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Production no.: 508
Teleplay by: Hans Beimler
Story by: L. J. Strom
Directed by: Jonathan West
Stardate: not given 
First satellite airdate: December 28, 1996
Penny Johnson .....
Ernest Perry Jr. ....
Louise Fletcher .....
Admiral Whatley
Kai Winn

With Kira and Dax, Sisko views an icon of the city of B'hala, painted nearly 20,000 years ago and known as the most important Bajoran icon ever painted. In fact, it is the only proof that the legendary city ever even existed. The painting depicts a stone obelisk (called a bantaca spire), an aqueduct, and a town square. Dax is underwhelmed, but Sisko is fascinated. He has used his influence to "steal a look" before the icon is returned from Cardassia to the state museum in Ilvia. "Sometimes, being the Emissary isn't such a bad thing," he acknowledges.

His eye is particularly drawn to the spire, which Kira says was used to mark the city's place in the cosmos. There are markings on it which supposedly indicate its coordinates, but since the other sides of the spire can't be seen, there is no way to decipher them, so B'hala is likely to remain lost. Sisko decides to have the icon scanned into the computer. Dax asks if he's going to study it and maybe find the lost city, but Sisko says he just wants a copy for his office. Kira looks at him. "I was just thinking about Zocal's third prophecy. It said only someone who had been touched by the Prophets could find the ruins of B'hala." "No pressure," comments Dax.

Not only is Sisko quite pleased with his acquisition, he finds it almost seems to call to him. Studying it in his office, he notices something, and has the computer magnify that grid. An aqueduct in the painting shows a reflection of one of the unseen sides of the bantaca spire. Sisko downloads the painting to an isolinear rod and goes to a holosuite.

There, he creates a replica of the spire, and has the computer superimpose, reverse, and enhance the reflection onto one of the blank sides. Fascinated, Sisko continues to work on it, unaware of the passage of time until Quark comes in to tell him it's after three in the morning. He is curious about the spire; Sisko tells him it's an ancient puzzle. When he reaches for the isolinear rod after saving the program, there is a short. Sparks fly, and he is thrown to the floor unconscious, blue arcs dancing over his body. Alarmed, Quark calls for medical assistance.

Even though Sisko will be all right, Odo hauls Quark in for negligence of the holosuites. Meanwhile, in the infirmary, Bashir tells Sisko there are no signs of permanent neural damage, but he is reading odd synaptic potentials. Sisko notices that everything looks different -- colors more intense, shapes more focused. According to Bashir, it's due to post-neural shock syndrome; Sisko's neural pathways were overloaded, and all external stimuli will seem more pronounced until things settle down. Bashir puts him on restricted duty for the next three days. "In the meantime, enjoy the show."

At dinner with Jake (cooked this time by the son, not the father), Sisko is in a bit of an odd mood, cutting his fruit into strange shapes. Jake mentions the fact that Kasidy is returning to the station tomorrow, having completed her six-month prison sentence for smuggling to the Maquis. Yet Sisko shows no interest in that fact; he's too busy concentrating on the shapes he's making with the fruit. Suddenly inspiration hits him. "These shapes. I know what they are."

They are the missing markings on the fourth side of the bantaca spire. Sisko is staring at them in the holosuite when he receives a call from Admiral Whatley, who tells him that Bajor's petition to join the Federation has been approved. "It's about time," Sisko smiles, as the admiral congratulates him. "You've done a helluva job out there...We're not the only ones who think so. The Bajorans requested that the signing ceremony take place on your station. So make sure you spruce up that floating bicycle wheel of yours. Count on me and a lot of other brass showing up for this one, Captain."

The news doesn't take long to spread throughout the station. In the bar, Quark proudly unveils a banner to the crowd. Unfortunately, it's the one to welcome the Klingons. Quark hurriedly grabs the Federation banner from behind the bar and unfurls it, to much applause. "I see you're prepared for anything," Dax says in amusement. "I take it you think Federation membership is going to be good for business?" "Of course it is," Quark replies happily. "This station is going to be busier than an Alvanian beehive. I'm expecting to do five times the volume in root beer alone. You see, it's all about foot traffic. The more people come in, the more they drink. The more they drink, the more they talk. The more they talk, the more they let slip things that I shouldn't know. And that -- oh, that always leads to latinum!" He smiles, an anticipatory gleam in his eye. Worf, however, quotes an "ancient Klingon proverb": "You cannot loosen a man's tongue with root beer."

Kira joins Dax and Worf, who asks if she's celebrating. "Five years ago, I wouldn't have been," the Major admits. "I didn't think Federation membership was right for Bajor. It hadn't been that long since the Occupation. I thought it was important for us to learn to stand on our own two feet." But a lot of things have changed her mind since then, especially the Captain. "He made me a believer." Kira wants to congratulate him; Dax tells her he's in the holosuite. "Don't worry, I fixed it," says Quark.

