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The Ascent

Production no.: 507
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Stardate: not given 
First satellite airdate: November 23, 1996
Max Grodénchik ....
Aron Eisenberg .....

It's finally happening: Jake is moving out of the quarters he has shared with his father for four years and to another set of quarters on the other side of the habitat ring. He will be living with Nog, who is returning to the station soon. Sisko watches him pack, with mixed feelings. "You and Nog, moving in together. I can remember when I didn't even want you talking to him." He can't help but smile sentimentally as his son leaves the nest.

Rom, meanwhile, is eagerly awaiting Nog, and is disappointed when Quark chimes his door instead. Quark is carrying a case of root beer for Nog; Rom tries a bottle, to his brother's disgust. "My own brother drinking root beer. It's so...hew-mon." "Mmmm, and bubbly," Rom says.

The door chimes again. This time it's Odo, who is here for Quark. "Whatever it is, I didn't do it," Quark exclaims, but Odo says, "Don't tell me. Tell the Federation Grand Jury on Inferna Prime." When Quark asks what they want to talk to him for, Odo replies, "Oh, I think you know." He will be personally taking Quark on the eight-day journey, leaving immediately. "I've been waiting ten years for you to get what you deserve. Now that the big moment is finally here, I wouldn't miss it for anything." "I'll say hi to Nog for you," Rom offers as Quark is hauled out of the room.

With 191 hours and 17 minutes to go on their journey, the runabout is on autopilot as Odo reads a PADD. Quark proposes a game of fizzbin, but Odo says he doesn't play cards; more specifically, he doesn't want to play cards with Quark. "You know, Odo," Quark says, "I used to think all your problems stemmed from the fact that you were a Changeling, isolated from your own kind, forced to live among strangers who didn't understand you. You couldn't eat, you couldn't drink, you couldn't sleep, you couldn't make love. Was it any wonder you had such a bad disposition? But you're not a Changeling anymore. You're one of us. Life is yours for the taking. All you have to do is reach out and grab it. But do you? No. Because solid or Changeling, you're still a miserable, self-hating misanthrope. That's who you are, and that's who you'll always be." "I'm still not playing cards with you," Odo tells him.

Quark is silent for all of two seconds before wondering aloud what Odo is reading. He snatches the PADD and reads it as Odo unsuccessfully tries to grab it back. It's a romance of the old-fashioned bodice-ripper variety, much to the Ferengi's amusement. Odo claims that he's only reading it to gain insight into the criminal mind; after all, many murders are motivated by romantic obsession. Quark doesn't buy it, but Odo is confident that he has the goods on his longtime nemesis. "Give it up, Quark. You can annoy me, bait me, question my very existence, but in the end, we both know I've won. Because when all is said and done, I'll be heading back to Deep Space Nine, and you'll be spending the rest of your life in a Federation penal colony." "I'm not there yet," Quark retorts. He asks Odo to at least tell him what the charges are, but Odo says he can't do that. "This is a high-security investigation. I'm not allowed to discuss the specifics with anyone. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do." He goes back to his (ahem) research.

Nog stands before Sisko in the captain's office, reporting for his sophomore year field study. Looking at the serious, mature, straight-arrow Starfleet cadet, one would never suspect that this is the same young Ferengi who used to be the terror of the Promenade. "The key to field study is simple," Sisko tells him. "Keep your eyes and ears open, follow orders, and try not to get in the way." "Yes, sir," Nog replies. "Very good, sir. I won't let you down." The official business over, Sisko notes warmly that he's glad Nog and Jake will be roommates, and he's sure they'll have a lot of fun together. "Yes, sir," Nog says. "Time permitting, sir. I mean, if I'm not too busy. After all, I am here to work. Don't worry, sir. I'll look after him for you. Set a good example. Keep him out of trouble." Sisko looks at him, not quite sure what to make of Nog's new attitude. "You inspire me with confidence, cadet. Dismissed," he tells him.

Nog enters the new quarters he's going to be sharing with Jake. "After living in cadet barracks for the past year, this is going to be paradise," he says. Jake smiles, relishing his newfound independence. "I know what you mean. We're on our own now. No one to tell us what to do." But his happy mood deflates somewhat when the next words out of Nog's mouth are about cleaning the place. Also, Nog announces it'll be lights out at 2200. "I haven't gone to bed that early since I was twelve," exclaims Jake. "Go to sleep whenever you want," says Nog. "But don't forget, we're hitting the gym at oh-four-thirty." "The gym?" "Muscles, Jake. You know, those things that are supposed to go between your bones and your skin?...By the time I'm done with you, you'll have some of your very own."

