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Old December 28 2011, 01:18 AM   #1
Ln X
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Location: The great gig in the sky
Through the Crucible (a story of Odo's childhood)

Summary: This is the story about Odo's childhood, told through Odo's memories of it. It begins when Odo receives a message from Bajor that Mora Pol, the scientist who studied Odo, has died. Sitting alone in his quarter's bedroom, Odo thinks about his experiences of Pol, and some of his childhood memories.

Originally submitted as part of the Dec/Jan (2011/2012) Ad Astra 'pathways' challenge.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Through the Crucible


Author's note: I use Mora Pol's given name (his last name), for readers who know who he is, you're probably familiar with just addressing this character as 'Mora'. However I use their given name for important Bajoran characters, so I use 'Pol' instead. Hope this clears up any inherent confusion...

There are flashback scenes also taken from The Forsaken and
The Begotten.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Part 1

Resting on his knees, Odo had his forearms against his daughter’s crib, pulling faces at her. Many of the faces he pulled Mia laughed at, and she particularly seemed to enjoy the one where Odo shapeshifted his nose from a red tomato and back again.

She giggled and clapped her hands in an amused way, and in her excitement her hair was changing colour and she did not realise it. After a while Odo stopped, and just stared into his two year old daughter’s face. He checked his chronometre and realised it was a bit past his daughter’s bedtime.

“Bed now,” he told her.

“Not tired!” she said, while trying to stifle a yawn from her mouth.

Odo just smiled back at her. “You are tired, now bed and don’t forget to change your hair back to normal.”

Obediently, Mia got down on her rump, and she quickly pulled a somewhat cheeky smile to her father before changing her hair back to that light orangy red. She then lied down on the soft padding, resting her head against the pillow.

Kira, who was dressed in her uniform’s red trousers and sleeveless white shirt, came over to Odo. She then opened up the crib door and crouched down. Rather gently she pulled the thin bed sheet over Mia, until it rested just past Mia’s chest. Standing back up, Kira closed the crib door, and looked down at her daughter’s sleepy and dopey face.

Mia seemed to take great comfort in her parents watching over her, and she stared at them, with eyes full of light and happiness. Eventually her eyelids started drooping, and before Odo knew it, he was hearing the faint breathing from his daughter. She looked so contented down there…

After some moments, Odo straightened up, and with a little look at Kira, she got the message, and the two left Mia’s bedroom.

When the door to the bedroom had closed, Kira and Odo slowly walked along the small hallway.

“She really enjoys you pulling those faces,” said Kira warmly.

“It's good to hear her laugh...” replied Odo.

“I think she's unique in that aspect.”

“What do you mean?” said Odo sounding a little surprised, while he glanced into his wife’s thoughtful face.

Kira answered when she was out of the hallway and into the living room. “She's not afraid of you shapeshifting. She accepted your true form a lot more quickly than I did.”

“Hmm...” muttered Odo, and that was about all he could say.

He stood stationary, while Kira returned to her console in one corner of the room. “Well…” he started, and Kira looked up from her console, “for a change I haven't got much to do this evening, you want to go to bed?”

“Two hours from now,” said Kira, “I'm got this report to write, and then...”

She paused, and gave him that subtle, warm and passionate look which Odo so loved. “Then I'll make you all warm and cosy...”

“I would like that,” said Odo, catching on to his wife’s innuendo.

With nothing to do in the living room, Odo crossed over to the other side, went past the kitchen and entered his and Kira’s bedroom. He sat down on the bed, and just thought about things. His mind was thinking about Kira’s comment to the shapeshifting, and those thoughts morphed into how people reacted to his shapeshifting, and his true nature which was alien to them.

He remembered the first person, after he had left Mora Pol’s laboratory, who accepted Odo for what he was…


***


The two sat down against the interior of the turbolift, resting on the floor, with their knees tucked in. For some time Lwaxana had been yakking on about her life, and though Odo had heard every word, he was not paying much attention to her.

“Well, enough about me,” she said, rounding it off with a sigh, and she then glanced at Odo.

Odo who was rather zoned out, then realised that Lwaxana had gone silent, and he glanced at Lwaxana. “Hmmm?”

“Enough about me,” repeated Lwaxana, who looked intently at Odo. “Tell me about yourself.”

“I'm really a private man,” said Odo, and he averted his gaze from Lwaxana.

“Yes, of course you are,” said Lwaxana, sounding a little put off.

She then stared rather intently at the back of Odo’s head. “Is that hair real?”

“It is real in that it is me…” explained Odo, before adding. “But it is not real hair.”

Lwaxana made a quiet ‘o’ sound, and was silent for a bit. “How do you do it?”

Odo just stared at her. “Your hair,” she added from off his somewhat surprised look.

“It took a great deal of practice.”

“You studied hairstyles?”

With a sigh, Odo then explained himself. “If you must know, I imitated the hairstyle of the Bajoran man who was assigned to me.”

“Assigned?” said Lwaxana with a bit of surprise.

“To study me at the research centre. He was a scientist.”

“You mean that's how you grew up... in a laboratory?”

“I didn't 'grow up' as you think of it,” replied Odo with some caution. “It was merely a... transition... from what I used to be to what I learned to become...”

Lwaxana looked at Odo with some sadness and sympathy. “Sounds very lonely to me.”

There was a brief eye contact between the two, and to Odo, Lwaxana had hit a nerve, regarding a rather private matter he kept under close wraps. “I was always very self-sufficient,” he calmly replied.

