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In the Hands of the Prophets

Production no.: 420
Written by: Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by: David Livingston
Stardate: not given 
First satellite airdate: June 19, 1993
Rosalind Chao ..................
Robin Christopher .............
Philip Anglim ....................
Louise Fletcher .................
Michael Eugene Fairman ...
Vedek Bareil
Vedek Winn

O'Brien is walking his wife to her schoolroom one morning on the Promenade when they stop at the jumja kiosk, and O'Brien buys a jumja stick from the vendor there. Keiko passes, saying they're too sweet. O'Brien tells her about their nutritional content; he learned the facts about jumja from his apprentice, Neela. Keiko makes a dry remark about Neela, and her startled husband protests until she gives him a teasing smile. "Just keeping you on your toes, O'Brien...Be careful who you share your jumja with."

As Keiko is teaching her students -- who are mostly Bajoran except for Jake and a handful of other humans and aliens -- about the wormhole, a Bajoran religious leader named Vedek Winn enters the schoolroom and stands at the back watching. When Keiko mentions the "entities" who created the wormhole, Winn interrupts. "Excuse me, by 'entities', do you not mean the Prophets?" "Yes," Keiko acknowledges, "on Bajor the entities are worshipped as Prophets", and goes on with her lesson. But Winn again interrupts with the religious Bajoran interpretation. "Do you believe the Celestial Temple of the Prophets exists within the passage?" she asks Keiko, who says carefully that she respects the Bajoran viewpoint, but she doesn't teach Bajoran religion. "That's your job. Mine is to open the children's minds to history, to literature, to mathematics, to science." "You are opening the children's minds -- to blasphemy," says Winn. "And I cannot permit it to continue."

O'Brien arrives at the security office, where Neela has been working inside a panel under the monitors. She's already done, she tells the Chief, who tries the monitors, and they work fine now. As they are closing up, however, O'Brien realizes that one of his tools, an EJ7 interlock, needed to open or close a security seal, is missing. He is puzzled, since he doesn't misplace his tools.

Hearing about the school incident from Keiko, Sisko is dismayed but not really surprised. "A confrontation like this was inevitable," he says. Kira mentions that Vedek Winn has been meeting with some Bajoran civilians about it; Winn, who is from an orthodox order, has some support to become the next Kai. In fact, she has Kira's support as well. Kira suggests that Keiko change her curriculum to accommodate Bajoran religion, but Keiko declares that she won't let Winn dictate what she will and won't teach. And Sisko doesn't like the idea of two schools, as it would represent separating Bajoran and Federation interests. Keiko and Kira argue a little over pure science as a philosophy; Sisko interjects with, "My philosophy is that there is room for all philosophies on this station. Now, how do you suggest that we deal with this?" "I'm not sure you can," says Kira.

Sisko goes to the station's Bajoran shrine to see Winn, who says she is honored to meet the Emissary. "I wish you wouldn't call me that," he replies. "I'm Commander Sisko, or Benjamin, if you like." Winn cups his ear in the Bajoran ritual manner, and notes that he's "still the disbeliever." Sisko wants to resolve the issue with the school, but Winn says that her duty is to defend the Bajoran faith, and Keiko has "dishonored" the Celestial Temple. "If she does not recant, I cannot be responsible for the consequences."

O'Brien hunts through Ops for his missing tool, worried that someone could use the EJ7 interlock to access every critical system on the station. As he's looking, Dax asks if O'Brien has seen Ensign Aquino recently. The ensign is not on the station, according to the computer, but he didn't log out. They decide that Dax should talk to Odo. O'Brien has the computer scan for sources of tritanium, the main metal that an EJ7 interlock is made of. The computer picks up the tool locker, and a location in a power conduit. Wondering what tritanium would be doing there, O'Brien tells the computer to shut down the conduit and reroute the power flow.

He and Neela go into the conduit and scan it; Neela is the one who finds a pile of slag. It reads as a tritanium composite; apparently the tool was melted by the plasma flow. How it got there is still a mystery. Then O'Brien picks up traces of organic matter in the slag. He decides to take a sample to Bashir.

