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PAST TENSE, PART I >
Episode Synopsis by Tracy Hemenover
The DS9 officers arrive at Earth on the Defiant, having been asked to
address a symposium on the situation in the Gamma Quadrant. They receive
an "emergency message" from Quark, who wants to relay to Sisko a couple
of requests from the Grand Nagus, to whom Sisko owes a favor. Dax then
reminds Sisko that they're having dinner tonight with Admiral Drazman, a
particularly boring Starfleet official. O'Brien, Odo, and Kira all
decline the invitation to come along, leaving Sisko, Dax, and Bashir to
beam down to face the long dull evening.
As the three officers are being transported, O'Brien notices something
strange on the console, though he thinks it's nothing serious. He
stabilizes the beam, but then reacts in concern: according to the
sensors, Sisko and the others never materialized at their destination.
Sisko and Bashir, lying unconscious in an alley, are prodded awake by
guns, held by two security officers named Vin and Bernardo. Bernardo
would like to just forget about them and go home to his wife, but Vin
says there's a law against sleeping in the streets. "Though I do like
the matching pajamas," he adds sarcastically. He asks Sisko and Bashir
for their "logo" (ID), but they are still disoriented and confused by
the fact that they don't see any sign of Starfleet Headquarters.
"Perfect," says Vin. "Just what we need, two more dims." Getting an
inkling of what's happened, especially when Vin mentions a Sanctuary
District, Sisko asks what year it is. "Same year as it was yesterday,"
Bernardo tells him. "2024." The two cops escort them off through the
streets. Unnoticed, out of view in a subway stairwell, lies Dax, still
Dax wakens to see a well-dressed man looking at her with concern,
wondering if she's been jacked (robbed). Quickly realizing her
situation, Dax says yes, though she finds she still has her combadge.
The man, whose name is Chris Brynner, offers to let her use his
Interface terminal to order replacements for her credit chips and ID.
Dax thanks him. "Don't mention it," he says. "It's not every day that I
get to rescue a damsel in distress."
O'Brien is checking out the transporter, while Kira tells him that as
far as Starfleet is able to tell, the transporter signal disintegrated
immediately after they began the beamout sequence. But O'Brien says the
transport was completed successfully, according to the system logs. He
just doesn't know where they ended up. The only unusual thing in the log
was a variance in the annular confinement beam, reacting to the buildup
of chroniton particles in the ship's hull -- a byproduct of the Romulan
cloaking device. It's never been a problem before, but O'Brien reads a
surge of temporal energy a few seconds before the initiation of the
transporter sequence. He doesn't know yet what it means.
Sisko and Bashir are brought to a wall that fences off an area of the
city, which they're sure is San Francisco. They note that their
combadges are gone, probably stolen while they were unconscious. "This
is not the Earth we're used to, Doctor," Sisko says. "That's still at
least a century away." As soon as possible, they'll try to find Dax, and
then a way home. At that point, they are hustled through a gate into the
Sanctuary District, and see a crowded street filled with dilapidated
buildings and homeless people huddled at impromptu campsites. Sisko
explains that this was one of the mistakes that Earth society made
before the Federation. The people here are not criminals; they were put
here because they had no jobs or places to live. "Welcome to the
Dax has ordered ID and credit chips through Chris' computer and account.
They converse a little, and Chris is surprised when she asks what kind
of business he does. "I guess I have to have a talk with my public
relations people. I'm Chris Brynner, of Brynner Information Systems. You
know, Interface Operations, Net Access, Channel Ninety." Dax pretends to
recognize those names. "That Chris Brynner!" He asks if there's a way
she can get hold of the friends she mentioned, and she says she wishes
Sisko and Bashir, in the Sanctuary District's processing center, are
subjected to having their hands scanned by a computer, which says the
fingerprints are not on record. "No ID, no fingerprint record, no
Interface account. It's like you two don't exist," remarks Vin. Bashir
suggests, "Since we don't exist, why not let us go?" "Let's see," says
Vin, "you don't have any ID, you don't have any money, you're both
dressed like clowns. You figure it out." He hands them each a stack of
forms to fill out.
