The USS Enterprise-D has been sent to Persephone V to confer with Admiral Mark Jameson. Starfleet received a subspace transmission from Karnas, the governor of Mordan IV two days previously. In it, he says that terrorists have taken the Federation Ambassador Hawkins hostage. They want to talk to a Federation negotiator, and in his opinion there is only one man qualified – Admiral Jameson. Captain Picard transmits the message to Jameson and asks that he come. Mordan is at peace after forty years of civil war and Picard wonders why Karnas would be unable to deal with this threat, having settled the civil war five years ago. Jameson was the man who negotiated the release of hostages from Mordan 45 years previously.
Jameson beams aboard in a wheelchair with his wife, Anne. He warns Picard that Starfleet has designated him senior mission officer, and as such he will be in charge of the away team and the mission itself. Picard is slightly taken aback, but agrees to this.
They go to the bridge, where Karnas contacts them again. He informs Jameson of the situation on Mordan, and says that the terrorists demand that the discussions are held on Mordan, and that they speak only with the Federation negotiator. Jameson accepts the conditions, and the transmission ends.
Deanna Troi says that she senses that Karnas is being honest, but that he is holding something back. Jameson suggests that maybe he doesn’t want to admit his failure to deal with the situation.
Doctor Beverly Crusher contacts Picard and says she’s ready to perform the standard medical exam on Jameson, who looks nervous at this, which Troi notices. They go first to the ready room, where Riker asks how Karnas knew Jameson was still alive. He says he briefed Hawkins before he took over his post on Mordan. Data wonders what the terrorists want, but no one is able to offer an answer.
Troi asks Jameson if he’s suggesting that the terrorists may want weapons, but that Karnas is unwilling to negotiate for the issue of weapons, hence them demanding an outsider to negotiate. Jameson agrees, but believes that Karnas may want revenge for insult of the terrorists taking hostages.
Later in Jameson’s quarters, he gets out of his wheelchair and staggers to a chair. His wife says he seems better, but then he gets a sharp pain in his chest. She wants to call sickbay but he won’t let her. He says it has happened before, but it will go away.
In the ready room, Dr. Crusher is talking to Picard. She says that the medical records Jameson gave her were two months old and not two days old as he claimed. She wonders why he lied. Picard says he’s 85 years old, but Crusher says he suffers from Iverson’s Disease, which affects the body but not the mind. Picard decides he wants her on the bridge for the duration of the mission so she’ll be on hand should anything come up with Jameson.
As the Enterprise-D approaches the Idini Star Cluster, Picard asks Jameson if he would like to take the conn as they make transit. He amazes everyone by standing up and walking slowly to the conn. He says he has begun some new therapy that is working well for him.
In the ready room, Crusher says there’s no known cure for Iverson’s and it has never been known to go into remission. Jameson has been confined to the wheelchair for the last four years. He shouldn’t even be walking!
In his quarters, Jameson is watching the recording of Karnas’ initial message again, when his wife comes in. He stands up and walks over to her. She’s delighted at first but then gets suspicious. She brings him over to a mirror and sees he looks twenty years younger. Suddenly he gets the chest pain again and she calls Sickbay.
After examining him, Crusher tells Picard that she has detected some unknown chemicals in his bloodstream – substances that aren’t even in the library computers. She also mentions that there is no trace of Iverson’s Disease, but she doesn’t know how this is possible.
Picard goes to Jameson’s quarters, where he now looks about fifty. He demands answers, so Jameson tells him how he obtained a drug from Cerberus II that rejuvenates the body. He negotiated a treaty there and the inhabitants gave him the medicine. It is a combination of drugs to be slowly administered over two years. He got enough for himself and his wife, but took both doses himself when this mission came up. Picard asks why Jameson felt the need to be young to carry out these negotiations… when he doesn’t get an answer, he leaves for the bridge. Once he’s gone, Anne gets upset with Jameson, saying he didn’t think of her and why did he not tell her what he was doing. He tries to explain… but she gets away from him and goes to the next room. Jameson leaves his quarters.
Jameson goes to the observation lounge and requests a communications frequency to Karnas on Mordan. Before Data has a chance to set up the communication, Picard intervenes and ask Jameson why he wants it. Jameson responds that Karnas must have attempted a negotiation before they called on him, so he wants to know what has happened up to now. Picard suggests then that they open a secure channel with Karnas. Jameson agrees, saying “Make it so”
He talks to Karnas and asks him who’s behind the kidnapping. He claims it is political opponents. He says that now that Jameson is returning, it is as if the last 45 years never happened. Jameson comments that Karnas never forgave him. Then he realizes that Karnas has the hostages and there are no terrorists. Karnas says he’s going to ask a very high price for their release.
Jameson goes to the bridge and tells Picard to increase the Enterprise-D’s speed to warp 8 to put Karnas off balance. He tells Picard that Karnas has the hostages and that negotiations are no longer the answer. He intends to lead an away team on an armed rescue mission.
