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Production no.: 445
Written by: Bill Dial
Directed by: Avery Brooks
Stardate: 47944.2 
First satellite airdate: June 4, 1994
Rosalind Chao ..........
Caroline Lagerfelt ....
John Beck ...............
Richard Poe .............
Julian Christopher ....
Fritz Weaver ............
Majel Barrett ...........
Cardassian or Maquis Voice
Computer Voice

O'Brien is about to leave on vacation, and he's driving everyone in Ops nuts, making sure everything will run smoothly in his absence. Finally he descends in the turbolift, but pops back up for one more bit of minutia. "You're on leave," Sisko tells him sternly. "Please disembark this station."

As O'Brien is hurrying through the Promenade, he passes a man whom he recognizes: Raymond Boone, who served with him on the Rutledge. They catch up a little; Boone is now a civilian living on Volan III, on the Cardassian side of the Demilitarized Zone. "You were there at Setlik Three?" O'Brien asks, and Boone replies, "That's what got me out of Starfleet." "Really?" says O'Brien. "That's why I stayed in." He's running late, so he has to go, but Boone says he's coming back in a month or two, and O'Brien rushes off, while Boone goes to a supply closet, where he begins playing back the recording he just made of O'Brien's voice.

On the runabout, Keiko is a little unhappy that her husband forgot the holocam but remembered his new tech update manuals. Finally getting the message, O'Brien has the computer play some romantic music, and they start to snuggle, though the chair makes it a bit awkward. Suddenly the computer alerts them to an approaching vessel, a Cardassian patrol ship.

O'Brien puts the shields up; Keiko tries to send an emergency signal to the station, but subspace frequencies are jammed. Gul Evek, on the Cardassian ship, orders them to come to a stop; they're beaming an inspection team aboard. With the choice of complying or facing destruction, O'Brien complies. Evek beams aboard with two other officers and an order to arrest O'Brien, and begins reading his rights. O'Brien demands to know what he's being accused of.

"You deny all knowledge of this crime, then?" asks Evek. O'Brien says, "How the hell am I supposed to deny something when I don't know what you're talking about?" "So you do not deny all knowledge?" There's no way to win. Evek says O'Brien's "rights" under Cardassian jurisprudence will be observed. As the other two Cardassians complete a search of the ship and confirm that they've found what they were looking for, Evek assures the couple that Commander Sisko will be contacted, and Keiko will be returned safely to the station, while O'Brien will be taken to prison to await trial. O'Brien tries to resist, but is stunned by a phaser, and a very distraught Keiko is left behind with one of the other Cardassians as her husband is taken away.

On Cardassia Prime, O'Brien is processed, while repeating like a mantra, "My name is Miles O'Brien. My rank is chief of operations, Starfleet. I am a Federation citizen." They strip him, scan his retinas, and strap him into a chair as he struggles uselessly, banging his head, until a drug is administered that robs him of his ability to move. A snip of his hair is removed, and a guard takes out one of his molars.

A woman, Makbar, enters and is angry at seeing the bruise on O'Brien's head; they were told not to harm him. The person in charge is dragged off, and the woman gently leads O'Brien to a cell, apologizing for the way he's been treated. She has scheduled his trial to begin in two days, and the "venerable" Kovat has been assigned as his conservator, or lawyer. "What do I need a lawyer for?" O'Brien asks. "What am I charged with? Who is accusing me?" "All in good time, Mr. O'Brien," says Makbar. "All in good time." She leaves him alone and frustrated.

Back at DS9, Keiko has told Sisko and Odo what has happened. Sisko tells her three starships have been ordered to the border of the Demilitarized Zone, in the hopes that the Cardassians will realize they are risking the treaty. "In the meantime, my husband is being violated by them," Keiko says. "Every shred of his humanity is being violated. Isn't that true?" Odo quietly confirms that torture is standard procedure in Cardassian interrogations. Keiko shakes her head in horror. "You don't know how many times Miles spoke to me about this -- what the Cardassians did to the prisoners they took at Setlik Three, what they were like when they came back. The thought of it, it disgusted him. It scared him. We can't leave him there." But Sisko tells her that they don't even know where O'Brien is being held on Cardassia Prime. He is promising to do everything in his power when Kira tells him there's a subspace communication from Cardassia Prime.

