In an attempt to obtain information from their hostage, the Cardassians inject Picard with a serum that forces him to answer all questions truthfully. He soon reveals the exact nature of the Federation's mission to destroy metagenic weapons on Celtris III. However, his Cardassian captor, Gul Lemec, reveals that the situation on Celtris III was simply a trap, invented to lure him into Cardassian space. The Cardassians have captured them in order to learn strategy the Federation will use in case of a Cardassian attack. When Picard indicates that he knows nothing of such a strategy, Gul Madred begins to torture him in violation of the law.

Back on the Enterprise, Gul Lemec informs Captain Jellico, Riker and Troi that Picard is being held hostage. Jellico prepares to rendezvous with Worf and Beverly, but refuses Riker's request to attempt a rescue mission for Picard, stating that his former captain is probably already dead. Later, Gul Lemec tells Riker and Jellico that if Jellico admits Picard's mission was authorized by the Federation, his life can be spared. When Jellico refuses, Riker loses his temper, and is promptly relieved of his post.

Surprisingly, Jellico chooses Data as Riker's replacement and with Geordi's help, they deduce that the Cardassians faked the metagenic weapon situation to lure Picard. As the discussion continues, they also realize that Picard is probably being tortured to reveal information he doesn't even have, and that their actions could indicate that the Cardassians are planning an attack.

Jellico directs the Enterprise to Minos Korva, where he believes they can intercept the Cardassians and launch a first strike. The rest of the senior staff warns him that he is flirting with disaster by initiating a Cardassian battle in their territory, pointing out that they have no proof the Cardassians are preparing for war and that thousands of innocent lives may be lost. Still, Jellico holds firm. At the same time, a starving, exhausted Picard manages to hold firm against Gul Madred, winning some small victories in their battle of wills.

Jellico prepares to begin his mission and travel into Cardassian space in a shuttlecraft. However, when Geordi informs him that Riker is the best pilot on the ship, the captain swallows his pride and asks Riker to lead the excursion. Riker agrees, and he and Geordi are successful in their effort to lay mines throughout the sector per Jellico's instructions. Before long, a furious Lemec contacts Jellico, who agrees not to detonate the mines If the Cardassians withdraw and Picard is returned. Lemec agrees and a weak disoriented Picard soon arrives on the Enterprise relieving Jellico before his overjoyed crew.