Quark finds an abandoned Jem'Hadar child, and Odo is the only person who can control him.
Mardah leaves the dabo table and walks over to a table in the bar where Jake is seated, and she explains that Jake's father has invited her to dinner on the following evening in the Sisko's quarters, which startles Jake. However, he recovers and says, "It'll be great," and that Mardah will enjoy the food.
Just then Quark is at the bar, when a Boslic captain walks up behind him and the two start negotiating the sale of salvage from the Gamma Quadrant. She wins the negotiations after putting her feminine charms to effective use.
Next, Quark is in a cargo bay, rummaging through the salvage he'd bought. After a few moments he hears the cries of a baby, and walks toward the source of the noise only to discover a stasis chamber... which holds the crying baby.
In the infirmary, Quark is with Dr. Bashir and Commander Sisko, and the infant is lying on a biobed. Sisko berates Quark for failing to inspect the salvage before purchasing it, and just then Dax walks into the infirmary to announce that the chances of finding the Boslic captain approach nil. Dr. Bashir, meanwhile, tells Sisko that the infant is growing at rates Bashir's never seen outside of a laboratory, and that the infant ought to be kept on hand for more medical tests. Sisko then asks about the salvage, and Dax replies that O'Brien will be examining it. Quark offers a fruitless protest against the sequestering of his property, and promptly leaves the infirmary.
Before Dax and Sisko leave the infirmary, Sisko picks up the infant to hold him, and Dax offers to find an orphanage on Bajor for the infant. Shortly thereafter Sisko gives the infant up to Dr. Bashir and leaves the infirmary with Dax, who teases him about the change in his demeanor when he was holding the baby. Sisko then explains that he actually feels nostalgia for Jake's early childhood – notwithstanding the hassles of fatherhood – because he misses the days when it was easy to make Jake happy.
Sisko then returns to his quarters, where Jake is writing on a PADD while lying on the sofa. He asks Jake for a hug, but Jake turns away and expresses dismay at the fact that his father gave so little warning of the plans he'd made with Mardah. The commander excuses himself by pointing out that some time ago, he'd threatened to invite Mardah to dinner if Jake didn't – and Jake backs down, reminding them both that it will be "just dinner."
Sometime later Commander Sisko enters the infirmary, where Bashir announces that the child taken from the salvage is "not a baby... anymore." Sisko then looks through a nearby doorway, only to see a child on the table who appears to be eight or nine years old. Bashir then explains that his tests reveal the boy to be no more than two weeks old, in fact, which is mystifying since the only organisms ordinarily capable of growing as fast as this boy are small and simple, not "anything as complex as a humanoid."
The boy chooses that moment to announce clearly that he is hungry, which Bashir says is no surprise. Sisko introduces himself and Bashir to the boy, tells him that they are on a space station, and asks the boy if he knows what that is. He replies, "No, but I want to learn."
Sisko and Bashir then go into the next room, where Bashir explains that the only rational explanation for what they are seeing is some sort of advanced genetic engineering.
Next Sisko goes to the cargo bay containing the salvage, where O'Brien explains the stasis chamber – which implies that someone wanted to forestall the boy's maturation while aboard ship – and says that the wreckage was likely from some sort of transport.
Before Sisko leaves the cargo bay he asks O'Brien to give the replicators in his quarters some attention, and O'Brien mentions that he'd heard from Jake about Commander Sisko's dinner invitation to Mardah. Sisko expresses his reservations about the fact that his sixteen year old son is romantically involved with a twenty-year-old dabo girl, and confides to O'Brien that in the face of his discomfort he "wanted to see what [he was] up against." O'Brien then asks, "What if it turns out you like her?" Sisko answers that he doesn't want to like her.
Next, Major Kira is at the entrance to Odo's new quarters, with a plant in hand. She offers the plant to Odo, which he guesses is for the sake of decoration. He thanks her with his typical reserved tone, and shares his supposition that she would like to see his quarters. She says, "Everyone wants to see your quarters! It's called curiosity!" They go in, and Odo tells Kira that he's not finished setting things up, that he's just started turning the space into a place where he can "truly explore what it means to be a shapeshifter." Kira points out that he doesn't need an entire set of quarters just to sit in his bucket, and he announces that he doesn't need the bucket anymore, but that he keeps it as a memento to remind himself of the life he led before getting his own quarters. He then goes on to explain that with the new space, he can more easily regenerate and explore his true nature in private, which leads Kira to catch herself and apologize for intruding on Odo's personal space. Odo brushes off her apology, and says that she's always welcome.
