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Changing of a Changeling
by Edison Kells
(September 1998)



                             - PREFACE -



       I wrote this short story in September 1998, once again for a

       writing contest.   My friend, John Campbell, and I came up with

       the premise on a drive to catch a Mets' game at Shea Stadium

       one hot August evening.   This was the first time outside of

       autobiographical material that I ever wrote in first person--

       challenging but fun.   Final thanks to John's wife, Cindy, and

       Dennis for proof-reading and help with the details. 



      ***************************************************



 	    A Bajoran man punched in an access code on the door's

       keypad.   He quickly slipped inside the room, he hurried to a

       bucket-shaped container lying nearby on the floor.   He

       inspected the locking mechanism on the closed container and

       found it counting downwards from 89.96 clicks.   Satisfied, he

       reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a small, clear,

       cylindrical data rod.   He shook his head as he pocketed it

       again, whispering, "This has not turned out at all the way I

       planned.   Better not risk it."   As he exited the room for the

       corridor, the Bajoran quickly turned, removed the data rod from

       his pocket, saying, "But perhaps it's time I try to think as you

       would."  He tossed the rod back into the room, where it landed

       near the container.   "I'd venture you would leave this for me."  

       Once in the corridor, he made sure the door closed behind him,

       and set off towards Docking Bay 3.   A few moments later, he

       had to step aside for Major Kira Nerys as she rushed past him

       with a look of terrible concern on her face.   The Bajoran man

       continued on his way, allowing a slight smile to crack his

       somber expression.



       **********



            I assume, Odo, that you're listening to this with your

       friends.   But since you were the greater inspiration for my

       intentions tonight, I'll address this communique directly to you.  

       I admire you greatly, Odo, and in saying that, I apologize for

       any embarrassments and inconveniences I may have caused

       you.   By the time you hear this, I'll be long gone, hopefully not

       to be found by the Federation, the Cardassians, or especially

       our own.   Funny how situations can turn out much differently

       than we expect them to.   But perhaps I'm being too vague.   I'll

       begin by telling you a bit about myself.



            You and I have met before, Odo, back on Earth.   I must

       commend you again for spotting me in my disguise as Admiral

       Leyton.   Unlike then, however, my mission here on Deep

       Space Nine was a simple surveillance assignment: keep watch,

       gather information, and report my findings.   Even now I'm not

       sure when it became more complicated than that.   Maybe

       being away from The Link for such an extended period of time

       is more unhealthy for us Changelings than we thought.  

       Anyway, the following information I'm sure will prove helpful to

       you.   We have numerous ways of smuggling onto Deep Space

       Nine, and there are always at least two of us lurking about at

       any given time.   Every fifteen days a fresh operative comes

       aboard and stays for a month, thereby our shifts overlap.   This

       was my third visit to your station--to your home.   And I must

       add, you do manage it quite well.



            Your reputation is vast in The Link, but primarily as one who

       killed another of our own kind.   The thought is both abhorrent

       and amazing to me.   I would rather die an agonizing death--no,

       worse--I'd rather be banished from The Great Link to wander

       the galaxy as a Solid, than to suffer the memory of having

       terminated the existence of another Changeling.   But you're

       also known as the Changeling who dwells peacefully with the

       Solids.   Before coming here, I assumed you were an unwilling

       or ignorant pawn being used by alien races, and I watched you

       closely to justify these suspicions about you.   However, I found

       that the ignorance was on me, my friend, as I eventually

       became convinced that you are truly accepted, respected, and

       even loved amongst these strange creatures we call Solids.



            Unlike my first tour of duty here, I found myself looking

       forward to this particular visit.   Perhaps that was fair warning

       that I should have disqualified myself for this assignment.  

