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In the Pale Moonlight

Production no.: 543
Teleplay by: Michael Taylor
Story by: Peter Allan Fields
Directed by: Victor Lobl
Stardate: 51721.3 
First satellite airdate: April 11, 1998
Andrew J. Robinson .....
Jeffrey Combs .............
Casey Biggs ................
Howard Shangraw .......
Stephen McHattie ........
Judi Durand .................
Station Computer Voice

Alone in his quarters, a haunted Sisko speaks to his personal log. "I need to talk about this. I have to justify what's happened, what I've done -- at least to myself. I can't talk to anyone else, not even to Dax. Maybe if I just lay it all out in my log, it'll finally make sense. I can see where it all went wrong. Where I went wrong."

Sisko's tale begins two weeks ago, when he posts the weekly casualty list in the wardroom, something he's done every Friday morning for the past three months. The station's Starfleet officers have made a grim ritual of studying the list to see if anyone they know is named among the dead, injured, and missing. That particular morning, Dax sees the name of a friend there: the captain of a ship that disappeared on patrol in the Romulan Neutral Zone. The Jem'Hadar have been regularly crossing the Romulan border to catch Starfleet ships off guard. Since the Romulans have a non-aggression pact with the Dominion, they're turning a blind eye to these violations of their territory.

"What we need to do is bring the Romulans into the war on our side," Bashir declares. "With the combined forces of the Federation, the Klingons and the Romulans, we could finally go on the offensive." Dax, however, says an alliance is the last thing the Romulans want. They have no reason to get involved in the war; they can simply sit back and watch the Federation and the Klingons get slaughtered, and then they can pick up the pieces.

"That was the moment I made the decision," Sisko tells his log. "It was like I had stepped through a door and locked it behind me. I was going to bring the Romulans into the war."

Sisko hashes it out later with Dax, who plays devil's advocate, speaking from the viewpoint of the Romulan proconsul. The Dominion isn't a threat to them, and they've kept up their side of the pact; they may be crossing Romulan territory, but as long as it hurts the Federation, the Romulans don't care. Sisko points out that the Dominion won't stop with the Federation, and will come after the Romulans once they've finished with this war. They're determined to bring "order" to the galaxy, after all. Dax (as the proconsul) demands that Sisko prove it. "Before I plunge my people into a conflict that will kill millions of loyal Romulan citizens, I need something more concrete than the self-serving argument of a Starfleet officer. I need proof of Dominion duplicity. Not more words, proof."

This crystallizes what Sisko needs to do. But any evidence there may be of a Dominion plan to attack Romulus will be deep within their headquarters on Cardassia. However, he has someone in mind to help him, "someone on this station who specializes in gaining access to places where he is not welcome."

And so Sisko speaks to Garak, who of course pretends to be most surprised and flattered by the captain's faith in him. When Sisko cuts through the repartee, Garak says seriously that it would be a suicide mission, but Sisko says he doesn't have to go to Cardassia himself; he can use his contacts, call in some favors. "It would mean calling in all my favors, Captain," says Garak. "To do what you're asking would use up every resource I have left on Cardassia. And it may be a very messy, very bloody business. Are you prepared for that?" Sisko looks at him grimly. "I posted my fourteenth casualty list this morning. I'm already involved in a very messy, very bloody business. And the only way I can see to end it is to bring the Romulans into the war. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal, but I can't do it alone. I need help. Now, are you in or out?" "I'm in," Garak decides.

"My father used to say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I laid the first stone right there. I'd committed myself. I'd pay any price, go to any lengths, because my cause was righteous. My intentions were good. In the beginning, that seemed like enough."

Sisko is awakened by the news that the Dominion has invaded Betazed. They had secretly massed their forces in the Calandra sector, an area that Starfleet Intelligence had ignored because they believed it was too far from the enemy's supply lines. The 10th Fleet, which was protecting Betazed, was caught out on a training exercise, and Betazed's planetary defenses are obsolete and undermanned. The Dominion is now in a position to threaten Vulcan, Andor, Tellar, and Alpha Centauri. "If we ever needed a new ally, it's right now," Dax says.

