On the asteroid, Sisko, Kira and Bashir speak to the Maquis and their representative Cal Hudson. Hudson tries to convince Sisko that out here, on the frontier so close to Cardassian territory, the colonists in the demilitarized zone cannot rely on the Federation to protect them, and this is the only way to defend themselves. Sisko is unmoved, and the group stuns them and leaves.
Sisko returns to Deep Space Nine to find Starfleet Admiral Necheyev waiting to speak to him. She orders Sisko to shut down the Maquis to preserve the treaty, and Sisko agrees. Alone with Kira, however, he's conflicted and expresses sympathy for their position. Odo calls Sisko down to security, where Quark admits helping Sakonna secure weapons. He warns them that she seemed on a tight schedule. Whatever she was planning, it's going to happen soon.
The Cardassian Legate Parn arrives and informs Sisko that Gul Dukat and some accomplices were behind the weapons smuggling to the Cardassian colonies in the demilitarized zone. Dukat's allies have been arrested, and as far as Cardassian Central Command is concerned, Dukat is already dead, likely to be executed by the Maquis. By the time Parn leaves, Sisko hasn't believed a word he said.
O'Brien tracks the ship that kidnapped Dukat and the Class-M planets it passed. Sisko investigates them with Odo and Bashir and finds the captured Dukat with the Maquis. They rescue Dukat and bring him back to Deep Space Nine, where Sisko informs him of what Parn told him, making it clear that the Central Command has designated Dukat their scapegoat for the Maquis. Dukat offers his aid in stopping the weapon smuggling if Sisko helps stop the Maquis; Sisko agrees. At a staff meeting, Dukat says that the weapons the Cardassian settlers are getting may be smuggled in using the Xepolites, as Cardassia has done smuggling deals with them before. Sisko, Dukat, Kira and O'Brien find a Xepolite transport, and Dukat browbeats them into letting them search the ship to confirm they are the weapon smugglers.
The crew learns that there is a hidden weapons depot in a Cardassian civilian center, and the Maquis are planning to attack it within the next fifty-two hours. An attack like this would demand response from Cardassia, and it would quickly spiral into a full war again. Sisko goes to Volan III to try and negotiate with the council and whomever among them may be the Maquis, but the arrival of Hudson makes it clear the entire council is with them. The two again try to sway the other but fail, and Sisko warns that if the Maquis attack the Cardassians, he will be there to stop them.
Sure enough, the Maquis arrive, and a fleet of three runabouts confront them manned by station officers and Dukat. One ship on each side is disabled. One of the remaining runabouts heads off to rescue their comrade, leaving Sisko and Hudson to dogfight mano-e-mano. Sisko's runabout loses warp and impulse engines, while Hudson loses weapons, so he elects to retreat. Sisko threatens to blow him apart if he doesn't surrender, but Hudson refuses and begins to leave. Though Dukat urges Sisko to follow through and fire, Sisko can't bring himself to kill his old friend.
Back on Deep Space Nine, Sisko is congratulated by Starfleet for preventing a war, but he wonders to Kira if he just postponed one.
- Badass Boast: Dukat gets a simple but effective one that cows the Xepolite into surrendering.Xepolite: I don't understand. You're a Cardassian!Dukat: I'm not just any Cardassian. I am Gul Dukat, Commander of the Second Order. You have fifteen seconds to lower your shields or we'll destroy your ship.
- Bittersweet Ending: The Maquis' plans are stopped for now, the Cardassian weapons smuggling into the demilitarized zone is exposed and stopped, and no one on any side lost their lives. But Sisko loses an old friend who sides with the Maquis, it's quite apparent diplomacy is not an option to them, and it's assured the Federation and the Cardassians haven't heard the last of them.
- Blatant Lies: Legate Parn states the weapon smuggling was entirely the doing of Gul Dukat and his allies. Sisko and Kira don't buy a word of it.