When Kira goes into the holosuite, she finds Sisko sitting and staring at the bantaca spire. When he doesn't respond, she is alarmed, and starts to shake him, until finally he comes out of it. "I was there...B'hala. It was the eve of the Peldor Festival. I could hear them ringing the temple chimes." "You were dreaming," Kira tells him. But he's sure it was something else. "No, I was there. I could smell the burning bateret leaves, taste the incense on the wind. I was standing in front of the obelisk. And as I looked up, for one moment, I understood it all. B'hala, the Orbs, the Occupation, the discovery of the wormhole, the coming war with the Dominion...For one moment, I could see the pattern that held it all together."

Kira looks at him in awe. He has had what her people call a "pagh'tem'far" -- a sacred vision. "The Prophets chose well when they made you their Emissary. So how does it all fit together?" "I wish I knew. Someone woke me up." But he reassures her that he would have been worried too, in her place. Just then, O'Brien calls to notify Sisko that Kai Winn is on her way. Sisko tells Kira to greet her at the airlock, give her his apologies, and make some excuse as to why he can't meet with her until tomorrow. Until then, he will be here. "The answer is in this spire. I know it."

Met at the airlock by Kira and hearing the excuse that Sisko is busy, Winn comments, "Still basking in the adulation of Starfleet Command...I'm sure the Federation is very pleased with the job he's done." The Kai, of course, is dubious. "Our culture has had only five short years to recover from the Occupation. Only five years of freedom. It hardly seems enough time, does it?" Kira points out, "Bajor's still going to be free. Joining the Federation isn't going to change that," and adds that she's sure that after the Emissary considers everything the Kai has to say, Bajor's admittance can go forward unobstructed. "I await the will of the Prophets," says Winn piously.

Sisko is using the spire markings combined with maps and various instruments to figure out B'hala's location, and just as he smiles in triumph, Kasidy enters the holosuite. "Hello, Ben," she says, a little hesitant. She is surprised when he kisses her warmly. "I didn't know you'd be happy to see me," she admits. "What are you doing for the next few hours?" Sisko asks her. He's going to Bajor; he believes he's found B'hala. Kasidy is taken aback. She doesn't even know where she's staying yet, but he tells her that her old quarters are still available if she wants them. Reassured that all is forgiven, Kasidy agrees to come along. "Somehow, I don't think you'll take no for an answer."

Together they walk through an underground tunnel two hundred meters deep under Bajor. Sisko says they're nearly there. Suddenly he has an excruciating headache. When he recovers, he tells her it's nothing to be concerned about, a side effect of the accident. "Or obsessing over an ancient Bajoran city?" Kasidy asks. "Is that a side effect, too?" Sisko only tells her she's being negative again, and continues on until they come to a wall of stone. He's sure B'hala is there. When he fires his phaser, the wall disappears to reveal a section of the ancient bantaca spire. After 20,000 years, the ancient city has been uncovered by the Emissary.

Kira meets with Odo and Worf, who are trying to decide where to house the various dignitaries coming to the station for the signing. The Major, however, is distracted by the news of the finding of B'hala. "Your gods have granted the captain a powerful vision," Worf notes; Odo the skeptic says, "Or else he made a very lucky guess." But Kira is sure it was a sign from the Prophets.

Just then Winn arrives, wanting to have a word with Kira, who goes off with her. The Kai is pensive, and works up to her question slowly: "I'm asking if you think the Emissary will forgive me." She knows that Sisko knows she never truly believed he was the Emissary, but now his finding of B'hala has actually convinced her. "I was wrong. I know that now. Only someone touched by the Prophets could have found B'hala." "Does that mean you're not going to try to block Bajor's admittance into the Federation?" Kira asks; Winn replies, "I'm going to follow the path the Emissary has laid out for us."

Kira smiles. "I must admit, I'm surprised to hear that. It takes a lot of courage to admit you're wrong." "And you think I lack courage?" Winn queries. "...Those of you who were in the Resistance -- you're all the same. You think you're the only ones who fought the Cardassians, that you saved Bajor singlehandedly." Winn reminds Kira of the fact that any Bajoran found teaching the word of the Prophets used to be arrested by the Cardassians. She was one of them; she spent five years in a prison camp. "I can remember each and every beating I suffered. And while you had your weapons to protect you, all I had was my faith, and my courage. Walk with the Prophets, child. I know I will." She leaves Kira with a lot to think about.

