After a friend's ship is destroyed and Sisko considers leaving Starfleet, he begins having visions of his crew as 1950s Americans. Bashir's examination reveals unusual synaptic patterns, but before Sisko can discuss treatment, he finds himself in 1953 New York City as Benny Russell, a writer for a science-fiction magazine. Fellow staffers resemble O'Brien, Kira, Bashir, Dax, and Quark in human form, and their editor, Pabst, looks like a human Odo. Writing assignments are given as illustrations, and each writer creates a story to fit their drawing. Benny's illustration is a crude version of Deep Space Nine.
Benny writes of Captain Benjamin Sisko and his space station, Deep Space Nine. He shows the story to his girlfriend, Cassie (Kasidy Yates) and to the others at work. While everyone is impressed, Pabst refuses to publish it, telling Sisko that his readers will not accept a Negro man as the head of a space station.
That night, Benny encounters a preacher (Joseph Sisko) who urges him to "write the words." He pens another story starring Ben Sisko, forgetting all about his date with Cassie. Later, she arrives at Benny's apartment and coaxes him to dance with her. Suddenly, he is Sisko again, dancing with Kasidy on the station. Back as Benny, he tells Cassie he fears he is becoming Captain Sisko.
Benny returns to work determined to see his stories published. Albert (O'Brien) suggests making the first story a dream, and Pabst agrees that a young Negro man's vision of a better future is acceptable. That night, Benny's celebration with Cassie turns ugly. First, the preacher warns him of trouble ahead. Then, after two malicious police officers (Dukat and Weyoun) kill a Negro teenager (Jake Sisko), they turn on Benny and beat him mercilessly.
Weeks later, the day Benny's story is to be published, Pabst breaks the news that the magazine's owner refused to distribute the issue — and that Benny has been fired. Devastated and at the breaking point, Benny tearfully declares that Ben Sisko and his future are real and cannot be destroyed. He is taken away in an ambulance, where he finds the preacher comforting him, then he wakes up on Deep Space Nine as Sisko again. Told he was unconscious only a few minutes, his brain readings have now returned to normal. Encouraged by his dream and its message, Sisko decides to stay with Starfleet and Deep Space Nine.