The next morning, as he walks Keiko to the schoolroom again, O'Brien tells her that Aquino made a log entry the night he disappeared, about a plasma flow irregularity, and indicated he was going to fix it. Bashir has confirmed that the remains found were human, and is running a DNA trace which will probably confirm it was Aquino. When they reach the jumja kiosk, the vendor coldly says he's all out, even though there are several sticks right there on the counter. They're not for sale, he claims. O'Brien angrily grabs the vendor by the collar. Odo intervenes, but Keiko pulls her husband away. "Seek the Prophets," the vendor calls after them; "Seek them yourself," Odo growls.

O'Brien is thinking of putting in for a transfer, but Keiko doesn't want to run away from this. As they approach the school, they see a group of Bajoran parents and children, and Vedek Winn, who is sermonizing to them. She tells O'Brien she has heard wonderful things about Keiko. "She doesn't deserve what you're doing to her," O'Brien says. Winn serenely accepts this, and asks Keiko if she's misjudged her; if there's room in the school for the Prophets. "No," says Keiko evenly. Winn smiles. "I admire you for standing by your convictions, even though I disagree with them." She offers to stop requesting that Keiko teach about the Celestial Temple, if Keiko agrees not to teach about the wormhole at all. "And when we get to theories of evolution or the creation of the universe?" asks Keiko. Winn says they'll face those issues when they come up. But Keiko is firm. "My responsibility is to expose my students to knowledge, not hide it from them. The answer is no." Winn gives a sad sigh. "I've tried to be reasonable." And she leaves, with all the Bajoran children and parents following her, leaving only Jake and a few other non-Bajoran children.

A little later, O'Brien is in conference with the other DS9 officers in Ops. It's entirely plausible that Aquino could have been accidentally caught by the plasma flow when the computer rerouted it. But O'Brien is bothered by the fact that Aquino apparently borrowed one of his tools without asking. The lateness of the hour doesn't explain it; the repairs could have waited. A Starfleet engineer simply doesn't do that. Odo asks if O'Brien is suggesting it may not have been an accident; O'Brien doesn't know. Sisko tells Odo to investigate.

Just then Jake arrives in Ops to talk to his dad, who has heard about what happened at school. Keiko didn't call off the class, but she did change the lesson to teach about Galileo and how he was tried for teaching that the Earth moved around the sun. "How could anyone be so stupid?" asks Jake, who thinks the Celestial Temple interpretation of the wormhole is "dumb". Sisko points out that the Bajorans' faith was what allowed them to survive the Cardassian Occupation, and the aliens in the wormhole are able to see the future as well as the past, so why should they not be called Prophets? "It may not be what you believe, but that doesn't make it wrong. If you start to think that way, you'll be acting just like Vedek Winn, only from the other side. We can't afford to think that way, Jake. We'd lose everything we've worked for here." He decides that he needs to get some help.

Sisko visits a monastery on Bajor to meet with Vedek Bareil, a soft-spoken man who seems refreshingly free of religious pomposity. He has heard about Winn's visit to the station, and Sisko says he was hoping Bareil could arrange an audience with the Vedek Assembly. Bareil is the leading candidate to be the next Kai, and his views are very different from Winn's. However, Bareil says the assembly won't see Sisko. "Some fear you as the symbol of a Federation they view as godless. Some fear you as the Emissary who walked with the Prophets. And some fear you because Vedek Winn told them to. We're all very good at conjuring up enough fear to justify whatever we want to do." He says that if he becomes Kai, he can do Sisko some good then. Sisko translates that to mean that helping him now might hurt Bareil's chances. Bareil doesn't deny that, but he won't be swayed.

Disappointed, Sisko returns to the station, to find that other than Kira and Neela, none of the usual Bajoran crewpeople are working in Ops. They called in sick. Sisko asks Kira if she thinks it's contagious; Kira says it's too early to tell. Sisko is frustrated. "Are your people willing to throw away everything we've accomplished during the past seven months? ...I'm here to build a trusting relationship with your people, and I'd like to start feeling that somebody -- somebody -- on your side is giving something back to that effort." Kira retorts that she's given him all the support she can. "I thought there was room on this station for all philosophies," she adds. Sisko orders Kira to tell the sick crewmen to get well immediately.

