Production no.: 559
Written by: René Echevarria
Directed by: John Kretchmer
Stardate: not given
First satellite airdate: November 21, 1998
Marc Alaimo ................
Norman Parker ............
Jason Leland Adams .....
Maureen Flannigan .......
Miriam Flynn ................
Mark Piatelli .................
Kira joins Ezri, Bashir, and Odo at the bar, after a service at which the sermon was on forgiveness. Odo expresses a wish that he was a believer so that he could go with her, but Kira says that the belief has to come first. Later, Kira is in her quarters when she receives a visit from Vedek Fala, who was her religious instructor when she was a little girl. He has a gift for her: a red crystal. As she holds it, it glows, and she dematerializes.
She finds herself on Empok Nor, in the middle of the space corresponding to Quark's, which is now a temple; and there are Bajorans there to greet her, wearing the armbands and earrings of the Cult of the Pah-Wraiths, which they call the "true Prophets". And there is someone here called the "Master", who turns out to be none other than Gul Dukat, wearing Bajoran clothes and a pah-wraith earring as well.
The earring, he tells her, is a symbol of the "covenant" he's made with his "new family". "The pah-wraiths aren't what you think. And neither am I. Let me ask you something. Have you ever wondered why the Prophets stood by and did nothing when the Cardassians took over Bajor? Have you ever asked yourself why they would allow your people to suffer?" He contends that this is because the Prophets aren't the true gods of Bajor; the pah-wraiths are. "They were cast from the Celestial Temple because they wanted to take an active role in Bajoran life. Their only crime was that they cared about your people. But they weren't allowed to help you, because they lost the battle for heaven and were forced to flee." But now they're determined to regain their place. "They speak to me in visions," Dukat claims. "I am their Emissary."
Dukat goes on to say that when he acted as a vessel for a pah-wraith last year, it "opened my heart". "Nerys, I wish I had the words to describe what it was like to have the pah-wraith within me. I could feel its love -- for me, and for the Bajoran people. It made me realize that I still had a role to play in Bajor's destiny." Now he has built a community here, full of Bajorans whose aim is to "purify" themselves and prepare for when the pah-wraiths reclaim the Celestial Temple. And he has brought Kira here to be part of it. "I want you to share in the love these people have for one another -- in the love they have for me." "They don't love you," Kira challenges. "You have some kind of a hold over them, but they don't love you." But Dukat is undaunted. "Nerys, open your heart to me. We're bound together by destiny. You belong at my side."
Back on DS9, Kira's absence has been discovered, and the investigation is on, led by Odo and Sisko. O'Brien picks up traces of tachyon energy, from a transporter beam with a Dominion signature, but it can't be traced. Dominion transporters have a range of up to three light years with the use of a homing transponder, which O'Brien determines was the case here, after he finds the cloth that the crystal was wrapped in.
Fala shows up in Kira's guest quarters, and admits that he was part of the cult before Dukat ever took it over. He believes that the Prophets turned their backs on Bajor long ago. "Nerys, the Master brought you here because he cares about your spiritual well-being." Kira insists that Dukat is using them, twisting their beliefs to suit his purpose. "Of all the things I tried to teach you," Fala says, "the most important is the need to forgive." "Some things can't be forgiven," replies Kira.
However, when Fala offers to show her how they live, Kira accepts, since it's better than waiting around in her quarters. As they walk the Promenade, Fala makes sure to let her know that while they do have some cargo shuttles, the docking bays are guarded, and so is the transporter used to bring her here. But Kira will be permitted to move around and talk to people.
They meet a young pregnant woman named Mika, who is nearly ready to give birth. She and her husband, says Fala, were the first to "receive the Master's blessing to bear children." This is an exception to the vows of abstinence that are part of their "covenant", granted because the couple demonstrated "a true spiritual bond". "In ancient times, Bajorans understood the value of denying worldly pleasures. Ironic, isn't it, that a Cardassian would be the one to lead us back to the old ways?" "Especially a Cardassian whose appetite for worldly pleasures is legendary," Kira shoots back. Fala replies, "That was a long time ago, before he felt the kiss of the pah-wraith." "That was some kiss," she comments.
Eventually they come to a cargo bay where an artist named Benyan (Mika's husband) is working on a painting depicting Dukat as an angelic figure surrounded by worshipful Bajorans. Benyan is aware of Kira's disapproval of their lifestyle, and can't understand why she was brought here. "I hope you come to feel the love of the pah-wraiths. But if you don't, that's your loss. No offense." "None taken," says Kira. "In fact, I've always found that when people try to convince others of their beliefs, it's because they're really just trying to convince themselves."
