In 2385, Jean-Luc Picard visits a Romulan Relocation Hub, on Vashti. The settlement is lively, and the Romulans seem to be getting accustomed to their new lives as they go about their daily routines. When Picard beams down, many Romulans are excited to see him, and rush over to him for any updates on the evacuation of Romulan worlds from the impending supernova. Picard is quick to assure them that the Federation will not abandon them, and will help them settle in their new life.
A young boy sees Picard, hurries to the Qowat Milat’s dwelling, and informs the sisters that the admiral is coming. Shortly thereafter, Picard enters and greets everyone. Elnor is shy at first, but one of the warrior nuns, Zani, tells him to make himself seen, noting that he’s been talking excitedly about Picard since his last visit. Elnor eagerly asks Picard if he brought him a present, and Picard presents him a copy of The Three Musketeers. Zani rebukes Elnor’s excited reactions, saying that Picard is not fond of emotional displays, or children. Picard reassures Elnor that he’s actually very fond of him, promising to read the book with the boy, later on. Picard thanks Zani and the Qowat Milat for their recent help in successfully relocating over ten thousand new refugees, and says that the Federation is in debt to them. He also gives Zani some sweet hanifak as a gift.
As they eat and speak, Picard notes how it must be difficult for Elnor, being the only boy in a house full of women, as the Qowat Milat is, by tradition, an all-female organization. Zani agrees that Elnor is loved, but does not belong with them. Picard promises that he will find a more suitable place for Elnor to live as soon as he can.
Elnor and Picard in the meantime bond with each other on multiple ways, as Picard reads The Three Musketeers and gives Elnor fencing lessons. The are enjoying their time together when Raffi unexpectedly hails Picard, to inform him that the synth have attacked Mars.
Picard, having to leave earlier than anticipated because of the attack, meets with the nuns and assures them that he intends to make sure the mission to evacuate the Romulans moves forward as planned, and promises he will be back soon. Elnor just watches, hidden behind some curtains as Picard beams away.
La Sirena starts its warp drive as Cristóbal Rios sits on the bridge reading The Tragic Sense of Life when Doctor Agnes Jurati greets him. She attempts to engage him in conversation while he silently reads. She mentions that she was able to catch up on two years of back issues of the Journal of Theoretical Cybernetics, and that she watered Rios’ plants. She also expresses confusion as to why Rios’ holo-programs only include Klingon opera, to which he says is a long story. Jurati then remembers how she used to live with someone who loved reading paper books, and how she would bother him when he read them. Rios asks what he did about it, and Jurati only responds that since the person was her father, he just had to put up with it.
Raffi then angrily enters the bridge, after noticing an abrupt change in the navigational log. Demanding to know where they’re going, Rios tells her that Picard requested a stop at Vashti on their way to Freecloud.
Meanwhile, Picard is in a holographic recreation of his study back at Château Picard. This was recreated by the Emergency Hospitality Hologram based on holoscans that Zhaban provided, and it was meant to make Picard feel more at home. Picard notes that it’s strange to have an EHH on the ship, to which the EHH reponds that his services are very rarely needed. Raffi enters the holodeck, inquiring about Picard’s decision to go to Vashti. Rios enters, and expresses his disdain for the EHH as the hologram deactivates.
They join Picard for a cup of tea, and Raffi states her opinion that going to Vashti is a bad idea. Picard says that he is as eager to get to Freecloud as Musiker is. Jurati then enters the holodeck, inquiring if she interrupted a secret meeting. Rios points out that the Qiris sector has become a power vacuum for smugglers and warlords like Kar Kantar, who practically controls the sector with a 23rd century Bird-of-Prey. Raffi scolds Rios for not telling Picard this information sooner, but Rios simply replies that he figured Picard already knew.
