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Playing God

Production no.: 437
Teleplay by: Jim Trombetta and Michael Piller
Story by: Jim Trombetta
Directed by: David Livingston
Stardate: not given
First satellite airdate: February 26, 1994
Geoffrey Blake ...........
Ron Taylor .................
Richard Poe ...............
Chris Nelson Norris ....
Majel Barrett ..............
Klingon Chef
Alien Man
Computer Voice

Bashir arrives back at DS9 from Starbase 41. With him is Arjin, a young Trill candidate who is nervous about the prospect of meeting Dax. He admits that when he learned that his field docent would be Jadzia Dax, he asked for reassignment. "Dax is famous for breaking initiates," he says. He is in the midst of telling Bashir how only the "best and the brightest" qualify for joining, when they arrive at Quark's and find Dax playing Tongo with Quark and some of his waiters; she wins. Arjin is surprised -- this is not the Dax he expected. She offers to teach him Tongo, but when he hesitantly indicates it was a long trip, she takes him to his quarters, leaving behind several disgruntled Ferengis.

Arjin appears at Dax's quarters the next morning, only to find an athletic alien answering the door and telling him she's in the shower. Dax comes out dressed only in a towel, noting that Arjin is early. She tells him to come in and wait while she dresses; stiffly, embarrassed by the assumptions forming in his mind, Arjin does so as the alien man leaves. Dax has Arjin get her a Black Hole from the replicator, and comments that she's sore; she's been having a morning wrestling workout.

Dressed now, Dax wonders what they're going to do while he's here. "I was under the impression that field training consisted of -- " begins Arjin, but she stops him. "I know all about field training. Jadzia went through it a few years ago." She tells him to call her not ma'am, but Jadzia. "If you think that's appropriate," Arjin says uncomfortably. "Oh, I'm sure it isn't appropriate at all," she says. "But then, I hate to be appropriate."

In Ops, O'Brien and Kira are hunting a vole -- one of a population of pesky critters that the Cardassians left behind. They have been spreading out over the station since people started moving into their hiding areas; they seem attracted to electromagnetic fields, and they gnaw on the conduits. "Phasers on stun, Mister O'Brien," Sisko says. Dax enters with Arjin and makes introductions before joining the vole hunt. "So you're the one who picked the black marble," Sisko says, explaining that, "Field training with Dax was the nightmare of the Initiate Corps." "That was Curzon," objects Dax, and hands Arjin a stunned vole.

Arjin accompanies Dax later on a runabout trip through the wormhole. He tells her he finished fifth level flight training last month, and knows that Dax didn't finish her third level until her last year of training. "You've been studying up on me, Arjin," she says. "I can't say that I blame you. I did the same thing when I found who my field docent was going to be." In fact, it was Curzon Dax. Arjin asks how she managed to impress him. Dax levels with him: she's not Curzon. She's not out to make this difficult for Arjin, and he doesn't have to impress her. After a beat, however, Arjin asks again how she impressed Curzon. "I didn't," Dax says evenly. "Curzon recommended that my initiate period be terminated."

At that moment, the runabout shudders, due to impact with a subspace interphase pocket of unknown nature. There is something caught on the nacelle: a glowing mass of protoplasm, which the computer can't identify.

O'Brien and Kira continue to look for ways to round up the voles. He's come up with a directional sonic generator that will be uncomfortable to their ears. Quark arrives, indignant, with a dead vole that had run right across a Dabo table. He holds them responsible for vermin control. While telling him about the sonic generator, O'Brien accidentally points it at Quark, who squeals in agony and is temporarily deafened.

The runabout returns, and Dax reports that they've picked up some "subspace seaweed" that they couldn't remove without causing further damage. She asks O'Brien to set up a containment chamber in the lab, so she can study it under more controlled conditions once they get it off the runabout. Meanwhile, she offers to take Arjin to dinner.

At the Klingon restaurant, Dax exuberantly joins the chef in the last line of his song. Arjin isn't exactly happy with the food. Dax asks him why he didn't say something. "Speak up for yourself while you're here, okay?" She has Arjin tell her a little about himself; he says his father, a pilot instructor who died last year, sponsored him. His father desperately wanted a child of his to be joined, but had no other goals for them. Dax asks, "And what about your goals?" Arjin isn't sure what he'll do; he figures he'll get guidance from the symbiont. "The symbiont's influence is very strong, Arjin," Dax tells him, "but you're the host. You've got to be strong enough to balance that influence with your own instincts. If you can't, the symbiont will overwhelm your personality." And Arjin knows he's screwed up.

