A blast from the past, this time. My very first fanfic ever. And, incidentally, the first non-parody fanfic of DS9 ever.
Enjoy the delicious horror.
This is a story inspired by someones’ innocent enough comment on the net. It was something like “Hey, wouldn’t it be neat if Quark somehow managed to save Odo’s life?” You know who you are :) The resulting story is printed below; I apologise in advance for the absence of Sisko - I haven’t seen a lot of him in the DS9 I've managed to see so far, so I don’t ‘know’ him that well.
For those of you who dislike Odo/Quark stories - you have been warned. This story contains large sections of Odo/Quark and very little else. If you read this and dislike it, it’s your fault.
For those of you still with me - read on. I had some fun writing this, and I hope some of you at least enjoy reading it :)
The Collectors as a species were notorious in the Gamma Quadrant. They lived up to their name very well, and were used as a bogey-myth for any space based societies.
Never travel alone, the Collectors could get you. Always have a copilot, the Collectors don’t want “spares”. Keep you beamshield on you at all times - the Collectors could change their minds. And always, *always* keep your personal weapon charged and handy.
They also took odd *inanimate* objects, adding fuel to the myths, but beyond that, they were considered a nuisance only. Even the much-feared Dominion kept out of their way. Their ships were enormous, their technology unknown, their minds and purpose simple.
And one of them was headed for the wormhole.
Just to see what it could collect…
Odo’s hopes raised only slightly as the wormhole flared into existence. His people probably weren’t coming through, seeing as it wasn’t all that difficult to notice the traffic going through it. They were either ignoring it, were ignorant of it - or afraid to go through.
The last option worried Odo the most. If he found them, would they accept his survival - or would they reject him because he had been 'lost’ years ago? When questions like this plagued his mind, Odo immersed himself in the problem at hand.
The ship was exuded out of the wormhole, mainly because of it’s size. It was one of the few ships that dwarfed the station.
“Sure as hell hope it doesn’t wanna dock” O'Brien murmured.
“Me too.” Kira said.
“That makes three of us” Dax stated.
“I think we have a general consensus” Odo cut the quiet murmurs of agreement short.
That was when the ship beamed him up…
The Collector was proud of himself, silicate humanoid-forms were a *rare* find. On its’ own, enough to please *any* female. He had left the symbiotic lifeform - almost every Collector had one. Useless.
He scanned the rest of the structure in the hopes of finding something interesting. *There*, on one of the wider levels, was a lifeform that had only been seen rarely in the Gamma Quadrant. *He* would be the first to have one.
What a prize.
Odo looked about the room in surprise. Apart from the simple furniture, it was a featureless, white, brightly-lit box. How in the names of all the Prophets had *this* managed to happen?
As if in answer, Quark appeared in a shower of sparks. The Ferengi only managed a pathetic smile before Odo had him in a strangle-hold against a wall.
“I knew you were in on this!” the shapeshifter accused.
Quark could only choke, “No…” and managed one of his most pathetic cringes (Number Sixty-Two: Please don’t kill me yet, I could prove useful). It was somewhat hampered by the fact that he was dangling by his neck, so he couldn’t kneel correctly. As compromise, he curled his legs up shakily.
Odo was squinting into Quark’s eyes; in a moment of benevolence, he dropped the Ferengi - who landed in cringe number Sixty-Three. “You have a minute to explain yourself,” ordered the Constable.
Quark allowed himself a few seconds to recover his breath. He’d never seen Odo this *angry* before; the only occasion he'd even come close was their first meeting - when the bartender learned that Odo never gave warnings, he just attacked. “Please,” he begged, "I had nothing to *do* with all this,“ Quark paused enough to sit up, "If I did, do you think *I’d* be in the same area as *you*? I'm not the suicidal type!”
“How *much* were you paid?” Odo was seething, Quark could tell. The fold of the arms, the tone of voice, the fact that he was absentmindedly growing talons… Quark had to negotiate for his life.
“Nothing! Nothing, I swear!” Quark threw both his arms and one knee between him and the Constable, “Honestly, I have no idea what’s happening. One minute, I’m getting a bottle of Earth Brandy, the next, I’m locked in a room with a psychopathic shapeshifter!”
