After a routine shipwide efficiency analysis, Seven of Nine determines that three of Voyagerâs crewmen are not performing at acceptable levels. Whereas such a problem on a starship would normally be remedied by a transfer to less challenging assignments, this option is not available to the crew of the Voyager, which is stranded tens of thousands of light years from Earth.
Captain Janeway decides to take the three crewmen under her wing, and against the advice of Seven of Nine, brings them along on an astronomical study on the Delta Flyer in order to form a rapport with them. The three crewmen are the hypochondriac science officer William Telfer, the Bajoran Tal Celes, whose substandard work requires constant double-checking by others, and Crewman Mortimer Harren, whose interests in theoretical cosmology, and desire to study the origins of the universe alone on Deck 15, sequester him from the rest of the crew.
During the mission, an unknown, invisible force strikes the Delta Flyer, knocking its propulsion offline, and neutralizing 90% of its antimatter fuel. Janeway transmits a distress call to Voyager. Harren suggests that a comet-like assemblage of dark matter is responsible, and proposes ejecting the remaining antimatter to avoid another impact, but Janeway declines, arguing that more evidence is needed for Harrenâs theory before she will act on it. She decides to fire a photon torpedo at the force. Suddenly, Telfer begins to dematerialize and disappear. When he reappears, he collapses, with something writhing beneath his skin. Janeway fires a phaser at him when it begins to manipulate his motor neurons, which causes a stick-like entity to burrow itself out of a wound on his neck. Harren intends to fire a phaser at it, but Janeway orders him to stand down, as the creature may simply be attempting to communicate with them. Harren ignores her order, much to Janewayâs frustration.
Janeway takes the Delta Flyer to a nearby gas giant planet to reinitialize its warp core, but an unseen, invisible object begins displacing the fragments of the planetâs ring, cutting a swath heading straight for the Flyer. Janeway orders her crew into the escape pods, but when Harren does so, he heads for the object in order to give the Flyer time to escape. Janeway beams him back with the transporter, and then fires the Flyerâs phasers at the object, igniting a chain reaction. A bright light explodes throughout the Flyer.
Janeway awakes in sickbay. First Officer Commander Chakotay explains that after receiving her distress call, Voyager found the Flyer drifting above the gas giant with all four crew members unconscious. Janeway observes that in looking for lost members of her flock, the Good Shepherd ended up running into a wolf, but that in the end, she did find them.