Odo and Quark are four days into their journey, and they're definitely getting on each other's nerves. As Odo eats some soup, a bored and grumpy Quark accuses him of smacking his lips. "Don't you hear that?" "The only thing I've heard for the past four days is you complaining," Odo replies. Among all the other "annoying little noises" Quark hears is a buzzing sound, but Odo doesn't hear it at all. "With all this lip-smacking, how could I hear anything?" Quark starts searching for the source of the buzz. "Where is it coming from?" "Inside your head," Odo snipes, mockingly buzzing and smacking. Quark, though, homes in on a specific panel in the floor.

"It's probably a defective anodyne circuit," Odo finally says, coming over. Quark tells him those make a hissing noise; this is a buzz. Suddenly the buzz changes pitch, and gets louder, so that now Odo can hear it too. Quark opens up the panel, and finds a bomb.

Quark feels vindicated. "Next time I tell you I hear something, maybe you'll listen." "Let's hope there is a next time," Odo replies grimly, and plans to get a transporter lock on the bomb so he can beam it off. At Quark's suggestion, in case it's set to go off when transported, he tries to channel the explosion through the buffer. The bomb indeed goes off as the transporter effect begins. They survive the blast, but now the runabout's systems are failing, including environmental controls. Faced with a choice between crash-landing and having their lungs explode in the vacuum of space, Odo finds a Class L planet nearby (barely habitable) and heads there.

"If we live through this, whoever planted that bomb is going to regret it," Odo says as they plummet toward the planet. "Believe me, you don't want to get anywhere near the Orion Syndicate," Quark replies. Odo lets slip his surprise at the name. "If I knew you were involved with the Orion Syndicate, you'd be on the Defiant right now, surrounded by half my deputies." "Let me guess," says Quark. "You pretended to know more than you did so I'd think I had nothing to hide and say something to incriminate myself." "Something like that," admits Odo. The argument continues right down to the surface of the planet, Quark protesting that he's not a member, he just knows some people who know other people. At that point, they crash.

The first thing Quark registers when he regains consciousness is that it's freezing. Odo gives him several items of bad news. They can't send a distress signal, because the comm system was lost in the explosion. Even worse, the replicator has been destroyed, and from what he's been able to tell, the local plants are poisonous. They'll have to make do with one pack of field rations each; the rest were also destroyed. "So now what?" "Now," says Odo, "we either freeze to death or starve to death. Take your pick."

The living arrangement between Jake and Nog continues not to be what either of them envisioned. The morning routine consists of Nog rising early and working out while Jake sleeps in and "passes" on the exercise. "You don't know what you're missing," Nog claims. "Healthy body, healthy mind." He has also found one of Jake's stories while cleaning up, and actually edited it for spelling and grammar. Jake is incensed. "You can't change a writer's words without his permission. That's sacrilege." He tells Nog to leave his stories alone from now on. Nog agrees, and goes to get a shower.

Quark brings the bulky subspace transmitter to the front cabin of the runabout. The signal booster is shot, meaning they won't be able to transmit a distress signal through the atmosphere. But Quark has thought of a way to save their lives. If they haul the transmitter to higher ground, where there's less atmosphere, they can get a signal out. "How much higher do we have to go?" asks Odo. Quark calculates the required altitude. "I'd say...that high," he replies, pointing towards an extremely tall mountain in the distance.

While Odo finds a blanket and attaches straps to the transmitter to make it a backpack, Quark finds a survival suit. However, there's only one; all the others, of course, were destroyed. "Finders keepers," Quark announces. "Besides, carrying this transmitter up the mountain should keep you warm." Odo has a few things to say about that. For the rest of the episode, they take turns, one person wearing the jacket, the other wearing the trousers and blanket and carrying the transmitter.

It's rugged, mountainous terrain, causing Odo to remark ruefully, "If I was still a changeling, I could've shapeshifted into a Vorian pterodactyl and flown that damn transmitter to the top of the mountain hours ago." "You're the one who wanted to be a solid," says Quark, a charge which Odo denies. "Oh, please. I used to see you coming into the bar, watching Morn eat, eyeing my customers as they gambled and flirted with the Dabo girls, wishing you were one of them. Not to mention your platonic friendship with a certain Bajoran major." "If that's the kind of psychological insight you dispense with your drinks, it's a wonder you have any customers," Odo scoffs. Quark replies, "Deny it all you want. But the fact is, your people gave you what you wanted. You're one of us now. And I can finally sit on a chair and know with absolute certainty that it isn't you." Just then, Quark (who is carrying the transmitter), slips and falls. He uses this as an opportunity to switch, to which Odo reluctantly agrees.

