Starfleet Command sends a communication to the USS Enterprise-D about a disturbance in the Neutral Zone, some sort of battle. There are no Federation vessels in the area, so the Enterprise sets course to investigate. On arriving at the location of the battle, they find a vessel adrift without power. Data scans the debris from the explosions and speculates that the weapons used in the battle may have been Romulan in origin. The drifting vessel is identified as the Talarian freighter Batris, a cargo vessel. Worf detects possible life signs aboard, and Riker prepares an away team consisting of Data, La Forge and himself. Before they leave the bridge, Picard tells Riker that everything seems wrong. Riker agrees, stating that it looks like a trap. They’re going to beam over to the Batris nonetheless.
Riker, La Forge, and Data go to transporter room 3. The away mission to the Batris gives La Forge a chance to test out his visual acuity transmitter. The device transmits what his VISOR sees over a few kilometers.
The away team beams over, and finds the ship in ruins. La Forge switches on the transmitter, and the viewscreen shows an image of flashing colors and indistinct shapes, a visual frenzy. Captain Picard is intrigued by the images, and asks La Forge how he is able to filter out all the extra information. La Forge compares it to listening to an individual conversation in a noisy room; mentally “filtering out” information that isn’t wanted. Picard also has trouble identifying Riker and Data.
They move off down the corridor, dodging falling beams amid smoke and deuterium gas. La Forge spots a fissure in the bulkhead, and reckons they only have five minutes until the hull breaches, which will have catastrophic results given its proximity to the engineering section. The bridge loses the transmission from the VISOR.
They locate the survivors on the far side of the engine core. Data goes across on his own, to minimize the risk to the others. They join him after a few moments, and Data tells them that the door to the compartment is jammed. Not willing to use phasers, Data pulls open the door. Inside are three Klingons, one badly injured.
The Klingons and the away team make their way out of the engineering section, as the ship’s superstructure begins to collapse. Tasha Yar tries to get a lock on them, and tells them to get further away from engineering, but Worf says that there is no time; the Batris is a matter of seconds away from exploding. Picard yells that they have no further options and to beam them out immediately. Tasha tries to do so, but the transport fails and drops them back on the Batris.
The away team and Klingons are alarmed to see an explosion racing toward them from the engineering section, and seconds later the entire ship explodes. For a terrible few moments it appears that the away team has been lost, but Tasha is able to materialize them on the transporter pad, having gotten them off right as the ship exploded.
The survivors are brought to sickbay, and Picard and Worf go to meet them. Dr. Crusher says the injured Klingon is in critical condition. The others introduce themselves as Commander Korris and Lieutenant Konmel. They say they were being transported on the freighter when a Ferengi cruiser attacked them. Worf says the weapons were Klingon. They agree, but reiterate that the ship was Ferengi. They took control at the captain’s request, and pretended to surrender, but when the Ferengi dropped their shields they destroyed the cruiser with merculite rockets. After a while, the Klingons state that they are tired and hangry, so Picard gives Worf pernission to show them to their quarters. Picard, however, is suspicious as to why they were on the freighter in the first place. He asks Riker to get every information possible about their guests.
In the Klingons’ quarters, they get something to eat. Worf tells them that, as far as he knows, he is the only Klingon in Starfleet, and they mock him, saying he has become soft and docile living among Humans. Then they reassure him, telling him they are only trying to anger him to see if it is still possible. Worf assures them it is.
Captain Picard calls from sickbay, where the third Klingon, Kunivas, is dying. Both Klingons and Worf go to sickbay, and Korris opens Kunivas’ eyes and looks into them. Then all three howl at the ceiling. They leave again, Korris telling Crusher that the body is now only an empty shell, and to treat it as such.
As they return to the Klingons’ quarters, Konmel carelessly lets slip that the opponent they battled was in fact not an enemy. Worf asks the pair what really happened, and they in turn ask Worf how he came to be where he is. He tells them that he was at Khitomer as a child when it was attacked by the Romulans. He was buried under some rubble, but survived to be rescued by a Starfleet officer, who brought him home with him. He was raised as his son at the Gault colony, and when they were old enough, he and his foster brother attended the Academy. His brother hated it and dropped out; Worf stayed.
