With their sun about to go nova, the people of Epictetus III face annihilation. Although the U.S.S. Enterprise has come to lead the rescue operation, there is no way to evacuate a population of over twenty million, leaving Captain Picard to make an agonizing decision. Should he try to salvage the planet's children, its greatest leaders and thinkers, or its irreplaceable archeological treasures? No matter what he decides, millions must be sacrificed – unless another solution can be found.
With time running out, Data proposes a revolutionary scientific experiment that could save all of Epictetus III, or doom both the planet and the Enterprise as well.