Production no.: 452
Written by: D. Thomas Maio & Steve Warnek
Directed by: Avery Brooks
Stardate: not given
First satellite airdate: October 29, 1994
Bumper Robinson ........
Jill Sayre .....................
Leslie Bevis ................
Matthew Kimbrough ....
Hassan Nicholas ..........
Alien High Roller
Jem'Hadar Boy [prepubescent]
Jake watches in admiration as his girlfriend, a Dabo girl named Mardah, plies her trade, persuading a high-rolling alien to try just one more spin at the table. The man does, and finally loses, much to Quark's relief. It's time for Mardah's break, and she fends off the high roller's pass as she goes to sit with Jake, who playfully reproaches her. But he is startled when Mardah asks him what the menu is for dinner tomorrow night with his father. She tells him his father stopped by and invited her this afternoon, saying it was Jake's idea. "Oh. I guess I might have mentioned something about having you over," Jake says. "I thought he forgot." Recovering from the shock, he tells her, "It'll be great. You're going to love my dad's cooking."
The Boslic freighter captain (who visited Quark in "The Homecoming") is back, telling Quark she has some salvage she wants to sell him. This time it really is salvage, she promises him. It's the wreckage of a ship that crashed in the Gamma Quadrant. As Quark is considering her price of three bars, he asks if he can see it first. "There's no time," she says. "Quark, you and I have been doing business for years. Don't you trust me?"
A little later, Quark goes down to the cargo bay to examine his newest acquisition: a pile of burnt and twisted pieces of metal and equipment. He begins hearing a muffled wailing, coming from a large cylinder. When he opens the cylinder, the wailing becomes the unmistakable screams of an infant. Quark looks at it in dismay.
As Bashir examines the child, Sisko glares disapprovingly at Quark, who says defensively that all he did was buy some salvage. "How was I supposed to know there was a baby in there?" Dax says they haven't been able to trace the Boslic captain since she left the station. Bashir notes that although he can't identify the infant's species, he seems healthy. The baby has an incredibly high metabolic rate for a humanoid, which he can only assume is normal for his species. O'Brien is analyzing the wreckage. "Now wait a minute," Quark objects. "I paid good money for that wreckage, and -- " Sisko looks at him. "And now it's yours. Enjoy."
Sisko cuddles the infant as Dax mentions that they should contact an orphanage on Bajor. "Oh. Right," says Sisko. "Have Major Kira make the appropriate arrangements." He leaves the infirmary with Dax, who smiles at the look on his face. Sisko says he misses taking care of Jake as a baby. "There are times when I would give almost anything for the days when I could make Jake happy just by lifting him over my head."
When he arrives home, however, he faces a decidedly unhappy teenaged son, who wishes his father had given him a little warning before inviting Mardah to dinner. "It's not a problem or anything," Jake admits. "It just caught me by surprise." Sisko points out that the dinner is tomorrow night, leaving Jake a full day "to prepare her for the traumatic experience of having dinner with the old man."
The next morning, Sisko returns to the infirmary, having been called there by Bashir. "Something wrong with the baby?" he asks. "No," Bashir replies. "But it's not a baby anymore." A boy is sitting on a bed, looking to be about eight years old.
Bashir remarks that he's never heard of such rapid growth in anything as complex as a humanoid; he estimates that the boy is no more than two weeks old. Then the boy speaks, startling them. "Who are you?" After talking with him for a few moments, Sisko and Bashir confer with each other. The boy already has advanced language skills and cognitive reasoning, which Bashir thinks is either a natural ability of his species or the result of basic intelligence implanted into his genetic structure. Bashir leans toward the latter possibility. The boy seems to be an example of some very advanced genetic engineering. Sisko tells Bashir to see if his mental abilities increase; perhaps the boy will eventually be able to tell them who he is and where he came from.
Sisko goes to where O'Brien is checking out the wreckage. The cylinder is apparently a stasis chamber that was damaged in the crash, and the vessel seems to have been a freighter or transport. The conversation turns to the dinner tonight with Mardah, which O'Brien has heard about from Jake. "Quark may call her a Dabo 'girl'," Sisko says, "but she's twenty years old. She's a woman, and Jake is a sixteen-year-old boy. It has to stop." O'Brien asks why he invited her over, and Sisko says it was mostly curiosity. "I wanted to see what I was up against." "What if it turns out that you like her?" O'Brien wonders. Sisko puts it bluntly: he doesn't want to like her. After Sisko leaves, O'Brien thinks aloud. "Sixteen years old and dating a Dabo girl. Godspeed, Jake."