“I'm sure you had to be,” said Lwaxana gently, and again Odo stared at her with some surprise. “To survive,” she added, “being so different from everyone else.”

It was getting a bit too intimate for Odo’s liking, so he tapped his comm badge. “Odo to Ops...”

“Odo to Ops...” he said, repeatedly tapping his comm badge.

There was no response, and Odo tried to pass off to Lwaxana that everything was alright, when really he so badly wanted to regenerate. But he could not not in front of Lwaxana, not in front of anybody…

“Comm lines are still down... I don't what's taking so long...”

He lowered his head and rubbed a fist around his eyebrows, while forcing himself to hold together.

Lwaxana stared at Odo’s rather moist looking face with concern, while gently placing her hands around Odo’s left elbow, trying to comfort him. “Are... Are you sure all you are alright? You look warm.”

“It's nothing, I'm fine,” Odo told Lwaxana, and he sat resolutely upwards, trying to disguise to Lwaxana how bad he really felt.

The only discernable sign of his discomfort was the way he fidgeted his hands slightly, as they remained curled up, resting on his knees.

There was a moment’s silence, before Lwaxana sighed again. “I can't imagine how it must have been.”

Her hands were off his elbow, but Odo could not look at her, and he felt uncomfortable as Lwaxana strayed into matters he did not really want to talk about.

Lwaxana seemed to sense this, because she added. “You know if it bothers you to talk about it...”

“Not at all,” said Odo, sounding a bit defensive. “What was it like?”

He paused before saying with some mock humour. “Well I guess you could say I was... the life of the party.”

“I don’t think I understand,” said Lwaxana slowly.

“My way of trying to fit in,” replied Odo and he continued to sound mildly amused. “I found I could be entertaining. Odo, be a chair. I'm a chair. Odo, be a razorcat. I'm a razorcat.”

“Life of the party,” he said rounding it all off. “I hate parties,” he added rather slowly and bitterly.

“Perhaps you've been going to the wrong ones,” said Lwaxana.

Odo turned to look at her, and he felt a connection to this woman, she seemed to understand his feelings…

“Come to one of mine, Odo,” said Lwaxana warmly, “ I'll make sure that all the guests are there to entertain you...”

Just for a moment Odo nearly smiled, but then his need to regenerate grew. Becoming terribly uncomfortable, he gave out a small grunt of fatigue, and bowed his head, as it was difficult holding it and himself erect.

“You're not well,” said Lwaxana her voice faltering, and she moved closer to him.

Odo let Lwaxana lean a little against him, and let her place a hand around his right shoulder, and another on his opposite arm.

“No, it's fine,” he told her, though his head was still bowed. “It's just that... I told you how I turn into a liquid every sixteen hours? Well, I'm in hour fifteen...”

It was getting to difficult to concentrate, but he did not resist when Lwaxana rested her head on his left shoulder. He was becoming more comfortable with her comforting him, but now all that really mattered was waiting for that time when he could regenerate…



***


Lwaxana was one of the few people at the time who recognised Odo for what he was, and respected him for his personality and his work. Aside from Mora Pol, she was the first of his friends to see him in his natural liquid state. Odo remembered with some fondness how he did not want to show Lwaxana his true form, and how his old defences sprung up. He was glad he lowered them, because he was better off for it...

Incoming message, source unknown,” said the computer.

“Patch it through to this room,” said Odo, while he tapped in some commands on the comm panel in front of him.

On the comm panel's screen, which displayed a written message, Odo then read the following:

Dear Odo, I know we have not maintained the best in relations or adequate contact with each other. However should you receive this message then I would have died from my Temestra's syndrome-

Odo desisted reading as he felt a dull blow in his midriff from reading that Pol was dead. For too many months had he been meaning to contact Pol, with his Temestra's syndrome* and all, but something just stopped Odo. Now it was too late... So Odo forced himself to read the rest of the letter, knowing full well that Pol was probably going to say some rather uncomfortable things...

-I don't resent you for not contacting me in the last half year or so. Most of that can be attributed to what I can only call emotional baggage between me and you. Looking back, I regret the experiments I inflicted upon you. I pushed you too far many a time, and if I had taken a softer approach, like you did with that baby changeling, then things would have better between us.

But I do not regret the thrill of exploring who you were, and examining your abilities. Whatever my methods, and no matter much you did not like them, they helped you take your first steps in this universe. Without me deciding to investigate that unknown sample, that Odo'ital, you would still be a small mass of goo, content to rest in a tube. I don't ask you to like what I did, or to forgive me for my actions, but it would be nice to still know that you are just a little grateful for my role in your development.

For many years now, since we first met up on Deep Space Nine, have I followed your career and your personal life. I don't mean I've been prying, just following general station reports, the occasional media report, and-I admit-some hearsay and gossip. I'm glad you found a person you could love, and for her to share your feelings. I never expected you to do that, but in doing so you have been more successful than I in such matters. I also heard that you returned to the Great Link, and rumours abound that you reformed the entire Dominion...

Whatever you did, I am proud of your achievements and the hard work you put in to all of them. I would want to say more but I will emulate your directness, and wrap up this message with the following:

Good luck Odo with the rest of your life, enjoy the time spent married to your wife, and raising up your daughter, enjoy watching over your family, talking with your friends. You have so many years ahead of you and more... I say all this because I never had a wife, or children, or that many real friends for that matter. This may sound mollifying and even sad, but you were the closest thing I had to a son...

Goodbye Odo, I hope with this letter that it resolves a few of the issues that constantly plagued us, and that ultimately you will remember me in a good light...


