In which a space-battle last for five hours, Sisko appeals to Deus Ex Machinae, and Dukat winds up a few bases short of a field.
When last we left our heroes, Sisko had planned a daring assault to retake Deep Space Nine, Rom is about to be executed, the Dominion are about to take down the minefield, Odo’s been compromised by the Founder, and Sisko’s fleet is outnumbered 2-1. As the two fleets face off, waiting for engagement, we see all sorts of ship classes moving around, including some single-pilot-looking craft like those in Academy training. It’s what the Bajorans used during the Occupation, so they must be able to punch through or at least weaken Cardassian shields enough to be viable. The Klingons never showed up, so Starfleet is going to have to punch through on their own. Of course, once they get to Deep Space Nine, they’ll have to get through Starfleet’s upgraded defenses as well. Sisko’s plan is to get the Cardassians to break off from the main fleet and create a hole. Miles and Julian start reciting the Charge of the Light Brigade and Nog tells them to shut up. Also, for some reason Bashir is on the bridge. Is that because all the sparks get routed to the bridge consoles as a matter of course, or just so that he can treat the command staff as quickly as possible because he has to be somewhere?
The Cardassians don’t seem to be moving much, nor are they firing back much. Presumably the small craft are too hard to get a lock on and staying comfortably away from the main firing arcs of the capital ships. In fleet engagements of this size, it suddenly becomes important for these ships to check their fire in case they miss, even with energy weapons that attenuate over time.
Dukat, Weyoun, Damar, and the Founder oversee the strategy, with Dukat showing off. Dukat plans to open a hole in their defenses as a trap. Damar also raises valid security concerns about Kira, Leeta, and the rest of the resistance, and Dukat reminds him to carefully spin it so they have deniability with the Bajorans. He was doing so well, until he oversteps regarding Ziyal. Most of his concerns are valid – the Kira resistance’s next plan is to bomb the station computer to shut down the minefield efforts when Damar comes to shut them down and take them for questioning and make suggestive comments about Leeta’s chest.
Dukat baits the trap by having a few ships peel off, just as one of the Cardassian capital ships blows up. I suppose it makes sense – all they need to do is wait, so rather than breaking formation they can present an impenetrable wall and prevent any of the larger Federation ships from getting close, while weathering what losses they need to. What do we want to bet Dukat’s showboating and ego cost him the victory here? Sisko suspects a trap, but the opportunity needs to be taken anyway. Once they get into the thick of things, the Dominion turns out to be jamming inter-ship communications.
Dukat and Weyoun continue to get on each other’s nerves, with five hours left to go before the reinforcements. While Weyoun counsels caution and begins planning the Occupation of the Federation, Dukat double-fists some celebratory booze. Their plans will start with razing Earth to the ground, which even Dukat balks at, although not for the reasons you think. To Dukat, it’s just not victory unless the face you’re grinding beneath your boot is apologizing for having been so wrong. In fact, he states his deepest regret is that the Bajorans don’t see what a nice dictator he was, all things considered. Weyoun enjoys this little insight into Dukat’s deep, deep personality flaws.
Odo is having a crisis of conscience, trying to properly prioritize The Link against all the friends he used tohave, at which time the Founder makes the tactical error of letting him know that Kira’s been arrested. Kira will be killed to shed Odo of his most powerful attachment to the Solids, and because the Founder may have stepped just a bit too fast in her conversion of him.
The battle, which has been going for three hours or more by now, is still hot, and the Defiant is making it through the line. Things look rough when the Klingons show up from out of nowhere, flanking the Dominion troops and breaking a hole open. The Defiant is the only ship to make it through, and the deadline is in three hours – it was a five-hour battle. Dukat is not pleased, but trusts in the ability of Terok Nor to fend off a lone ship.
Quark’s slipped under the radar as a member of the resistance, and grabs Ziyal to see about… some plan. He’s smuggling some special souffle in to Kira, which is mainly just bait for the guard to examine while they tranq him. By this time, they’ve got 90 minutes left before the minefield is detonated. Quark makes an attack on the holding cells, and for all that he’s a terrible hostage-taker, he’s quick enough on the trigger when it matters. The plan to take down the computer core is back on, and there’s no more time for subtlety.
Weyoun goes into Odo’s room to deliver the news that the resistance has escaped, and to get his gods to Ops for protection. Odo’s going to stay in his quarters, and doesn’t seem too concerned about the running firefight. Kira and Rom were pretty cornered until the Bajoran security forces, led by Odo, come to the rescue, with 40 minutes left on the clock. Rom’s not going to make it, so instead they disable the weapons so they won’t be able to deactivate the minefield, because apparently there are no auxiliary craft or docked ships around to set it off.
The Defiant is cutting it awfully closely, with four minutes to go, and Dukat is getting incredibly antsy. But they make it in time, and Rom disables the weapons just barely too late. Sisko’s got a plan B – going into the wormhole. The station can’t blow him out of the sky, since Rom sabotaged the weapons, and the Defiant has one last chance. They come to rest in the wormhole, facing down the Dominion fleet inside the extremely delicate phenomenon. He’s about to open fire when the Prophets pull him in.
They don’t want to let him die yet, they need him to ‘continue the game.’ They have other plans than letting him have a heroic last stand, so he demands that if they won’t let him sacrifice himself, that they remove the need for him to do it. For being an uppity Corporeal, the Prophets exact a price – he’ll never get to settle down and retire on Bajor, and then they send him back. When he goes back, the Jem’Hadar ships vanish, taken away by the Prophets.
And when the Defiant leaves the wormhole, Dukat and the Dominion are stunned that their ships aren’t in pursuit. With 200 more Starfleet ships broken through the line, they prepare to abandon the station, to Dukat’s comic and overwrought chagrin. As he starts to fall apart, Damar steps up. Dukat’s going nuts, and goes to get Ziyal for the evacuation. The Founder and Weyoun take all this in stride, but Dukat’s not doing as well. Sadly for him, Ziyal’s not going back to Cardassia, and she seemingly completes his fall from sanity when she admits to helping Kira escape. Of course, what really does it is when Damar kills her for the betrayal. Dukat forgives her as she dies in his arms, and the only thing he had keeping him grounded dies with her.
There are many reunions to be had with the triumphant return of the Federation to the station, but no happy ending for Garak. Or for Dukat, who’s in a fugue state in a holding cell, reliving her last moments of life in despair. He even forgives Sisko, and gives back the baseball.