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Production no.: 431
Teleplay by: Joe Menosky
Story by: Jim Trombetta and Michael Piller
Directed by: David Livingston
Stardate: not given 
First satellite airdate: January 1, 1994
Rosalind Chao .........
Barbara Bosson ......
K Callan .................
Max Grodénchik ......
Albert Henderson ....
Chris Sarandon ........

On the second level of Quark's, an alien widow named Alsia is pouring out her heart to a handsome, younger-looking man named Martus. She is investing her cash in a mining concession in the Vlugtan asteroid belt, following up on her father's dream; when the results of his survey of the belt become public, she'll become rich. It's her "secret plan", and Alsia remarks that she can't believe she's telling it to a man she's just met. Martus listens and encourages, then offers to help her out by becoming her partner. At that moment, Odo's hand descends on Martus' shoulder. He's arresting him. Alsia protests that they were just talking, and Odo says, "You were talking, Madam. He was listening."

Martus Mazur is, in fact, from a race of listeners, the El-Aurians, gifted with a natural ability to draw people out. It doesn't work on Odo, who is hauling him to a cell for having conned an elderly couple from Pythro V. Martus had talked them into giving him access to their finances, ostensibly to help them invest their savings; but he invested the money in his own business, which promptly folded. Now his victims have signed a complaint.

Elsewhere, O'Brien enters the racquetball court he has built, anticipating his first workout, only to find Bashir there, warming up. The Chief hides his automatic resentment as Bashir casually tells him he was captain of the Starfleet Medical Academy team that won the sector championship in his last year. As for O'Brien, he doesn't have much in the way of formal training, but racquetball has been a pastime of his for years. Somehow every word Bashir says sounds patronizing to him, and he challenges the doctor to a game. Bashir serves, and scores one right away.

Martus' cellmate is an old, ill alien named Cos, who is snoring on his bunk; Martus is concerned when Cos seems to stop breathing, but then the alien wakes up. "I thought you'd died," Martus says, and Cos wheezes, "If only I could be so fortunate." Even a listener gets tired of sob stories now and then, and Martus doesn't want to hear Cos', but the alien continues mournfully. Once, he had everything, and now it's gone, "all because of this." He holds out a small handheld gambling device and thumbs a button; the device chirps strangely and goes quiet. Cos explains that after he obtained it, everything he touched turned into a disaster. "Sounds like you just had a lot of rotten luck," Martus observes, and Cos says, "Yes, rotten luck. In the end, it all comes down to luck." He works the device again, and this time when the noises stop, it glows for a moment. "I won," breathes Cos, and dies. Martus picks up the device as it drops from his limp grasp.

O'Brien returns home, furious; he lost the racquetball game. Keiko tries to be realistic about it: "You're not a kid anymore. It's nothing to be ashamed of. People just naturally slow down." Her husband is far from mollified by these comforting words as he vows a rematch. Meanwhile, Bashir is at the replimat, telling Dax about what happened. He says he tried to stop the game at several points by making up excuses; he finally got out of it by having a nurse call him with a fake emergency. Bashir is concerned that O'Brien might kill himself trying to beat him, but more than that, he hates the thought of humiliating a man he respects.

As Martus sits on his bunk playing with the device, which lights up time and again, Odo comes in, disgruntled. The Pythron couple has decided not to press charges, and Martus is free. He goes to Quark's and plays prosecco, winning a free drink. "My luck's running good today," Martus comments. Quark isn't fooled by his charm or his clothes. "The 47th Rule of Acquisition says 'Don't trust a man wearing a better suit than your own.' Either you're a con artist or you're covering up an empty coin purse. I happen to know it's both." But, though he tries not to show it, the Ferengi is intrigued by the game device that Martus keeps playing and winning. When Quark gives it a go, however, he loses. Martus tells him that with some replication and expansion, it might make a good addition to the casino. Quark offers a pittance for it, but Martus wants more. He decides to hang onto the device a while longer. "Suit yourself," shrugs Quark.

