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Vortex


Production no.: 412
Written by: Sam Rolfe
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
Stardate: not given 
First satellite airdate: April 17, 1993
 
Cliff DeYoung ........
Randy Oglesby .......
Max Grodénchik .....
Gordon Clapp .........
Kathleen Garrett .....
Leslie Engelberg .....
Majel Barrett ..........
Croden
Ah-Kel/Ro-Kel
Rom
Hadren
Vulcan Officer
Yareth
Computer Voice


There are a couple of things on Odo's mind as he enters the bar for another round of verbal sparring with Quark. One is a Miradorn ship -- which Odo is sure is a raider -- that just docked at the station. The other is a new arrival picked up by the Klingons in the Gamma Quadrant -- a man named Croden, who is sitting at a table nearby, wearing a locket on a chain around his neck. Quark plays it cool, saying Croden is harmless. The only reason he was less than forthcoming when greeted at the airlock by Sisko and the others is that all that pomp intimidated him. Odo wonders what Croden has to be scared about.

At that moment, a pair of twinned Miradorn enter the bar, and nod to Quark before heading up toward the holosuites. Odo notices the gesture. Quark tries to divert Odo's attention with a loud, indignant speech. "Paranoia must run in your species, Odo. Maybe that's why no one's ever seen another shapeshifter. They're all hiding!" He breaks off long enough to tell Rom, sotto voce, to bring up a flask, and heads up the stairs with a final hiss in Odo's direction.

Familiar with Quark's tricks, Odo is far from put off by the bluster. He watches as Rom puts four glasses on a tray, and bends down to get the flask. When Rom picks up the tray, there are five glasses. Not noticing this, Rom carries the tray up to the holosuite, where Quark has gotten down to business with the two Miradorns, who have an ornately carved object they wish to sell. Quark claims that the buyer he had lined up has backed out because a similar item was stolen off a ship in a raid not far from here. To find another buyer, one who asks no questions, will take a while. The Miradorns turn threatening.

Suddenly, Croden enters the holosuite, holding a Ferengi phaser, and rather nervously demands that they hand over the item. One of the Miradorns kicks a table at him, and the other fires a weapon as Rom and Quark dive for cover. A glass goes flying and shatters against a wall. The pieces turn into goo and draw together to form Odo, just as Croden is firing back at the Miradorns, one of whom goes down. Odo grabs Croden, calls security and medical, and fends off the other Miradorn, who has flown into a berserk rage over the death of his brother. Deputies arrive with Bashir, and haul Croden and the remaining Miradorn away; Odo makes sure Quark and Rom go too, as Bashir confirms that the other Miradorn is dead.

In Odo's office, the bereaved Miradorn, whose name is Ah-Kel, explains later to Sisko that he and his brother were two halves of one being, and now he is incomplete. Odo says they should have considered the risks before trying to sell stolen merchandise, and Ah-Kel has only himself to blame. Since there's no proof the Miradorns had raided the other ship, Sisko tells Ah-Kel to return to his ship, but not to leave the station. As for Croden, the law will deal with him; but Ah-Kel swears as he leaves that his only purpose in life now is to see Croden dead.

Quark, of course, isn't off the hook. Odo has noted that Croden had a Ferengi phaser, and that he knew the Miradorns were selling a valuable item. "How dare you suggest that my brother set up this robbery!" Rom exclaims. "What an interesting theory, Rom," Odo replies. Quark exclaims that this "theory" will get him killed if Ah-Kel hears of it.

The two brothers are allowed to go, and Sisko and Odo have a talk with Croden, in his cell. Sisko tells Croden that there will be a trial; Croden can request an advocate from his homeworld if he wishes. Croden says he doubts anyone there will care; there are no trials on Rakhar. He's sorry if he made things awkward, but he didn't have much choice. Croden looks admiringly at Odo. "Now, if I had his talents, I'd have no problems at all. I've never heard of a Changeling with such versatility." Odo reacts sharply to the name "Changeling". Knowing he has Odo's attention, Croden adds provocatively that maybe he'll tell Odo where he met someone just like him.

In conference with the other officers later, Sisko decides to try to contact Croden's homeworld, despite the potential awkwardness of having to tell his government that one of their own has been arrested for murder. Kira thinks they'll be grateful; Croden has probably committed crimes on his world as well. Dax is pretty sure it won't be hard to find Rakhar. Sisko tells her to come with him, and Kira says she'll have Odo increase security in case Ah-Kel decides to kill Croden in his cell.

