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Production no.: 434
Written by: Paul Robert Coyle
Directed by: Les Landau
Stardate: 47581.2 
First satellite airdate: February 5, 1994
Rosalind Chao .......
Todd Waring .........
Susan Bay ............
Philip LeStrange ....
Hana Hatae ..........
Majel Barrett ........
Admiral Rollman
Computer Voice

A runabout zips through the wormhole into the Gamma Quadrant. Inside, a tense O'Brien sets a course for the Parada system, and opens a personal log. "I've got to try to set the record straight about the last fifty-two hours. I don't know who's gonna hear this. I don't even know if I'll be alive by the time this log is recovered. I figure they'll be coming after me." He orders a coffee, and sits down. "I wish I could tell you who they are. That's part of the puzzle I haven't figured out yet. Part of the puzzle, hell. None of this whole damn thing makes any sense."

Flashback: It's the morning after O'Brien has returned to the station from the Parada system. He wakes up early to find Keiko and Molly already having breakfast. There is a tense and vaguely remote quality in Keiko's manner as she casually tells him she wanted to get an early start. When O'Brien goes to give his daughter a kiss, Molly tells him to go away, and runs to the other room. Keiko shrugs it off as a phase, and asks about his mission. He says the Paradans gave him basic training on the security measures for their peace talks. Keiko takes Molly with her to school. It all seems perfectly normal, yet something about it strikes him as perplexing.

O'Brien arrives at the security office to do some work there, and finds one of his Starfleet engineers, DeCurtis, already there and hard at it. The plan was to wait for Odo to come back from Bajor first before they realigned the security net, but DeCurtis says Sisko didn't feel they should wait. O'Brien is surprised to hear that Sisko gave permission to start the work without checking with him first. He goes out onto the Promenade, and sees Keiko talking to Sisko.

O'Brien has the computer scan backward toward the wormhole, and learns that he is being followed by another runabout, the Mekong. He goes back to his log. "The way they were acting, they might've been trying to pull off one of those surprise parties that I can't stand -- only my birthday's not until September. And believe me, as it turned out, I had nothing else to celebrate."

Flashback: Arriving in Ops, O'Brien is greeted by Bashir, who says he's been waiting for him. No more excuses; O'Brien is going to have his physical. O'Brien is resistant, until Sisko comes out of his office to ask if there's a problem, and implies that he's ordering him. O'Brien finally agrees, but wants to speak to Sisko. The commander understands how upset O'Brien was by his assigning DeCurtis without advising him, and apologizes. Relaxing a little, O'Brien discusses his report on the Paradans with him. The Paradans seem preoccupied with security, but it's understandable after a twelve-year civil war. Sisko says that most of the work can be handled by the engineering crews. He wants O'Brien to fix the upper pylons, which are down again. O'Brien mentions that he saw Sisko talking with Keiko earlier, and Sisko says Jake is having some problems with his grades.

O'Brien then undergoes a painstaking examination by Bashir. It's almost as if the doctor is hoping to find something wrong. Bashir asks casually about O'Brien's parents, and the Chief says, "Come on, Julian, you knew my mother died two years ago." He chafes at the length of the physical, until it occurs to him that the reason for everyone's behavior might be because he's dying. But Bashir then gives him a clean bill of health.

On his way to the upper pylons, O'Brien runs into Jake, who wants help on a subspace transceiver for a science project. O'Brien agrees, and assures him that they'll clear it with Keiko. "Besides, it's a chance to help get those grades of yours back up, right?" "Oh, my grades are great," says Jake. "I just want to keep them that way."

The upper pylons are indeed in a state of failure, which makes no sense to O'Brien. He can't escape the feeling that this will keep him occupied during the security preparations. He goes to the quarters assigned to the Paradans and tells DeCurtis that he wants to look inside, but DeCurtis says the security seal has been activated, and only Major Kira knows the access codes. O'Brien calls Kira, but Sisko interrupts to put O'Brien back on the upper pylons. Frustrated, O'Brien storms off, but then stops around the corner, looks back, and sees DeCurtis entering the room that he supposedly couldn't get into.

Back on the Promenade, Jake catches up with O'Brien and shows him an inverter for the subspace transceiver. O'Brien invites him to his quarters later to work on the project, and, since Jake at least seems to be acting normally, he asks him if anything unusual happened here while he was in the Gamma Quadrant. Just then, however, Kira interrupts to tell Jake his dad is looking for him.

Taking apart the pylon controls, O'Brien finds a crack in an RF power conduit, and can't think how it could occur so deep in the system -- unless it was done deliberately. He goes home as Keiko is preparing supper. She says Jake can't make it tonight; he's not feeling well. O'Brien notes that he seemed fine a few hours ago. Molly is staying elsewhere, and O'Brien decides to test his wife by taking this as a chance for intimacy. Keiko says she's not in the mood. They sit down to eat, and it's one of O'Brien's favorite meals, but now he is suspicious of everything, of the fact that Keiko is having salad instead, of the way she seems to be watching him to make sure he eats. He finally says he's not hungry, and goes to lie down.

"I don't know if there was anything wrong with the stew or not," O'Brien tells his log. "When I went back later to check, she'd already put it into the disposal. But all I could think of, as I looked at her, was that this was not my Keiko." He is hailed by the pursuing runabout, but ignores it.

Flashback: After Keiko goes to bed, O'Brien stays up to search through the computer for any clues to explain what might be going on. There are no unknown micro-organisms, no chemical agents, no sub-harmonic transmissions, no unusual neural wave patterns, no telepathic activity, no ships arriving from the Gamma Quadrant. He has the computer play back station logs chronologically for the week that he was gone. And he listens for a long time until the computer suddenly announces, "Access denied." The logs from after the day he got back are restricted to level one clearance. O'Brien is level one, but the computer denies his security verification.

