Enterprise NX-01 is in orbit of Earth. Captain Archer and Commander Tucker are getting ready to welcome Emory Erickson, the inventor of the transporter, on board the ship. Tucker tells the captain that Erickson’s book, “Emory Erickson: Father of the Transporter” is the reason why he became an engineer. Upon handling the transporter console, Tucker makes some last minute adjustments to his Starfleet uniform, much to Archer’s amusement, before beaming up the legendary inventor, along with his daughter, Danica.Archer warmly greets the two Ericksons, his old friends, and introduces Tucker to the both of them.While being wheeled down the corridor by his daughter, Emory hopes that Archer won’t mind his “borrowing” the ship for a test, that may make Enterprise, and indeed all of Starfleet, obsolete.
In Enterprise’s mess hall, T’Pol is reading a PADD. Tucker sits with her and notes that they have not talked to each other too much since she returned from Vulcan. She tells him she has been reading the Kir’Shara, which she finds extremely interesting. Tucker tries to get T’Pol to open up to him about the recent death of her mother, T’Les. T’Pol would rather not, and says she doesn’t feel anything about it. When Tucker brings up the loss of his sister Elizabeth, T’Pol insists that she sees no point in discussing her situation further, and Tucker decides to leave.
Later, in the captain’s dining room, Archer, T’Pol, and Tucker have dinner with the Ericksons.Emory discusses his new invention: sub-quantum teleportation. He explains the process as stepping onto a transporter pad on Earth, a few seconds later, the person materializes on Vulcan. Emory states that, theoretically, there is no limits to the distance, which is one of the things he is on the ship to test. Emory believes Starfleet will look quite different after his invention reaches widespread use, if it ever does. Archer recalls Emory and his father having discussions over the future being in either warp drive or the transporter pad. Emory admits he misses having those talks as well as Henry Archer himself. He raises a toast to his late friend.
T’Pol notes that the Vulcan science academy never got any results with sub-quantum transporting. Tucker admits that it is hard to imagine beaming anyone that far. Erickson recalls that when he developed the first transporter, most people could not grasp it and some still cannot. He remembers when the transporter was first approved for use on bio-matter, people gave off a litany of unsafe terms about the device and how he had to fight all “that nonsense”, as he puts it, but notes that he eventually won out. Tucker then raises his glass and toasts to a successful experiment.
Enterprise is now in a region called the Barrens. As Tucker makes the necessary modifications to Enterprise’s transporter for the test, Emory recalls the early days of the transporter and how he was the first person to go through it. He remembers it taking a full minute and a half to cycle through and that he could actually feel himself being taken apart and put back together again. He lost his lunch the first time he materialized, then promptly got stone drunk, something he learned from Zefram Cochrane. Tucker notes that the experiment is going to require more power that he thought. He asks Emory if he can take a look at his power converter, so the test will not require as much energy.Emory evades giving Tucker the converter and insists he can handle a simple power upgrade himself.
Meanwhile, in engineering, Archer gives Danica a tour.He is surprised that she seems to know as much about his ship as a member of her crew.Danica admits she has read everything she could about Enterprise.When Archer wonders why she has not yet signed on to the vessel, she admits she cannot leave her father, especially as he still has not gotten over the loss of his son, Quinn, even though it was fifteen years prior.Archer suggests that maybe she should start thinking more about herself.Danica says it’s a good advice, and she wishes she could follow it.
In the Erickson’s quarters, Danica arrives to inject a needle into Emory’s deformed back.He notices that she is upset.She admits she is upset at having to lie to the crew, and tells her father that they could talk to Archer, that he might be able to help them.Emory insists they cannot, as Archer’s first duty is to his ship and he would not understand.
Meanwhile, in Enterprise’s armory, the lights flicker and go out. Malcolm and Ensign Burrows notice something in the room with them.Reed takes the upstairs part of the armory and orders Burrows to take downstairs. On the bridge, T’Pol picks up what could be a form of spatial distortion on F deck, near the armory. Burrows looks around and does not see a deformed shapeless matter move toward him until it is too late. He screams, and Reed contacts sickbay for medical assistance. Reed turns Burrows’ body over and sees his face has been completely deformed.
