Rom finds an obviously distressed Quark in his quarters, who inquires if his brother has consulted Odo. Though he doesn't understand what's going on, Rom answers in the affirmative, and that Odo told him to have Quark meet him at Docking Pylon C. As Quark leaves, he tells Rom to tell anyone who asks about him that he's “gone on vacation”. At the aforementioned rendezvous point, Quark fills Odo in on the situation involving Maura, namely how she threatened to kill him if he didn't sell her the bar. Odo agrees to check it out, but advises the Ferengi to do something he didn't entirely want: Sell Maura Quark's Bar.
In the Siskos' quarters, Jake arises early and tells his father he's worried because everyone around him is convinced the Klingons and the Cardassians will go to war. Ben says “When people believe that strongly in a thing, it makes it that much more likely it will happen” and Jake agrees, saying that's what he's told all his friends. But apparently, they're not listening. Jake hastens to add that he knows his dad is doing everything he can, but Ben confesses he's frustrated because nobody is listening to him either. Then, Jake gives his father some advice of his own “If they're not chasing your fastball, throw them your curve. It always works with me”.
After leaving Quark, Odo checks in with Miles O'Brien. Although he's almost finishing rebuilding the bombed out runabout, he hasn't gotten any further in figuring out what happened to it in the first place. The saboteurs were so skilled they left no physical evidence behind for the chief to go off of. Odo tells Miles about Maura and her attack on Quark, and they both agree that makes her at the very least a person of interest in the investigation into the assassination of Tal Berel as well. Quark closes the deal with Maura and Delgar via subspace, while Odo monitors the exchange from behind him. Maura closes channels and tells Quark to meet her at 0400, and Delgar to prepare for “stage 2”. Odo and Quark banter, leave Quark's quarters and begin to go over a plan of their own.
Jadzia Dax records a Captain's Log entry announcing she and her crew are on their way to The Abyss, and recapping what we learned about it last time. Doctor Bashir is sceptical about the legend of Bahal's Bird, but Dax reminds him “Most legend has a grain of truth to it”. Koleth, meanwhile, is still convinced the Cardassians destroyed the K'Tang, but Dax reminds him that as a Klingon Attack Cruiser, the K'Tang shouldn't have gone down as easily as the reports seem to indicate it did. Though the ship's sensors initially don't pick up anything unusual, Koleth, Dax and Bashir eventually hit upon the idea of using the data they have to triangulate the origin point for the probe the Klingons picked up, thereby identifying the precise location of the battle where the K'Tang died.
Back on Deep Space 9, or rather on the Cardassian command ship nearby, a furious Kotan Marok confronts Gul Dukat, whom he catches in the middle of discussing battlefield strategies with his senior staff, including an opening salvo of occupying the station and mounting a ground assault on Bajor. Clearly, Dukat sees war with the Klingons as an opportunity to recapture the Cardassian Empire's forfeited holds in Bajoran and Federation territory. Marok demands Dukat shut down his operations and return to the negotiating table, but Dukat declares that Marok's authority has been withdrawn by Cardassian Central Command, and that if the Klingons don't withdraw in ten hours, Dukat is authorized to open fire. Furthermore, in such a scenario, the Federation would be classified as enemy combatants by the Cardassian Empire if they attempt to intervene.
At the bar, a gloating Maura and Delgar meet with Quark to finalize the deal. But before he signs, Quark demands Maura employ Rom, and to keep all his D'Abo Girls on staff, and double their pay. After the former owner leaves, Maura and Delgar celebrate in the bar: Delgar prepares to return to the Gamma Quadrant, and Maura gives him a bottle of alcohol to take with him as a good-luck charm. But Quark hasn't actually left, and is at this very moment in Cargo Bay 4 with Morn. Quark is convinced Maura plans to use his bar as a base of operations to smuggle contraband through Deep Space 9, and he wants Morn to find out what that is. Just then, Delgar and his ship the Arvas depart the station. Meanwhile in the Gamma Quadrant, Dax's team has located the wreckage of the K'Tang, but have made an odd discovery: There's a high concentration of plasma residue indicating heavy weapons fire, but as the K'Tang was sabotaged that means the phaser shots had to come from the Cardassian ship...And the Cardassians don't use plasma weapons. Which means the Cardassians couldn't have destroyed the K'Tang.
Back on Deep Space 9, Kol calls out Dukat on his massing a fleet in Bajoran space. Dukat claims he's only doing so to refresh his crew rotations, but he's obviously lying and Kol sees right though it. Marok, who also knows Dukat is lying, says nothing. Sisko is fed up, and demands both parties remove every ship from the sector except for the command ones, or he's ending negotiations then and there and they can all go blow each other to hell for all he cares. As he returns to his quarters, he informs Jake he “threw them [his] curve”. Just then, Kira calls the Commander to Ops, where she's been talking to Quark, Quark tells them that Odo snuck on to the Arvas as part of his investigation into Maura and Delgar, who he thinks are connected to the assassination of Tal Berel. Quark also shows Kira and Sisko a stash of Romulan disruptor pistols, which Morn found in the Arvas' cargo hold.
