The crew plays host to a group of visiting dignitaries who are negotiating for the rights to a stable wormhole discovered by the Barzan, which could provide a valuable shortcut through the galaxy. Stressed out by her job as the ship's counselor, Troi reluctantly attends a reception for the representatives. There, she is immediately drawn to the Chrysalian delegate, Devinoni Ral. The two share an instant attraction which soon leads them into a passionate affair.
Meanwhile, negotiations for the wormhole grow increasingly tense. Determined to win the rights, the Ferengi secretly inoculate the Federation delegate, Mendoza, leaving him too ill to continue his task. In his place, Picard selects Riker to represent Federation interests.
Concerned that there is little concrete information about the coveted wormhole, Riker suggests that the U.S.S. Enterprise conduct an expedition into it before committing the Federation to a binding contract. Picard agrees and orders La Forge and Data to pilot a shuttlecraft into the hole. Not to be outdone by the Federation, the Ferengi send a craft of their own into the hole.
Before long, however, Geordi and Data determine that the wormhole is not as stable or as valuable as it looks. They inform the Ferengi shuttlecraft pilots of their discovery but the Ferengi ignore them. Back on the U.S.S. Enterprise, negotiations for the hole continue, as does the romance between Troi and Devinoni. Although she's fallen in love with Devinoni, Troi begins to have some reservations about him when she learns that he is part Betazoid and has been using his empathic powers to manipulate his competitors in the negotiations.
Masterfully maneuvering his position, Devinoni narrows the competition down to the Federation and the Chrysalians, whom he represents. Just when it appears that Riker will secure the wormhole rights, the Ferengi threaten to destroy the hole, insisting that an "informed source" has told them that the Federation has made a secret deal with the Barzan premier.
Devinoni takes advantage of the conflict and the Barzan leader's wishes for peace to win the rights to the hole. When Troi senses that Devinoni staged the entire incident to undermine the Federation, her sense of duty compels her to speak out. But before the Barzan premier has a chance to revoke the agreement with Devinoni, the Enterprise shuttle appears from the wormhole and announces that it is worthless. The dashing delegate then bids farewell to Troi and returns to face the Chrysalians.