Near the transporter, T’Pol and Archer ask Emory if he had ever encountered anything like the anomaly that killed Ensign Burrows out here in the Barrens. Emory replies that he did not and wishes he had an explanation for Captain Archer. He shifts in his wheelchair in discomfort and notes that it is time for his treatment. Danica wheels him away to their quarters.
Alone together in their quarters, Danica yells at her father, telling him that they are responsible for Burrows’ death. Emory tries to make her calm down but she says that they must come forward with the truth. Emory tells her that she is condemning him to death. Danica asks how Emory knows he is not already dead.He is convinced that he is alive.He tells her he only needs a couple of days to complete his work and bring Quinn back. She wonders what he would have to say about what they are doing. Emory replies she’ll be able to ask him when they’re done.
Later, Tucker and Emory begin work on the “test” by beaming a probe to predefined target coordinates, under the supervision of the bridge. The probe was beamed 40,000 kilometers away from Enterprise. According to Tucker, nothing has ever been beamed that far before. To celebrate, he offers to take Emory to the mess hall to eat.Emory refuses, opting instead to view the data as it comes in. Tucker offers to bring something back but again Emory turns him down and asks him politely to stop distracting him.
In Archer’s quarters, Tucker enters, now suspicious of Emory’s true motives. He tells Archer that all the work Emory had him do was not necessary for the test.His sub-quantum version of the transporter should use less energy than a normal transporter, which is one of the reasons why it is so brilliant. Tucker suspects that Emory’s test is a smokescreen for something else.Archer admits that he now, too, has suspicions about his old friend. Emory’s earlier claim that he never encountered the anomaly was not the truth. Five years prior, a crewmember on his research vessel had seen something similar to the form that appeared on Enterprise. The crewmember said it seems to be alive. Just then, T’Pol calls Archer and tells him they are picking up another anomaly on C deck.
Archer meets up with T’Pol with two MACOs. The MACOs split up and Archer warns them to not let the anomaly touch them. Archer and T’Pol go into the decontamination chamber and are cornered by the anomaly. T’Pol analyzes it and discovers that it’s highly unstable and surrounded by a subspace field. The anomaly passes through a door, but touches T’Pol’s hand, and she yells in agony. Later, T’Pol is being treated in sickbay. Phlox notes that she is fortunate she did not sustain prolonged contact. T’Pol tells Archer that she managed to take visual readings of the anomaly with her Vulcan scanner. Upon being projected onto the main sickbay monitor and visually enhanced, Archer recognizes the anomaly as being Quinn – Emory’s son.
Archer confronts Emory with this new information in his assigned quarters. Emory admits to lying to Starfleet and the captain. He has not come aboard to test a new transporter, he is on Enterprise to bring his son back. He explains that he was conducting first trials fifteen years ago and Quinn wanted to be the first one to go through the transporter. Emory lost his signal and couldn’t get him back. Emory admits that the sub-quantum transporter is a fundamentally flawed concept and it will never work.He then explains that the Barrens is a subspace node, a bubble of curved space time, in which Quinn’s transporter signal is trapped. The signal reappers at certain intervals, and if Emory could lock on the signal, he could bring Quinn back. Archer tells Emory he should have trusted him, but Emory replies that Starfleet would not have authorized the mission. Emory says all he needs is one more scan and he can bring Quinn home. He begs Archer to let him try.
In Archer’s ready room, he orders Tucker and T’Pol to help Emory with whatever he needs. Tucker angrily chastises Archer, telling him that had Emory alerted them to the dangerous anomaly in the Barrens, Burrows might still be alive. Archer says all they need is one more day to get Quinn back. If they do not attempt it now, Quinn’s signal will be irretrievable, as it has been decaying for the past fifteen years. Archer orders Tucker to get started.
Back in the transporter, Tucker is grudgingly helping Emory to complete the modifications. Emory asks him to reserve judgment on his actions until the engineer loses a son. Tucker tells him forcefully that he has indeed lost someone close to him, and he would do almost anything to get her back, except put other people in danger. He eventually heads to engineering, leaving Emory alone.
In the captain’s quarters, Danica apologizes to Archer for lying and inadvertently causing an Enterprise crewman’s death. Archer accepts it and states that while they can’t get Burrows back, some good may still come out of this with Quinn’s rescue. Danica tells Archer that getting Quinn back is all her father has thought about for the last fifteen years. Archer hopes that with Quinn coming back to his father and sister, Emory and Danica can finally think about something else.
