Working on an
insomnia-inspired personal assignment in the middle of
the night, Picard's curiosity is aroused when he finds
many of the ship's computer functions have been taken
off-line. He goes to the source of the situation, the
Stellar Sciences department, and meets Lieutenant
Commander Nella Daren, the section's new department
head. Nella and her staff are using the early morning
quiet attempting to construct a mathematical map of an
emerging star system. Picard is intrigued by this
lovely, intelligent woman — and his attraction increases
the next evening, when he is overwhelmed by Nella's
amazing piano performance during a concert. He expresses
his appreciation afterward, and she — impressed by his
musical knowledge — suggests they play together
sometime. The attraction seems to be mutual.
The next evening, Picard practices on his Ressikan
flute, when Nella pays an unexpected visit, bringing
along a keyboard. She encourages the reluctant captain
into playing a duet, which he begins to enjoy. When they
next get together, she leads Picard into a specific
Jefferies Tube intersection, where she claims the
acoustics are perfect. The two engage in another duet,
but their concentration drifts to something other than
music — and they share a warm and deep kiss.
After their encounter,
Picard suddenly feels unsure about his actions. Later,
after setting a course for Bersallis III to study the
planet's firestorms, he asks to talk with Troi privately
in his Ready Room. There, he speaks frankly about his
attraction to Nella and his worries about dating a woman
under his command. He is relieved when Troi encourages
him. Picard then shares some of his most private
thoughts with Nella in his quarters, and they kiss more
passionately, taking the relationship to a new level.
However, Riker is troubled, and tells Picard he feels
uncomfortable with handling Nella's demands for her
department because of her relationship with the captain.
Picard assures Riker that personal feelings will not be
placed above what's best for the ship, and then talks
with Nella about their unusual situation. They agree
that she should not compromise herself, and must
continue to do her job to the best of her ability.
Worf interrupts their
conversation with news that the firestorms will hit much
earlier than anticipated and endanger the Federation
outpost on Bersallis III. Picard orders the U.S.S.
Enterprise to aid in the outpost's evacuation, while
Nella and La Forge devise a plan to build a protective
shield to guard the outpost from the storm. Riker
chooses Nella to lead the deployment team, and although
Picard is worried about sending her on this dangerous
mission, she reminds him that their relationship cannot
stand in the way of proper command decisions.
When the Enterprise
reaches the planet, Nella and her team transport to the
surface with thermal deflectors to construct their
shield. Unfortunately, she soon learns that there is a
problem. The team members will have to remain on the
planet during the storm to keep the deflectors
cross-connected by calibrating them manually — a
procedure they may not survive. Picard is torn, but when
he realizes this is the only way to save the 73
colonists that still remain on the planet, he orders the
group to stay, facing the horrible realization that he
may have condemned Nella to death. The firestorm hits,
and after it passes, Picard beams aboard the survivors.
Nella is among the last to transport back, but when her
eyes meet Picard's, he senses something different.
Later, Nella forgives
him for the decision she knows he had to make, but the
two realize that they cannot go on as both lovers as
well as commander and subordinate. Nella tells Picard
she will apply for a transfer, because for their love to
remain, they must now be apart.