In which O’Brien has unsatisfying relationships with his family, friends, and himself.
O’Brien is in a runabout heading to the Paradas system, and it looks like for once in his life, he’s not being saddled with an unwelcome traveling companion. He’s also recording a journal for posterity, in case he dies. Someone is chasing him, and O’Brien is sure to record his coffee preferences in the journal. These things are important, you see. We don’t know who They are, but O’Brien is going to walk us back through it.
A few days earlier, O’Brien wakes up to his typical married life. He’s just been almost killed by an artificial superplague, and he’s as grumpy as ever. Plus, his daughter hates him. She’s at that age. Nor is Keiko very sympathetic. O’Brien is just plumb tuckered out after helping the Paradas figure out their security measures for some upcoming peace talks. And Keiko is being really weird to Miles here. Maybe she’s worried he’s still got Harversters in him. At work, one of O’Brien’s underlings has gone over his head to do some tetchy repairs. His wife is talking to Sisko and there is suspicious background music. Something’s rotten in the state of DS9.
Back in the present, O’Brien is checking for pursuers, and it is the runabout Mekong. Bashir continues his personal log – Bashir is ambushing him for a physical exam, and everyone (including O’Brien) is making a big thing of it. Nobody in Starfleet likes their physical exams, it seems. We get a bit of background on the Paradas – they’ve been involved in a civil war for 12 years, and they change their smell with their moods.
The physical exam is ongoin, and Julian seems to have forgotten something important about O’brien’s past. The exam takes so long that O’brien starts to suspec the’s dying. Incidentally, that hospital gown he has, which laces up in the back – I’m almost positive he didn’t get into that by himselfand will have a hard time getting out of it.
A chance encounter with Jake in the Promenade seems to indicate that Sisko was lying about why he was talking to Keiko. Pieces of the station are breaking down, and O’Brien somehow thinks this is odd, and fueling his paranoia. When he tries to take a break to check on the security thing, he’s told by everyone to leave it alone. To be fair it him, though, the ‘security seal ‘doesn’t last longer than it takes him to hide behind the corner.
The problem in the docking pylons makes O’Brien think of sabotage, and Sisko cancels Jake’s plans to come over and learn things. If we didn’t know better, we might think there’s a concerted effort to keep O’Brien away from children. With the two of them alone, Keiko resists his advances. And makes a meal that he likes but she doesn’t, so she has an excuse not to eat any. O’Brien suspects she may have been trying to poison him.
Supsicious now fully aroused, O’Brien begins scanning everything he can think of. Including scanning for telepathic ability. I know it’s established fact by this point, but it still weirds me out that they have machines that can do that but they don’t just use telepathy instead of verbal communicators on things like covert missions. O’Brien starts to access some of the public logs, and spends hours listening to them until he runs across one which is access-denied. All station logs from after O’Brien got back are restricted, despite him ostensibly being of sufficiently high access. It’s not just his wife, then, it’s a conspiracy.
He goes into that weird pit in Ops to try to route around the security lockout, avoiding several traps and releasing the lockout to find that everyone on the station is analyzing his security measures and even his personal logs. When Odo finally gets back on station, O’Brien confides in him and they make plans to start investigating. O’Brien starts out with building some kind of device, and soon after Odo has something for him.
Odo asks Miles something about the Paradan rebelion, and it seems that Odo has been compromised as well. Sisko and Kira storm in and things get physical. Fortunately, O’Brien had prepared ninja smoke and escapes.
It is at this point that we, as the viewer, should ask ourselves how the entire command crew was compromised. There’s certainly precedent for it. Still, if whatever-they-were went to the trouble of getting to Jake too, it’s unclear how we’re going to return to the status-quo next week. By contrast, Bashir has been on his own for a few days dealing with a very paranoid people in the midst of a civil war. The constant in all of his disturbing interactions has been him.
As we knew already, he makes it to a runabout and escapes the station via the wormhole, at which point our extended flashback begins to merge with the main narrative, but with just enough time for even the Admiral back at Starfleet to be ‘in on the conspiracy.’
O’Brien orders himself another coffee, steers the ship towards a planet with several moons to hide near, and lets the Mekong catch up right when O’Brien arrives at the polar magnetic fields, in which he loses his pursuit and goes dark. The Mekong abandons pursuit, goes into orbit around Parada 2, which O’Brien is curious about, and so the hunted becomes the hunter. Dual-weilding, even. He catches Sisko, Kira, and the Paradans unsuspecing, but they turn the tables when they shoot O’Brien and open a door that has O’Brien behind it. The O’Brien we’ve been following all episode was a replicant clone, likely with a Manchurian candidate activation code. Starfleet was warned before he even made it onto the station, though, so the whole episode has been them trying to lock him out so he didn’t sabotage the peace talks. The real O’Brien gets to watch his clone die, its last thoughts always of Keiko. If being trapped in a cloning chamber for a week just after having an alien mega-plague didn’t ruin your month…