Flashback to 14 years prior, in 2385, on First Contact Day at the Utopia Planitia Shipyards on Mars. Human workers and synthetics work together, though the synthetics lack the ability to understand humor. Some humans make disrespectful comments, to which a worker replies, “They’re not people, you can’t offend them.” But then F8, a synthetic, malfunctions or is taken over and begins sabotaging the base’s systems, lowering the shields. It then kills the entire staff and security personnel before self-destructing as the planetary defenses activate.
In 2399, Picard, Zhaban, and Laris review video of Dahj’s attack, discovering Dahj’s presence on at the scene has been erased. Laris believes the Zhat Vash, a secretive Romulan faction of Tal Shiar operatives who despise artificial intelligence and synthetics, is responsible and covering their tracks.
Picard and Laris transport themselves to Dahj’s apartment in Greater Boston and use a molecular reconstruction device to display a reenactment of Dahj and Caler’s conversation before Caler’s death. Although Picard is aware that the use of the device is illegal in the Federation and its accuracy is questionable, Laris explains that the Romulans have deliberately made the device seem unreliable to deceive the Federation. Laris scans the room, and the holographic reconstruction of the conversation begins to play, but it ends abruptly before the attack. Laris believes that the Zhat Vash erased the particles to prevent further analysis. Picard starts to become convinced of the existence of the Zhat Vash.
In an attempt to gather information about Dahj’s twin sister, Soji Asha, they access Dahj’s personal assistant, only to find that the index for the data has been deleted. However, Laris manages to find records indicating that Soji called Dahj from off-world.
Picard is Determined
Back at Picard’s vineyard, Dr. Moritz Benayoun visits Picard. The two have a shared history from Picard’s time on the Stargazer. Benayoun delivers some devastating news to Picard: while Picard’s results are above Starfleet requirements, his medical results reveal that he has a terminal illness due to an abnormality in his parietal lobe. Despite this, Picard is determined to go forward with his mission.
Picard beams to Starfleet headquarters to meet with Admiral Kirsten Clancy. During their meeting, Picard updates her on recent events and requests to be temporarily reinstated as an officer, along with a small ship and crew. He explains that if there is any possibility that a part of Data still exists, the Federation has a duty to let him investigate. However, Clancy denies Picard’s request due to his public criticism of Starfleet’s handling of the Romulan rescue mission. Picard acknowledges his mistake, but Clancy explains that Starfleet was forced to make a difficult decision in order to maintain its relationships with 14 species in the Federation. She tells Picard to go home.
Dr. Agnes Jurati visits Picard and confirms that Dahj was admitted to the Daystrom Institute, but her identity was created three years prior, all at once. Picard wonders if Dr. Bruce Maddox was responsible for creating Dahj’s identity, and Jurati agrees that it’s possible, but questions why he would do so. She suggests that Picard focus on finding Soji and determining her motives, rather than trying to uncover the mystery surrounding Dahj. Despite considering enlisting members of his old crew for the mission, Picard decides against it for their safety. That night, Picard contacts Raffi and asks for her help in securing a ship.
Picard encounters a woman armed with a weapon at a house in Vasquez Rocks. He convinces her to let him inside to discuss the existence of secret Romulan assassins on Earth.
When They Work Against You
Admiral Clancy asks Commodore Oh to investigate Picard’s claims. Oh sends Lieutenant Rizzo to gather information and reports back to her that Picard is searching for Bruce Maddox and has knowledge of the Romulan operation. Clancy wants Picard discouraged in pursuing it further, and if necessary, Oh is prepared to handle the situation herself. Rizzo is warned that her life depends on successfully completing the mission.
Book Smart, Making Dumb Decisions
Soji is in bed with Narek, discussing the Borg cube that Soji calls the Artifact. Jokingly, they talk about the possibility of Soji being sent on a mission of destruction, and Narek being an accomplice by virtue of their intimate relationship. However, it becomes clear that Narek is not who he claims to be, and he admits that their relationship must remain a secret because he is a private person. Soji knows little about him, not even his real name. When she asks if it’s allowed for them to be together, Narek replies with a smile, “Definitely not.”
Narek later meets with Rizzo as a hologram and updates her on the slow progress of gathering information from “the machine.” Rizzo warns Narek that she will arrive soon and take action if necessary.
Back on the Borg cube, Soji is talking with Narek and Dr. Naáshala Kunamadéstifee, a new recruit from Trill Polytech. Naáshala is worried about the possibility of the cube being reconnected to the Borg, but Soji and Narek assure her that the link is broken and the Collective views the cube as dead. Narek asks to be involved in the procedure, but Soji tells him he needs approval. As she walks away, Narek whispers under his breath that he doesn’t need approval.
Meanwhile, Dr. Kabath, a Romulan scientist, is working on a Romulan Borg, whom she calls “Nameless.” Soji prefers the actual name of the Borg to be used, rather than “Nameless.” Kabath responds that “Nameless” is still a name and continues with her work, removing the left arm implant and left eye. Soji takes the Borg’s hand and, speaking in its language, says, “You are free, my friend.”