The Enterprise encounters a Bracewell probe, which scans the ship and sends an energy beam to Captain Picard, rendering him unconscious. Picard wakes up on the surface of a non-Federation planet; a woman who identifies herself as his wife, Eline, insists that he is a man known as Kamin, waking from a feverish sickness that might have caused amnesia. Although Picard talks of his past memories on the Enterprise, Eline and Batai, a close friend, convince him that they were only dreams, and acclimatize Picard, as Kamin, into their society. He begins living out life as Kamin in the village of Ressik, working as an iron weaver, starting a family with Eline, and learning to play the flute.[notes 1] As the years pass in Kamin's life, he begins to notice that the planet is suffering a worldwide drought due to increased radiation from the planet's sun. He sends reports to the planet's leaders.
Years pass and Kamin grows old, outliving his wife, while the sun continues to raise the planet's temperature beyond what life can tolerate. One day, while playing with his grandson, Kamin is summoned by his adult children to watch the launch of a missile. As he walks outside into the glaring sunlight, Kamin sees Eline and Batai, as young as when he first saw them. They explain that he's already seen the missile; he saw it just before he came there. Knowing their planet was doomed, they placed the memories of their planet and society into a probe contained in a missile, representing the furthest technological advancement of their culture, in the hope that it would find someone who could be a teacher, who could tell others about them. Picard suddenly recalls his earlier life aboard the Enterprise as he watches the missile launch.
Picard wakes up on the bridge of the Enterprise. Only 25 minutes have passed since the probe arrived. In the meanwhile, the crew of the Enterprise had tracked the probe's course back to a scorched and desolate planet which was destroyed long ago by a nova, in hopes of understanding the probe's purpose. The probe, now inactive, is brought aboard the Enterprise for examination. The crew finds a small box within the probe, which a somber Riker gives to Picard. Inside the box is Kamin's flute. Picard, now adept at playing the flute, plays a melody he learned during his life as Kamin.