Sisko goes to Garak's shop to see if he's made any progress. "Well, I suppose that depends on how you look at it," the tailor replies. He has made discreet inquiries among his Cardassian contacts, who were all quite willing to help him. However, they're now dead, all of them, killed within a day of speaking to him. "I suppose that's a testament to the effectiveness of Dominion security. One should admire such efficiency." But Garak isn't ready to give up. "The fate of the entire quadrant hangs in the balance -- or at least that's the case you made to me." He has another plan. "If you want to guarantee that we obtain evidence of a Dominion plot to attack the Romulans, I suggest that we manufacture that evidence ourselves."

"Maybe I should have put a stop to it right there. Maybe I should have said, 'Thank you, very much for your input, Mister Garak, I will take your suggestion under advisement,' and then gone back to my office and forgotten the whole thing. But I didn't. Because in my heart, I knew what he was saying made sense."

Garak shows Sisko a PADD with a photo and bio of Vreenak, a very high-up Romulan senator who negotiated the non-aggression pact with the Dominion. If they can convince him that the Dominion is a threat, the other senators will soon follow. Garak goes on to tell Sisko that in ten days Vreenak will be having a diplomatic meeting with Weyoun on Soukara, and that he might be persuaded to secretly visit DS9 if Sisko invites him. Sisko will show Vreenak a holographic recording of a secret Dominion meeting at which the invasion of Romulus is being discussed; the senator will of course suspect it to be a forgery, but Sisko will be able to assure him that the recording is an official Cardassian transcript, recorded on a one-time optolythic datarod of a type manufactured only as needed, which cannot be erased or altered once recorded. The rod will be genuine, but the recording will be forged. Garak is working on getting the rod, though he already has someone in mind to create the recording. Sisko says he will have to clear this plan with Starfleet Command, to which Garak agrees. His holoforgery expert, he tells Sisko, happens to be currently in a Klingon prison awaiting execution, so perhaps Sisko can arrange a pardon through Gowron.

Not long after that, Grathon Tolar, the holoforger, sits in the DS9 wardroom, most grateful for Sisko's intervention. Sisko makes it clear that Tolar is working for him, not Starfleet, and that this is off record. Tolar reacts with apparent fear when he hears that Garak will provide him with the information he needs. He says he'll wait in his quarters. But somewhat later, Sisko is working in his office when Odo calls to ask if he knows a Grathon Tolar. Tolar has just tried to kill Quark.

When Sisko gets down to Quark's, Odo tells him the tale. Tolar got drunk and asked a Dabo girl to dance; she refused, they struggled, and Quark intervened, getting stabbed by Tolar for his trouble. However, Tolar then claimed to be a friend of the Captain's. Sisko tells Odo that Tolar is working for him on an extremely sensitive matter concerning Federation security. He can't have any record of Tolar being on the station. Odo can understand that, but if Quark decides to press charges, he'll have no choice but to arrest Tolar.

Sisko has a word with Quark, who has been treated for his injury, and awkwardly asks what it will take to get him to not press charges. "Are you offering me a bribe?" Quark asks slyly, and smiles. "I knew it. Captain, I've always liked you. I suspected that somewhere deep down in your heart of hearts, there was a tiny bit of Ferengi just waiting to get out." He asks to have his clothes, and the Dabo girl's, replaced, compensation of 5 bars of latinum for the loss of business, and some intervention with station security concerning a missing import license. Sisko grudgingly agrees to all of this. "Thank you, Captain," Quark says, delighted. "Thank you for restoring my faith in the ninety-eighth Rule of Acquisition: 'Every man has his price.'"

