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"Come on, Benjamin." Jadzia led him through a maze of halls; Ben felt dizzy and a little overwhelmed. Two weeks ago he'd been driving a U-Haul to what he thought was a town that would give him space to breath; last week he'd been appointed acting mayor by a group of strangers for no reason he could understand; today he was being led around by a young assistant who claimed she had all the memories of the Marine who'd trained Ben. He'd just held his first full council session, and now he had absolutely no idea what was going on.

"Where are we going?" he asked desperately.

"Meeting with the council."

"I thought we just did that?"

Jadzia turned a frown on him. "You... Benjamin, you really didn't know about this before you came to this town, did you?"

"'This' meaning what happened to the mayor? And you and Curzon? No." Ben sighed, running a hand through his hair. "No, I didn't know about any of it."

"This is going to be complicated, then." Jadzia pushed open another door and peeked inside. "About two-thirds of the council are in the know, and when situations involving 'this' come up, like you, separate meetings are held off the record to discuss them."

"That doesn't sound legal."

Jadzia laughed. "We're not exactly operating on any levels the government is officially aware of."


"That's not important right now; come on, we're already late." She pulled the door open wide and waved him in. Not sure of what he was heading into, Ben walked in.

Of the thirty-person council, seventeen members were waiting inside for Ben. Some he recognized - Quark, the police chief, the primary physician of the local clinic - and others, like the pale man seated in the far corner or the woman wearing what looked to be religious robes, he didn't.

And all of these people know about those things, Ben thought, dazed. How do they live with it?

How will I?

He realized after a moment that Jadzia was introducing the councilmen to him. He greeted the ones whose names he remembered, and nodded stiffly to those he didn't, even those that had frowned at him for the full length of the earlier council meeting. He was just getting into a pattern when Jadzia startled him by included a species along with the name and occupation of a councilman.

"A shapeshifter?" he asked Odo warily. The constable nodded, taciturn as ever. Recalling one of the creatures he'd been reading up on in the last week, he wondered, "What, exactly, do you turn into? If it's not too personal a question."

Someone in the back of the room cackled and was quickly hushed when Odo stood and glared in their direction imperiously.

"It's not personal at all, Mr. Mayor. And a better question would be what can't I turn into," he said. "Allow me to demonstrate." Ben watched, alarmed, as Odo's body went translucent, rippled, and shrunk three feet into the shape of a dog. It barked twice, then rippled again and became a chair, identical to the others in the room. The chair rippled, and became Odo. "You see?"

"I do," Ben breathed, wide-eyed. "Constable, that's astounding. Those abilities seem like they'd be very useful in the carrying out of your duties."

Odo blinked, surprised by the change in topic. "Well, yes. I have to keep the details of how I learn of criminal activities vague in my reports, of course, but being able to take the form of a rat or a box has made it much easier to observe people of interest." He sent a significant look over to that same corner again, and councilmen chuckled.

Must be an old joke, Ben thought, and joined in, reassured. If the humans here trusted a shapeshifter to enforce their laws, these other types of people couldn't be all bad either.

"So, Dax," he said in a stage whisper, bringing the room's attention back to him. "Why don't you introduce me to the rest of these fine government officials, so we can get on with business?" Jadzia grinned and continued her introductions. Now, though, she was introducing a more welcoming council to a more confident mayor, and the rest of the meeting ran much more smoothly as a result.