- How long was l asleep? - Almost two hours.
Are we close to home?
We entered the Bajoran System a few minutes ago.
What's that?
The shopkeeper l bought it from called it a ''knickknack''.
- l didn't know you collected them. - lt's a present for Kira.
You don't think she'll like it?
l'm sure she will. lt's just that l didn't get anything for Keiko.
The conference kept you pretty busy.
You found time to get something.
- Not chocolates as well. - Rigelian chocolates. Her favourite.
- l'll buy them from you. - Pardon?
l'll buy them from you. She doesn't need two presents.
l'm sorry, Miles, but the answer is no.
- There's something behind us. - lt's gaining on us fast.
- You think it's friendly? - l hope so.
lt's certainly taken an interest in us.
- lt's gone. - What?
- There's nothing out there. - Where did it go?
lt's a changeling.
Stay where you are or l'll fire.
- You. You are a metamorph? - l'm a changeling, yes.
Tell the mono-form to put down its weapon.
- Why did you board our ship? - Because l sensed you were here.
l had to see if it were true, if l'd finally found another metamorph.
You've never met another shape-shifter?
l've been trying to find others for a long time.
Stay where you were.
- How do we know he's not a Founder? - He's not.
- He's one of the hundred. - The hundred?
Over the centuries, our people sent 100 infant changelings into the galaxy.
We were to learn about other species and later share what we'd experienced.
That would explain why l was alone on Varala.
l didn't even know what l was at first, or that l could assume other forms.
l was the same way.
Shouldn't we get him into a containment field
until we know he's telling the truth?
l'll allow myself to be taken prisoner to show my good faith,
but only if you vouch for my safety.
l do not trust humanoids.
So where is he now?
ln a holding cell. Captain, he's not a threat to us.
He's travelled a long way to find out where he came from.
- You believe his story? - Yes.
How can we be sure he's not a Founder?
lf he were, he'd be infected with the disease that's afflicting the Link.
Dr Bashir scanned him.
His morphogenic matrix is as stable as mine.
Sir, with your permission, l'd like to release him.
Well, l'm sure you can appreciate why l'd have reservations about that.
We're still at war with your people.
The Founders have deceived us before.
l realise that. But he is not a Founder.
He's one of the hundred, l'm sure of it.
Sir, l'm asking you to trust me on this.
All right, Constable.
l'll release him into your custody.
Thank you, sir.
When l found out our people were the leaders of the Dominion,
l realised l had no place with them.
This war they're fighting is wrong.
l can understand their distrust of humanoids, but why conquer them?
Better to avoid them altogether.
You don't much care for humanoids.
l know from experience they don't much care for changelings.
l think you'll find the people here are different.
- They accepted me. - Have they?
ls that why you've stayed?
l told you, l want no part of the Founders.
But what about the hundred that were sent out?
Haven't you ever tried to find them?
No. lt's a huge galaxy. They could be anywhere.
l found you.
l have a life here. l have friends.
When did you first assume humanoid form?
A little over 30 years ago.
So that's it. lt's all still so new to you.
l spent time living among humanoids, as well.
- How long ago was that? - Over 200 years.
l must have been sent out earlier than you.
Or it could be that l was adrift for a long time before l was found.
Either way, it explains why you've chosen to stay here.
l too was fascinated by humanoid life in the beginning.
- But you lost interest. - l found it limiting.
The Varalans never accepted me as one of them
and l was never able to fully mimic their appearance.
- Faces aren't easy. - No.
And humanoids are not very tolerant of difference.
Some of them are. There are dozens of species on this station.
They tolerate each other's differences very well.
He has bumps on his forehead.
She has a wrinkled nose, but they're basically alike.
They are bipeds that eat, sleep, breathe.
You and l are nothing like them.
We're changelings. We can be like them when we choose.
l choose to be like them as little as possible. That's where we differ.
Let me show you where you'll be staying.
You haven't told me your name.
The Varalans called me Laas. lt means ''changeable''.
- Not very imaginative. - But it's appropriate.
Mine is ''unknown sample''. The man who found me didn't know what l was.
These are my quarters. l'll be staying...somewhere else.
Feel free to shape-shift as you please. Some of these forms are interesting.
This hasn't been used in some time.
l've...been busy.
Who is this?
- Her name is Kira. - Ah.
- l had a mate once. - Oh?
On Varala. Not long after l first assumed humanoid form.
And? What happened?
We couldn't have children. That was important to her.
ls it something that matters to this Kira?