Odo’s hands returned to normal, “You’d better be telling the *truth*, _barkeep_,” he growled, “It’ll be very bad for you if you’re not.”
“I believe you,” Quark told him, regaining his feet, “and I think it’s about time *you* started believing *me*.”
There was a brief snort that meant the shapeshifter thought something was funny, “The times *you* tell the truth are calendar events,” he muttered.
Quark ignored him, “The first thing we have to do is find a way out,”
“There’s no way out.”
“There’s always a way out. Rule of Acquisition number Twenty-Five.” He reached into his pocket and bought out a Ferengi Tricorder; similar in function to a Starfleet Tricorder, but it also made a rough estimate as to how much the object it was scanning could be sold for.
Odo watched as Quark quartered the room, waiting for any little pauses that meant that the Ferengi was wrong.
They got the Runabout off in record time, chasing the huge ship back through the wormhole and into the Gamma Quadrant. It didn’t seem to notice them at all. Repeated hails were ignored, weapons ineffective.
At least the thing didn’t seem to be capable of going above Warp 4.
The Collector was aware of the ship following it, and ignored it. The craft was worthless, taking more space than it needed, and not having any interesting technology, the Collector could let it follow until its’ fuel ran out.
It was something he had done many times before. Often, these "chases" would last for years; he was used to that, sometimes marvelling at other species’ tenacity.
* * * O * * *
Odo was pacing now, looking - Quark hated to admit this - panicky. He’d never seen Odo panic, and had always thought that the Constable was incapable of fear.
“Could you please stop that?” Quark asked, “I might lose my place."
"Sorry.” Odo stopped, staring at the roof apprehensively. He was starting to hyperventilate.
“It’s your cycle isn’t it?” Quark tried to sound conversational, “I didn’t know you *got* this way about liquefying.”
“You’d be in a similar state if you were facing suffocation.” grumbled Odo, “*None* of these surfaces will let me breathe."
Quark shrugged as if Odo’s breathing processes weren’t of import, "I’ll find you something when we get out,” he said.
“*If*” Odo barked.
“*When*” Quark insisted, “Here,” he marked a spot on the wall, “is a weak spot - do you think you could punch through it?"
"Stand aside,” As soon as the Ferengi obeyed, a sharp spike drove into the wall at rapid speed. The wall cracked. Quark followed the spike back with his eyes to find that it was once Odo’s right forearm. Odo punched at the wall twice, thrice more, and there was a little bit of a tunnel, and still no sight of the outside.
Odo rammed in his arm one last time and collapsed, screaming. He managed to pull away from the wall and curl around the searing agony that was once his arm.
Quark examined the cause; live, sparking wires - he could sense it was both high amperage *and* voltage. One thing was for certain, when Odo recovered, Quark was dead.
“Further attempts at escape will *not* be tolerated." Announced a voice from the ceiling.
"Who’s trying to escape?” Quark rhetorically asked in protest, “We’re just trying to _survive_ here!"
"You have tolerated these conditions this long,” objected the voice.
“So?” Quark ranted, calling up facts from the base of his memory, “The average humanoid will live a day without water! That doesn’t mean we don’t need it!"
"If you perish, I have your bodies to display.” Quark was thatnkful Odo was beyond hearing that.
“Mine, perhaps,” Quark morbidly agreed, “but how are you going to convince any others that a container of orange goo was once a sentient lifeform?"
Silence, broken only by the faint moans of Odo; Quark dared not look down, in case that meant the communication would be cut off. Odo was really starting to sound badly hurt; instead of the sort of shout caused by a kicked shin, it was more like the quiet, subdued grunts of the severely wounded. Quark found himself worrying for him.
Then, at last, "What do you need?” from above.
Rapidly, Quark outlined the dimensions and composition of Odo’s pail, using the Ferengi’s natural ability to describe anything seen - or anything described to them. In this case, Nog had seen it and told Quark about it. “And a replicator,” he added, “so we can be provided sustenance."
"Agreed.” both items appeared by Quark, who then fell into a crouch by Odo. The shapeshifter had an almost grey cast to him - skin and uniform alike (Quark assumed this was a bad sign), he had managed to sit up a little - his legs were crossed, and served more as a cradle for his injured arm. The rest of him was more or less curled about it, as if that were a cure for the pain he must have felt. He was breathing raggedly, staring fixedly at some between-point in space.