Korris and Konmel tell him that he was shunned and misunderstood all his life, and even now he is driven by something inside, even though there are no other Klingons around. Worf admits those feelings are still there, but that he is able to control them. They say that is the mark of a warrior. Korris says that the peace is like a living death to them, so they commandeered a freighter, in search of somewhere they could live as warriors. The ship they destroyed was a Klingon cruiser sent to bring them back, and they claim that Klingons have been corrupted by the illusion of peace. Out of the blue, Korris asks if it is permitted for Worf to show them around the ship, to which Worf agrees.
On the bridge, Data detects a ship approaching, though is unable to yet discern what type. Meanwhile, Worf shows Korris and Konmel around main engineering. Konmel wonders of the battles they could wage if they had command of the Enterprise, but Worf tries to persuade his two fellow Klingons that their desire for battles and glory is something that does not fit the modern era. Korris, however, remains resolute in his desire to return to the old ways.
Back on the bridge, Data comments that this was the first time outsiders have witnessed the Klingon death ritual. The howling is a warning to the afterlife that a Klingon warrior is about to arrive. The approaching ship is in visual range – it is a Klingon K’t’inga-class cruiser. Picard hails and Commander K’Nera answers. Picard tells him they rescued three Klingons. K’Nera asks if that is all that is left of the IKS T’Acog. Picard tells him that they were on the freighter and K’Nera replies that they are criminals who have stolen a freighter and destroyed a cruiser. He wants them delivered to him when he arrives.
Picard sends a security team led by Yar to arrest the fugitives, who are in a corridor talking with Worf about the ship’s saucer separation capabilities. Just as Worf comments that the Enterprise is an “exceptional weapon” when relieved of the bulk of the saucer section, Yar and her security team arrive. Worf asks what’s going on. The Klingons appeal to Worf for help, saying he is one of them.
A turbolift door opens and a small girl runs into the corridor. Korris picks her up, and Yar calls the bridge to report and hostage situation. After a moment, Korris hands the little girl to Worf, and Yar’s team arrests the two klingons and brings them to the brig. Yar says she was afraid she was going to have a hostage situation, but Worf replies that Klingons don’t take hostages, that it’s a cowardly thing to do.
The prisoners are in the brig when the Klingon ship arrives. Worf tells Picard that they will be tried and executed for their crimes. He then appeals to the Klingon commender, saying their words have stirred something inside him, and asking K’Nera to allow them to die an honorable death on a remote planet in the Halee system. K’Nera says he feels the same, but he must follow orders.
In the brig, Korris and Konmel assemble a disruptor from their belts and other components of their uniform. They disable the force field and kill security guard Ramos. The second guard hits Konmel three times before he dies, but then Korris kills him too. He runs, and Yar arrives on the scene. She informs the captain what has happened.
Worf and Picard go down to engineering. Yar wants to wait Korris out, but Worf says that Korris will fire his disrupter the moment he feels the situation is not to his advantage, destroying the Enterprise-D and taking everyone with it. Worf goes up to talk to Korris. The Klingon renegade wants Worf to separate the ship and come with him in the stardrive section. Worf says that won’t happen. He pulls out his phaser and asks Korris to put down his. Korris can’t believe what is happening and appeals again to Worf.
Worf tells him he is looking for battles in the wrong place, that the true test of a warrior lies within. He hasn’t mentioned once duty, honor, or loyalty, the things a true warrior must have. Korris doesn’t respond to this, saying that Worf has become weak like the Humans. Worf makes one last attempt to talk Korris into surrender, but this causes Korris to completely lose his temper and angrily tell Worf that he is no true Klingon. Worf admits that Korris is right, and then blasts him with his phaser, mortally wounding him as well as sending him reeling forwards and down through the glass floor to the second level. Worf returns down, and performs the death ritual for Korris.
Worf and Picard return to the bridge and tell K’Nera that the fugitives are all dead. Worf adds that they died well. K’Nera is impressed with Worf, and invites him to join his ship when his tour of duty is finished aboard the Enterprise-D. Worf says he would be honored. K’Nera leaves, and Worf assures Captain Picard he doesn’t want to leave the Enterprise-D, he was just being polite. Picard replies that the bridge wouldn’t be the same without him.