In this episode, the Chief Engineer of the Federation Starfleet starship USS Enterprise , Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge is trapped on a life-threatening planet with a Romulan. The two adversaries must work together if they wish to survive. Meanwhile, on board the Enterprise, Chief of Security Lt. Worf is faced with a conflict between his duty as a Starfleet officer and his prejudice against Romulans.
Enterprise First Officer Commander William Riker, Worf, and La Forge beam onto a planet with such a stormy and inhospitable environment that a locater beacon must be used to recover them. Riker reminds the others that they only have a 15 minute window in which to accomplish their objective. Worf discovers that due to electromagnetic interference the team's communicators are not functioning and their tricorders have an effective range of only 5 meters. The three begin searching for something, which Geordi quickly locates using the electronic scanning capabilities of his VISOR. Their target turns out to be the exploded remnants of a spacecraft which they determine is of Romulan origin and was deliberately destroyed after it crashed on the planet. With the ship located they quickly separate and fan out in an attempt to locate its crew. Worf finds a semi-conscious Romulan who recovers enough to clamp a choking death grip on the Klingon's neck, but Worf knocks his assailant unconscious with a precise blow. Meanwhile, as Geordi searches, the ground underneath him suddenly gives way, plunging him into a 20 foot deep cavity. When Riker and Worf return to the beam-out location with the unconscious Romulan, to their surprise Geordi is nowhere to be seen. They call out for Geordi to no avail, and as their time window runs out Riker orders a reluctant Worf to remain at the beacon so they will be transported off the planet.
Aboard the Enterprise, in voice-over Captain Jean-Luc Picard states in his Captain's Log that an unidentified distress signal led them to the discovery of the crashed ship on the surface of the Federation planet Galorndon Core. Picard discusses the implications of the crashed ship with Riker, at first wondering why the Romulans would be operating on a Federation planet possessing such an unfavorable environment, but he finally realizes that establishing a base in such an unexpected and forlorn place could be an opening move for a new offensive against the Federation.
On the planet below, Geordi has found some small pieces of metallic ore, and after fashioning a crude mold, uses his phaser to melt the fragments into two sharp stakes, which he employs to climb out of the hole.
In the Enterprise Sick bay, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Beverly Crusher attempts to treat the severely injured Romulan and discovers that he needs a transplant of compatible ribosomes to recover. Picard and Riker arrive and wish to interrogate the Romulan, so Crusher reluctantly administers a stimulant which will revive him for a couple of minutes. She tells the two Enterprise officers that part of the Romulan's illness is caused by the breakdown of his synaptic connections, probably due to his exposure to the magnetic fields on the planet, and adds that the same will happen to Geordi. When the Romulan regains consciousness, he states that he was alone on the planet and refuses to say anything further. Riker and Picard immediately suspect that he is lying.
Returning to the Bridge, Picard initiates a discussion of possible alternatives for the location and recovery of Geordi. The ship's Helmsman, acting Ensign Wesley Crusher suggests sending a neutrino pulse device down to the planet in a probe, the neutrino beams will cut through any amount of interference and will be visible to Geordi's VISOR. Wes adds that once La Forge follows the beam back its source, he can modulate it to signal that he has found the probe. Picard approves of Wesley's suggestion and tells him to “make it so”.
Enterprise Operations Officer Lt. Commander Data picks up a transmission on a parallel frequency to the one on which they received the distress call. The signal comes from Romulan Commander Tomalak who is responding to the original distress call, telling his fellow Romulans that he is entering the Neutral zone and will arrive at Galorndon Core to rescue them in 5 hours. Picard responds at once to the message, telling Tomalak that the Enterprise has recovered an injured Romulan trespasser on the Federation side of the Neutral zone, asking if his ship should be searching for any other Romulan survivors on the planet. In reply, Tomalak insists that the incursion was not intentional and merely the result of a navigational error, he adds that the Romulan vessel was a one man ship. Picard warns him not to transit from the Neutral zone into Federation space. Concerned for Picard's Romulan ward, Tomalak replies that he expects Picard to rendezvous with him on the Federation edge of the Neutral zone in five hours and turn over his injured officer.
In Sick bay, Dr Crusher tells her staff to cease administration of all drugs to the Romulan, and calls Picard to tell him that the injured humanoid is not responding to treatment.
On Galorndon Core, Geordi has been searching the treacherous terrain for any evidence of his crewmates. He soon spots the neutrino beacon, which appears to be as distinct as a searchlight shining into the sky in the scans of his VISOR. However, as he starts off to find the beacon, he is hit from behind and knocked out by a second Romulan. Geodi wakes up to find that he has been taken prisoner and is being menaced by a Romulan disruptor pistol. An unexpected rock fall stuns the Romulan, but Geordi picks him up and assists him to the cover of a small cave. Unfortunately the Romulan is unmoved by this act of mercy and continues to hold La Forge captive.
