The Siege of AR-558
Production no.: 558
Written by: Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Stardate: not given
First satellite airdate: November 14, 1998
Raymond Cruz .........
Patrick Kilpatrick .....
Aron Eisenberg ........
Annette Helde ..........
Max Grodénchik .......
Bill Mumy ................
James Darren ..........
Vic Fontaine is kindly letting Rom audition to be his new opening act when Bashir enters the holographic lounge to pick up some recordings that Vic has made for him. The singer wishes he could come along on the supply run Bashir will be going on, on the Defiant, but Bashir tells him there are no holosuites where they're going. "Sometimes being a hologram can be a real pain in the asometric photons," Vic observes.
Bringing Sisko some new security protocols, Odo finds the captain staring at a casualty list, in a melancholy mood. "I think that's what I'm going to remember most about this war -- looking through casualty reports. Sometimes it feels like that's all I do -- stare at the names of the dead. When the war started, I read every name. I felt it was the least I could do to honor their sacrifices. But now, the names have begun to blur together." Kira then calls to let Sisko know the Defiant is ready for departure.
Surprisingly, Quark comes along on the trip as well, having been sent by Zek on a "fact-finding" mission to the front lines, and he's none too happy, even when Ezri tries to cheer him up, reminding him of the 34th Rule of Acquisition: "War is good for business." "Only from a distance," Quark grumbles. "The closer you are to the front lines, the less profitable it gets." As if on cue, phaser blasts start to rock the ship, and, scared to be left alone, Quark tries to follow Ezri to the bridge, but runs into Worf, who tells him that while the Chin'toka system is in Federation hands, the Dominion is determined to take it back. They reach the bridge just as the attacking Jem'Hadar ship is destroyed. Nog is embarrassed by his uncle's presence; Quark finally leaves.
Reaching AR-558 in the Chin'toka system, the Defiant beams down supplies, as well as Sisko, Ezri, Bashir, Nog, and Quark. Materializing on a harsh landscape, they are suddenly fired on, by Federation phasers. Sisko identifies himself, and a woman calls out to cease firing.
The away team enters a rocky base camp to find a Chief Nadia Larkin chewing out a young soldier named Vargas, who says he fired because he saw movement and thought it was the Jem'Hadar. The Starfleet troops on AR-558 have been stuck here for five nerve-wracking months, even though according to regulations they should have been rotated out after 90 days. The strain of living under almost constant threat of death is showing. Their captain and first officer are both dead, and Larkin is in command. Vargas is bitter that they're only getting re-supplied, not transferred off. "Welcome to paradise, Captain," Larkin says ironically.
Larkin shows Sisko the reason the Dominion wants this rock back so badly: the communications array, which, if the Starfleet engineers can figure out how it works, they can use to tap into the entire Dominion com system. Larkin and the others have been fighting off repeated attempts by the Jem'Hadar to retake the place; they're down to 43 people out of the 150 who first landed here. Sisko tells her he can appreciate what they've been through, and he'll make sure Starfleet hears of it, but their forces are spread thin in this system. Chances are they'll be stuck here a while longer. Meanwhile, Ezri helps Kellin, one of the engineers, using her own engineering experience passed down from Tobin Dax.
At the barricade, Quark finds Nog watching one of the soldiers, Reese, who has a necklace made of Ketracel-white tubes taken from Jem'Hadar he has killed. Nog is fascinated and impressed. "Take a look around you, Nog," Quark tells him. "This isn't the Starfleet you know." "Sure it is," Nog replies, somewhat defensively. "It's just that these people have been through a lot. They've been holed up here a long time, seen two-thirds of their unit killed, but they haven't surrendered. And you know why? Because they're heroes." But Quark isn't caught up in his nephew's hero worship. "Maybe, but I still don't want you anywhere near them. Let me tell you something about hew-mons, nephew. They're a wonderful, friendly people, as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time -- and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don't believe me? Look at those faces. Look in their eyes. You know I'm right, don't you? Well? Aren't you going to say something?" Nog's only reply is, "I feel sorry for the Jem'Hadar."