       During my first weeks on the station, I only manifested publicly

       in the form of inanimate objects, fearing, and yes, loathing the

       idea of posing as a sentient Solid.   But it eventually came to

       pass that, following a hard day's work of the usual

       shape-shifting, eavesdropping, evading detection, etc., I began

       to look forward to evenings on the Promenade.   I would take

       on the form of whatever local alien suited me, and eventually

       even became comfortable fraternizing with this corporeal

       rabble.   Huh!   I thought you had caught me one night as our

       eyes met, when, looking up from my table where I was seated

       at Quark's, I saw you peering down at me from the rail above

       the Promenade.   But anyway, these casual, impromptu

       contacts with the Solids are probably what started me on the

       road towards my current decision.   Oh, have I mentioned to

       you yet what that decision is?   I'm going to attempt to separate

       from the Great Link!



            You see, as I mingled amongst the various characters who

       gather at Quark's, I realized that many of my preconceptions of

       Solids were simply--'skewed' is a good word.   For example,

       Quark himself is a fascinating study in solidology.   At first, he

       seemed to fit the bill to a tee: greedy, self-seeking,

       condescending, exploitative, embodying all the loathsome

       characteristics we come to expect of Solids.   But then one

       night, as I watched him offering a sympathetic ear to that pitiful

       beast, Morn (did you know, I've never seen Quark charge him

       for his drinks?)-- that night I realized what Quark's great virtue

       was.   He provides a place for Solids to link.   Now I don't mean

       to insinuate that this comes anywhere close to the Link we

       experience back on our homeworld or between each other.  

       But the elements are indisputably there.



            Quark's Place is an arena where Solids can congregate,

       communicate, share, exchange ideas, aspirations, laments,

       emotions, life energy.   These evenings on the Promenade are

       simply times for individuals to lose and find themselves in a

       pool of community.   After all, I had to wonder why it was that I

       was continually drawn there.   It was a revelation to me to

       understand that I was returning night after night to seek out the

       closest thing to the Great Link that the Solids have to offer here

       on this lonely outpost.   Ha, ha-- I can almost see your

       incredulous expression as I say this.   I watched how you treat

       Quark, Odo.   You know, you really should lighten up on him.  

       Sure, even I despise the way he's heavy-handed with his

       employees, and devious in his business pursuits (if only you

       knew).   But we cannot expect Solids to be perfect any more

       than we can expect Changelings to be fearless.   All this to say,

       I've become fascinated with the complex layers of unity and

       diversity that I find amongst them.



            So, yes, Quark's Place is definitely where my turning

       began.   But don't let the brevity of this recording give the

       impression my decision was a sudden or easy one.  

       Obviously, I don't have the luxury of time to give you a more

       comprehensive account of my journey.   Hopefully the

       highlights I include here will give you sufficient understanding

       of my 'conversion', and my new found respect for you, Odo.  

       Now back to my mission, and how it changed me.



            About two weeks ago, just before my partner's replacement

       was to arrive, we were camouflaged in your weekly Command

       Staff meeting.   You've probably guessed it already, but there

       we learned of Bashir and O'Brien's new technology for flushing

       out Changelings.   Try to imagine our panic.   Not only did this

       imply a direct challenge to our covert presence on Deep Space

       Nine, but worse, it foretold of great setback to the cause of the

       Dominion-- and probably the death of many a Changeling

       along the way.   This had to be stopped at any cost.



            Fortunately for us, Deep Space Nine is full of shadowy

       places from where we can clandestinely conduct our

       observations.   The broad undersides of the station's tables

       and consoles serve as good hiding places for us, too--

       something you may want to consider, Odo.   Anyway, while my

       partner left the station to warn the others, I spent day and night

       trying to gather what information I could, with the intention of

       secretly sabotaging your new weapon.   This required that I

       take much greater risks in my spying than usual, but I was

       desperate.



            My first priority was to gather technical information, so I

       spent much time watching Bashir and O'Brien in their labs.  

