O'Brien, Jake, and Sisko are in one of the station's abandoned ore processing facilities, getting started on a project to turn it into a deuterium refinery. While trying to reformat the computer, Jake comes across a mysterious Cardassian file that doesn't want to be deleted. When O'Brien tries to mess with it, the file triggers an old security program that locks down the room and shows them a prerecorded video of everyone's favorite prefect, Gul Dukat. Turns out the computer thinks the trio are "revolting workers", and without the password, no one — not even the staff in Ops — know how to convince it otherwise.
Dukat's talking head invites them to surrender or be killed. As the clock ticks down, Sisko and the others narrowly manage to find a way out of the room before neurocine gas floods the room. This buys them some time, but they find themselves in yet another dead-end room of the ore processing labyrinth. To make matters worse, the computer notices their escape, and decides it must get even more serious with its security measures, including another grim lecture from Dukat.
Ops is sealed — ostensibly to protect the senior staff, but it also means they are trapped there. Odo, who has been trying to help shut down the program, is also sealed inside his office along with Quark, who had a bad feeling about this whole thing and decided it would be a safe place to hide.
A new strategy for disabling the security program fails when a force field comes on over a circuit box in Ops and nearly takes off Dax's hands. In response, the program again tightens its grip, threatening to kill everyone on the habitat ring with neurocine if the "revolt" is not put down soon. Garak, whose old Cardassian codes give him enough access to move through the force fields, shows up in Ops with fresh ideas on how to defeat the program. His first recommendation is to destroy the life support system, preventing the neurocine gas from being released and giving them a new time limit — 12 hours, then they run out of air.
As it turns out, even this eventuality was considered by the program. As soon as life support is taken offline, Dukat appears yet again to warn them that they have two hours to halt the imaginary revolt before the station self-destructs.
Garak is unfortunately limited to read-only access. He is able to see everything that is going on, but is powerless to make any actual changes to the program, which at this late stage can only be deactivated by Dukat himself. In desparation, they come up with a plan to spoof the computer into thinking Garak is Dukat. Before they can finish their plan, the overly-paranoid program once again takes offense to their tampering, and responds by replicating a phaser turret in Ops itself. One Redshirt is cut down before the rest manage to take cover. And if it looks like it can't get any worse... the real Dukat beams in, even more pompous than his recording.
Eager to capitalize on their distress, Dukat offers to shut down the program in exchange for allowing his troops to establish a garrison aboard the station. Unsurprisingly, Kira finds death a more appealing choice. Dukat decides to return to his ship to allow them time to think things over, but finds the security program has surprises even for him. As soon as Dukat tries to radio his ship, he finds he is unable to, and a new recording plays — this time from his supervisor, who gives him a brutal "The Reason You Suck" Speech for attempting to abandon his post in the middle of a Bajoran rebellion.
Now that he's in the same boat as everyone else, Dukat is much more eager to help, but all security codes, including his (and Garak's) have been voided. Their only option is to try to deactivate the main reactor before it explodes. To that end, they Technobabble a way to overload the force fields on the station so that they can move freely again, but there's not enough time for them to get where they need.
As luck would have it, Sisko, O'Brien, and Jake have managed to find their way out of ore processing by now, so Kira informs them of the plan. Damage from the power surge forces them to go through a conduit that is filled with plasma fires. Sisko makes it through, but O'Brien is hit by an explosion and loses consciousness (but survives thanks to a Heroic Fire Rescue from Jake). With seconds left to go, Sisko manages to redirect the reactor overload into the shields, preventing the station from being destroyed.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Air Vent Escape: Jake uses an old processing shaft to escape the ore refinery.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Dukat offers to deactivate the station's self-destruct in exchange for allowing his soldiers to establish a garrison on the station. When Kira refuses, Dukat reminds her that there are many more lives than her own at stake.
- Artistic License Gun Safety: Kira aims her phaser at the door to Ops — while Bashir is still in the line of fire. Does she really find him that annoying? No surprise that the two redshirts manning the life support station are in such a hurry to get away when Kira takes aim at their console later.
- Butt-Monkey: When Sisko and O'Brien go into the green-fire Jeffries Tube, they agree that if one gets into trouble, the other one keeps going. Guess who doesn't make it through? (Hint: The one who's not Ben Sisko.)
- Canned Orders over Loudspeaker: It says a lot about Dukat that he saw fit to delegate the task of handling riots to a recording of himself. He shows up later because he got a distress call from himself.Sisko: You know, I never knew how much this man's voice annoyed me.
- Crazy-Prepared: Cardassians tend to plan ahead and Gul Dukat's counterinsurgency program was ready for pretty much every possible scenario. The only one it didn't account for was the failure of the self-destruct mechanism, as the program presumably shuts down on its own after the reactor overload fails to destroy the station.
- Not only that, but even Dukat's superior wrote in a scenario in case Dukat was unable to quell the rebellion and tried to escape.
- Deadly Gas: Sisko, Jake, and O'Brien barely escape a room full of it. Kira then shoots the life-support system to stop it from spreading gas all over the station.
