***** (5 stars out of 5)
The opening shot is a bunch of frightened, depressed people grunting at each other in a grey room with copious amounts of alcohol. It's a Deep Space Nine Christmas!
Jake decides he needs to end his miserable father's wartime doldrums. And the perfect gift comes along from a derelict ship cargo auction Quark is hosting. Exactly the right thing for Ben Sisko: a mint condition 1951 Wilie Mays Rookie Baseball Card. 422 year old bubblegum not included.
Jake only has one small problem. "I'm human- I don't have any money."
Nog scoffs. "It's not my fault your species decided to abandon currency-based economics in favour of some philosophy of self-enhancement... If you don't need money than you certainly don't need mine."
Au contraire! Jake guilts Nog into contributing his latinum life savings to give the man who got him into the Academy "endless moments of happiness." The No-J Consortium is back in business!
They are quickly outbid by the ghost of Voyager's Ensign Peter Durst. Or his identical cousin Dr. Elias Giger.
Nog suggests that were Captain Sisko to put some new shoes on, suddenly everything would be right. Jake thinks there's nothing wrong with that idea except it would be stupid.
Giger gets twitchy when Jake and Nog approach him. "I won't be hounded by you and your soulless minions of orthodoxy. I haven't broken any laws... except the laws of nature." (Maybe he IS Durst's Zombie.)
He has been on a fifteen year quest to end death. He believes death is caused by cellular ennui: prevent cells from falling to boredom and you prevent aging and that minor unpleasantness that comes at the end of aging.
He'll trade the card for science equipment: which the Noh-Jay Consortium acquire with other trades. Doing O'Brien's chores so he can go kayaking. Stealing Dr. Bashir's teddy bear Kukalaka back from his ex-girlfriend Leeta. Cleaning distortion off Worf's opera recordings. Punching up Kira's thrill-a-minute speech to the minsters of agriculture.
I'm confused about who is on the side of right today. Is Nog only recovering Bashir's property from his soon-to-be evil stepmother, Leeta? Or from a poor woman who's life of desperation has led her to abscond with an adorable stuffed toy?
Giger's noisy machines, by unfortunate coincidence, are right below Dominion Minion Weyoun's room.
Meanwhile, The Dominion tries to sign a Non-Aggression Pact with Bajor. Winn reluctantly stalls in signing it on the Emissary's advice.
But when all is said and done, eveyone seems to come out ahead. Even mad, weird Weyoun and mad, weird Giger seem to be hitting it off. How touching that they have each found a friend! Of course, if Giger is more than just a kook they've just given the evil Dominion immortality.
"In The Cards" is one of those rare, non-dire DS9 stories. As Captain Sisko puts it: "Even in the darkest moments, you can always find something that will make you smile."