In which Riker jacks a ride, Sisko gives away state secrets, and Dukat cleans house.
It’s a busy day in Ops, and all the ships coming in are pushing cargo space to the limit. Kira is behind on her paperwork, too. Pretty sure she’s going to space someone just for the catharsis. Bashir’s not making any friends either, what with his insistence on ‘supplying adequate medical stockpiles’ for people who ‘need them.’ And as CMO, Bashir gets to relieve her of duty for medical reasons and make her take a day off, and despite being a mere LtC, he cannot be overridden. Therefore, the freedom-fighter-turned-air-traffic-controller must now drink delicious juice, eat a popsicle, gamble, and take advantage of Quark’s holo-brothel before she will be declared fit to resume her duties. When who should walk in to top off her evening but William Thomas Riker.
Riker is here on leave, because he’s apparently amassed three months of leave and Crusher forced him off the ship, so he went to a barely-functional Cardassian-built station at the front lines of an incipient war in system space near a war-ravaged political viper’s nest. Apparently, living and working on the Enterprise gives you a royally screwed up idea of a good time. Or maybe he’s just passing through on his way to Risa. Kira may be intrigued – she can’t stop staring at the door when he’s chatting with Sisko. Jadzia also has a brief history with him. But Kira has Vedek Berial to think about. Riker’s also forgotten about the loan Jadzia staked him to clean Quark out. Kind of begs the question of why he didn’t pay her back.
Kira bumps into Riker later, and after a brief longing look, offers him a tour of the Defiant, which is passcode-and-handprint-locked, even for escorted visitors. O’Brien is also there fixing up some stuff, and it’s a regular reunion. Well, except that Riker gives Miles the cold shoulder. O’Brien is frankly stunned, and leaves. But once that’s out of the way, Kira brings the whole ship online to show off, and in return Riker shoots her, beams aboard some Maquis, and starts a warp core breach to get the station to release the ship. Sisko releases the docking clamps, steers the ship on an escape vector, and then isntead of allowing himself to be beamed to safety, steals the ship.
William Riker is actually Thomas Riker, you see. Which also explains why he’s so pissed at O’Brien, the transporter chief. Not personally, just in general. Or he might have just been trying to avoid personal conversations that could lead to his discovery.
Now Sisko and Odo are briefing Gul Dukat on the situation, because somehow it’s his business. They’re also making excuses about the security computer not knowing one from the other, because, once again, two-factor authentication is completely unheard of in the future. In a world with shapeshifters, androids, and body-stealing energy beings, everyone’s find with voiceprint and hand scanners. Passwords and RSA tokens are just not worth the effort, apparently. I can only presume, charitably, that such things are so easily hacked by even a layperson that they’re just not worth the effort.
I digress. Dukat, not having lived on the Enterprise, barely buys the excuse, but he sits up and takes notice when Sisko mentions that Thomas Riker might have joined the Maquis, and therefore his recent theft of a prototype overgunned cloaking Federation warship is something to be a little concerned about. Sisko’s only demand is that the Cardassians cooperate with Starfleet efforts in the hunt. Central Command is unlikely to buy it and will probably send a fleet. The Federation will respond, and it’ll start a war. Neither Sisko nor Dukat actually want that, so they’re going to try to work together to head off the inevitable. Sisko’s going to go back with Dukat and use his insider knowledge to catch Thomas W. Riker. Dukat’s demand is to destroy the Defiant, however.
Oh hey, Kira’s awake, and pissed. The Defiant has met up with the rest of the Maquis fleet, and Tom gets ready to fight. meanwhile, Sisko has already arrived on Cardassia and gets to check out a Cardassian command center. Dukat is pretty proud of it, so much so that his enthusiasm and control-freak-boner is only subdued when the observer from the Obsidian Order arrives. Korinas is pretty much exactly as aloof as you would expect, including maintaining actual operational security measures.
The Obsidian Order already knew about the Defiant cloaking device, and it’s causing some delightful stress between Dukat, the local representative of the uniformed military and Korinas, the local representative of the Secret Police. Sisko also has to give away the method by which the Dominion were able to penetrate the cloak, as best as he knows.