Martus wanders off and comes to a shop which is being closed down by a Bajoran widow named Roana. Business is good, she tells him, but since her husband died, her heart isn't in it any more. Martus comments that it's not the same working by yourself, and Roana looks at him in appreciation. "You understand," she says.

Bashir and O'Brien have their rematch, and the Chief is even angrier than before, realizing that Bashir is deliberately missing shots. "You think I'm stupid, too?...I don't need your charity. Next time, you either play your best game or you don't play." Bashir watches him go, frustrated; he's only made things worse.

Quark buttonholes Odo on the Promenade: "He can't do this! I have an exclusive contract! I want him arrested!" He's talking about the new gambling club Martus has opened up, in the place of Roana's former shop. Martus looks at Quark smugly as people stream through his doors. Quark appeals to Sisko, who says that a few bribes to the Cardassians does not constitute a contract in the eyes of the Federation. As Quark is insisting that he wants Martus stopped, they come upon the El-Aurian heading to his club with Rom, who is deserting Quark in exchange for a one-quarter partnership.

In his club, Martus is approached again by Alsia, who looks worried. The Vlugtan government has accepted her bid, but won't finalize the transaction until she commissions a study on the effects of the mining on intersystem navigation. She has only a week to do the study, but she can't afford it. The only answer is to find an investor. It really is Martus' lucky day. "I'll do everything in my power to keep your dream alive," he vows.

A little later, Martus, who is beginning to think he can do no wrong, is nuzzling a Dabo girl when he spots his financial backer, Roana, entering, a fraction before she sees him. He proposes a toast, and then marriage as well, and shows her the larger versions of his gambling device which he has installed at his club.

Quark plays prosecco again and again in his deserted bar, and loses again and again. Meanwhile, in Ops, Dax is happily astonished when a computer file she has been looking for suddenly shows up. At the racquetball court, O'Brien is dazed. He has just fallen, having actually slipped on the ball while it was in flight. O'Brien wants another game, but Bashir is called to the infirmary. The doctor apologetically tells O'Brien he just doesn't enjoy the game as much he used to, and hopes the Chief can find another opponent. O'Brien is left steaming.

He goes to Quark's, which is completely empty except for him and Quark. "A listener," the Ferengi grumbles. "So what? So he listens. I can listen. I can listen as well as anyone." He asks O'Brien what happened, and the Chief says he fell down. "See. I'm listening. Nothing to it." O'Brien goes on to tell him about the racquetball game, and Quark slowly perks up, getting an idea. "The aging champion...versus the daring challenger...Come one, come all...Welcome to Quark's!"

Kira's day isn't so hot. Her terminal self-destructs and loses a report she's been working on for weeks, including the backups. Sisko remarks that he's heard a lot of bad luck stories in the last few hours, and the infirmary is full of people who have suffered minor accidents. Kira scoffs, saying we all make our own luck, and promptly trips and falls. Meanwhile, Martus is not happy when all his gambling devices come up winners at once, and he has to pay off dozens of patrons. And Quark suddenly begins winning at prosecco.

Later, O'Brien and Bashir are both called to Quark's for supposed emergencies, only to be greeted by a crowd, and Quark exuberantly announcing something. "If it's action you want, you've come to the right place! Excitement -- we've got it all! Thrills and spills! Victory and defeat! Look no further! We've got it all!" He's talking about "a legend on both sides of the wormhole...Miles 'The Mechanic' O'Brien!" and "the challenger -- he's fast, he's deadly, he's Julian Bashir. They call him 'The Doctor'! The grudge match of the galaxy!" O'Brien and Bashir look at each other in bewilderment as Quark goes on to tell the crowd that the "noble competitors" have insisted that half the house's winnings be donated to the Bajoran Fund for Orphans. And a few monks smile happily at O'Brien and Bashir.

Bashir confronts Quark, saying they haven't agreed to anything, and Quark understands. "Think of the children. The monks have already made a down payment on new blankets for the winter. Ah well, I'm sure the little ones can huddle together for warmth..." The doctor and the chief realize there's no way out, and Quark smiles triumphantly at Martus across the Promenade.