As the runabout leaves, Odo enters the bar, on a fishing expedition. A paranoid Quark denies that he knows Croden well at all, although Odo has heard from several people, including Morn, who have seen them engaged in heavy conversation. Quark says he was just being friendly; he felt sorry for Croden, being so out of place here. But Odo has heard as well that Quark has been making inquiries about obtaining a small ship to go through the wormhole. He thinks Quark was trying to secure passage back to the Gamma Quadrant for Croden, in exchange for staging the robbery. Odo asks Quark what Croden has told him about himself; whether he said anything about his homeworld, or other species in the Gamma Quadrant. Quark is puzzled by the tack Odo has taken.

Odo breaks off to respond to a call; Ah-Kel and his crew are blocking his office. Odo disperses them, telling Ah-Kel to get back to his ship, then goes in to have another talk with Croden, who comments casually that the two of them have a great deal in common. Both are aliens here, the only ones of their kinds, alone and isolated. Others like them exist only in the Gamma Quadrant. Odo is plainly skeptical, to which Croden remarks, "I've always wondered why Changelings are so distrustful of other species." He goes on to explain that there aren't actually any Changelings on Rakhar; they were persecuted and driven out centuries ago. But he knows a place where there were some left, a few years ago. However, there's no way Odo could get there on his own -- Croden would have to show him.

Odo very much wants to believe there is truth in there somewhere, but he's sure Croden is lying. Then Croden pulls off the locket he carries around his neck. Saying it's from the colony of the Changelings, he opens it. Inside is a stone which suddenly shifts into a small, intricate shape as Odo watches, then shifts back. Odo can't help but be intrigued. This is the first thing he has ever encountered that is anything like himself.

Sisko and Dax achieve orbit around Rakhar, and finally get a response when they mention in their hail that they have Croden in custody. A government official brusquely demands that Croden be transported there immediately. Croden is "an enemy of the Rakhari people", and has been declared guilty in absentia for myriad crimes. His punishment will be appropriate to the crimes he has committed in the Alpha Quadrant as well. Sisko doesn't have much choice, and promises that Croden will arrive in another runabout within 52 hours.

Odo has taken the locket to be examined by Bashir, who says it's an amalgam of organic material and some sort of crystal, almost like a transitional stage between organic and inorganic matter. "I've only seen one life form that even remotely resembles it," he adds, meaning, of course, Odo. "In a way, this stone might qualify as a distant cousin of yours." Odo then takes the locket back to Croden, and asks where he got it.

"What would telling you get me?" asks Croden. "Nothing," replies Odo, who says he feels nothing but contempt for Croden. "You're a thief and a killer and who knows what else." Croden tells him that in his native sector there is a nebula called the Chamra Vortex, and the stone is from one of the asteroids there. The vortex is uncharted, but "as a thief and a killer and who-knows-what", Croden hid there often, and found the Changeling colony by chance. And he knows his way back.

After returning to DS9, Sisko tells Odo to escort Croden back to Rakhar. It won't be easy getting him past Ah-Kel, though; the Miradorn ship has been scanning every vessel leaving the station. But there's a Rigellian freighter scheduled to depart soon for the Gamma Quadrant, which Odo can use to run interference. Sisko warns him that once in the Gamma Quadrant, Odo will be on his own. Ah-Kel's ship can outrun the runabout.

Odo places Croden on the runabout, in restraints. When the Rigellian ship undocks, the runabout flies over and hides under its belly; Ah-Kel scans the freighter but doesn't seem to register the smaller ship as it enters the wormhole.

On the runabout, trying again to play on Odo's vulnerabilities, Croden asks him how he can stand living where he doesn't belong. "I'm as much a part of the place as anyone else," says Odo, but Croden doubts it. "Being what you are, you can pour your square shape into a round hole, but you don't really fit, do you?" The words hit home, but Odo covers by remarking that he's figured out what crime Croden was found guilty of on his world: he talks too much. Croden chuckles. "Perhaps that is how it started. Perhaps I asked one question too many." He goes on to tell Odo how one night, government security officers broke into his home and murdered both his wives. Croden, having no sophisticated weapon, slit the officers' throats with a knife. Odo is skeptical of this appalling tale, but since it wouldn't make any difference, Croden says, "Then believe it, because it's true."

Back on the station, after hours at Quark's, Quark is counting his profits when Ah-Kel bursts in, dragging Rom, and demanding to know where Croden is. Choking as Ah-Kel grips him in a stranglehold, Quark says he can find out. Ah-Kel releases him, and Quark uses one of his illicit security rods to access the station logs, reading that Odo logged out in a runabout some time ago. Ah-Kel gets the destination coordinates, threatens Quark again, and leaves. Rom looks on the bright side, that Ah-Kel will rid them of both Croden and Odo. "Unless Odo is sensible and gives up his prisoner," says Quark, but he knows Odo won't do that. He'll get himself killed first. Very shortly, Ah-Kel's ship leaves the station, and there isn't anything Kira or Sisko can do about it.

