Elah Bandick flees the battle against the Volge and runs off into the woods. Twenty-four hours later, he is still running when a group of his fellow Castithans captures him and drag him away.
The next day, Irisa investigates when she hears the Castithans chanting. She discovers that they have strung Bandick up in a public square. The speaker, Shigustak Karr, announces that Datak has accused Bandick of cowardice and asks their prisoner if he denies the charge. Bandick says that his actions for speak him and admits that he's guilty. As Nolan and Irisa approach the square, Bandick's family start by putting rocks in basket, which leads to a mechanism that stretched him on a rack. As he screams, Nolan orders them to stop the ceremony. Datak steps out and tells the new Lawkeeper that Bandick is a deserter and has disgraced his entire community in the eyes of their god. Bandick speaks up, telling Nolan to let him undergo the cleansing ritual without interference.
When the Castithan speaker tries to intervene, Nolan draws his gun and orders them to stay back. Before the situation can escalate, Amanda arrives and Datak asks if she's willing to violate the understanding that he and his people had with her predecessor. Amanda considers and then tells him to take the ceremony into the Hollows, and then tells Nolan to come with her. Tommy and Irisa watch from the crowd and he asks why she's so upset. When Irisa says that she's seen worse, Tommy notices that she has shackle marks on her wrist.
Once they're alone, Amanda tells Nolan explains that they had an incident when Nicky tried to enforce a vaccine policy on the Irathients and failed. Since then, they have an unofficial understanding to let all races follow their own cultural beliefs without interference. Nolan doesn't like it and asks if she does, and Amanda says that it's necessary to keep the peace, but she'll do what she can. When he goes back to the ceremony, Irisa realizes that he won't stop it. Nolan says that he doesn't see the point in trying to save a man who doesn't want to be saved, and says that they need to trust Amanda to do something.
At the town infirmary, Mr. Birch tasers a deputy on guard unconscious and then gives the unconscious Ben Daris an injection. The Indogene jerks awake and Birch tells him what has happened. Ben is surprised that the townspeople defeated the Volge and Birch tells him that they will go with their secondary plan involving the mines. He reminds Ben that the Indogene's family is hostage to his good behavior, and Ben wonders if the plan will destroy the very thing they're trying to save. Birch tells him that he has faith and that Ben has no choice, and they both leave.
Christie returns home and Rafe asks if she's back for good. She apologizes for avoiding Luke's burial and says that they have to set the small things aside. However, her father is still furious that she plans to marry Alak. He points out that Luke wouldn't have wanted it, but Christie says that she's in love with the Castithan. When Rafe warns her that if she leaves then there's no coming back for her, Christie walks out. Quentin, trying to play peacekeeper, reminds his father that Christie was the one who has only held the family together. He also wonders why Luke was meeting with Ben and warns his father that there's some things that they still don't know.
Rafe goes up to Luke's room and looks around at the remains of his son's life. He gets a call on his hailer and, once he takes the message, goes down and tells Quentin that there was an explosion at the mine.
Nolan and Amanda soon receive word about Ben's escape and check out the infirmary. Yewll has confirmed that the intruder used a dangerous combat stimulant to wake the Indogene up. Tommy arrives with word about the mine explosion and they go to the site. Rafe informs them that Ben stole 20 pounds of gulanite explosive and used two pounds of it to seal the mine behind him. The shaft leads down to Old St. Louis, which was created when a wave of terraformed earth swept over much of the city and instantly hardened. They realize that Ben is up to something with the remaining explosive and Nolan figures that they have to get down there as quickly as possible. When Rafe warns him that it will take four hours to clear the shaft, Nolan asks him for an alternate route and Rafe points out a rat's nest of tunnels. The miner offers to go in but Amanda worries that he'll shoot Ben for killing Luke. Nolan volunteers to go with him and assures Rafe that he handled plenty of tunnels when he was in the Marines.
As Rafe and Nolan prepare to leave, Irisa tells Nolan that he shouldn't be risking his life for the townspeople. He tells her that some of the townspeople are worth the risk and tells her to work with Tommy and find out who released Ben. Nolan also tells her to stay away from Bandick.
Datak and Stahma are at home taking a bath and discussing the Bandick situation. She points out that the humans find their cultures offensive and that they need the humans on their side if they plan to take over the McCawley mines. When Stahma reminds Datak that he was from the lower caste until he arrived on Earth, he angrily says that he's on top now and plans to stay that way. Alak comes in and complains that Rafe is trying to stop his marriage to Christie. Stahma hugs him and promises that she'll take care of everything.
Rafe, Nolan, Quentin, and two miners enter the Rat's Nest and get a fix on Ben's cyberware. They head down and finally come to Old St. Louis, buried deep beneath the earth.