O'Brien tells Kira he thinks he knows what happened. A microscopic
singularity passing through the solar system exploded at the moment of
transport, shifting the chroniton particles into temporal polarization.
The transporter beam, passing through the polarized particles, was
redirected through time.
As Bashir is complaining to Vin about the slowness of processing, Sisko
notices a wall calendar with the date 8/30/24. "Ever hear of the Bell
Riots?" he asks Bashir. 21st-century history is not the doctor's forte.
Sisko tells him that one of the most violent civil disturbances in
American history is going to occur here, a few days from now. "Which
means if we don't get out of here soon, we'll be caught right in the
middle of it."
Sisko explains that the Sanctuary District will be taken over by the
residents, and some guards will be taken hostage. When the government
sends in troops to restore order, hundreds of Sanctuary residents will
be killed. However, the riots, says Sisko, will be "one of the watershed
events of the twenty-first century. Gabriel Bell will see to that."
Bell, after whom the riots are named, will be among the people guarding
the hostages, and ensures that they are not harmed, sacrificing his life
to save them. The outrage his death will raise through the nation will
lead to sweeping reforms correcting many social problems. "If we warn
these people about what's coming, if we try to help them in any way, we
risk altering a pivotal moment in history. And we can't let that
Finally it's their turn to be interviewed by an official named Lee, who
realizes that they are gimmies -- people sincerely looking for jobs and
homes, as opposed to the mentally ill dims. Learning that they have no
jobs lined up, no place to stay, and no one to vouch for them except a
friend whom they have no way of contacting, Lee says they'll have to
stay in the Sanctuary for the time being, for their own safety, not to
mention that it's the law. The District is supposed to provide job
placement service, but Lee regretfully says jobs are hard to come by
right now, so she advises them to be patient. She gives them ration
cards, which they can use to get food and water. They can stay in any of
the buildings. Lee also advises them to stay away from District
Security, and to watch out for "ghosts": Sanctuary residents who prey on
others. Sisko thanks her for the warning.
Dax is trying to contact Sisko and Bashir through her combadge, with no
luck, when Chris tells her his assistant has gotten her a room. No one
matching her friends' descriptions has been admitted to any of the local
hospitals or trauma wards. Chris invites her to a party he's having in
the office tomorrow night, and she accepts.
Sisko and Bashir have been turned away from every building they've tried
to find a place to stay in. It's not surprising to Sisko, who remembers
that overcrowding was a primary complaint against the Sanctuary
Districts. "It got to the point where they didn't care how many people
were in here. They just wanted to keep them out of sight." Bashir is
frustrated by the conditions; it seems to him as if the powers that be
don't give a damn. "It's not that they don't give a damn," Sisko says.
"They've just given up. The social problems they face seem too enormous
to deal with." "That only makes things worse," Bashir replies. "Causing
people to suffer because you hate them is terrible. But causing people
to suffer because you've forgotten how to care -- that's really hard to
understand...Are humans really any different than Cardassians or
Romulans? If push comes to shove, if something disastrous happens to the
Federation, if we are frightened enough, or desperate enough, how would
we react? Would we stay true to our ideals, or would we just stay here,
right back where we started?"
They come upon a group of ghosts, led by one named B.C., who are beating
up a dim and stealing his ration card. Sisko holds Bashir back from
intervening. B.C. sees the doctor's look of outrage, and sarcastically
apologizes. "Don't worry about us. We're new here," says Sisko, trying
to avoid a fight. B.C. welcomes them. "Enjoy your stay. And in a few
days, I know you're gonna feel right at home." Sisko leads Bashir away.
O'Brien has a possible way to retrieve Sisko and the others, focusing
the transporter beam through the polarized chroniton particles. He has
narrowed down the possible time periods to a dozen, but they only have
enough polarized chronitons for a few attempts. "The hard part will be
to find a couple of volunteers crazy enough to risk getting lost in time
to do the job," Kira remarks. "I think I know a few likely candidates,"
says O'Brien, looking at her.