Meanwhile, Kira rings the doorchime of Odo's new quarters, bringing him a houseplant as a present. Odo accepts it politely, and guesses from her eager attitude that she wants to see his quarters. "Everyone wants to see your quarters," Kira enthuses. "It's called curiosity." Reluctantly, he lets her in, and she looks around in astonishment at the place, which Odo has filled with objects of a dizzying variety of shapes, sizes, and textures. "I want to make this room into a place where I can explore what it truly means to be a shapeshifter," he explains. Kira says she thought that might be it. "I mean, you don't exactly need an entire set of quarters just to sit in your bucket." "I don't use the bucket anymore," Odo says. "I've kept it to remind me of how I used to be." He goes on to say proudly that here he can revert to his gelatinous state anywhere, and can experiment with his abilities in private. Kira suddenly realizes she might have intruded on Odo's treasured solitude, and wonders if she should leave, but Odo tells her, "No, please. You are always welcome here, Major." Seeing that he means it, Kira is touched. And Odo takes the plant and puts it inside his bucket. "Perfect," Kira smiles.
Bashir is talking to Dax at the replimat. The boy is definitely the product of genetic engineering, and what's more, Bashir has discovered that his blood chemistry is missing a key isogenic enzyme, without which his entire circulatory system would shut down. He has been trying to replicate it, and thinks he's found a temporary substitute. "But what I don't understand is why anybody would want to genetically engineer someone with such an obvious flaw." They are interrupted by a call from a nurse, who says Bashir's needed in the infirmary immediately.
As Bashir and Dax arrive there, the boy, now a teenager, rushes outside, looking around wildly. Bashir tries to calm him, but the boy downs him with a few punches and races off. Dax calls security to the Promenade. Odo emerges from his office just as the boy comes at him, and orders him to stop. The boy dives at Odo, who morphs, letting him actually pass through his body. Dax arrives on the scene and looks at the boy, who is staring up at Odo with an expression of awe and even worship. Now that he's not rampaging, his facial features are quite distinct, and familiar. Dax calls Sisko. "I think we've solved the mystery of our young visitor, Benjamin. He's a Jem'Hadar."
The officers confer in the wardroom, where Sisko tells them that Starfleet Command wants them to send the boy to a starbase to be evaluated by a team of xenobiologists and exo-psychologists. "So they're going to study him like a laboratory specimen," says Odo, who clearly objects to this. Bashir agrees; the boy is not a biological sample, but a sentient being. Dax points out that the Founders may have removed his free will. "He may be nothing more than a genetically programmed killing machine." But Sisko says that they need to learn all they can about the Jem'Hadar. "Fine," says Odo. "If you want answers about the Jem'Hadar, I'm the one who can find them for you." He will take responsibility for the boy, who has already shown a certain deference to him -- probably an alteration the Founders put in to ensure the Jem'Hadar's loyalty.
Sisko speaks to Odo in private. "Talk to me, Odo. Tell me what's really going on here. What the Founders did to the boy, to all the Jem'Hadar, is not your fault." "Maybe not," Odo replies. "But I feel an obligation to undo some of the damage that my race has done to this boy. And I also know what it's like to be a specimen in a laboratory." He asks for a chance to find out if the boy really is just a killing machine, "or if we can help him become something else." Sisko decides to tell Starfleet that they have some preliminary tests to run before they send the boy off to the starbase.
The boy is in a holding cell, pacing like a caged animal, upset and confused. Bashir tries to reason with him. "Your body is craving a certain chemical compound. That is why you're feeling anxious and having muscle spasms." The boy says there's nothing wrong with him, and to leave him alone. But he freezes when he sees Odo, who calmly tells him to sit. The boy admits that he has been feeling nauseous, with head and chest pains. Bashir explains to Odo about the "addiction" to the enzyme, which he is trying to synthesize. He can't get the exact chemical formula without further tests, but the boy has been resisting this idea. However, when Odo tells the boy to let Bashir help him, the boy reluctantly agrees.