Bashir goes to work treating the injured, including Vargas, who has a bloody cloth wrapped around one arm. But when the doctor tries to remove it so he can get a look, Vargas threatens him with a phaser until Bashir backs off. Vargas proceeds to tell him that another soldier named McGreevey had ripped up part of his own uniform to make that bandage, just before being killed. It's not that McGreevey was a friend of his; Vargas couldn't stand the guy. But nonetheless, it's obvious that Vargas wanted to keep the bandage on as a sort of tribute. Once he's indulged in this catharsis, however, Vargas finally takes the bandage off to let Bashir treat him.
A little later, Bashir finds Sisko and reports on the precarious health -- both physical and mental -- of the troops here. They need to be shipped out, but Sisko can't do anything about it right now. At that moment, there is an explosion, and a soldier is killed -- another victim of what the troops here call "Houdinis": Jem'Hadar mines which hide in subspace and appear at random to explode. "It's not the captain's problem," Reese declares to Vargas. "He's leaving." Indeed, Sisko's hands are tied. He tells Larkin, "I wish I could tell you things were going to get easier for you."
Then Worf calls from the Defiant. The ship is under attack from two Jem'Hadar ships, and Jem'Hadar troops are landing on the planet as well. Sisko tells Worf to take evasive action. He and the others are staying, even though Worf says he doesn't know when the Defiant will be able to come back for them. Finally he wishes the captain luck. Larkin asks what Sisko's orders are. "There's only one order, lieutenant," Sisko says determinedly. "We hold."
Considering strategy, Sisko needs to know the numbers of Jem'Hadar here, but sensors are constantly being jammed. Suddenly they're under attack. The Starfleet troops fire at the Jem'Hadar, until Reese notices that the enemy aren't firing back. They're holograms, sent by the enemy to see what they're up against and pinpoint their position, without risking casualties. Sisko puts Ezri and Kellin to work coming up with a way to find the Houdinis and disarm them. "Now we get to pull a rabbit out of our hat," says Ezri, trying to encourage Kellin, who is none too optimistic.
Later, Quark brings Nog some rations. The younger Ferengi tells his uncle he wants to earn the respect of the humans here. "At the price of your soul?" asks Quark. He wants Nog to start acting like a Ferengi, and opines that if the Federation had listened to the Ferengi, there wouldn't be a war. "We would have reached an accommodation. We would have sat down across the negotiation table and hammered out a peace treaty. One that both sides could have lived with...Rule of Acquisition 125: 'You can't make a deal if you're dead.'"
Sisko then calls to Nog, whom he is sending with Larkin and Reese on a scouting patrol, to find out the numbers and location of the Jem'Hadar, and what kind of weapons they have. The tricorders aren't working, but Nog's ears are. Nog proudly heads off with the others, leaving a worried Quark. "I bet you wouldn't send Jake out there," he accuses Sisko, who replies, "Jake is not a Starfleet officer." That doesn't exactly comfort Quark.
Ezri finally manages to cut through the jamming signals, though she can't extend the tricorder range beyond a hundred meters; Kellin points out that that's enough to scan the entire compound. Next they have to figure out how to calibrate the tricorder to locate the mines in subspace. The conversation turns to Ezri's past lives; as an example, she says this is her first time on the front lines. "But Torias, Curzon, and Jadzia -- they were in battle many times. And I can remember what that felt like. I remember the fear, and the anger, and the adrenaline surge." Kellin can see what she means. "Having someone else's memories of being in combat is one thing. Living through it yourself is another." "I suppose I'm going to find out," says Ezri.
Nog, Larkin, and Reese find the Jem'Hadar encampment. As they're crawling away, Nog hears movement ahead and signals to Larkin; they are retreating when they are fired on. Larkin is killed. Nog is hit in the leg, and falls with a scream of pain.
Reese returns to base camp, carrying Nog, who is then taken off on a stretcher as Reese explains what happened. Hearing that there are two columns of Jem'Hadar, Sisko decides to even the odds, but he's still working on how. "Captain," says Reese, "the kid did all right." Just then, Quark comes out of the infirmary, and stares accusingly at Sisko, who asks how Nog is. "It's a little late for you to care about that, isn't it?" the Ferengi declares angrily. "...He's going to lose his leg. Does that answer your question?"
