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Rules of Acquisition

Production no.: 427
Teleplay by: Ira Steven Behr
Story by: Hilary Bader
Directed by: David Livingston
Stardate: not given 
First satellite airdate: November 6, 1993
Helene Udy ...........
Brian Thompson ....
Max Grodénchik ....
Emilia Crow ..........
Tiny Ron ...............
Wallace Shawn ......

It's late at night on the Promenade, and all is quiet, except in Quark's. There, Quark, Rom, three waiters, and Dax are engaged in a lively game of Tongo. Dax wins, again. It's a legacy of her last host, Curzon, she explains proudly. Rom says wistfully that he prefers a Ferengi female -- "one who never wears clothes, never talks back, and never plays Tongo." As Dax begins the game again, one of the waiters whispers to Rom, who says this isn't the proper time. But the waiter holds a hand out to Quark, asking him to try one of the peas in it. It's a way to double his beverage profits, he says. Quark eats one, and without thinking, takes a drink. The waiter explains that these are Gramilian sand peas, which cause anyone who eats them to become thirsty without realizing why. Quark can replace his complimentary dishes of lokar beans with them.

Impressed, Quark studies the waiter, who says his name is Pel. "'Free advice is seldom cheap'," he says, quoting the 59th Rule of Acquisition, but Pel comes back instantly with the 22nd, "'A wise man can hear profit in the wind.'" He says he took a job here because he wanted to learn from the best -- Quark. Quark is reminded of the 33rd Rule, which he and Pel quote together: "'It never hurts to suck up to the boss.'" They laugh, and just then a call comes in on Grand Nagus Zek's personal subspace frequency. Quark immediately answers it, toadying up to Zek as is expected. Zek tells him that he would like Quark to be his chief negotiator in the Ferengi expansion into the Gamma Quadrant -- an opportunity to make more profit than Quark has ever dreamed of.

Sisko and Kira have a meeting with Zek in Sisko's office; Zek wants to hold a business conference on the station with the Dosi, a race from the Gamma Quadrant. Kira is openly skeptical of Zek's intentions, and warns him that if he cheats the Dosi, she'll see to it he never sets foot here again. Zek asks if Bajor could use 50,000 kilos of brizeen nitrate -- a fertilizer, which he's willing to let them have. Even Kira finds that a hard offer to refuse, and Sisko agrees, though he still asks for Zek's assurances that the Dosi will be treated fairly. He persuades the Nagus to give (not sell) the nitrate to the Bajorans, if he wants to conduct business here.

In Quark's quarters later, Zek tells him that the opportunity he has in mind can be summed up in one word: tulaberries, which are the main ingredient in tulaberry wine. Quark is to purchase 10,000 vats from the Dosi, and it will become the most popular drink in their sector. This is a chance to get a Ferengi foot in the Gamma Quadrant door, as Quark tells Rom later. Pel, however, throws in a hint of caution by quoting the 48th Rule: "'The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife.'" If the negotiations fail, he says, the Nagus needs someone else to take the blame. Rom is incensed, and jealous that Quark is paying so much attention to this waiter. He suggests that Quark will need a consultant, obviously meaning himself. Quark agrees, but gives the job to Pel instead. Pel accepts for 20 percent.

After work, Pel goes into his quarters and gets ready for bed. He takes off his synthetic ears, revealing a pair of much smaller ones, and removes his jacket. Pel is actually a woman.

The Dosi arrive at DS9, and one of them is tossed through the airlock. "Don't worry, just a minor disagreement," says another, Inglatu. He and a woman named Zyree look frankly contemptuous of Quark as they sit around a table later in Quark's quarters, and Quark makes his offer. Inglatu is willing only to part with 5,000 vats, but Quark tells him that 10,000 are needed by the Ferengi to set up their distribution network. The Dosi are not happy; they would rather be speaking directly to Zek. Pel says stoutly that if they want to do business with the Ferengi, they'll have to talk to Quark. Inglatu finally says they'll think about it.

Maihar'du brings Kira a gift from Zek, a gold-pressed-latinum earring. Kira protests that she can't accept it, but he ignores her and leaves Ops. Dax rather admires the effort. She enjoys the Ferengi, she tells Kira, and admits they have their faults, but "once you accept that, you'll find they can be a lot of fun."