Jameson notes that the maze of tunnels under the city were simply built over without changing. He reckons that Karnas is holding the hostages there, the same as he did 45 years ago. He claims again that an armed raid is the only option. Picard tells him that the Federation might feel differently now that the situation has changed, but Jameson still claims command of the mission.
Meanwhile, Troi, Crusher and Anne are talking in the doctor’s office. Anne is distraught, asking why he did what he did. It is their 50th wedding anniversary next week. Troi says that Jameson still cares for her, but Anne then compares herself – a woman in her 80s – to her husband who is getting younger by the hour. She was looking forward to them being together as old people. Then Crusher breaks the news that Jameson is not stabilizing, and that his life is now in danger.
Picard goes to the observation lounge, where Jameson is sitting in the shadows, initially keeping his face turned away from the captain. He slowly turns in his chair and reveals himself to be now in his thirties.
Picard asks why the mission is so important to him and what he is hiding. Jameson tells how Karnas took the passengers of a starliner hostage 45 years ago and demanded weapons from Starfleet. After two other negotiators were killed, Jameson went in and brought the hostages out safely, as the official version goes. What really happened was he gave Karnas the weapons he wanted, and then gave the exact same weapons to his rivals. Picard is appalled, but Jameson defends his actions, stating that this was his way of bending the Prime Directive without technically breaking it; however this plunged Mordan into forty years of civil war, instead of the brief skirmish that Jameson thought would happen. Now he wants to vindicate himself, but Karnas wants revenge.
When the away team prepares to beam down, Picard decides to go with them, leaving Riker in charge of the Enterprise.
Jameson beams down to Mordan along with Picard, Data, Worf, La Forge, and Tasha Yar. They move through the tunnels under the city following Jameson’s memory of the tunnel layout, even though Data scans reveal that things changed since Jameson was last there 45 years earlier. They eventually find their way to the area where Jameson believes that the hostages are being held but there is a recently built wall blocking the path. The landing party blasts their way through the wall, but in doing so alert Karnas’s troopers to their location.
La Forge points out a couple of infrared beams covering the corridor ahead, and Picard orders phasers to stun… but not before a phaser blast shoots right past them, only just missing them.
A phaser fight starts, and Data informs Picard that their phasers are set to kill.
As they take cover, Jameson suddenly clutches his chest and collapses. Initially Picard assumes that he was hit by a phaser blast, but there is no sign of a visible injury. With the group outnumbered and Jameson unable to continue, they all beam back up to the Enterprise-D.
Back aboard the Enterprise, Picard reports to Riker that Jameson’s condition is deteriorating sharply. An infuriated Karnas then hails them, saying that he knows full well that Jameson beamed down and tried to extract the hostages by force, and demanding that the admiral be turned over to him. Picard tells him he’s critically ill, but Karnas doesn’t care. He gives them ten minutes to beam Jameson down.
Picard goes to sickbay, where Jameson – looking in his twenties – is very sick. However, he still wants to beam down so he can save the hostages, but Picard tells him that even if the hostages are still in the same place, he is in no condition to attempt another rescue mission. Riker then contacts Picard, informing him that Karnas has sent another message; if Jameson is not turned over within the next five minutes, one of the hostages will be the victim of a “most painful” execution, after which Karnas will continue to execute the hostages at a rate of once every fifteen minutes.
Picard realizes that he is now out of options, and has no alternative but to allow Jameson to beam down, even though this will mean almost certain death at Karnas’s hands.
They beam down along with Dr. Crusher. Karnas doesn’t recognize Jameson, and Picard insists the man with him is Jameson.
Karnas doesn’t believe Picard and demands that the real Jameson beam down. Jameson talks to him, and calls him by his old title – Peritor – to try to convince him. But Karnas still doesn’t believe him, saying he’s been coached. Jameson collapses, and Picard tells Karnas about the age reversing, but Karnas won’t be moved. He blames Jameson for the war, death and destruction that have taken place on Mordan. Picard tells Anne Jameson to beam down, and shows Karnas pictures of Jameson’s transformation in an effort to convince him.
Picard tells Karnas that some of the blame lies on his head as well, and that Jameson wanted to atone for what he did. Jameson, although sick and sweating, manages to convince Karnas by showing him the scar of the blood cut on his wrist they made to seal the bargain. Karnas takes a phaser, intending to shoot Jameson, ironically with one of the weapons he provided to Karnas, but then he stops, saying he would get better revenge in seeing him suffer.
Anne talks to Jameson and says she’ll always love him. Then Jameson dies, and Karnas says he’ll release the hostages unharmed, satisfied that Jameson is dead. Jameson is buried on Mordan at the request of his widow and the consent of Karnas. The Enterprise-D leaves, heading for Isis III.