Kira then looks around, and asks where they should put the plant she brought. Odo walks over to his bucket and puts the plant into that, which Kira says is "perfect."
Later Bashir and Dax are in the Replimat, where Bashir is explaining that the boy is missing a critical enzyme, notwithstanding the fact that he's genetically engineered... and Bashir can't understand why someone would be engineered to have "such an obvious flaw."
At that moment Bashir is asked to come to the infirmary immediately, and there is disruption on the Promenade. The boy, who is now an apparently teenage humanoid, is stalking around causing people to back away in apprehension. Bashir tries to pacify him by saying, "No one is going to hurt you," but the boy punches him in the face. Dax puts in a call to Security, and then Odo steps out of his office, ordering the boy to stop.As the boy runs down the Promenade Odo blocks his path and changes to an amorphous but upright form just as the boy collides with him. When Odo re-assumes his humanoid form the boy is on his knees, looking up at Odo in a state of obvious distress, but also with reverence.
In the wardroom, Odo, Kira, Dax, and Bashir are waiting when Commander Sisko comes into the room and announces that on orders from Starfleet, the Jem'Hadar is to be taken to Starbase 201 for research purposes. Kira agrees enthusiastically, but Odo is not pleased, knowing from personal experience that the Jem'Hadar will be nothing more than a "well-treated specimen" once Starfleet gets their hands on him. Bashir sides with Odo, while Kira points out that with all of the genetic engineering that's gone into him, the Jem'Hadar may be nothing more than a killing machine.
At that point Odo takes personal responsibility for the Jem'Hadar, insisting that as a Changeling he's the best person to find out if the Jem'Hadar's makeup will or will not allow him free will as a normal sentient lifeform would exercise it. At that point, Commander Sisko asks to speak with Odo privately.
Once they're alone, Sisko points out to Odo that there's no real obligation on Odo's part to make up for the things that the Founders did to this Jem'Hadar, but Odo stands fast, pointing out again that he knows what it means to be a research subject against his will, and that he doesn't want to inflict that on the Jem'Hadar. Commander Sisko concedes and promises to temporize with Starfleet, but reminds Odo to be careful.
In Security, the Jem'Hadar is flinging himself against the force field of a holding cell while Bashir is attempting to explain to the Jem'Hadar his need for the enzyme that Bashir explained to Dax in the Replimat. Just as Odo walks in, the Jem'Hadar demands to be left alone, then takes a step back when he sees Odo, who orders the force field lowered and says, "Everything is under control now."
Odo orders the Jem'Hadar to sit down and asks about his condition. The Jem'Hadar admits to being nauseous and in pain, while Bashir explains the enzyme. Bashir goes on to say that he'd like to perform more tests, with the goal of replicating the enzyme. The Jem'Hadar first refuses but is persuaded by Odo to change his mind.
Bashir then leaves, and Odo asks the Jem'Hadar what he wants to do, which is to fight as it turns out – not with Odo, but instead with the others on the station... and it appears that anyone will do. The Jem'Hadar asks if what he wants is wrong, and Odo tells him that they "need to find other interests for [the Jem'Hadar] to pursue." Odo asks the Jem'Hadar to relax, to smile, and demonstrates to the confused Jem'Hadar what a smile is. The Jem'Hadar attempts to mimic Odo, but what comes across his face is more of a grimace, and Odo says, "We'll work on that."
Meanwhile, in Commander Sisko's quarters the dinner appointment with Mardah is just beginning. Jake insists that while the food may be spicy, she'll enjoy it, and as Commander Sisko brings the last of the serving dishes to the table and seats himself, he asks Mardah to tell him about herself. She explains that her parents were killed during the Occupation, that she was brought up by neighbors until she was thirteen, and that she went out on her own thereafter. She goes on to say that she has a brother and sister, but that she hasn't "spoken to them in years," apparently because they took issue with her decision to work as a dabo girl. She closes by pointing out that it is amazing how some people will judge others based on profession as opposed to character, and just then Jake throws a "see-I-told-you-so" glance at his father.