Zek joins the Tongo game with the other Ferengi and Dax, and tells Quark he's decided 10,000 vats aren't enough. He wants 100,000. Quark protests that he's not even sure the Dosi will agree to sell 10,000. Pel intervenes, telling Zek it's a brilliant idea. "No wonder Quark says you're a genius." Dax and Zek watch as Pel accompanies Quark to get more tube grubs. "Such loyalty must be expensive," Zek remarks; Dax replies, "You can't buy that kind of loyalty." Meanwhile Pel is encouraging Quark. It occurs to Quark to ask why Pel is being so nice to him. "For twenty percent of your profits, why else?" says Pel.

Dax's curiosity has definitely been piqued by Pel, and she joins her the next day in the replimat, saying that she was impressed by Pel's show of loyalty to Quark. "Any other Ferengi would have let Zek pick him to pieces. But you're not like any other Ferengi I've ever met." They talk further; Dax says she loves Quark, and Pel says, "So do I." Dax pursues this admission; she's seen the way Pel looks at Quark. "Does he know?" she asks. "He doesn't even know I'm a female," Pel says. Dax is stunned.

Pel explains that Ferengi women aren't allowed to leave the house, wear clothes, or learn to read. But she wanted more. "I'm as smart as any man. So I made myself a pair of synthetic lobes and became one." She came here to acquire profit -- but there's one thing she hadn't planned on, she confesses. "Falling in love with Quark," Dax sums up. Her only piece of advice to Pel is that there's more to life than profit. Just then Quark rushes up and tells Pel it's time for negotiations to begin again.

Kira returns the earring to Zek. It's lovely, she says, but she can't keep it. "Then I suppose a night of wild passionate romance is out of the question?" asks Zek, disappointed, and gives her a flick on the backside as she departs. "Dax must be crazy," she mutters. Quark comes up to tell Zek that the negotiations have failed. He made the offer to buy 100,000 vats, and the Dosi stormed out of the room and off the station. Zek berates Quark, but Pel steps in. They'll get the tulaberries, she declares. They will travel to the Dosi homeworld in the Gamma Quadrant, taking Zek's ship. Zek finally agrees.

On the way, Quark and Pel wonder why Zek wants 100,000 vats instead of the original 10,000. Pel thinks that Zek knows more than he's letting on, and promises to tell Quark if she figures it out. "So far the only thing I've done right is pick you as my consultant," Quark says gratefully, and Pel comes to a decision. "Quark, there's something you should know." Quark tells her he knows what it is; Pel's hopes rise until he adds that twenty percent is what she agreed to, and that's all she gets. "'Never place friendship above profit,'" he says, quoting Rule #21. Pel hides her disappointment.

Odo has a chat with an overwhelmed Rom, who is running the bar in Quark's absence. Rom doesn't even know when Quark will be back. He vents his frustration about Pel, who in his view is stealing Quark's affections. Odo comments that Rom is better off, but Rom asks if Odo would let someone steal his brother. Odo says he doesn't have one; Rom asks, "But if you did?" Odo considers it. "I suppose if I did have a brother, even one as worthless as Quark, I wouldn't let anyone come between us." This gets Rom thinking. Later on, he breaks into Pel's quarters, searches, and finds her box of spare lobes. He smiles.

The Dosi meeting hall is full of activity, and Quark and Pel stand there alone, feeling lost. Zyree tells them this is where opportunities are made. The Dosi are serious about profit, she remarks as someone shoots someone else nearby. "Very serious." When Inglatu shows up, Quark gathers up his courage to approach him, insisting that they finish their discussion. Inglatu says Quark is starting to annoy him. Quark gets the attention of the entire room when he upsets the wine keg, and Inglatu says all right, he can have 10,000 vats. 100,000 are impossible, he says. Quark declares he's not leaving until he gets that amount. "Fine. Then stay," Inglatu says.

Quark and Pel prepare to settle down for the night, in the same room. A nervous Pel tries to stall, but Quark doesn't want to hear it. He's exhausted and wants to sleep. Pel proposes a toast, and the wine she has drunk starts to go to her head. In the midst of reviewing the day's events, she tells Quark, "You have a very nice smile." Quark is startled, but even more startled when Pel kisses him on the lips.

She starts to try to explain herself, but at that moment Zyree enters the cubicle. Thinking something is going on, she offers to come back later, but the last thing Quark wants right now is to be alone with Pel, and he convinces Zyree to stay. Zyree gives them some advice: Inglatu can't sell them 100,000 vats, because there isn't that much on the planet. But for a price, she can put them in touch with someone who does have that amount: the Karemma, an important power in the Dominion. "Let's just say, if you want to do business in the Gamma Quadrant, you have to do business with the Dominion."

