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The Assignment

Production no.: 504
Teleplay by: David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Story by: David R. Long & Robert Lederman
Directed by: Allan Kroeker
Stardate: not given
First satellite airdate: October 26, 1996
Rosalind Chao ............. 
Max Grodénchik .......... 
Hana Hatae ................ 
Patrick B. Egan ........... 
Rosie Malek-Yonan ..... 
Judi Durand ................ 
Majel Barrett ..............
Station Computer Voice 
Computer Voice

Rom comes into the bar for breakfast after a long night shift and, instead of his usual puree of beetle, orders eggs, bacon, and corned beef hash. "It's Chief O'Brien's breakfast of choice." Quark is disgusted, and still puzzled as to why Rom gave up a perfectly good job with him to work on the waste extraction system. "I have a good job," declares Rom. "I'm proud of the work I do. And I know that one day, Chief O'Brien will recognize my efforts and reward me with a position of respect and responsibility. And why? Because that's just the way things are in Engineering." Quark is sorry he brought it up.

O'Brien, meanwhile, is facing a crisis. Keiko is coming back from a visit to Bajor, and her Idran hybrid bonsai trees are dead. He followed her instructions to the letter, but it turns out Bashir watered them yesterday, causing their roots to rot from too much water. Molly is the voice of doom. "Mommy's going to be mad." "She'll understand, won't she?" asks Bashir. "After all, they're just plants." "You're in trouble," Molly says sagely, and refuses her daddy's suggestion that she tell Mommy what happened. Bashir tries to reassure him. "Keiko will forgive you. It's your birthday today, isn't it?" He suggests plying Keiko with her favorite candy. As for himself, he will be in surgery, operating. "On who?" "I'll find someone."

When Keiko arrives, O'Brien blurts out his confession. To his relieved surprise, she says, "Forget it, Miles. They're just plants." She asks after Kira, who is on Bajor, and O'Brien asks her how the Fire Caves were. "Fine," she says. "And now it's time for me to tell you some news. I'm not Keiko." He thinks she's joking at first. "Who are you?" "Listen carefully, Miles," she says calmly. "I have taken possession of your wife's body. I will hold it hostage until you do everything I tell you to, accurately and without question." "Everything?" O'Brien asks sexily. But she is dead serious. "If you don't do precisely what I ask, I'll kill your wife."

O'Brien wonders if she's caught some fever. "I see I'm going to have to give you a demonstration of my sincerity," she announces. Suddenly she chokes and starts to convulse until she lies still. O'Brien is horrified, and starts to reach for his combadge, but Keiko's hand whips out and grabs his. "No, Miles. You're not telling anyone. If you do, I'll stop her heart forever."

Finally, O'Brien believes, and asks to speak to his wife. "You're in no position to bargain, Miles," Keiko, or the thing inside her, says. "Strange, these corporeal bodies of yours. So fragile. Burst even a tiny blood vessel in the brain, and every memory, every passionate emotion -- gone forever." Defeated, he asks what she wants him to do, but declares that he won't do anything to jeopardize the station or anyone on it. She says all she wants him to do is reconfigure some of the communication and sensor relays, but she won't tell him what for.

"You'll have to be patient," he says. "The communications and sensor relays are distributed throughout the entire station." However, the entity tells him, "You know your wife well, Miles. But she knows you even better. I know you're just playing for time until you can get to your friends. Julian, Dax, Captain Sisko -- I know they'll all want to help you. The captain may even allow you to do what I'm asking, at least until someone figures out a way to catch me in some sort of stasis field or some other clever device you're already dreaming up. And you know what? It might work. You might be able to stop me. But I promise you one thing. If you do, Keiko will die. All I need is a split second to cause a massive brain hemorrhage, and she's gone." O'Brien has no choice but to take her threat seriously. "What do you want me to do?" he asks.