O'Brien goes to Ops, and pulls out a console, giving DeCurtis the excuse that he just wants to make sure the upper pylons are working by morning. He finds several traps in the computer subroutine, but is able to release the protected files. Back in his quarters, he looks at the files, and finds that the other officers have been analyzing and re-analyzing everything in his report on Paradan security. But the logs don't answer all his questions.

O'Brien catches Odo as the security chief arrives back on the station from Bajor, and pours out the tale. "I'd call Starfleet, but what do I tell them?" Odo, who seems sympathetic, notes that Starfleet might even call Sisko about it. He doesn't want the Paradans coming here until this is cleared up, and tells O'Brien to go on about his business as normal. Odo will investigate, and if he can confirm O'Brien's suspicions, they can go to Starfleet and Bajoran authorities. "We'll get to the bottom of this," Odo assures him, and O'Brien feels better knowing someone's on his side. But he gets antsy waiting, and starts doing some work on a small gadget.

"The odds are against you, O'Brien," Quark says later as O'Brien sits at the bar. When O'Brien grabs him, he clarifies that he meant the racquetball rematch with Bashir next week. O'Brien tells him to change the subject, and Quark asks him about the Paradans. At that moment, Odo calls.

"I see what you mean," Odo says when O'Brien enters his office. He asks how much O'Brien knows about the Paradan rebels. Remembering that Sisko's log mentioned messages from the Paradan system, O'Brien wonders if they could have been from the rebels. Odo confirms this, and O'Brien is disturbed. It's a breach of the security agreement with the Paradan government, one that justifies canceling the peace talks. Odo says that might be premature, and O'Brien stares at him. "They got to you."

Sisko and Kira enter the office at that point, armed with phasers, accompanied by Bashir with a hypo. They try to soothe O'Brien, who only wants to know who they really are. He takes out his gadget and uses it to create a blinding flash, temporarily incapacitating everyone; he grabs Kira's phaser and runs, firing at two security officers outside, and escaping.

Unable to beam onto a runabout, he tears off his combadge. He sees a forcefield being activated as he enters a corridor, but opens a panel and activates all the forcefields in the area. If they want to get to him, they'll have to release all of them. The forcefields go off, and O'Brien continues on his way. He sees Jake in another corridor, and tries to warn him that something's not right, but Jake calls security. "It'll be okay," he says. "Just surrender to them and you'll be fine."

With no other option now that security knows his whereabouts, O'Brien crawls into a conduit and begins to climb, losing his phaser in the process. He makes it to a cargo bay and uses the transporter there to beam onto a runabout. Sisko orders him to shut down the engines; he won't be allowed to leave. But O'Brien has thought of everything: the mooring clamps are unlocked and the tractor is offline. He puts shields up and flies the runabout away as the station fires.

O'Brien opens a channel to Admiral Rollman at Starbase 401, and tries to tell her about the emergency situation on the station, some kind of takeover or conspiracy, but the admiral orders him to turn the ship around. Cutting off transmission, O'Brien wonders if something has actually managed to infiltrate all of Starfleet. He takes the runabout through the wormhole, his only thought now to warn the Paradans.

O'Brien is now getting close to the Parada system, seven minutes ahead of the other runabout. He sets course for Parada IV, the biggest planet in the system, and drops to impulse. The other runabout does as well, and O'Brien has the computer adjust speed to let them catch up in thirty seconds. The magnetic field of the planet's polar region causes sensors to be nonfunctional briefly; he switches to manual navigation and engages full impulse on the mark. He hides behind a moon and watches as the other runabout hesitates for a moment and then heads for Parada II; he monitors a transport signal to the surface. O'Brien follows, and beams down as well, with two phasers and a tricorder.

Inside an underground compound, he finds a door and rolls in, phaser drawn. Sisko and Kira are there, meeting with a Paradan rebel leader named Coutu, and an armed bodyguard. Sisko tells O'Brien to put down his weapon and they'll explain, but O'Brien orders them to put theirs down first. "Everything you need to understand is behind this door," says Coutu, indicating one. O'Brien isn't buying it.

"Listen to him," Kira urges. "He's not your enemy. We're not your enemy." Coutu lunges for the door; his bodyguard fires on O'Brien before O'Brien can shoot. He hits him, and O'Brien goes down. Sisko calls for Bashir, who comes out from behind the door, where he has been working on another patient. The patient turns to see what's happening. It's O'Brien, looking a bit battered.

The other O'Brien listens incredulously as he lays dying, Bashir unable to help him. "He's perfect. He looks just like me," the real one observes in wonder; Kira says, "Apparently he thought he was you." Coutu adds that the rebels believe there was a triggering mechanism programmed into the fake O'Brien, who was a replicant created by the Paradan government. They're not sure what he was programmed to do, but they think possibly he would have assassinated someone, perhaps the entire delegation.

The rebels were tipped off by an informant that O'Brien had been abducted and replaced, and have been looking for him. Bashir notes that the double passed a physical exam and knew his way around the station. O'Brien now knows why he had so many wires connected to his head. Kira adds, "We were trying to shut him out of every sensitive security area while they were searching for you. He must have wondered what the hell was going on with all of us." By the time they learned that the real O'Brien had been rescued, the replicant had escaped; O'Brien guesses that he was trying to warn somebody here. It's what he would have done. "Maybe in a strange sort of way, he was trying to be a hero," Sisko notes.

"Keiko..." says the replicant weakly. "What about her?" O'Brien asks.

"Tell her...I love..." And the replicant dies.

  • The story evolved from a pitch by Paul Robert Coyle, in which O'Brien wakes up in an alternate reality where he never came to DS9.