Vedic Theryl was getting tired just watching Blair. The young man paced back and forth, waving his hands frantically as he talked. “Oh, man! I just can’t believe it! Do you think he could be a full Sentinel? I mean, I’ve run across people with one or two heightened senses, even a guy with three…but I don’t think he counts because he wasn’t completely human—had ears bigger than a Vulcan’s. Anybody would have great hearing with ears like that. I really shouldn’t get so excited. I only saw him exhibit one heightened sense. He heard the disruptor humming! Isn’t that incredible? Wait as minute. He shot that guy’s weapon from pretty far away. Do you think he’s got heightened vision, too? Or maybe he’s just a good marksman. You know…”
“..if he does have two heightened senses, maybe I can…”
“BLAIR! Sit down and breathe! You’re almost hyperventilating.”
“Sorry. I just get so excited whenever I meet a humanoid with heightened senses. There are so few of them, you know. And I keep wondering if the next one will be ‘the one’.”
“Why don’t you just go talk to him? I’m sure he’d be glad to learn what you know.”
“You’re right! Maybe he doesn’t even know what he is. I’ve got to find this guy. Umm, you don’t mind if I take off for a while, do you?”
Vedic Theryl laughed as Blair gave him a pleading, little-boy look. “Don’t worry about me. We’ll have plenty of time to visit later.”
Blair was already halfway out the door. “Thanks, Theryl!”
Theryl went to light a candle, smiling to himself. “Yes, my boy. We’ll have plenty of time. I have a feeling you’re going to be on the station for a while. Captain Sisko isn’t the only non-Bajoran who gets to fulfill ancient prophecies.”
Jim was in a really foul mood. While Odo had congratulated him on his actions today, he’d also asked a lot of questions Jim hadn’t wanted, or been able, to answer. Odo finally let it go for the time being. But Jim knew Odo wouldn’t be put off for long and that the incident would come to the Captain’s attention as well. Once they started investigating, they would come to one of three conclusions: he was an accomplice, he was a liar, or he was a lunatic. None of those choices would keep him in Starfleet’s good graces. He didn’t know what was happening to him, but he was relieved to finally discover they weren’t hallucinations. He was sure of that now because he had proof. Others had seen the assassin, had seen the disruptor explode. Maybe he wasn’t crazy after all. But he soon would be if he couldn’t learn how to stop whatever was happening. He could pick up things no normal human should be able to and he couldn’t control it. And then he was having those fits where he lost touch with his surroundings. What if that happened on a mission?
Someone was following him. Soft footsteps echoed in the corridor behind him. Those same footsteps had turned every corner Jim had. He picked up the pace and stopped just around the next corner to wait. As the person came around the corner, Jim grabbed him by the shirt, slamming him against the wall. “Why are you following me?” He slammed him against the wall again. “Answer me!”
“Relax, man! Relax. Don’t you remember me? You saved my friend and me yesterday from that assassin.”
Jim let him go. The kid slumped down the wall a bit. “That still doesn’t answer my question. Why were you following me? And don’t tell me you weren’t.”
Blair’s eyes lit up with curiosity. “How do you know it was me and not someone else? Maybe I only showed up just now.” Understanding dawned on him. “You could hear me couldn’t you? And you could distinguish between different people’s footsteps--even when I was one or two corridors away. That’s amazing! You know, you’re hard to keep up with. You walk too fast. When I…”
“WHAT DO YOU WANT!?”
“Oh, yeah. How do I say this? I think you’re a Sentinel—a person with heightened senses. Maybe not a full Sentinel, but we’d need to run some tests to find out. I think we could start with…”
Jim didn’t know what he was babbling about, but he definitely understood “tests”. “No tests! I’m sick of tests. Who do you think you are?”
“Oh, sorry. My name’s Dr. Blair Sandburg. I’m a xenopologist. My specialty is the study of Pre-Warp humanoid cultures—but I’ve been interested in sentinels since forever. I haven’t had a lot of luck finding any, though.”
Jim noticed his strange, ragged clothes. Natural textures and fibers. “You? A doctor? You look more like the chief of some lost tribe or something. How would you be able to study Pre-Warp cultures anyway? The Prime Directive doesn’t allow contact with peoples who don’t have warp technology or its equivalent.”
“You sound like a Starfleet rule manual. I may be a Uni-Spiritist, but I know how to observe a culture first-hand without polluting it. When I was on Grendak, I…”
“You’re a Uni-Spiritist? Those retro-freaks? I’m not getting involved with some gypsy cult that makes a hobby of breaking the Prime Directive.”
“We’re not a cult. And since we’ve all rejected Federation membership and its protection, we’re not bound by its rules or Starfleet’s. Being a Uni-Spiritist is better than being a cog in the strong-arm military machine called Starfleet.”
Jim turned around and stalked off. Blair hurried after him. “I’m sorry, man. I shouldn’t have said that. Whatever you do with your life is your choice, right? Hey, come on! I really need to talk to you. I think I can help you with the problem you’ve been having with your senses.” He grabbed Jim’s arm. “Hearing things you shouldn’t be able to? Seeing things with impossible clarity from great distances?”
Jim turned on him with blazing eyes. “Look here, ‘Chief’. You just keep whatever it is you think you know to yourself. I don’t need any more trouble.”
Jim shrugged him off and disappeared around the corner.
“…I can help you.” Blair sighed and shook his head. That didn’t go well. He had to make this guy listen to him. He headed in the same direction. The lieutenant had gone back towards the Promenade. When Blair had the officer in his sites again, the man was standing stock-still, staring intently up at something. Several Bajoran workers were hanging a huge sculpture from the second level. A couple of the antigrav hangers started firing intermittently.
“You down there! Move! This sculpture’s about to fall! Didn’t you hear me? Get out of the way!”
Blair realized that the lieutenant was in a zone-out! He’d read about those in Burton’s book. That must have been what happened to the guy earlier when the disruptor had exploded—some kind of sensory overload. He wasn’t going to move! Blair ran at the older man and tackled him. The two of them crashed to the floor with a thud, out of harm’s way. The blank look in the officer’s eyes worried Blair. “Can you hear me? Come on. You need to find your way back now. Listen to the sound of my voice. I know you can hear it. You’re the guy who hears disruptor’s humming and footsteps in other corridors. Let the sound of my voice lead you back here, man. Come on, you’re scaring me.”
Jim blinked his eyes. There was that kid again. What happened? Why was he on the floor? He had been standing over…there. He noticed the sculpture now in the place where he’d been standing only moments before. Sandburg pushed him out of the way?
“You ok? You were having a zone-out.”
“A zone-out. I’ve read about them. It’s when a sentinel focuses too hard with only one of his senses. Everything else just shorts out and you become lost in the input from that one sensory experience.”
Jim still wasn’t sure he understood. All he knew was that he’d stopped to watch the workers hang the sculpture. Its colors were so vivid, the texture so mesmerizing. The next thing he knew he was on the floor. “I think maybe we should talk, Chief. This time I’ll try to listen. But not here, not right now. Meet me in front of Quark’s tomorrow at 1700.”
“I’ll be there!”