Makbar appears on screen and says she is the Archon in the case of the Cardassian Empire against O'Brien. It's not possible for Sisko to speak with O'Brien or see him, but she assures him that O'Brien is being treated with care and respect. Sisko tells her in no uncertain terms that if this is untrue, he will hold her personally responsible. He asks what the charges are, and Makbar says the charges will be announced when the trial begins, as is the custom in Cardassian jurisprudence. "How can we prepare for the trial if we don't know the charges?" Keiko demands. Makbar says there's nothing to prepare. "Your husband's verdict has already been determined. He is guilty. The trial will reveal how this guilt was proven by the most efficient criminal investigation system in the quadrant." She invites Keiko to attend the trial, but says this privilege is only for the spouse of an offender.

Odo, who has some knowledge of Cardassian trials, asks about the nestor -- advisor to the offender -- and Makbar says the nestor will be assigned by the court, whereupon Odo volunteers for the job. Makbar says the nestor must be an officer of the court, but Odo says he is one. He was designated an officer of the court four years ago to testify in criminal cases. Makbar finally consents. Asked what penalty O'Brien faces, she replies that his execution is scheduled for next week. "How can you schedule an execution before a trial even begins?" Keiko asks, almost in tears; Makbar replies, "We believe in swift justice."

As Odo and Keiko start off, Sisko tells Kira to do a complete security sweep and a review of O'Brien's recent activities, to see if there's anything out of the ordinary. "Commander," says Kira, "Chief O'Brien's attitude toward the Cardassians is hardly a secret. What if he actually has done something?" "Then we need to know that too, don't we?" Sisko replies.

An older Cardassian man visits O'Brien in his cell. This is Kovat, the conservator of his case, who says that his role is to help O'Brien concede the wisdom of the state, and prepare him to accept the inevitable with equanimity. "There is an old Cardassian expression: 'Confession is good for the soul.' It's also good for the populace to see people like you confess. It makes them feel better about themselves. Makes their lives more bearable." O'Brien asks again what he's being charged with, and Kovat says there's no need to worry about that now. "This is insane!" O'Brien exclaims.

Kovat insists that the charges don't really matter in the long run. "This trial is to demonstrate the futility of behavior contrary to good order. Everyone will find it most uplifting." "Not everyone," interjects O'Brien, but Kovat is on a roll. "Once again, justice will be done. Our lives will be reaffirmed safe and secure. Here on Cardassia, all crimes are solved. All criminals are punished. All endings are happy. Even the poorest of our subjects can walk the streets in the dead of night in perfect safety. You are only one man, but your conviction will be a salutary experience for millions." He asks if O'Brien has any questions or anything to say. "Only that I am not guilty of any crime," O'Brien tells him. "And that I hold this whole procedure with nothing but contempt." Kovat smiles. "That's good, that's good. Maintain that level of arrogance in the courtroom, and we should put on a very good show indeed." O'Brien has one question: "Have you ever won a case?" "Winning isn't everything," Kovat tells him serenely.

Dax and Kira find something: the crates of warheads stored in the weapons locker are now filled with scrap metal. Someone could have switched this metal for the warheads with a simultaneous transport, fooling the station's sensors; this someone had to be a transporter expert. And according to the logs, O'Brien was in this locker minutes before his runabout left. Dax plays back the security log entry, in which O'Brien's voice is heard successfully requesting access. The security scanners were frozen at that moment by a field saturation device. Sisko orders an analysis of the voice print. Bashir wonders what O'Brien would do with photon warheads. "Give them to the Maquis," Kira supplies. There was an advisory two weeks ago about a Maquis ship stealing a supply of photon launchers from a Bolian freighter.

"You're suggesting that Miles O'Brien took his wife on a romantic vacation as an excuse to deliver warheads to the Maquis? I don't believe it!" declares Bashir. Sisko figures that if the warheads were in the runabout, they will be used as evidence in the trial; Dax wonders how the Cardassians found out about them. Sisko would also like to find out who was waiting to receive the warheads. He will have Starfleet Intelligence pull in Maquis suspects for questioning, and tells his officers to try to ID any possible Maquis members who have been on the station recently.

Odo has arrived on Cardassia, and is allowed to visit O'Brien, who is glad to see anyone from the station. Odo tells him Keiko is here too, but it's not permitted for family members to visit prisoners. She will be at the trial. "The Cardassians always invite families to trials and executions, so that the public can see them weep." Odo then proceeds to question O'Brien about his possible dealings with the Maquis. "Are you here to interrogate me, Constable?" O'Brien explodes. "Is anyone ever going to tell me what I'm supposed to have done?"

