Scientist Paul Stubbs is being ferried by the Enterprise to a binary star that erupts in a fiery explosion every 196 years. He has designed a large research unit to study the phenomenon, but just as the ship approaches the system, the Enterprise suffers a series of major malfunctions ranging from sensor ghosts to navigational errors to music blasting on the bridge. Yet the computer claims that all systems are working normally. Wesley Crusher is forced to admit that a science experiment of his may be the source of the problems; he was allowing two nanites to interact but fell asleep before they had finished, allowing them to reproduce and infiltrate the ship's systems. Stubbs is irate and attempts to destroy the nanites, killing many in the ship's core and alerting the nanites' emerging consciousness of his hostile intentions. Picard, who believes the nanites are a new life form, is furious and confines Stubbs to his quarters, where the nanites use the ship's electrical systems to attack him. To facilitate communication, Data allows the nanites to enter his neural network and use his verbal programs to communicate with the crew. Picard negotiates a cease-fire, insisting that Stubbs apologize for trying to kill them. Stubbs agrees to help find a new home for the nanites on an uninhabited planet, and the nanites repair the ship's computer so that Stubbs can complete his stellar experiments.
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