When Bashir leaves them alone to get his equipment ready, Odo introduces himself to the boy. "Do you have any needs or desires of your own?" he asks. "I want to fight," replies the boy. Not Odo, but the others. "Is that wrong?" "Let's just say we need to find other interests for you to pursue," Odo says. He suggests that the boy relax, even smile. The boy tries awkwardly to follow Odo's example. "We'll work on that," Odo decides as Bashir returns.
Dinnertime has arrived at the Siskos' quarters, and Sisko serves the food, asking Mardah to tell him a bit about herself. Mardah says there's not much to tell. Her parents were killed during the Occupation, and she was raised by neighbors until she was thirteen, when she moved out. She has a brother and sister whom she hasn't talked to in years, because they disapproved of her job as a Dabo girl. "It's amazing how some people will judge you based on nothing more than your job," she says casually. Sisko can't help but be surprised.
Jake, nervous, moves the conversation along by mentioning that Mardah is a writer. She says her stories are nothing like his poetry. Sisko is even more surprised; he had no idea his son wrote poetry. "He writes some of the most beautiful things I've ever read," Mardah affirms. "That's what won me over." Not to mention the way he plays dom-jot. Jake squirms as Mardah tells his father that he's "quite the hustler." Unable to take any more, Jake goes to see about dessert, and Mardah remarks quietly to Sisko that Jake "seemed like just another teenaged boy at first, but there's more to him than that." "I'm beginning to realize that myself," says Sisko. Somehow, he finds himself warming up towards this young woman. "Now tell me more about my poet-hustler son."
O'Brien is showing Odo something his team has found in the wreckage, a case containing liquid containers and tubing, which Odo is pretty sure is the enzyme needed by the boy, since it only makes sense that the Founders would keep a supply on board. O'Brien doesn't understand this genetically engineered addiction. "I suspect it's another way of insuring the loyalty of the Jem'Hadar to the Founders," Odo says. "If your soldiers are addicted to a drug that can't be replicated and only you can provide, that gives you a great deal of control over them." "Seems a pretty cold-blooded thing to do," O'Brien remarks. Odo looks at him. "My people don't have blood, Chief."
In the infirmary, the Jem'Hadar boy is outfitted with a tube in his neck, and Bashir gives him a fix, experimenting with the dosage. The boy relaxes for the first time; his vital signs improve immediately. He feels good now. "Thank you," he says to Odo, who makes to leave, but the boy tells him he wants to go with him. It's all right with Bashir; he can still monitor the boy's condition. "It seems I have my first houseguest," says Odo, acquiescing.
The boy looks around Odo's quarters with curiosity as Odo tells him he can turn into any of these objects, with varying degrees of success. He's found some forms more difficult than others -- his current humanoid form, for example. "Why do you want to look like a humanoid?" the boy asks. "You're better than they are. You're a Changeling." "That doesn't make me better, just different," Odo says. The boy frowns in confusion. His instincts tell him that Odo is superior to him, while he himself is superior to everyone else. Odo tells him that's not true. "No one on this station is better than anyone else. We're all equal." "Then I must be at fault," the boy says, troubled. "Because I know that you cannot be wrong."
Odo can't help but be a bit uncomfortable with all this worship. He tries to tell the boy that he's not infallible, and that the boy has to learn to think for himself, to follow his own wishes, not Odo's. He asks what the boy wants right now. Awkwardly, the boy says he wants to know more about his people and where he comes from. It's a desire Odo knows very well. "I can understand that. I was also found by aliens. I didn't know who I was or what my people were like." "Did you ever find them?" the boy asks. "Yes," says Odo. "But sometimes the truth is not very pleasant." He has the computer play a bridge security log from the Defiant, made at the time that the Jem'Hadar attacked and boarded the ship. The boy watches in fascination. "These are my people?" "Yes," Odo says. "They're a race of brutal warriors, but that doesn't mean you have to be like that. You can channel your feelings of aggression in other ways." The boy asks how.
Odo takes him to a holosuite and conjures up a simulated fighting partner for him. The computer can adjust the figure's strength, agility, and speed as desired. Odo tells the boy that here he can indulge his fighting instincts to his heart's content; the price is that outside the holosuite, he must practice restraint at all times. He lets his charge try it, and immediately the boy tears into the hologram, escalating the level of difficulty as he goes. As the boy is joyfully pummeling his opponent, Kira comes in and asks to speak to Odo, who comes outside with her.