Of course, during all this, Kira isn’t idle. She’s going to hack into the replicator system. The Cardassian command center has identified a signal belonging to the Defiant, but since it’s not cloaked, Sisko suspects a trap and a decoy. Sisko’s advice is as quick as he can make it, but it’s not fast enough to save the Cardassian listening post. And with one remark, Korinas solidifies her emnity with Dukat and manages to get a little cut in on Sisko as well. You have to admire the Order’s efficiency, if nothing else. What you don’t have to admire is Tom Riker’s willingness to leave a resistance fighter alone in a room full of technology.
So, I’ve gotta say I’m with Riker in being surprised that Kira isn’t a little more sympathetic to the Maquis cause. Sure, the Cardassians invaded Bajor unprovoked, and the Maquis situation is a little different, but it’s still a conflict rooted in longstanding homesteads being uprooted and attacked. The colonists settled uninhabited planets in good faith, you’ll recall, and the Federation-Cardassian treaty screwed them over. She’s getting angry at Riker for being an ally to the displaced, and honestly if her justification is “you’re putting Bajor in danger” I can live with that, but it’s a little ‘I got mine, Jack.’
So, this is another great submarine-movie episode. Sisko has to out-think an enemy he can’t detect except during their own actions, so we get to see him reason at the problem. Dukat, meanwhile, is bored and thinking about how he wanted to take his son to a park today. Sadly, this nonsense has pulled Dukat away from celebrating his son’s birthday, and Sisko actually gets a brief moment to bond with space-Hitler. Well, he tries.
Riker is heading for a low-priority target based on rumors of Cardassian military buildup which was set to roll over the Federation. So the good news is this may be something a little more than just a crime of opportunity and passion. Even the half-feral transporter clone of Will Riker has enough ingrained tactical and strategic experience to pull something this high-risk for an actual purpose. This doesn’t slip by Kira, who points out Riker could be playing a much more terrorist-y terrorist. She confronts him with the fundamental truth – if you’re a terrorist, you don’t get to call yourself a hero.
Sisko, meanwhile, has discovered the pattern to the Defiant decoy attacks. He suggests they check out the target planet, Orias III, and the Obsidian Order vetos. Immediately suspicious to Dukat, and we as the viewers must immediately suspect that Tom is right. Korinas goes so far as to threaten the destruction of any Cardassian ship to enter the Orias system. Meaning they have the means to do so, and something to protect.
The Cardassian separation and unaccountability of the military and intelligence services is finally coming home to roost – in theory both bodies answer to a civilian authority, but in practice… well, it’s hard to imagine a civilian authority that can actually rein in a domestic spy agency. Womp womp. Again, compare and contrast with the Romulan Tal’Shiar.
A Cardassian ship has located the Defiant, but it’s on the run to Orias system. Korinas’ own Keldon-class warships – the ones the Obsidian Order isn’t supposed to have (picture if the NSA had their own Ticonderoga-class cruiser. Dukat is possibly even less pleased about the Order having ships than he was about Tom Riker grabbing the Defiant. Kira is trying desperately to talk some sense into Thomas Riker, and almost hits home.
Sisko’s got a play now. The Defiant will have scans of the Orias system, so if he can get Dukat to accept the surrender of Thomas Riker and his crew, Sisko will give that sensor data to Dukat and get to not have his shiny new ship blown up. And we get to find out which Dukat cares more about – the Defiant, or the Order’s secrets. There’s some horse trading that ends with the Cardassians getting Riker, letting everyone else go, and not executing him. Now, to see if they can pull it off.
The Defiant is a tough little ship. One salvo takes out 70% of a full-sized cruiser’s shield capacity, and it can maneuver its way out of the way of most of the return fire, allowing them to survive just long enough to get the call from Dukat. Kira’s earlier psychological gambit pays off, and Tom Riker is now in a race to surrender to Dukat’s ships rather than the Order’s. The standoff lasts just long enough for Dukat to doubt the loyalty of the Order to Cardassia, Kira promises to rescue Tom Riker somehow, and we finish with the aftermath implied. No last-minute speeches, just the rigged trial of a man who probably helped save Cardassia from itself, and has to pay the price.