Nicky returns to her old office to pick up her things and notices that Amanda is distracted by Bandick's screams. Amanda complains about how she's forced to follow the unofficial rules and Nicky warns her that the Castithans are obsessed with their traditions because they can't remember the reason for them. When she suggests that Amanda stick by the agreement, Amanda insists that the people of Defiance have grown closer since they defeated the Volge and that they can handle it. Nicky leaves with her things and goes out to her car, where Birch is waiting. He tells her that he has sent Ben on his way and says that they need to get out of town in the next two hours. Nicky tells her assistant that there are a few people that she needs to say goodbye to before they go, and explains that no matter what they have to do, she takes no pleasure in it.
When the older Rafe starts to show some fatigue, Nolan suggests that they stop for a break. As the two men catch their breath, they talk about how they both grew up in St. Louis before Arkfall, and Nolan realizes that Rafe's father ran a dog food company. As he sings the commercial jingle, Rafe explains that he had hoped to be a photographer but got too depressed with the terraformed landscapes. Nolan reminds him that they're to bring Ben back alive so they can question him about his employers, but Rafe warns that he can't predict the future.
Irisa goes back to the cleansing ceremonies and sees a child putting a rock on the counter-balance. She grabs his arm and says that the ceremony is no place for him, and then climbs up and cuts Bandick free. Shigustak and his people start to stone her, but Tommy arrives and fires a warning shot. He tells them to turn Bandick over to him and when Shigustak asks why, Tommy tells the crowd that Bandick is under arrest for loitering.
Nolan's party continue following Ben's signal and come to a nuclear plant. Rafe explains that it was built during the war, since the last time Nolan was there. As they watch, the power at the plant comes up and Rafe warns that if Ben sets off his remaining explosives, the radiation will spread to the surface and kill the townspeople.
At the diner, Stahma sits down for tea and talks with Christie, who works there as a waitress. They talk and Stahma says that it is their duty to honor those who have passed, including Luke. The Castithan talks about how Christie should fight Rafe to follow her heart, and talks about how she was betrothed to a rich and powerful man by her parents. However, Stahma met Datak and while he came from the lower caste, he had managed to buy passage to Earth. Her betrothed challenged Datak to a duel when he learned of their illicit relationship, but the Castithan was "accidentally" flushed out of an airlock. When Christie points out that kind of accident is unlikely to occur, Stahma tells her that she chose the man she knew would do anything to protect her, even if her parents didn't. Christie wonders if Stahma is telling her the truth but Stahma simply says that it will be a beautiful wedding
The posse enters the plan and Ben opens fire on them. They manage to wound Ben in the crossfire, and Nolan gets to the Indocene's position before he can set off the bomb. Once he deactivates it, Rafe prepares to kill Ben. However, Nolan stops him, pointing out that Ben knows who wants to destroy Defiance. The miner prepares to shoot their prisoner anyway, and Nolan asks what he's going to choose: revenge for his son, or the chance to save his surviving children. After a moment, Rafe starts to lower his gun. However, Ben throws himself at his victim's father and Rafe instinctively pulls the trigger. As he dies, Ben tells them to tell Amanda that he's sorry for what he did to her.
At the Lawkeeper station, Tommy and Irisa wait for Amanda to meet them. Irisa realizes that Datak and his people will come for Bandick and complains that Tommy was stupid to back her up. The Castithans storm in with a Bio-man bodyguard and Datak tells them to hand Bandick over.
As the posse drives back into town, Nolan sees Amanda go into the Lawkeeper station. She tells Datak that the deputies were acting on her orders and took Bandick into custody because she pardoned them. Datak is ready to press the matter anyway but Rafe and Nolan come in behind him. Amanda asks Datak if they're gong to work their differences out peacefully, and he takes Amanda's hand and kisses it. The Castithan claims that Amanda's compassion has touched him and that they'll discuss the situation later after they bury those who died in the Volge attack. As he leaves, Datak tells Rafe that he'll see him at their children's' wedding. Rafe figures that things might be better if they had resolved the situation immediately, because Datak will simply wait.
Nolan passes on Ben's apology to Amanda but warns her that the situation isn't settled. Once the mayor leaves, Irisa simply says that she doesn't like chains. Nolan tells her that she did the right thing and Irisa reluctantly concedes that Amanda did what she promised. When she asks if they're gong to Antarctica, Nolan says that he doesn't know if it's real. However, he's sure that Defiance is real.
Later, the townspeople go into the forest to commemorate the deaths of the 41 who fell defending the city. Afterward, Rafe goes back to his house and searches through Luke's belongings. He finally locates a hidden compartment in a drawer. It contains scrip, a map of Old St. Louis, and an alien artifact made from gold.
Bandick is at home with his family. As night falls, Datak comes to get him. Bandick thanks him for giving him some final time with his family and then walks out, while Datak draws his dagger.
At the station, Irisa is looking at her battered postcard for Antarctica. She and Nolan hear a woman's scream and run out to find Bandick's corpse on the street, his throat cut.