Just after Picard tells Wesley Crusher that the ensign has been accepted to Starfleet Academy, the Enterprise receives a distress call from a planet being slowly poisoned by a garbage scow. While Riker takes the ship to tow the lethal barge away, Picard asks Wesley to come with him to mediate a dispute on a mining planet, to which the captain is escorted via an aging shuttle by a transport captain named Dirgo. Interference sends the shuttle spinning out of control, forcing it to crash in a desert on a nearby moon thought to be uninhabited. Picard insists that he, Wesley and Dirgo must try to reach the mountains to find shelter and water, though Dirgo is reluctant to follow his orders and tries to conceal alcohol from the Starfleet officers. The three reach a cave in the mountains where they find a fresh water spring, but a force field surrounds the fountain. Dirgo fires a phaser at the force field and triggers a defensive sentry that causes a rock slide, seriously wounding Picard. Under pressure from Dirgo, Wesley agrees to a risky plan to try to distract the sentry, but the plan backfires and Dirgo is killed. Meanwhile the Enterprise learns that the shuttle never reached its destination, but Riker cannot divert from the dangerous attempt to tow the radioactive barge into a nearby star. Wesley tries to keep Picard awake by talking to him about his ambitions and devises a risky plan to get to the water. He passes out after stopping Picard from becoming dehydrated. Once the Enterprise determines where the shuttle crashed, an away team rescues the captain and Wesley.
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