In which Nog comes of age, Quark gets a debt repaid, and Rom saves everyone twice.
Today is Rom’s coming-of-age ceremony. When a young Ferengi is about to start making his way in the world, it is traditional for him to sell the trinkets and treasures of his youth. Worf showed up as a personal favor to Sisko, perhaps in some sort of effort to help Nog connect with a highly successful alumnus who might have a tip or two about being an outsider and trailblazer for his species.
Now as far as the auction goes, I can’t help but wonder who the primary intended market for this sort of thing normally is. I mean, sure, Nog can expect the soft and lobeless Federation denizens to fail to put up a good haggle, and to drop a few credits out of charity, but back home? I guess it’s a good test of just how good you are, and how early you started accumulating really good stuff for the Coming of Age Yard Sale. Like pornographic holodeck programs possibly featuring Lwaxana Troi in her fictionalized youth. Worf’s even buying a tooth sharpener – presumably 24th century dental technology can regrow enamel.
Quark has finally gotten a shuttle in repayment of a debt for loaning his rich cousin startup money, and he drags Rom along to fix up how inevitably broken it is. Which it isn’t. Apparently, Cousin Gaela, moon-owning weapons merchant that he is, understands the value of a good reputation. For a shakedown cruise, Quark’s going to chauffeur Nog to Earth in his new ship. He’s even quoting John Maesfield, almost. Morn is in charge while Quark is gone – there are benefits to being a loyal customer. He and Odo have some pre-flight banter, and one might almost think that Odo suspects Quark of being up to something. He and Jake cherish one of their final hanging-0uts, and Bashir and O’Brien offer him the going-away present of a guidebook to Earth. He’s come a long way from the delinquent he used to be, and it’s a very poignant moment.
Quark is smuggling unstable kemacite, which Nog figured out based on the mass distribution in the shuttle during routine maneuvers. Kemacite is unstable, so they’re pushing the red line. As they approach earth, Nog’s wikicrawl has led him to the Bell RIots, where he finds a picture of Ben Sisko Gabriel Bell. Sadly, when they’re on approach, the ship won’t come out of warp. Turns out Gaela’s fine with killing Quark as long as there are no survivers, but fortunately for our heroes, Rom has evidently been listening in on the Starfleet Technobabble seminars. He’s going to vent kemicite to destabilize the warp bubble.
They wake up covered in sheets, in a familiar-looking set, with a cigarette-smoking army man watching them from behind one-way glass. He reports up to his superiors that the Martians are awake, and a calendar on the wall tells us it’s July, 1947. Roswell, if there was any doubt. They watch as the Ferengi bicker and argue in an unintelligble language.
The humans are split on the issue – Nurse Garland and her fiancee (and the president) want to talk, whereas the soldiers are about as quick with the sidearms as you might expect in a situation where advanced aliens are showing hostile intent. I would like to talk about how Quark barely understands doorknobs. Doorknobs are so 20th century.
Wainwright, the talker, tries to open up a dialogue, but evidently the Universal Translators (which the Ferengi have implanted in their heads) are busted. Nog recognizes the uniforms, though, and the time period. Quark likes his odds, apparently. Also, for a show where everyone speaks the same language except when swearing, they do a pretty good job of mutually uninteligible scenes. Oh, also, Beta radiation can interfere with Universal Translator function, which is why nuclear fission is never used by civilized species anymore. Particularly not to irradiate their own planet.
Quark is enthralled by the possibility of exploiting the markets of a species willing to smoke cigarettes, while the professor wants to bring in linguists to figure out their language. However, this proves unnecessary when Rom finally gets the UT working, so Quark can hustle the General. Sadly, he makes thee mistake of mentioning the atomic bomb, which isn’t going to go over well. Nog is doing much better exploiting the natives for some free handjobs.
Oh, also Odo’s here – he was shapeshifting as the dog, and he’s here to facilitate their escape so that he can place Quark under arrest for smuggling. Rom has the idea to use the kemacite to recreate the accident with the help of a ‘sufficiently powerful energy source.’ Quark disagrees – take over the planet, sell his 24th-century ship to the Ferengi, and establish Ferengi dominance over the quadrant. It may be the most patriotic he’s ever been. Also, it would be really convenient that everyone in the Alpha quadrant developed warp technology at about the same time, if we didn’t already know that some cultures just buy it. What do you imagine a single-planet species would pay for FTL drives? In Larry Niven’s Known Space, humanity is still paying it off with the lease of one of Neptune’s moons and the containment of an entire alien military-industrial complex.
Truman hasn’t approved a deal with Quark. He’s given leeway for how to handle the aliens to the military base, who are probably going to call in Jonathan Frakes. Rom’s general nervous demeanor has the right of it, but it’s a little late for them to start listening to him. Even Nurse Garland has betrayed them. I’m not sure why they expected sodium pentothal to work on aliens, though. Well, I mean, by the 24th century we know that most humanoid aliens come from the same base stock and can interbreed basically by accident, but back in the late ’40s they were just being silly for expecting that. Of course, torture is always an option.
Nog has guile that Worf would be proud of, but sadly he lacks the coordination of a warrior. Wainwright and Garland turn the tables, and they all make a daring escape fraught with close escapes and an 11th-hour rescue by Odo. There’s also a suggestion that Nurse Garland and Wainwright might somehow contribute to a stable time loop that creates the idea for the Federation… or at the very least, a pretty good TV show.
Ferengi shuttlecraft are evidently capable of withstanding near-ground-zero temperatures from an atomic blast long enough to time travel back to their native time. Hopefully via the same path they took the first time, because if they’re off by a frankly reasonable week-per-century Nog might miss his entrance ceremony.
What I appreciate most about this is that we’re so used to Ferengi being a bunch of scheming, backstabby, profit-hungry monsters that it’s nice to see them juxtaposed with 20th century Americans. It’s a nice little reminder of how we can go as a species from where we are now.
Also it’s nice to see Rom occasionally get his punches in.