Raffi also mentions that Vashti is home to many Romulans of the Romulan Rebirth movement, and doubts that Picard will be successful in getting the services of one of the Qowat Milat warrior nuns. Jurati expresses confusion by what she means, and Musiker tells her that Picard is looking to hire an assassin. Picard clarifies that the nuns are not assassins, and that they can’t be hired. He is going in the hopes that one will willfully choose to join him.
Picard talks about how they helped him and Musiker relocate more than a quarter of a million refugees during the evacuations. He also says that they are perhaps the most skilled warriors he’s ever seen, and that even the Tal Shiar fear them. Rios is skeptical of Picard’s ambitions to gain their service. Picard notes that they have their own criteria on whether to give or hold their services for a cause. The Admiral is also confident that the nuns will find his cause worthy. He resumes the holographic recreation, and Raffi approaches him, trying to reason with him. She understands that Dahj’s death is making Picard think of Elnor, and asks that they focus on one thing at a time, and for them to get to Freecloud before going to Vashti. However, Picard tells her that they will still go, since he may not ever get the chance to come this way again. He then exits the holodeck, and heads for his quarters.
On the Artifact, Soji Asha is watching a holographic projection of an old Romulan talk show while she arranges pixmit cards. In the projection, Ramdha is talking about Ganmadan, which the Romulans say is the Day of Annihilation. She says how the day is the end of all life everywhere, when shackled demons will answer the call of Seb-Cheneb, the Destroyer. As she says this, Soji looks disturbed, remembering what Ramdha had called her a short time ago.
La Sirena reaches Vashti where they are met with a planetary defence system that the Fenris Rangers had helped to install. Raffi calls the system primitive but effective. She notes that every thirty minutes, the shield opens up for interstellar traffic with clearance, and that ships without clearance are immediately fired upon. She’s also been unable to get the clearance to pass, and tells Picard that the Romulans were not impressed to learn he was on board.
Picard beams down to Vashti’s Romulan Relocation Hub. He is shocked to see that in the last fourteen years, the hub has not fared well. While still heavily populated by Romulan refugees, the settlement suffers from poverty, degradation, and ethnic strife. Unlike the last time he was here, Romulans ignore his presence and his overtures as he attempts to greet them. A few eye him in contempt from afar. One even signals another Romulan through a communicator when he sees Picard. The admiral makes his way to the house of the Qowat Milat, where he sees Zani. He greets her, and though surprised to see him, she and the other sisters return his greeting. Picard tells her that, though he knows he has no right to ask, he needs her help one last time. A loud crash is heard, and a grown-up Elnor dashes through the curtains, apologizing before he realizes Picard is standing before him.
Soji is monitoring Ramdha as she lays on a biobed, unconscious. Narek enters and notes how Ramdha has always been tormented, saying that he isn’t surprised she attempted suicide. Soji doesn’t understand why she feels drawn to her, but blames herself for Ramdha’s outburst. Soji and Narek go to the mess hall to share a bottle of Romulan ale, and Soji admits that Narek’s mysterious nature challenges her paradigm. She asks Narek how he knew she would go to the Disordered Ward, to which Narek denies that he knew at all. She asks if Narek has been watching her, which he also denies. Soji notes his lack of uniform, insignia, and rank, that he knows an unusual amount of information, and can go wherever he pleases on the artifact, leading her to the conclusion that he is working with the Tal Shiar. Narek denies this as well, though admits that if he was Tal Shiar, he would still deny it. Soji asks him about the Shaenor, but he claims not to know anything, saying that he’s sure the Borg databases have those records. Soji says those records are classified and asks if he has access to them, which Narek says he doesn’t, but might know someone who does.
