While patrolling near the Romulan Neutral Zone, the Enterprise picks up energy readings on an obscure planet. Riker leads an away team, but methane gas forces them to abort the mission and disrupts the crew's transport back to the ship. When Riker awakens, he learns that 16 years have passed. Crusher tells him that he was infected on the mission with a retrovirus, which has now destroyed all memories formed after the moment he was infected. She and Troi tell Riker that he has been captain of the Enterprise for nine years and has a son. Admiral Picard comes aboard to tell Riker that despite his memory loss, the Federation needs him to conclude peace negotiations with the Romulans, who are now allies. While studying his own service record, Riker realizes that his wife "Min" is Minuet - a woman he created on the holodeck. He confronts first the crew, who are unable to answer his questions, then "Ambassador" Tomalak, who admits that Riker was taken captive during the away team mission and manipulated to force him to reveal the location of the secret Outpost 23. Of all the humans, only the boy is real - also a captive. he tells Riker. While the two humans are escaping, the boy mistakenly refers to Tomalak as an ambassador, which makes Riker realize that the boy is deceiving him. When challenged, the boy admits that the Romulans were never on the planet. The entire deception has been staged to keep Riker's attention, since the boy - in truth, a non-humanoid named Barash - is a lonely orphan protected only by the holographic scanners that created the false scenarios for Riker. Riker invites the boy to beam aboard the Enterprise with him.
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