After going without mail from home for over a month, the U.S.S. Voyager crew is looking forward to seeing the next datastream which is jammed in the ship's transceiver. Harry Kim and Seven of Nine determine that instead of letters, the datastream contains a hologram of Reginald Barclay, the Starfleet officer from the Pathfinder project on Earth who has taken a personal interest in getting Voyager home. Holo-Barclay tells Captain Janeway of the project's plan: Voyager will be passing through a sector of space occupied by a red giant star and at the same time, Federation scientists will target the magnetic field of another red giant in the Alpha Quadrant with a verteron beam to create a geodesic fold. As a result, space will be punctured at two points, creating a gateway between the quadrants. Janeway says the plan won't work because Voyager's shields are useless against geodesic radiation, but Holo-Barclay responds that he brought shield upgrades and medical technology to protect the crew.
The Doctor agrees to transfer his mobile emitter to Holo-Barclay so that the visitor can move freely about the ship while he makes preparations. In the briefing room, Holo-Barclay shows the crew where the geodesic fold will occur and passes out assignments to everyone.
In the Pathfinder research lab, the real Reginald Barclay investigates why the datastream transmission did not reach its target. Commander Pete Harkins, his supervisor, believes the hologram was lost because it was too complex and therefore it degraded, but Barclay insists something interfered. He comes to find that a spacecraft passed within 20 meters of the Midas Array just hours before Starfleet sent the first hologram, and conjectures that ship was either Borg or Romulan. Harkins refuses to listen, and orders Barclay to take a vacation.
Meanwhile in the Delta Quadrant, the Doctor tells Holo-Barclay that the medical inoculations are not strong enough to protect the crew from the geodesic fold's radiation, but Holo-Barclay assures the Doctor that in combination with the shield modifications, they will be enough. When the Doctor invites him to a game of golf, the hologram is evasive. Later, Torres and Kim prepare to transmit a "thank you note" back to the Alpha Quadrant, and Holo-Barclay asks to include his own "progress report." The datastream is transmitted to the Midas Array, but an alien device attached to the array diverts the transmission to a Ferengi ship near a red giant star. Three Ferengi on board huddle around a monitor to receive Holo-Barclay's report which includes information on Seven of Nine and her Borg nanoprobes. They intend to acquire those nanoprobes and sell them for a huge profit.
On Earth, Barclay catches up with his therapist and former crewmate Deanna Troi on vacation at the beach, and tells her about his distress. Troi recalls that Barclay was doing fine not long ago when he was dating a teacher named Leosa. Barclay reveals that Leosa expressed great interest in Pathfinder's plan, but then left him the same day that his hologram was lost. After prodding from Troi, Barclay admits that he suspects Leosa had something to do with the missing transmission.
On Voyager, Holo-Barclay proves to be the "life of the party" as he does impressions of the captain and Tuvok, to the delight of crewmembers. The Doctor calls Holo-Barclay to the holodeck and reminds him that they had an appointment to play golf. Holo-Barclay is strangely contemptuous toward his fellow hologram.
The real Barclay informs his superiors that Leosa is suspected of breaching Pathfinder security, and she is brought in for questioning by Admiral Paris. Leosa admits that she is not a teacher, but rather a dabo girl who works on a Ferengi casino ship. But she denies sharing her knowledge of the Pathfinder project with anyone. Troi knows she's lying, and coerces the truth from her, including the identity of the Ferengi ship involved in the theft. Scans find that ship near the red giant star, and Admiral Paris sends a starship to intercept it. Meanwhile, Leosa reveals to the broken-hearted Barclay that the Ferengi are after Seven of Nine's Borg nanoprobes, and that she would get a cut of the profit.
After his strange encounter with Holo-Barclay, Voyager's Doctor urges Janeway to run a diagnostic of the hologram since the crew is putting their lives in his hands. Janeway agrees, and the diagnostic shows Holo-Barclay is working perfectly.
While Admiral Paris and Commander Harkins are waiting for the U.S.S. Carolina to arrive at the red giant, Barclay tells Troi that he figured out what the Ferengi have done: They stole the first Barclay hologram that was sent a month ago, reprogrammed it to steal Seven's nanoprobes, and then smuggled it to Voyager in the next transmission. Meanwhile the Ferengi initiate a pulse in the red giant star to open a geodesic fold. This is seen back at Pathfinder, and the officers realize the Ferengi plan is to bring Voyager through the fold, which will kill the entire crew. On Voyager, Seven of Nine also realizes the crew will not survive the trip, so Holo-Barclay phases his holographic hand into Seven's cranial implant, causing her to fall unconscious. Since the Carolina won't arrive in time to stop the Ferengi, Barclay comes up with another plan.
The Ferengi ship receives a message from what they think is Holo-Barclay, who says that Captain Janeway found out about their plan, has developed a way to protect the ship as it comes through the fold, and will hunt down and kill the parties responsible. The three Ferengi believe him, and start closing the fold. They don't realize the message came from the real Barclay from a holodeck re-creation of Voyager at the Pathfinder lab.
Meanwhile, Holo-Barclay beams himself and Seven to an escape pod and heads toward the geodesic fold. Kim manages to beam them back aboard while the pod goes through the fold and rams into the Ferengi ship. The Ferengi are disappointed they didn't get their profit, and the Voyager crew are disappointed that yet another shortcut home failed. Meanwhile, Barclay is programming a new hologram with security precautions when Troi arrives to invite him to dinner, where she plans to set him up with a friend who's a real teacher.