Narek then takes Soji to one of the cube’s ventilation shafts. While they walk there, they talk about Ramdha, and how Soji learned to speak fluent Romulan. Narek concludes that she had to have learned it sometime before May 12th, 2396, when Soji left for the Beta Quadrant aboard the Ellison. Soji confirms that Narek has indeed been watching her. They reach the ventilation shaft, and Narek has Soji remove her shoes. Afterward he runs down the shaft and glides along the floor with a gleeful cheer, and she does the same. The two enjoy themselves as they glide through the shaft and engage in a kiss, before Narek tells Soji that the Ellison’s passenger list shows no record of her ever having been aboard the ship. Soji once more says she was, and when she realizes that Narek is accusing her of lying about it, she angrily tells hime to go to hell. She begins to leave, before he once more asks if she is interested in accessing the classified Borg data files on the Shaenor. She asks what he’s doing, and he simply responds that he’s doing the same thing she is; feeding an insatiable curiosity.
On La Sirena, Raffi picks up a transmission and realizes that someone has identified Picard, and has sent out an alert to other Romulans. When they recommend to Picard that they beam him out, he declines, and says he needs more time to converse with the Qowat Milat. Raffi warns him that there is a lot of anger in the Romulans for what happened in the past, but he emphasizes that he is safe with the Qowat Milat. Rios then detects an incoming ship, which turns out to be Kar Katar’s Bird-of-Prey. Picard tells them to do what they need to do, but he needs more time, before terminating communications.
On Vashti, Picard and Zani continue to talk. Zani tells Picard how most of the Qowat Milat sisters serve as freeblades. Picard asks if they still bind themselves to a cause, and Zani says they do if the cause is judged worthy. Elnor brings a meal to Picard, which Picard politely declines, but this upsets Elnor, who exits the house. Zani asks him what his cause is in regards to his inquiry for the Qowat Milat, and when Picard mentions that he will be taking on the Tal Shiar, Zani recommends that he talk to Elnor. Though Elnor can never truly be of the Qowat Milat since he’s a man, Zani tells Picard that the boy’s skills in battle are formidable, and that though the journey may be dangerous, and may even kill Elnor in the end, she will be happy knowing that he will have ended up living, rather than dying on Vashti.
Picard approaches Elnor to formally ask him to judge his cause. He recalls how Data sacrificed his life to save his own and goes on telling Dajh’s and her sister’s story. Mentioning that the Tal Shiar are hunting Soji, Elnor surmises that she is an android, then recalls stories that Picard had told him about Data, and his pet, Spot. Elnor then asks Picard why he needs him, and Picard mentions his failure to protect Dahj. Elnor mentions that Picard needs someone, but once more asks why Picard needs him specifically. Picard mentions that he is young and strong, and that Zani had recommended Elnor to him. Picard believes his cause to be appropriate for the criteria of the Qowat Milat, but Elnor gets upset once more and recalls how Picard had left him on his own, all those years ago. Ignoring Picard’s pleas, Elnor leaves, saying he has no reason not to leave Picard on his own.
Picard tells Rios that he’s ready to leave, and Rios lets him know that the next window for transport will be in seven minutes. Picard returns to the center of the settlement and, noticing a restaurant that serves only Romulans, decides to defy the warning, and enters. Many Romulans take offense to this, but none confront him as he greets them, and sits down, attempting to get service. He is then approached by an ex-Romulan Senator named Tenqem Adrev, who mentions how he was present when Picard addressed the Hall of State as the embodiment of Starfleet; he remembers the many promises that the “great Saint Picard” made, which Andrev found very touching. He remembers Picard bringing Wallenberg-class transport ships, and how many of the now residents of Vashti boarded the Nightingale. Picard laments that the short amount of time made the evacuation difficult, but Andrev simply retorts that little was expected of Starfleet, and shows visible anger for the admiral. Andrev calls a few friends over, but before Picard can attempt to reason with them, Andrev accuses him of trying to deliberately confuse and divide the Romulan people. Picard angrily rebukes the claim.