Kira is concerned about him, but Odo tells her he thinks he's begun to form a real connection with this boy. "How long do you think you're going to be able to control him?" she asks. "I'm not trying to 'control' anybody," Odo argues. "I'm just trying to give him some choices other than becoming a laboratory specimen or a Jem'Hadar soldier." Kira looks at him in wonder. "I never thought I would say this to you, Odo, but you are listening to your heart, not your head. That boy was created in a laboratory. His body, his mind, his instincts are all designed to do one thing: to kill." Odo counters that he himself was designed to be a Founder, while she was trained as a terrorist, but each of them chose to be something else. He wants to give this boy the same chance to decide his fate that they had. Finally, Kira concedes. But she's still worried. "Just don't forget, he is a Jem'Hadar. He's dangerous." When Odo goes back into the holosuite, where the boy is still fighting, and turns off the program, the boy looks at him fiercely, obviously having to struggle to contain his stirred-up bloodlust.
As Odo walks with him later on the Promenade, the boy observes that the curious passers-by are afraid of him. "They should be. I could kill any of them." "Is that all you can think about?" Odo challenges him. "Killing? Isn't there anything else you care about?" "I don't think so," the boy says. Odo tells him there is much more to life than that. "Maybe there is for you," counters the boy. "And maybe there is for all of these other people here, but for me -- " He is interrupted by a call from Sisko, who needs to see Odo in his office. Odo tells the boy to wait in their quarters.
Sisko looks grim as Odo enters. A starship, the Constellation, is coming to pick up the boy and take him to the starbase, in five hours. Sisko tried to stop this, but orders are orders, he says. Suddenly the boy appears, pointing a phaser at Sisko. "You're not sending me anywhere." He wants a runabout. "I'm leaving this place, and you're going with me," he tells Odo. "You don't belong here any more than I do." Odo agrees to this. Sisko nods, trusting Odo, who says Sisko will see to it that no one interferes with them. He leaves the office with the boy.
As they head for the runabout, the boy tells Odo they're going to the Gamma Quadrant, where both their peoples are. "It's where we both belong." "I don't belong there," Odo counters. "I don't believe you do either." He argues that there's another option besides going to the Gamma Quadrant. They can find a place somewhere else. He's willing to go with him to help start him on his new life. "You just don't understand, do you?" the boy says. "I want to be with my people. I don't want to be anywhere else. I'm not like these other humanoids. I'm a Jem'Hadar, and that's what I want to be. You're not like these other humanoids either, but they've done something to you. They've filled your mind with ideas, with these beliefs. I don't know what the other Changelings are like, but I know they're not like you." Odo looks at the boy sadly, knowing he's lost him. "No," he agrees. "They're not."
Sisko beams over to the airlock corridor with a detachment of security officers, and are met by Odo and the boy. "Let us go, Commander," Odo says before anyone starts shooting. "I'm leaving of my own accord. I'll take the boy back to his people, then return in the runabout. If he boards the Constellation when it arrives, he'll either kill a lot of innocent people or be killed himself." Sisko asks, "What makes you think he'll let you come back?" "I don't believe he could injure a Changeling," Odo says. Sisko makes his decision. He will tell the starship that he would have had to kill the boy to keep him from leaving. Starfleet won't like it, but it's the truth. He leaves to allow Odo and the boy to board the runabout.
The boy comments that he saw how afraid Sisko was of him; Odo replies that the commander was trying to help. "He's not my friend," the boy says with certainty. "He's my enemy. And I now know anyone who is not a Jem'Hadar is my enemy." "Does that include me?" Odo asks. The boy doesn't answer.
Walking on the upper level of the Promenade later, O'Brien and Sisko see Jake with Mardah, holding hands. "I thought you were going to lower the boom on those two," O'Brien says. Sisko says he was, but he changed his mind. O'Brien guesses that Sisko got to know her a little better and decided he liked her after all. "Actually, I got to know Jake a little better," Sisko responds. He advises O'Brien not to play dom-jot with Jake.
Over in the replimat, Kira is eating lunch, when Odo walks up to her. "Major, about the boy...you were right." And Kira looks at him compassionately, wishing she hadn't been.
One of the rejected candidates for the role of Mardah was Chase Masterson, who in "Explorers" would make her debut in the recurring role of Leeta. This was the last episode in which Odo included a belt with his uniform (except for "Crossfire" in the fourth season).