- Break the Haughty: Downplayed. Dukat brags about the superiority of the Cardassian justice system and was sure that his superiors wanted Sisko to rescue him. Sisko coldly tells Dukat that his superiors set him up to take the fall for the weapons smuggling and they would have executed him if they took him back. Dukat is visibly shaken, but regains his composure quickly.
- Combat Pragmatist: To disable a Xepolite ship with its shields up, Dukat advises using phasers to pierce the shields and destroy their bridge, then use the tractor beam to tow the wreckage back to the station. It would work effectively, as well as kill everyone onboard.
- Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: Dukat demonstrates Cardassian preference for these once again. He mocks the Maquis' attempts to mind meld with him, as Cardassian methods to obtain information from captive is more direct and successful. He also offers to "interrogate" Sakonna.
- During his meeting with Nechayev, the Admiral expresses her distrust of Odo and wonders if Sisko would be better off with a Starfleet Security Officer heading up Station security. Sisko vouches for the Constable and voices his support, but this is a battle Sisko will ultimately lose a few episodes later in "The Search, Part 1".
- Dukat tells Sisko that there are many in the Central Command who feel he should've killed the entire Bajoran population when they withdrew from Bajor. "Waltz" will later reveal Dukat felt the same way deep down; he just didn't want to admit it. That realization will inform his actions over the remainder of the show's run.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: Sisko tries to peacefully talk his way aboard the Xepolite ship, and when it doesn't work, Dukat steps in with a more threatening offer that they accept.
- Hard Truth Aesop: Sometimes diplomacy just doesn't work, and your enemy won't listen to reason. Force may be necessary to diffuse the situation.
- Head-in-the-Sand Management: This is the approach that Admiral Nechayev (and presumably Starfleet Command in general) initially takes towards the Maquis, dismissing them as being nothing more than a small group of malcontents, and claiming that Sisko should be able to talk them down quite easily. Note that this comes right after they blew up a Cardassian freighter, destroyed two of their fighter craft, and abducted Gul Dukat — which in turn was a response to the Cardassians arming their own colonies and brutalizing human colonists with little-to-no provocation.
- Hope Spot: One for Sisko after he and his crew acquire the evidence proving the Central Command is smuggling weapons into the DMZ. He hopes that this will be enough leverage to convince the Maquis to call off their attack on the secret weapons depot and stand down. Sisko also hopes this will get Cal Hudson to come back to his senses (especially as Sisko has intentionally kept his defection a secret from Starfleet Command in the hopes of saving his friend's career). Unfortunately, the Maquis have no interest or desire for any diplomatic solutions, nor does Hudson have any loyalty left to Starfleet.
- How the Mighty Have Fallen: This episode reveals that while Dukat remains a high-ranking officer in the Cardassian military, he's fallen out of favor with the Central Command over the withdrawal from Bajor (which they blame him for).
- I Have My Ways: After Quark persuades Sakonna to come clean, Sisko and Dukat learn the Maquis plan to attack a weapons depot hidden in a Cardassian civilian population center. The problem is, Sakonna knows the when, but not the where. Ironically, Sisko could pass the intel on to Central Command, who would know the depot's location...except then they'd shut Starfleet out, go in guns blazing, and make things worse. Luckily, while Dukat's fallen out of favor with Central Command, he still knows people who are in favor and who owe him one. Dukat's connections pan out and they get the depot's location in time.
- Immune to Mind Control: Gul Dukat no sells an attempt by a Vulcan to mind-meld with him to mine information about Cardassian defenses, which he puts down to Cardassian mental discipline.
- It's What I Would Do: A variation when Dukat joins forces with Team Sisko. Dukat's able to use his knowledge of the Cardassian military and their past methods for arms shipments (operations he also likely participated in) to correctly guess how and where the Central Command's smuggling weapons into the DMZ.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Dukat argues with Sisko that playing nice with the Xepolite ship isn't going to work. He's proven right. Sisko's diplomacy doesn't work, but Dukat's threat of force does.
