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Empok Nor

Production no.: 522
Teleplay by: Hans Beimler
Story by: Bryan Fuller
Directed by: Michael Vejar
Stardate: not given 
First satellite airdate: May 17, 1997
Andrew J. Robinson .....
Aron Eisenberg ............
Tom Hodges ................
Andy Milder ................
Marjean Holden ...........
Jeffrey King ................

Quark's is nearly empty when Kira, Worf, and Dax come in for a drink. The reason soon makes itself evident -- the noise of O'Brien and Nog repairing a nearby conduit. Quark is nearly frantic for it to be over. Nog emerges to get two root beers, then returns to work. Soon he and O'Brien have completed the repair, for all of two seconds. Then there is a small explosion.

O'Brien reports to Sisko that the entire plasma distribution manifold is shot. It gets worse: it's a Cardassian manifold, which uses a beta-matrix compositor that can't be replicated. O'Brien's idea is to send a salvage team to Empok Nor, which is an abandoned Cardassian space station in the Trivas system. It happens to be of the same design as DS9; the Cardassians pulled out a year ago, and there has been no Dominion activity in the area in several months. However, the Cardassians would have left behind booby traps keyed to attack non-Cardassians, as per their standard procedures. "Sounds like you should take a Cardassian along," observes Sisko.

And so, having been bribed by Sisko with the promise of a larger space for his workshop, Garak joins O'Brien and the rest of the salvage team on the runabout as they prepare to leave for Empok Nor. "I'm glad you're here," comments O'Brien; Garak looks disturbed. "It's just that lately, I've noticed that everyone seems to trust me. It's quite unnerving. I'm still trying to get used to it. Next thing I know, people are going to be inviting me to their homes for dinner." O'Brien assures him that he won't be getting any such offers from him.

There are two other noncom Starfleet engineers along: Pechetti, a human, and Boq'ta, a Bolian. The team also includes two Starfleet security officers, both human: Stolzoff and Amaro. And then there's Nog. O'Brien welcomes him aboard, and they get underway.

To pass the time, Garak plays kotra (a Cardassian board game) with Nog, whom the tailor finds too cautious an opponent for his tastes. He asks if O'Brien would care to take on the winner. "I'd love to play kotra against the hero of Setlik III...We all know your distinguished war record -- how you led two dozen men against the Barrica encampment and took out an entire regiment of Cardassians. If you play kotra with half that brazenness, we'd have quite a match." O'Brien, however, doesn't like to think of those days. "I'm not a soldier anymore. I'm an engineer." Garak doesn't buy that, knowing of O'Brien's trips to the holosuites with Bashir to relive ancient battles.

They come to Empok Nor; a scan reveals no lifesigns. Since Garak warns that there are probably pattern scramblers rigged against non-Cardassian transporter signals, O'Brien decides to dock at an upper pylon. Garak will go through the airlock first and disarm the booby trap that is sure to be there. He does so, and restores main power. In the infirmary, three coffin-like stasis chambers come to life. And so does one of their occupants, a Cardassian soldier.

The group boards the dark, silent station, and form three teams: Nog and Stolzoff with O'Brien, Pechetti with Amaro, and Boq'ta with Garak. With warnings from O'Brien about more possible booby-traps, they separate. Making it to the infirmary, Garak touches something on the arch of the door -- a bluish gel-like substance which Boq'ta scans; it registers as a biogenic compound. Garak goes into the infirmary and finds the stasis chambers. One is shut; the other two are open, with only some of the bluish gel in the bottom. When Garak opens the third chamber, he finds the body of a Cardassian soldier, dead for about a year. His insignia indicates that he was from the Third Battalion of the First Order. Garak notes that the empty tubes have been activated recently.

O'Brien and Nog are working at a corridor junction, extracting some equipment, when Nog realizes he left the flux coupler on the runabout. He heads back to get it. After he's gone, Garak calls O'Brien to the infirmary. Nog reaches the airlock where the runabout was docked, and discovers that the runabout has been detached from the station and is drifting away. Then it explodes. They're trapped.

The teams are called together to discuss the situation. It seems clear that the former occupants of the empty stasis chambers are active, which means they're in trouble: the Third Battalion is noted for their fanaticism and their motto, "Death to all". The soldiers may have been left behind as guards. The salvagers make another unsettling discovery: their tricorders aren't working. There must be a dampening field in place. Also, there's no way to call for help, since the station's subspace transceiver was taken in the evacuation. Amaro sarcastically suggests smoke signals.

O'Brien actually thinks that's a good idea. They can modify the field coils to emit a series of pulses, turning the station into a telegraph of sorts. First they need to boost power to the induction grid, so that the pulses will be strong enough to reach DS9. O'Brien sends Pechetti to get the microfusion reactor online, guarded by Stolzoff; Boq'ta, with Amaro, will realign the magnetic flow; Nog, Garak, and O'Brien will set up the signal generator in a cargo bay. They will stay off the communicators as much as possible, to avoid giving away their positions.