Nog comes home to find the quarters a pigsty, and Jake in the middle of it, contentedly doing something on a PADD. "A man's got to live," Jake explains. "And sometimes living is messy." "But it doesn't have to stay messy," Nog counters. "I'm going to the replimat to get something to eat. When I come back, I expect to see this place straightened up." Jake says he's working on a story, but when Nog takes the PADD out of his hand, he finds it's computerized dom-jot, which Jake says helps clear his mind when he gets stuck.

"Jake, this isn't what we agreed to." "We didn't agree to anything," Jake objects. "You've been shouting orders ever since you moved in here. I'm not in Starfleet." "Lucky for you. You wouldn't last a day at the Academy," Nog says, and Jake shoots back, "You're right. I'd die of embarrassment wearing those pajamas." That's it. Nog has had it, and Jake is too angry to apologize. Nog leaves, saying he'll get his things in the morning.

Odo and Quark have been walking for two days. They haven't seen any animals, even insects, and they're both starving. But they're almost to the treeline. Odo estimates six hours of climbing before they'll be high enough. "I could do six," says Quark. "Seven might be pushing it, but six I could do." However, when they clear the trees, they are finally able to see that they have come to a steep valley. They'll have to walk down into it to get to the mountain, and that will probably take six days, not hours.

As they descend, Quark counts their steps, which Odo finds irritating. "By the time the Grand Jury gets through with you, you'll be counting years instead of steps," he says, still looking forward to it. But Quark says, "You know what's going to make all this worthwhile? The look on your face when they let me go...And you call yourself a detective." He reminds Odo that the Orion Syndicate tried to kill him, which they don't do to their own. "Don't you get it? I'm not a suspect. I'm a witness."

Odo hadn't thought of that. However, he figures that Quark must have tried to join the syndicate, which has a substantial membership fee, and the FCA has seized Quark's assets. "It's even worse than that, isn't it? You never could afford to join, could you? All those years of scheming and lying and cheating, and you're still too small-time for the Orions. Well, I guess you're not as successful a businessman as you think you are." Cut to the quick, Quark lashes back. "Which means you spent the last ten years of your life trying to catch a nobody. With little success, I might add. So you tell me, which one of us is the bigger failure?" He moves on, resuming counting.

Rom joins Sisko in the replimat to ask if he's noticed anything strange about Nog. "He seems fine to me," says Sisko. "He's just more dedicated than when he left." "I've noticed," Rom replies glumly, though he's surprised when Sisko speculates that it's probably the year at the Academy that caused the change. Rom actually thought Nog might be a changeling, and went so far as to draw a blood sample when his son was asleep. "I was hoping living with Jake would relax him," says Rom. Sisko replies, "I'm afraid Jake's going through a phase of his own. I don't know what's so difficult about putting a dirty dish back into the replicator...I sometimes wish Jake had a little more of Nog's self-discipline." "And I wish Nog had Jake's ability to enjoy himself," Rom says. The two fathers realize they're thinking the same thing: Jake and Nog could learn a lot from each other. "If we could only get them in the same room," Sisko muses.

In a shallow cave, Odo wakes up and has difficulty rousing Quark. He actually thinks for a moment that the Ferengi is dead, and starts slapping him until Quark finally wakes. To his horror, Quark has gone deaf in one ear. "You don't understand. A one-eared Ferengi is only half a man." He panics, saying they're going to die. Odo won't give up, though. "What do you want me to do? Stay here and trade insults until we both starve to death? I'd rather take my chances on the mountain." Reluctantly, Quark follows.

They walk on, covered in bruises and scratches, their clothing getting ragged. They're exhausted, filthy, starving, and very, very sick of this situation and each other. As they head up the mountain, they begin bickering about who's to blame for the mess they're in. "Have I ever told you how much I hate that smug, superior attitude of yours?" Quark rants. Odo retorts, "Have I ever told you how much I hate your endless whining, your pathetic greed, your idiotic little schemes?" "Well I hate -- " "What do you hate?" Odo challenges. "You," Quark finally finishes, sneering.

The intensity of the argument rapidly escalates. "That's fine with me," Odo snarls, putting down the transmitter. "I hate you too. You're nothing but a petty thief." "You're an arrogant prude." They start shoving at each other with increasing viciousness. "Lecher!" "Freak!" "Fraud!" "Fascist!" "Failure!" Suddenly they both lose their balance and go tumbling down the mountainside. When they come to a crashing halt, Odo asks if Quark's all right. "I'm fine." "I'm not," says Odo. His leg is broken.

