Archaeologist Marla Aster is killed by a millennia-old explosive buried on a planet by a race destroyed in its final war. Worf blames himself for the tragedy, and Picard is faced with telling Lieutenant Astor's young son that his mother has died. Troi worries both about Worf's internalizing his guilt and Jeremy Astor's inability to express his grief and anger. Worf wishes to perform the Klingon bonding ceremony, the R'uustai, with Jeremy, but both Troi and Crusher think it may be too soon for the child to accept such a step. They suggest that Wesley share his own experiences of having lost a parent in the line of duty; Wesley, however, is reluctant to reopen those old wounds. Meanwhile, an alien presence visits the Enterprise and takes on the form of Marla Aster, who promises Jeremy that they will live on the planet together in their old house from Earth and she will never leave him again. When Worf discovers her presence, Picard orders scientific teams to figure out how the alien is reaching the ship from the planet's surface and sends Troi to try to make Jeremy acknowledge that the presence of this miraculous person who can transform their quarters into their former home cannot possibly be his real mother. Aster admits to Picard that she is an energy being who survived the war on the planet below and vowed that no one else would suffer as a result of that conflict. She wishes to take responsibility for Jeremy's happiness, but Picard insists that part of being human is feeling grief. Wesley helps the younger boy to face his loss by admitting that he hated Picard for a long time because Picard had led the mission that killed Jack Crusher, just as Worf led the mission that killed Marla Aster. Jeremy chooses to stay on the ship and agrees to perform the R'uustai with Worf.
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