Odo and Bashir arrive then with new evidence about Ensign Aquino's death. The DNA found in the slag was definitely Aquino's. However, he was not killed by the plasma flow in the conduit, but by a phaser, set to kill.

The murder happened the night before Vedek Winn arrived, so there's nothing to relate it to the school controversy. Odo isn't convinced that Aquino had gone to the conduit to make a repair; the log could have been altered by the killer. The turbolift records show that Aquino took a lift not to the conduit but to runabout pad C. "What was he doing at a runabout at four in the morning?" O'Brien wonders. "Apparently, he was getting murdered," Odo says.

O'Brien and Neela check out the runabout at pad C. Everything seems normal; the airlock systems haven't been tampered with. Neela has already run a diagnostic on the runabout computer interface, and it checked out clean. She asks if O'Brien knew Aquino well. O'Brien admits he knew him barely at all, and asks about her. Neela says that Bajoran and Starfleet officers just don't mix together much. But O'Brien's not like the others, she adds. He doesn't put on any airs. Suddenly uncomfortable, O'Brien offers to close up here, and tells her to take off. "On your toes, O'Brien," he murmurs to himself after she's left. He distracts himself from his inappropriate thoughts by expanding the computer's diagnostic to the other two runabout pads.

Odo has been looking for Quark, and the Ferengi joins him at a replimat table, watching some orthodox Bajorans arriving to support Vedek Winn. Odo asks what Quark knows about Aquino's murder. Quark protests that he's not a killer. "No," Odo says, "but most of your friends are." "True," Quark acknowledges. "And I would gladly sell one of them to you if I could." However, none of his shady acquaintances has taken credit. Odo dismisses him as O'Brien approaches with an electronic component -- a security bypass module. It was found not at pad C but at pad A. O'Brien can't figure it out, but Odo has a pretty clear idea of what happened. Aquino went to pad C to investigate a security net anomaly there, interrupted someone tampering with it, and was killed. The killer put the body in the conduit and switched his tampering efforts to pad A, because the turbolift log might lead investigators to the other pad. Odo's guess is that someone wanted to steal a runabout. Yet none are missing, O'Brien notes.

Odo is speculating over this curiosity when they hear a blast some way down the Promenade. Instinctively, O'Brien rushes toward the schoolroom and finds it in flames. "Keiko!" he screams, trying to go inside, but he is held back by Odo. Then Keiko shows up, unharmed, and they embrace in relief while the school burns.

Investigation shows traces of common explosives. Winn shows up with much apparent concern over whether Keiko or anyone else was hurt, and hearing there were no injuries, says that the Prophets were kind today. Sisko angrily says the Prophets had nothing to do with it. "This was the work of a disturbed and violent mind who listened to your voice, not the Prophets'." Winn asks frostily if he's holding her responsible for this, and Sisko confirms it. "May the Prophets forgive you for abandoning them," she intones.

The public confrontation becomes more heated as the crowd grows. "You claim the Prophets as your personal constituency, Vedek Winn," Sisko tells her loudly. "Who do you speak for? An order that's barely listened to in your assembly, so you come here looking for a more receptive audience." Winn asks if Bareil told him that, and says Bareil is as misguided as Sisko. "No, that's not fair. You are not simply misguided, as I once thought. Now I see you want nothing less than to destroy us...You live without a soul, Commander. You and your Federation exist in a universe of darkness, and you would drag us in there with you. But we will not go."

Sisko smiles. She's just made her first mistake, he tells her. "The Bajorans who have lived with us on this station, who have worked with us for months, who helped us move this station to protect the wormhole, who have joined us to explore the Gamma Quadrant, who have begun to build the future of Bajor with us -- these people know that we are neither the enemy nor the devil. We don't always agree. We have some damn good fights, in fact. But we always come away from them with a little better understanding and appreciation of each other. You won't succeed here. This school will reopen. And when your rhetoric gets old, the Bajoran parents will bring their children back." "We'll see," says Winn. As Sisko leaves and her supporters gather around her, she makes eye contact with Neela, who is standing in the crowd, and nods to her.

