In which Jadzia experiments with shrinky-dinks.
We are aboard the Defiant, investigating a ‘subspace compression’ phenomenon. Sisko is delighted to be back to doing some pure science instead of combat, and they’re taking the Federation’s top warship because a) it’s closer, b) Starfleet Command decided that after Sisko’s hallucinatory breakdown he needed some downtime, and c) Sisko will be damned if he lets anyone touch his ship without him. So they’re sending in a bout of idiocy usually reserved for Voyager, highly skilled and trained officers in a runabout to be miniaturized by the phenomenon, and keeping a tractor beam trained on the shuttle because that interplay of forces has been vastly studied on unmanned probes and determined to be sa- oh wait no what was I thinking?
We do know that the ship will be shrunk down, and Nerys, even after working side-by-side with Federation types for years, is not over how silly this sort of nonsense is. Even Worf’s on board, as the data will help them figure out transwarp technology somehow. But Kira’s just enjoying the mental image of Dax, and probably Miles and Bashir in case anything goes wrong with the shuttle or the crew. Worf is supposed to be writing a poem about this epic adventure. Soon enough, the shrinkage becins, and they close the blast shielding to keep out gamma radiation. Okay, and in their defense they have tested this on probes, but just as we’re all being reassured, the Defiant comes under attack and the tractor beam stalls out. The Rubicon comes untethered, and they have to make an emergency warp jump. The Defiant, meanwhile, is boarded and with most of the bridge crew out of commission, Sisko and Nog are forced to surrender.
When everyone wakes up, the Rubicon is pretty broken and flying blind on both sensors and visuals. All they have is the Defiant transponder. The Defiant is also hosed – the Jem’hadar boarders will have half an hour before they can move and hours more before warp capability. Also, there’s squad politics as one of them is an elder on his last mission before retirement. He’s wise enough to think the First of this mission is an idiot for declaring victory so quickly, but such are the follies of youth. I kind of hope the old guy makes it. The Vorta is pleased with how the Jem’Hadar bred in the Alpha quadrant are playing out, and the politics of the situation is on whether the Alphas or the older Gammas will prove superior. To that end, First Alpha tells Second Elder Gamma to go get Sisko, and then one of the other underlings to start redecorating.
Worf is in the middle of self-recriminations, and Sisko tries to reassure him that the Rubicon is probably fine and on the way home. My question is, based on the title of the episode, if they hit an emergency warp and shrouded the shuttle in a bubble of distorted space-time when exiting the anomaly, would they have scaled back up properly? And if they didn’t, would their warp drive move them according to a scaled-down velocity? Either way, Sisko’s on deck for the bridge.
The Rubicon has made it to the Defiant just as it stops transmitting, and when they get the shutters open they realize the problem. They did not, in fact, return to their normal size, although in this case it’s because they left ‘by a different path.’ Come on, guys. Step up the technobabble. Their method for resizing themselves will be to go back in and follow their original path back out. But first they have to get help from the Defiant, and plan to do so by flying in through some of the plasma vents.
First Kudakatan is a bit grateful for Sisko’s role in his creation, but isn’t going to go so far as to say ‘thank you.’ Instead, he’s going to make Sisko help him fix the ship. Elder Second cautions the First not to let Sisko near any of the ship’s controls, and after observing this dynamic, Sisko doesn’t bother with subtlety as he starts taunting the two of them with a basic overview of a Class 7 Warp drive so that he can get some of his officers alongside.
Meanwhile, the Rubicon has made it into the vents of the Defiant, and Julian’s stiff upper lip comes mostly from making terrible size puns. While the Second takes Sisko off to the engine room, they chat about politics, because there’s more than one way to get information out of your captors and Gammas are perfectly willing to gripe about being phased out of leadership roles. The Alphas were designed almost from the ground up for combat in this quadrant and against these foes, whereas the Gamma is eventually savvy enough to realize that Sisko is playing him. You have to wonder precisely what that new psych profile is, since the Alpha First on this mission is behaving like a textbook Evil Overlord. The Defiant‘s impulse engines are up and running, which is bad news for the Rubicon as it’s still in the engine output systems, with plasma hot enough to vaporize the shuttle.
So impulse engines are not, in fact, reactionless thrust. We know from previous episodes that they also use a low-level warp field to reduce the ship’s mass enough that these relatively small thrusters can move the ship at reasonable speeds. Also, these channels are magnetically guided to prevent the plasma from eroding the ship from the inside out. Nice touch. O’Brien has to navigate them carefully and quickly, Innerspace-style, but run out of time when they come to an inspection hatch which is hopefully locked automatically while the engines are running, or else magnetically isolated from the superheated murderplasma in case someone trips and grabs it by accident. A hatch which should also be insulated against the temperatures and thus be able to withstand a weapons assault from the runabout.