In their quarters, as he plans how to carry out her demands, which will require tapping into an optronic regulator to keep the polarity shift invisible to security checks, he asks her, "Why Keiko? Why take control of her? Why not me? I'm the one who can do the work. It'd be more efficient." But she doesn't have a chance to answer before the door chimes. It's Bashir, carrying a pot of Bajoran spiny basil as an apology-gift. The entity greets him graciously, and tells him she forgives him. "Now, you are coming to the party tonight, aren't you?" Bashir affirms that he will, although she has just ruined the surprise -- Keiko had arranged a birthday dinner for her husband tonight. "That's okay," says O'Brien stiffly. "I don't like surprises." After Bashir leaves, O'Brien queries about the party. His instinct is to cancel it. "And raise suspicions?" the entity says. "It's better if the dinner goes on as planned. Besides, Keiko went to a lot of trouble to arrange it."

Rom happily reports to the day shift briefing; he's been tapped to replace a sick engineer. The other engineers look askance at his overly enthusiastic efforts to fit in. O'Brien speaks to them over a monitor, announcing a change of plans. He will be recalibrating the optronic regulator, while the others handle the inertial couplings elsewhere. "Since I'll be working alone today, I'm going to be very busy, so I don't want to be interrupted by anything unimportant. Is that clear?"

O'Brien is about to start work in the crawlway when instead he decides to have the computer scan Keiko for identity and any inconsistencies with existing medical records. The answer comes back, that no inconsistencies were found, and identity was confirmed. He questions the computer on various ways to render her unconscious, but none of them are quick enough to prevent the entity from killing Keiko. Unhappily, O'Brien sets about his task.

When he arrives home later, he finds the party in progress. "Keiko" has laid out a fabulous dinner of q'parol, which everyone agrees is quite a success. They go through the traditional song and cake, not noticing O'Brien's rather forced smile or his attempt to speak to his wife alone. Sisko does pick up on the Chief's tension, but O'Brien makes an excuse.

"Keiko", meanwhile, is chatting with Odo and Jake about her trip to Bajor. "Did you see any pah-wraiths?" Jake asks. Off her apparent puzzlement, he explains. "In the Fire Caves. Odo was telling me the caves were haunted by some sort of weird supernatural beings." Odo protests that he's heard legends, but never said he believed them. "Well, the only thing I saw in the caves were some beautiful and botanically fascinating fungi," Keiko says; Jake suggests that he come along next time she goes. "I've always wanted to meet a pah-wraith." She smiles. "Maybe you will. You never know."

O'Brien makes another attempt to speak to her, but she brushes him off. Seeing her with Molly, he squeezes a glass too tightly, and it shatters. When Bashir offers to take a look, O'Brien snaps at him, then looks around at the bewildered faces. "I'm sorry. Sorry, everybody. Excuse me."

"Get a hold of yourself," the entity inside Keiko commands him coldly, following him into the bedroom. He glares at her. "Look, I've done everything you've asked me to do. Just give me back my wife." However, she tells him that the recalibration was only a test. "I had to be sure I could trust you. Tomorrow, the real work begins. Now it's time to get back to our guests. We don't want to raise suspicions, do we?"

After the party is over, he demands to know what she wants done, but she says they'll talk about it in the morning. "I make the rules. Now relax. Everything's going to be fine as long as you do what I ask." She insists that he sleep with her in bed as usual. When she goes into the other room, O'Brien surreptitiously asks the computer for a record of all Bajoran legends about pah-wraiths, but it says there are 6427 entries mentioning that subject in its data banks. Not knowing where to begin, O'Brien gives up and goes to bed, lying stiffly beside the stranger wearing his wife's body.

Somehow, he manages to sleep, and unthinkingly reaches for her as he wakes in the morning. She is looking at him with a contemptuous smile. "Another weakness of you corporeal lifeforms -- your need for physical intimacy. It's especially irritating in your young," she adds, picking up a doll of Molly's. O'Brien wants to have Molly stay with another family until this is over, but the entity serenely threatens Keiko's life again. "A little girl needs her mother. Molly would be lost without hers." "You stay away from her," O'Brien explodes, but the entity assures him, "Miles, I'd never do anything to hurt your daughter. Unless you force me to." She hands him his instructions for the day.

