Riker, Troi, Crusher, and Worf investigate Picard's whereabouts in a musty bar, describing him as a "smooth-headed" human. They find a criminal who knows something; he says that Picard had been asking a group about some artifacts when a fight broke out and Picard was "vaporized".
Many of the crew members accept this as true, but Riker insists on finding out who killed Captain Picard. The crew begins by retracing Picard's steps, and this leads them to a planet housing one of the most ancient archaeological sites in the galaxy. However, the artifacts have been stolen by a group of mercenaries. While Riker, Worf, Geordi, and a few ensigns are exploring, a variety of humanoids beam down and attack the away team. They kill one ensign and capture Commander Riker.
Riker is taken on board the mercenary ship, which is commanded by Arctus Baran. Riker finds that a device has been implanted within his body which allows Baran to inflict pain on him. Everyone on the ship has similar devices implanted in his body, which is how Baran controls his crew. Riker soon discovers that Picard is alive and in the company of these criminals, and is apparently doing business with them. Picard tells the crew that Riker is an officer with a history of insubordination who was once even relieved of duty. Picard secretly manufactures a warp drive malfunction, giving Riker a chance to prove himself to Baran.