Captain Sisko, worried over events of the last several days, recites an entry into his personal log, revealed as flashbacks. Upon realizing that the cost of the Dominion war has been hard on the Federation and its allies, the only chance of success of winning is to bring the neutral Romulan Empire to their side. To do this, Sisko plots with former Cardassian spy Garak to obtain evidence of Dominion plans to invade the Romulan Empire, but Garak's allies are killed before they find that information. Instead, Garak offers an alternative solution of forging a Dominion plan for conquering the Romulan Empire on a Cardassian data rod to give to the Romulans to provoke them to war. Hesitant of the plan but driven forward by the Dominion's recent conquest of Betazed, Sisko allows Garak to continue, assisting by securing the release of a criminal forger named Grathon Tolar from Klingon execution and providing a large quantity of rare bio-memetic gel to trade for an authentic data rod. Sisko's actions are questioned by his fellow crewmembers, but Sisko refuses to discuss the details.
Once Tolar has created a convincing holographic record of a Dominion meeting between Damar and Weyoun discussing the plans involving the Romulans, Sisko invites Vreenak, an influential Romulan senator, to Deep Space Nine in secret. Sisko shows Vreenak the recording and gives him the data rod to verify its authenticity. However, Sisko discovers shortly afterwards that Vreenak has recognized the recording as a fake, and quickly departs the station. As Sisko realizes that he may be punished once Vreenak returns to the Empire, he learns that Vreenak's ship was destroyed en route. Sisko assaults Garak, who admits he planted a bomb on Vreenak's ship as an assurance that his plan would work; when the Romulans scan the wreckage, they will find the data rod, and attribute any signs of forgery to damage from the destruction, and will implicate the Dominion at fault. When the Dominion protests its innocence, the Romulans will see it as a sure sign of guilt. Garak also reveals he has had Tolar killed to keep his work secret. Garak tries to impress to Sisko that the Alpha Quadrant has been saved at the small cost of "the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal, and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer". Garak's plan unfolds as intended and the Romulans join with the Federation against the Dominion. At the end of the flashbacks, Sisko admits that Garak was right, and states that he can live with his decision for the better of the Alpha Quadrant. Repeating that he can live with his decision, he orders the computer to delete the log entry.