In which Odo becomes a daddy, Kira becomes a Mommy, and nothing tragic happens to return the show to status quo. I promise. You don’t seem to believe me.
Odo is exceptionally sore, and it seems like Bashir is tired of dealing with his complaints of the flesh. Because his solidity was a punishment, they evidently did not leave him in a young, healthy body. He is also quite a hypochondriac and has terrible posture and constipation. Or maybe there’s another reason he and Worf both like prune juice. Bashir perscribes Worf’s exercise class, Quark counters with an erotic massage program as a prelude to showing Odo a changeling baby he got, and selling it to him for 8 slips of latinum. Turns out it’s just a baby, likely one of the hundred sent out to learn about Solids.
Odo starts out by putting it on some sort of energy pedistal, and explains that as the baby changeling’s shapeshifting abilities increase, it’s mass will grow, as if that’s the direction the causal relationship takes. This suggest that at some level, changelings exchange mass with the environment, subsuming it into themselves. Which explains how Odo could stand up to a punch but also be light enough to turn into a bird and fly – by shedding extra mass as air and only keeping the important bits that contribute to his… for lack of a better word, his brain.
The changeling was exposed to tetryon radiation, and will have to be purged of it. Sisko and Odo discuss the immediate approach on what to do with the changeling, and Sisko reminds Odo that Starfleet will probably want updates, and Odo might be able to use some help… maybe from Dr. Mora. Needless to say, Odo is not thrilled by the prospect.
Bashir has cleared the baby changeling of almost all of the radiation, and also mentions that Kira is finally in labor. Odo barely hears the second bit, and bareley even notices when Bashir leaves the room. He starts out by just talking to the changeling, mostly to work out his own issues.
Bajoran Lamaze is… ritualistic and full of incense. They’re definitely gonna give that baby asthma. Bajoran delivery only occurs during a state of relaxation, and Shakaar hasn’t shown up yet. Also, the whispering isn’t helping, and Bashir has to leave to go do actual surgeries. Now Shakaar shows up, throwing the whole process off track and endlessly infuriating Miles.
Odo brings the changeling to the Replimat, in a glass mug, with predictable results. He then takes the changeling back to his lab and gives it a whole lot of pep-talk, and promising to be nice and nurturing. Enter Doctor Mora. Mora brings a certain scientific rigor to the endeavor, and also a lot of experience working with changelings. He also wants to keep treating changelings like specimins, because that’s the approach he knows. Odo wants to refuse help, but Bora is a treasure-trove of knowledge that he never quite wrote down. Odo is, of course, still sore about the way Mora treated him, but Mora manages to goad him into inviting the good Doctor to stick around.
Kira’s pregnancy is not proceeding very well. She was in labor too long, and her body stopped before the necessary pregnancy endorphins became toxic. Incidentally, if Bajoran women don’t have painful childbirth, maybe the religious folks were right all along. The baby will take its next crack in a few days, or weeks. Shakaar will rearrange his schedule to stick around.
Odo is working on teaching his puddle of joke store puke ‘sphere’ by showing off the way it rolls around the giant petri dish and then pouring the tyke into a spherical bowl. The sprog doesn’t want to, because being shapeless is relaxing, but Odo talks up the advantages in being a shape. Someone had to smoke a lot of weed to write down what it should feel like to be a shape from the inside. He’s also passive-aggressively poisoning the changeling against Grampa Mora. But the changeling stubbornly refuses to try shifting, not even into a pyramid – the most ‘mysterious shape in nature’.
Odo is not making the progress Mora did, and is really sore about it. The argument devolves into yelling about Odo losing his shapeshifting ability and not being able to Link with the changeling. And all the tortures. And they’re shouting so loud nobody notices when Sisko walks in and lets Odo know that Starfleet is eventually going to take over, if they don’t start making progress. Just like the Cardassians did to Mora, except with less explicit threats of torture.
Mora’s technique involves pouring the changeling onto an electrified plate that only has one segment ‘safe,’ and Odo is incredibly reluctant to inflict any harm on the kiddo, even mild discomfort. It takes some talking, but Mora’s technique proves effective even as he delivers a jab at Odo en passant. Family drama, right? Speaking of family drama, Shakaar and O’Brien start to fight over who gets to massage Kira’s feet, and then who gets to help her to the birthing room.
Now that progress is coming, Odo and Mora begin to bond slowly, and Odo admits that the first few times this particular test was run on him, he failed it out of spite because he perceived Mora as torturing him. The point being that a mix of forcing the child to do something for its own good and making sure to encourage it produces better results than either technique on its own. Well, okay, that’s the eventual arc, but it may take a while, or at least until the changeling baby starts to take initiative and surprise them both with parental joy. This lets Mora admit the strengths of Odo’s approach, which in turn lets Odo apologize, and thank Mora for his efforts.
Speaking of celebrations, Kira’s about ready to give birth, only now Miles wants to watch the birth and Shakaar doesn’t want O’Brien to watch from below the towel. They argue too much and Kira kicks them both out to argue in front of the Bajoran security force guards who may or may not know about Miles knocking up the First Minister’s girlfriend.
Odo is drunk and celebrating by raiding Quark’s bar, and buying Quark a drink for selling him the changeling. Mora can’t party this hard. Quark can’t handle this, and confesses to anything Odo wants, because nobody knows how to deal with Odo when he’s genuinely happy about something other than bringing someone to justice. However, just when they’re getting down to the celebration, the computer alerts Odo that the sample is outside specified parameters.
I take pains to point this out because if the computer can do that, it ought to be able to monitor anyone with a commbadge for unusual behaviors. Maybe not everyone, but you and I both know there have been situations where telling the computer to alert security if someone completely stops moving and lies down on top of a console for ten minutes would have been very useful.
The changeling is dying as its morphogenic matrix destabilizes. The radiation poisoning damaged it worse than Bashir realized. While Kira brings new life into the world in a haze of birthing endorphins and is willing to let the boys back in as long as they behave, and Keiko masterfully hides ‘secretly hating Nerys for her relatively easy birth,’ elsewhere on the station Bashir and Mora fail to save the baby changeling.
Odo goes to hold the baby one last time, begs it not to die, and it melts into his skin and give shim a seizure. In doing so, it jump-starts Odo’s shapeshifting abilities, and it’s nice to see they remembered he was wearing real clothes. A final gift from a grateful child who’d been stuck in a pod for decades. Possibly centuries. Kira and Shakaar say farewell, and Mora and Odo are able to finally part on good terms. Odo even hugs him a little. And Odo and Kira have a little moment in which to mourn their respective losses together.