skull with a mixture of sympathy and disgust. Bashir began to try to help him---but wondered if he could.
"Colonel? Who is this young man?"
"GOD! HELP EDDDDiiieeeeeee!"
"His name's Edward, Doctor Bashir. It was Eddie, back when he was...slow. I met him in Korea, and decided to ask Dorrie to help him. But I didn't know he was this bad off."
Julian had relatively few easy buttons to push. The Colonel, though, had spoken directly to his secret shame--a young boy named Jules.
"You hypocrite! How DARE you play God over this lad's well-being! I'll bet his parents signed him away without any trouble, right? All on your say-so! I hope you are happy, Potter! This patient is suffering from the most severe case of personality detachment I've ever seen! You're merely lucky I happen to be the best surgeon of my time! That MIGHT be enough to help him!"
Potter felt two inches tall. He hadn't known about Eddie's problems, or about Taylor's agenda. While Julian tried a number of methods to calm the young man, Sherman spoke to the woman he once thought was Soon-Lee.
"Keiko? Will you forgive a gullible old fool?"
"Of course, Colonel. Taylor had everyone fooled."
"Not Mildred. She told me not to trust her. Now I can't even tell the woman how she was right, cause it might destroy the future! Can I ask you about Bashir?"
"He's Winchester's kin, isn't he?"
"How--how did you know?"
"Distinguishing family characteristic. The Winchester Ego!"
Julian walked over to the other two. Eddie had stopped screaming.
"He's gone, Colonel."
Potter's face was the face of one lost.
Realizing the Colonel could not have known the severity of Eddie's condition, Bashir regretted his earlier words.
"I'm sorry. The detachment was too far gone. Eddie was dying...and Edward decided he didn't want to live without Eddie. The same thing happened to me and Jules. But they administered drugs to kill Jules, and warned me never to tell my parents of it."
"What in the hell did I buy into? This is like that Immunita Project at the 3966th back in...Oh, My God! Yer tellin me it is them! Well, fool me once...Soon as my and the lady's head is clear, WE'RE DAMNED WELL CLEANING HOUSE! For Eddie, for Jules, and for two young people I love like my own children, Hawkeye and Margaret. And for a good man I never met, who got in their way!"
Keiko sat stunned.
"Colonel, you mean to say that Henry Blake's death was no accident? Max had indicated that, but I thought...Julian, what can we do? What the hell are we up against? Do we dare take it on?"
Bashir new that Keiko was cognizant of what they faced. Her question was one meant to bring about focus. He offered some of his own.
"Keiko, we don't dare NOT take it on!"
"Amen to that...Jules!"
Back at the Potter household, Max and Miles had arrived, with the Klinger kids in tow. Miles carried his wife's 1-year-old ancestor, Maxine, who kept grabbing his nose. He held her out in front of him.
"Oh, You! Stop Grabbing My Nose!"
Joyfully, the child just leaned forward and grabbed again.
"Having fun, Chief?"
"Sorry, Captain. Just some in-law trouble. Are yewwww my in-law? Yes, you are! Yes, you are!!"
"Er, Mr. O'Brien, I'd like to put the children to bed. They've been irritable, since their mother left."
"Oh, sure thing, Mrs. Potter! Goo-Goodbye, my little grandma-in-law to the 5th power!"
Everyone just kind of stared at Miles, but he didn't care. Father Mulcahy then spoke.
"Now that everyone's here, I can explain myself. The beings you call The Prophets but whom I believe to be Angels Of The Lord told me...."
"Hold it right there, Father! Who do you think you are to reduce my gods to a subservient status to your God?"
"No, no Captain. She has a good point. But you see, my dear, it's quite simple. My God has said that I shall have or hold in my heart No Other God. Period. End of Commandment. For me, as godlike as your Prophets might seem, I know what they are not--what they must not be, to me. It's the same thing I told them after they showed me Bethlehem, and offered to show me the Resurrection. I must have that something unknown to believe in, else where is faith? I am sorry if I offended you, but..."
Kira grasped Mulcahy's hand as if to kiss it. Tears were starting to form in her eyes.
"Father, how would you like to be Kai Mulcahy? I know I'd like you to be!"
Absently, Sisko and O'Brien wished the same thing.
"I can't be Kai, child! I am The Priest!"
Sisko's eyes went wide.
"The Priest! Oh, my....THIS IS IT! Major!"
Kira was on her knees before Father Mulcahy.
"The Priest joins with the Emisarry, and so is the blood-dimmed tide stemmed forever! The Priest....And The Potter! Oh, bless the Prophets! Evil is at last put paid to!"
"Nerys, please! If I'm not Kai, I'm certainly not the Pontiff!"
Just then, a combadge beeped.
"Doctor? Is that you?"
"Yes, Captain, I have Keiko, and have freed Colonel Potter. An impostor has taken his place! Put there...by Dorian Taylor!"
"My God! She's the mother of the whole Eugenics War! All right, everyone down to the hospital! TPD or no, we are resolving this, as soon as possible!"