We cut to the ship in question. Delgar is talking to a Romulan commander on his viewscreen. Odo, who had been disguised as Maura's gift, materializes in his cabin. He's got him.
Dax and the crew have found a planet near the battle site, and, after some convincing, takes her team down to the surface to look for possible survivors. After a rather hairy entry through some gnarly weather, the runabout touches down on a bluff overlooking a giant step pyramid, at the base of which is a gigantic insignia of the Romulan Star Empire.
On DS9, the Klingon and Cardassian ships have withdrawn from local space, but Miles O'Brien picks up an additional fleet of Galor-class warships massing in the Mutara sector, Sisko calls up Dukat and orders he withdraw, but Dukat calls the commander's bluff, taunting him that the situation is now out of his hands and demanding the Federation ally with the Cardassians or face dire repercussions.
On the bluff flanked by a thunderstorm, Dax calls for a tactical retreat. But before they can return to the ship, they are surrounded by an armed brigade of Romulan soldiers, who claim they have been expected.
When I first read Hearts and Minds in 1994 I was missing half of it. “Into The Abyss” was part of the half I didn't have, so I didn't get to experience it in its proper place until years later when I got it as part of an eBay haul that contained almost the entire Malibu Comics Star Trek: Deep Space Nine run. As it turns out, this was a pretty important section of the story: While I was able to generally piece together what had happened from the recap at the start of the final issue (thanks in no small part to Mark A. Altman's skill at making exposition and narrative recaps feel naturalistic, which is a vastly underrated and underappreciated skill to have in this genre), I was still left with a fair few more questions then answers. But I'll talk about that next time-Let's look at the issue itself for now, and how it advances the story.
Like “For the Glory of the Empire”, “Into the Abyss” is mostly plot advancement. It's somewhat lacking in the way of big, awesome, inspirational speeches of the sort that characterize “On the Edge of Armageddon” and the finale next month, but there's still enough of that here to satiate us. These generally tend to be whenever Gul Dukat shows up: His epic staredowns with both Kotan Marok and Commander Sisko at the opposite ends of this issue are definitely among the highlights of a miniseries that is already basically made of them. Ben himself gets his moments too, both in his absolutely brilliant character defining “Sit down and shut up” line and in his exchanges with Jake, a plot point my initial Hearts and Minds experience was deeply hurt for missing out on: Jake really only plays a major role in this issue and the first one, only making a cameo in issue 4. Seeing the expanded part he has in this issue gave me a renewed appreciation for the father/son dynamic at the heart of the Siskos' story on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and tightened Hearts and Minds' ensemble cred.
Dax, Bashir and Koleth are a bit downplayed this month, but they'll be back to stealing the show next month, so it's OK. Who I'm less sure about is Quark: I've always felt a bit odd about his role in this issue and Hearts and Minds in general. As has been the trend since the back half of the TV show started, Quark is more or less comic relief. Back then I didn't mind because I didn't know any better and this was my first introduction to the characters, but in hindsight it doesn't quite sit well with me because I tend to feel there's more that can be done with Quark then just making him a stooge. Maybe the problem is that having a Ferengi main character was always going to be challenge, but the show's made it work before so I don't think it's completely impossible. But then again, Quark does get a cool moment where he schemes with Morn to catch Maura red-handed, though it's debatable how much of that was his idea and how much of it was Odo's.
So Romulans then. This was a huge surprise when I only had issues 2 and 4, but with issue 3 leading into the reveal it seems rather dumbly obvious. Those of you versed in Treknobabble can tell me whether or not Dax's deduction that the Cardassians don't use plasma based weaponry but the Romulans do is technically accurate or not, but I kind of don't care. The Romulan disruptor pistols, Delgar talking to a Romulan commander and the big fuck-off Romulan step pyramid in The Abyss (not to mention the fact that they're on the cover) get the job done well enough. If you've been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation from the start, you'd be forgiven for calling this a cheap and tired cop-out. The Romulans have *always* been boring as generically shifty “predictably treacherous” backstabbers, and while Hearts and Minds is pretty soon going to reveal itself as the story that finally casts a reparative critical deconstructive eye on this, you sure wouldn't know it by this issue, wherein they announce their presence in the most amazingly cliched Snidely Whiplash way imaginable.
But all that does is set up next month's twist to be even more shockingly unexpected. The ride's not over yet: Hearts and Minds hasn't played its ace yet, and the biggest event of the summer is about to get even bigger.