In which Odo and Quark have a dance, friends realize how the war has changed them, and the giant boulder of death rolls ever closer.
Among Odo’s duties are building code manager, or maybe that’s just how much he loves messing with Quark, doing things like citing backless barstools as a hazard to public safety. Must be a slow crime day. Or perhaps these are just new barstools? No, definitely not, he’s just being a hardass, until Kira shows up to mellow him out. Of course, rather than enjoy his reprieve, he’s immediately about to try to take advantage of it.
Kassidy’s back, working as convoy liaison officer now that she’s been released from prison. It’s tedious, boring work, but she’s committed to doing it. Bashir’s been toiling away at paperwork too, and Kassidy has also noticed that Sisko’s been worn down by the war and getting mean. Worf rescues him from a moment of honest introspection with the receipt of a message that they can’t reply to – a distress call from an escape pod. A starfleet officer is in distress on an L-class, barely-habitable planet six days away at maximum warp. Sisko orders the Defiant diverted, because it’s always nice to save someone in need.
The officer, Captain Lisa Cusack, is transmitting on a rotating frequency for some reason, so two-way communication is difficult to establish. O’Brien has the signal on and is listening to her signal. Bashir gets cynical, but Miles is more or less getting to know her by the sound of her voice. Title drop!
Quark has put the barstools back, but that’s merely an opening gambit for his assault on Odo’s attention, by fabricating Odo’s monthiversary with Kira. Jake, who likes chaos, plays along just enough not to oversell it. Sorry, not chaos – character research for his crime novel.
O’Brien is still working on getting comms established, lisetning to Lisa talk about how dismal the planet she crashed on is, and now fielding questions from Kassidy about whether he’s uncomfortable having her aboard. He’s not, but it seems like Kassidy thinks Ben might be, and if her presence as a civilian isn’t unusual, it might be a problem with their relationship. Also, O’Brien may have fixed the comms up, because all of a sudden Lisa responds to one of his offhanded comments.
Lisa was the captain of the Olympia, a long-range survey ship set out to explore the Beta quadrant eight years ago. It picked up strange readings on its way home, and they fell into an energy barrier around the planet and crashed. Once they’re all gathered around the comms, she tells her story, and goes through survival checklists with Bashir to make sure she’s keeping up with habitation requirements, like regular injections of triox to keep oxygenated. She only has 150ml, so Bashir gives her the specs to ration it down to stretch the supply. She also needs people to talk to. Sisko offers to start.
His war updates start being depressing real fast. Unfortunately, that’s most of Sisko’s life, and not just recently. Lisa asks for good news, and hones in on his relationship status. With Kassidy. And picks up on his discomfort. She tries to relieve the tension with some of her own stories of… fraternization. Ben clearly needed a little levity.
For all their antagonism, it’s nice that when Odo picked up a gift for Kira, he immediately goes to Quark to check whether it’s appropriate. Or Good Enough. He’s adorably nervous, too. Quark reassures him that the gift is good, but it’s all about the presentation… And Quark selling him on a holosuite means that Quark will know when he’s occupied.
Bashir’s turn on Lisa duty starts with him being really distracted. Suddenly, something’s moving towards her in the cave, but it turns out to be just her messing with him for not paying attention. He’s been carried away with his work.
Quark is dealing with a buyer when Odo comes down, having chosen Paris, but also switching things up by changing the date he’s going to make the date. And Quark can’t get his accomplice back to change the arrangements. Jake’s going to get a lot of good material on how shady characters deal with wrenches thrown into their plans.
O’Brien is up next. He’s talking about the war too, but unlike Sisko, it’s about how the war’s changed him. They also bond over their mutual dislike of the idea of a ship’s counselor over just good friends, but since Miles is laying all of this on a complete stranger, there’s clearly a point to having a dedicated therapist on board after all. Once Miles hands off to Bashir, she gives him crap about his distraction with being so busy, but the triox she’s injecting isn’t working any more. The last vial is broken, and she only has two days left to survive the Defiant’s three-day journey.
The Defiant still can’t go above Warp 9 without shaking itself apart, but if they can solve that problem by siphoning power from the phasers into structural integrity, they might be able to make it. Kassidy comes up to the bridge so that Sisko can be awkward at her, as a lead-in to Sisko having to talk about it with Lisa.
Captain Cusack explains why Sisko is uncomfortable with Kassidy, as a random element on a dedicated warship. But I’m gonna have to go back to the ‘art’ on his wall. Last time he was schtupping someone who was on a starship with him, she died horribly during the Borg attack. Lisa’s just doubling down on the fact that Sisko can’t cross domains successfully, but I like my answer better.
Quark won’t be able to sell his crystals now that Odo swapped up the plans, and he laments with Jake the loss of the two hundred bars of latinum he was going to make. Quark knows better than even to try at this point. Quark makes a compelling case to Jake for why Odo owes him his happiness, and Odo happened to overhear it while hanging out hiding as a barrel of something. Now Quark’s just waiting for the blade to drop, when in walks Odo, dressed to the nines with Kira and asking for the holosuite. Quark turns his attitude around, and is thrilled to have ‘beaten’ Odo. Meanwhile, Odo and Kira discuss the wisdom of letting Quark get away with one profitable and apparently fairly harmless caper, but apparently Odo decided Quark was right. He owed him one.
The Defiant has made it to the planet and needs to scan the energy barrier in such a way as to not share Lisa Cusack’s fate. They don’t have much time, they made it into the system just as Cusack lost consciousness. And the Defiant can’t go through themselves without the engines crashing. They can’t beam in, either. A shuttle might work, since the impulse engines don’t use antimatter and are therefore not subject to the main problem with the field, but they’re also not sturdy enough to withstand the field. Probably. Sisko takes Bashir and O’Brien, because when you’re risking lives, you gotta take your best doctor and engineer along with the captain.
This shuttlepod looks very low-range and streamlined. It’s not a full runabout, it looks like its whole purpose is to go places that are too small for the already-tiny Defiant. They make it through with some hull damage, but not critical. They find no life signs, but they do find the crash site and the cave. They only have about twenty minutes before the hypoxia will kill Captain Cusack. I’m guessing they all load up on triox before they go out, but we don’t bother to show it. Bashir still finds no life signs, and soon it’s clear why. Captain Lisa Cusack’s remains are completely skeletal. She died three years ago. Miles speculates that the subspace signal was time-shifted by the barrier, and they’ve been talking to a corpse for a week. The best they can do is take her back to the Defiant and give her a proper burial, among the friends she made long after her death.
Jadzia explains the concept of an Irish Wake to Worf, who deeply approves. Sisko also goes to Kassidy to promise an explanation for why he’s been such a garbage boyfriend lately. Bashir leads off the speeches, and Miles follows up on the theme of relationships strained by the war, and maybe some healing begins, and they won’t have to be alone when they mourn the first of their group to die. But surely that’s a long way off.