Kira then goes to a service presided over by Dukat. As everyone else chants, she grabs a phaser from someone's belt, and threatens Dukat with it, ordering everyone else down on the floor. But Benyan steps in front of her aim. So does a midwife, and several others. Kira can't believe it. Finally a man knocks her out. "Now do you understand how much they love me?" Dukat asks her unconscious form.
When Kira wakes up, she finds Dukat there, tending her bruise; they're in his quarters. She could kill him, but he points out that it wouldn't do her any good. It wouldn't get her off the station, and it would make him a martyr in the eyes of his followers, who he claims to love as much as they do him. Kira observes that Dukat hasn't changed a bit -- he's still driven by a need to win the love of the Bajoran people, not understanding why they don't appreciate his familiar contention that without him the Occupation would have been much worse. "And you want a thank you?" Kira asks. "You were working people to death in the ore processing centers, but that didn't stop you from strutting around Terok Nor, picking out Bajoran women to take to your bed, and actually believing they wanted to be there." Dukat claims that her mother did want to be there, and that she loved him. "If I caused your mother any pain, I regret it. Just as I regret many other things I did in those years. Thankfully, the pah-wraiths have given me an opportunity to redeem myself in the eyes of your people."
"How?" demands Kira. "By recreating some idealized version of the Occupation? Because that's exactly what you're doing here. You have your station back, Bajorans to serve your every whim. And the best part is, this time they really do love you. As misguided as it is, they love you." However, Dukat only smiles. "I'm so glad you're here, Nerys. You embody everything I admire most about the Bajoran people. Your passion, your spirit. I see now why the pah-wraiths want you at my side...Because if I can open your heart to them, then surely I can open the heart of any Bajoran. Yes, your anger is a challenge. But I welcome it. Because in the end, it will help me better serve the pah-wraiths."
Dukat gets a visit from one of his followers, Brin, who says that Mika has gone into labor. They go to join the crowd outside the infirmary. When Mika is wheeled out, holding the baby in her arms, Benyan steps up eagerly, only to find that the child bears both Bajoran and Cardassian features. Mika looks fearfully at Dukat, who boldly takes the child and holds it up for everyone to see.
As if stricken with wonder, he announces, "The pah-wraiths -- they've sent us a sign. My children, good news! Something wondrous has happened. This infant, born of the love between Benyan and Mika, was transformed in her womb into a living symbol of the covenant I've made with you. Oh, what a blessed day this is! There can no longer be any doubt that the pah-wraiths are smiling upon us." The crowd, even Benyan, begin to chant with him. Kira watches, sickened by Dukat's hypocrisy, and her resolve to break his hold over these people grows.
Kira argues with Fala later. The vedek insists that it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the child's features really are a divine sign. "Your Prophets made an entire fleet of Dominion ships vanish into thin air. What's one child compared to a miracle like that?" Kira finally says that if he really believes it was a miracle, he won't mind if she talks to the new parents. She promises to be "discreet".
They find Benyan working on his painting again, and Kira asks the artist a series of loaded questions. Benyan says he prayed together with Dukat many times, to be sure having a baby was the right thing to do. Kira asks if Benyan prayed alone with Dukat; Benyan says yes. And so did Mika. Fala ends the conversation, but Kira's point has been made. Of course, Fala's interpretation of Benyan's reaction is different from Kira's. On the Promenade, they see Mika heading out, and Kira decides to talk to her as well.
In a habitat ring airlock, Mika has a talk with Dukat. She hadn't told him the baby was his, because she was hoping it wasn't. Dukat says he's sorry about what happened that night. "I was weak, and you were so beautiful." Mika says she's forgiven him, and she hasn't told anyone, even Benyan. "He wants to believe it was a miracle, but I know he has doubts. If he ever asks me, I don't know if I can lie to him." She misses the calculating look in Dukat's eyes as he assures her everything will be all right, and tells her to wait here until he's gone. Dukat then steps out of the airlock, only to turn back and begin to open the far door; Mika is nearly sucked out into space, and is saved only by the arrival of Kira and Fala, looking for her. By then, Dukat is hiding around a corner.
As the midwife gives Mika medical treatment, Dukat steps up to order that steps are taken to make sure no more "accidents" like this occur. Kira is not fooled. "An accident? What happened, Dukat? Was she going to tell everyone that you're the father of her child?...Is that why you tried to kill her?" Dukat has her escorted to her quarters, while he defuses the situation by leading his followers in a prayer for Mika's recovery.
