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Production no.: 546
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: Michael Vejar
Stardate: 51825.4 
First satellite airdate: May 2, 1998
Aron Eisenberg ......................
Paul Popowich .......................
Courtney Peldon .....................
David Drew Gallagher ............
Ashley Brianne McDonogh .....
Scott Hamm ...........................
Majel Barrett ..........................
Computer Voice

It's a busy day at Quark's, and the drink replicator is acting up, forcing Quark to scramble to keep up with orders; he complains about it to Odo as he works. Then Dax shows up with toolkit in hand, to fix it, since she is covering for Nog while he's away on a trip to Ferenginar. Quark finds himself disturbed by the thought of her dirtying her lovely hands with such things, causing Odo to exclaim, "You're in love." Quark denies it, but Odo points out that he's just gotten the last drink order wrong.

Nog, meanwhile, is in a runabout with Jake, having just picked up a diplomatic case from a starbase. It contains a message for Grand Nagus Zek, which Jake guesses is a proposal for an alliance. Nog suspects that Jake came along as a reporter, which he had promised he wouldn't. Finally Jake admits that he had told his editor at the Federation News Service that he could get an interview with the Nagus.

Then the runabout's sensors are jammed, and four Jem'Hadar fighters sweep by, apparently headed for the starbase. One of them swings back and begins attacking the runabout, which is when Jake and Nog learn that the com system is being jammed too. They flee deeper into Dominion-held space until Nog finally decides to stand and fight, since they can't lose their pursuer. Suddenly sensors pick up another ship arriving. "It's the Defiant!" Jake says in surprise. But it's not: it's a Defiant-class ship, the Valiant, which roars up and attacks the Jem'Hadar ship. A phaser hit takes out the runabout's power; Jake and Nog find themselves being beamed away.

They are met in the transporter room by a young Starfleet cadet, Acting Chief Petty Officer Dorian Collins. She escorts them to the bridge, which is crewed by other cadets, including Captain Tim Watters, Commander Karen Farris, and Lt. Riley Shepard. The Valiant is still in the midst of battle; Nog realizes that the cadets are from Red Squad, an elite group of cadets who receive special training. Finally the Jem'Hadar ship is destroyed.

Watters turns his attention to Jake and Nog, explaining that he was given a battlefield commission and command of this ship by Captain Ramirez, and in turn he has commissioned and promoted other cadets as needed. When Nog introduces himself and Jake, Watters recognizes the name Sisko. He has Dorian take Jake to have an arm wound treated. Farris comes up to Watters with a damage control report, and Nog makes a suggestion which neither of the others had thought of.

Dorian tells Jake that this was meant to be a training cruise for Red Squad, in which they would circumnavigate the entire Federation. Watters gives Nog the same backstory: they were crossing the Kepla sector when the war broke out, and the Valiant was caught behind enemy lines. They were attacked, and their supervising officers were killed or wounded, including Captain Ramirez, who was able to direct damage control so that the Valiant managed to destroy the other ship. He turned command over to Watters, and then died. Now they've been in enemy space for eight months. Since they're seriously undermanned, Watters makes Nog chief engineer on the spot, promoting him to lieutenant commander. The first job is to figure out why the ship can't go faster than warp 3.2.

Nog isn't sure he's ready for this. "None of us were ready for the responsibility thrust upon us, Commander," Watters says. "But each of us found a way to rise to the occasion and do the job that had to be done. Ready or not, you are chief engineer. You can do this, Mister Nog. Just have faith in yourself and faith in your shipmates, and everything'll be fine." He gives Nog a Red Squad insignia pin. Nog is surprised to learn that the Valiant has a mission, to collect technical data on a new Dominion battleship operating in this sector, but they haven't been able to get close enough. The orders were addressed to Captain Ramirez, and now Watters considers them his. "Make no mistake, I will carry out that mission, or die trying."

Jake has a talk with Dorian in the mess hall, where the cadet tells him she is from Earth's moon, and describes the beauty of dawn there, until she chokes up and excuses herself. She is in sickbay when Watters comes in for some pills; he notices she has been crying. Dorian admits she was thinking about home. Watters is not pleased. Soon afterwards, Jake is called into Watters' ready room, where Farris gives him a dressing-down about how they can't afford to have cadets in "emotional turmoil" when they have work to do. She warns him to stay away from Chief Collins from now on.

Watters speaks more calmly, telling Jake that as a reporter, his job is to watch events unfold, not participate in them. He goes on to say that this may be one of the greatest stories of the war. "This ship is special, Jake. This crew is special. Whatever fates guide this universe, they've chosen us to achieve some purpose in this conflict. I know that. Just as surely as I know your presence on this ship is no coincidence. You're here to write the story, to tell people of the Valiant and her crew. Don't interfere with the story, Jake. Don't become a part of it. Just let it unfold around you. Observe. Listen. And then write it down." He asks for Jake's word that he will stay away from Dorian; Jake finally agrees.

After he leaves, Farris expresses doubts that they can trust him. She asks Watters if he's all right; she's heard he was on the bridge during midwatch again last night. Watters says he's fine. Farris finally leaves, and he pops a pill.