The message ended, and there was a coroner's note stating the time of Pol's death, where he had died, and the cause. Pol was only 74 when he died, which was a little young for a Bajoran...

What Pol had said, moved Odo more than he was prepared to admit. Odo did not feel grief for Pol's death, but there was a loss, that feeling that he could never talk to Pol again, a feeling of a missed opportunity...

Odo found himself thinking right back to his earliest memories, they were confusing, difficult and sometimes rather horrible, but it was where everything started in his life. It all started 24 years ago in 2356, on a Bajor being ravaged by the Cardassians, it was down there in a science lab that Odo's story began...

*Temestra's syndrome is a heart condition that affects a few Bajorans in old age. The heart becomes weaker, and it is usually a condition brought on by adverse external conditions; stress and so forth.
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Old December 28 2011, 01:25 AM   #2
Ln X
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Re: Through the Crucible (a story of Odo's childhood)

Part 2

The baby changeling rested contentedly inside the cylindrical container, it could be like this forever… Static, stationary, still, so simple, so satisfying. It had felt the container be moved, but the changeling really thought nothing of it, for nothing would truly disturb its slumber. It felt more vibrations but these were of sound, and the changeling distantly listened to the conversation going on outside of its container.

It did not understand what was outside, what things looked like, or who the two people arguing were…

///

“You're wasting your time Pol,” said a male Cardassian, who was in military uniform, addressing the middle aged Bajoran in front of him. “Central Command didn't give your government funding to conduct pointless research on a piece of goo! It is nothing but a Odo'ital-unidentified sample-and has been like that for nineteen years!”

Pol though stood his ground. “This is a biological life form of sorts...” he said with supreme conviction. “Sauret, give me a month on this one! Hasn't my research always produced results, beneficial to you and Central Command?”

“But that was tangible work,” said Sauret and he pulled a dubious face, glancing at the cylindrical container on the table to his left. “This is too... experimental for our liking.”

“I can give you results, I assure you!” said Pol, who looked more strained than ever.

“You better Pol,” replied Sauret, while he gave Pol a nasty sneer. “Just because you've been a prominent scientist in the institute, does not mean you are immune to failure. Every Bajoran is expendable, and should you fail...”

The sneer vanished, but Sauret’s eyes were alight with malice. “Well you would not want to fail...”

“What are you going to do, kill me?” said Pol defiantly, and he appeared to find his courage. “Like you're doing to the rest of my people?”

“Don't push my temper Pol! I don't think a man of your type would last long in the mines.”

“This will work,” said Pol firmly.

Sauret though did not look convinced. “You're placing a lot in a tube of goo, but this is your career after all...”

With one last ugly look at Pol, Sauret left the laboratory, and Pol just stood their, silently fuming.

“Every Bajoran is expendable,” muttered Pol, “arrogant contemptuous…”

Pol’s muttering became too indistinct to hear, and he returned back to the table where the biological specimen was. The anger faded from Pol as he stared at the container, looking at it with something akin to wonder…

///

The changeling did not understand those sounds, and it presumed it was just background noise. However to its resounding surprise, it felt one part of the container open, and the changeling started sliding out. How was this possible? It was scarred, it wanted to stay in its domain, its home, but it could not…

Then it was falling, and before the changeling had time to panic, it felt itself crash into some surface. The surface was different, smooth and comfortable it was, and then-much to the surprise of the changeling; it started moving outwards. It was spreading out and becoming thinner, and it was such an odd sensation. All the fear went away as it started to get comfortable again, especially when it found a boundary all around.
This would be its new domain, a bigger domain, a better domain…

“Well, well, what do we have here? Odo'ital?”

That sound, where was it coming from? For some strange reason the changeling sensed something was next to it, and the fear started returning; it could not see this something. But the sound this something was making made the changeling slowly realise that perhaps this was not background sounds. Perhaps this something, this presence, was communicating with it.

Before the changeling knew it, the surface began to tingle, but the centre of the surface did not. How strange… However it did not warrant moving. But the changeling changed its mind when the tingling sensation became painful, and it had never experienced pain before and it was horrible. It had to stop, what could it do to stop?

That presence started speaking again. “Come on, if you really value your safety, you will have to move. It's instinctual to all organisms...”

The changeling did not understand these sounds, and it floundered in terror and despair. Why would this pain not stop? But then something fundamental came to its mind, its mass was not painful at the centre of the surface. What if it stuck to only that bit of the surface? Would the pain go away? But how could it move itself?

It ignored the pain and focused its entire being on moving every bit of itself into the centre. No sooner did it think this then it began moving, until every part of its form was removed from the areas of the surface which were painful. With the pain gone, the changeling could admire its handiwork. How had it moved itself? Why did the surface become painful? Was the surface somehow linked to the presence?

///

Finally Pol saw the most fundamental laws of nature prevail; this lump of organic goo was moving away from the parts of the flask where an electrical current ran underneath. The electrical current covered a torus shaped area, and Pol smiled to himself when he saw the goo compact itself to avoid the charge, and form into a perfect cylinder.

“I knew it...” he muttered triumphantly.

A female Bajoran scientist who was working on a console, wired into the energy generator Pol was using, looked up and glanced at Pol. “What is it Pol?”

Pol tore his gaze from the goo. “Odo'ital moved into a cylindrical form after applying an electric shock.”

“Odo'ital?” repeated the scientist, looking confused.

“The label Odo'ital,” said Pol impatiently, “we'll dub this creature 'nothing', for the Cardassian word for nothing, Odo'ital.”