They go on to discuss writing – Jake's in particular – and Mardah says that his poetry won her over. She also announces that Jake's quite the dom-jot hustler, which takes his father by surprise. Jake then excuses himself from the room, and after Mardah points out that Jake is more than meets the eye, she and Commander Sisko agree that they have in common the fact that they both care a great deal about Jake... and the smile on Commander Sisko's face suggests that he might just be warming up to Mardah after all.
Later Odo and O'Brien are in the cargo hold containing the salvage in which the Jem'Hadar was found, and O'Brien shows Odo an artifact which he says defies analysis. Odo suggests that the artifact is likely a repository for vials of the Jem'Hadar's "missing enzyme," and goes on to say that this genetically engineered "addiction" is probably another mechanism for ensuring the loyalty of the Jem'Hadar to the Founders.
Odo takes the vials to the infirmary, and Bashir starts an apparatus to deliver some of their contents into the Jem'Hadar's carotid artery. After a few moments the Jem'Hadar announces that the result of this treatment is positive, and Odo starts to leave, only to be asked by the Jem'Hadar if he can come along.
The two of them go to Odo's quarters, where Odo explains how he mimics the objects in the room as a way of honing his shapeshifting abilities. He says that taking humanoid form is especially difficult, and the Jem'Hadar asks why he bothers, since Changelings are better than humanoids - including himself. Odo rejects that assertion, saying instead that Changelings are not better than humanoids, just different, and that the Jem'Hadar's instincts lead him wrongly.
In confusion the Jem'Hadar announces that Odo must be right, and Odo's response is that the Jem'Hadar must learn to think for himself, to make decisions based on his own needs and desires - rather than those of the Changelings - and then asks what the boy wants.
It turns out that the Jem'Hadar wants to find his people, and Odo says that he understands that very well, adding that what he found was "not very pleasant." Odo then shows the Jem'Hadar footage from the boarding of the Defiant; during its previous journey through the Gamma Quadrant. The Jem'Hadar fixes on the playback, saying that the men attacking the Defiant's bridge crew are his people. Odo confirms this, adding, "They're a race of brutal warriors."
Odo then tells the Jem'Hadar that he doesn't need to be brutal, since there are other ways to work out his aggression. The two of them then go to a holosuite, where Odo has created an adversary for the Jem'Hadar to fight - with the understanding that outside of the holosuite, the Jem'Hadar must restrain himself from aggression.
Odo starts the holosuite program. After a few moments the Jem'Hadar "kills" his adversary and asks Odo to increase the skill of his opponent. Odo does so, and the program restarts. While the fighting continues, Kira walks into the holosuite and asks to speak with Odo. The two of them leave but the holosuite is left in frame, where the Jem'Hadar increases the difficulty level of the program from three to five.
On the mezzanine of Quark's, Kira is beside herself at the news that Odo has allowed the Jem'Hadar to move in with him. Odo says that it is alright, that the Jem'Hadar trusts him. Kira is unconvinced. "But can you trust him?" she asks, wondering if the Jem'Hadar can be controlled indefinitely. Odo says that he's not trying to control anyone, but instead is trying to give the Jem'Hadar a third option apart from being sequestered in a laboratory or fighting alongside the other Jem'Hadar.
Kira is still skeptical, pointing out that the Jem'Hadar is a custom-designed killing machine. Odo offers a rebuttal by pointing out that in certain ways both he and Kira are acting contrary to their own "typical" inclinations. Kira ultimately relents, but like Commander Sisko in the wardroom, she intently asks Odo to be careful. Odo then goes back to the holosuite, orders the program discontinued, and takes the Jem'Hadar out onto the Promenade.
Once out on the Promenade the Jem'Hadar remarks that all of the onlookers are afraid of him, and Odo adds that they are curious and afraid. The Jem'Hadar suggests that they should be afraid, because he can kill any of them, and Odo asks if he's capable of thinking of anything else. "I don't think so," the Jem'Hadar replies.
Odo goes on to say that there plenty of other things to experience, but the Jem'Hadar is unimpressed... and just as he's about to explain his attitude, Commander Sisko orders Odo to come to his office. Odo orders the Jem'Hadar back to his quarters.
Once Odo is in Sisko's office, Sisko explains that Starfleet is coming for "the boy" in a matter of hours whether Odo likes it or not, and in spite of any agreements that had been made. At that moment the Jem'Hadar steps out of camouflage and points a phaser at Sisko, insisting that he will not be sent anywhere at the demands of Starfleet.
