Attempting to bring to an end centuries of war, planets Krios and Valt Minor have agreed to a Ceremony of Reconciliation to be held aboard the Enterprise at a point midway between their two systems.
As the Federation starship heads off to the rendezvous point, Kriosian Ambassador Briam meets with shipâs Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the captain's ready room. Picard apologizes for their late arrival, telling Briam that the ship was delayed when they had to pick up some stranded miners. Briam minimizes the inconvenience, saying that his people are appreciative of any Federation attention to their current situation. Picard then inquires if Chief Engineer Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge was able to provide the special cargo handling provisions that had been requested. Briam replies that he was, adding that the cargo he brought aboard with him is intended for use in the ceremony. Picard is a little concerned about the nature of this somewhat mysterious cargo, but Briam reassures him that it is safe and requests that the storage hold be placed off limits to all non-essential shipâs personnel due to the cargoâs âirreplaceableâ nature.
Their conversation is interrupted as the Ship's First Officer Commander William Riker reports that a distress call has been received from a disabled Ferengi shuttle. The two crewmembers are beamed onto the Enterprise just as their ship explodes, and are escorted to temporary quarters where they will remain until they are able to arrange alternative transport. As soon as they are alone, the Ferengi smile and act in a celebratory manner, saying that âeverything went too easilyâ, demonstrating that they have come aboard under false pretenses.
La Forge and Picard escort Briam to the Holodeck so that he can examine Geordi's recreation of the ancient Temple of Akadar, where the actual ceremony will take place. When he sees it, Briam is astounded at how accurate the reproduction is. He explains that the original hostilities between the two worlds began with two brothers, Krios and Valt, who ruled a vast empire from the site of the original Temple. The brothers were torn apart by their mutual love for a beautiful woman, who at length was kidnapped and spirited away by Krios to the planet which he founded in his own name. Briam adds that he hopes the wars will come to an end inside this copy.
As they leave the Holodeck, Briam is confronted by the Ferengi over future Krios Valt trade. Picard has the ship's Chief of Security Lt. Worf chase them away. Worf discovers the other Ferengi and a woman held in stasis in Briam's shipment.
Arriving just as the woman emerges, Picard is taken aback and demands an explanation. The woman introduces herself as Kamala, and explains that she is intended as a gift for the Valt representative, Chancellor Alrick. Riker bristles at this and asks Briam if he is using their ship for the purpose of transporting a sentient being as property. Briam hastens to explain that Kamala is a gift, not property, adding that he was afraid the Starfleet officers might not understand. At first Kamala does not comprehend why the two men are upset but when Picard explains that a provision of the Federation Constitution protects individual fundamental rights, she is impressed and gratified with their concern, saying that she appreciates their coming to her rescue, but that she does not require it as she is acting of her own free will. Briam explains that Kamala is the key to peace between the two worlds, being an empathic metamorph - an extremely rare and valuable genetic mutation with the ability to perceive the desires of the men around her and adapt her persona to be their perfect mate. Concerned that these abilities might prove disruptive to the Enterprise crew, Briam chose to ship her in the cargo container, but Picard insists on giving her better treatment, and orders Riker to escort her to guest quarters.
As Riker guides Kamala to her quarters, she tells Riker that in her current state of metamorphic development, called the Finisral, she is at the cusp of adapting herself to a permanent mate, therefore her presence can be difficult for those around her as her body is produced highly elevated levels of pheromones which have a provocative effect on all the males near her. Riker finds she is correct as she reacts to his unspoken interest and curiosity by passionately kissing him and he almost has to pry himself away.
When Picard shares breakfast with his Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher the next morning, Beverly tells him that Briam has ordered Kamala to remain in her stateroom and thus is being held a virtual prisoner there. Picard says he had no idea that this was the case, and Crusher gently chides him, telling him that since it is his ship, maybe there are a few things he ought to find out about. Jean-Luc promises to look into it.
Picard goes to see Kamala and fighting his obvious attraction, offers her some freedom of movement. She asks Picard why her situation makes him so uncomfortable, and he replies that he and others have difficulty with the concept that a sentient being would have the sole purpose in life of existing to please another. Observing that Picard has some curious viewpoints, Kamala says that pleasing another provides her with her fulfillment in life. Kamala then starts to respond as a metamorph to Picard, who asks her to stop âdoingâ¦ the thing she does with menâ, she replies that she cannot help who she is. Beating a hasty retreat, Picard tells her that he will speak to Briam about easing her restrictions.
Picard confronts Braim who tries to forbid Picard from allowing Kamala freedom from her quarters but Picard tells him he wonât allow the metamorph to be confined on his ship. Briam protests that she is in the height of her Finisral, and that every man on the ship will be fighting over her. With a knowing smile, Picard enigmatically replies ânot every manâ.
Jean-Luc assigns his emotionless Operations Officer Lt. Commander Data to escort Kamala on a tour of the ship, knowing that the android will be impervious to her wiles. However, when Data escorts Kamala into 10-Forward, the miners cause problems when interacting with her. Worf removes them, but then begins reacting to Kamala as well. Data takes her back to her cabin.