- We've never discussed it. - Neither did we, at first.
Do our people reproduce?
lt's complicated. ln our natural state, we don't exist as separate entities.
l don't understand.
Our people spend most of their time in the Link.
lt involves a melding into one,
a merging of thought and form, idea and sensation.
You're speaking in riddles.
- lt's difficult to explain. - Then don't. Show me.
Of course.
Take it.
For the first time in my life, l understand how l was meant to exist.
You've given up a great deal to remain here.
Yes, l have.
But l won't have anything to do with the Founders' war.
Odo, we linked.
l know the truth.
You stayed here because of Kira.
lf it weren't for her, you would be with our people.
War or no war, you would be a Founder.
- Hi. - Hello, Nerys.
l can't believe it. Another changeling! What's he like?
Like you.
- Are you all right? - l'm fine.
You seem far away.
We linked.
- l see. - There's nothing to worry about.
He's not trying to lure me to the Dominion.
The Link is part of what we are.
lt comes as naturally to us as talking does to humanoids.
lt's a little more personal than talking, isn't it?
l suppose.
So. Do l get to meet him?
- lf you like. - l would.
Then l'll arrange it.
Here they are.
This is Laas.
- Nerys. - Julian.
- Ezri. - Miles.
- We've met. - Look, l'm sorry.
We didn't know who you were. You gave us quite a scare.
l've always wondered how it would feel to be able to fly through space like that.
lt's a shame you're incapable of experiencing it.
Guess so.
- Tell us about Varala. - No Federation ship's been.
lt's just like any other planet overrun with humanoids.
Cities and farms everywhere, other lifeforms displaced.
Once l migrated to the southern continent with a herd of "volg."
When we later returned to our breeding grounds, they had been fenced off.
The herd died out within two generations.
lt's the same wherever humanoids thrive.
They disrupt the natural balance.
- Who ordered the vilm steak? - Ah. better keep that warm.
Whatever you say.
The truth is, l prefer the so-called primitive lifeforms.
They exist as they were meant to, by following their instincts.
No words get in the way. No lies. No deceptions.
We're not the ones who can disguise ourselves as anything we want.
- Meaning? - Shape-shifters are not to be trusted.
- l trust Odo. - Of course you trust Odo. Look at him.
You've convinced him he is as limited as you.
- Laas. - You've seen through our evil plan.
- Foiled again. - lt's not funny.
No. l'm very worried for him.
Odo can take care of himself.
Thank you, Colonel.
Well. This has been...interesting.
lf you'll excuse us, Colonel, Counsellor, Doctor, Chief.
Nice to see you again.
This way.
- Did you have to insult them? - l was just speaking my mind.
- You could call it that. - Humanoids are tragic.
They can't take joy in simply existing,
yet their consciousness can't exist independent of form.
You're not afraid to make generalisations.
l've been many things. l speak from experience.
Enough talk. Link with me.
- Here? - Why not?
- That's not a good idea. - Are you embarrassed?
You don't want to remind them that you're not a humanoid.
l don't go out of my way to point it out, no.
Are you afraid they will reject you?
l don't like to confront people and make them uncomfortable.
So you deny your true nature in order to fit in.
You're reading too much into it.
Before l came here, when was the last time you assumed another form?
You can't even remember.
You've pretended to be humanoid for so long you forget you can be different.
That's not true. l've been involved with other things lately.
Like courting Kira? She can't even link with you.
- Leave her out of this. - lt won't last.
The fact that your relationship failed doesn't mean that mine will.
True. And if you're very lucky, you can watch her grow old and die.
l think you should stay out of my affairs.
l don't want to see you make the same mistakes l made.
You're wasting your time trying to be a humanoid. You're limiting yourself.
Let's leave here, Odo. Let's find the others.
A hundred were sent away and they're out there somewhere.
lf we can find even a few of them, we can form a new Link.
Think of it. We can exist the way we were meant to.
As changelings.
l can't believe he actually thought you'd leave with him.
He just can't understand why l want to stay here.
How did he take it when you said no?
You did say no, didn't you?
l told him l'd think about it. l didn't want to dismiss it out of hand.
He would've taken offence.
Why do you look at me like that?
lt just bothers me that he thinks you're not happy here.
lt makes me think he knows something that l don't.
What makes you say that?
He linked with you.
Something gave him the impression that you might want to leave.
lt's just wishful thinking on his part.
