At Acamar they meet with Marouk, the leader of the Acamarians. She explains that they have only ever been able to capture a few Gatherers, angling for Picard's help with the problem. Picard suggests trying to bring the Gatherers back home to reintegrate into Acamarian society peacefully instead, and whilst Marouk thinks this very unlikely she agrees to try. Two of her servants are beamed aboard and the ship heads to the Hromi Cluster, where Marouk believes a Gatherer colony lies.
Riker shows Marouk and her servants around their quarters. He meets Yuta, Marouk's personal cook and poison tester, and the two get along well. Riker shows her how to work a food replicator and offers to have some Acamarian dishes programmed in.
The ship arrives at Gamma Hromi II and an away team beams down to investigate. They find various stolen items at an apparently abandoned base, but as they examine them the Gatherers attack. Data suggests using their phasers to vapourise a pile of Noranium, creating a cloud of opaque vapour to hide their beam-out. The Gatherers advance as the vapour clears, apparently victorious, but it was a trap - the away team hid rather than beaming out, and are able to get the drop on their attackers.
Picard and Marouk beam down to talk with Brull, the leader of the Gatherer group. The Acamarian leader is disgusted by their crude behaviour and lack of manners, but Picard plays the diplomat and tries to smooth things over. Brull sends his men away and, out of their sight, admits that perhaps the time has come to try for a better future for the Gatherers.
Meanwhile Yuta approaches an old Gatherer called Volnoth, asking if he is of the Lornak clan. When he admits that he is she says that she is of the Tralesta clan and asks if he remembers her. Volnoth reacts with shock, apparently recognizing Yuta but saying that it can't really be her as it was fifty years ago. Yuta gently touches his face and Volnoth collapses within moments, dead.
At the negotiation Brull says that they will need to convince Chorgan, the head of the Gatherers, to make any headway. Marouk insists on talking to him personally and Picard offers transport to meet with him. Suddenly a cry alerts them to the death of Volnoth; Dr. Crusher beams down and inspects the body, declaring that he died of cardiac arrest.
They beam back to the ship and depart the planet, Brull setting coordinates for the ship. Brull scoffs at the idea of a kid like Wesley being at the helm, but Wesley impresses him with his navigational abilities. In Ten Forward Marouk talks to Picard about the difficulties arising from Acamarian history; their society is divided into a clan structure, and in the past the clans were fiercely proud and competitive; an insult to any member of a clan meant that the whole clan sought revenge, a situation that guaranteed endless bloody warfare. Brull enters and gets a drink, then notices Wesley studying a PADD. He grabs it from him and laughs when he sees that he is working on a Math problem. The two argue, Wesley accusing Brull of being a thief, which Brull freely admits. When Wesley asks why he's willing to negotiate with Marouk if he likes the way things are so much, Brull admits that he wants his own son to have the same sort of opportunities that Wesley enjoys on the Enterprise.
Yuta spends some time with Riker, letting him taste one of her Acamarian foods. When he quizzes her about her life he's disappointed to find that she regards herself purely as a servant, with no real life of her own and no expectation of being treated like an equal. Whilst she says she is no slave, she also claims that she can never truly be free. As Yuta leaves, Crusher calls Riker down to sickbay. She has been investigating her scans of Volnoth's body and has found a microvirus in his system, a virus specifically tailored to attack a particular variety of Acamarian DNA which represents about one person in a million. It seems that Volnoth was murdered. Data asks Acamar III to transfer their medical database to the Enterprise for further investigation. Riker goes to his quarters to relax, and Yuta arrives - having been sent by Marouk to spend a little time with him. Yuta kisses Riker and offers to "please" him, but Riker becomes concerned that she is attempting to "serve" him much as she does Marouk. Yuta is confused by his desire for an equal, and as the two talk the ship is rocked by weapon fire and goes to red alert.
On the bridge, Chorgan's ship is on the viewscreen, firing on them. It ignored all hails, until Picard finally tires of taking fire and uses the phasers to blast the forward shields into oblivion. Chorgan ceases fire and rapidly hails them, accusing Brull of being a traitor. Picard decides to beam over to the ship with Marouk and Brull to confront him directly. The begin to talk, offering the Gatherers a home on Acamar where they can live and representation in the government. Chorgan seems willing, but makes excessive demands of his own.
Back on the Enterprise Data finds a record of Volnoths birth. Crusher comes to the bridge, informing them that she has found another victim of the microvirus, Penthor-Mul, a Gatherer of the Lornak clan who died 53 years ago. Data and Riker realize that the virus is target against lornak clan members. raided an Acamarian outpost, but was captured and died before his trial. Data immediately makes the connection: Volnoth was also of the Lornak clan. Riker realizes that this microvirus is indeed targeted against Lornack clan members, and look up the clan conflicts to see who might have a grudge against them. They find that 80 years ago the Lornak clan massacred the rival Tralesta clan, apparently down to the last person. The records contain an image of Penthor-Mul before his death - and to their shock, Yuta is in the image with him, looking the same age as she does now. It is revealed that Chorgan is also of the Lornak clan... and therefore Yuta's next victim.
On Chorgan's ship the negotiations continue, with both sides rejecting the other as being unreasonable. Picard again acts as a mediator, noting that each only wants what is best for their people and would probably make the same demands if their places were switched. They have a brief recess and Yuta advances with drinks - just as Riker beams in, phaser in hand. He orders Yuta to stand back but she refuses, tearful, demanding justice for the massacre of her clan. As she advances slowly on Chorgan Riker shoots her repeatedly on stun, but the beam does little more than inconvenience her. Begging her to stand back, Riker resets the phaser to kill - and as Yuta makes one last lunge towards Chorgan, Riker vapourises her.
Back on the Enterprise Picard meets Riker in Ten Forward and reveals that the ship has new orders; they are to head to Starbase 343 to pick up medical supplies and transport them to the Alpha Leonis system. In an apparently offhand comment Picard says that since the mission is so easy he intends to give anybody who wants it shore leave on the Starbase, and offer Riker promises to pass along to the crew.
The Gatherers are also a bit puny. It takes the Enterprise a day or two to track them down, and when they find the leader's ship they disable it with casual ease; you wonder how these guys were ever a significant threat to anybody in the first place when they can't fight and can't hide. I'm certainly not suggesting that every threat has to be a galaxy-shaking super advanced race, but again, imagine the Gatherers as Klingons, running around in three or four Bird of Prey types, maybe with a cruiser for their leader. Still not a powerful force overall, but more than enough to overwhelm the occasional isolated base or outpost, or capable of joining together and taking on a single Starship. It would lend them a credibility that they don't really have here.
Yuta is also kind of bland. Her instant attraction to Riker is about par for the course for a TV show, but it just lacks real depth. There is one good idea, her assassination method - a virus targeted on members of a particular clan, allowing her to kill with a touch. It's an interesting idea, effectively used.
I don't really get the point of making Yuta effectively immortal. The Acamarians are implied to be relatively primitive, at least by Marouk's reaction to the Enterprise, yet not only are they are apparently able to grant eternal life and youth to people, nobody even seems to think that it's at all strange that they can do so.
Overall a competent enough episode, but in the end it just doesn't amount to much.
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