       This was very dangerous, mind you.   If they happened to turn

       that weapon my way-- even now I'd rather not speculate on the

       outcome.   Needless to say, it would not have been good.   But

       I want to relate their one snippet of conversation that would

       come back to haunt me over and over again in the days to

       follow.   Bashir said, "You know, Miles, even though the

       Shape-shifters are our ultimate enemy, something inside me

       still hates that we have to-- torture them to gain the upper

       hand."   And O'Brien replied, "Yeah, I know what you mean.  

       My only solace is knowing that they don't return the

       sentiment."   At the time, I dismissed these words as being

       mere sentimental pabulum.   But O'Brien was right.   I was

       instrumental in the Antwerp bombing incident, which brought

       you to Earth and allowed us to meet in the first place.   By the

       way, I had no regrets at the time of the bombing.



            Days later, while hiding in an overhead ventilation shaft, I

       was shocked to see you present at one of Bashir's testing

       sessions, Odo-- as a guinea pig.   This is something you may

       not be aware of yet, but Changelings experience a semblance

       of the Link even when not physically touching.   I watched you

       take the form of a cat; I saw the doctor activate the weapon; I

       felt your pain as you cried out when forced to release your

       form.   I nearly lost my own form in sympathetic anguish.   Odo,

       I was amazed that you would subject yourself to such torture.  

       I dreaded what sway these Solids must have held over you that

       you would endure this.   I remember Bashir saying, "Odo, you

       don't have to do this you know," and you replied, "Doctor, if

       only one life is saved in this sacrifice of pain, it is worth it.   I do

       have to do this.   Carry on," and you resumed the form of the

       cat.   I had to leave at that point, not being sure of my own

       ability to remain non-reactive, physically or emotionally.



            That scene played itself out over and over in my thoughts

       against the backdrop of a million questions: How can I stop this

       madness?   How can I avenge you?   How can I save you?  

       But Bashir's words would interrupt, "Something inside me still

       hates that we have to-- torture them..."   I strove to ignore his

       words and continued to agonize: How can I reach you, Odo?  

       How can I make you see that Solids are not worth the

       sacrifices you make?   They cannot be trusted!   But then

       O'Brien's words would come, "They don't return the

       sentiment."   I began to feel a confusion and a fear that I'd

       never known before, Odo, and I was alone in it.   I wanted-- no,

       I needed so badly to join with another Changeling, to regain

       composure and sobriety.   But not having that luxury available

       to me, I forced myself to face the fear.   And as I examined that

       fear, Changeling fear, I heard it again: "They don't return the

       sentiment."   That's when it dawned on me.   We fear Solids,

       and in self-defense we aim to intimidate, conquer, and

       obliterate them.   Solids fear us, yet in self-defense they lament

       even having to cause us pain!



            It was two days before I could resume my surveillance,

       during which time I was able to reinstate my convictions that

       Solids are inherently evil and not to be trusted.   But those

       convictions would soon be shaken again as I listened in on a

       conversation several mornings ago in the Replimat.

            You began, "Those look like some pretty deep thoughts,

       Captain."

            Sisko responded, "You know, everything in the book says

       we should be working towards creating a diplomatic exchange

       with our enemy.   And that's the one thing we haven't come

       close to achieving in this war with the Dominion."

            Then Worf, with his predictable, small-minded belligerence,

       added, "A Klingon proverb says, 'Only the respected are truly

       heard.' We have not yet earned the respect of the Dominion.  

       Perhaps our new Deformation Cannon will gain that respect,

       and then they will be willing to talk."

            You countered brilliantly.   "But Worf, respect at the point of

       a gun is short-lived; lose the gun, and you lose the respect.  

       Do you think that if the Jem Hadar were able to secure Ketrocel

       White for themselves they would still respect their Changeling

       gods the way they do now?   I see it as an issue of trust.  

       Something dreadful happened to the Changelings in the past

       that makes them so distrustful of Solids now that they want to

       virtually annihilate them all."