The scientist gave Pol a rather cool and sceptical look. “But I know a bit about the Cardassian language, and Odo'ital stands for 'unknown sample' in Cardassian.”

“Unknown sample is to... disparaging,” hissed Pol, and he glared at the scientist as if she had offended him by mislabeling the organism they were studying. “It lacks the meaning for what we are studying, it's to bland. Nothing though... It makes it more interesting since we know virtually nothing about this organism. Odo'ital... There's a certain ring to it, plus we're going to be studying it for at least a month, so let's name it. It's better than just saying 'the organism' or 'the creature'.”

“If you say so,” said the woman, while shaking her head in mild disbelieve. “But it is a mistranslation of the original Cardassian word.”

“Since when should we care for Cardassian sensibilities?” shot back Pol angrily. “Anyway Gilara, reconfigure the electricity field, let's try different shapes, and see if Odo'ital will mould into the topological areas we create.”

The two scientists worked in silence, save only to give necessary instructions to each other. Pol was reconfiguring both the shape of the area the electric current covered, and the charge of the current.

“How does it do that?” said Gilara, looking down at the brownish orange goo with amazement, as it held a very complex and chaotic topological shape.

“Change shape?” asked Pol.

Gilara nodded, and the look of curious wonder lingered on her face. “What kind of organisms can stretch their form, and change their structure, without damaging themselves?”

Pol was slow to respond, and it seemed he was cudgelling his brain to give Gilara a decent answer. “There are stories of shapeshifters,” he said slowly, “beings that can change their shape and form.”

“So is this a shapeshifter?” asked Gilara.

“It's to early to tell,” replied Pol, while he grimaced a little in frustration. “We need to conduct a considerable number of tests before we can determine that...”

Another pause, before Pol added with much sardonic humour. “And Glinn Sauret thought this was just a piece of goo...”



***


That was just the start of the experiments Pol inflicted upon Odo. Well inflict was not quite the correct word to use, more like carry out were the correct words to use. Pol did not just apply electric shocks to Odo, many a time Pol would seal Odo up in a vacuum sealed tube, and from there lower the temperature or raise it to see how Odo coped with extremes of temperature.

Pol tested Odo's physical tolerances to the limit, and many a time Odo was surprised that he did not die because of Pol's experiments. For one thing Pol kept pushing Odo physically, and yet always seemed to know the limits...

For months it was like this, as Pol forced him into a variety of shapes and forms. Strangely Odo mentally developed a lot during this time as he reacted to all the constantly changing external stimuli. The desire to remain as a pool of goo was experimented out of him, and by changing his shape, he developed senses he never knew he possessed.

Eventually though Odo learned enough to know what was going on, and he learnt how to 'see' the lab and Pol. Odo also realised just who he was, and of that latent self-awareness; if only he could show that to Pol. So Odo did the only thing he could do at the time, lash out at Pol. It was not lashing out to really hurt Pol, but something to make Pol realise just what he was experimenting with.

It was after under going a series of electric shocks that Odo summoned up his courage, and formed himself into a long and thick tentacle and aimed at Pol's direction. Giving the barely developed sight senses, it was some miracle that Odo managed to hit Pol at all. But hit he did, and Odo remembered the tip of his tentacle striking against Pol's hand, and tearing into the flesh. Pol gave out a yell of pain, and upon hearing this Odo reformed himself.

To this day he would always remember the guilt of physically hurting Pol, as he inflicted a rather nasty gash on Pol's left hand. But it was necessary to try to make Pol realise that he, Odo, was a sentient being. Even then that was not enough, and this forced Odo to become more cunning, and to devise a new way of really stoking Pol's attention...


***


Odo’ital patiently held his form as the glass beaker identical to the one he left. For so long now he had been thinking about ways of showing to Pol that he was a sentient being, and not just a shapeshifting creature. Maybe when Pol realised what he was dealing with, he would be nicer to Odo…

Sure enough as Odo anticipated, Pol arrived just at 1600 hours, and it was most amusing to Odo to ‘see’ Pol’s face crumple in shock. Pol dashed over to the beaker, and just stared down at it.


“Computer locate where the biological sample 16235a has gone to.”


Biological sample 16235a has disappeared.

“Disappeared?” said Pol, his voice rising by an octave in shock. “At what time?”


At 1559 hours.

“1559 hours...” murmured Pol, and in a thoughtful manner, he stroked the tip of his chin with his finger and thumb. “That's a minute before I return back here after my break!”


Please rephrase question.

“Disregard computer.”


Pol started pacing around the spot, and Odo’ital just waited for this Bajoran to figure it out. In a way Odo’ital was conducting a little experiment of his own; to see how Pol would solve this mystery.


“1559 hours...” mumbled Pol, and he continued to repeat those words.


Finally Pol stopped and studied the beaker, and then his eyes darted a little to the right, and he just stared at the beaker, at the disguised Odo’ital.


“No...” he said in hushed tones. “It can't be!”
At long last thought Odo’ital, and when he saw Pol move a hand over to touch the beaker Odo’ital was emulating, Odo’ital reverted his form back to his liquid state.

“By the Prophets!” exclaimed Pol, and he stared at Odo’ital with supreme shock.


Odo’ital was not waiting for Pol to slowly figure out what was going on, so Odo’ital oozed along the desk, travelling to a padd he had detected on the table. If this next idea did not work, then Odo’ital did not know what would…


“This is Pol to Gilara,” said Pol excitedly.


Yes Mora?

“Come quickly, Odo'ital is exhibiting unusual behaviour, I've never seen anything like this. It could be signs of intelligence!”


