It is the 60th anniversary of the birth of Kira Meru, the mother of Kira Nerys, who died during the Occupation in a labor camp. To honor the memory of her mother, Nerys, who was separated from her mother at the age of three, orders Bajoran lilacs, her mother's favorite. She had always admired her mother, whom her father described as one of the bravest women he had ever known.
That evening, however, Dukat sends Nerys a coded transmission. Ostensibly to come clean about his feelings, Dukat taunts Nerys with the knowledge that her mother did not die in a labor camp, but had lived for several years before passing away as Dukat's lover! Nerys claims Dukat is lying, but when Dukat reveals that he knows Meru loved Bajoran lilacs and had a scar that very few people knew of, Nerys begins to call even what she knows about her own mother into doubt...
With Dukat's words weighing heavily on her mind, Nerys asks Captain Sisko to call in a favor with the Vedek Assembly to allow her access to the Orb of Time, so she could travel back to the Occupation when her mother was alive and get to the bottom of the mystery.
With the Orb, Nerys travels to the labor camp she grew up in, the same one her father said Meru died in. There, she meets her parents and their children: Reon, Pohl, and little Nerys. She introduces herself as "Luma Rahl", and becomes fast friends with Meru.
Shortly thereafter, Cardassian soldiers and a Bajoran collaborator arrive at the labor camp to announce that some of the women working there were selected to be taken to Terok Nor to work as "comfort women" for Cardassian staff, with their families compensated with additional rations and medicine. Meru and "Rahl" are among those selected, and Nerys watches as Meru is tearfully ripped away from her family as they are taken away.
Upon arriving at Terok Nor, the comfort women are ushered into a room with fine dresses, fresh food, and instructions to clean themselves up before meeting with the Cardassian brass. Meru, who had eaten very little during her time in the labor camp, digs into the food immediately. Nerys, however, is not as enthusiastic. While Meru is happy to have a filling meal, she is worried about whether the Cardassians would keep their word and ensure her family is taken care of. Nerys is not very hopeful, and believes their only hope is escape with the help of the Bajoran resistance.
Afterwards, the Bajoran women, now wearing their dresses, meet with the Cardassian leaders of Terok Nor, including Gul Dukat, the station's Prefect. The Bajoran collaborator threatens the women with having their families sent to labor camps for failure to serve, but Dukat chastises him and states his hopes to change the women's perception of Cardassians being cruel tyrants, helping him win some favor with some of the women. He takes a liking to Meru, in particular, assuring her that her family would be cared for and even using a dermal regenerator to remove her scar. To Nerys's chagrin, Meru seems taken with Dukat's act. Not helping matters is when Dukat intervenes when another Cardassian, drunk and amorous for Meru, tries to force himself on her. The Cardassian Nerys was tending to points out that this was an act Dukat often employed to curry favor with Bajoran women, not that Nerys needed it spelled out.
After tending to the Cardassians, Nerys returns to the quarters she and Meru had been assigned to, only to find Meru gone. The Bajoran collaborator explains that she was now tending to Dukat personally. Nerys lashes out at the collaborator and the Cardassian guards, but is subdued and thrown into the refugee center on the Promenade for her trouble.
For the next couple of weeks, Nerys gets by in the refugee center, learning what she can about Meru from other Bajorans in the know. One Bajoran, who aids the resistance, tells Nerys that Meru had returned from a vacation with Dukat. The resistance informant wonders why Nerys is putting in so much effort for someone he believes is little more than a collaborator, and tries to recruit Nerys into the resistance when guards come to escort Nerys to Dukat.
Dukat, having learned that "Rahl" was Meru's friend and as a favor to Meru, had Nerys summoned so the two could catch up. Nerys is disgusted to see Dukat and Meru cozy with one another. When Dukat leaves the two alone to catch up, Nerys calls Meru out on her enjoying being Dukat's lover, enjoying the luxuries that come with sharing his bed and forgetting about her family back in the labor camps while Dukat carries out their people's genocide. Meru tries to assure Nerys that Dukat is not the monster she makes him out to be, but Nerys is not interested in excuses: as far as she was concerned, her own mother was a collaborator.
After returning to the refugee center, Nerys agrees to help the resistance try to assassinate Dukat. The resistance informant gives her a bomb. The informant advises Nerys not to tell anyone, not even Meru. This isn't a problem for Nerys: why should she care whether a collaborator lives or dies?
Nerys asks the guards to let her be a comfort woman again and to be taken to Meru to apologize. After apologizing to Meru, Dukat takes his leave so the two can talk, but not before giving Meru a data rod.
As Nerys plants the bomb stealthily and prepares to leave, Meru plays the message on the data rod: it is from her husband, Nerys's father! To her surprise, according to her Nerys's father, the children have been well cared for and are eating better than they had in a long time: Dukat had kept his word! More shocking still, Meru's feelings for her husband had never faded, as she chokes up when he says that he misses her.
Nerys suddenly has a change of heart, warning Meru and Dukat to get out of the quarters and helping them escape moments before the bomb detonates. The Orb's vision ends shortly afterwards, and Nerys finds herself back in the present.