Aboard the Enterprise, Crusher summons Worf to Sick bay to inform him that he's the only person on the ship who is a compatible ribosome match for the Romulan. Unwilling to aid a member of the race which murdered his parents, Worf refuses to donate the tissue which could save the man. Crusher tries to persuade Worf to reconsider, telling him that without treatment the Romulan will die. Worf replies that if this is the case, “then he will die”.
Back on Galorndon Core, the Romulan, who introduces himself as Centurion Bochra, continues to menace Geordi. La Forge begins to have problems with the interface of his VISOR, and when Bochra also starts to show ill effects, realizes that the planet has a deleterious effect on their nervous systems.
In orbit overhead, Picard receives an angry call from Commander Tomalak, demanding to know why the Enterprise isn't waiting at the edge of the Neutral zone as expected. Picard explains that due to the storms below he still has not been able to recover his away team from the planet. He once again warns Tomalak not to cross the border into Federation space.
In the cavern on the planet below, Bochra's arrogant manner, jingoistic talk of the superiority of the Romulan Empire over the Federation, and taunts of how the Romulan Empire will one day dominate the entire galaxy begin to ebb as the desperate reality of the situation sinks in. Geordi gently convinces him that while there are times when it's necessary to die for one's beliefs, this is not one of them. Bochra finally agrees to go with Geordi to the probe and return with him to the Enterprise. Unfortunately as the two men rise to move out, Geordi's visor cuts out completely due to the magnetic interference, leaving him totally blind and unable to lead Bochra to the probe.
On the Enterprise, Worf calls Picard and informs him that Tomalak's Warbird has crossed the Neutral zone boundary and entered Federation space, adding that its on its way to their position and will arrive in two hours. Picard orders his ship to Red Alert status. Crusher calls Worf to Sickbay, telling him that since the Romulan's life is coming to an end, she thought he ought to take one more look at the dying man, adding that it is still not too late for Worf to reconsider. Worf tells the Romulan that he has biological factors needed by the Romulan to survive, but the Romulan tells him that "he would rather die than be polluted by Klingon filth". Disgusted, Worf leaves Sick bay.
On the planet, disdainful that an apathetic Geordi has seemingly become resigned to his fate, Bochra suggests that perhaps Geordi's VISOR and tricorder could be adapted to interface together. A disheartened Geordi replies that the two instruments aren't designed to speak the same Communications protocol language, adding that successfully completing such a complex task would be all but impossible in their current surroundings. As he considers it further though, La Forge realizes the Romulan's idea has merit, what Bochra suggests would in effect create a "Geiger counter" of sorts for neutrino emissions, giving the men the bearing to the beacon. Regrettably, Geordi has no chance of completing the delicate work since he can't see, but Bochra volunteers to assist him by acting as his eyes.
Picard calls Worf to his Ready room, telling him that when the Romulan ship arrives at Galorndon Core, news of the death of the Romulan officer may give Tomalak exactly the excuse needed to start an incident. Saying that the dying Romulan officer is worth more to them alive than dead, he pleads and eventually begs Worf to volunteer for the transfusion. Worf continues to refuse, saying that he will only cooperate if ordered, but Picard is aware that to do so would be an intrusion of Worf's personal rights. Worf leaves and Picard calls Crusher to tell her to cease attempting to enlist Worf's aid in saving the Romulan, but she replies that its no longer necessary as her patient has perished.
On Galorndon Core, with Geordi's help, Bochra completes the necessary modifications to the VISOR and Tricorder, resulting in, as Geordi puts it, "The first Romulan / Federation co-venture". With difficulty the two men use the device to make their way to the neutrino beacon.
Just as the planetary storms abate enough to allow a possible beam-up, Tomalak's Warbird arrives, and he demands the return of his officer. Picard roughly replies that the man is dead. Telling Picard that the Romulan officer will be but the first to fall, an enraged Tomalak prepares for battle, and both ships go to full combat readiness. In the midst of this, Wesley reports that the beacon has started to modulate, Geordi apparently having found it. Data adds that there are not one, but two life forms below. Telling Riker to put on his best poker face, Picard opens a channel to the unresponsive Tomalak; telling him that the Enterprise has located a second Romulan on the planet. Picard tells Tomalak that as a gesture of trust, he is going to drop his shields to beam the two aboard, and has Transporter Chief Miles O'Brien beam them directly to the Bridge; Bochra salutes Tomalak and reports that he gave up no secrets to the Federation, but that he has not been mistreated, and indeed that Geordi even saved his life.
Jean-Luc's bit of brinkmanship is successful and a galactic incident is averted as a mollified Tomalak powers down his weaponry. Picard returns Bochra to his people and provides the Romulan ship with an escort back to the Neutral zone.