- Deadpan Snarker: Garak, par for the course.Kira: Any luck?Garak: Plenty, Major. Unfortunately, all of it bad.
- Didn't See That Coming: Dukat clearly did not expect that his superiors had a few surprises for him.
- Dissonant Serenity: Dukat strolling about the command center talking while everyone else is hiding under any available cover. (Then again, he knows the replicator is programmed to only attack non-Cardassians.)Dukat: (sighs) Let me guess — someone tried to duplicate my access codes, hmm?
- Foreshadowing: Garak stands up in Ops, figuring that the replicator gun doesn't fire at Cardassians. Dukat comments that if he had known Garak at the time he would have made an exception. Two years later in By Inferno's Light Cardassia allies with the Dominion and Garak is the only Cardassian not released from Dominion prison, precisely because Dukat - by then leader of Cardassia's government - ordered them to keep him.
- From Bad to Worse: The entire episode in a nutshell.
- Funny Background Event: Several times, while the main characters are discussing how to get out of the mess they're in, the recording of Dukat continues to prattle on in the background, encouraging the 'rebel Bajorans' to surrender, warning them how dangerous and barren Bajor is compared to the good life they have on Terok Nor, and warning them that other Cardassian officers won't be as lenient as he is...
- Heroic Fire Rescue: Jake pulls O'Brien out of the burning Jeffries Tube.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Dukat visits the station to gloat when he learns they triggered his automated security system, but then finds himself trapped as well when he tries to leave, which the computer interprets as an attempt to abandon his post during a time of crisis.
- Last-Second Word Swap: When Dukat asks Kira, "Would you allow two thousand people aboard this station to die simply because you don't like... us?", he was clearly about to say "me" but changed his mind at the last instant.
- Lockdown: The whole point of the counterinsurgency program.
- Name One: Quark challenges Odo to name a more devious Ferengi than him. Odo responds with Grand Nagus Zek, Daimon Tye, Quark's brother Rom, his uncle Frin, his cousin Gaila...
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Each time the heroes think they've figured out a solution, the security program thinks it has to get even tougher on the "Bajoran workers."
- No OSHA Compliance:
- Kira is able to shut down the entire life-support system...by shooting one console.
- The audience learns that Cardassian forcefields are designed to be lethal (or at least have no safeguards to limit the damage they can do). The reason they aren't on DS9 is because the Federation wisely disabled that "feature" when they took over.
- The appalling working conditions that existed during the occupation are showcased in this episode.O'Brien: I heard stories that the temperature in here reached 55 degrees. note
Jake: How could the Bajoran workers survive that?
O'Brien: A lot of them didn't.
- Noodle Incident: The bad blood between Dukat and Garak is first mentioned, as it involved the former's father.
- Oh, Crap!: The look on Dukat's face when he finds out that his security codes have been voided.
- Earlier, Garak's expression when his attempts to break through Dukat's security codes failed.
- One Password Attempt Ever: Well, actually two for Dukat's security program, but the idea's the same.
- Pet the Dog: Dukat turns off the automated phaser in Ops, which is programmed to only target non-Cardassians, as "the least he can do."
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dukat gets a fairly spectacular one from his former commanding officer. It leaves him, for once, at a complete loss for words"Dukat, if you are seeing this recording, it means you tried to abandon your post while the station's self-destruct sequence was engaged. That will not be permitted. You have lost control of Terok Nor, disgracing yourself and Cardassia. Your attempt to escape is no doubt a final act of cowardice. All fail-safes have been eliminated, your personal access codes have been rescinded. The destruct sequence can no longer be halted. All you can do now is contemplate the depth of your disgrace... and try to die like a Cardassian."
- Redshirt: The poor schmuck who gets vaporized by the replicated Death Ray."Everyone makes it to cover but the redshirt. Ouch. I mean, death by replicated shooty ball thing. What a way to go."
- Self-Destruct Mechanism: Part of the security program, and the last problem for Sisko to deal with.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Dukat vs. Garak. Kira and Bashir repeatedly tell them to shut up.
- Odo and Quark also go a few rounds while trapped in the security office.
- Spot of Tea: Dukat pauses the replicator's automated phaser turret to order a cup of red leaf tea. After he takes his drink, the phaser is reactivated.
- Troll: Dukat is clearly enjoying himself strolling around Ops while everyone else hides from the phaser. He even invites Kira into Sisko's office to talk, seemingly "forgetting" the phaser is there before he stops it.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: All O'Brien wanted to do was set an unfamiliar program aside. He had no idea it would trigger this episode's problems.
- Vengeful Vending Machine: The replicator creates a phaser in Ops and starts shooting people. Now that's vengeful.
- Villainous Crush: Dukat clearly has one on Kira. Garak bluntly points this out, and takes great delight in mocking him.
- Worthy Opponent: Quark expresses this sentiment towards Odo, stating that if there were a slave revolt in progress, it's not surprising that the Cardassians would lock Odo in his office: Odo's sense of justice and morality would ensure he joined the fight on the side of the slaves.
- Odo praises Quark for his deviousness, until it turns out that he was just being nice in what seemed like their last few hours of life.