In fact, it is neither of these things – they ram it open from the inside, spilling superheated engine plasma into the room and killing everyo- Nope, the hatch auto-closes. that’s a nice feature. They’ve made it to the interior and are now prowling along the engine room, which is full of Jem’Hadar being taught how to fix the engines. They get all up in one of the soldier’s faces before recognizing him, and fortunately he doesn’t see them. Then they hare off into a corner to complete sensor and comms repairs to get a sense of the situation.
They can see what Sisko’s trying to do to take control of the ship, but there are problems with bridge lockouts. Kira’s working on getting the repairs done – as slowly as possible, Worf is covering their tracks, and Nog is overriding bridge controls, but not fast enough. Here, the crew of the Rubiconcan help… if they can get to the bridge. The only way they can do that is if someone opes the door for them. No vents, apparently.
Sisko’s diplomacy style in the face of boarders is nothing like Riker and Picard’s. The situation does call for different tactics than trying to flim-flam a bunch of outclassed marauders, but Sisko, when called out, redirects blame to feed the resentment between the Gamma and the Alphas. He scores a mixed victory – no more interference, but an episode-length time limit. Fortunately, this gives the Rubicon the break they need.
The Defiant has security procedures that give even its crew trouble, which seems pretty terrible. If you’ve got the capability, you’d think a command code or two would be enough. You can’t build the capability in and also decide that the risk of someone’s command codes being stole is higher than the risk of the command codes being used legitimately. Sadly, the Jem’Hadar are too smart to be taken in easily. And one of the traits the Alphas were given is some measure of initiative, which is lacking in the Gammas. Since Worf can’t access the self-destruct, the backup plan is to sabotage the engines to break them once the ship hits Warp 1.
In order to access the bridge, they bump the door control. But to jigger the command codes, someone has to go EVA, which is impossible – their smaller lungs are no longer compatible with the outside air, by a factor of 2000. Except that since the circuit housings are airtight, Dax can beam over some compressed air for Miles to breathe. He’d have about 20 minutes, or ten since he insists Bashir go with him, and then has to stop the doctor from sitting on a circuit and frying himself.
Because this is a Jem’Hadar episode, the Ketracel White ritual must commence. I wonder if they’re still on borrowed time, of if they’ve managed to secure another supply. In fact, the supply looks pretty low, but more than that is the importance of the Alpha First completely dismissing the ritual words.
Bashir walks O’Brien through ignoring the disorienting perspective shift and imagining the maps he’s used to in his head, and they make progress. Unfortunately, the Jem’Hadar are cross-checking some data, so it’s going to come down to the wire with Julian wrestling with a cable. With the both of them suffering hypoxia and about to pass out, they fuse the last connection into place with a tiny little phaser, and Nog’s last attempt gets the protocols hit just as he and the rest of the crew get pulled away. Second Gamma has discovered their duplicity, and called the First in so they can butt heads again. Fortunately, the First is too rushed to heed the sensible warnings like ‘if they’ve had the warp drive repaired for an hour, what if they sabotaged the ship?’
The Rubicon makes itself known as the First heads up, delaying the destruct sequence from activating. Miniature photon torpeodes and phaser pulses are at least as effective as hand-phasers, although it’s a good thing that somehow ‘decreased space between molecules’ translates somehow to ‘lower-yield matter/antimatter explosions.’ Pretty sure everyone in that room should have vaporized. Also, since the phenomenon was described as decreasing the space between molecules, Bashir and Miles were two full-grown adults walking around on a circuit board and exerting like 100 kilograms of pressure on a space less than a centimeter wide. Federation materials science is top-notch if they managed not to break it with every step.
The Second’s last words are kind of tragic, honestly. Killed by the rigid adherence to command structure under a leader that got him killed, he can only recite dogma. Now that the Jem’Hadar are dealt with, they fix the runabout, deliver the Jem’Hadar to a prison colony (hopefully with a supply of ketracel white, or else those prisoners are going to become a problem for torture conventions real quick) and Worf reads Jadzia the first line of his poem. It’s not good at all, but fortunately it wasn’t real. Miles and Julian are trying to impress a dabo girl, and Odo suggests they might be a little shorter than they used to be. Odo’s learned something from solids after all.