In engineering, T’Pol hands Tucker some power conversion tables to help with the transporter modifications. Tucker tells her he is trying to decide what to show on movie night. T’Pol tells him she doesn’t think she’ll have time for either. Tucker tells her she can’t stay in her quarters all the time reading the Kir’Shara, that she joined Starfleet to be able to interact more with Humans. She tells him she may have found some new priorities and leaves for the bridge.
In launch bay 1, Archer is pushing Emory around in his wheelchair, looking for Quinn with a scanner. T’Pol tells the captain that she had picked up something in his area but it had disappeared. Suddenly, the lights in the bay flicker and Quinn appears. His father tries to speak to him, but the anomaly goes into a wall and causes a massive explosion in front of Emory. Archer pushes him out of the way, saving his life.
Tucker tells the captain that the anomaly knocked out an EPS junction. He cannot believe Archer is still going through with the plan. Archer angrily tells him that they will not be arguing about this subject again. Tucker tells the captain that Quinn just barely missed a stack of torpedoes which would have destroyed the ship. Archer maintains that when they retrieve Quinn, these distortions will stop. Tucker suggests that Archer is putting his personal feelings before the safety of Enterprise, and the captain tells his chief engineer he is very close to insubordination and angrily orders him to do his job.
In Emory’s quarters, he tells the captain he got what he needed on his scanner, so they should be able to get a solid lock when he reppears. Emory apologizes for putting so much onto Archer and that he does not deserve it. Archer tells him to make this worthwhile, they need to get Quinn back. Emory admits he is very scared about bringing his son back, about something going wrong and failing. Archer recalls a piece of advice his father gave him the day he entered flight training, when he asked him basically the same questions. “Don’t fail” was his response.
Standing at the transporter console, Archer, Danica, Emory, Tucker, and Dr. Phlox are standing by, waiting for Quinn to turn up somewhere on Enterprise. T’Pol reports nothing initially, then finds a distortion on B deck. Locking on, Emory and Tucker beam the shapeless mass into the transporter chamber. Something goes wrong, however. Tucker does not have a strong enough signal so Emory has him recalibrate the confinement beam. Phlox is reading massive cellular deterioration in Quinn.
He is losing cohesion and if he is materialized, he will die within seconds. Emory tries a few technical solutions but Archer, Phlox, and Danica try to persuade him to let his son go, as there is nothing he can do to save him. Emory cannot bring himself to do it but finally beams him aboard, apologizing to his son. Quinn materializes and promptly collapses. Emory goes to his son’s side and begs him to forgive his father. Quinn dies in his father’s arm, and Emory closes his son’s eyes and breaks down in tears.
Later, Archer visits Emory in his quarters. Emory has come to terms with the loss of his son, stating that he could not leave Quinn in between life and death. He supposes he accomplished his goal of bringing his son home. However, Emory will have to answer to Starfleet for his actions. Archer believes, with all of Emory’s accomplishments, Starfleet will take that into consideration when determining his punishment. Emory also realizes that, as he let go of Quinn, he will have to let go of Danica, as well. He considers becoming a teacher, something Archer thinks he’d be good at.
In sickbay, Phlox tells T’Pol he can find absolutely no traces of Pa’nar Syndrome. T’Pol says it’s difficult to accept. Phlox notes that she was diagnosed with an incurable disease and now it is gone, that’s a big adjustment. Vulcans all over their homeworld with Pa’nar Syndrome are coming forward because of the Kir’Shara, no longer afraid of the stigma that was attached with it. Phlox notes that T’Pol and her people are reexamining their core beliefs, which is something most individuals never do.
T’Pol comes to engineering to speak to Tucker. She tells him that she is going through some very complicated issues and that she is learning, for the first time, what it truly means to be a Vulcan. With this profound realization, she tells him they will not have time to pursue a relationship. Tucker tells her he understands, that he knew this was coming. “At least my warp engines still need me.”
Emory and Danica bid Archer and the Enterprise crew farewell. Before beaming to the Sarajevo, Emory hands Tucker a PADD containing information about boosting the transporter’s range a few hundred kilometers. Trip says he’ll check it out. Archer wishes the Ericksons good luck and Tucker beams them away. Archer, Tucker, T’Pol, and Phlox walk away from the transporter and down the corridor.