"That was my first moment of real doubt. When I started to wonder if this whole thing was a mistake. So then I went back to my office, and there was a new casualty list waiting for me. People are dying out there. Every day. Entire worlds are struggling for their freedom, and here I am still worrying about the finer points of morality. No, I had to keep my eye on the ball. Winning the war, stopping the bloodshed -- those were the priorities. So I pushed on. And every time another doubt appeared before me, I just found another way to shove it aside."

Garak speaks to Sisko in the turbolift. He has locked Tolar in his quarters, having implied that if he tries to force the door open, it may explode. Of more importance is the fact that he has located someone willing to sell them a genuine optolythic datarod; he trusts the party in question, but the problem is that this person isn't interested in latinum. Instead, he wants 200 liters of biomemetic gel. Sisko balks: the sale of that particular substance is outlawed by the Federation. But Garak is quite certain he won't be able to locate another source for the rod. Finally, Sisko says that there isn't that much gel in the entire sector; Garak says he believes the quantity is open to negotiation.

Bashir is not happy when Sisko tells him to package the gel (80 liters) for transport, without telling him where it's going. The doctor asks for the order in writing, and declares that he will note this in his log, and file an official protest with Starfleet Medical. Sisko says that's his right, but he wants the gel by the end of the day.

Later, Sisko and Garak observe Tolar's creation: a holo-scenario in which Weyoun and Damar are discussing the invasion of Romulus. The simulation is very realistic, right down to the petty bickering and mutual loathing. Sisko decides it's satisfactory, so Garak has Tolar record the program, while Sisko notes to the tailor that Vreenak is on the way. Tolar is surprised and angry to learn that he won't be allowed to leave just yet. Sisko tells him he can't leave until his work passes inspection by the "client". Garak adds that he'll be by Tolar's quarters later to "say hello".

As Vreenak is about to arrive, Garak tells Sisko that while Sisko entertains the senator, he, Garak, will make a quick search of Vreenak's ship's database for any intelligence information he may have picked up while on Soukara. The area has been cleared and secured by Worf. Kira notifies Sisko that the coded subspace signal he was waiting for has been received. Sisko then watches the Romulan shuttle arrive at a landing bay. Garak departs after warning Sisko that he may have to put up with a certain "acerbic attitude" from the senator. "Mr. Garak, after spending a week with you," says Sisko, "I have developed a very, very thick skin."

That thick skin comes in handy when Sisko welcomes Vreenak aboard. "So, you're the commander of Deep Space Nine," the senator says. "And the Emissary to the Prophets. Decorated combat officer, widower, father, mentor -- and oh, yes, the man who started the war with the Dominion. Somehow I thought you'd be taller." Vreenak lets Sisko know that his opinion of Starfleet officers is so low that it's not likely that he can be disappointed. "I look forward to seeing your station -- while it's still here, that is. The way the war's going for the Federation, it may not be around much longer."

In the wardroom, Sisko makes his pitch to Vreenak, who is openly skeptical. "Dogged determination isn't enough to change the reality of your situation. Time is definitely not on your side. The Dominion shipyards are operating at a hundred percent capacity. Yours are still being rebuilt. The Dominion is breeding legions of Jem'Hadar soldiers every day. You're experiencing a manpower shortage. But most important, the Dominion is resolved to win the war, at any cost. You and I both know the Federation has already put out peace feelers. Now, in all candor, if you were in my position, which side would you choose?" "I'd pick the side most likely to leave us in peace when the dust settles," Sisko replies coolly. He points out that if the Dominion wins, they will occupy the space now controlled by Cardassia, the Klingons, and the Federation, which will leave the Romulans surrounded. But Vreenak counters that it's all just speculation.

"What if I told you that the Dominion is planning a sneak attack on the Romulan Empire at this very moment?" Sisko asks. Vreenak, of course, wants proof of this. So Sisko shows him the recording. Betraying no emotion, Vreenak asks to examine the datarod, and Sisko gives it to him.