The runabout has reached the nebula called the Chamra Vortex, a beautiful expanse of swirling gases. Croden tells Odo he would save time going through it rather than around. He goes on spinning more stories about Changelings, to which Odo says, "You don't give up, do you?" The conversation is interrupted when the runabout shakes from being fired upon. Ah-Kel has found them.

Hailing the runabout, Ah-Kel informs them that the first shot was a warning. Odo says he doesn't give up his prisoners; Ah-Kel replies, "Very well, then you can die with him." He fires again, and Odo calls for evasive maneuvers from the computer. Croden says the computer is not going to be able to outsmart Ah-Kel. "I'm a security chief, not a combat pilot," Odo retorts. Croden proposes that he fly the ship, since he knows the vortex. The ionized gases will screen them from Ah-Kel's sensors. Without any other options, Odo removes the restraints, and Croden takes the helm. They plunge into the nebula, and slow down; the vortex, Croden says, is riddled with pockets of a volatile gas called toh-maire. If they're destabilized, they could ignite and blow the runabout apart. Ah-Kel hits them again, having followed their impulse wake, and Croden has the ship go to thrusters. They'll be better off, though, if they land. "So, Changeling, I guess I'm going to take you home after all."

In a cavern on one of the asteroids, Croden hurries through, as if he had a purpose in coming here. One thing's for certain, though: there is no Changeling colony here. Odo slams Croden against a wall in a sudden fury. "How much of it was true? Any of it?" Croden finally confesses that on his world, they tell stories about Changelings. He thought they were myths until he met Odo. He doesn't know where the locket stone came from; Rakhari merchants buy them from offworld traders. The stone is a key. "To my only reason for living," Croden says. He leads Odo further into another cavern, where a stasis chamber lies covered in rocks.

Odo helps Croden move the rocks, and through the clear top of the chamber, he sees a young girl. It's Croden's daughter, the only member of his family he managed to save. Croden opens his locket, and the stone shapes itself to the lock on the chamber. They take off the lid, and the girl, whose name is Yareth, regains consciousness. Her father embraces her tenderly, and introduces her to Odo, who he tells her will take her to a place where she'll be safe. As for him, he's going home. Yareth protests that her father will be killed.

The cavern shudders; Ah-Kel's sensors have picked up their life signs. As Odo, Croden, and Yareth start back for the runabout, a rock falls on Odo and knocks him unconscious. Croden starts to pick him up, then, realizing this is his chance to escape, he hesitates. But his better nature wins out, and he carries Odo to the runabout.

Odo wakes up as Croden is still trying to evade Ah-Kel. Getting an idea, Odo has Croden find them a pocket of toh-maire, and takes the runabout there. They shut down the engines, and wait. Ah-Kel calls, and Odo bluffs him, claiming that the runabout has formidable firepower. When Ah-Kel takes the bait and fires, Odo engages the engines. The toh-maire explodes, consuming Ah-Kel's vessel.

Croden is ready to face the music, but he has one last favor to ask Odo. He wants him to look after Yareth, who is going to be alone now. "We know you could use some company, Changeling. You will deny it, but we both know it's true. Or the stone would have meant nothing to you." Before Odo can reply, they are hailed by a Vulcan science vessel, the T'Vran, which was passing through and detected the eruption in the nebula. They are on their way back to the wormhole, and on to Vulcan after that. The captain offers assistance, and Odo tells her he just beamed over two survivors from a ship that was destroyed in the explosion. He asks if the Vulcans can give them transportation. The captain agrees to rendezvous with them shortly.

Croden is incredulous. How will Odo explain not delivering him? Odo says he'll tell them Croden was killed when Ah-Kel torpedoed the asteroid. Saying perhaps someday he actually will be able to go home again, Croden takes off his locket chain and slips it around Odo's neck. "I hope this helps you find where you came from."

They're signaled by the Vulcan ship, and Yareth gathers up the courage to ask Odo, "Are you really a Changeling?" "Yes," Odo says softly. "I suppose I am." He essays a smile, then beams the two of them over. Alone, Odo stares at the stone in the locket.

"Home -- where is it? Someday we'll know...cousin."


  • In this episode, the name Changeling is first heard for Odo's species.
  • This episode marks the first time Morn's name is spoken in dialogue, and the debut of the series' running joke about Morn talking constantly but not on camera.
  • The characters of Ah-Kel and Ro-Kel were modified from a concept for a pair of regular characters that was considered during the development of the series.
  • Odo smiles on camera for the first time (a suggestion made by Rene Auberjonois).