The Defiant carries the senior staff of Deep Space Nine into the Gamma Quadrant for trade negotiations with a Karemma named Hanok. As the Dominion disapproves of trading with the Alpha Quadrant, the exchange takes place in orbit of a gas giant. They are interrupted when a pair of Jem'Hadar ships burst in and fire on the Karemma ship. The Jem'Hadar chase the ship into the atmosphere of a nearby planet, and the Defiant takes off in pursuit. The Jem'Hadar open fire on the Defiant, crippling it in the turbulent fluorine atmosphere of the planet.
Jadzia Dax heads below to try to patch up the engines well enough so the ship can escape the planet's atmosphere. She is successful but is nearly blown up when the hull is breached. Dr. Bashir is forced to seal off the breached area with Dax still inside, to save the rest of the ship, but he seals himself in the breached section so he can help her. They remain trapped in a turbolift without communication with the bridge, where the rest of the crew presume them lost.
As the engines come back on line, the Jem'Hadar attack once more, rendering the Defiant helpless again. The ship is dark and smoldering, running on emergency power, and Captain Sisko has been gravely injured with a concussion. Major Kira tends him, trying to keep him conscious.
Meanwhile, Quark is trapped in the mess hall with Hanok the Karemma, where they find themselves staring at the nose end of a live Jem'Hadar torpedo which has lodged itself in the hull. Quark and Hanok are wary of each other at first, but then realize they can combine their cleverness to come up with a plan to defuse the torpedo. Dax and Bashir huddle together for warmth, as they have only a thin bulkhead separating them from the frigid vacuum of space. Bashir laughs when he realizes that being trapped in a turbolift with Jadzia in his arms was once a fantasy of his. On the bridge, Kira cares for Sisko, telling him a Bajoran fairy tale to try to keep him awake. Worf and Chief O'Brien work on putting the Defiant's engines back together. After playing a game of cat and mouse for several hours, the Defiant is able to destroy both Jem'Hadar fighters and rescue the Karemma crew.