On his way to work, O'Brien impulsively asks the computer for Sisko's location, and, learning that the captain is in Security, heads there. If anyone can help him, it's Sisko and Odo. But as he enters the Promenade and starts for his friends, Keiko's voice calls out to him. She is leaning against the railing of a second-level crossway, tears in her eyes. It's actually Keiko now, but the entity forces her to pitch forward and fall.

While Keiko is being treated by Bashir, Sisko and Odo are curious as to what the Chief was doing on the Promenade when he was supposed to be working on some optronic circuitry on Level Five. O'Brien claims uneasily that he was going to the replimat for lunch, and is saved from further questioning when Bashir emerges from surgery. Keiko is in shock, suffering from broken bones, but she will be all right. The doctor allows O'Brien to go in and see her for a few minutes.

"You were going to tell them about me," the entity accuses. "...I know everything your wife knows, and she knows you. I told you we have to trust one another. You violated that trust. Now look where it's led us." "I want my wife back, do you hear?" O'Brien growls. "I want her -- " "Then stop trying to fool me," the entity tells him firmly. "How much more damage do you think this body can take?" She forces him to agree not to try anything else, and gives him thirteen hours to complete his tasks. When he protests that he can't do it that fast, she says, "You're a very resourceful man. I'm sure you can find a way, for Keiko's sake." "You bloody -- " O'Brien exclaims, losing it for a second.

But Bashir comes in at that moment, reminding him that Keiko needs to rest. "Tell Molly I'll be home soon," she smiles. "Tell her Mommy's fine. Don't scare her." O'Brien is obliged to kiss her in order to keep up appearances.

Outside, he asks the computer for a thirteen-hour countdown. Worf stops him to express concern, and though O'Brien would love to gain an ally, any ally, he doesn't dare tell him anything.

After roughly four and a half hours of working, O'Brien is interrupted by Rom, who has already completed his assignment for today and is eager for another one. O'Brien studies him for a long moment, until Rom offers to work slower. "Rom," O'Brien says, "I need your help, and I need you to keep your mouth shut. Can I count on you?" Rom agrees; O'Brien tells him they'll be making some modifications to the station's systems, and he is not to mention it to anyone, including the senior officers. "They don't know?" Rom asks. "Of course they know," the Chief lies. "Some of them do. But they have to pretend that they don't. This is a top secret Starfleet operation." Rom gives a conspiratorial nod. "Culpable deniability. I understand. Don't worry about me, Chief. My lips are sealed. Nobody will get anything out of me. Not even my name." "Rom, everybody on the station knows your name." "Right. But I won't confirm it. Where do we start?"

The two of them get to work. In the wee hours, O'Brien is in Ops, tinkering in the pit, when Dax comes up to him, a concerned look on her face. She couldn't sleep, and was scanning the wormhole for anomalies when she discovered something unusual in the wideband filter protocols. O'Brien has to feign surprise. "They're slightly off spec." Dax agrees. She ran a level three diagnostic, and has discovered something disturbing. "We'd better wake the captain. We have a saboteur on the station."

Though it's a strain, O'Brien goes through the motions of "trying to detect" what is happening, and briefing Sisko and Odo about it. Sisko sums up that someone has gained access to their systems and is altering them. Though O'Brien says the alterations don't seem to pose any threat to the station, the others discuss how to trace who might be doing it. O'Brien is strangely silent. He actually is about to bring himself to tell them what has been happening, but at that moment a crewman interrupts to tell him he has a call from his daughter.