Afterwards, Nerys discusses her experiences with Sisko. In the past, Nerys had always believed there was a clear-cut difference between collaborators and patriotic Bajorans, and she admired her mother as a hero while despising the collaborators. Now, however, the line between the two is not as clear. According to her research, her mother passed away in a Cardassian hospital several years after the attempt on Dukat's life - and Meru's - and she wondered if they realized how many Cardassians died while Meru lived in comfort. Sisko asks Nerys why she saved Meru's life, and Nerys admits that a part of her wished she left Meru to die...but in the end, no matter what she had chosen to do, it didn't change the fact that Meru was still her mother.
- Awesome Mc Coolname: The episode itself. It's about deconstructing the role of The Quisling and, specifically, women involved with occupiers. Sex with occupiers is, obviously, of questionable consent to begin with and yet is treated doubly harshly.
- Be Careful What You Wish For:Kira Meru: When I was a child, I dreamed of having food to eat and pretty clothes to wear, and now look at me - I have everything I ever wanted and I feel horrible.
Kira Nerys: That is pretty funny in a horrible way.
- Dukat mentioned an assassination attempt after he became prefect. Turns out that Kira was involved.
- Is that a Starfleet control panel behind Dukat when he contacts Kira? Oh, yeah, he still has that shuttle from the Honshu.
- Faux Affably Evil: All the Cardassians who get "friendly" with the Bajoran women.
- Foreshadowing: O'Brien mentions that he wants to try a new holoprogram based on the Alamo.
- Horrible Judge of Character: The idea her mother may be faking attraction and friendship to the Cardassians in order to see her family protected never enters Kira's mind. Meru herself once goes as far to claim the genocide on Cardassia isn't taking place because Dukat ... until it's revealed this is her attempt to rationalize her own complicity.
- Incest Subtext: Dukat's long-term 'interest' in Kira has a disturbing aspect after the reveal that her mother was his mistress.
- Irrevocable Order: Once the bomb is activated, it can't be disarmed, meaning that anyone within 20 meters will have a very bad day.
- Kick the Dog: What reason would Dukat have to tell Kira about the relationship he had with her mother on her birthday, other than to be vindictive?
- Let Me Get This Straight...:Sisko: (to Kira) Let me get this straight — you want to travel back in time to see if Gul Dukat and your mother were lovers.
- Literary Allusion Title: The title is a quote from the 1820 play Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
- Manipulative Bastard: Dukat, whose Pet the Dog moments are just a ploy to manipulate women he's 'saving.'
- Moral Myopia: Kira forgives Odo for being a Lawful Neutral Constable working for the Cardassians during the Occupation. She is utterly incensed at the possibility her mother was a semi-willing mistress to Gul Dukat in exchange for her family being protected.
- Parental Betrayal: Deconstructed. Kira, who's murdered Quislings during the Occupation, is completely ready to kill her own mother for being potentially evil. Even after realizing Meru's motivations, she admits that she's still disgusted that her mother lived in relative luxury while thousands and thousands of Bajorans suffered and died. But the whole affair is too messy for her to justify the action entirely.
- Poor Communication Kills: If Kira's dad had told Kira about Meru's struggles or if Meru told Kira her reasons for staying with Dukat, most of the conflict would not have occurred. (Granted, one can reasonably assume that it's difficult at best to tell your kids "your mother is sleeping with the leader of the occupiers of our planet to help us have a better life.")
- Questionable Consent: In-universe. Meru doesn't really have much of a choice if the Gul takes an interest in her, though he tries to be charming about it. Likewise, she uses it to look after her family. Kira, however, reacts as if her mother ran one of the Cardassian's camps herself and assumes it was all voluntary until the end.
- The Quisling: Basso Tromac. Contemptuous of his fellow Bajorans.
- Rescue Romance: Invoked Trope; Dukat presents himself as a sympathetic Cardassian protecting a female Bajoran from a more abusive one. Apparently this is standard behavior for him, right down to the pickup line.
- Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: When Dukat first meets Kira, he should remember that a woman who looked exactly like her once saved his life from a bomb, but apparently he doesn't. On the other hand, how much would you remember of one person that you met for a very short period of time many, many, years ago (also keeping in mind that if "Luma Rahl" had been 34 years old back then as Kira was, then she would be in her 60's in the present day)? On the other, other hand, this might explain his attraction to Kira...
- Sex for Services: More like, "Sex for not letting my family starve to death."
- Smug Snake: The Bajoran collaborator who helps the Cardassian troops pick the next batch of comfort women.
- Stable Time Loop: Not confirmed on-screen, but heavily implied when Kira meets her 3 year old self (introducing herself using the alias "Luma Rahl" which she seems to remember as part of an ontological paradox).
- Stockholm Syndrome: One interpretation of Meru's behavior.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: The time travel in this episode appears to work quite differently than in the previous ones. Kira affects her own past, but that doesn't seem to have any ripple effects. It remains unclear whether she even physically travels back in time, or whether everything that happens is some kind Intangible Time Travel type of vision caused by the Orb. The previous time the Orb was used it worked like a regular time machine, though. The Prophets Did It. Indeed, the Prophets' treatment of Akorem's brief trip into his future strongly implies that time travel involving the Prophets (or their Tears) can work in strange manners.
- This Is Unforgivable!: Kira is so incensed at what she finds, she takes part in a plot to kill Dukat, knowing her own mother will be killed in the explosion.
- Your Favorite: Dukat knows what kind of flowers Kira's mother liked (Bajoran lilacs), the first clue that he's telling the truth.