Bashir tells Quark and Sisko that once they get Nog to a hospital, they can give him a biosynthetic limb, but there may be complications: due to severe thermal damage, the femoral motor nerves may not be able to stimulate artificial muscle tissue. Sisko tells Quark they'll get Nog to a hospital as soon as they can, and also says sincerely that he's sorry. "Sorry?" retorts Quark. "If you really cared about Nog, you'd never have sent him out on that patrol." Sisko has had enough of being Quark's punching bag. "Now you listen to me, Quark, because I'm only going to say this one time. I care about Nog, and every soldier under my command. Understood? Every single one."
Sisko pays Nog a visit in the makeshift infirmary; Nog is awake, half his leg gone, and holds himself responsible for having led Larkin into the trap that got her killed. "Nog, listen to me," says Sisko. "You followed orders. You did what you were trained to do. I'm proud of you." That means a lot to Nog, who tells him, "It doesn't hurt. You'd think it would, but it doesn't...I'm going to be fine. Captain -- the communications array -- it's worth it, right?" "I hope to God it is," is Sisko's heartfelt reply. Ezri then comes in to tell him they're ready.
In the outer base camp, Ezri and Kellin open their tricorders, and the Houdinis materialize all around them, some of them floating midair. One is only two inches from Vargas' face. Kellin says that now all they have to do is figure out how to disarm them. "We're not going to disarm them," announces Sisko. "We're going to use them."
Since the Jem'Hadar will have to come through a ravine to reach them, that is where Sisko plans to relocate the mines. He orders Ezri and Kellin to reprogram them to be triggered by movement -- lots of movement, so that the ravine will be full of Jem'Hadar when the Houdinis start going off. Ezri can't help looking troubled. "It's just that a few hours ago, we thought of those mines as the kind of ruthless weapon only the Dominion would use. But now -- " "They've become a whole lot friendlier," says Reese. Sisko points out that the fewer Jem'Hadar there are when they reach the Starfleet camp, the better.
The mines having been moved, everyone settles into a long tense wait at the barricade. Suddenly music is piped through the com system: one of the recordings Vic gave Bashir. The song is "I'll Be Seeing You", and in this setting it has a haunting, bittersweet quality. Bashir, who is responsible for the serenade, joins them, since there's not much more he can do for Nog here. Vargas notes how quick and practiced the doctor's movements are as he strips down his rifle, checks the parts, and puts it together again. "Funny, I joined Starfleet to save lives," Bashir says ruefully. They begin hearing explosions -- the Jem'Hadar are in the ravine. Then there is silence. "Maybe they're not coming," says Vargas hopefully. "Maybe they're turning back. Maybe we got 'em all."
That's when the Jem'Hadar strike force arrives and races toward them. Sisko orders his troops to fire, and the battle begins. Both sides suffer heavy casualties; the Jem'Hadar reach the Starfleet barricade. The fighting turns to hand-to-hand. Kellin shoots a Jem'Hadar who is attacking Ezri, only to be shot dead himself. In the infirmary, Quark is tending to Nog when a Jem'Hadar bursts in; Quark whips around and fires, killing the intruder. Vargas is brought down by an enemy blade in the back. Sisko hits a Jem'Hadar about to finish Bashir off, and catches a rifle butt to the head. Dazed, Sisko looks up, his vision blurring.
Sisko wakes to find Reese standing over him. The soldier helps him up, and Sisko surveys the aftermath. Despite the bodies strewn about through the compound, one thing is clear: "We held," Sisko says with satisfaction. "Those were our orders, sir," Reese replies simply.
Later, Worf joins Sisko at the communications array, to let him know that the USS Veracruz has arrived, bringing troop replacements and an engineering crew. Nog and the other injured will be taken to Starbase 371. The array should be operational within a few days. "This was a great victory," Worf intones. "One worthy of story and song." "It cost enough," Sisko agrees. Reese looks at the new troops. "Children." "Not for long," Sisko says. Together he and Reese beam up to the Defiant.
Back on DS9, Kira brings Sisko the latest casualty reports: there are 1730, including those killed at AR-558. "That's a lot of names," observes Kira. Sisko looks into space. "They're not just names. It's important we remember that. We have to remember."
The number 558 happens to be the episode's production number. AR is short for "array". The writers at first planned to have both Nog's legs shot off. The names of the soldiers at AR-558 were borrowed from those of the cast and characters of the movie Hell is for Heroes.