“Let’s see that arm,” he tried. Almost on automatic, Odo gingerly held his wounded arm out into the air in front of the Ferengi. This intensity of mental numbness shocked Quark to the bones. He felt that, in order to survive, Odo had to survive, too. But Cash help him if Odo returned to DS9 like *this*.
The arm had returned to human form. Almost. It was an incredible meld of smooth spike and proper flesh and uniform. All of it was covered with ugly blister bubbles and charred patches, as well as being a strong, angry red. It was as if all of Odo’s matter was concentrating in the arm to try and heal it; much the same way that blood flowed out of a wound in an attempt to close it.
Quark’s tricorder had a small healer device in it, excellent at small cuts, bruises or abrasions, but barely adequate for serious burns. _How would it work on Odo?_ Quark wondered, before deciding to find out. He held it over a blackened patch of once-finger and activated the beam. Slowly, painstakingly, the flesh returned to normal under the beam.
Rule of Acquisition number 3: Never question luck.
Quark grinned, regardless of the fact that it would take ages to do the rest of Odo’s arm. Rule of Acquisition number 50: Gratitude can bring on generosity. The problem was that Odo's version of generosity was not throwing Quark into prison.
“Can you get a fix on them?” asked Dax, hoping for a positive answer.
“Can’t tell,” answered O'Brien, “got some kind of scanner baffles - I’m getting fifty readings and the bloody computer says they’re *all* Odo.”
“But that’s impossible,” Bashir murmured, “even amongst species who undergo meiosis, there’s always *some* variation.”
“It must be a false reading,” Dax told him, anyione else could have guessed, “I’m going to try shifting the frequency.”
* * * O * * *
Quark had long since shifted the healer onto wide-beam, and was boosting its’ effectivity by adding in 'solar’ power; converting the light in the room into energy. He’d been at this for hours, sweeping the beam methodically over Odo’s mangled arm. His back hurt, his muscles creaked in protest, his arms ached. Odo wasn't helping, he was sitting greyly and numbly, watching as his arm magically - if slowly - healed.
“You could *help*, you know,” Quark rasped.
“*Take* this,” he handed Odo the healer, “and use it on yourself. I *need* a drink.” The Ferengi stood, forcing Odo to try and cope on his own, and investigated the replicator. A nice, long draught of Romulan Ale would really hit the spot right now, and the bartender wouldn’t even mind that it was replicated; or perhaps, his secret addiction, Rombolian Buttermilk… The replicator refused to work, further investigation revealed that its’ memory was completely blank. “STUPID!” he screamed, ignoring the dryness of his throat, “I should have expected this! He gave me what I asked for and *not* what I _*wanted*_. What sort of use is a blank replicator?” (a soft shuffling noise, ignored) “Fine if I want a nice, hot plate of nothing! Bah… I should have *asked* for some kind of programming…”
Bip,plip,beep-de-blip, “It’ll take a while, Gul…”
Had Odo spoken? Quark whirled to see the shapeshifter working at the panel left-handed, punching in apparently random numbers. “What are you *doing*?” he demanded.
“Program,” mumbled Odo.
“I didn’t know you could do that.”
Shrug. “It was a job.”
“But people weren’t allowed to quit those jobs.” Had Dukat pulled some strings to get the shapeshifter? In a bizarre way, Quark hoped not.
“I got transferred a lot.”
Quark ignored the obvious temptation of asking about the rest of Odo’s life, it would be time consuming and a waste of effort. Instead, he sought out the most comfortable bed and got some rest. (Rule of Acquisition number Two Hundred: If you’re going to have to *endure*, make yourself comfortable.) Within five minutes, he was snoring like a defective chainsaw cutting through a gurgling pipe. (All snorers claim they don’t snore, even to their snorees)
Odo must have rested, too, because when the little bartender awoke, Odo was looking a little healthier, a bit less grey. His right arm dangled inert most of the time; at the moment, it rested on an upraised knee. He was waving the healer over it in a vague-minded impersonation of Quark’s earlier movements.
