DS9: S7E13: “Field of Fire”

In which Ezri summons a murderer, attends a Gallagher show, and becomes Carlos Hathcock.

Quark’s is bustling along, and Bashir organizes a toast to Lt. Hector Ilario, for meritorious conduct as a fighter pilot. We don’t see much of Starfleet fighter pilots, but apparently they exist and Nova Squadron’s exercises had a purpose. Then again, his achievements are for piloting the Defiant, which is not exactly a fighter unless we’re drastically redefining the term. Julian and MIles leave to go to the holodeck, and soon it’s wound down to just Ilario, Ezri, and Nerys closing out the bar. Ezri walks him back to his quarters, him stumbling a bit on the real alcohol,and on the hitting-on of Ezri. She leaves him ruminating on his successes.

Ezri gives love a bad name.

Next morning, Ezri is having her tea only to hear a commotion outside – there’s a full investigation team in Ilario’s quarters, and a very dead Ilario, with an unfamiliar wound. A projectile wound, in fact, propelled by chemical reaction.

A tritanium bullet, which was the trademark of the TR-116 rifle, designed for use in energy-dampened environments by Starfleet Security. They got around to designing against something like that at last, but it never went into mass-production in favor of ‘regenerative phasers,’ which presumably recharge their own power cells. Presumably those are a lot more generically useful, and if you knew you were going into an environment where energy weapons wouldn’t work, presumably you just wouldn’t go. However, even though it never went into mass-production, the replicator files are available for starfleet officers. If it works, don’t throw it away.

Miles has found something else interesting – the bullet only traveled about 9 centimeters. But Odo is enough of a hobbyist in old detective novels to know that there are no powder burns, so the killer couldn’t have been that close. And time-of-death was ten minutes after Ezri left.

The officer corps are in shock over this incredibly rare phenomenon. Murder isn’t really a Thing that Happens. Not to Starfleet officers, not by Starfleet officers. Miles, Julian, and Ezri are all struggling with not blaming themselves. Though Ezri reminds us that she knows what it’s like to be a killer. It’s all still there, and that night she has some weird dreams, culminating with Joran appearing to play music, and to try to seduce her into embracing her darker side in pursuit of the murderer.

Fortunately for her, she’s already awake from the nightmare when Sisko calls her to the habitat ring to the site of the next murder. Same method, but this victim has been on-station for three years, whereas Ilario was ten days into his transfer. Since it seems unlikely they knew each other, they don’t have a lot to go on as far as motive, and while Sisko tells Ezri to focus on the psychology of the murderer (hello Joran) Miles focuses on the why of the weapon. Why a unique rifle that has to be replicated instead of a common phaser?

The advantages Bashir suggests for a rifle over a phaser are that the rifle might make a better long-range weapon. That doesn’t pan out very well on reflection, though – the station doesn’t have all that many straightaways long enough for that to be an issue, and even if it did, phaser beams and bolts don’t seem to, and wouldn’t be expected to, experience dropoff. Although, I’m not sure to what degree that matters. Bashir also suggests that the killer might have a special relationship with the rifle. This comes from a book about Davy Crockett, and he segues into the anecdote about Crockett being such a crack shot that he could hit a target after ten ricochets. This gives Miles the idea – displaced targeting.

“Wow, I sure am glad I didn’t accidentally shoot either of you.”

The question, though, is how you set up an alternate trajectory for a bullet that’s shorter than a straight line between two points? Well, it turns out there’s a known way to effectively shorten the distance between two points, as O’Brien demonstrates in the next scene with a melon, a rifle, and a microtransporter on the barrel.

Microtransporters, it seems, can operate quickly and allow the transported object to retain its momentum – something you definitely do not want in a transporter that brings people. This, along with an ‘exographic targeting sensor’ that allows you to scan through walls (for an application whose uses outside of this specific one escape me) would allow the killer to shoot anyone on the station, from anywhere on the station. And the signature is so weak that it can’t be traced back.

Since we’ve solved the how with technology, but can’t attack the who, that question is going to come down to Ezri, psychology, and Joran. She’s having trouble making the connection herself, and has a jump scare when Worf turns out to have been following her, and without knowing the context, he reminds her that no matter how unpleasant it might be, she will get the help she needs to solve the problem in front of her. And so she invokes Joran. Joran’s enjoying being listened to, after so long being ignored. And he has some advice – hold the rifle. Aim it. Pick a target. Inhabit the killer.

The model, presumably the one O’Brien replicated and modified, is just sitting in a storage locker. I really, really hope that access to this room is restricted and logged. The killer already has one of their own, of course, but still.

The exographic targeting sensor is honestly the niftier piece of technology. It is the x-ray specs from the back of a comic book, displaying color gradients in yellowscale but otherwise in true fidelity, including, at one point, in the space between the bulkhead and the EPS conduit inside. There is no such thing as privacy in the Federation where these exist. Inded, Joran guides her to look into the quarters, and she does so. The reticle of the sensor (which must be linked to the barrel of the rifle, and the transporter) even blinks when it’s pointed at a person. This thing clearly knows it’s in a lethal application.

Also, Joran is trying to get her to pull the trigger, even though the gun shouldn’t be (and isn’t) loaded. He’s still reveling in the feeling of power that comes with premeditated murder, and it spills over a bit onto Quark, and they hurry back to Ezri’s quarters, to examine the quarters for what the killer was looking for. She starts with Ilario’s quarters, then moves on to Lt Vanderweg’s. In both cases, photos catch her eye, but there’s no connection between the acquaintances in the photos either.

“Shut it down, Lemon.”

Joran is disappointed in her lack of predatory instinct. However, when she thinks they’ve caught the killer and he’s getting away, not only does she trip him but she pins him and gets ready to stab him with a table knife. Odo has to stop her. It turns out that Bertram, the Alec-Baldwin-looking guy Ezri almost stabbed, accessed replicator patterns for the rifle, but he’s an innocent weapons collector who was on Bajor during the first murder.

After this incident, Ezri is ready to banish Joran back to the depths, but he’s saved at the last moment by another murder. Joran investigates the scene and makes disparaging comments about the dead crewman’s wife, co-husband, and ugly kids. Bolians don’t conform to the human monogamous patterns that seem to still exist in the 24th century, and we can speculate on whether that’s biological or cultural. We can also speculate that Ezri saw the photo and some part of her mind noticed and remembered it well enough that Joran can comment on it even when her back is turned.

Ezri makes the connection to laughing photos, and immediately sterotypes their killer as a Vulcan, because their killer hates emotion. Now they’ve gone from 900 potential suspects to 48, then down to 28 vulcans who have suffered a personal loss. As Ezri talks to Joran, people give her weird looks, because she is talking to herself. It’s a nice little background touch. On her way to keep winnowing, she has a chance turbolift meeting with a Vulcan, and Joran immediately recognizes a fellow predator. That’s not sufficient proof, though.

Is ‘surprised’ an emotion that Vulcans allow themselves to feel?

Science officer Chu’lak was transferred from the Grissom, one of six survivors of a 250-person crew. They still have no proof, but since he’s probably about to kill again, Ezri pulls out the rifle, the scope, and a magazine to to find him. It is a deliberate decision to kill, if necessary. And a good thing, too – he’s examining her service record and getting his rifle ready. It’s only now that Ezri loads the rifle, actually, and Saving Private Ryan’s him, then goes walking all the way to his quarters to finish the job. It’s so she can ask him why, and then make sure he’s arrested.

When she goes to submerge Joran again, it’s with the knowledge that he’ll never be quite as submerged as he was, or as any of the other hosts wanted him to be.

 

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