            Finally Sisko said, "Perhaps that's the key, Odo, to find out

       what in their past caused them to become so disaffected with

       Solids.   Maybe if we knew that, we could begin to understand

       the cause of their fear, and open a dialogue on that level."



            I found it ironic that Changelings endeavor to employ fear

       as our primary weapon against Solids, and here Solids were

       attempting to understand Changeling fear as an avenue

       towards peace.   Did Sisko ever tell you about the time back on

       Earth when I came to him in the form of Miles O'Brien?   I told

       him at that meeting that it is fear that would ultimately destroy

       the Solids.   I used to believe that wholeheartedly, and perhaps

       I still do.   But Odo, everything in our psyche screams at us that

       Solids only ever attempted to earn our trust and respect in

       order to exploit our trust and respect.   And this you probably

       don't know, though you should, that our history is riddled with

       Solids trying to control and manipulate us for their own selfish

       gains.   But scream at me though my psyche did, the truth

       behind your point was so profound, so obvious, I could not

       ignore it.   For us, it is an issue of distrust become obsession.  

       Changelings were indeed victims of paranoid races that

       determined to wipe us out in order to assuage their own

       paranoia.   But you helped me see that Changelings have

       turned into the very thing they detest.   We who were exploited

       are now bent on exploiting, as is evident in how we use the

       Vorta, Jem Hadar, and Cardassians.   We who were on the

       brink of being exterminated are now determined to exterminate

       others-- ah!   You have helped me understand your allegiance

       to the Solids in a whole new light.



            Yesterday, three Changelings arrived on the transport that

       carried the Federation science team to the station.   We were

       aware of your plans to demonstrate and disseminate the

       technology for your Disformation Cannon to them, and so we

       needed to devise and implement a counter-strategy.   My

       comrades intended to destroy Deep Space Nine (and don't

       think we couldn't do it).   But I convinced them that destroying

       DS9 would not deter manufacture of the weapon, since it was

       highly probable that Bashir had sent the Cannon's

       specifications to Starfleet Headquarters already.   My alternate

       plan involved simply re-coding an undetectable, dynamic phase

       variance on the prototype units.   This way, when the weapons

       went in to production based on these prototypes, the

       Federation would be left standing with a bunch of impotent

       wave generators.   My plan would at least delay the weapon's

       deployment, so that by the time our ploy was finally discovered,

       we could be prepared with a more sufficient defense.



            It was a difficult Linking, for one to persuade three, but I

       prevailed on the notion that maintaining our anonymity was

       more valuable than raising suspicions with a display of force.  

       So last night we sabotaged the prototype units, and retreated

       to rest for our departure the next day with the returning

       Federation science team.   I was relieved that my mission was

       drawing to a close.   The ebb and flow of my soul-searching

       during the past two weeks left me utterly exhausted and in dire

       need of return to the Great Link.



            I hid in your quarters last night (that should give you some

       food for thought) in order to take care of my last problem Odo--

       you.   Although I cannot say I was not tempted often, I had

       always respected your personal privacy.   This was my first

       time in your cabin while you were present.   I was surprised

       when Kira Nerys returned to your quarters with you, but more

       surprised at the interchange I witnessed between the two of

       you-- the interchange that finalized my decision to not return to

       the Link.   When Kira asked you how you felt about unleashing

       a weapon that would virtually destroy your own kind, I was

       riveted.   For the longest time you simply stood frozen, looking

       off to one side.   Then I saw Kira touch you gently.   And you

       wept.   I tuned into your anguish, and I inwardly wept with you,

       Odo, partly because I knew your sorrow was needless, but also

       because I knew you still had heart for our kind.   What a

       fascinating Changeling you are, my friend.   Since this was the

       last time I'd probably be this close to you, I allowed myself to

       search and savor your complexity and beauty in that moment.  

