While on a scientific mission near Cardassian space, the Enterprise is attacked by a Cardassian vessel whose captain tells Picard that he presumed a state of war with the Federation after a Starfleet vessel destroyed a Cardassian science outpost. Starfleet orders Picard to maintain the peace at all costs, even if it means pursuing and attacking the starship Phoenix, which is under the command of O'Brien's former captain, Ben Maxwell. Picard invites the Cardassian captain, Gul Macet, to come on board with his aides so that they can aid the Enterprise's search for the Phoenix. O'Brien tells Picard that Maxwell lost his wife and children to a Cardassian attack, but he doesn't believe Maxwell would attack blameless Cardassians as an act of vengeance. When the Enterprise locates the Phoenix, Picard and Macet are both horrified to witness it destroy a Cardassian cargo ship, then the warship to whom Picard reluctantly gives the Phoenix's codes. The Enterprise hails the Phoenix and beams aboard Maxwell, who explains his actions by claiming that the Cardassians are arming for war, but Starfleet bureaucracy refuses to deal with the threat. Picard tells Maxwell that he must follow the Enterprise to a starbase to face a possible court-martial for his actions. Soon after Maxwell is returned to the Phoenix, his ship changes course to pursue another Cardassian cargo ship, insisting that if Picard boards the ship, he will see that it is carrying weapons. When Macet insists that this is a lie, and Picard threatens to fire on the Phoenix if Maxwell does not back down, O'Brien is able to convince his former captain to turn himself in. With Maxwell in custody, Picard tells a departing Macet that based on its location and shielding, he knew there were indeed weapons on the cargo ship, but he was determined to keep the peace; however, now Starfleet will know as well, and will prepare accordingly.
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