- Kangaroo Court: Gul Dukat tells Sisko that the outcome of a trial is predetermined. He's ok with it, until Sisko tells him that if the Maquis hadn't killed him, Dukat would have received a trial on Cardassia.
- Locked Out of the Loop:
- Dukat, having fallen out of favor with the Central Command due to the withdrawal from Bajor, is not brought into the DMZ weapons smuggling conspiracy. This backfires on Central Command, as it motivates Dukat to work with Sisko and company to expose the conspiracy (both to preserve the Treaty and out of vindictive spite).
- Sisko pulls this on Nechayev and Starfleet Command by not reporting Hudson's defection initially. He's understandably hoping Hudson will come to his senses and won't have to help destroy his career and their longtime friendship. Those hopes as dashed by the end of the penultimate Act.
- The Main Characters Do Everything: The trio of ships sent to stop the Maquis is crewed entirely by main cast members. (In fact, there aren't enough main cast Starfleet characters to meet the demand, with Kira and Dukat rounding out the crews.) Possibly justified given the secretive nature of the mission, but still glaring that an engineer and a doctor are trusted above, say, a few security personnel.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Dukat after the Central Command not only abandons him to the Maquis, but also frames him for smuggling weapons into the DMZ. Once Sisko and the crew rescue him, Dukat wastes no time in helping them undo the Central Command's gunrunning plans.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Legate Parn throwing Dukat under the bus. While neither Sisko or Kira believe him, Sisko does point out that Parn's unwittingly vindicated Hudson's claims that Central Command is smuggling weapons into the DMZ. More, making Dukat a scapegoat causes the Gul to work with Sisko to expose the gunrunning (both to preserve the Treaty and for revenge).
- Not Me This Time: As turns out, Dukat was telling the truth in Part I when he denied that he and the Central Command were smuggling weapons into the DMZ. The Central Command is smuggling weapons... but Dukat didn't know (as he was being kept out of the loop) and is thus innocent for once in the series.
- Proxy War: The Cardassians are revealed to be secretly supplying their colonists with weapons and encouraging them to attack Federation colonies in order to make an end run around the peace treaty with the Federation. When Sisko discovers this, he tries to use it to convince Hudson to come back onside and fix the problem through channels, but fails.
- Riddle for the Ages: Whether Sakonna truly didn't know Hudson's specific target, or if she was holding back even after Quark convinced her to turn state's evidence.
- Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Dukat repeatedly mocks Sisko's attempts to use diplomacy and advises that force would be faster and more effective. Hudson gets a jab of the same kind in as well.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Dukat having fallen out of favor with the Central Command since "Emissary". The withdrawal from Bajor was a political decision rather than a military one and partially prompted by the Bajoran Resistance's campaign. Dukat was Prefect and it was his responsibility to stabilize Bajor and bring its people under heel. So the upper echelons of the Cardassian military naturally blame him for the withdrawal (and learning that Dukat had been sitting on top of a stable Wormhole the entire time and hadn't known almost certainly didn't help his case either). Thus, Dukat is intentionally kept out of the loop on high-ranking policies like the DMZ weapons smuggling operation and Central Command's more than happy to throw him under the bus when they need a scapegoat.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- Dukat gives one to his Maquis captors, telling them that they don't have the stomach to do what must be done.
- Quark gives one to Sakonna, pointing out that with both sides being equally armed it's more advantageous (and logical) in the long run to work towards peace.
- Dukat gives Sisko one for not killing Hudson. Not that Sisko cares.
- That Man Is Dead: Sisko offers Hudson one last chance to rejoin Starfleet, bringing him his uniform. Hudson chooses to vaporize it with his phaser instead.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Dukat chides Sisko and Bashir for not immediately shooting his captors when they storm where he's being held, so he attacks one of them to instigate the shoot-out himself. Dukat does it again in the climax, growing increasingly irate as he realizes Sisko is going to let Hudson escape.
- You Would Do the Same for Me: Sisko says this when Dukat thanks him for the rescue. It's unclear to what degree either of them believes that.