In which some children play war.
Quark’s is bustling faster than he can keep up with it. The drinks replicator is down, and since Nog is off on a trip to Ferenginar, and did a favor for Jadzia once, she’s covering for him. Quark is white-knighting pretty hard, although if he cleaned up his console once in a while he probably wouldn’t be having this problem in the first place.
Nog is taking Jake along to take a diplomatic message to the Nagus. They both suspect it’s about a proposal for a formal alliance, although Jake wasn’t supposed to be along in his Reporter hat. Once they clear the starbase defense perimeter, they’re set upon by a Jem’hadar squadron, passing by them to take out the starbase. Comms and sensors are jammed, and one of them peels off to take out Our Heroes.
They flee into Dominion space, because turning makes the Jem’hadar gain faster. Jake takes the time to taunt Nog with racial stereotypes as they get into a dogfight they’re destined to lose, but they’re rescued by the Defiant, or at least a Defiant-class ship. The USS Valiant. The Valiant is captained b a very young officer, and a very young crew. Red Squad, in fact, the exclusive cadet group that Nog wanted to join. Apparently part of their special training is that they get a dedicated Federation warship. Tim Waters is the acting captain, due to a battlefield commission after the actual captain died, and has been running the ship since.
On hearing some of their engine troubles, Nog offers some of his suggestions as a student of Chief O’Brien and regular worker on the Defiant. Meanwhile, Jake gets his arm fixed up and the history of the Valiant, which was supposed to be a 3-month training cruise, the cadets running a modern ship while the officers observed and critiqued. The Republic is also a training ship, but it’s a dinosaur and doesn’t leave the Sol system. Nog gets the more tactical history – they were on tour when the war caught up with them, and a Cardassian ship knocked out most of the real officers. The captain ran the repair control, they won the battle, and at that point ordered cadet Waters to take command. They’ve spent the last 8 months operating on their own, and based on his service, Acting Captain Waters makes Real Ensign Nog into Acting Chief Engineer Lt.C Nog. Welcome to the deep end, Ensign. Tim Waters has the kind of charisma that makes Nog want to follow him. I wonder how this is going to end.
In fact, the Valiant has a mission – there’s chatter about a new type of Dominion ship that needs solid intel, but the Valiant can’t catch up because their warp drive isn’t getting them fast enough. Starfleet gave this mission without knowing that the cadets were in charge, as the Valiant has been operating under radio silence. But Captain Waters has taken up the orders meant for Captain Ramirez. In truth, the orders were intended to go to a ship crewed mostly by cadets anyway. That make sit not as bad, right?
Conversation in the Mess Hall dies as soon as Jake walks in. Jake tries to ignore it, and focuses on the background of the CPO, from Tycho City, Luna. It’s his reporter instincts drawing her out. Tycho City is clearly a dome with artificial gravity, but the Federation colonization efforts did very little to try to adjust its solar rotation, so its day is a lunar month. And thinking about home makes her tear up a little bit, and even talk about meeting god.
Nog has finished O’Brien’s ajustments, violating all the same safety protocols to do it that O’Brien did. Once the immediate repairs are all done, Waters goes back to the ready room to pop some pills, then interrogate CPO Collins about her crying. One thing I want to note here is that the usual dynamic where one of the command team is firm and the other is friendly isn’t at play here. Water’s XO, Farris, doesn’t have the soft interpersonal-managerial skills of a Riker or a Chakotay. Also, Jake is in trouble for making Collins think about home. Seems like Waters is taking that job for himself, and encourages Jake to do a little more observing and reporting, and a little less interacting and gonzo journalism. Yes, he’s terming ‘interviewing participants’ as interference. Meanwhile, Acting Captain Waters is popping amphetamines and staying up all night.
Jake’s a little surprised to see Nog going native so quickly, but it got Nog on Waters’ side pretty quickly. Now that Nog solved the warp problem, they’ve found the new Dominion battleship, and Jake observes the bridge operations, and gets snarked at by XO Farris instead of either ignored or kicked off.
The probe scan goes off perfectly, and the Valiant has their data. Mission accomplished. However, Waters wants more. The ship is too dangerous to let live. They’ve identified a weak spot in the ship, some struts that will crumble when exposed to the right kind of radiation. Nog’s worried about all the removal of guidance systems they’d have to do to get the torpedo ready, as well as the range they’d have to fire it. That range is 300 meters, and Tim Waters’ argument in favor is ‘we started this job, we should finish it.’ Jake speaks up to object, but it only serves to set up some pins for Waters to knock down with some well-placed squad pride.
Jake chats with Nog about the task ahead, and it turns out he knows about the pills. However, Waters is spying on them. He overhears that Collins told Jake about the blockers, but at least Nog will stay in Waters’ good graces. Nog kicks Jake out, and then Jake gets thrown in the brig for crimes against crew morale. We get a nice little going-to-war montage and a we’re-gonna-kick-butt speech from the captain, and they’re ready to engage.
Nobody’s happy when they engage the Dominion Dreadnaught in person. Waters orders a close-in run to make it harder for the weapons to lock on, and the torpedoes readied. There was a line earlier about this ship being twice the size of a Galaxy-class starship, but it doesn’t feel real until you spend several seconds racing along the hull of the other ship.
On their second approach, the Valiant is getting blown to smithereens, but they manage to take their shot, and score a palpable hit. It looks like the dreadnaught is done for, but it weathers the hit without taking any crippling damage. Waters orders retreat, but gets blown out of his chair, and the Valiant is more or less done for. Most of the bridge crew are out or dead, and we probably won’t find out which because the ship’s going to blow. Nog takes Collins off the deck and orders evacuation. He remembers to rescue Jake from the brig, though. And while the dreadnaught picks off most of the escape pods, one manages to escape, and the Defiant picks up the signal.
Jake, Nog, and Collins were the only survivors. Jake and Nog discuss the story he’s going to tell, and Collins is there to fill in the details. Or interject more hero worship.