As a nervous Boq'ta works on his task, he and Amaro hear a rustling sound, then some breathing. Amaro checks it out, but only finds an air valve opening and closing. In the cargo bay, Garak (scratching the fingers that touched the gel) is thinking aloud about the soldiers. He doesn't believe that even soldiers of the Third Battalion would voluntarily seal themselves in stasis tubes to guard an abandoned station. He and O'Brien converse about mysteries, while Nog paces around, weapon at the ready, unaware that someone is watching him, barely an arm's length away. Finally O'Brien calls out to Nog, who goes back over, not knowing what a close call he just had.

Pechetti and Stolzoff are on the Promenade when they too hear a noise -- the turbolift arriving. No one comes out. Stolzoff opens it; it's empty. Pechetti is grabbed by the neck as he looks at a glass encasement with a Cardassian emblem. In the midst of calling O'Brien, Stolzoff is cut off by a chop from the second soldier. O'Brien rushes to the Promenade, followed by Garak and Nog. They're too late; they find the lifeless bodies of both Pechetti and Stolzoff.

As the bodies are covered with tarps, Boq'ta is getting scared. The soldiers must be using the internal sensors to track them. O'Brien tries to calm him. He will finish Pechetti's work; Boq'ta is finished with his, so O'Brien will send him and Amaro to auxiliary control to reconfigure the pulse generator. Seeing that the Bolian is starting to panic at the thought of splitting up, O'Brien says Garak will go with him. But Garak has other plans. He intends to find the soldiers and neutralize them. "Besides, all this whining is giving me a headache." Amaro points his weapon at him. "You're going to have more than a headache if you don't do what the Chief wants." "You'd like to shoot me, wouldn't you?" Garak says, with unusual paranoia. "You're dying to kill a Cardassian. Any Cardassian."

O'Brien breaks it up. Garak can go. "That's the spirit," approves Garak. "Why don't you come with me, Chief? Kill a few Cardies. It'd be like old times. Wouldn't you like to avenge their deaths?" he adds, referring to Pechetti and Stolzoff. "No," O'Brien replies. "I just want to get everyone home." Garak, however, is curiously insistent. "You're fighting your instincts, I can see it. The hero of Setlik III is still inside there somewhere." "If you're going to go, go," O'Brien tells him, and Garak finally does. Nog is prepared to go with Boq'ta and Amaro, but Boq'ta is finally calmer. "For some reason, knowing Garak's going after those Cardassians makes me feel better."

Garak works at one of the computers in the infirmary, scratching his fingers again. He can't get into the system. Hearing a noise, he continues calmly. The soldier stalking him enters the infirmary to find the room empty. Suddenly one of the stasis tubes is flung open, and Garak pops out, holding a phaser. "Looking for me?" He fires and kills the soldier. "That felt good," Garak notes to himself.

Back in the cargo bay, Nog asks O'Brien why Garak keeps bringing up Setlik III. "Because he wants to get under my skin," the Chief replies. "But you were a hero, weren't you?" asks Nog. O'Brien keeps working. "That doesn't mean I like thinking about what happened then. I was a soldier, Nog, and sometimes soldiers have to kill." Garak's voice comes out of the dark. "Come now, Chief, don't be so modest. You did a lot of killing." He has brought the insignia of the soldier he killed. What's more, he has analyzed a tissue sample from the soldier's body. The man had been given a massive dose of a psychotropic drug -- a drug that was apparently designed to amplify Cardassian racial xenophobic tendencies. Garak speculates that the soldiers were left here as a military experiment, looking for a way to further "motivate" the troops. Nog wonders why the soldier attacked Garak; O'Brien wonders if perhaps they were left in stasis because they had become uncontrollable.

"I'd love to stay and hypothesize all afternoon," Garak says, "but once I've set my mind to a task, I hate to leave it unfinished." O'Brien studies him. Somehow Garak looks different to him. "That's not the face of a tailor." "I'm not a tailor," Garak replies. "Not for the moment, anyway." He moves off.

Boq'ta and Amaro talk a bit as the engineer works at a panel, unaware that Garak is watching them. Garak sees the second soldier stalking the pair. He circles around to get behind the soldier, who is no longer there when Garak gets into position. Boq'ta asks Amaro to get him the coil spanner. As Amaro is searching through the tool box, he hears the snapping of a neck. Amaro turns to see the soldier dropping Boq'ta's dead body and aiming at him. Then Garak shoots and kills the soldier. "He asked me to get a coil spanner for him," Amaro says, feeling guilty. "I just turned my back for a second." "It's a shame," agrees Garak, taking the tool from Amaro's hand. "And the worst part of it is, this isn't a coil spanner." Suddenly he stabs Amaro in the stomach with the tool. "It's a flux coupler."