In desperation, O'Brien has contacted a Cardassian officer for advice on how to remove the voles. The Cardassian isn't very helpful, and in fact seems pleased by the station's predicament. "You've got the station. You've got the voles. By the way, their mating season begins in about six weeks." He adds that the Federation could always withdraw from Bajor. O'Brien cuts him off. Dax hands him a present from Bashir: a flute, accompanied by a note: "It worked in Hamlin." "Very funny," growls O'Brien.

As Dax plays chess with Sisko, they talk a little about the "seaweed", which has been safely transferred to the lab. Sisko asks about Arjin, and it's clear that Dax has reservations. She's not sure what Arjin would have to offer a symbiont; she finds him somewhat arrogant, and the fact that he's riding his father's ambitions troubles her. But she doesn't want to confront him about it. Her job is to show him what it's like to function as a joined Trill. And she won't do to Arjin what Curzon did to her. But Sisko points out that Arjin won't be chosen if he doesn't measure up. "So, you're not doing him any favors by avoiding a confrontation, are you? Curzon was tough. Maybe even abusive in his own charming way. But he always demanded the highest standards of excellence from these host candidates." "You don't know what he did to me," says Dax, and Sisko reminds her that she made it through the program. "No thanks to him," she scowls. "Are you sure?" asks Sisko.

Meanwhile in the lab, voles have gotten into the circuitry, and the forcefield surrounding the protoplasm fails. Sisko, O'Brien, Dax, and Arjin convene there to assess the damage. Dax doesn't know yet if there's any threat. "Take those phasers off stun, Chief," Sisko says, re: the voles. "No more Mister Nice Guy." Dax and Arjin, who has some astrophysics background, are left alone to work on analyzing the mass.

Hesitantly, Arjin starts trying to fix things by mentioning some goals of his which he obviously made up. Dax calls him out, saying she thinks he's telling her what she wants to hear. "I'm worried about you, Arjin," she says frankly. Seeing everything he's worked for slipping away, Arjin starts to get angry as Dax goes on. "Look, you've gotten this far by anticipating every demand of the program and performing above everyone's expectations, am I right?...And I'm telling you that from this point on, that's not going to be good enough."

Arjin finally speaks up for himself. He feels betrayed. Dax understands. "But this isn't about me. This is about the standards for Trill hosts. The opportunity is too rare and too important to waste on the wrong candidate." She doesn't know that he is a wrong candidate, but she felt it only fair to tell him her concerns. Arjin loses his restraint. "Standards for Trill hosts? That is really incredible coming from you. I've never seen any host in my life who is as far below those standards as you are, ma'am. No wonder Curzon Dax tried to terminate your training." He storms out.

Dax gives the results of her analysis later to Sisko and the others in Ops. The mass is expanding, with a very specific growth pattern that the computer recognized as the expansion patterns of a universe. What they have is a proto-universe in its earliest stages of formation, and as it grows, it is disrupting their own universe. She does not know what will happen if they try to take it back where it came from; the wormhole's verteron nodes could interact with its energy fluctuations and cause a devastating reaction. But if they don't do anything, Bashir notes, it will eventually obliterate this system and beyond.

They can't contain it without destroying it, though Kira doesn't see the problem with doing just that. Dax believes they can create a forcefield that will contain it and cause it eventually to self-destruct through implosion. The collateral shock waves will most likely destroy the lab, so Sisko orders the evacuation of that section. O'Brien will have the containment field ready by the next expansion.

Arjin has gone to Quark's to drown his sorrows, certain that he has destroyed his whole future. "Never trust a Trill, Quark," he says. "They're...two-faced." Quark thinks at first that the lad has had his heart broken by Dax in a romantic sort of way, but no, Arjin is talking about the initiate program and how he's blown his chances for joining. Quark commiserates: as a young man, he was apprenticed to a district sub-nagus. "I licked his boots like you couldn't believe. He loved me. I was his golden boy. I was on the high road to the top of the Ferengi business world, and then it all fell apart." The cause of his downfall? Rule of Acquisition #112: "Never have sex with the boss's sister." He was fired. Arjin asks how he recovered, and Quark says he never did. "You only get one shot at the latinum stairway, and if you miss it, you miss it. Welcome to the club, son." And Arjin feels even more miserable than before.