Quark checked the replicator to see what was on it now, "*Water*? Survival rations?“ Odo shrugged at this. If Quark didn't know better, he could have sworn that the shapeshifter was doing this to him on purpose; he paged further down the list of available substances, "Ah. *Some* proper food, at least. *Two* proper foods… _*Cardassian*_ **stew**?!” Another shrug from Odo, Quark tried to keep his temper before he read the last two items there. “Bajoran Samatt… what’s this other thing?” It was a complicated serial number.
“Mine.” responded Odo.
Quark shook his head, as a programmer, Odo was incompetent at best. "Just how long did you have this job?“ He was expecting the time index to be in years, or months.
“And you still *remember* all that?!”
“*HOW*?” Quark had accidentally called up a single replicator meal-program once. It had taken him ten minutes to fast-page to the end of it.
“I learn too fast,” Odo shrugged again, “had to.”
Quark at last saw why Dukat had been so angry that first week after he’d hired Odo - the Constable learned his job too fast. Dukat had wanted someone inept. “How’s the arm?” Quark asked, absently drinking a glass of water and trying to pretend it was Rombolian Buttermilk. He wasn’t even near successful.
“Hurts.” answered Odo, “Bad.”
The Ferengi winced - if Odo returned like *this*, it would be a competition to see who strangled Quark first; Sisko, Kira or Bashir. “They’re gonna kill me,” he whimpered.
“Who is?” The Constable that Quark knew and feared snapped into awareness; the bartender must have triggered something.
“The entire Ops crew!” Quark ranted, “When they get us out of here and see what happened - they’ll think it’s my *fault*!”
“I’ll tell them different.”
“But only if you’re *asked*, of course,” Quark nodded, “*I* remember the time Fallit Cott threatened me. You enjoyed every minute of my discomfort - admit it.”
Odo only looked annoyed, “It’s my *duty* to protect-” he cut off, clutching at his hurt arm, “uhn…” he managed, eyes glazing over, and slowly falling into a sitting position.
Quark desperately scrabbled in corners for the suddenly missing healer, “Where is it?” he panicked, “Where in all hells could it have-”
Odo held it in front of Quark’s face, half exuded out of his good hand. Quark snatched it off him, angrily. “I am going,” the barkeep announced, “to go completely and absolutely *insane*; and *you’re* going to drive me that way.” He swept the healer’s beam across Odo’s blisters, “I’ll never run another deal again…” he grumbled.
The shapeshifter - Cash curse him to insolvency - smiled warmly and emitted a sound something like a soft purr.
Quark had seen that smile before, “What?” the bartender demanded.
“Station’d be safe,” Odo murmured, staring off into an alternate universe that did not contain Quark.
The computer had been programmed to follow the behemoth craft, leaving Dax free to mess with the wires under the scanning consoles. Currently, she dangled at an awkward angle, abdomen supported by the floor of the crawlway, the rest of her suspended upside-down so she could fiddle with some obscure settings.
Chief O'Brien clung to he ankles, a reassuring weight that stopped her falling down the pit beneath her. O'Brien had told her of the ancient Earth ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone to achieve the Gift of the Gab. Dax hoped *this* procedure would grant them that Gift of Sight, so they could at last rescue Odo and Quark.
* * * O * * *
Odo was getting worse. No matter what Quark told himself, it was a fact. The security chief no longer recognised the little bartender, his mind wandered in and out of reality, as well as time. The Ferengi was almost becoming accustomed to the resultant persona changes, he already knew the Constable, who was surfacing rarely, now. Funnily enough, the changes were sometimes signalled by a change of garb, other times by a change of posture. The only constant was the shapeshifter’s mangled arm - he could not even begin to guess why.
“It can’t just be the shock,” Quark told himself; he was telling himself a lot lately. “it *has* to be something else as well.”
Odo nodded vaguely, still suspending the beam of the healer over part of his hand. At least the arm could move if needed, now, "Breathing,“ he murmured "sticks to everything high.”
Quark noticed that the shapeshifter was huddled in a corner, almost like a frightened child. His speech patterns were childlike and simple - if confused. He’d been talking to phantoms in that manner for hours, mumbling orders at zephyrs. In any other situation, it would be funny. _That’s going to be *me* if I don't figure something out_ he reminded himself.