"I'll stay with the kids", volunteered Mildred Potter.
"No, Mrs. Potter. You go to your husband. I'll stay."
"Major? But I thought you'd want..."
"To see the final battle, Captain? No. I couldn't bear it. Kai Winn robbed me of that joy. Besides, I still feel somewhat responsible for all this. Let Mrs. Potter go where she's needed."
"Thank You, Major! But it's Mildred."
"Thank You, Mildred! But it's Nerys."
"Eh, coming, Father?"
"In a moment, Miles, I'll meet you all down there, presently. By the way, it seems the O'Briens taste in women remains consistently high, over time---nephew!"
Miles smiled, and joined the cross-time group on its way to Pershing General. Mulcahy looked at Kira and the kids. She was telling them of the Evil Pirate Dukat and the Fair Princess Ziyal who married the old grump Garak, who loved her so much, he made her evil father go away and they lived happily ever after. When she was done, and the kids were asleep, she looked again at Father Mulcahy. She then understood, as he left, how this "Bethlehem" must have touched his heart. Mulcahy uttered two words :
And she did.
Down at Pershing General, the night staff had one and all been hand-picked by Doctor Taylor. But no one was about. Just, quite ominously, clothes and piles of ashes. Julian, Sherman, and Keiko didn't like the looks of it one bit. But they did like what was rounding the corridor. Keiko ran at speeds rivalling Warp.
They collided with one another and slipped on the floor. But they didn't care. Their kiss was long, and deep. So much so, their friends wondered if they weren't going to have to get a hose.
"Oh, Miles! I am so happy..."
"You? How do you think I feel? I.."
Just then, a flash of light. Pierce, McIntyre, Houlihan and Winchester remained on Deep Space Nine. But Soon-Lee had returned. She and Max didn't even bother to say anything. Their hello kiss was also memorable.
"Where are Hawkeye and the others? Did they not also return?"
Sisko caught on immediately.
"Hawkeye Pierce is on MY station? Oh, if I could get his signature next to Kirk's, I'd..."
Potter stared at Sisko.
"Great Hornytoads, Captain! Let's just get to my office, and beat the bad guys! Sheesh! Besides, I haven't seen Jim Kirk since he was CO at the 1701st!"
"I understand that Colonel, but, Blast It, we have to ascertain the real threat, here! Blessed Prophets, we can't just go running off half-cocked!"
"Gentleman, if I might suggest..."
The two turned on Bashir, and spoke as one.
"GREAT THUNDER, MAN! CAN'T YOU SEE WE'RE TRYING TO HAVE A DISCUSSION HERE!"
Potter looked at Sisko. Then Sisko spoke.
"Colonel, there's going to be a Tracy-Hepburn film called "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" about 10 years from now. It will--explain what just happened."
"Ah, Thankee kindly, Captain. Always love a good Kate and Spencer comedy! I hear those two may be carryin' on tho'!"
As Potter left with the others, Sisko shook his head, chuckled and said, "Granpa Sisko said he was cantakerous, but who knew?" Potter then turned and yelled back , "Ya know, son, your old grandfather could use some help, here!"
Sisko loved the old man's intuition almost as much as him. He stopped once more, though, and said, "1701st? Kirk? Could... Naaaahhh....aaaaahhh?"
The halls were filled with ashen corpses, some of Project Immunita's worst. In Potter's office, though---things were bad. Steele, now fully part of The Pagh Wraiths, stood amidst the carnage. Near him lay a shattered skeleton-Dorian Taylor's.
"Oh, howdy Sherm, all! I told Dorrie to "Take It All Off", like she did for my son, but she wouldn't...so I did. Nope, nobody's telling Bartford Hamilton Steele what to do, anymore! These friendly red folk have given me sooooo much."
Steele rose into the air. The two reunited couples held each other.
"Soon-Lee, I love you honey!"
"Max, without you, the future was a nightmare!- No offense, Miles."
"Don't fret, folks! It'll be over quick. You all have to die, of course..But first, the Sisko will give us....his SOUL!"
Sisko felt the red glow envelop him, felt like he was beig torn loose from his moorings. He was dying, and being consumed by the Pagh Wraiths. All in all, 1956 was proving a mixed year. Maybe the last year. Max cried out.
"We need a hero! Where's George Reeves when you need him?"
Miles responded, "I don't think even Superman could help us now, Max! Goodbye, Keiko..I.."
Just then the outside wall of Potter's office burst open, and the fragments struck Steele, freeing Sisko. A man floated in the hole's way, standing defiantly against evil-as he always had.
His eyes and body crackled with the blue-manifested energy of the Prophets Of Bajor. He didn't believe that they were gods, but his Faith was still like a mountain, unyielding in the face of hate. He was Father Francis Mulcahy, and he bid the Pagh Wraiths and their host do battle with him, with a few simple words.
"Excuse Me, General! Would You Care To Step Outside?!