Nog and Jake are on a trip to Ferenginar to deliver an official diplomatic message from the Federation Council to the Grand Nagus. Even if the ensign won't say anything about its content, his reporter friend suspects it's about something big, maybe even an alliance. Their discussion is cut short when they encounter a wing of four Jem'Hadar fighters. Even if they weren't the original objective, one fighter breaks the formation and attacks the Shenandoah. They are miraculously saved by a ship they first believe to be the Defiant, but which turns out to be the USS Valiant.
After the Defiant-ship destroys the enemy fighter, the two friends are taken to the bridge to see the captain and are informed of the Valiant's unique situation. The Valiant's original purpose was to take seven officers and 35 cadets on a three month training mission to circumnavigate the Federation. However, they were behind enemy lines when the war with the Dominion broke out, eight months ago. In a battle with a Cardassian warship, in which all the senior officers were killed or mortally wounded, Captain Ramirez promoted cadet Tim Watters to the rank of captain and gave him command of the Valiant. Along with the command of the Valiant came its orders to collect technical data on a new Dominion battleship. Since they were ordered to maintain radio silence, the ship had been cut from the rest of Starfleet since the outbreak of the war. Undaunted, the young captain is determined to carry on the Valiant's mission, and is more than happy to welcome a competent engineer aboard his undermanned ship.
With Nog's help, the Valiant is soon able to go to warp 4 and continue on with the mission. Between an over-zealous crew and an almost inhuman dynamic, the mission finally comes to a successful end. However, since their scans seems to indicate a major flaw in the design of the Jem'Hadar cruiser, Captain Watters proposes to destroy the battlecruiser and return home as heroes. Jake Sisko attempts to appeal to the common sense of the crew and convince them to leave the area with the new information; however, the reward outweighs the risk and Red Squad gladly follows its leader.
In the ensuing battle, the Valiant suffers heavy damages but they are able to launch two modified torpedoes at the battlecruiser's perceived weak spot, the primary support braces for the battleship's antimatter storage system. Karen Farris, acting first officer, manually guides two modified torpedoes that were designed to destroy the support braces, and is successful in hitting the target. The weapons prove to be ineffective because, despite a huge explosion which seems to signal the deathknell of the battle ship, the torpedoes fail to destroy their objective. The members of the young crew are shaken, and soon find themselves hopelessly outmatched. The battle's conclusion is fatal to the Valiant, and the surviving crew must head to the escape pods.
Only three survivors are rescued by the Defiant: Nog, Jake and Chief Dorian Collins. Jake is asked by Nog if he plans to write about the incident; Jake responds in the affirmative, and Nog asks that his friend write the Valiant had a good crew, but they followed Captain Watters blindly. Dorian's opinion is that it was the crew that ultimately failed the captain. Nog asks that Jake include both versions of the events so that people will be able to decide for themselves.