In which Quark gets clingy, Garak rips a dress, and villains always monologue.
A Cardassian ship is in distress, and despite Kira’s obvious distaste, the station tows them into dock. It turns out to be crewed by Professor Natima Lang and her students, Rakelen and Hogue. Hogue looks incredibly sullen. They were caught in a meteor storm, but fortunately they can rely on the kindness of the Federation. They just want to leave the Bajoran-run station as quickly as possible so as not to cause trouble.
Bashir and Garak are discussing politics, which is a delightful illustration of the prevailing Cardassian philosophy. Odo and Quark are at each other’s throats again, where Odo suspects Quark of having acquired a small cloaking device, which is illegal. When Quark sees Natima, he seems really excited, but she isn’t nearly as thrilled. One presumes they had a somewhat personal relationship. Particularly since she’s 86’d a favorite cocktail from her preferences just because of Quark.
Natima is a professor of Poltiical Ethics, we find out as Quark herds her and her students back into the bar. We find out she used to work on the station as a correspondent when she and Quark were together. He’s so excited he even gives her a free magic drink. Sadly, this means she’s in the bar for Garak to see, which she seems to think is dangerous.
O’Brien, working on the repairs, has found that Natima was not entirely honest about the source of the damage – it was damaged by Cardassian weaponsfire. Natima is, in fact, taking her students to safety as political exiles. They’re an anti-military-dictatorship political crew on the run from the current regeime, and Sisko is at least as worried about Garak’s current affiliations as Natima is.
Quark too, which leads to a delightful veiled-knives scene. I’m going to go out on a limb, in fact, and say that every scene between Quark and Garak is going to be amazing. There’s one later on that’s hands-down the best scene in the show. But it turns out that Garak is actually dropping Quark a hint. So good is this scene that it’s unclear as to whether Garak is gloating or warning Quark and Natima about her students.
When trying to warn Natima, we learn a little more about Quark’s past – he sold food to Bajoran laborers, apparently against the rules of the station. And he betrayed her to steal money, and regrets it and wants to be back with her. He offers to give up his worldly posessions. He declares his love. She declines. Sad strings – did she really mean it?
A Cardassian warship approaches, and is making threatening moves, ready to attack the station. Given that the Federation’s presence on the station is officially to defend Bajor, one has to wonder whether firing on the station could be taken as an act of war. I mean, we all know the Federation would likely decline the offer, but still. Garak, however, is here to help.
In fact, he’s there to deliver a message. The Cadrassian government considers Hogue and Rekelen as terrorists. The fact that they’re using Garak either means, as Garak insists, that they’re not important enough to send anyone more important than a ‘simple tailor,’ or that they’re so important that Central Command is willing to out an asset on their account. Sisko, howwever, does not play these games. If Sisko had been in command of the Enterprise half the times the Ferengi had attacked them I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t be a Ferengi home planet anymore. He’s not Picard.
Quark, whether out of some of the morality that led him to sell food to the Bajorans, or out of feelings for Natima, offers to help Hogue and Rekelen off-station with the help of his small cloaking device. After checking for Odo, anyway. He offers the device to the students free of charge, as long as they convince Natima to stay on the station with Quark.
This incredibly creepy bargain lasts approximately long enough for Natima to say the ‘if you love me you want me to be happy’ line, and for Quark to be deaf to her rebuffs, and for her to have to pull a disruptor on him and rob him. He doesn’t think she’ll shoot, and boy howdy is he wrong. That said, she didn’t mean to, and it was on the lowest setting so it doesn’t even knock him out. Turns out the commercial break was long enough for her to change her mind and reverse her stance on Quark. Not on going with her students though, she’s still gonna do that. No matter how much Quark fondles her neck-scales, which appear to be erogenous like Ferengi ears, because sure why not. Odo breaks the mood to put Natima under arrest along with her students.
Apparently, Sisko is being forced to extradite the three of them to Cardassia because Cardassia is offering a 2-for-one prisoner sale to Bajor. One cannot help but think back to other decisions the Bajoran privisional government has made which may seem… short-sighted. I’m sure there will be dozens more but I’m not going to keep count because it’s too much overhead. You can, if you want.
One of Garak’s old ‘friends,’ Taran, is now a gul and stops by to gloat before he picks up his prisoners, and to dangle repatriation for Garak in exchange for assassinating the dissidents. He’s initially horrified, but it seems more to be about Central Command backing out of the deal he brokered than the thought of triple political homicide.
O’Brien has gotten Odo hooked on crime fiction, because if there’s one thing Star Trek writers cannot get over it’s their love of making characters obsessed with detectives. Quark tries to convince Odo to let the students go by appealing to his sense of higher justice, but eventually falls back on the truth, and a bid based on their ‘my beloved enemy’ relationship. In the end, Odo does it because their files don’t merit the punishment Central Command will give them.
The escape is on, but Garak has anticipated them and has been waiting in the airlock, apparently for hours, for this moment, and gets ready to kill them, but gets drawn into gloating and monologing. Taran shows up too, to steal the credit and keep Garak on the outs, which he really should not have done before a) completing his mission abd b) making sure Garak didn’t have a backup. Because Status Quo is still god, Natima can’t stay with Quark, but the two of them have made up sufficiently that her parting tears out his heart.