Captain Archer is contacted by Admiral Forrest to assist ECS Fortunate, a Y-class freighter. Archer, Lieutenant Reed, Doctor Phlox, and Ensign Mayweather learn from the first officer that the Fortunate was attacked by Nausicaans and that the captain was injured. Enterprise helps repair the Fortunate until sensors show that the 23-member crew has an additional person aboard.
An Earth freighter, ECS Fortunate, with a crew of 23 is attacked by Nausicaans and Enterprise is sent to help. When they arrive, the freighter is relatively unharmed apart from their captain, but the rest of the crew are secretive and reluctant to provide explanations. While helping repair Fortunate, Sub-Commander T'Pol detects a Nausicaan bio-sign. It transpires that X.O. Ryan and his men are secretly torturing the captive for his shield access codes. Ryan admits the Nausicaan pirate is their prisoner, but refuses to let the Starfleet personnel see him, and Captain Archer threatens to retract his assistance to Fortunate.
Ryan seemingly relents, but as Archer and his away team enter a cargo section of the freighter, the cargo pod is suddenly jettisoned with the away team inside. Before Fortunate warps away, it attempts to damage Enterprise in order to delay pursuit. Enterprise recovers its people and begins pursuit of the rogue freighter. Meanwhile, Fortunate arrives at the asteroid used by the Nausicaan pirates, but discover the acquired shield codes are useless. The pirates attempt to board the freighter and rescue their captured crewman just as Enterprise arrives and begins to engage the Nausicaan ships.
Archer is soon able to broker a temporary truce: if they can return the Nausicaan captive, the boarding party will stand down. Ryan is uncooperative until Ensign Mayweather intervenes, saying that Ryan's motivations are not about preventing future attacks on Earth ships; they are about personal revenge, and doing do simply exposes other freighter crews to revenge attacks as well. Ryan relents. Later, Archer and Captain Keene of Fortunate discuss Ryan's actions and his demotion to Crewman 3rd class. They agree Ryan acted rashly, but Keene also muses that acting on their own is the primary motivation his people are out here — to both challenge and prove themselves.