Captain Janeway hails a ship which has sent out a distress call. There are 11 life signs aboard however the ship is leaking plasma. They are beamed aboard moments before the ship is destroyed. It turns out the ship is full of dangerous criminals who are being taken to a planet to be executed.
One criminal seizes Seven of Nine and threatens to cut her throat with a knife he grabbed afer being beamed directly to sick bay. Seven breaks free and the criminal grabs The Doctor although, being a hologram he easily slips from his grasp.
The head Nigean guard explains about the prison ship and how they are all dangerous murders, most on several charges. Janeway agrees to take the prisoners back to their home world for their execution.
Tuvok converts a cargo bay into temporary prison cells using bulkheads and forcefields which the prisoners are held in. Neelix brings food down to the cargo bay and although the head guard says they do not deserve a meal, Federation protocol overrides him and Neelix gives out the good.
The doctor makes his feelings about the death penalty clear to Seven. Seven is objective however The Doctor believes killing is always wrong, "no matter who is doing it."
The prisoners are restless and Icho who starts to get angry threatens the head guards children. The Nigean guards go in to 'discipline' him however the Federation guards soon put a stop to the assault.
Captain Janeway is angry and bans the Nigean security guards from going into the cargo bay until they arrive at the aliens home world. She then puts Tuvok in charge of the prisoners although the head guard warns that the men are very dangerous and Tuvok may not be qualified to deal with them. Janeway ignores him.
Icho is badly injured after the assault and The Doctor convinces Seven to use nanoprobes to save his life by forming new bio paths. Seven believes it is inefficient to save someones life who is on their way to be killed but agrees anyway.
Neelix arrives in the cargo bay and learns the aliens only usually get one meal per day at best. The prisoner tells him that his race, the Bencarens, are always blamed in this sector and he was arrested because he was near the murder when it happened though he is actually innocent. Neelix believes him although when he tells Tom and B'Elanna about it in the mess hall they say he is being a soft touch.
Icho gets stomach pains in sick bay. The Doctor suggests that is is guilt however Icho believes it is caused by the nano probes inserted into him. He asks The Doctor to take the nanoprobes out despite the fact he could die.
Icho asks Seven to stay and talk to him. He mentions stars and how he used to gaze at them as a child and the constellations he found. Seven tells him she has catalogued many stars.
Back in the cargo bay Neelix is playing the Bencaren prisoner at a game and discussing his sentence. He explains how the family gets to pick the sentence and asks Neelix to transmit a letter to his brother. Neelix agree's.
In sick bay Seven arrives to give Icho an astrometric log. He says he wants to look at the stars as the data is just 'words and numbers.' Seven says she will bring him a star chart after her next shift. Icho tells Seven he hurt people and deserves to die.
The Doctor notices that before the nanoprobes, Icho's physiological equivalent of a conscience was disconnected however the nanoprobes created new pathways and activated his conscience. The Doctor and Seven suggest to the head guard that Icho's case be re-examined. The head guard tries to stop it but Janeway asks him to help Tuvok to write an appeal.
Icho does not want to appeal as he believes he deserves to die. Seven tells him about how she installed borg technology on others after knowing how much it hurt her, and how she feels bad about it. Icho asks to be put back in his cell.
Later when Neelix returns to the cells with another meal, Icho requests that his food be given to another prisoner who he took food from many times in the past. Neelix does as he requests.
The family refuse to even look at the appeal for Icho's case and Captain Janeway accepts this. Seven however is angry and says she wants to give him the same chance that Captain Janeway gave her when she was recused from the Borg. Janeway thinks Seven is still trying to atone for her actions as a Borg.
Voyager is then attacked by an alien vessel. It knocks out the power on decks 8 through 10 and the prisoners get out of their sells and take out the star fleet security in the cargo bay.
Tuvok leads a security team to stop the prisoners while the alien ship attempts to beam the Bencaren aliens off Voyager. Captain Janeway orders the ships transporters to be taken out, a direct hit on them is scored and the ship retreats.
The head Nigean guard is taken hostage by 2 of the escaped prisoners who demand a shuttle in 5 minutes to stop them killing him. They retreat to the cargo bay and attempt to seal the door.
One of the prisoners is about to kill him when Ich, who had remained in his cell, claims the guard as his to kill. Icho is about to shoot the guard when he flips the phaser round and hands it to the Nigean who takes out the 2 escaped prisoners.
After this event the head Nigean guard uses his influence to get the family to listen to Icho's appeal. Icho speaks to them from Voyager's bridge. Meanwhile Neelix speaks to the prisoner who he was friends with. Neelix tells him he knows the letter sent to his brother causes the attack and that he threatened to kill somebody when they broke out. The prisoner asks Neelix do get The Doctor to cure him so he can appeal but Neelix refuses to help him again.
Icho goes to astrometrics with Seven to look at constellations. Seven offers to try and find Icho a place in Voyager's crew although Icho has doubts about how useful he would be. Captain Janeway arrives and tells Icho that the appeal has been denied by the family.
Later Janeway goes to talk to Seven who has been working solidly for the last 22 hours at least. Seven believes she should be punished for what she has done as a Borg. Janeway tells her "they took 20 years of your life. I would say that is punishment enough."