Parked at his usual table, Bashir is having another back and forth with Garak, trying to smoke out if the shifty Cardassian is really just a humble tailor or a Cardassian spy.Garak's attention, however, is quickly drawn to an arriving Bajoran and his son. His Cardassian son. When Garak tries making conversation with the boy, he grabs his hand and bites him.Garak is fine, and Bashir delivers the odd story to the Ops crew. And not a minute after he does, none other than Gul Dukat hails the station to seek information about the incident. While suspicious of how the info got to him so quickly, Dukat quickly shifts the point. The boy, Rugal, is a Cardassian war orphan. And Dukat wants Sisko to do a little investigating on him.Rugal has been raised by his father to hate everything Cardassian, from the atrocities they committed during the occupation to their food. Rugal eventually reveals that he doesn't like the way Proka is raising him, to hate everything about himself.While treating Garak's hand in Sickbay, he brings up an interesting point when Bashir mentions Dukat: Dukat was responsible for the withdrawal of Cardassia from Bajor. So why is he suddenly so interested in one random war orphan?Talking with Dukat again, he requests he looks up if Rugal has any living relatives. At which point, Bashir sticks his foot in his mouth by interrupting the conversation and giving Dukat a harsh questioning. He thinks Dukat is lying...he just doesn't have any real proof or basis yet. Hence, Sisko warns him to not open his mouth without proof again.Bashir's night just keeps getting better when Garak appears in his room in the middle of the night. He wants to go to Bajor with Bashir. So, he has to ask Sisko for a runabout...in the middle of the night. With very vague reasoning. Sisko is understandably annoyed. Until ops contacts him with a message from Dukat.Rugal isn't an orphan after all. His father, Kotan Pa'Dar, is on his way. Finding the timing way beyond a coincidence, Sisko gives him the runabout. The two head for the orphanage where Rugal was left eight years ago. Garak demonstrates an odd knack at record retrieval and computer knowledge for a simple tailor.In orbit, Bashir has had enough. He shuts the ships engines down, and demands Garak quit giving him the runaround. Garak decides to quiz him on the details instead: Pa'Dar was one of the most notable civilian leaders at the time, and was involved in the decision to evacuate Bajor; Gul Dukat lost his job as prefect when that happened, so he hates Pa'Dar; and now, mysteriously, this boy turns up, and Dukat coincidentally finds out it is Pa'Dar's long lost son.Pa'Dar arrives on the station to claim Rugal. Explaining that on Rugal's fourth birthday, their home was destroyed by a bomb. Pa'Dar assumed his son perished in the explosion. He tries to show Rugal mementos of his childhood, but he's not interested. He remembers nothing about Pa'Dar, and he doesn't want to go back to Cardassia.In Sisko's office, Pa'Dar and Proka rip into each other over who should get custody of Rugal. Sisko agrees to arbitrate the hearing. And just to add the cherry on top on the sundae, Gul Dukat has arrived on DS9.Claiming that he has only the interest of the children in mind, Dukat decides to sit in on the hearing. With Bashir and Garak digging through files, Sisko tries stalling for time in the hearing by having Pa'Dar revisit eight years ago.The twosome have been having ups and downs in their search. Dukat appears to have purged the file on Rugal, but Garak tracks down the woman who made the file, one Jomat Luson. She informs them that Rugal was brought to the orphanage. By a Cardassian military officer attached to a place called Terok Nor, better known in the present as Deep Space 9.Grilling Dukat on whether he knew about the orphanage, he naturally denies any knowledge. The issue being the Cardassian officer who brought Rugal to the orphanage knew his name. She knew he wasn't an orphan. And she was attached to Terok Nor eight years ago. And who was in charge of Terok Nor eight years ago?Gul Dukat. The whole thing was a dirty play against Pa'Dar, his political rival. Dukat storms out without confirming or denying this.With that resolved, Sisko turns custody of Rugal over to Pa'Dar, and they return to Cardassia.
- Abusive Parents: It's suggested that Proka Migdal was emotionally abusive towards Rugal, taking out his hatred of Cardassians on him. (This may be partly why, in contrast to TNG's "Suddenly Human", which has a similar premise, Sisko eventually sends the boy back to his biological family.)
- Alien Lunch: O'Brien really doesn't like Cardassian food. Surprisingly, neither does Rugal.
- Ascended Extra: Rugal becomes this in the DS9 Relaunch Book "The Never-Ending Sacrifice" where the events after he was brought to Cardassia, his new family life, conscription into the Cardassian military with the advent of the Dominion War and finally him becoming a Federation citizen on account of legally still being Bajoran.
- Deadpan Snarker: Sisko delivers some vintage snark when Bashir comes to him to ask to borrow a runabout to take Garak to Bajor for a reason that Garak refuses to explain.
- Internalized Categorism: Rugal has been raised as a Bajoran to the point of hating himself for being Cardassian.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: This is where we learn the station's original Cardassian name, Terok Nor. It's a minor plot twist for just this episode, but goes on to be common knowledge to characters and the audience for years after.
- There Are No Coincidences: As Garak explains, he believes in coincidences. He just doesn't trust coincidences.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: We're told that only 10 million Bajorans died in the occupation. A large number to be sure, but for fifty years of a worldwide genocide it's shockingly low.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Cardassian orphans have no place in their society. Hence, they're stuck on Bajor.