The thought of the two of us looking for the others,
exploring the galaxy as changelings.
lt's very alluring. To him.
Sounds like it's alluring to you, too.
l'm happy here.
l'm sorry l can't link with you.
lt doesn't matter, Nerys.
l love you.
Computer, activate fire suppression sys...
l need to talk to you.
You didn't realise it was me. Did you even know we could exist as fire?
l didn't think so. No matter.
Once we're away, l'll teach you to be things you've never dreamed of.
l'm not leaving. l'm staying here.
Why? So you can keep on pretending to be one of them?
l'm sorry if you're disappointed.
l'll survive.
And when l find some of the others, l'll send for you.
You'll change your mind. You'll join us.
lt could take a long time for you to find another changeling.
ls that supposed to discourage me?
All l'm saying is you don't have to leave right away.
l wouldn't mind the company of another changeling. You wouldn't either.
All right, Odo. l won't abandon you to these mono-forms.
As a favour to you, l'll stay a while.
You might as well. lf you can't get along with me,
you may not get along with any other changeling.
Just remember, l have no interest in mono-forms,
even if they are your friends.
l don't think you have to worry about an overcrowded social schedule.
- The environmental system's out. - There goes our holosuite reservation.
- l'll go see what it is. - lt's not the environmental system.
- Then where's this fog coming from? - lt's not fog. lt's Laas.
- Laas? - What's he doing?
Being fog, what's it look like?
- Can't he be fog somewhere else? - Or when no one's around?
- He's not hurting anyone. - Still. lt's creepy.
- Careful, Miles. He might hear you. - Good.
Congratulations. You've managed to disrupt the entire Promenade.
- l was just relaxing. - lf you want to relax, do it in private.
Did l embarrass you?
- What is this Founder doing here? - He's not a Founder. Move along.
Don't change form in my presence again.
l will change form where l please.
- Look at the hate in his eyes. - Laas.
Your hands are stained with the blood of Klingons.
But then, the stench would still be on them.
Mine's bigger.
Dr Bashir wasn't able to save the Klingon's life.
General Martok has asked that Laas be detained
until the magistrate can determine jurisdiction.
- The Klingons want to extradite him. - He killed in self-defence.
- That is in dispute. - He was drawing his disruptor.
He was reaching for his dagger.
- You say that's not true? - lt happened too fast.
But their intentions were obvious.
The Klingons say Laas knew he couldn't be harmed by a knife,
so he wasn't justified in using deadly force.
The Klingons have resorted to legal quibbling?
They get involved in fights all the time. They never file charges.
They're now exercising their rights under the law.
Sir, they're only doing this because they distrust changelings.
- He should not have provoked them. - Provoked them? They attacked Laas.
They claim he ''surrounded them menacingly''.
They felt menaced by fog?
They weren't the only ones. Twelve other people filed complaints.
ls it a crime to shape-shift on the Promenade?
lt's not a crime, but it's obviously not a good idea.
You're going to extradite him, knowing the Klingons won't give him a fair trial.
That's up to the magistrate.
You'd just as soon be rid of him. You didn't want him here.
l had to beg you to release him.
That's enough, Constable.
Martok has expressed concerns about our security arrangements.
He's not sure it's appropriate that you're in charge of the prisoner.
May l ask why?
Because you were a witness to the alleged crime.
That's a relief.
For a moment l thought you were going to say it's because l'm a changeling.
Odo. l heard the Klingons want to put your friend on trial.
They're the ones who should be on trial.
lf they'd attacked anyone else, they would be.
You're probably right.
That fog episode certainly didn't help.
- Laas was doing what comes naturally. - You never pulled a stunt like that.
People don't want to be reminded that you're different.
Who wants to see somebody turn into goo?
- l hope you don't do that around Kira. - Why shouldn't l?
lf she's anything like me, she'd rather you didn't.
Don't you get it? Humanoids are a product of millions of years of evolution.
Our ancestors learned that what you don't know might kill you.
They had to jump back when they encountered a snake.
Millions of years later, that instinct is still there.
lt's genetic. Our tolerance to other lifeforms
doesn't extend beyond the two arm, two leg variety.
l hate to break this to you,
but when you're in your natural state...'re more than our poor old genes can handle.
What are you saying, Quark?
That the Klingons couldn't help what they did?
l'm not trying to excuse what they did. l'm only telling you why it happened.
Watch your step, Odo. We're at war with your people.
This is no time for a changeling pride demonstration on the Promenade.