O'Brien moves to a monitor at the other end of the room; Molly appears with "Keiko" brushing her hair. She chats for a bit with her daddy. "When are you going to come -- Ow, Mommy, that hurt!" she says, as her mother's hands "accidentally" pull her hair. The entity brightly reassures O'Brien that Molly is fine. "I told her you had to work another two hours, twenty-two minutes and thirteen seconds." O'Brien tells Molly he'll be home soon. After the transmission ends, he apologizes to Sisko, who prompts him about saying who he thought might be the saboteur. "I think I have an idea," O'Brien replies.

Rom is working in a docking ring corridor when Odo's hand lands on his shoulder. With the constable is a security team, and O'Brien. "What are you doing, Rom?" "I-I can't talk about it." "Oh, yes you can. And you will," Odo declares, and leads the hapless Ferengi away. O'Brien, under the guise of seeing what Rom has been up to, stays to continue the work.

Some time later, in the holding area, Sisko asks if Rom has said anything. "Not much," replies a frustrated Odo. "For the first forty minutes, it was like pulling teeth even getting him to admit his name." Now Rom is asking to see O'Brien. So Odo calls the Chief and tells him he's needed in Security. O'Brien consults the computer; there are 36 minutes left. He goes, after scrambling the surveillance channels in Rom's cell and telling the computer to begin recalibrating gravitic sensors. When O'Brien arrives, Rom insists on talking to him alone.

"I haven't told anyone anything, just like you said," Rom reassures him. He says he can hold out, but there's one thing he has to know. "Why are we focusing a chroniton beam at the wormhole?" "What?" O'Brien asks. Rom explains, "The new frequency of the deflector grid is set to turn the station into a massive chroniton array aimed directly at the wormhole. So I just wanted to know, why are we trying to kill the wormhole aliens?"

O'Brien looks at him, realization hitting. A chroniton beam is harmless to most life forms, but the temporal disruption would kill a wormhole alien instantly. "Of course," O'Brien says, angry with himself. "Why didn't I think of that? She has me so on edge I haven't been able to see the forest for the trees." "Who's she?" asks Rom, but O'Brien doesn't have time to explain. "The question is, why would anyone want to kill the wormhole aliens?" "Everyone has enemies," Rom says. "Even the Prophets." "That's right," says O'Brien, everything falling into place. "They're not just wormhole aliens, they're Prophets. Part of Bajoran mythology -- just like the pah-wraiths of the Fire Caves. So, what have those wraiths got to do with the wormhole aliens?"

Surprisingly, Rom has an answer: Koss'moran, a Bajoran legend, one of several that Leeta has been telling him about. The pah-wraiths were once part of the Celestial Temple, but were exiled and imprisoned in crystal fire cages in the Fire Caverns. And now, O'Brien realizes that the entity inside Keiko -- whom he's now sure is a pah-wraith -- plans to kill the wormhole aliens so it and the other pah-wraiths can return. He tells Rom he'll have to leave him in his predicament for now. "Captain Sisko, Odo -- they don't know about any of this, do they?" asks Rom. O'Brien admits that they don't, and asks him to keep it that way for a little while longer. "I have to stay here and play the idiot?" "I'm afraid so," says O'Brien. "No matter what Odo asks you -- " "I'm Quark's brother," Rom assures him. "I know the role."

There are only twelve minutes left when O'Brien rushes back to where he was working. He has only been back at it for a couple of moments, however, when Odo steps up. "Sorry to disturb you, Chief. A couple of things are still bothering me. Rom couldn't have done all this sabotage alone. There were too many changes for any one person to make." O'Brien tries to stay focused while Odo tells him about his investigation, and how he attempted to check the repair logs, but couldn't. "We had a matrix systems failure yesterday. Those records were lost," O'Brien says. "Sorry." It's plain that Odo has figured out who was really behind the sabotage as he asks, "We've had a lot of system failures recently, haven't we, Chief?" He queries O'Brien about overriding the surveillance channels in the holding cells. O'Brien makes an excuse, but Odo tells him, "Enough, Chief. You didn't cover your tracks very well. Why?" "I didn't have time," O'Brien says. "I still don't." He turns around and knocks Odo out, apologizing to the constable's unconscious form.