The Jem'Hadar demands a runabout, insisting that Odo come along since the inhabitants of DS9 are not his people, either. Odo agrees, and promises that nobody will interfere with them. The Jem'Hadar promises that he will kill anyone who does attempt to interfere.
When they reach the Docking Ring of the station Odo and the Jem'Hadar debate the latter's course of action, but the Jem'Hadar cannot be restrained from his objective - he is a Jem'Hadar, he wants to be with his people, and there is nothing to debate. The Jem'Hadar goes on to assert that Odo's time with "other humanoids" has "done something" to him, and finally says, "I don't know what the other Changelings are like, but I know they're not like you."
When Odo and the Jem'Hadar arrive at the airlock they find Commander Sisko waiting for them with a security team, but Odo asks Sisko to back down, saying that the Jem'Hadar will be lethal trouble aboard ship, and that he will not keep Odo from coming back to the station. Sisko lets them go, and promises to hold off the fire of Starfleet.
On the Promenade, O'Brien asks Sisko why he isn't ordering Jake to end his relationship with Mardah. Sisko tells him that dinner with the two of them granted him new insights about his son.
Later, Kira is sitting at a table working on some PADDs in the Replimat, when Odo walks up to her. "About the boy," he says to her, "You were right."
"You are evil."
"He was going to walk away a winner!"
"First rule of dabo is, watch the wheel, not the girl."
- - Jake Sisko and Mardah
"You bought a child?"
"I just thought that I was buying some wreckage. How was I supposed to know that there was a baby in there?"
"Maybe you should inspect the merchandise before you make the deal. Or isn't there a Rule of Acquisition for that?"
"There is, and I do. Usually."
- - Commander Sisko and Quark
"Now, wait a minute! I paid good money for that wreckage and... now it's yours. Enjoy."
- - Quark
"I was talking about an orphanage?"
"... Oh, right. Have Major Kira make the appropriate arrangements. You'll keep me informed about him?"
- - Jadzia Dax, Commander Sisko, and Bashir, about the Jem'Hadar infant
"You are positively glowing! I haven't seen that look on your face since..."
"... Since Jake stopped wearing diapers."
- - Dax and Sisko
"Sixteen years old, and dating a dabo girl. Godspeed, Jake."
- - O'Brien, to himself
"What sort of 'specialists' are we talking about, commander?"
"There will be a team of xenobiologists and exopsychologists waiting for him."
"So... they're going to study him. Like a laboratory specimen."
"Well, he'll be very well treated."
"So, he'll be a well-treated specimen."
- - Odo and Commander Sisko
"Poetry? You - you write poetry?"
"Well, sort of."
- - Commander Sisko and Jake Sisko
"Jake seemed like just another teenage boy, at first... but there's more to him than that."
"I'm beginning to realize that, myself."
"I care about him very much."
"... And so do I. Now, tell me more about my poet-hustler son."
- - Mardah and Commander Sisko
"I still don't understand why they would engineer someone to be addicted to a certain chemical."
"I suspect it's another way of ensuring the loyalty of the Jem'Hadar to the Founders. 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."
"My people don't have blood, chief."
- - O'Brien and Odo
"He trusts me!"
"But can you trust him? How long do you think you're going to be able to control him?"
"I'm not trying to control any-... anybody. I'm just trying to give him some choices other than becoming a laboratory specimen or a Jem'Hadar soldier."
"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."
"My body, mind, and instincts were designed to be a Founder. You were trained to be a terrorist. But each of us chose to be something different. I just want to give him the same chance we've had!"
"All right. Give him a chance. Just don't forget: he is a Jem'Hadar. He's dangerous!"
"I'm well aware of the risk, Major."
"I hope so."
- - Odo and Kira
"If he boards the Constellation when it arrives, he'll either kill a lot of innocent people, or be killed himself."
"What makes you think he'll let you come back?"
"I don't believe he could injure a Changeling."
"When the Constellation arrives, I'll tell them that I couldn't stop you from leaving. That I would've had to kill the boy to keep him here. Admiral Nechayev won't like that answer, but it has the virtue of being the truth."
- - Odo and Commander Sisko
"He was afraid of me. I could see the fear in his eyes."
"Commander Sisko was trying to do what's best for you. He was trying to help you."
"He's not my friend, he's my enemy! And I now know that anyone who is not a Jem'Hadar is my enemy."
"Does that include me?"