Admiral Whatley goes down to the site where the excavation of B'hala has begun; Sisko is there, watching, and knows who is approaching without looking around. The admiral is a bit skeptical when Sisko says the location came to him in a vision. "For the past few days, I've had these moments of insights, flashes of understanding." He admits they started after the accident. Whatley tells Sisko bluntly that he came to see him here because Sisko hadn't been returning his com signals. "That could get an officer in a lot of trouble. Look, Ben, I need to know that I can count on you. Bajor's admission is only the beginning. Now comes the hard part." Sisko is the one who has to oversee the details, like choosing Federation council members and absorbing the militia into Starfleet. "Don't worry, I won't let you down," Sisko assures him, but when the admiral suggests that they go back to DS9, Sisko says he can't yet. He needs a little more time, "for answers. There's clarity here. I wish I could explain it better, but I can't."

"You're scaring me with this, Ben," Whatley says, and Sisko admits, "I'm a little scared too, Admiral." Not wanting to force him back, Whatley agrees to give him some time. But tomorrow morning, he's ordered to report to Bashir for a physical. When the admiral leaves, Sisko has another headache.

Sisko is late for his physical the next morning, to the concern of Whatley, who asks Bashir if there's anything he can do to cure Sisko of the "odd synaptic potentials". Bashir replies that he could try neuro-polaric induction, but he'd rather not unless it's absolutely necessary. "So in the meantime, he's going to keep having 'visions'," the admiral says in resignation. "I knew we were headed for trouble the minute he allowed the Bajorans to call him the Emissary." "He didn't have much choice," Bashir points out. "The Bajorans are deeply committed to their spirituality, not to mention incredibly stubborn. They believe that Captain Sisko is the Emissary, and nothing's going to change their minds."

Just then there is a slight ruckus on the Promenade as Sisko heads slowly toward the infirmary, surrounded by a crowd of Bajorans and accepting their reverent adoration with serene humility rather than the awkward embarrassment he would have felt before. He's blessing them, reassuring them, giving advice that they take as gospel. Suddenly Sisko is hit by another headache. When Bashir and Whatley rush over, he looks intently at the admiral. "Your son -- you can stop worrying about him. He forgives you." Whatley is astonished as Sisko goes into the infirmary. "How the hell did he know that Kevin and I weren't getting along?" "He's the Emissary," is the only explanation Bashir can come up with.

As the tests are completed, Sisko recalls another vision he has had. He tells Kira and Whatley, "Cardassia...That's where it was going. The cloud...I was on Bajor. B'hala had been rebuilt. The people were in the streets, celebrating. But then, a shadow covered the sun. We looked up and saw a cloud filling the sky. It was a swarm of locusts. Billions of them. They hovered above the city. The noise was deafening. But just as quickly as they came, they moved on. Now I know where they were going. Cardassia." He doesn't know what it means, what the locusts represent, or why Cardassia. Whatley thinks he was dreaming, but Sisko is sure he wasn't.

Bashir asks why Sisko didn't tell him about the headaches. "I guess I was too busy," the Captain replies. Bashir tells him that the area of unusual neural activity has grown, and the basal ganglia are starting to depolarize. He will have to operate to repolarize the sheaths. Sisko's concern is how that will affect the visions. Bashir says there's no way to tell, but he assumes they will stop when brain activity returns to normal. "Then you can't do it," Sisko decides. Faced with objections from Whatley and Bashir, he replies that he understands that he could die. "But something is happening to me, something extraordinary. I have to see it through."

Jake and Kasidy are in anguish when Sisko breaks it to them that he's not going to have the operation. "Don't you see? These visions are gifts. I can't refuse them." "I cannot believe what I'm hearing," Kasidy says. "Listen to yourself, Ben. Sitting there, telling us that this mystical journey of yours is more important than watching your son grow up." Jake puts in his two slips. "Dad, please think about what you're doing. These visions -- they're not worth dying for." Sisko tries to explain, looking at his son. "I remember the first time I held you in my hands. You were only a few minutes old. And I looked down at your face, and it was almost as if I could see your whole life stretched out in front of you -- all the joys it would bring, and the bruises. It was all there, hidden in that scrunched-up little face. The baby that I'm holding in my hands now is the universe itself. And I need time to study its face."

"Look at the face of your son now," Kasidy pleads. "And then tell me you're doing the right thing." Sisko doesn't have an answer. At that moment, the door chimes; it's Kai Winn. "It's time, Emissary. If you're ready." "I am," he replies. He gets up to leave with her, and looks back at Kasidy and Jake. "I love you. Both of you."

Kira, Dax, O'Brien and Worf have a conversation in Ops about what's going on. Kira's stance is one of simple faith, that the Prophets will take care of Sisko. Unexpectedly, Worf supports Kira against the Starfleet agnosticism of O'Brien and Dax, who asks, "Since when did you believe in the Prophets?" "What I believe in is faith," the Klingon replies. "Without it there can be no victory. If the captain's faith is strong, he will prevail." "That's not much to bet his life on," Dax says, but Kira says, "You're wrong. It's everything."