He calls "Keiko". "I'm finished. But we have to move quickly. This place is going to be swarming with security. Meet me at Runabout Pad C, now." "How did you know I'd want a runabout?" she asks. "Because I know what you're planning to do. But don't worry, I don't give a damn about the Celestial Temple or your non-corporeal feuds. I just want my wife back. Now you still need me to pilot you to the wormhole, so let's stop wasting time. Agreed?" She meets him there.

O'Brien explains to Ops that he wants to test something on the runabout's impulse thrusters, and Dax tells him he's cleared for departure. "Before you go, there's one thing I'd like to ask you...Did you enjoy your birthday?" "It was full of surprises," O'Brien replies truthfully. He launches the runabout with himself and "Keiko" on board, gets into position by the wormhole, and tells the computer to initiate his modifications and enable a remote comlink. "What the hell?" asks Dax of no one in particular, sitting in Ops as her panel lights up and the station goes to automatic red alert.

On the runabout, the pah-wraith orders O'Brien to target the wormhole. "They'll all be dead before they even see it," she exults. "You have no idea how many centuries I've waited for this." "Let's get on with it," growls O'Brien, causing the pah-wraith to look at him in disapproval. "Miles, you have a lot to learn about patience." But she gives him the signal to proceed, as Sisko contacts them to ask what's going on. O'Brien ignores him; Sisko orders him to return. Instead, O'Brien activates the remote control.

The station lights up and begins sending out energy trails which form a beam that shoots out toward the wormhole. But O'Brien has stationed the runabout so that it is in the way, and gets hit by the blast instead. He has tricked the pah-wraith, who has no time to retaliate before Keiko's body is caught in the chroniton energy and writhes helplessly. Finally the beam vanishes, and Keiko falls limp. O'Brien cradles her in his arms as she opens her eyes. It is Keiko who looks back at him and returns his relieved embrace. They return to the station to be met by Sisko, Odo, Bashir, and a security squad. "Chief, you have some explaining to do," Sisko tells him.

Back in their quarters, Keiko describes her possession by the pah-wraith. "...Like having something coiled around inside my head. I could see and hear through it, but any time I tried to do anything, it was like being stuck in sand and squeezed." "Could you sense any of its thoughts?" O'Brien asks. "Just feelings, sometimes," she tells him. "Kind of a cold rage. I don't think it had any intention of leaving either one of us alive." He offers her the option of not talking about it, but she says it feels good to be able to. "Besides, I don't want to forget how hard you fought for me." Keiko hugs him lovingly.

Rom comes back into the bar for breakfast again, yawning, which causes his brother to observe, "I'm telling you, Rom, working the night shift is driving you to an early grave." But Rom tells him he wasn't working. He's not on the night shift anymore. "In appreciation of my work, the Chief has promoted me to the day shift. He says I have a promising future in engineering." The reason he's so tired is that he was out celebrating with his new crewmates. "I think they like me...Especially Litana. She's always finding excuses to talk to me."

"Well, Rom, I'm glad things are going so well for you," Quark tells him, his hopes of getting his brother back under his thumb fading again. Rom smiles. "No, you're not. But thanks anyway, brother." He's ready to order breakfast, but instead of bacon, which doesn't agree with him, he'll have pancakes with butter, sausage, and pineapple. "That's the breakfast of choice on the day shift," he explains proudly. "Pineapple," Quark mutters, going off to get the food and shaking his head mournfully. His poor brother has been utterly ruined.

  • This was the first produced teleplay for the writing team of David Weddle and Bradley Thompson, who two seasons later became DS9's executive story editors.
  • Way back in the first season, there had been a line cut from "The Nagus" in which, when Sisko and Jake were going to go to the Fire Caves, someone jokingly said to watch out for the "pah-wraiths". Robert Hewitt Wolfe remembered that line, and the wraiths were actally introduced four seasons later, in this episode.