I'm on my way,” came Gilara’s excited voice.

After tapping his comm badge, Pol directed his whole attention at the moving shapeshifter. “Where are you going Odo'ital? What is so fascinating to you?”


Odo’ital came to a stop at one end of the desk, and was partially covering the lower half of a Cardassian padd. Rather clumsily, Odo’ital inputted in the commands, to write a message. It was really hard work, making part of his form bulge outwards to cover one of the commands on the padd’s controls, and then tap other commands. But eventually Odo’ital finished his message:


You Pol stop doing things on me

With the message complete, Odo’ital covered the whole padd, and moved himself back over to where Pol was standing. Odo’ital’s gelatinous form dragged the padd along the table, and it was more hard work.


Odo’ital finally reached his destination, and then moved himself off the padd and remained very stationary.


Pol was just staring at Odo’ital, struck dumb by his behaviour. “You want to me to have the padd?” he asked the pool of goo.


When there was no response from Odo’ital, Pol cautiously extended his hand, and then removed the padd away from the desk, and read it.


“Oh Prophets!” said Pol, and his entire being shone with amazement and awe. “Do you understand what I'm saying?”


Rather quickly, Pol placed the padd back down on the desk.


In an equally quick manner, Odo’ital covered half the padd again, and did the same action, except this time his message was smaller:


Yes.

A moment later when Odo’ital was done, Pol took the padd and read it.


“I don't believe it!” he breathed, and he held the padd with a shaking hand. “You... You are sentient! How? How do you hear? How do you see and sense your way around? How did you understand the words I'm saying to now, and how did you learn to write?”


So many questions, and though it was a lot to answer, Odo’ital at last felt he was getting through to Pol, and he covered the padd again and wrote a far longer message.

I just hear you see you
How do not know
To many questions
Me ask you questions
Why am I here
Why do you do things on me

After reading this latest message, Pol was shaking a little in excitement. At that moment Gilara arrived, and Pol quickly turned around, and thrust the padd he was holding into her hand when she reached him.


“Gilara, Odo'ital... It's sentient!”


“What?” said Gilara, looking from Pol, the padd, and then back again.


“Read the padd! Read it!” said Pol excitedly.


Odo’ital remained stationary while he watched the two Bajorans talk with each in enthusiastic undertones. He could not understand what was so amazing and exciting, but all that mattered was that he could now communicate to Pol. Now Odo’ital could learn a lot more, and hopefully Pol would give him the respect he deserved…
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Star Trek: The Approaching Shadow...

Caption contest: DS9
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Old December 28 2011, 01:26 AM   #3
Ln X
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Location: The great gig in the sky
Re: Through the Crucible (a story of Odo's childhood)

Part 3

Finally from that day, Pol became aware of Odo's sentience, and admittedly to Odo, Pol did treat him much more better. The experiments were not so extreme, and cruel, in Odo's opinion. But if anything Pol became more demanding, and Odo was aware-even then-that Pol was under pressure to continue producing the string of remarkable results from his research.

To Odo this meant even more rigorous training of his shapeshifting abilities, and he finally started to try and mimic humanoid features. It took years, and though Odo could get a humanoid shape, getting the details right was absolutely nightmarish. The first thing he had to do was verbally communicate with Pol, that took months. But when he worked out how to mimic vocal cords and a rudimentary mouth, the repertoire between himself and Pol became a lot more smoother and conducive for both of them.

Next came the tricky bit of trying to look like a humanoid. He would stand there, in front of Pol-who gave instructions (rather arbitrary ones at times)-shapeshifting and trying to get skin tones correct. Then it came to that damned face, and it was so frustrating for Odo morphing and moulding himself, so he and Pol focused on other parts of his appearance.

This would mean experimenting with clothes, muscular tones, footwear, feet, fingers, nails, hair, tissue and cell types, and even-to Odo's shame-trying to emulate a male humanoid's sexual organs. At the time Odo figured he would never mate with a female humanoid, but over time he became glad he could emulate a man's private zone, especially so when he and Kira became lovers...

However embarrassing and difficult it got, Pol did really help Odo, and that five year period, where Odo mastered to a reasonable degree of success the humanoid form, was at best interesting for him. Problem was when Odo could pass off as a humanoid, with appearance, clothes and all, did he start to really resent things.

Now he could leave the laboratory a lot more, and not scare and frighten people; ones who did not conduct research on him. It meant he attend social occasions and explore the city where Pol lived in. One part of that was very informative to Odo, and he instantly became curious of everything. However that curiosity faded when he learnt the social graces and saw for himself the darkness and misery of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor.

He started feeling out of kilter with the outside world, being this interesting specimen of constant research. This feeling only got worse as people in social occasions asked Odo to change into things. Initially he naively thought people were doing this because they liked him, or he made them laugh. But he quickly learnt that he was the party's freak show, he was that odd shapeshifter who looked like everyone, but was not like everyone else.

Finally it got to the point where Odo was sick of it: the experiments, the social occasions, the people and Mora Pol himself. His life was being controlled by others and as he discovered his sense of justice, he quickly deduced that he was not improving himself or helping others. He wanted out, he wanted to explore himself and the outside world only by himself. But it was such a huge, and at the time, scary step for Odo to make. Eventually though one social occasion pushed him to the limit, and really forced him to take a good long hard look at what he had become...


***


Standing in one dimly lit corner of the function room, inside the Bajoran Centre for Science, Odo and Pol were having a heated argument.

“I refuse to do it!” hissed Odo.

