Stardate 42411.2 : the Enterprise arrives at Ramatis III to pick up Federation mediator Riva (Howie Seago) who has been asked to resolve a dispute between warring tribes on Solais V. Commander Riker escorts Captain Picard to the transporter room where Counselor Troi and Lieutenant Worf await him. Picard states that Riva hasn't negotiated in decades, and Riker hopes he isn't "rusty". Picard tells him there will be a simple ceremonial greeting and he, Troi and Worf beam out and three materialize in a large geometric-looking room.
Soon, three people in white outfits enter from portals along the walls and take positions in the room. One man appears a scholarly-type, another is a warrior, and the third is a cultured-looking woman. A man in his mid-thirties with red hair and a beard, in gray robes, quietly enters. He studies the away team for a moment, then joins the other three individuals. Troi indicates he is Riva, telling Picard she senses a wonderful feeling of well being from them which sets the Captain at ease.
Picard introduces the away team. The woman says; "I have been expecting you", answering for Riva who is silent. The warrior asks Troi if she is an empath. Troi nods and the warrior states "I am looking forward to this journey.. because it gives me a chance to spend time in your company." Picard wonders what kind of communication is going on. The woman explains that it is a harmonious process that has developed over centuries. Picard asks if Riva is deaf. The warrior confirms this. Picard asks; "Then you all speak for Riva?" All three answer yes. The scholar states; "We convey not only his words, but his emotional intent as well." Troi explains Riva's "Chorus" serve as translators, each of an archetype of the man's personality. The Scholar represents Riva's intellect, philosophy and logic, the Warrior his libido and passion, and the Woman his wisdom and harmony.
The woman adds that the gene for hearing is not present in the planet's ruling line. Picard notes that the Chorus do not see Riva's gestures as he stands behind them. The scholar states that the Chorus is so attuned that they can "hear" his hand movements. It is a relationship developed over the centuries; their ancestors served Riva's ancestors.
Riva and his Chorus beam to the Enterprise which sets course for Solais V. Riva is introduced to Lt. Commander Data, Doctor Pulaski and Lt. La Forge. Riva (via the woman) asks La Forge about his VISOR, which he explains it allows him to see. Riva observes that the VISOR serves La Forge as the Chorus serves him.
Picard calls a meeting to discuss the Solari's conflict. Data states that the Solari factions have been fighting for fifteen centuries, and have nearly driven themselves to extinction. Riva interrupts Data stating that the aliens' situation is irrelevant to the negotiation, that the reports will state the conflict is over land, wealth or some other tangible asset, but that really isn't the true reason. Riker thinks the war has become personal. Riva ponders that now suddenly the Solari want peace, that something about the situation has changed. Riker guesses that they are running out of people to kill, however, since they are motivated to find peace it should make Riva's job easier. Riva maintains that his mission will be successful. To date, he has never failed.
At Solais V, scans show the Solari cease-fire has been broken as Worf detects weapon fire on the surface. Picard contacts the Solari demanding they cease combat and prepare for Riva to beam down. The Solari angrily tell Picard they will speak only to Riva. Riva comes to the bridge, compliments the Solari on their bravery both as fighters and in agreeing to meet with him. Worf indicates the firing has stopped. Riva arranges a meeting place.
Riva and his Chorus, plus Worf and Riker, beam down. Riva indicates what equipment he will need for the meeting. Worf scans a group of beings approaching. Riva explains that the first few moments will be very tense and suggests Riker and Worf avoid provocation; they stand back, but with phasers at the ready.
Two pairs of Solari soldiers arrive, both cautious and eyeing each other suspiciously. Riva commends the warriors, stating their coming here shows not only their courage but also their wisdom. Suddenly, without warning, one of the soldiers draws a weapon and the three members of Riva's Chorus are killed. His soldier colleague shoots him, and calls for Riva's continued help, but Riker has already had the away team beamed to the Enterprise.
On the Enterprise, Riva is in complete turmoil without his Chorus; he cannot communicate and believes he has failed his mission. Picard orders Data to do fast research and find a sign language that works, and asks Dr. Pulaski to look into creating a hearing device for Riva. Riker suggests that the Captain head the mediation, but Picard knows the Solari won't listen to anyone but Riva; unfortunately, Riva has lost faith in himself.
Dr. Pulaski examines Riva's ears while Troi offers empathic support, telling Pulaski that Riva has great fear, that he has lost control, and feels helpless. Pulaski says the results of the medical scans don't look good: Riva has been deaf all his life, his brain is unable to accept auditory information; she sees no solution. Picard asks Troi how Riva is doing - she says he is losing his confidence.
Data has meanwhile learned five sign languages. Picard tells Riva that the summit can continue, as Data will translate, but Riva becomes angry : Data's translations are too literal, lacking the emotional nuances that only his Chorus can give. Picard understands and says that Data will have to do, but Riva states it is unacceptable. Picard tries to provoke Riva by telling him he's all show. "You hide behind your Chorus! You're a fake!" Riva sees through Picard's manoeuvre, while Picard points out "A lot of people are going to die."
Troi tells Riva he'll be returned to Ramatis, but first, she will try to settle the dispute, stating they have come too far to leave. Riva tells her it is too dangerous. Troi asks him what his secret is to leading a successful negotiation. Riva says he simply helps one group express themselves to the other. The only trick is to get them to listen and understand. Turn a disadvantage into an advantage. Troi asks Riva why he can't do the same - turn his own disadvantage into an advantage. Riva ponders the idea, then smiles and kisses Troi, and thanks Data.
Riker, Worf, Troi, Data and Riva beam down. Riva tells them they can leave whenever they wish - he will transmit a message when he is finished. Riker wonders how Riva can mediate without a translator. Riva's confidence makes it clear to Troi : he will teach them sign language. Riva nods and gestures Data to translate. "It is turning a disadvantage into an advantage." Learning how to sign will actually help them learn how to live in peace. As they learn to communicate with Riva, they will be learning to communicate with each other. Data says it could take the aliens months, but Troi believes it will be time well spent. Away team return to the Enterprise leaving Riva alone.