With Odo's leg splinted, Quark creates a makeshift travois and loads Odo onto it. "Quark, there's no way you're going to be able to drag me up that mountain," Odo argues, to which Quark replies, "Just watch me." "Stop trying to be a hero. You'll get to the top faster if you leave me behind." Quark looks at him. "Don't you get it? I'm not trying to rescue you. I'm taking you along as emergency rations. If you die, I'm going to eat you...Waste not, want not." Quark shoulders the transmitter and picks up the travois.

Quark continues climbing the mountain, dragging a semi-conscious Odo, until finally he collapses face down in the dirt. It's not high enough to set up the transmitter. Odo urges him to go on by himself; Quark insists he can't go any further. "If Sisko were here, do you think he'd give up?" Odo asks. "Or Worf? Or Dax?" "They're not here," Quark says.

"That's right. It's just us." Odo crawls forward and starts shoving the transmitter along, dragging his body after it. "You're trying to embarrass me, aren't you?" Quark calls after him. "You're trying to shame me into carrying that thing the rest of the way on my own. Well, it's not going to work. You might as well accept the inevitable and die with dignity. That's what I'm going to do. I'm just going to lie here and die." He pauses. "My brother will get the bar, my nephew will be completely corrupted by the Federation and become a Starfleet captain, and my bones will lie here and freeze, unsold and unmourned." With that, Quark forces himself up to take the transmitter from Odo. "Try not to break your other leg while I'm gone." "I'll do my best," Odo replies, and whispers, "Good luck" as Quark trudges out of earshot.

Sisko marches into Jake's quarters and announces that there's a problem. Station regulations state that these quarters require two or more occupants, and there are no smaller quarters available. "So where do I go?" asks Jake. Sisko smiles. "I guess back home with me." "You're kidding." "Unless we can find you another roommate," Sisko adds, and calls for Nog, who enters carrying a duffel bag and not looking happy.

"Sir, I really must protest." "Cadets don't have that privilege," Sisko tells Nog, and to Jake, he says, "And neither do you. Now I know the two of you are very different people, but you're still friends. And somehow, some way, you'll make this work." Jake and Nog are very dubious about this, but Sisko is firm. "I'm your captain, and your father. So what I say goes. Good day, gentlemen." He leaves the two of them looking uncomfortably at each other. Jake finally asks if Nog is going to start cleaning again; Nog replies that he has to study. "Good, because it would take a long time to clean up this pigsty," Jake concedes. "It's not that bad," Nog says. Jake offers to go to the gym with him. "Healthy body, healthy mind." "I have a better idea," Nog replies. "How about a game of dom-jot? I'll let you break."

It's been some time since Quark left Odo. As the Ferengi climbs the mountain, Odo pulls himself up onto a rock, and hits his combadge to begin recording a final log. "It looks like Quark didn't make it. I can't say I'm surprised. You'll find his body farther up the slope. No doubt, he'd want you to vacuum-desiccate his remains and auction them off. Not that they're worth much. As for myself -- cremate me, stick my ashes in my bucket, and shoot me through the wormhole. I might as well end up where I began. Or better yet -- " Suddenly he is beamed away and finds himself in the Defiant's transporter bay looking at Worf and Dax, while Bashir begins treating him.

"I'm alive," Odo exclaims in surprise. Worf and Dax tell him that they found Quark on top of the mountain, slumped over the transmitter. "Looks like he saved both of your lives," Dax observes. "I was afraid you'd say that," groans Odo, just before he loses consciousness.

Odo and Quark lie side by side in sickbay, recovering on the way back to the station. "I bet you were surprised," says Quark. "I actually made it all the way to the top." "Astounded," Odo admits. However, Quark has something else he wants to say. "You remember back there, when I told you I hated you, and you told me you hated me?" "Vividly," replies Odo. Quark looks at him. "I just wanted you to know, I meant every word of it."

"So did I," Odo declares, and suddenly snorts in laughter. Quark joins in. The two of them just lie there chuckling at this reaffirmation of their relationship.

  • Location filming took place on Mount Whitney. The "cold" look of the place is a tribute to the skills of director of photography Kris Krosskove, as well as Rene Auberjonois and Armin Shimerman, who had to pretend to be freezing even though they were actually sweltering in bulky costumes and heavy latex makeup.