Odo informs him of what Sisko and the others have found out so far about the missing warheads. O'Brien recalls that the Cardassians did find something in the hold of the runabout, but he knows nothing about it. He answers no to Odo's questions about whether he transported the weapons, or whether he was in the weapons locker before leaving. "Then why does the log say that you were?" Odo presses. "Why was it your voice releasing the security lock?" O'Brien doesn't know. And he can't understand why he's in this predicament. "I've been in service to the Federation, to Starfleet, all my adult life. No one has ever questioned my loyalty. No one in my entire life has ever had cause to ask, 'Miles O'Brien, are you a criminal?' I took an oath to defend the Federation and what it stands for. I don't steal from them. I don't lie to them. I'm no angel, but I try to live every day as the best human being I know how to be. I need my little girl to wake up in the morning and look up at me and see a man she can respect." His voice breaks with the hopelessness of it all. "Until now, she always could."

Odo finally drops out of police mode. "Being accused of a crime is not a disgrace, Chief," he says gently. "Some of the great figures of history have shared the honor with you." "I didn't figure on dying a martyr," says O'Brien. "Not all of them were martyrs," Odo tells him. "Not all of them died. Some of them were just innocent men. Like you." O'Brien gives him a startled look, realizing that Odo really is on his side here. Odo goes on to say that he's gotten himself named to the defense team, and Keiko will be there tomorrow as well. "But she won't be weeping. And neither will you. I want the Archon to see the clear, unwavering eyes of an innocent man. Is that understood?" O'Brien says yes, and the visit is over. "Odo -- thanks for being here."

Dax makes progress: she determines that the recording of O'Brien's voice was definitely faked. And Kira has found their Maquis person: Boone, who lives on Volan III and was seen talking to O'Brien just before he left. Sisko decides to have Boone picked up.

The trial begins, presided over by Makbar, who tells O'Brien he can spare his family and the Federation further humiliation by confessing now; he refuses. Makbar also offers Keiko the chance to testify against him. Keiko likewise refuses. Odo asks for a chance to confer with Kovat, which Makbar unhappily grants. "Please don't ruin this for me," says Kovat to Odo. "I'm only a year away from retirement." Odo tries to tell him about the new evidence that proves O'Brien didn't do what he's accused of. Kovat doesn't want to hear it. "Of course he did it. He's been found guilty, hasn't he?" He reminds Odo that no evidence can be submitted after the verdict is reached. "We want justice, not chaos in this court."

Odo then tries to tell Makbar, but she too is uninterested. Odo moves for a change of venue, since no crime was actually directly committed against Cardassia. The move is rejected, not surprisingly. "If this court finds you in contempt," Makbar threatens Odo, "you will find the punishment very unpleasant." "I regret that I have no teeth to offer your Bureau of Identification," says Odo ironically.

"As for new evidence," Makbar continues, "yes, I fully expected the Federation to come up with remarkable new evidence in an attempt to free Mister O'Brien. I'm sure your experts can create all sorts of evidence to confuse the issues. That may work in your courts, but not here. There will be no new evidence considered." She calls for the first witness.

Boone has been brought to Sisko's office, and naturally denies any knowledge of what Sisko and Kira are talking about. He wishes he could help his old friend, but he can't, and he hasn't done anything wrong. Sisko tells Kira to hold him for further questioning.

A little later, Bashir enters the infirmary, which is dark; the lights don't come on at his order. A voice speaks to him from the shadows, about Boone. "I am here to tell you he is not one of us." Bashir realizes that the person he is talking to is a member of the Maquis. He asks why he should believe him. The Maquis member only says they knew nothing of the theft, and Boone is not one of them. Bashir has more questions, but the man is gone.

It's the second day of the trial, and Gul Evek is on the stand, using the opportunity to rail against the Maquis for the benefit of the public. He says that "reliable sources" informed him that the theft was arranged by the Maquis. Odo, who neither Kovat nor Makbar are too happy with, objects, wanting to know who these sources were. Evek claims he can't reveal that information for security reasons, which Makbar finds a perfectly acceptable answer. So is Evek's testimony that these "reliable sources" also informed him of the warheads' presence in the runabout. Odo starts to protest again. "Enough," says Makbar. "This is already the longest trial in the history of Cardassia."