Nog uses the same solution for the ship's warp problem that O'Brien used on the Defiant, and the Valiant goes to warp four. When Jake runs into Nog in the corridor, he sees his friend's Red Squad insignia; Nog proudly tells him of his new status. Jake is a bit dubious, thinking it's all somewhat precipitous.

Then Farris announces a red alert, and they head to the bridge. The Valiant has found the Dominion battleship. Undetected, the Valiant launches a class three probe to scan it. The data gained gives them what Watters calls in his log "a golden opportunity to strike a blow for the Federation."

The crew assembles in the mess hall to be addressed by their young captain, who tells them that their mission is accomplished and they're free to go home. However, he believes that they can destroy the battleship. They have found a flaw in the design of its antimatter storage system: the support braces are made of viterium, which becomes unstable when exposed to delta radiation. A torpedo rigged with a radiogenic warhead could tear it apart.

Nog reluctantly says that to rig the torpedo, he'll have to remove most of the guidance systems, so they will have to target it manually. They also will need to get within 300 meters of the target. But Watters calms the crew's fears with a stirring speech. Jake speaks up: even his father, who is considered one of the best combat officers in the fleet, wouldn't try to pull off something like this. "We're Red Squad," declares Watters. "And we can do anything!" The crew begins chanting "Red Squad" over and over in a frenzy of bravado.

Jake argues with Nog as he works on the torpedo warhead, while Watters watches and listens on his ready-room monitor. Nog maintains that Watters knows what he's doing, but Jake has heard from Dorian (even though he's supposed to stay away from her) that their captain has been on cordafin stimulants for two months. Watters calls Shepard to his ready room.

"I feel like I'm having a conversation with one of the bulkheads," Jake exclaims in frustration. "You don't understand because you've never put on one of these uniforms," Nog retorts. "You don't know anything about sacrifice, or honor, or duty, or any of the things that make up a soldier's life. I'm part of something larger than myself. All you care about is you." "That's right!" Jake shoots back. "All I care about is Jake Sisko and whether or not he's going to be killed by a bunch of delusional fanatics looking for martyrdom!" Nog tells him to get out; Jake says, "I don't even know who you are anymore."

"I'm the chief engineer of the starship Valiant," Nog declares. "I'll have them put that on your tombstone," Jake says darkly, and exits. In the corridor, he is accosted by Shepard and another cadet. Shepard tells him, "I'm afraid you'll have to miss all the fun. You're going to spend the rest of this mission in the brig."

The Valiant prepares for battle, and Watters once more addresses the crew in another inspirational speech full of pride-and-honor soldierly sentiment. "You're Starfleet. You're Red Squad. And you're the best. Now, let's get that battleship, and we can all go home. Captain out." Jake, in the brig, is the only one who doesn't buy into it.

The Dominion ship spots the Valiant, and both ships drop out of warp to do battle. Finally, the Valiant launches its rigged torpedo, which explodes, enveloping the battleship. But then it emerges unscathed. They've failed. Watters orders a new course, but it's too late. The other ship fires repeatedly, blasting the Valiant slowly to bits. Watters is killed, and Farris and Shepard soon follow.

Nog and Dorian are the only ones left standing on the devastated bridge. Dorian, who has sustained a head wound, asks if she should return fire. "No," decides Nog. "It's over." Dorian protests. "The captain wanted us to -- " "The captain is dead, chief," Nog tells her. "They're all dead. The ship is lost. There's no need for us to die here too." He drags her from the bridge, setting the computer to announce "abandon ship". Jake is trapped in the brig; Nog comes and gets him, and they scramble for an escape pod. Four pods are launched, but three are destroyed, two by the Dominion ship, one caught in the explosion when the Valiant is blown apart.

The Defiant, with Sisko, Kira, and Worf aboard, picks up a Starfleet distress signal, from the lone surviving pod of the Valiant, which was reported lost eight months ago. The signal is coming from Dominion space; Worf thinks it may be a trap, but Sisko decides they need to find out if it's genuine. They head for the signal.

In due course, Jake, Nog, and Dorian are rescued; the Defiant doesn't find any signs of other survivors. Dorian is sleeping in sickbay, her skull fracture repaired by Bashir, when Jake talks to Nog, who has removed his Red Squad insignia and is toying with it. He's okay, he tells Jake, and asks if Jake will write a story about all this. Jake says probably, then asks what Nog thinks he should say.

"That it was a good ship, with a good crew, that made a mistake," Nog tells him. "We let ourselves blindly follow Captain Watters, and he led us over a cliff." "That's not true," says Dorian, who has awakened. "Captain Watters was a great man." Jake points out that he got everyone killed, but she won't hear of it. "If he failed, it's because we failed him." "Put that in your story too," Nog says. "Let people read it and decide for themselves."

He goes over to Dorian, taking her hand. "He may have been a hero. He may even have been a great man. But in the end, he was a bad captain." Dorian looks at what Nog has put into her hand. It's his Red Squad insignia. She turns away, tears filling her eyes.

  • Valiant was the original name of the Defiant.
  • The first draft featured Kira and Jake.