When O'Brien finishes his work, he calls Boq'ta and Amaro, but gets no response. He and Nog find Amaro in the corridor, barely alive. "He's out there," the dying man gasps. "...Garak. He stabbed me." With that, Amaro breathes his last. Neither Nog nor O'Brien know why Garak would do such a thing, but O'Brien takes Amaro's phaser rifle and leads Nog to the closest defensible location, a set of quarters. Nog is still trying to absorb the news. "It doesn't make any sense. Garak's on our side." "Not anymore," O'Brien says, realizing that Garak must have been exposed to the psychotropic drug. They both know that Garak will soon be coming after them.

O'Brien is angry with himself for losing four crewmen. "Garak was right. We should've gone after those Cardassians as soon as they attacked us. You don't wait for the enemy to come to you. You go to him." He makes a decision. "We're going after Garak." "You mean to kill him?" asks Nog. "If that's what it takes to stop him, yes," replies O'Brien grimly.

As they're searching, Garak calls to say that he's found a kotra board in the station commander's office. "I can't help thinking what a perfect metaphor this game is for our present situation. Two players. Two minds. Two strategies. Each trying to outmaneuver the other, testing the enemy's defenses, advancing, retreating." O'Brien and Nog run to Ops, and split off. "The only difference," Garak continues, "is that in the game we're playing, the stakes are life and death, which makes it so much more interesting." Nog has reached the corridor leading to Ops; O'Brien gets into position outside the door to the commander's office. Finally O'Brien gives Nog a combadge signal. The Chief bursts into the commander's office, the Ferengi into Ops. No sign of Garak. Suddenly the office doors shut. O'Brien sees Garak grab Nog, but can't do anything about it, as a forcefield comes to life around the doors. "Looks like I've captured your last piece, Chief," Garak announces. "If you want it back, you're going to have to take it from me." He drags Nog out the Ops door.

The forcefield fritzes off after a few moments, letting O'Brien go. Garak calls over the com, taunting him, asking what he's going to do. "Listen to me, Garak, it's the drug," O'Brien says. "It's affecting you. You've got to fight it." "Fight it?" echoes Garak, who has Nog bound up in a corridor. "But I'm enjoying myself. This is the most exciting game I've played in years." "It's not a game!" O'Brien retorts, but Garak begs to differ. He claims that the game has brought out O'Brien's true nature. "You're a killer. Admit it. We both are. Behind your Federation mask of decency and benevolence, you're a predator, just like me."

"No, I'm nothing like you," the Chief protests. Garak is still off on his strange trip. "Oh, but you are. You proved that at Setlik III." He talks about how much O'Brien must have enjoyed killing Cardassians. O'Brien has had enough. "All right, Garak, you want to finish this game? Fine. Let's finish it. You and me. Face to face." They make a deal, to meet on the Promenade, without weapons.

As O'Brien enters the Promenade, he sees the bodies of Stolzoff, Pechetti, Boq'ta, and Amaro propped against the wall. "They've come to cheer you on, Chief," says Garak, pointing a rifle at Nog, who is tied to another wall. "Your loyal team. Apparently they've forgiven you for getting them all killed." O'Brien and Garak each insist that the other put down their weapon first. When Garak threatens Nog, O'Brien finally lays down his rifle, as well as a phaser, and a tricorder which he lays on top of it. Garak finally tosses his own rifle aside as well.

The two of them begin fighting, hand-to-hand. "I'm disappointed, Chief," Garak comments. "I expected to see bloodlust in your eyes, but all I see is fear." O'Brien ends up sprawled against a wall. "Maybe it's true," muses Garak as he closes in. "Maybe you're not a soldier anymore." "You're right," says O'Brien. "I'm an engineer." He quickly taps his combadge and takes cover. The phaser under the tricorder explodes, catching Garak in its shock wave. The Cardassian is knocked out. It's over. O'Brien unties Nog, and ascertains with some relief that Garak isn't dead.

Back on DS9, Bashir neutralizes the drug, which had brought out the worst parts of Garak and let them take over. It's safe to say that Garak wasn't in control of his actions. O'Brien goes in to see him. He tells Garak that their mission was successful. Garak, somber and genuinely remorseful, asks a favor of O'Brien: to express his regrets to Amaro's wife. He also notes that if he had been closer to that phaser, he would have been killed. "Don't take this the wrong way," says O'Brien, "but that was the plan." "I understand," Garak tells him. Finally, O'Brien gets ready to leave. "I'll see you around."

  • Bryan Fuller's original pitch involved Worf and Garak boarding a derelict Cardassian ship full of bodies infected with a drug that turned them into psychopaths.
  • The stasis chambers were recycled from the VOY episode "The Thaw".