Pol though looked unchanged in his attitude, and gave Odo a somewhat pacifying stare. “Odo... The Cardassians will love it.”

“I will not be their clown!” said Odo through gritted teeth, and he looked more aloof than ever.

All the warmth vanished from Pol’s face, and he glanced around to make sure nobody was noticing his conversation with Odo. “Perhaps you don't understand... I need the Cardassians to continue funding my research, our research into who you are. If they cut my funding where will you go?”

“Don't start that one on me!” said Odo bitterly. “You think I'm not capable of living outside in the real world!”

“Where would you go? What would you do?” asked Pol, the words wrenched from his mouth.

“Continue exploring myself without your assistance!”

“Without me you would still be in a small tube as a lump of goo! I gave you so much Odo, and you're just throwing it back into my face!”

In his rage, Odo seemed to grow a little taller, and he glared down into Pol’s resolute face. “You only study me for your personal gain! You're prominence amongst the Bajoran scientific community is only through studying me. You're not doing this for me, you're doing this for yourself!”

“Don't play that resentful-of-your-mentor routine with me!” retorted Pol, jabbing a finger in the direction of Odo’s face. “You're not ready for the outside world, so please drop your moodiness and perform the neck trick!”

He paused, before adding sternly. “And be polite with the Cardassians!”

At first it seemed Odo would not back down, but then his angry disposition eased slightly. “Alright, I'll do the neck trick for this dinner, but only on this occasion!”

“Okay...” said Pol, and with a little cock of his head to Odo, together they headed back into the thick of things.

There were at least two hundred people in this room, and it was rather cramped. There were various groups of Bajorans and Cardassians, and many of the Cardassians were senior figures who oversaw the administration of Bajor. A lot of the Cardassian top brass was out in force; dozens of Guls and a few Legates thrown into the mix. A few senior members of the Bajoran government were here, though most of them were from the science ministry.

Pol moved deeper into the crowd, while Odo followed right behind him, finally Pol came to a stop by one of the Cardassians.

“Gul Sauret,” said Pol politely, “a pleasure to see you.”

Sauret broke off his conversation with a Bajoran official, and turned his gaze to Pol. For a Cardassian, Sauret was rather tall, muscular, and very mean-looking. Right now Sauret was giving Pol that typical sneer of his.

“What's this I hear about the shapeshifter,” said Sauret, “it can do this 'Cardassian neck trick'?”

Pol just nodded, and looked all smiles, but his eyes were anything but. “Something which is rather funny I assure you. Odo, if you will...”

Looking as if he would want to be anywhere but here, Odo trudged over, and stood in front of Sauret.

“Alright shapeshifter, show me this neck trick!”

Frowning a little at Sauret’s impoliteness, Odo then formed a pair of Cardassian neck ridges along the sides of his neck. Then he puffed them outwards by many inches, and then back in.

The result was instant; Sauret spurted out the red viscous kanar in his mouth, and he burst into laughter. “Oh my! Oh my!” he gasped, so hard was he laughing that the glass of kanar he held in his hand was dangerously aslant.

“Those ridges... Again!”

Odo did the same thing again, and Sauret laughed even harder.

It was the first time Odo had seen Sauret look genuinely amused, but Odo felt horrible performing in front of Sauret.

But Odo’s discomfort seemed nonexistent to Sauret, and the Cardassian then slapped an arm around Pol’s shoulder, in what he thought was a friendly way, but Pol looked rather accosted.

“Pol this is amazing!” said Sauret with fierce amusement. “How did you get the shapeshifter to do it?”

“Oh it was just a bit of emulation...” said Pol a bit weakly.

Sauret removed his arm from Pol when he saw the Prefect of Bajor walk by. “Gul Dukat!” he called out.

Dukat stopped and stared at Sauret with a rather blank expression.

“Check out this shapeshifter...” said Sauret.

“Odo is it?” he asked of Pol, who nodded. “He does this Cardassian neck trick!”

“Is that so?” came Dukat’s somewhat cold reply.

Wearily Odo obliged, performing the exact same shapeshifting he had done for Sauret.

Dukat looked very amused, so much so that he had to place a hand around his mouth to stifle his laughing. He was not the only one, several other people noticed Odo’s display, and laughed as well.

“That is insane!” said Dukat, staring at Sauret with amused eyes. “How on Cardassia does he do it?”

Then Dukat turned his head a little to address Odo, and it was like Odo had just suddenly became a person again. “I hear Odo you shapeshift into other things... Can you be this glass?”

It did not matter how sour Odo looked, because </i>no one<i> noticed or cared. No, all they cared about was him shapeshifting into something amusing. However Odo did not want to say no, he feared what would happen when people stopped laughed at him as a freak, and began regarding him with fear about his true abilities.

So Odo formed into a glass, an exact perfect replica of Dukat’s glass.

“A Otatian raptor!” called out Sauret, who looked like he was really enjoying himself.

The glass transformed into a big eagle-like bird, with a metre wingspan, scaly skin with brownish tones, and a small but fierce looking head, with a foot long beak to match.

There was more laughter from the crowd, which had now steadily built up, to watch Odo transform. Now the crowd were calling out for Odo to transform into other things, and that damned Cardassian neck trick seemed to be their favourite…

Despite shapeshifting so much, Odo sensed that Pol had walked away. Whether from disappointment at Odo, or disgust at what Odo had been forced to do, Odo could not tell. Now all he wanted was for this occasion, this party, this freak show to end…
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Old December 28 2011, 01:27 AM   #4
Ln X
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Re: Through the Crucible (a story of Odo's childhood)

That was one occasion Odo would never forget, and it had to be still the most humiliating moment of his entire life. He was the crowd's shapeshifting clown, he was the freak show that everyone laughed at, and nobody, nobody wanted him to be any other way. To this day it still sickened Odo to think about what he had become back then. The most perverse aspect about it was how he united Bajorans and Cardassians though one thing; his shapeshifting, and their collective amusement and derision of it.