Later, Dukat prays to the pah-wraiths, at the shrine in his quarters. "I failed you. Forgive my weakness. Forgive me for letting temptation obscure the path you laid out for me. When Mika awakes, and I pray she does, your children will learn the truth. They will turn away from me. They will turn away from you. The covenant will be broken. Don't let that happen. Tell me what to do. Please."
Not long afterwards, services are called, and the cult gathers again to see Dukat make an announcement. He says that he had a vision tonight, which the pah-wraiths told him was the last he would receive from them. "My children, the pah-wraiths have asked us to join them in their holy quest to reclaim the Celestial Temple. To become warriors in this great battle, we must transform ourselves. Our corporeal bodies are not suitable for the task, so we must leave them behind. In a few hours, at the beginning of a new day, we will gather together here for the last time. We will shed the flesh that ties us to this world, and deliver ourselves into the waiting arms of the pah-wraiths." Kira is shocked as she hears his words piped to her quarters by the com system.
Dukat visits Kira to tell her he's sent a message to DS9; they should be able to get someone here in a day or two. "I know you're desperate to keep your followers from turning against you," Kira observes. "I'm not surprised you'd kill them. But I can't believe you'd be willing to die yourself." Dukat assures her their deaths will be painless, and shows her a small white capsule of what he identifies as promazine, a poison developed by the Obsidian Order for its operatives to use in case of capture. It reduces the body to dust within hours, rendering it unidentifiable. "Dust -- that's all that will remain of my passage through this misbegotten universe, Nerys. But it doesn't bother me. Because I know I'm going to be with the pah-wraiths." He leaves her still trapped in her room.
The next morning, as Kira is working to trigger the lock on her door, the cult gathers at the temple, picking up their capsules from bowls that have been set up on ceremonial stands. Dukat appears for one more speech about how it's time to leave this world behind, but they'll be together in the light of the pah-wraiths. He holds up a capsule. "This is the means of our deliverance."
By this time, Kira has escaped, and made her way there. "Be not afraid," says Dukat. "I love you all." Then Kira leaps down from the upper level, knocking Dukat to the ground, and spilling a bowl. The capsule Dukat was holding becomes one of the many scattered over the floor. "Don't you see why he's doing this?" she calls to the crowd. "He doesn't want you to find out the truth!" Dukat, meanwhile, who has been scrabbling desperately through the spilled capsules, is helped to his feet by Fala, who tells everyone not to let anything disrupt this "holy moment", and offers Dukat a random capsule. Dukat just looks at it, and the alarmed look on his face gives Kira all the ammunition she needs. "What's wrong, Dukat? Take it. They're all the same, aren't they?"
Gathering himself, Dukat turns to the suddenly restless crowd. "Tell them, Dukat," Kira eggs him on. "Tell them you never had any intention of dying with them." "My time here is not finished," Dukat tells his followers. "The pah-wraiths want me to continue bringing others into their light." But he's lost them. Benyan exclaims that the baby really is Dukat's. The "Master" tries to explain. "The pah-wraiths have forgiven my sins. They've given me their absolution." The angry crowd begins to toss capsules at him. Dukat's temper flares.
"Who are you to presume they're wrong? Who are you to judge me? Then it's done. Our covenant is broken!" He tears off his earring. "None of you will ever know the love of the pah-wraiths. None of you!" Then Dukat touches his wrist and dematerializes. Naturally, he had a backup escape route. Fala, shattered, swallows a capsule; Kira gets to him too late. "Why?" she asks. He replies, "Faith, Nerys. Faith," as he dies.
The Defiant later takes the cult members away from Empok Nor, as well as Kira, who sits with Odo in the mess hall, telling him about Fala. "I keep going over what he said when he died. And I don't know if he was trying to tell me that he never lost his faith, or he felt betrayed by it." "I suppose you'll never know," says Odo. "But one thing is for certain, these people have been betrayed. And now they have to find a way to pick up the pieces and move on."
Kira is still trying to make sense of it. "I thought Dukat was just claiming to share their faith because he wanted them to love him. It was more than that. He's changed...I know this is going to sound crazy, but I think Dukat convinced himself that he was doing what the pah-wraiths wanted." Odo has to agree that maybe Dukat was. This is what scares Kira. "Either way, he believes. And that makes him more dangerous than ever."
The initial idea was that Dukat had taken over leadership of a new race of aliens. When these aliens instead became Bajoran pah-wraith followers, partial inspiration came from the mass suicide of the Heaven's Gate cult. Co-story editor David Weddle had, in fact, been an investigative reporter who had written about cults.