On Zek's ship later, Quark thinks aloud that when Zek talked about the biggest opportunity in Ferengi history, what he meant was not tulaberries but the Dominion. He was just using the Dosi. Pel tries to bring up the subject of what happened between them, but Quark is in denial that anything happened at all. Defeated, Pel says perhaps this Dominion is some kind of planetary alliance or trading consortium. "Whatever it is, it's important," says Quark. "And I want a piece of it."

Back in his bar, Rom tries desperately to get Quark's attention, and Quark keeps shooing him away while he talks to Zek. Zek pretends innocence at first when Quark says the trip had nothing to do with tulaberries. He asks if the word "Dominion" means anything to Zek. "What have you found out?" the Nagus inquires eagerly. Most of his information consists of little more than hints and rumors, "but it's enough to convince me that whoever learns the secret of the Dominion, whatever that may be, will learn the secret of the Gamma Quadrant." He adds that unfortunately the Dosi don't seem to know very much; he'd hoped they would lead him to someone who does. Such information would be worth a lot to him.

"What if I told you I could arrange a meeting between you and a powerful member of the Dominion?" Quark asks cunningly. Zek says if Quark can do that, he'll earn a percentage of every Ferengi opportunity in the Gamma Quadrant. Quark gives him the name: the Karemma. Zek smiles. "I always knew you had the lobes for business." Finally Quark lets Rom draw him aside to tell him his news. When Quark looks to Pel in disbelief, she confirms it, and Quark faints.

In the infirmary, Quark wakes up with Rom hovering nearby. After Bashir leaves, he grabs his brother, who says he hasn't breathed a word; he thought it was best if Quark told Zek. Quark says no one's going to tell Zek, even though what Pel has done is against Ferengi law. If Zek learns Quark was deceived by a female, Quark will be ruined. Rom still wants to tell Zek, in order to save Quark from himself, and Quark dangles the bar in front of him as incentive to never reveal the truth about Pel. "Pel? What about him?" asks Rom.

Pel, no longer wearing her synthetic lobes, is in her quarters when Quark comes in and urgently tells her to put them on before someone sees her. He tells her she's going as far away from this station as possible. "What did you expect?" he asks reproachfully, and then offers her ten bars of latinum to help start her new life. "If you're going to pretend you're a man, act like one. Take the profit." Pel stands her ground. "This is not about profit anymore," she says. "It's about love." She wants him to admit he cares about her.

"What difference does it make if I do?" Quark says roughly, torn. "You'd never be happy being a Ferengi wife." Pel says they can go to the Gamma Quadrant, where no one will care if she wears clothes or not. "I'd care," he tells her. There's nothing more to say, and Pel starts packing.

As Quark shares a celebratory meal later with Rom and Zek, his low spirits turn to alarm when Pel enters and says she couldn't leave without saying goodbye to the Nagus. Zek says generously that he sees a big future for her. "You certainly have the lobes for it." Quark tries to stop Pel, but she tears off her fake ears. "You like my lobes? ...Then you can have them!" Zek recoils in horror. "Does this mean I don't get the bar?" whispers Rom to Quark.

"So, tell me more about my big future," taunts Pel, a woman with nothing to lose. Zek says she has no future, and reminds Quark that taking business advice from a female is a violation of Ferengi law. Quark says he didn't know she was a female, and Zek retorts, "Stupidity is no excuse." But Quark turns the tables on him, asking what people will say when they find out Zek allowed a female to represent him in a business negotiation. When Zek protests that he didn't know, Quark parrots his phrase back at him. "Stupidity is no excuse." "I see your point," concedes Zek. He decides that Pel's identity will remain secret, but it will cost Quark his Gamma Quadrant profits.

"I hope you're satisfied," Quark says to Pel, who says she's sorry, but it's time Zek learned that women are as capable of acquiring profit as men. She tells him she's booked passage on an Andorian transport. Then she kisses Quark. If she can't have him, she says, she'll take the latinum.

Afterwards, at the bar, Quark asks Dax if she's up for another night of Tongo. "Haven't you lost enough for one day?" asks Dax sympathetically, and says that Pel stopped by to see her before leaving. She'll miss her, and so will Quark. "You really think I'd let anyone come between us?" Quark asks with a lascivious grin. Dax looks at him evenly. "Nice try, Quark, but I know you better than that." And as she leaves, his smile fades into a look of genuine regret.

  • The original title of this episode was "Profit Margin". It began life as a story pitched to TNG by Hilary Bader (in which Pel would get involved with Riker).
  • This episode contains the first mention of the Dominion.