He ponted his tricorder upwards, thinking - it’s up high, it doesn’t effect Ferengi, but it *can* effect something like Odo. It wasn’t in the main composition, the Ferengi lowered the percentage he was seeking.
30%, No match, 10% nothing, 1% an absence of success. It wasn’t until he delved into the depths of parts per million that he found something. A complex organic-looking molecule that ate the dust in the air before it fell to the ground. Silicon fed it. Odo was silicon. Quark decided that it was more likely to be poisoning Odo rather than feeding on him, sine the stuff was still higher than seven or eight feet up.
Fine. Why wasn’t it down here already? Tha answer was that it *was*, only the presence of water vapour rendered it inactive; 'killed’ it. Of course. Quark had complained about the presence of the Samatt one time too many, and the shapeshifter had suggested that he “heat up some water and make soup.” Quark had retorted that he wasn’t *that* hungry, but a few minutes later, decided that he was.
Hot water made steam, steam killed the dirt-eaters, and Odo improved a little. It didn’t take long for the bartender to realise that the vapour could be too slow - and perhaps too cumbersome. He analysed the reaction, slowing down the display until he could actually see it happening. There. Dirt-eater attracts water, Hydrogen shears from oxygen, and the *Hydrogen* killed the dirt-eaters! Quark hissed in delight; now, if only he had a way to create *lots* of Hydrogen…
The replicator wasn’t capable, unless he could find a way to fit a Ferengi dataclip into a slot that looked more like a pinprick. Odo probably didn’t know how to program it in, or by this stage was no longer capable of such a task. Quark remembered Gul Noxx telling Dukat about the shapeshifter at some social gathering; saying that Odo was “a walking chemical factory”, capable of rejecting elements that could harm him. Of course, if these elements were bonded with others that he *needed*, it lead to an “amusing” rejection process. About as amusing as being sick, Quark thought, but it’s worth a try.
He turned his attention towards Odo, who was regressing again. Every now and then, Odo’s clothes would *change*, as would his attitude. The high necked tunic and long vest meant that he was in, or just out of the research centre; the uniform meant that the Constable was back. At the moment, he 'wore’ a baggy, oversized shirt, and equally ill-fitting trousers with inexpertly formed patches; his child-persona. Judging by the constant rocking, he was currently very 'young’ indeed.
Quark knelt in front of him, trying to look as benevolent as he could, knowing that Ferengi scared all types of small children. "Odo?“ the shapeshifter stopped rocking, and only moved his eyes towards Quark, "I’m going to have to ask you a few questions, okay?”
“I remember you told me you don’t drink. Can you tell me why?”
Nod. “Causes trouble,” he murmured, Odo-as-a-child always gave the impression that terrible things happened to young, noisy shapeshifters. “All water based. I *don’t* like hydrogen.”
Quark grinned. The solution was sitting in front of him, if only he could figure out *how* to work it.
Dax should have slept hours ago, her minds filled with fog. There *had* to be another way to pierce the shields; there had to be. She worked in the tired way of all seeking serendipity. In other words, she fooled with the settings in the hopes of improvements.
She kept on like that until her body finally rebelled and she slept.
* * * O * * *
Odo’s body had shrunk somewhat, he seemed stuck in the very-small-child persona; Quark had discovered the hard way that the rocking had a lot to do with tension. “Didn’t do anything wrong…" Odo said in a small voice, almost tipping himself over in his oscillations.
Quark closed his eyes and groaned in an equally small voice, "Look,” he said in the brusque manner of all the patience tried, “I *know* you haven’t done anything wrong; but there are things in the air that are making you sick, right?”
Unsure nod. Very frightened eyes. Back and forth.
“The only way to *stop* them making you sick is to release a *lot* of Hydrogen into the air.”
“I want to rest.”
“Drink first.” Quark ordered. Maybe if Odo felt better after the air cleared a little, he would understand. Maybe.
Without stopping, or moving in any other way than his constant rocking, Odo crooned a high-pitched hum that made Quark's teeth rattle; he belatedly realised that this was how the shapeshifter 'cried’.