In the lab, Dax is still studying the proto-universe, and reacts to something she sees. After an exchange of scientific techno-talk with the computer, she goes to Ops as they're preparing to establish the containment field. She tells Sisko she's not sure he'll want to do this now. She has found indications of life in the proto-universe.

Bashir and Odo join the discussion as Dax presents her findings. Kira argues that microbes and voles are lifeforms too, but they have no compunctions against killing them; however, Dax says there could be intelligent life in the proto-universe. Time might very well be moving at a different rate in there, allowing evolutions of whole species. O'Brien says they have to implement the containment field now or never; the universe will expand in two minutes. Sisko tells him no, they won't put up the field. The lab is evacuated, and repair crews moved into position as the proto-universe grows, causing a hull breach. There will be another expansion in five hours, and by tomorrow the station will be gone.

Kira speaks up for destroying the proto-universe. As far as she's concerned, it's like stepping on ants. Odo says they would be committing mass murder. But neither he nor anybody has a better idea. Sisko says he'll take an hour to decide.

"One hour to make a decision that could mean the life or death of a civilization," Sisko muses in his personal log. "Or the end to our own. My mind keeps going back to the Borg -- how I despised their indifference as they tried to exterminate us. And I have to ask myself, would I be any different if I destroyed another universe to preserve my own?" He goes to his quarters and has a talk with Jake, who, thinking his dad already knows, confesses he's in love -- slowly, it comes out that the object of his affection is a Dabo girl. Though he's not happy at this revelation, Sisko has other things on his mind, and agrees that Jake can invite her to dinner sometime soon.

Dax finds Arjin, still in Quark's. "Let's just get this over with, okay?" he says morosely. "Just use a sharp blade so I won't feel it." But Dax instead tells him her own story. Before joining, she, Jadzia, was extremely shy, quiet, and withdrawn. She was brilliant and got top grades, but had never lived outside the candidate program. Then she met Curzon, who made her life miserable for two weeks, then recommended that she be terminated from the program. "She went back a different woman. She found her voice and reapplied. She tore through the program with a passion, a vengeance. And in the end, the administrators chose her for joining." Arjin asks how she got the Dax symbiont, and Jadzia says she requested it on hearing Curzon was dying. She's not sure why Curzon didn't object. "Except as I've come to know Curzon's dark sense of humor, I have a feeling the irony might have appealed to him."

She gives Arjin an earnest look. "Jadzia Dax is not Curzon Dax. But I am Dax, and I'm slowly coming to terms with what that means to me. Sometimes it means gambling or wrestling. Sometimes it means waking up an initiate before he slides into the middle of the pack and gets overlooked." "You're giving me another chance?" Arjin asks, hope rising at last. Dax tells him only he can do that. "You can't simply do this anymore to meet other people's expectations -- not your father's, not your teachers', not mine. You need to discover what Arjin wants, out of life and out of joining."

Sisko then comes in to tell Dax that he's decided to have her try to take the proto-universe back through the wormhole. She says it'll take perhaps two hours to come up with a containment field that will block out the verteron node radiation. Sisko leaves her to get started, and Dax turns to Arjin. "Wouldn't hurt to have a level five pilot along."

Two hours later, the containment field is in place. O'Brien would be happier if they could test it, but Sisko doesn't think there's time. The runabout is ready, Dax and Arjin are aboard, and the proto-universe is beamed into it. They take off, and enter the wormhole. Very carefully, they navigate through, managing to avoid touching the verteron nodes, and make it to the other side. "This is going to look very good on your initiate record, Arjin," Dax approves. And they take the new universe back to its point of origin.

Sometime later, Dax walks Arjin to an airlock gateway on the Promenade for his trip home. He apologizes for what he said to her in the lab. "That was the first time you were being honest with me," Dax says, forgiving him. Arjin tells her that she's nothing like he had expected. "I'm nothing like I expected," she says. "Life after life, with each new personality stampeding around in your head -- you get desires that scare you, dreams that used to belong to someone else. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. But in time, I might recommend it for you. When you're ready."

"I know what I have to do," says Arjin, and she kisses him on the cheek, wishing him luck. As he goes out, Dax smiles. "I'm not Curzon," she says to herself with a triumphant smile.