In which we learn that the comet in the credits is actually Hale-Bopp
Ezri, Odo, and Bashir are hanging out at Quark’s, and Odo surprises everyone by ordering some spring wine. Turns out it’s for Kira, though. He’s not a huge fan of this whole Forgiveness thing. He also misses her enough to go to church. Mostly, he just Wants to Believe in something, but fortunately it turns out that at least Kira has a very pragmatic attitude towards faith – it’s good if it’s useful and nobody needs to get upset. Remember, though, that even though Kira is very serious about her religion, she’s never tried to shut down a school because they weren’t teaching Creationism.
Vedek Fala has come to the station to visit Kira, from his spiritual retreat. He’s somewhat atypical for a vedek, in that he goes on sabaticals fairly regularly. He used to be her sunday-school teacher. He’s also brought her something – a small glowing crystal that teleports her to Empok Nor, which he is not in the least surprised about, and which drops her right in the middle of a group of red-armbaded Pah-Wraith worshippers. Excuse me, the ‘true prophets.’ Guess who the lader of this little cult is?
Dukat will eventually get to why he kidnapped her. I’m going to assume he’s got a better answer than “I’ve always wanted to get into the pants of the women in your family.” He’s put on a Bajoran-style earring, and starts evangelizing about the pah-wraiths and how they’re so much cooler than the Prophets that stood by to allow the Bajorans to be subjugated. The conclusion is, of course, that the pah-wraiths are the True Gods of Bajor, who got cast out for wanting to be more interventionist in Bajoran history. Your mileage my vary, but dressing up the Problem of Evil in such a way that it’s answered by the Prime Directive makes the Federation a little more uncomfortable for me. And of course, the ancient texts tell only one side because history is written by the winners.
Dukat claims to be in direct communication with the pah-wraiths as their Emissary. Since Kira literally works for Bajoran Jesus (or maybe Bajoran Joseph Smith) you’d think she’d be a little less skeptical about Dukat being the Bajoran Antichrist. He admits that he started on this path for selfish reasons, but now that he’s had them implanting ideas directly into his brain he’s had a religious experience and now he sees the truth of their message. Ooh, and he’s back to pushing the blame for the occupation onto others. This time, it’s the Prophets. And until Kira can learn to accept how cool Dukat is now, she’ll be his prisoner until she agrees to be his queen.
Deep Space Nine has discovered her absence, and it doesn’t take O’Brien long to find the dominion transporter trace. Those transporters work over distances of at least 3 light-years, so the hunt is on.
Kira’s old friend Vedek Fala shows up to explain his part in this – he joined the Cult of the Pah-Wraith near the end of the occupation,as the only thing to make the Occupation make sense. He claims their cult is peaceful, Sisko-stabber aside. Fala also claims that the ‘True Prophets’ have washed Dukat clean. Nerys is still having trouble with one of the lessons of enlightenment – forgiveness. So Fala takes her on a tour of this no-longer abandoned station.
There’s only one operational fusion generator. They’ve had to convert the lower levels into hydroponics and they have regular cargo shuttles, with all the exits guarded. Now that Fala is here to explain the community to her, she’ll get to wander around, talk to people, find out that Dukat is running breeding restriction experiments with his flock, all that good stuff. It’s a celibacy thing, really. The irony of Dukat being the one to push for this is not lost on Nerys, but apparently it’s really just a since of how cool and Emisarry-ish Dukat is now.
After a brief conversation with a less evangelical member, it’s time for services. Led by Dukat, of course. Kira takes the opportunity to grab a weapon, hold Dukat at phaserpoint, and let his devoted followers body-shield him in a moment of solidarity rather than just taking the opportunity to run. Now she’s knocked out and wasted her chance, and Dukat is really getting off on the devotion. It’s all he’s ever wanted, really.
When she wakes up, her shirt’s off, so that Dukat could ‘tend to her bruise.’ He’s also made food for her, and she’s seriously contemplating stabbing him with the silverware. Then they get into an argument over Kira Meru, which Kira now knows what she’s talking about enough to argue over. And because of this, Dukat asserts that Kira is his final test from the Pah-wraiths. If he can turn her, he can turn anyone. The out for this scene is that Mika is going into labor, and about to be the first Pah-wraith cultist parent. Kira, watching, goes back on her previous statements of tolerance with Odo – she’s fine with Klingon religion, but pah-wraith cultism is heresy. So much for ‘anything you find meaning in is valuable.’
The baby is born, and it’s half-Cardassian. It’s a miracle! Dukat plays the only card available to him, and claims it as a miracle of in-utero transformation. Conformity pressure takes it from there. Well, that and the backfire effect. Even her old friend Vedek Fala tells her the idea that Dukat’s sleeping with his flock is fake news. Kira has managed to convince Fala to take her to Mika’s husband to discuss the miracle. He’s afraid she’s going to make ‘unfounded accusations’ but of course she really doesn’t have to. Meanwhile, Dukat and Mika are meeting in an airlock, and she admits she might not be able to lie to her husband’s face. Dukat has a plan to clean this up. It involves Mika waiting in an airlock while he leaves.
He’s gone by the time Nerys arrives to find Mika suffocating on the floor, but just in time to save her. Dukat plays concerned, and Kira overplays her correct analysis of the situation, forgetting that everyone here loves Dukat and hates her, or at least pretends to. At least the husband, Benyen, is coming around. So Dukat prays to the pah-wraiths to stop Mika from waking up, so that the cultists won’t find out the truth and turn from the wraiths. The answer, it seems, is to hold services when it’s not time for services.
His speech is that the Pah-wraiths told him they were sending him his final vision. They’re calling all the cultists to join them in battle by shedding their corporeal bodies. He’s brewing up some flavor-ade so they can all kill themselves. The good news is that Dukat has called DS9 to tell them where Kira is. He’s also weirdly braggy about the suicide method, pointing out that because the poison he’s going to use reduces the body to dust, nobody will be able to verify his corpse is among those of his followers. It’s good to know that if he’s sincere, he’s going to cease to be a problem, and if he survives, he hasn’t quite managed to convince himself. I mean, not good,but it’ll be nice to finally know where he stands. He’s got Kira convinced, though.
Kira’s managed to blow her door open and escape, now that there are no guards, and races to stop the suicide. She tackles Dukat before he can take his pill, and knocks over the tray with all the others. Fala gives him a replacement, which he’s suddenly hesitant about taking. Once it all turns sour on him, he gives up on them as followers, has another villain breakdown, and beams out. Tragically, Vedek Fala still has faith in his prophets, though. He takes his pill. When the Defiant comes to rescue everyone, she has a conversation with Odo, and she’s pretty sure he’s sincere at this point.