- - The young Jem'Hadar and Odo
"I thought you were going to lower the boom on those two."
"Well, I was, but some things came up at dinner I didn't expect."
"Got to know her a little better, and decided you liked her after all?"
"No, actually I got to know Jake a little better. Have you ever played dom-jot with him?"
- - O'Brien and Commander Sisko
Story and script
- Ira Steven Behr commented "We wanted to keep the Jem'Hadar alive in the series but not do another battle show. The trouble with coming up with a villain is they lose their ability to strike fear in your heart if you're able to kick their ass too quickly." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 85)
- The final draft script was submitted on 30 August 1994. 
- Glenn Neufeld and VisionArt Design & Animation oversaw the special effects for scene where Odo shapeshifts as the Jem'Hadar leaps through. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p 182)
- The weapon used by the Jem'Hadar was designed by Dan Curry, who based it on a Tibetan fighting cleaver. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p 85)
- Director Avery Brooks saw this episode as something of a metaphorical study of racial tension and gang culture. According to Brooks "for me, it was very much a story about young brown men, and, to some extent, a story about a society that is responsible for the creation of a generation of young men who are feared, who are addicted, who are potential killers." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Rene Echevarria commented "A good show for Odo. I think people may have started seeing shades of "I Borg", but the twist on it was that you just can't turn this Jem'Hadar. People felt Hugh had turned, and it was more of a tragedy that he must go back and sacrifice himself for us. This is a different type of tragedy, where we see that there is no turning this type of creature". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 85)
- Ronald D. Moore commented "It's a good episode and an important one to tell things about the Jem'Hadar that were different than we had dealt with before. I thought it was a good opportunity to show Odo's feelings for his people, but the scenes should have been deeper. Act five is particularly rushed and it doesn't pay off as satisfyingly as it could have". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 85)
- This episode marks the first time that we see Ketracel-white, even though it is only referred to as the "missing enzyme" that the Jem'Hadar are "addicted" to.
- Odo's placing the plant from Kira in his bucket, which he used to reside in while in his gelatinous state, is symbolic of his feelings for her; she has always had a special place in his heart. The symbolic importance of the bucket housing the plant is revisited in the season 4 episode "Crossfire", when, after learning that Kira doesn't love him, and is instead in love with Shakaar, Odo picks up the bucket and smashes it against the wall. Footage from the scene in which Odo uses his bucket for the flowers is incorporated into the montage at the end of "What You Leave Behind".
- The weapon used by the adolescent Jem'Hadar in the holosuite scene is similar in design to the Ushaan-tor used in the ENT season 4 episode "United".
- Odo replays part of the battle scene from "The Search, Part I", which establishes that it took place on stardate 48214.5, with the on board battle occurring on time index 310.
- In this episode, Sisko fulfills his promise to Jake, made in the season 2 episode "Playing God", to allow him to bring Mardah home for dinner.
- Leslie Bevis makes her second appearance as Rionoj, the Boslic freighter captain, in this episode. She previously appeared in the season 2 episode "The Homecoming" and would later appear in the season 4 finale "Broken Link", where her character would be named.
- This is the first episode to refer to Jake's literary talents, foreshadowing his later decision to become a writer/journalist.
- The events of VOY pilot episode "Caretaker" take place between this episode and the next one, judging from the stardates.
- Tom Morga's costume was sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. 
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.3, 13 March 1995.
- As part of the DS9 Season 3 DVD collection.
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Constable Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Julian Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Jadzia Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira Nerys
- Sue Henley as a command division officer
- Randy James as Lieutenant Jones
- David B. Levinson as Broik
- Tom Morga as holographic Tygarian
Bajor; Bajorans; blood; Boslics; carotid artery; cellular kinetic profile; Constellation, USS; court martial; Creole food; DNA; dabo; dabo girl; Defiant, USS; dom-jot; exopsychologist; Gamma Quadrant; genetic engineering; Hortak; holosuite; isogenic enzyme; karjinko; Koran; latinum; Mandalay sauce; Milky Way Galaxy; muscle spasm; Nechayev, Alynna; O'Brien, Keiko; Occupation of Bajor; Odo 1; Promenade; Quark's; replicator; Replimat; Risa; Rules of Acquisition; runabout; Sarjeno; shrimp Creole; Sisko, Joseph; Starfleet Command; stasis chamber; transport; xenobiology
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