It was well and truly a madhouse, as he would accompany Pol everywhere just to entertain people, all of this just so the Cardassians would provide funding for Pol's 'research'. Only a few weeks after the dinner where Odo first displayed his Cardassian neck trick to outsiders, did he leave Pol's research lab for good. Despite how much he hated Pol and his research, Odo could remember his fear about truly venturing out on his own.

Eventually though he reached a point where he wanted to do something more constructive with his life, and to explore himself in his own way, not by others who did not really care for him. It was a brave decision but one that Odo did not regret, he had to leave the lab, the parties, and Mora Pol. For seven years that had been his life, but he had to move on...

Looking back, it felt a bit sad for Odo because he took a decision out of anger and desperation. Once he was in the real world, it took months for him to understand what life really was like outside of Pol's laboratory. This was a period where Odo was lost, and trying to search for his calling in life. Pol was right when he said that Odo learnt the hard way, for Odo did learn things the hard way living in the chaos, anarchy and hardships of an occupied Bajor.

But he had learnt, he had found a talent and used it to build a life for himself. However it was only after the occupation that he learnt about the true things in life: hobbies, friends, family and love. If Pol had been more gentler and considerate, and had the occupation never happened, Odo knew for certain that he would have grown up to be a nicer and more pleasant person. Those youthful square edges of his would have been rounded...

Was Pol a father figure to Odo? Somewhat was Odo's honest reply; Pol persevered with Odo when no one else would. However initially misguided Pol was, he saw something in Odo which others did not...

That was one thought that uplifted Odo, and it made him move away from all his bad memories of Pol. Though they were never best friends, they finally reached an understanding of each other, and it was probably that moment which Odo would most fondly remember about Pol...


***


Odo and Pol entered DS9's security office with much excitement.

“And the eyes!” recalled Pol. “Incredible!”

“For a minute there, I thought it was going to say something,” said Odo, sounding just as excited as Pol.

While Pol stood just in front of the desk, Odo was behind it, and he picked up three stacked padds in his hands.

This did not go amiss with Pol. “Oh put that down, we're celebrating!”

A part of Odo wanted to do this, but his meticulous nature was pulling him the other way. “It's just that I've fallen behind on my security reports these last few days.”

“You can catch up later,” said Pol dismissively, and his eyes bore into Odo with renewed enthusiasm. “ Aren't you excited about what happened?”

“Of course I am,” said Odo quickly.

“Tomorrow,” said Pol, while gesturing with his finger, raising it up to emphasise his point. “We can start exposing the changeling to simple life-forms so that it can mimic them. Algae, fungus... In a few days, maybe even an invertebrate.”

Those were exciting prospects to Odo, and he set down the padds where they initially were, and became more caught up in Pol’s enthusiasm. “I can't wait until I can actually talk to it. There's so much I want it to see, so much I want to share.”

“You'll get the chance sooner than you think,” said Pol with confidence. “The changeling is developing far faster than you did.”

In a rather sharp way, Odo looked at Pol, and to Odo it seemed like another jab from Pol, but Pol quickly backpedalled.

“I didn't mean that as a criticism. If anything, it's a compliment.”

Odo continued to stare at Pol, and he was unsure of what Pol was getting at.

Pol though seemed to swallow back his pride. “I was wrong,” he said flatly. “Your approach to communicating with the changeling was sound.”

“Don't you see?” he asked with strong emphasis. “It was reaching out to you. It was curious about you. The first time you did anything even close to that was when you formed a tentacle to slap my hand away from the control panel.”

“I remember,” said Odo a bit fondly, “I wanted you to stop zapping me.”

The memory seemed to take them both back, and despite the mixed feelings it had brought back, both men found themselves smiling at it.

“You've formed a connection with that changeling,” said Pol. “That's something I never managed to do with you,” he added rather regretfully.

“That's not true,” said Odo quickly, and a beat later he added. “I respected you.”

“You feared me,” said Pol rather somberly.

“You didn't know what I was,” said Odo impatiently dismissing Pol’s comment. “You were experimenting on what looked like a lump of organic residue. And that's what I'd still be if it weren't for you.”

This last statement just tumbled out of Odo's mouth unbidden, but there it was. With a quick glance at Pol, Odo knew how surprised Pol was at such an admission.

Indeed Pol looked rather gratified to hear this. “You don't know how much it means to me to hear you say that.”

Odo though looked away, uncomfortable with the emotion of the moment.

“I'm sorry,” started Pol. “I know that sort of talk makes you uncomfortable.”

He then smiled at Odo rather ruefully. “I suppose it's all my fault if I hadn't poked and prodded at you so much, you may have grown up with a less... forbidding disposition.”

“Huh!” muttered Odo, and he continued glancing at one end of his desk, away from Pol. “Something tells me that no matter what we do to that changeling, it's going to have a more pleasant disposition than mine.”

“It's just the way I am,” he finally said, staring intently at Pol.

There was a moment between the two, until Pol shifted a bit in slight awkwardness. “Well... I'll leave you to your work.”

Odo at first nodded, but when Pol turned and started for the door, and idea came to Odo. “Doctor Mora.”