“Alright, alright!” Quark surrendered over the din, “You don’t have to drink. I’m sorry.” he got up and bought over Odo's container as the 'crying’ slowed down, “Go ahead and rest. I'll think up something else…” He turned away, allowing Odo to melt. Even this young, he was guarded about his natural state.
Quark sighed and sat in the middle of the floor. _I’m locked in a room looking after my enemy, promising him I’ll make it all better. I must be insane._ He slowly emptied his pockets; something only a *truly* desperate Ferengi would do, a primitive stock-taking instinct that acted as a reassurance.
Rule of Acquisition number Two Hundred and Fifty-five: When all else fails, run.
Where could he run to? And more importantly; _*how*_? What he really needed was something really expensive to trade their way out. “Huh,” he muttered, “Might as well sell him the Brooklyn Br-" Quark stopped talking, an idea bursting like a Nova inside his head. He could *buy* his way out.
And Odo’s, too; he added reluctantly.
Bashir stumbled through his early morning routine, almost missing the slumbering Jadzia on his first pass through the little 'bridge’ of the Ganges. When he did notice her, he went through the entire lexicon of infatuated expressions in under a minute.
He even tippy-toed back into the bunk area.
* * * O * * *
Ferengi, it was widely known, are renowned for making noise until they (a) get noticed, (b) get thrown out, or © are threatened. Quark continued shouting for attention, knowing that this entity that was holding them would not voluntarily opt for choices (b) or ©.
"I won’t give up until you answer!” he bellowed, “I have a deal for you that you’ll regret if you miss it!”
Odo had hunkered down in a corner, in the clothes he wore five years ago. He only stared as Quark ranted at the ceiling.
“I CAN KEEP THIS UP FOR A VERY LONG TIME!”
“What do you want?” asked the voice.
“I want to propse an *exchange*,” Quark smoothed, “Our freedom for a unique item solely in my possession.”
“When you perish, I will have it anyway.”
“You have no idea what it *is*; in any event, I only have the deed on my person.” Quark paused for effect, “I am the owner of the most unique item in known space, the *only* one of its’ kind.”
“*Quark*” Odo warned in an agitated whisper.
Quark ignored the one positive sign he’d seen in days, reasoning that getting *out* was more important than mere *signs*, "You’ve had the privilege of using it, I believe.“ he told the roof.
"The *Wormhole*?!” Asked the voice incredulously.
“The *stable* wormhole,” Quark clarified, “only one in existence. Of course, if you don’t *want* it…” he began to turn away with typical Ferengi theatrics.
“Show me this - 'deed’.”
Gotcha. Quark grinned to himself, then turned 'back’ “If you agree to let us go, I’ll give it to you.” Another pause for effect, "There’s probably a ship following you,“ he proceeded to describe the Runabout’s basic structure, "the marking would be either Ganges, Orinoco or Rio Grande.”
“The first follows me.”
“Then beam us over there,” Quark grinned, snatching up Odo's pail.
“Put down this 'deed’ first.” Ordered the voice.
Reluctantly, or reluctantly enough to make it believable, Quark reached into his pocket, bought out his hand… And put down a single Ferengi tri-esta that he had bent with his own teeth.
The next thing he knew, he and Odo were in the bridge of the Ganges.
* * * O * * *
“He sold _*WHAT*_?!” Sisko demanded, loosing his cool uncharacteristically.
“He sold the wormhole,” Dax calmly replied.
“I *sold* a bent tri-esta,” argued Quark. “He can claim it's worth the wormhole to anyone he pleases; it’s just up to *them* to believe it.” He smiled oilily, “I expect a full reward for this.”
“You’ll have to take *that* up with Odo - when he returns to full health, of course.” Sisko ordered.
“What do you mean, you’re not going to *do* anything?” Quark demanded, “I want *favours*, understand?”
“I *am* doing you a favour.” Odo grimaced. “Selling false documents is a recognised crime - although in Ferengi space, getting caught for it is.” Odo deliberately let that factoid settle. Odo was a witness *and* could arrest him. “I’m not reporting it because of the extenuating circumstances involved.”
“But I *saved* your *life*.”
“That’s what I was talking about.”
“THAT’S NOT FAIR!”
“Whoever said life had to be fair, Quark?” Odo walked out into the Promenade, he had a lot of catching up to do.