A series of vicious attacks by the enigmatic M'Dok Empire has devastated the planet Tenar bringing the Enterprise and another Federation starship, the Centurion, to the planet's aid. The Centurion's captain is Lucius Sejanus, a powerful, magnetic man who favors taking a far stronger stance against the M'Dok than Captain Picard. The conflict escalates and Sejanus's instincts seem to be correct for it appears only extreme measures can stop the murderous raids on Tenara.
The Tenarans must decide which path they will follow, the way of peace, or the road to war. But unknown to any, one of the Centurion's officers has made that decision for them, and plans to provoke a full-scale war between the Federation and the M'Dok Empire.