While on route to Ferenginar in a runabout, Jake Sisko and Ensign Nog are attacked by a Jem'Hadar vessel, but are rescued by the U.S.S. Valiant, a Defiant-class starship. Jake and Nog find that the crew are all young members of the Red Squad, the brightest Starfleet cadets, originally part of a more experienced crew that was on a training mission to circumnavigate the Federation prior to the all-out war. However, the Valiant suffered heavily losses including all of the experienced crew, and the late Captain transferred command to now-acting Captain Tim Watters. Watters has continued to follow their last directive without any further orders from Starfleet, and have recently learned of a new Dominion battle cruiser. Nog is quickly integrated into Red Squad and the ship's engineering staff with his knowledge of the Defiant warp system, but Jake is seen as an outsider. When Jake attempts to talk to Chief Collins about her personal life, she breaks down emotionally, and Watters orders Jake not to talk to her further.
Watters reveals that they have located the battle cruiser and orders the ship to approach it, raising the crew's morale to levels Jake fears are irrational. Jake believes that Watters is actually on a suicide mission, warning Nog and Collins of the danger. Watters learns of this, and has Jake thrown in the brig. The crew of the Valiant is able to successfully scan the battle cruiser and discover a possible weak point. Watters orders the crew to attack the vessel, but they find they have made a major miscalculation as the vessel remains undamaged. The Valiant is assaulted by the battle cruiser's weapons, critically damaging the ship and killing much of the remaining crew. Nog grabs Collins and frees Jake, and then departs with them on a escape pod before the Valiant explodes. The three are eventually rescued by the Defiant, learning they are the sole survivors and leaving them emotionally scarred from the trauma.