The Enterprise is investigating Angosia as a candidate for entry into the Federation. The Angosian authorities approach Picard and ask for help in apprehending a convict who has escaped on a transport ship from their prison colony on Lunar V. The Enterprise, with Data in command, is able to easily locate the ship but lose sight of it when it goes behind an asteroid. When it emerges from the far side of the asteroid only the drive section of the ship remains. The ship's sensors show no lifesigns aboard so Data takes the Enterprise behind the asteroid to search for the rest of the ship. They find wreckage on the asteroid surface and the sensors indicate no life signs. Believing that the prisoner has perished Data orders the ship back to the planet. However on emerging from the asteroid's shadow Wesley reports that the drive section they saw earlier has also disappeared. When Picard hails the ship for a status report Data is forced to concede that the prisoner has eluded them.
Picard and Riker return to the ship where Data determines that the ship must be using the planets magnetic pole to evade their long range sensors. The Enterprise moves toward the pole and sure enough spot the ship, which upon discovery heads toward them on a collision course. The ships sensors still show no life signs; however, someone must be in control because the ship appears to be directed. Worf raises the shields and the ship bounces off. Data reports that the prisoner used the ramming as a diversion as a one-man escape pod was launched just before the collision. Picard has Chief O'Brien beam the thing closest in mass to an adult humanoid aboard. Riker and Worf are sent to meet him. When the prisoner is transported aboard O'Brien detects a weapon, which he disables. When security try to take the prisoner into custody he fights back, initially seeming impervious to the guards phasers. He overpowers the two guards and injures O'Brien before Riker and Worf arrive and help to subdue him.
They learn that his name is Roga Danar. Troi reads little aggression from him and finds it unlikely that he could be so violent. After some research, it is found that although he is a prisoner, he has no criminal record whatsoever. The government of Angosia confirms Danar's report that he was a normal citizen that enlisted in the military and was altered psychologically and biochemically into an adept warrior. When in danger, his memory, intelligence, reflexes and strength all increase. The Angosian government arranges for a transport ship to take him back to Lunar V to be placed in prison. Danar is to be imprisoned because he is unsuited for life in civilized society. However, they refuse to discuss the abuses Danar alleges, claiming it an internal matter that the Federation has no right to interfere in. Danar and others were attempted to integrate into society but were too unstable with simple arguments leading to murder.
During the attempted transport from the holding cells aboard the Enterprise to the Angosian police transport vessel, Danar literally breaks out of the transporter beam and manages to escape. Since the sensors can't follow Danar's movements, he is able to evade the security teams easily. He moves quickly through the hallways and the Jeffries tubes making his way to a cargo bay where he activates the transporter using a phaser. He then beams aboard the Angosian transport vessel. He cripples the Enterprise by using a phaser on overload, planted in one of the Jeffries tubes, to disable her sensor systems. With the Enterprise blind they are unable to track Danar who uses the transport vessel to attack the Lunar V prisoner colony and rescue several of his fellow inmates.
Danar and the other inmates lead an attack on the city and confront the Angosian government. Picard, Worf, Troi and Data, who had come to forcefully investigate the apparent systematic sentient rights violations, are with the Angosian government when they are assaulted. The escapees have no quarrel with Picard or his crew, only the government. With brazen hypocrisy, the Angosian government's pleads with Picard to intervene to stop the insurrection. However, Picard refuses to do so and advises the government not to resist because the soldiers are only programmed to survive. They were not programmed to murder people who do not resist them. Picard and his away team beam back aboard the Enterprise while letting the government know that they need to make a decision with what they will do with their veterans. Danar seems pleased that he is being recognized and smiles at the away team as they leave.
On their return to the Enterprise, Picard notes that if the government survives, they will be given assistance in helping their veterans with their conditioning. He also notes that they may reapply for consideration into the Federation at a later date.