On her late mother Meru's birthday, Kira receives a transmission from Gul Dukat in which he tells her that Meru, who supposedly died when Kira was three, was actually his lover for many years and left her family to be with him. When Kira's investigation fails to prove Dukat false, she asks Sisko, as the Emissary, to permit her to consult the Bajoran Orb of Time. He agrees, and Kira finds herself in the past, at a refugee center where she comes face to face with her long-lost family, who does not realize her true identity.
Kira and Meru are taken from the camp to become "comfort women" for Cardassian troops. The sight of her mother being torn from her children is painful for Kira, and she vows to help her return to her family. The women are taken to the Terok Nor space station, where, despite her sadness, Meru is overwhelmed by the bounty of food and other comforts. Later, she is singled out for special attention by Gul Dukat, the Prefect of the station.
Meru confesses to Kira that she has what she always dreamed of — enough to eat, beautiful clothes — but at the cost of her family. Later, Kira learns that her mother has become Dukat's mistress. When Kira confronts a guard and demands to see Meru, she is thrown out into the station's Bajoran ghetto.
Kira befriends a Bajoran named Halb, who asks her to help attack the Cardassians, but she is suddenly summoned to meet with Meru. When her mother begins singing Dukat's praises, it is too much for Kira to bear. She angrily reminds Meru that Dukat is not only responsible for killing innocent Bajorans, but also for separating her from her family. Meru explains that Dukat has promised to provide her husband and children with food and medical supplies. Kira accuses Meru of becoming a collaborator and storms out, hatching a plan with Halb to smuggle a bomb into Dukat's quarters. The blast will kill her mother, but Kira no longer cares.
Pretending to have had a change of heart, Kira returns to Dukat's quarters to apologize to Meru, then secretly hides the bomb. She is preparing to leave when Dukat gives Meru a recorded message from Kira's father. He thanks his wife for what she has done, telling her that she has saved their lives. Kira realizes that if her father could forgive her mother, she must forgive her also. She warns Dukat and Meru about the bomb, and they escape just before it detonates. Kira returns to the station with the painful knowledge that Dukat's story is true.
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