- Constable. - l need time alone with the prisoner.
Sorry, sir. l have my orders.
- l don't know what to say. - You could say you were wrong.
You could say the people here are no different than any other humanoids.
This will all get straightened out at your hearing.
l'm sure it will be fair and impartial.
Just tell them exactly what happened.
My word against a humanoid's?
Whom do you think this magistrate will believe?
l shouldn't have convinced you to stay.
lf l had just let you go, none of this would've happened.
My only consolation
is that this may finally make you understand that you don't belong here.
You saw the hatred in that Klingon's eyes.
Perhaps now you'll recognise it
when you see it hiding in the faces of your so-called friends.
They tolerate you, Odo, because you emulate them.
What higher flattery is there? ''l, who can be anything, choose to be like you.''
But even when you make yourself in their image, you are not one of them.
They know that what you appear to be does not reflect what you really are.
lt's only a mask.
What lies underneath is alien to them.
And so they fear it.
And that fear can turn to hate in the blink of an eye.
They're going to extradite him. l know they are.
- No one will do anything to stop it. - There's not much anyone can do.
lf he weren't a changeling they would.
- That's unfair. - ls it?
You sound like Laas.
Maybe l'm starting to see things more clearly now.
Look at me, Nerys. What do you see?
- l see you. - No. This is just a form l've borrowed.
l could just as easily be something else.
l know that. But this is what you have always chosen to be.
A man. A good and honest man.
A man l fell in love with.
Are you telling me that he never really existed?
l don't know.
l care for you more than anyone l've ever known.
These last few months have been the happiest of my life.
But even so, part of me wishes that Laas and l were out there right now,
searching for the others, existing as changelings.
Because that's what l am. Not a humanoid. l'm a changeling.
Then maybe you're right. Maybe you do belong out there.
- Can l help you, Colonel? - l need to talk to the prisoner. Alone.
Aye, sir.
Go to the third planet in the Koralis System.
There's an orbital tether running down to a mining complex.
- l'll tell Odo to meet you there. - ls this some kind of a trick?
Do you want to get out of here or not?
That vent will lead you through some conduits to an airlock.
l love him.
How did he get through the containment field?
All l can tell you is what l saw.
He turned into plasma energy and forced his way through.
Before l could stop him, he'd disappeared.
One of the airlocks was activated shortly after that.
Why didn't our sensors detect him?
A freighter left about the same time.
- He must have shadowed it. - He could be anywhere by now.
General Martok won't be happy.
By fleeing, he has demonstrated his guilt.
Either that, or his lack of faith in our justice system.
He must be brought to trial.
Have all available runabouts begin a sector-wide search.
Aye, sir.
Good luck.
Constable, l know it's a long shot,
but l'm sure you agree we should try to find him.
- Of course. - Dismissed.
Level 9.
You didn't hide it very well. That you're glad he escaped.
l should've known he'd be able to escape.
What's a forcefield to a changeling with his abilities?
You said you wished you were out there with him. Well, it's not too late.
l don't understand.
He's waiting for you at an abandoned mine on Koralis lll.
You helped him escape.
l don't want you to stay here out of some sense of obligation.
Good luck.
l hope you find what you're looking for.
l knew you would come.
This is a new beginning for us, Odo.
A new beginning for our people.
You and l are about to embark on the adventure of our lives.
- What's wrong? - l'm not going with you.
Why are you here?
l've come to say goodbye.
Don't be a fool. What are you holding on to? Kira?
She knows that this is what's best for you.
Why else would she have helped me escape?
You really don't know, do you?
You've no idea what it means to love someone enough to let them go.
She let you go so that you could find out where you belong.
l know where l belong.
Laas, humanoids are not the petty creatures you perceive them to be.
What Nerys did should prove that even to you.
Love conquers all, is that it?
l'm sorry you can't understand.
You've done many things, been many things...
...but you've never known love.
Compared to the Link, it is a pale shadow,
a feeble attempt to compensate for the isolation mono-forms feel
because they are trapped within themselves.
Perhaps the fact that it's not easy is what makes it worthwhile.
Odo, the Founders are dying.
This could be your last chance to exist the way you were meant to.
Don't throw it away.
You'd better go. They're looking for you.
Good luck.
And to you, Odo. You'll need it more than l.
Watch over him. Help him find his way.
l didn't think l'd see you again.
l couldn't go.
lf l've ever made you feel that you couldn't be yourself with me, l'm sorry.
l want to know you.
The way you really are.

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