Sisko goes to Ops, where O'Brien tells him Keiko is shaken up but plans to continue classes in a cargo bay. O'Brien also brings him up to speed on the conclusions he and Odo have drawn about the Aquino murder. Neela arrives and listens unobtrusively as O'Brien says he's placed security seals at all three runabout pads. Then a transmission arrives from Vedek Bareil, who is coming unexpectedly to the station, accepting Sisko's "invitation". Sisko tells him there is some damage on the Promenade which may not be cleaned up in time, and Bareil says, "Perhaps I can help you clean it up."

Neela goes to the shrine to talk to Winn, and tells her, "Vedek, they found out about the runabout...I have no way to escape." She is frightened; if she goes through with their plan, she'll be caught and executed. Winn looks lovingly at her. "The sacrifices the Prophets call on us to make are great sometimes, my dear. But the rewards they give will last through eternity."

In Ops, O'Brien is surprised to find a subprogram labeled ANA, protected by his own personal security access code. Yet he can't get into it to see what it is. O'Brien does a manual isolation, and Dax helps with the decryption. As this is happening, Bareil is being received warmly on the Promenade by the crowds there.

The ANA file turns out to be sequential overrides of security fields approaching runabout pad A, and leading back to the Promenade. O'Brien asks for a sensor sweep for anomalous readings on the Promenade, and realizes that it's an escape route. From what, he doesn't know. The computer finds that a short-range subspace relay has been activated in the security office. O'Brien heads down there.

Neela, carrying a toolbox, is part of the crowd that witnesses the meeting of Bareil and Winn at the temple; Winn agrees to accompany him to the school to show her commitment to a peaceful solution. Meanwhile, O'Brien reaches the security office, his tricorder leading him to the panel that Neela had worked on the other day. The subspace device is integrated with the isolinear coprocessors. As he's determining this, Bareil begins his speech in front of the ruined schoolroom, holding Winn's hand.

The coprocessors affect the weapon detectors on the Promenade, O'Brien realizes. Dax says they appear to be functioning, but O'Brien knows that Neela could easily make it look that way to the sensors. He calls Sisko and tells him what he's found. As Bareil continues to address the crowd, Sisko searches it for Neela, and finds her, moving closer to the front of the crowd as she opens her toolbox. Neela pulls out a phaser and aims at Bareil. Sisko tackles her just in time, causing her shot to go wild, hitting a nearby crossway. In the ensuing chaos, Odo hustles Bareil to safety. Neela's only words are, "The Prophets spoke. I answered their call." She repeats them over and over as she is dragged away.

Kira angrily confronts Winn. "It was all to get him here, wasn't it? The school, the protests, the bombing. You knew that would get him out of the monastery. You did it all to kill him, to stop him from becoming Kai." Winn only looks at her haughtily for a moment and walks away.

Late that night, Sisko arrives in Ops and sees Kira there, sitting at her station and staring into space. Hearing that Neela insists she acted alone, Kira says glumly that they'll never be able to prove Winn's involvement. "Last year at this time," she muses, "I was fighting the Cardassians in some nameless swamp. If you'd stopped by and told me that just one year later, they'd be gone, and I'd be wearing this uniform, up here in charge of protecting some wormhole -- " "Protecting your Celestial Temple," Sisko says. Kira is disillusioned. She had envied Vedek Winn; she wanted to be as strong in her faith as Winn was.

Sisko has a report to do, and Kira offers to help him. "I heard what you said to Vedek Winn at the school. I just wanted you to know -- you were right, what you said about the Bajorans. At least, about me. I don't think that you're the devil."

He smiles. "Maybe we have made some progress after all."

  • The line about Neela working out better than O'Brien's last apprentice was a direct reference to Anara (see notes for "The Forsaken").
  • The scene between Sisko and Bareil at the monastery was filmed at Fern Dell, a section of Griffith Park in Hollywood.
  • Jumja sticks were finally named in this episode (they had previously been referred to in scripts as "glop on a stick").