Pol stopped, and turned around to see Odo crossing over to a replicator, behind the desk.

“Two glasses of champagne, please,” Odo told the replicator.

“We're celebrating...” he added very jovially.

Picking up the two materialized glasses, Odo turned to Pol, who broke into a smile. For the first time, Odo felt like Pol was a friend to him, and not that Bajoran scientist who supervised Odo’s development and childhood.



***


At long last the walls that both he and Pol had came down. That baby changeling was all the more wondrous, because it changed Odo’s perspective on so many things. He saw through Pol’s eyes what it was like to conduct research on something so alien and mysterious. Of course they both knew what they were dealing with, but Odo finally understood Pol’s mindset.

There was definitely good reason to celebrate at that moment, as it was a celebration of so many things; the development of the changeling, Odo’s and Pol’s understanding of each other. No matter what Pol did to Odo early on in his life, Odo wanted to remember that happy memory of them celebrating and really reconciling their differences.

Sure the things of the past still lingered, right to the end of Pol’s life, but for Odo that moment was probably the happiest he felt towards Pol, and-

“I've finished those reports and...” said Kira’s distant voice.

Jerking his head upwards, Odo saw Kira standing by the doorway.

“Is something wrong?” she asked, probably reading his zoned out face.

“Hmm?” started Odo. “Oh... Well I just received a report that Mora Pol has died from Temestra's syndrome...”

“I'm sorry...” said Kira softly. “You were close of sorts.”

“We were and we weren't...” replied Odo, pulling a somewhat troubled face as he spoke.

Kira had now sat on the bed beside Odo, and she looked into his eyes with a bit of confusion. “I don't understand.”

“You know that I left Pol during the occupation,” said Odo, “and not under the best of terms. I resented him for the experiments and what he was forcing me to do, and he resented me for leaving him, and being ungrateful for his help. Only seven years ago did we finally come to an understanding, which was when we were raising that baby changeling that Quark bought from that Yridian dealer.”

“I remember that,” said Kira with fondness, “you were so happy to raise that changeling.”

“Myself and Pol became proper friends because of it... We stayed in infrequent contact afterwards, and we would have talked more, but the baggage of the past remained...”

There was a sad silence on Odo’s part, though Kira continued to look at him in a understanding and sympathetic way. “I know that without Pol's efforts you would not be here sitting with me.”

“I know that...” murmured Odo, and he let out a sigh as he thought about all the bad feelings he had had for Pol. “But Pol helped me explore my abilities rather rudimentarily, and he taught the minimum that I needed to live on Bajor... However much I developed my life, progressed with life, and built up my understanding of human nature. The things that really mattered; friendship, family and love... I was ultimately clueless. It was after the occupation that I learnt those things, and even now I am still learning, learning from that miracle who is sleeping soundly in her room.”

Kira moved her gaze from Odo and just stared at the comm panel in front of her, she looked just as thoughtful as her husband. “You've come on such a long way, you should be proud of what you have accomplished. The time spent being studied by Pol was just the first step, he gave you the bare essentials, but only you became that honest and just man which I adore and love.”

That was the sort of thing that Odo loved about Kira, her way of explaining things, and he had not quite thought about it in that way. Without even thinking he placed his hand over Kira’s left one, and gently leaned into her, resting his right side against her arm.

“You miss him, don't you?” asked Kira, who correctly deduced the reason for Odo’s openness with his feelings.

“I don't really feel that upset by his death,” said Odo quietly, “but yes I will miss him...”

He thought about it some more, and in Kira’s comfortable and warm presence, he somehow felt those same grateful feelings for Pol. For a moment Pol almost felt like a father to Odo, almost…

“My life began because of him,” he told Kira, “and whatever he did to me, I'll always be grateful for him bringing me up in this universe. Without him, I would never have realised that I could do more than just contentedly rest as a pile of goo in a tube...”
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Old December 31 2011, 07:05 PM   #5
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Re: Through the Crucible (a story of Odo's childhood)

Now this is more like it. You've branched out a bit from that DS9 continuation and look what has happened - a very nice, interesting piece of work that is well-written and entertaining.

Something that people can dip into and enjoy without feeling intimidated by a massive body of work like the DS9 continuation is.

Well done, although I do take slight issue with changing how Mora Pol is referenced throughout the story. He was called "Doctor Mora" throughout DS9, that's what he's always been referred to as so I see no pressing need to start calling him "Pol" if "Mora" is what viewers/readers already know him as.

So the name change (or at least changing the way he is referenced) is unnecessary but other than that this is a very well-written piece of work.
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Old January 1 2012, 03:06 AM   #6
Ln X
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Re: Through the Crucible (a story of Odo's childhood)

Yeah thanks! It was a nice diversion from that series of mine, and I figured few people have written about Odo's childhood, so I picked a few key moments, with regards to Mora, and just wrote away.

As for readers being intimidated by the length of my series, well other people have posted bigger series on this forum, in that sort of continuous format. But it's better to go to Ad Astra to read series of these lengths, because that's a site designed to accomodate series and show the stories in a presentable fashion.

I've got a dozen more stories in the period between 2375, and when my series begins. Stories of this sort (Through the Crucible), shorter, or just different, stand alone stories. These stories sort of lay the foundations for the DS9: the continuation series.

Plus in about four months or so I'll be working on a small side project, about this Starfleet vessel called the Proxima, and about the (made up) Corneria war (the war between the Breen Confederacy and the Federation, from 2378-81), the only familiar character is Ezri and the rest are new ones.

One final thing; do you Santaval write any fan fiction?
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