Finding no apparent signs of foul play, the Starship proceeds on its mission to transport rare hytritium to neutralize a sudden water contamination at a Federation colony. En route, Geordi is tormented by his inability to account for the shuttle explosion and the subsequent death of his friend.
Meanwhile, Kivas Fajo, the trader who supplied the hytritium, holds Data captive on his ship, adding the android to his collection of one of a kind items. Unable to escape, Data uses passive resistance to defy Fajo until his captor threatens to kill his own assistant, Varria, with a disrupter gun that slowly tortures its victims.
As the U.S.S. Enterprise approaches its destination, Geordi realizes that Data never transmitted a confirmation of departure from Fajo's ship, a breach of protocol virtually impossible for him to commit. Suspicions continue to mount when Worf reports that the contaminant in the outpost's water is not indigenous to the planet, and that the only neutralizer is the rare hytritium so conveniently supplied by Fajo. A report confirming that Fajo is a collector of rare objects convinces Picard that Data may have been kidnapped, and the U.S.S. Enterprise sets out in search of the trader's vessel.
Back aboard Fajo's ship, Varria attempts to seduce Data, but she is rebuked by the android who tells her that she is being used by Fajo to test his sexual abilities. Humiliated and angered by the truth, Varria helps Data escape, supplying him with a destructor gun and escorting him to a shuttlecraft. As they prepare to depart, Data and Varria are confronted by guards and a fight ensues, leaving them both unarmed.
Fajo then enters the shuttle bay and shoots Varria with a disrupter gun, leaving her to suffer a torturous death. Shocked by his own actions, Fajo discards the weapon, which Data quickly snatches up. Fajo then laughingly dares Data to shoot him, proclaiming that the android has no feelings which could justify murder to his anti-violent programming.
Moments later, Data is unwittingly transported back aboard the Enterprise. Much to his surprise, Riker learns that Data was firing a weapon at the moment of transport, but Data refuses to discuss the matter. Fajo is then arrested and the trader, who defined his value by his possessions, is stripped of his self-worth when his collection is confiscated.