In which Bashir’s bad choices come back to haunt him, and the CIA is recording your brainwaves and they like what they see.
Bashir’s faffing around with the Infirmary computer, downloading all the papers he’ll need for his medical conference on the pleasure-planet Casperia Prime. O’Brien’s dislocated his shoulder. Next day, he wakes up ready to head off, but has to head to Operations before leaving due to an all-hands call before his shuttle. Sadly, it’s an Internal Affairs meeting, and Deputy Director Sloane doesn’t look like he’s here for birthday cake.
Sloane is here to try to root out a suspected security breach, and the senior staff are suspended from active duty and on lockdown. Bashir will not be going to Casperia. Probably for the best, since last time he went to a medical conference he got abducted by the Dominion. Sloane even has his own security officers to sequester everyone in quarters. Even the replicators are shut down, for security no doubt. Bashir gets bored, drops a stylus, and finally gets his turn to be interviewed as he’s trying to find the pen. On his way to the wardroom, some heavily-armed security officers go charging down the halls, but this is ‘none of his concern.’
Bashir now has his one-on-one with Sloane, who seems much more genial than his first lighting and blocking suggest. In fact, Sloane’s first tactic is angling on on Bashir’s time in the Dominion prison, then on his work with the Enhanced. They banter back and forth for a very brief time, touching only on the most superficial of approaches to topics that could easily become fraught. Also, Bashir asks for breakfast, and when he leaves Sloane goes all dead-eyed. When he gets his breakfast, it’s Gach worms – he’s accidentally gotten Worf’s breakfast, and it just so happens that Worf had a pot of tea. We also find that his PADDs have been moved, and the stylus was even replaced under the couch, but sloppily.
Bashir gets a call from Miles, who’s evidently hacked something in his room to make the connection. O’Brien also warns Bashir that he was just grilled for two hours about the good doctor. Once the call ends, Bashir is called back to Sloane’s office, this time with a much less genial place setting. Here, Sloane drills down into Bashir’s time in the Dominion prison camp. He finds some discrepancy with Martok’s account of Bashir being in solitary for seven days, and Bashir’s insistence that it was five. According to Bashir, humans are more adaptable to incarceration than are Klingons.
Focusing on the escape, Sloane points out that the Dominion left a fully functional shuttle in orbit over their prison, left all the equipment needed to construct a beacon within reach, and may have deliberately let the group escape. He also offers that Bashir may not even know he’s working for the Dominion, due to something called Engrammatic Dissociation – cognitive dissonance. Sloane has decided that Bashir was broken by the Dominion and doesn’t even know it. When Bashir refuses to admit to being a spy, that’s the end of Good Cop.Bashir is taken to the security office, thrown into a cell, and we find out that Odo is gone and all the guards are thoroughly convinced of Bashir’s guilt.
Even Sisko can barely get access to Bashir. We find out that Sloane has a personal stake in this witch-hunt. Sisko is also insisting on being present for all further interrogation sessions, such as the one covering that time when Bashir turned down an opportunity to kill the Jem’Hadar and tried to cure them of their addiction instead. Even though that happened before Bashir ‘became’ an agent, Sloane insists it made him a good target for Dominion recruitment. Before they can fully refute this, Sloane moves on to the Enhanced. You know, the time a bunch of genetically modified humans recommended that the Federation surrender to the Dominion.
Sloane’s case rests on the core that Bashir covers his tracks so well that the lack of evidence is proof of its deviousness. He has been involved in quite a number of incidents, almost as many as any given member of the Enterprise D. And, in support of Sloane, Bashir’s entire career is predicated on lies about his genetic status. After all this, even Sisko’s willing to give a little to Sloane, at least on the question of memory blockage.
Next, Bashir is being shipped to Starbase 53 for ‘further questioning’ on a Starfleet Special Order which includes the phrase ‘any means necessary.’ The stick is supermax incarceration, and the choice on offer is a signed confession. But as soon as they lower the force field to escort him to the shuttle, a Cardassian ship already at warp beams him out and welcomes him like an old friend.
Weyoun explains the whole thing – Bashir is, in fact, a Dominion spy, and doesn’t even know it. Apparently, this is a repetitive conversation every time he gets pulled in for debriefing. They ‘broke’ him the same way his Enhanced determined that surrender was the right option – by showing him that it was the way to save the most lives. Weyoun is super nice about it, and even gets him the breakfast he ordered back during his interrogation. And this, among other common threads, makes Bashir suspect that Sloane is the real traitor.
Sisko and the Defiant are in hot pursuit of the Dominion ship, and beam over to rescue Bashir. Well, rescue might be a strong word. Once they get him back to prevent him from spilling Federation secrets, nobody’s inclined to see his side anymore. But things are breaking down now – when Julian goes for Miles, trying to get even a measure of truest, he grabs him by the injured shoulder, which isn’t injured anymore. It’s always the little things that give away the simulations.
At this point, Sloane ends the program, but the interrogation is still ongoing. At least until they pull the implant that’s been recording his brainwaves out of his head to get final confirmation of Bashir’s loyalty. From the moment he woke up (an hour after going to sleep) he’s been in Sloane’s loyalty test. Sloane isn’t IA either. He’s with a black ops corps called Section 31, doing loyalty tests and extrajudicial executions for the Greater Good. Section 31 has been operating in the dark since the original foundation of Starfleet, and now that Bashir’s proven loyal, they want to recruit him. And Sloane wants to paint himself as a Doctor Bashir for the whole federation – lying his way through the medical school of this metaphor in order to save the patient, no matter the cost.
Nor is Sloane even worried about Bashir exposing his secret after turning down the recruitment offer, which is immediate. They covered their tracks extremely well, to the point of having traceless transporters. And of course, Starfleet has no record of Sloane whatsoever. Command has neither confirmed nor denied Section 31s existence, but Odo explains its necessity. Section 31 is the Federations Tal Shiar, Obsidian Order. It’s a grim comparison, but if you want to be optimistic about it, the fact that nobody lives in constant fear of being black-bagged by Section 31 at least speaks to their competence as a secret police, even if you’re not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt about actual, honestly noble and humble intentions.
In the stinger, Sisko ‘suggests’ that Bashir put all that spy practice he’s gotten in the holosuite to the test, and infiltrate Section 31.