While conducting a planetary survey, Sisko and Dax are discussing a mining operation. They feel that, while being far from the supply lines, it is still a good location. Meanwhile O'Brien and his subordinate MuÃÂ±iz, nicknamed Quique, are also involved in the survey; even though they tease one another, they seem to have a good working relationship. A ship then crashes on the planet surface. Sisko and Dax use the runabout to beam over to the crash site.
The away team discovers the ship to be a Dominion Warship, which has landed upside down and is partially buried. Using a hatch, they enter the ship and find that the crew is dead. Dax discovers that the crew has been dead for several hours - since before the ship crash landed. O'Brien theorizes that the crew must have died due to a failure of the inertial dampers, causing the crew to be crushed to death instantly. Sisko is determined to get the vessel back to Starfleet so it can be studied, but with the runabout's tractor beam insufficient to tow the vessel back to DS9, he sends for the Defiant.
Back on DS9 Odo has arrested Quark and a co-conspirator, none other than Dr. Bashir. Odo takes the two to Sisko's office, where Major Kira is waiting for them, and learns that Quark had ordered a shipment of Rigelian Fleaspiders. The Fleaspiders were for Bashir for his extraction of the venom to relieve Kira's pregnancy woes. But as usual, Quark took the opportunity to acquire more profit. He also smuggled Rigelian Liquid Crystals with the Fleaspider shipment. Kira leaves to take the Defiant to Sisko.
Back on the planet, Worf lets Sisko know that they have buried the bodies of the 42 Jem'Hadar soldiers and one Vorta. Hoya alerts Sisko that another warship has come out of warp; it destroys the runabout. Several Jem'Hadar soldiers then beam to the surface and attack. The away team retreats to the warship, and MuÃÂ±iz is shot. But the Jem'Hadar do not follow the away team into the ship. Inside, O'Brien tends to MuÃÂ±iz's injury. Sisko and the others then begin to form a plan. They search the ship, and find it spartan, with very little to provide crew comfort. They do find two headsets (meant for the Vorta supervisor and the Jem'Hadar First), with eyepieces that provide a function similar to a viewscreen aboard Starfleet ships. They are then contacted over the ship's communication system by Kilana, the Vorta in command of the other warship. She offers to meet Sisko, each to be escorted by one guard.
Sisko agrees to meet her and she tries to be likeable. But she will not allow Sisko to take the vessel, and does not recognize his claim of salvage rights. She offers to take Sisko and his people back to the Federation safely; Sisko refuses. While they are discussing the ship, a Jem'Hadar soldier beams into the damaged warship. O'Brien and Dax find a suspicious device, and the Jem'Hadar deshrouds and attacks them with a knife. Dax is knocked out, and O'Brien is about to be stabbed when the Jem'Hadar is shot by a staggering MuÃÂ±iz.
Sisko and Kilana return to their ships, but things look bad for MuÃÂ±iz. They discover that the Jem'Hadar weapon has had an anticoagulant effect on his wound. MuÃÂ±iz begins to suspect that he will not live, which causes an argument between Worf and O'Brien. Worf believes that MuÃÂ±iz should be told he is going to die, and allowed to prepare himself. O'Brien believes that MuÃÂ±iz's only chance is to keep fighting. Sisko is then contacted again by Kilana and offers to meet her alone and without a guard.
Sisko agrees to meet with Kilana, who acknowledges that there is something aboard the ship that she wants. But the two do not trust one another; Sisko refuses to allow her on the ship, and Kilana refuses to tell him what she wants. Kilana realizes that their negotiations have reached an impasse and beams back to her ship. Soon after, the ship begins to shake from an orbital bombardment. But Sisko realizes that the attack is not directed at the warship, as they could easily destroy the ship with one hit, but is instead meant to psychologically rattle the away team. The crew realizes that what Kilana is looking for is very valuable, and they search for what she could be seeking. However, MuÃÂ±iz is not doing well; his condition worsens, and he begins to hallucinate. The crew begins to get tense and irritated with one another. O'Brien and Worf have a brief physical altercation, and Dax responds with sarcasm. Sisko knows that this will not help them, and orders them to pull themselves together and orders MuÃÂ±iz to stay alive.
After ten hours, the bombardment continues, while O'Brien has managed to restore main power and helm control. If they can bring the main engines online, they may be able to lift off the planet and escape. O'Brien does his best to bring the engines back to working order, but when they try to take off, an overload damages the power circuits and their condition worsens. MuÃÂ±iz has also died, causing silence among the crew. As Dax tries to console Sisko, they notice a drip of liquid fall on the floor (which is actually the ceiling). They look up and realize that the dripping is coming from a Founder disguised as a bulkhead. It is no longer able to hold its shape, and is dying from injuries it sustained from the accident that killed the crew. As it dies, it cries out loud enough for Kilana and the Jem'Hadar to hear.
Kilana then beams aboard the wrecked ship by herself. She informs the away team that the Jem'Hadar soldiers killed themselves for allowing one of their gods to die. She lets Sisko know that her offer was genuine, she would have allowed Sisko and his crew to leave with the damaged warship. Sisko realizes that MuÃÂ±iz, the runabout crew, and the Jem'Hadar would not have died had he and Kilana trusted each other. He allows her to take a sample of the powdery remains of the Founder. The Defiant arrives shortly after, and tows the warship back to DS9.
Sisko mourns the death of MuÃÂ±iz, Hoya, and the others. Dax tells him that while their deaths were tragic, they knew the risks when they joined Starfleet. And even though the warship cost Sisko the lives of five people, it will help to save thousands of others. Meanwhile, O'Brien is holding a vigil over MuÃÂ±iz's casket. Worf comes in and tells him he is performing the Ak'Voh ritual, a Klingon practice for keeping the dead safe from predators as they make their journey to Sto-Vo-Kor. He offers to stay with O'Brien to protect MuÃÂ±iz. O'Brien responds by saying that he's sure Quique would have liked that.