Quark tries to interest Odo in a holosuite fantasy, but Odo prefers realism. Jake passes through the casino, on his way to play his father’s baseball program.
Dax is amused but unmoved by Bashir’s romantic overtures, and kindly suggests a “high-pitched sonic shower.” She’s on her way to Ops to look at a plot contrivance particle field Kira and Sisko are puzzling over.
O’Brien, who a few episodes ago was stiff and awkward when drafted into his role as “storyteller” to a Bajoran village, sounds like a professional actor as he reads “Rumpelstiltskin” to his little daughter at bedtime.
Soon Rumpelstiltskin has appeared in Molly’s room, a famous baseball player from the past follows Jake home from the holosuite, and Bashir wakes up to find an amorous Dax in his quarters.
Bashir consults his tricorder and reports all these figures are “quite real,” despite apparently deriving from their thoughts. When Odo reports it’s snowing on the promenade deck, Sisko orders a yellow alert. “Against our own imaginations?” Kira asks.
Dax (the real one) reports some technobabble about plot contrivance particles, as things get progressively out of control on the station.
While studying the plot contrivance particles, Dax assures Bashir she’s not upset to learn about his fantasies, though her good nature is tested when her amorous duplicate calls her a “cold fish” who’s denying “all those yearnings you feel.”
O’Brien tries to ignore Rumpelstilktskin, who taunts him for being “terrified” of him.
Sisko knows what’s following him around is not really the long-dead famous baseball player Buck Bokai, but he is nevertheless affected by the figure’s aw-shucks sincerity.
When Rumplestiltskin, Buck, and the copy of Dax get together to trade notes, we learn they are conducting some kind of study, and they seem as puzzled as we are.
O’Brien and Dax report finding a Space Thing that threatens to destroy the whole region, and they have some ideas about what caused it and how the might technobabble it away, but they find no connections to the ongoing imagination-produced hallucinations.
Kira hallucinates a disaster, Odo hallucinates Quark in a jail cell, and Jake hallucinates Sisko disapproving of a “my computer ate my homework” excuse.
In Ops, the plan to technobabble the Space Thing is not going smoothly. The Dax duplicate is injured (and finally gets some attention from Bashir), and Rumpelstilktskin offers to fix everything — for a price: “I’ve always wanted a daughter.”
At the climax, Sisko has an insight that offers an in-world reason for the herky-jerky plot, and enjoys a warm chat with his baseball hero to wrap everything up.
It’s all a bit silly, but as “characters confront their mysteriously manifested fears and fantasies” plots go — and the bar is not high — this one is okay.