Kamala comes to Picardâs Ready room to discuss the failure of his plan, she agrees to stay in her quarters if he will come and visit her, but he responds that this would be âinappropriateâ. Disappointed, she tells him that she wishes he would quit trying to put up a wall between them and that her powers sense a man of deep passion and convictionâ¦ but very controlled. She adds that she is curious to see what lies beneath. Picard replies that there is nothing beneath and that he is really quite dull. Not accepting this, Kamala answers that he should not take it lightly when a metamorph finds him interesting, to which Picard rejoinders that he is just trying to âbe as dull as possibleâ. Kamala asks again if he will come see her, this irritates Picard, who asks why she is acting the way she is. Kamala replies that she is only responding to his hidden desires, she acts as she does because some part of him wishes her to.
The Ferengi try to bribe Briam into releasing Kamala to them, telling him they have a ship waiting nearby which is ready to pick them all up. He thanks them for sharing this information, and informs them he will tell the captain. And as he starts to leave, the Ferengi attempts to restrain him. In the struggle which follows, Briam is thrown to the floor and severely injured when he falls on a small table.
With Briam unconscious and unable to participate in the ceremony, Picard considers delaying the meeting, but Kamala tells him that she is in the final stages of her metamorphic cycle and must bond with Alrik within two days. She suggests that Picard take over Briamâs role. Picard resists at first, saying he couldnât represent her people, but Kamala points out that she is fully versed on all the intricacies of the ceremony. Picard reluctantly agrees to fill in for Briam under Kamalaâs tutelage.
In the Holodeck version of the Temple, Kamala and Picard work together to prepare him for the intricacies of the reconciliation ceremony. Picard tells her that playing some of the Valtese instruments remind him of his childhood piano lessons, which he despised. Kamala thanks him for letting down his guard and revealing his true self, if only for a moment. She teasingly asks him what he fears about her and if he finds her unattractive, he replies that he finds her âunavailableâ. She tells him that they actually have something in common, she also studied musical instruments during her childhood training, but her lessons were for the entire orchestra! Kamala finally observes that in a day she will bond with a man she has never met, and turn herself into whatever he wants for the rest of her life, but wistfully adds that itâs ironic on the eve of her bonding ceremony that she should meet a man like Picard. Riker contacts Jean-Luc via intercom to announce that the Valtese ship has arrived and Chancellor Alrik is ready to beam aboard.
Picard meets with Alrik in the Conference room. Picard discovers that Alrik is actually far less interested in Kamala than he is in the final provisions of the trade agreement heâs there to negotiate with Picard. He also has little use for the copy of the Temple or the rituals and Ceremony of Reconciliation, calling the Kriosians âsentimental peopleâ.
Picard tells Kamala that Alrik is looking forward to meeting with her the next morning and says that he must prepare for the ceremony. Replying that she doesnât want to be alone, she asks him to stay, adding that she enjoys listening to the sound of his voice. Once he knows this, Picard suddenly feels self-conscious and finds it difficult to make conversation. Kamala reaches out and caresses his head, causing Picard to ask her if he has ânot done everything possible to discourage thisâ. Kamala replies that Picardâs actions to dissuade her may actually have been the perfect way to attract a metamorph. Picard tells her that he doesnât want to use her like other men, and she answers that he could never do that, and this is why sheâs with him this night.
The next morning, Picard and Crusher meet for breakfast again. Saying that he needs someone to talk to as a friend, Picard tells her that the entire situation with the metamorph, which he got involved with because of Beverly, has been very difficult for him. He reveals that it bothers him how Kamala changes her personality as each new man comes into a room, and then he finds himself wishing that that next man wouldnât come in. He also says heâs uncomfortable knowing sheâs bonding with a man who cares less about her than about trade agreements and he wonders how she will be with him. Beverly replies that she wishes she knew what to say, but Picard tells her that perhaps âhe just needed a shoulderâ.
Picard arrives at Kamalaâs quarters in dress uniform to escort her to the Holodeck and to be presented to Alrik. She looks very beautiful in an exquisite dress. To his shock she tells him that she has bonded with him, and that she will never love Alrik, although since she is still empathic she will be able to please the Chancellor. When Picard asks if she will still be able to go through with the ceremony, she replies that having bonded with Picard, she now knows the meaning of duty and must fulfill hers to stop the fighting â but she adds that she hopes Alrik likes Shakespeare.
Picard escorts Kamala to the Holodeck and steps aside after placing her hand on Alrikâs, but its plain from his pained expression and the look in his eyes that he has developed very deep feelings for Kamala just as she has for him. The Ceremony of Reconciliation takes place without incident.
Some time later, Jean-Luc escorts Briam to the Transporter room as the Ambassador heads back to Krios. Before he leaves though, Briam has a question for Picard. Briam observes that he was sent on the mission with Kamala primarily because he is nearly 200 years old, adding that the charms of a metamorph donât easily reach him. He confides though that he would be lying if he said that they didnât reach him at all. He says that he knows Picard worked with Kamala for days and wonders how Picard was able to resist her. The Captain doesnât really answer him, simply telling the Ambassador that he hopes he will have a safe trip home, Briam is then beamed off the Enterprise.