Dax, in Ops, loses her program again, and Kira returns, none the worse for her tumble, saying even more people have come into the infirmary. Dax wonders if there's a connection somehow between the accidents and the increase in system failures. Kira is skeptical, but Sisko says there must be a logical explanation. If it's a virus or spatial disruption, it must be something that affects people and machinery, Dax notes, and Sisko orders her to look into it.

Now Martus' club is deserted, and as Martus is seeking "comfort" in the arms of his Dabo girl, Roana walks in, and this time she catches him red-handed. "Don't think I didn't see through you right from the start," the widow spits, her pride wounded. She still holds the lease on this place, and she wants him out by tomorrow. "And take those damn things with you," she adds. Rom moans that he never should have left Quark. Martus thinks he has the answer, however, and gives Alsia the profits from his club. She is delighted. But when Martus tests his luck by playing one of his devices, he loses.

O'Brien psychs himself up for the match with Bashir, with Keiko looking on and handing him his gear. She gives him a handkerchief scented with her perfume, and kisses him passionately. "Kick his butt," she says. In the infirmary, Bashir is loosening up when Quark enters, bringing what he says is a token of thanks from the monks -- a medicinal brew which is supposed to impart great energy. Bashir's curiosity is piqued. He analyzes the brew, and finds that it contains huge quantities of an anesthetic. Realizing he's been found out, Quark says that everyone has been betting on Bashir. If Bashir wins, there won't be any profits, and he can't donate anything to the monks. Bashir refuses to throw the match. He warns Quark that he will provide the blankets for the children regardless, or else.

Dax finds something unusual: over 80% of the neutrinos on the station are spinning clockwise, as opposed to half clockwise and half counterclockwise. This isn't the cause of the accidents, but a symptom of the same problem. "Something very strange is going on," she says.

The racquetball match begins, and Quark gives the play-by-play. O'Brien does fantastically well, while Bashir seems to be disastrously off his game. At Martus', Alsia was supposed to meet him there to tell him how the bid went, but she is late, and Rom is furious that Martus gave her all the profits. Martus passes it off as expenses; Rom has had it. He heads for the door, and back to Quark. "At least then I'll get cheated by family."

The one-sided match continues, until O'Brien cuts off the transmission, over Quark's protests. He tells Bashir there's something wrong -- he's making shots he couldn't have made 15 years ago, when he was playing every day. And Bashir can't hit anything. They try tossing the ball against the wall, twice, and both times it favors O'Brien, who calls Ops. He and Bashir demonstrate to Sisko and Dax. For someone to be that lucky, Dax says, is not impossible, but very improbable. "Someone or something on this station is distorting the laws of probability."

She and Sisko follow the spinning neutrinos to Martus' club, and to his devices. "So that's what he meant," Martus muses on hearing their conclusions, recalling the alien who "gave" him the original. "When you win, it makes you lucky, and when you lose..." Yet Dax notes that people have been affected whether they were playing the machines or not. Martus admits that he replicated larger versions of the small device. He doesn't know how to turn them off, but Sisko and Dax have a solution to that. They destroy the machines with their phasers.

As for what to do with Martus, Sisko says unfortunately he doesn't have anything to charge him with. But Odo, entering, says he does. The elderly Pythron couple have decided to press charges after all.

In a holding cell once more, Martus looks up happily as Alsia is ushered in by Odo, but is confused when the constable puts her in a cell as well. Quark enters and explains that Alsia just tried to scam him. "Asteroid mining. To think anyone would be foolish enough to be taken in by that old trick." He offers to get Martus out, and smiles. "Taken in by one of your own victims, and no one to turn to but me. I can't remember when I've been so entertained." Martus has hit rock bottom. He begins to bargain for how much Quark will loan him in exchange for his leaving the station. It's music to Quark's ears. "Go on," he says. "I'm listening."

  • Jim Trombetta's original premise involved Quark getting the good-luck/bad-luck device.
  • Martus was at first meant to be the son of Guinan, TNG's El-Aurian bartender, but this was dropped when Whoopi Goldberg was unavailable. The producers also at one time considered Martus for a recurring role, but decided against it.