Having spent the night sleeping on the sidewalk, Sisko and Bashir have
some breakfast, and discuss what to do next. Sisko wants to try to get
on top of one of the buildings for a better look at the district. They
return to one of the buildings they were rejected from the day before,
and offer to trade something to get access to the roof. Having nothing
else, they swap away their uniforms for some more period-looking
clothing, and enter the building. Inside, they find a teenaged boy named
Danny, who is injured and being tended by his father, Michael Webb.
Webb at first suspiciously points a knife at Sisko and Bashir, but then
decides they're harmless. Bashir takes a look at the boy, who was beaten
up by ghosts, and treats the injuries with what little is available.
After they leave the building, Webb follows them out, but Bashir,
mindful of disrupting the timeline, declines to help anyone else out.
"This is your home now," Webb argues. "The only help we're going to get
is from each other. And if we don't start pulling together, we're
finished." He wants to get organized and let people outside know what's
happening in this place. Sisko and Bashir have no choice but to refuse
to get involved.
At Chris' party, Dax has a conversation with him and a couple of guests
about having been mugged yesterday; one of them remarks that she was
lucky that she didn't get picked up on the street without ID, or she
might have ended up in a Sanctuary District. Dax immediately thinks that
perhaps this is what happened to Sisko and Bashir. Chris promises to
pull in a few favors to check the records of the local Sanctuary
Sisko and Bashir are waiting for dinner when Sisko goes to see how long
the line is, and Bashir is accosted by B.C. and his gang. A fight
ensues. Bashir and Sisko are outnumbered, but then a bystander -- a man
of Sisko's approximate age, size, and skin color -- helps them, only to
be stabbed by B.C. for his trouble. Bashir and Sisko finish off the
ghosts who are taking the man's card. Bashir tries CPR, but it's too
late; the man is dead. Sisko picks up his card, looks at it, and drags
Bashir away as the police approach. They hide in an alley, where Sisko
gives Bashir some dire news. According to the card, the man who died
trying to help them was Gabriel Bell.
Sisko tells Bashir that without Gabriel Bell to protect the hostages,
there's a good chance they'll die, and the timeline will be changed. "We
have to save them," Sisko decides. "Whatever it takes, we have to make
sure those hostages survive."
Kira and O'Brien are about ready to go, but Starfleet has nixed the
mission for fear of contaminating the timeline. However, when O'Brien
tries calling an admiral so Kira can argue, there's no response from
Starfleet. O'Brien soon ascertains that Starfleet no longer exists.
Something must have happened already to change the timeline. O'Brien
theorizes that the reason the Defiant is still here is that the
singularity explosion created a subspace bubble around it.
In the morning, Sisko and Bashir find Webb and offer their help in
organizing the residents. Webb is glad to hear they've changed their
minds. "This place is about to explode. Most of us agreed to live here
because they promised us jobs. I don't know about you, but I haven't
been on any job interviews lately. And neither has anyone else. They've
forgotten about us." But Webb promises they will make society remember
them. A rally will be held outside the processing center in two days. "I
want to remind the people outside that we haven't done anything wrong,
that we're not criminals, and that we don't deserve to live like this."
Chris tells Dax that he has located Sisko and Bashir in Sanctuary
District A, but getting them out may not be so easy; first the Sanctuary
personnel have to find them amid the 10,000 people there. "But don't
worry. Your friends are fine. That's the whole point of the Sanctuary.
To give people in trouble food and a place to stay." "If that's all it's
for," Dax says, "then why is there a wall around it?"
That night, as Sisko and Bashir are spreading the word about the rally,
they hear a commotion breaking out in the street. Danny, looking for his
father, tells them, "One of the guards got into a fight with a dim, down
at Processing. Everyone's going crazy." Sisko and Bashir push through a
frenzied crowd and see Bernardo being attacked by a group of residents,
one of whom takes his gun. Sisko snatches the gun away and fires into
the air, scattering the attackers. He and Bashir drag Bernardo into the
processing center, which has been taken over by B.C. and several other
There are four hostages, including Lee, and B.C. is terrorizing her when
Sisko shouts, "That's enough!" Seeing his gun, B.C. accepts that he's
there to help guard the hostages. Bernardo is placed among them. And
there is only one decision Sisko can make. He tells B.C. in a firm
voice, "The name is Bell. Gabriel Bell."
To be continued...