The Enterprise answers a distress signal at Jouret IV, one of the Federation’s outermost colonies. When an away team beams down to the surface to investigate, they find a great chasm right where the colony should be, as though it were simply scooped out of the ground. The Borg were here.

In the wake of the Borg attack, Admiral Hanson and his ambitious young attaché Lieutenant Commander Shelby rendezvous with the Enterprise. Hanson is frank. The two of them (particularly Shelby) have been working furiously to develop some kind of defense against the Borg, but despite a year of prep time, the Federation simply isn’t ready. After the meeting, Hanson and Picard catch up over tea, with Hanson suggesting Picard consider Shelby as first officer and in the process revealing that Riker has been offered command of the Melbourne. This is news to Picard, and the admiral is incredulous that Riker might turn down yet another command. Meanwhile, Shelby – who is likewise assuming that Riker will take the Melbourne – mentions that she has her eye on his job. Riker neither confirms nor denies this, instead inviting her to the officers’ regular poker game. The next morning, Riker and LaForge arrive in the transporter room only to find that Shelby and Data beamed down to the remains of the colony an hour earlier. Riker is not pleased, though Shelby explains that she jumped the gun in order to get the readings ahead of an incoming storm. It seems to have been worth it, as her scans have confirmed a Borg presence.

With this confirmation in hand, Hanson is en route to the nearest starbase in order to prepare for an attack, leaving Shelby on the Enterprise to do the same. In his ready room, Picard asks Riker point blank about the Melbourne, and Riker tells him that he’s decided to decline the commission. Picard urges him to reconsider, to look at his career objectively. This gets to Riker, who discusses the matter with Troi. He sees a younger version of himself in Shelby, wondering aloud if he’s lost his drive. Troi suggests it might be simpler than that, that maybe he’s not twenty-five anymore and that he’s happier on the Enterprise than she’s ever known him to be. The next day, the Enterprise gets word of a Borg sighting and moves to intercept. LaForge and Shelby have devised a handful of countermeasures, but admit that their effectiveness is a shot in the dark. Before long they intercept a cube and a message is sent to Admiral Hanson informing him that the Enterprise has engaged the Borg.

When the Borg ship and the Enterprise intercept one another, Picard is hailed. By name. The Borg demand that Picard surrender himself to them. When he refuses, the Borg lock on a tractor beam and the Enterprise opens fire. Eventually, they inflict enough damage to break the tractor beam and retreat. The Borg follow. The Enterprise takes refuge in a nebula that provides effective cover from the Borg’s sensors. Using information gleaned from the encounter, the crew devised a potential defense involving a high frequency deflector burst. It’s risky due to the amount of power required, but it’s their best shot. The tension mounts between Riker and Shelby when he dismisses one of her suggestions and she reacts by taking it directly to Picard.

While the Enterprise remains hidden in the nebula, the Borg are waiting patiently for them to emerge. But even their patience has limits, as they begin bombarding the nebula. As the charges get too close for comfort, Picard orders the ship out of the nebula. Their location revealed, the Borg manage to lock on a tractor beam and transport several drones to the bridge. While the others are distracted, another drone beams aboard and grabs Picard before returning to the cube with the captain in tow. Their objective in hand, the Borg disengage at high warp, making a beeline for Earth with the Enterprise in hot pursuit. Aboard the cube, the Borg explain in typically succinct fashion that they intend to “add [humanty’s] biological and technological distinctiveness to our own, and that Picard has been chosen to provide a human voice to speak for the Collective in all communications. Meanwhile, the Enterprise is burning all the power it can generate just to keep up with the cube, all while the crew scrambled to complete the modifications necessary to generate the deflector pulse. While the crew looks for a way to bring the Borg out of warp and buy time, Riker prepares to lead an away team to rescue the captain… until he’s reminded that it’s inappropriate to do so, since he is in command until Picard can be rescued. The away team proceeds with Shelby leading the mission in Riker’s stead.

Shelby’s team – which includes Data, Crusher, and Worf – beams aboard the Borg vessel. On arrival, their tricorders are virtually useless, forcing them to search for Picard the old-fashioned way. While the away team searches the cube, Riker receives word that the deflector is ready. In order to force the Borg to drop out of warp, Shelby’s team begins destroying power distribution nodes. It works, but the Borg don’t take kindly to the inconvenience. With their window of opportunity wide open, Riker orders the deflector armed. As the Borg surround the away team, they catch a glimpse of Picard, now covered with Borg implants. Unable to rescue the captain, they beam back to the ship and report to the bridge. Before they can plan a second attempt, sensors indicate the Borg ship is repairing itself, and quickly. Just then, the Enterprise is hailed by the Borg. They are greeted by the visage of their captain, who now identifies himself as Locutus of Borg and intones that “resistance is futile.” As the crew reels from the shock, Riker gives the order to fire.