In a set of guest quarters, Winn prays for Sisko, who is kneeling before an Orb tabernacle. As she is about to open it, Sisko is gripped by another headache. Worriedly, Winn says, "The Orb of Prophecy is very powerful. It taxes even the healthy. Are you sure you want to go through with this?" "I have to," Sisko replies. "I need to bring the visions into focus, tie them together. I can't do it alone." He's determined to do this now. Finally, she opens the box, and the light floods his face.

The Federation and Bajoran dignitaries are all waiting in the wardroom for Sisko, who is an hour late; Kai Winn tells Whatley that he's still consulting the Orb, which could take minutes, hours, or days. She agrees, however, to starting without him. Whatley is in the middle of his speech when Sisko suddenly bursts in, looking exhausted, leaning against the door frame. "The locusts," he cries out. "They'll destroy Bajor unless it stands alone!...It's too soon. Bajor must not join the Federation. If it does, it will be destroyed." Before the stunned crowd of officials, he collapses, trembling, onto the floor.

Sisko's condition is dire; Bashir tells Kira, Jake, Kasidy and the admiral that he has to operate immediately. However, Kira feels it her duty to reiterate Sisko's wish not to let anything interfere with the visions. "Major," says Whatley, "these visions may be important, but I think we're all in agreement here that they are not as important as Captain Sisko's life. Start the procedures," he tells Bashir. But Bashir can't do that without the consent of Sisko's closest relative. All eyes turn to Jake, who realizes it's up to him. He takes his father's hand and speaks quietly, with emotion. "Dad, I know you want to see this thing to the end. But I need you. I'm sorry." To Bashir, he says, "Do what you have to do."

Kira meets up with Kai Winn a little later, as Sisko is still in surgery. "I hope the Prophets will forgive us," the Kai says. "We never should have allowed the Federation to interfere with the Emissary's visions." Kira, though, reminds her that it was Jake, not the Federation, and he had every right to make the decision he did. "It was a selfish act," declares Winn. Kira tells her, "He's an eighteen-year-old boy who doesn't want to lose his father. What would you have done in his place?"

"I would trust the Prophets," Winn replies. But Kira says, "Maybe we're the ones who need to trust the Prophets. For all we know, this is part of their plan. Maybe they've told Captain Sisko everything they want him to know." Winn concedes that this may be so. She tells Kira the news that the Council of Ministers has voted to delay acceptance of Federation membership. "You must be very pleased," notes Kira. However, Winn looks troubled. "I wish I were. But things are not that simple. Not anymore. Before Captain Sisko found B'hala, my path was clear. I knew who my enemies were. But now -- now nothing is certain." Kira smiles wryly. "Makes life interesting, doesn't it?"

Sisko wakes up after surgery. "No," he whispers, devastated. "You took them away." "We had no choice," Bashir tells him. "You were dying." Nonetheless, Sisko can't help but feel a great sense of loss. "I almost had it. Almost understood it all. Now it's gone."

He is back in his office when Admiral Whatley pays him a visit to ask how he is. "Look Ben, it's not too late. You could contact the Chamber of Ministers. Tell them you were wrong. Convince them to accept Federation membership." "I can't do that," Sisko says simply. "The visions may have faded, but everything I said, everything I did, still feels right. When I said Bajor should wait before it joins the Federation, I have never felt so certain about anything in my life."

Whatley is disappointed. He could easily have Sisko's commission for this, but he also knows how the Bajorans feel about their Emissary. The Federation would probably lose Bajor forever. "Admiral," says Sisko, "for what it's worth, I wish things had turned out differently...But it's not over. One day Bajor will join the Federation. That I'm sure of." "Are you speaking as a Starfleet captain or as the Emissary of the Prophets?" asks the admiral. Sisko smiles. "Both." Whatley concedes gracefully. "In that case, I'll keep the champagne on ice."

When Sisko goes to his quarters, he finds Jake and Kasidy putting the finishing touches on the "welcome back" dinner for Kasidy that they never had. "Welcome back. To both of us," Kasidy says with a kiss, though she still sees the loss in his face. "Ben, I can't say I understand what you've gone through. I know you feel you've lost something important. And maybe you have. But believe me, you've held onto something important as well." She puts his hand in Jake's and closes her own over them, and for a long moment they stand there clasping each other tightly.

  • This was the first DS9 episode featuring the Starfleet uniforms introduced in Star Trek: First Contact: black with gray shoulders and color-coded undershirts, rather than color-coded shoulders and purple undershirts.
  • Though it was not revealed to the audience until "In Purgatory's Shadow", due to the uniform change, this is the first episode we know of in which Bashir is not Bashir but a Changeling. (A scary fact, considering that he performs a major operation on Sisko in this episode.) When this episode was written, that plot point had not yet been thought of.