In which Sisko, and Bajor, have a crisis of faith.
Miles and Julian are back from a holoadventure where they were probably bombing Germany, and Miles’ quarters are more of a mess than seems humanly possible. Miles is a bit of a hoarder, and has let things get a little out of hand. Keiko is coming back from her survey, though, so it’s time to get cleaning. I wonder if he gets to just transport everything into a cargo bay temporarily?
Whether it’s because they miss each other or because Keiko has just done something fulfilling with her training, there’s very little of the familiar relationship drama between the two of them. And yeah, I am making those arguments at least 51 but no more than 75% Keiko’s fault. Sue me. Oh, also, Keiko is pregnant. Blindsides O’Brien a little, because he was looking forward to trying more often.
One of the station’s Vedeks is bringing a young married couple up to receive the Blessing of the Emissary. Sisko’s a lot less resentful about it now than he’s been in the past, at least outwardly. He’s still not thrilled with being a religious icon, but he’s making his peace with the situation. Not that this could possibly be setting up any kind of plot theme, since it’s immediately interrupted as what looks a whole lot like a Bajoran light-sail ship falls out of the wormhole. The bouey on the other side didn’t detect anything entering on the other side, though. The passenger is beamed to the infirmary, where he informs them, once he wakes up, that he’s the Emissary. Aaaaawkward.
See, his lightship was caught in an ion storm, he was greviously injured, and then his ship was sucked into the wormhole to commune with the Prophets. His experience was much like Sisko’s, except for the time spent in transit – he left Bajor 200 years ago, was in space for a few days, and showed up on Deep Space Nine. He is Akorem Laan, famous lost poet of Bajor, perhaps the greatest poet on Bajor. He’s also from pre-occupation when families were sorted into castes called D’jarra. One guess as to why that tradition ended.
Sisko’s been reading the prophecies, and has decided that they make more sense when applied to Laan. Since prophecies are nebulous and can be interpreted multiple ways, though, and also since Sisko claims not to believe in destiny, this seems a foolish exercise. He’s really just looking for an excuse to lay the burden down. It’s going to make his workload a bit lighter, certainly.
Miles is… not super enthused about having another kid. Neither is Worf. But O’Brien was looking forward to some quality time with Keiko, and the time between knowing there’s another baby on the way and actually being able to hold it in his arms and be an adoring father are going to be rough.
Odo’s philosophical questions about whether Sisko was ever really the emissary or not are not particularly appreciated, but they do seem sort of important. The Prophets, after all, exist outside of linear time, and they also seemed pretty sanguine about the path they laid Sisko on. Presumably they might have some awareness of this chain of events, if they can manage to think down to this level. But also, if they have an actual purpose in mind at all, then they probably should be checking the timelines.
Anyway, Akorem gives his accession speech, talking about the Cardassian occupation as a wound to Bajor’s soul in the form of straying from the path of the D’jarra system. For someone who was just talking about how Faith feels from the inside, Kira doesn’t seem all that enthused about this plan. But I guess that’s the thing, you gotta believe what you believe. Sisko’s not happy either – caste systems aren’t often to be found in the Federation. It’s all voluntary at this point, by which I mean ‘enforced by social pressure,’ but Laan expects that by the next election, nobody would even think of electing a farmer to political office. And hopefully people would start enforcing this with legal sanctions. And since, yes, this isn’t the self-determination that the Federation demands of its members, Bajor would have to withdraw its application if they return to a caste system.
Quick aside – I’m starting to suspect that Bajorans have some form of minor touch-telepathy. Yes, it’s because of the grab-your-earlobe-to-read-your-aura thing. Laan gets the same reading off of Sisko that Opaka did back in the day. Might be charlatanism, or delusion, but it’t be foolish to throw out some actual telepathic-style gift as a possibility.
Already we’re starting to see some of the weird aspects of the D’jarra system – Kira accidentally steals a chair from a Bajoran woman of a lower-ranking caste. The Bajorans take the will of their Emissary seriously, and Kira mentions that if Sisko had asked them to do anything, no matter how travailing, they would have tried. One has to wonder if the Bajorans appreciated how little he really asked of them. Sisko surely didn’t, and now he’s having some dreams. Possibly prophet-guided. This is something the Bajorans call an orb-shadow, which is caused by a buildup of neurotransmitters and which the Bajorans believe happens if you’ve been ignoring the advice you got from a full-on Orb encounter.
Kira Nerys, of the artist caste, is garbage at sculpting, and her D’jarra is not fitting her very well. The Vedek suggests that this is because she’s still clinging to something that’s not her D’jarra – the uniform. The military life. And speaking of adjusting to new lifepaths, O’Brien is trying so hard to dive into the family life, but Molly’s not… well, she’s a toddler. She’s not cooperative. That’s how toddlers work. Starfleet Command isn’t that thrileld with how the Bajor situation is going – they’re getting ready to decide that he’s failed his mission, despite them being the ones that pushed him not to be the local space-christ. This is the absolute worst time for Kira to tell Sisko she’s resigning to follow her Path.
O’Brien meeting up with Julian is like two exes meeting awkwardly in a bar. Quark was even reserving the holosuite for them. I don’t know who I feel worse f0r – Bashir and O’Brien for having their Bachelor Time squished, or Quark. He looks like a kid in a custody battle.
Someone’s dead on the promenade. The Vedek of the temple killed him, and unabashedly admist to it. After all, the dead man’s family are corpse-cleaners, and he wouldn’t resign from the temple to pursue that D’jarra. Can’t have an Untouchable running services. And the Vedeks have to set the proper example. When Laan hears about this, his response is, more or less, ‘meh, you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette.’ Thus, Sisko challenges Laan for the role.
Of course, such a challenge could lead to civil war, and neither of them wants that. The nice thing about Laan as the Problem of the Week is that it’s perfectly clear he thinks he’s doing the right thing, as contrasted with Adami Winn who’d be fine with a civil war if she thought her side would triumph. Sisko proposes that they both go to the wormhole and ask the Prophets themselves. It’s not all that long before the Prophets deign to speak.
So, right off the bat, Ben and Laan are addressed as “The Sisko” and “the one who was injured.” Seems pretty clear who mommy’s favorite is. Akorem’s staking his whole claim on being the first to find the wormhole, but of course that means squat to the Prophets. Meanwhile, Sisko’s greater familiarity with the Prophets, and also Federation Command-Track Ad-Hoc Speechgiving Classes allow him to navigate the conversation a little easier. Also probably his lack of religious dogma surrounding this particular conversation.
So, because Sisko taught them about linear time, they tell Laan that the D’jarras belong in the past, and can never exist again. But, just to twist the knife, they brought Laan to the future just to teach Sisko a lesson. Now that Sisko has learned the lesson, the Prophets offer to let Laan die, but Sisko asks them to allow him to return to Bajor safely. Once again, it’s refreshing to have a ‘problem’ that doesn’t necessarily have to be a ‘bad guy.’ The prophets keep insisting that they are Of Bajor, but this time they add that Sisko is, as well. When the conversation ends, Sisko is alone on the shuttle.
To tie everything into a neat little bow, Keiko ‘tricks’ O’Brien into maintaining his regular night out with Julian. They both know what’s going on, and it’s great. Kira gives Sisko one of her abominable sculptures, and everyone’s relieved that the prophets (by way of Sisko) don’t want the D’jarras anymore. Oh, also, Akorem Laan’s famous unfinished poem ‘the call of the prophets’ is, in fact, finished. You can’t really rely on standard time travel mechanics when sentient beings are directing it, but one thing is for sure – Sisko doesn’t resent giving out blessings anymore.