The U.S.S. Enterprise responds to a distress call from Nikolai Rozhenko, Worf's foster brother, who is stationed as a cultural observer on Boraal II, a planet that is rapidly self-destructing. Since the Boraalans know nothing of space travel, Picard sends Worf to the surface disguised as a Boraalan. He soon finds Nikolai, also disguised, waiting in a cave with a group of villagers. The two beam back to the Enterprise, where Nikolai proposes a plan to save at least some of the Boraalans. Picard refuses on the grounds that any effort to help would violate the Prime Directive. Boraal II is then destroyed, and soon afterward, the ship experiences a power drain, which Worf investigates. His search leads him to the Holodeck, where he is shocked to find Nikolai hiding the Boraalan villagers in a replica of the cave where Worf first located them.
Furious, Worf reprimands Nikolai for disobeying Picard's orders. Picard is also angry, but still listens to Nikolai's plan to find a new M-Class planet to serve as home to the Boraalan colony. Nikolai believes that by using the Holodeck, he can fool the Boraalans into thinking that they are moving to a safer place on their own planet. Picard is skeptical, but he agrees to the plan. However, there is a problem — the Holodeck has been damaged by the energy surges from Boraal II and will eventually break down. Still, Picard sees no choice but to try, and assigns Worf to watch his brother as he prepares the Boraalans for their "journey."
Nikolai and Worf return to the "cave" and tell the group that their village was destroyed and they must travel to a new home. Meanwhile, Data and Beverly find what appears to be a suitable planet, Vacca VI, and Picard orders the crew to set course for the location. Worf announces to the Boraalans that it is time to begin their journey, but one of the men, Vorin, is upset — he has lost part of the written chronicle of the history of their village. He wanders through the Holodeck entrance trying to find it, and strays into the corridor.
The array of species and technology that he has never seen before terrifies Vorin, and although Riker and Troi quickly take charge, it is too late. Beverly is unable to erase Vorin's memory, so Troi and Picard try to gently explain what is really happening. Worf reports this to Nikolai, and tells him the staff will allow Vorin to return to the group if he chooses. Nikolai is upset that Vorin might reveal the truth and ruin everything, and the brothers begin to argue. Worf finally storms off in disgust, only to learn from Geordi that the Holodeck will not hold up much longer. Then, a Boraalan woman named Dobara approaches Worf and asks him to stand by his brother — especially since she is carrying Nikolai's child.
The Enterprise enters orbit around Vacca VI and Picard tells Vorin that they have reached the planet. Vorin is torn — he wants to rejoin his people, but he does not feel strong enough to hide what he knows, all the while realizing that if he tells them the truth, he will destroy everything they believe. Feeling like he no longer has a place, he commits suicide. Meanwhile, Worf confronts Nikolai about mating with a Boraalan, but their argument is interrupted when the Holodeck begins to collapse. Nikolai is able to convince the group that another storm has come and Worf successfully transports the entire group, including Nikolai and himself, to the surface of Vacca VI before the ruse is exposed. Realizing that his brother has actually enabled the Boraalans to start a new life, Worf finally begins to appreciate Nikolai's unorthodox methods. He leaves his brother to lead this group of people with a newfound understanding of their differences.