The Enterprise-D is called to assist a colony world that has suffered tricyanate contamination to its water supply. Because of this, they meet with the Jovis, a ship owned by the Zibalian trader Kivas Fajo. Fajo, a member of the Stasius Trade Guild, is one of the few vendors of hitridium, an extremely rare medicinal compound capable of neutralizing the contamination. Because hitridium is a volatile substance that cannot be beamed aboard, Data is assigned to shuttle Fajo's cargo from the Jovis to the Enterprise, which will take several trips.
Just before the final trip, the crew of the Jovis kidnap Data and perform a scan of his body. They remove Data from the shuttlecraft, and set it to explode between their vessel and the Enterprise. When the shuttlecraft explodes, the Enterprise crew fear that Data is destroyed but have to delay the investigation because of the vital mission they are on. The Enterprise scans the wreckage of the shuttle and find materials which indicate Data had died in the explosion. In reality, the Jovis crew took the results of the scans they had made and placed the appropriate amount of materials on board the shuttle to simulate a casualty.
Data is then taken to an art gallery on board Fajo's ship. Fajo collects rare and valuable objects, and thus has kidnapped Data because he is unique. Fajo is joined by his female slave named Varria. He then tries to persuade Data to change his attire and sit in a chair, however Data passively resists. Fajo spills some kind of liquid that destroys Data's uniform making him to change his attire. Later, Fajo gives a tour of his rare collection to Palor Troff, a connoisseur and rival collector (played by veteran actor Nehemiah Persoff), who is disappointed by only seeing Data in a motionless state. Only when Fajo threatens to kill Varria with the very rare Varon-T disruptor does Data finally agree to sit in the chair as Fajo asks. We learn that the blast from the Varon-T tears the body apart from the inside out, resulting in a relatively slow and excruciating death. As a result the Varon-T is illegal in the Federation.
Upon arriving at the colony, the Enterprise uses the hitridium to neutralize the tricyanide contamination. They find that the tricyanide was neutralized very quickly â in fact too quickly for naturally occurring tricyanide, so it must have been replicated. But since tricyanide replication is difficult and expensive and the only known antidote is hitridium, which Fajo just happens to have had in sufficient supply, the crew begins to suspect that Fajo staged the whole event. Once the crew learns that Fajo is a "collector of rare and valuable items", they quickly conclude that Fajo must have kidnapped their own rare and valuable crewmember.
Data is able to escape with the help of Varria, and the Enterprise crew is finally able to locate Fajo's ship with Data on board. However, before the Enterprise can beam up Data, Fajo tries out the Varon-T disruptor on Varria. He then drops the gun and walks away. Data picks up the weapon, confronts Fajo and discusses the consequences of allowing him to live, when he is beamed aboard the Enterprise. Chief O'Brien reports that the weapon was in a state of discharge during transport, and had deactivated the weapon before materialisation. Once on board the Enterprise, Data asks Commander Riker to arrest Fajo. When asked why the weapon was discharging, Data tells Riker that perhaps something happened to the weapon during transport.
Data later visits Fajo in the Enterprise brig. He reveals to Fajo that the remainder of his stolen collection has been confiscated and is being returned to their rightful owners. When Fajo asks Data if that gives him pleasure, Data replies that it does not. Data tells Fajo that he does not feel pleasure, and that he is only an android (echoing a comment Fajo made earlier).