       Then Kira cradled you in her arms, and you wept even more.   I

       couldn't stop myself.   As she held you, I reached through and

       fearfully touched her soul, and found there not the

       condescension and deviousness I expected.   Instead, I found

       sympathy, and compassion, and concern, and -- love.   Odo,

       Solids can love!   And this is not the love that Changelings

       know.   It's hard to describe, but I sensed such an incredible

       exchange of soul: giving and receiving; abandonment and

       assurance; freedom and commitment.   Here was something

       new outside my experience, something so unusual and so

       good, I must know it more.



            Yes, in that moment I was changed, knowing I could not go

       back to the Link.   Not for a long while, anyway.   The Link

       would overwhelmingly oppose my discoveries, and I alone

       could not withstand their driving fear and scrutiny.   (Listen to

       my words: they've already become other to me.) But I perceive

       that the pain of remaining ignorant would be greater than the

       pain of remaining safe.   So I will be leaving the station

       tomorrow, but not to return to the Link.   I have a new,

       self-appointed mission now: to follow in your footsteps, Odo,

       and discover the virtue in these Solids.



            Before I close this recording, I want you to know I am truly

       sorry I had to subject you to such humiliation.   Odo, you were

       my last problem.   I know the plan is for the weapon to be

       presented to the science team in the morning, and that Bashir

       has no intention of using you in a live demonstration.   But it is

       feasible that one of the science team will insist, and that you

       will consent, and that my sabotage will be exposed.   I cannot

       take that risk.   That is why, after Kira left and you retired to

       your resting trough, I locked you in with a timed release set for

       twenty-four hours.   I will be posing as you in the morning, and

       will be adamant about not subjecting myself to a live

       demonstration of the Disformation Cannon.   If all goes well, I

       will then sneak aboard the Federation transport vessel with the

       departing science team, and be off to fulfill my new mission.



            Funny-- never in a million eons would I have thought myself

       capable of such an audacious enterprise.   I was just a simple,

       Changeling spy!   But I guess that should be my first lesson: be

       prepared for people and situations to turn out differently,

       sometimes much differently, than expected.



       **********



            The access door to the conference room was flanked by

       station security personnel.   Captain Sisko, Commander Worf,

       Doctor Bashir, and Chief Engineer O'Brien sat at the head of

       the conference table.   Constable Odo and Major Kira stood

       behind them.   The members of the Federation science team

       occupied the remaining seats at the table, and others were

       standing in the rear of the room.   Several prototypes of the

       Disformation Cannon were arrayed at the head of the table,

       from small, hand-held, phaser-type weapons, to larger

       phaser-rifle varieties.   Sisko opened the conference,

       introducing the new weapon to be used in the war against the

       Dominion.   O'Brien followed with a holographic presentation of

       the technology behind the weapon.   Worf then explained each

       of the various prototypes, and the situations in which they

       would be useful.   Bashir took his turn to comment on

       Shape-shifter physiology, and how it was incompatible with the

       emissions of the Disformation Cannon.



            Then Bashir reached into his breast pocket, and produced a

       pen.      "This," he said, "is the final working prototype I want to

       present to you."   A quiet murmur rifled through the room.   "It

       was a last minute inspiration," he continued, flashing a knowing

       smile at O'Brien.   "In fact, I whipped it up only an hour ago."



            Odo and one of the security guards exchanged a worried

       glance.   The security guard slowly removed his phaser from

       his belt, and began lifting it towards Bashir.   Startling the entire

       room, Odo yelled, "No!!!", as he fired his own phaser at the

       guard.   The wounded guard gaped at Odo with wide-eyed

       horror and confusion.   Those in the room who had not sought

       cover watched in amazement as the security guard buckled in

       pain, slowly losing his humanoid form, melting into a gelatinous

       puddle on the floor.   "A Shape-shifter!", was the hushed cry

       that momentarily filled the room.



            Kira looked up from the formless corpse with a question on

       her brow.   "Odo?"   But as she scanned the room, she could

       not locate him.   "Where is Odo?," Kira asked with deep

       concern on her face.   She hastily turned and exited from the

       room. 



*********************************************************

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