Writing a profile on Dr. Bashir, Jake Sisko is traveling with him in a runabout when they get a distress call from a Federation colony under attack by Klingons. Sure that watching a doctor treating battle casualties will make for an interesting story, Jake convinces Bashir that they must go, despite concern over taking the 18-year-old Sisko to a battleground. Once they arrive, Jake is stunned by the sight of scores of wounded and dying people. But before Jake can process what he has seen, he and Bashir are asked to lend a hand to the overburdened medical team.
Jake is put to work moving patients, and winds up exhausted and bloodied. Unfortunately, the team won't have much time for rest — the Klingons are supposedly regrouping and preparing to attack again. Jake hears that the Klingons will probably capture the settlement in two days, and he can barely hide his concern. Suddenly, the power goes out — the Klingons have disabled the reactor. With life-support knocked off-line, the patients are in grave danger. Bashir remembers the portable generator on the runabout, and he and Jake set off to get it, but when explosions rip into the ground around them, Jake panics and runs away.
Fleeing aimlessly, Jake is mistaken for a Klingon by a dying soldier, who knocks him down with his rifle butt. Jake wants to get help for the man, thinking this will somehow change what he has done. Sadly, the soldier is too far gone, and Jake can only stay with him until he dies. Then he runs again.
Sisko heads toward the imperiled settlement in the Defiant, but is days away from reaching the planet. Meanwhile, Jake returns to the cavern where the medical team is based, and, since no one saw him run away, pretends he was knocked out by the explosions. Bashir is angry at himself for putting Jake in danger, which only makes Jake feel worse. Talk of the imminent Klingon invasion only adds to it — and Jake angrily snaps at the gallows humor employed by the rest of the group as they await their fate. Bashir calls him outside to talk, but Jake is too ashamed of himself to admit to Bashir the truth about what happened, and refuses to talk at all.
While Jake is sleeping, the Klingon force finally attacks. The medical team prepares to evacuate everyone through a long tunnel. The petrified Jake hides alone as explosions rock the compound. A guard defending the tunnel entry is shot and killed — and two Klingons begin to fire at Jake. In a panic, he grabs a weapon and starts firing wildly in the direction of the Klingons, closing the entrance of the cave in an avalanche of debris, some of which collapses on him. Later, Jake awakens to see Sisko and Bashir, who tell him that his actions stopped the Klingons and saved the patients. Jake, however, refuses to let himself off the hook. Instead of writing the article about Bashir, he writes about his own behavior during the heat of battle, admitting that the line between courage and cowardice is thinner than he thought.