Boone is taken into the DS9 infirmary to be subjected to a physical examination. Sisko and Bashir want to know, for instance, why Boone hasn't spoken to his parents in eight years. He also left his wife 8 years ago, after 15 years of marriage. "Look, this is none of your business," Boone says. But Sisko adds that Boone also was discharged from Starfleet at about the same time after failing several crew performance reviews. And all of this happened shortly after Setlik III. Boone, realizing the jig is up, makes an attempt to bolt, but is restrained by deputies and pulled into an examination chair.

Court is in recess, and Miles and Keiko are able to share a moment together. "Some romantic vacation I took you on," he says ruefully, but she says they'll get another chance. "It isn't over yet." When court resumes, Makbar orders O'Brien to testify. He is not allowed to refuse. Kovat prompts Odo to do his job, which is to advise the offender to confess and throw himself on the mercy of the court. "I've never heard of a Cardassian court showing mercy," says Odo. Kovat is frustrated. "That is not the point. Think of the children, sir. Allow them to see a glimmer of enlightenment as the offender realizes that the end is near. Let him use his last breath to show remorse." But when Makbar gives Odo the opportunity to "advise" O'Brien, Odo declines.

Kovat takes the floor. Sympathetically, he asks O'Brien if he was abused as a child. O'Brien says he loved his parents. Kovat asks if perhaps he has suffered from spousal abuse, then. "My wife is the most wonderful, supportive person I've ever known," O'Brien replies. "Excuse me for asking," Kovat says. "I'm merely trying to establish why a fine man like you could turn into a criminal. Perhaps you could help me." O'Brien says he can't, because he's not a criminal. Kovat turns helplessly to Makbar. "Well, I tried."

Then Makbar herself takes over. "Tell me, Mr. O'Brien, how many Cardassians have you killed?" "None," O'Brien replies. "Since the war, that is." She tells him to include the war, over Odo's objection. O'Brien isn't sure. "That many, eh?" she remarks. "It was war," says O'Brien. "Both sides did things they had to do." Makbar goes on to force O'Brien to admit that he has opposed the Federation's treaty with Cardassia, out of mistrust for the "bloody Cardies".

Kovat moves to concede the verdict, but O'Brien refuses, despite being told by Makbar to stand down. "I am not guilty. I have committed no crime, and I do not concede to this court or the Cardassian Empire." Kovat is appalled at losing control over his client, though Makbar assures him he has done his usual eloquent job. Then suddenly she looks beyond him, as Sisko enters the courtroom with Boone in tow. Several glances are exchanged, and Makbar silences Kovat's complaint at yet another intrusion.

"Once again the Cardassian system of jurisprudence has worked to protect its people. A guilty man has been brought to justice. But, never let it be said that there is no room in this system for compassion. I sense in Mr. O'Brien, a man with strong family ties, the potential for rehabilitation. And I'm sure that he has gained a new appreciation of Cardassian law through this difficult process. Therefore, I am pleased, in the spirit of furthering Cardassian/Federation relations, to hereby set aside the verdict and to release Mr. O'Brien into the custody of his Commander, Benjamin Sisko." It's over. As Makbar leaves and O'Brien embraces his wife in relief, Kovat stops Odo to ask what just happened. "You won," Odo says. Kovat looks horrified. "They'll kill me."

O'Brien and Keiko leave Cardassia in the runabout with Odo and Sisko, who explains that when Boone was examined, he was found to be missing his first molar, and his DNA analysis confirmed that he was Cardassian. Boone was surgically altered eight years ago in order to replace the real Boone, who was apparently taken prisoner at Setlik III and killed in detention. Keiko wonders why the Cardassians wanted to frame Miles. "This trial was never about your husband, Mrs. O'Brien," Odo tells her. "It was designed from the beginning to discredit the Federation. To show that the Maquis had their official sanction." But when Makbar saw Boone enter the courtroom, Sisko adds, "she realized that we had the goods to embarrass the High Command in front of the entire populace."

Keiko is just glad it's over; O'Brien says he's ready to get back to work. But Sisko tells him he has used his influence to get their accommodations extended at their vacation destination, so that O'Brien can take some time to recover. They'll be dropped off on the way. "But we haven't any bags," O'Brien protests. "No holocam, I have nothing to read -- " "Perfect," says Keiko.

  • The original title of this episode was "Dark Tribunal".
  • The courtroom was a redress of the holosuite set.