Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the crew of the Federation starship USS Enterprise-D. In this episode, The Enterprise rescues a Starfleet admiral's grandson, long thought dead, but who had been adopted and raised by the enemies who killed the boy's parents.
The Enterprise responds to a distress call from a Talarian vessel. They rescue five teenaged members of the crew, four of whom are Talarian, and one who is a human male named Jono (Chad Allen).
Jono keeps to himself, apparently identifying as a Talarian, but shows strict obedience to Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), which together with some unexplained past injuries leads Doctor Crusher (Gates McFadden) to suggest Jono may have been physically abused. It is determined that Jono is Jeremiah Rossa, a long-lost Federation citizen. His grandmother is a Starfleetadmiral, and he was orphaned ten years ago when his parents were killed in a skirmish with the Talarians.
Picard tries to reach out to Jono but has limited success. When the Captain introduces the topic of Jono's human family, Jono gets angry. However, after persistent effort by Picard, Jono's memories of the attack begin to return. Meanwhile, friendship develops between Jono and Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton).
A Talarian ship arrives, and its Captain, Endar (Sherman Howard), asks for a status on his son - Jono. Ten years ago, Endar claimed Jono after the attack that killed Jono's parents. Picard confronts Endar about Jono's past injuries. Endar explains Jono's injuries as the products of a boy trying to impress his father by participating in high-risk activities; Picard seems satisfied and observes that Endar seems to care for Jono. With some reservations, Picard allows Endar to see Jono, but when Jono says he wants to stay with Endar, Picard suspects the boy is afraid to say he wants to stay in the Federation. Endar insists that Jono will come back with him, even if the result is war between the Talarians and the Federation.
Returning to his vessel, Endar calls for reinforcements, as Picard decides to try to convince Jono to stay. After Jono receives a message from his grandmother, Picard takes the boy to play a form of racquetball. During the game, Jono breaks down and cries. The crew believes they are making progress with the boy - but that night, Jono stabs the Captain. The dagger is deflected by Picard's sternum, and the resulting wounds are relatively minor. The problem of where Jono should live is now compounded as Jono has committed a Federation crime.
When Picard learns that Jono feels he cannot betray Endar by befriending Picard, the Captain realizes he has been trying to impose his wishes on the boy. Just as Endar's patience is about to run out, Picard contacts the Talarians and lets them know he will let Jono go back. Jono bids Picard farewell with a Talarian ritual that is normally reserved for family members.