Having heard enough, Andrev tells one of his friends to give Picard his sword, meaning to engage him in combat, but Picard refuses. Andrev doesn’t take the refusal for an answer, forcibly gives him a sword, and has him moved into the streets, where he attacks Picard. Assuming a traditional fencing stance, Picatd successfully parries the attack, but throws the blade aside, refusing to fight. At that moment, Elnor appears, and asks Andrev to “choose to live”. Andrev ignores Elnor, and moves to attack Picard once more. With remarkable speed, Elnor successfully subdues Andrev’s friends and decapitates Andrev, lamenting “I regret your choice”. Elnor then addresses the crowd that has since gathered to watch the confrontation, and binds himself to Picard as his qalankhkai, warning the crowd that anyone who threatens Picard will be choosing to die by his blade. Picard urges Elnor to put his blade away, before he himself addresses the crowd, acknowledging that both he and the Federation have failed the Romulans. He apologizes that he broke faith with the them. Rios hails Picard and tells him he’s ready to transport them to the ship. At that moment, one of Andrev’s friends pulls out a disruptor, but both Elnor and Picard are beamed to La Sirena before he has a chance to fire.
Safely on the ship, Picard angrily scolds Elnor for killing Andrev. He says that he will benefit from Elnor’s skill and courage, but will tell him when to fight and when to refrain, and has Elnor swear on this. Picard then introduces Elnor to Jurati and Raffi, who is visibly unimpressed. As they head to the bridge, Picard asks what made Elnor change his mind and bind him to Picard’s cause. Elnor simply replies that the cause met the requirements for worthiness, and that Picard needed him after all. Jurati asks what the requirements were, and Picard responds that a qalankhkai will only bind herself (or himself in Elnor’s case) to a cause that is deemed lost.
On the Artifact, Narissa Rizzo enters Narek’s quarters and startles him from sleep. She taunts him asking if he was expecting his “robot friend”. Narek simply emphasizes that he’s interested in her obsession with Ramdha, what truly happened after the Artifact assimilated the Shaenor, and why the crew and passengers lost their minds after assimilation. Rizzo simply expresses frustration at Narek’s slow approach to Soji. Narek is cautious as he fears that if he presses her too hard, she will activate. He tries to explain that he wants to kill all of them, but that they can’t kill them until they find where they’re coming from. Rizzo simply rebukes that in his approach, he just slides further into his own goals, and wonders of Soji is the one handling him. She has him remind her that Soji is Seb-Cheneb, before telling him that if there are no further results one week from now, she will take matters into her own hands. She then leaves him in his quarters, visibly torn in what to do and banging his head against the bulkhead.
Back in orbit of Vashti, Kar Kantar’s Bird-of-Prey arrives on the scene and opens fire on La Sirena. Rios begins to execute evasive maneuvers, noting that the Bird-of-Prey has a primitive targeting system, but he is still worried about the planet’s security net. Jurati asks if they can escape the Bird-of-Prey, and Rios responds that while they are more nimble, the Bird-of-Prey is likely faster than La Sirena. As the ship takes another hit, he activates Emmet, a Emergency Tactical Hologram.
Emmet handles the ship’s phasers while Rios continues to maneuver. The Bird-of-Prey begins to herd La Sirena towards the planet’s security net, and Rios executes a series of maneuvers, but gets too close to the net. At that moment, an unidentified ship suddenly enters the fray and fires on the Bird-of-Prey. Their combined phaser fire cripples Kar Kantar’s vessel, but immediately afterwards, the unidentified ship takes a critical hit from the Bird-of-Prey.
Raffi tells Picard that the ship is hailing them, and the admiral habitually orders for a channel to be opened. Rios agrees, and Raffi replies that the pilot is asking for permission to be beamed to La Sirena.
Emmet believes beaming over the unidentified pilot would present too big a risk, but Raffi pushes, stating that the pilot’s ship is breaking up. They immediately beam the pilot over, with Elnor readying himself for a potential threat, before the pilot’s ship crashes into Vashti’s planetary shield. The pilot materializes on the bridge, and is revealed to be none other than Seven of Nine, whom Picard immediately identifies. Exhausted and sporting an injury to her forehead, Seven tells Picard that he owes her a ship, and then collapses on the deck.