Sisko describes the waiting. "I'm not an impatient man. I'm not one to agonize over decisions once they're made. I got that from my father. He always says worry and doubt are the greatest enemies of a great chef. 'The soufflé will either rise or it won't. There's not a damn thing you can do about it, so you might as well just sit back, wait, and see what happens.' But this time, the cost of failure was so high, I found it difficult to follow his advice. If Vreenak discovered that the datarod was a forgery, if he realized that we were trying to trick them into war, it could push the Romulans even farther into the enemy camp. They could start to openly help the Dominion. If worse came to worst, they could actually join the war against us. I had the distinct feeling that victory or defeat would be decided in the next few minutes."

Sisko enters the wardroom again to find Vreenak, the datarod clenched in his fist. "It's a fake," the Romulan hisses.

"So it all blew up in my face. All the lies and compromises, the inner doubts and rationalizations -- all for nothing. Vreenak was furious. I can't say I blamed him. I'd have reacted the same way. After telling me in no uncertain terms that he would expose this vile deception to the entire Alpha Quadrant, he got back in his shuttle and headed home. There didn't seem to be anything more to do, so I went back to work. Two days later I got the news."

It's another Friday morning, and Bashir and Dax are discussing what they've found this week on the casualty list, when Worf enters to tell Sisko that according to Starfleet Intelligence, a Romulan shuttle carrying a high-ranking senator has been destroyed. It was Vreenak, returning to Romulus from the mission to Soukara. The Tal'Shiar's preliminary reports point to sabotage, and the Dominion is believed to be responsible. The others are excited. This could mean that the Romulans will enter the war. Sisko abruptly excuses himself.

He goes straight to Garak's shop, hauls off, and decks the tailor, who admits that yes, he killed Vreenak. Sisko guesses now that Garak planned it all along, knowing the datarod wouldn't stand up to scrutiny. Garak tells him that he did hope the rod might pass inspection, but he suspected that Tolar might not have been up to the task. Tolar, too, is dead. "Think of them both as tragic victims of war," Garak says. "If you can allow your anger to subside for a moment, you'll see that they did not die in vain. The Romulans will enter the war." He's quite sure of that. The Tal Shiar will find the datarod in the wreckage, and learn what it contains; any imperfections in the rod will be attributed to the explosion. "So, with a seemingly legitimate rod in one hand and a dead senator in the other, I ask you, Captain, what conclusion would you draw?"

Sisko knows exactly what the Romulans will think: that Vreenak got the rod on Soukara, and the Dominion killed him to prevent him from returning to Romulus with it. "And the more the Dominion protests its innocence, the more the Romulans will believe they're guilty," says Garak. "Because it's exactly what the Romulans would have done in their place."

Reluctantly, Sisko sees Garak's logic. "That's why you came to me, isn't it, Captain?" the Cardassian asks. "Because you knew I could do those things that you weren't capable of doing. Well, it worked. And you'll get what you want -- a war between the Romulans and the Dominion. And if your conscience is bothering you, you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant. And all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal, and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a bargain."

And now, the Romulans have indeed declared war against the Dominion, and begun to strike at their bases. "So this is a huge victory for the good guys," Sisko declares to his log. "This may even be the turning point of the entire war. There is even a 'welcome to the fight' party tonight in the wardroom. So, I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all: I think I can live with it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would. Garak was right about one thing -- a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for the safety of the Alpha Quadrant. So I will learn to live with it. Because I can live with it. I can live with it."

Sisko pauses, and sits back on his couch, making a decision. "Computer," he orders, "erase that entire personal log."

  • The original story was about Jake uncovering a dirty secret of Shakaar's, and Sisko trying to stop his son from publishing it. This changed to Jake finding that his father and Garak were involved in shady dealings. Finally Jake was dropped from the episode altogether.
  • The casualty list included names of various production crew members, Paramount security guards, and so on.