T'Kuvma addresses the Klingons and speaks to urge them to declare war on all peace-loving species.
Captain Georgiou and Commander Burnham complete a mission on a drought-ridden planet but get caught in a storm that makes it difficult for the ship to find their signal. Georgiou leads her and creates a symbol for the ship to see from space. A Federation badge.
The U.S.S. Shenzhou is checking on a communication array to see if damage is incidental or malicious. Burnham and Science Officer Saru argue about how to deal with an object of unknown origin in the debris field that is found on their scanner. Unable to clearly view it, Burnham heads out into space for a "fly-by"
Once she is in the debris field, she and the ship are unable to communicate. She finds a large and intricate object and proceeds to collect data on it. Landing on it triggers the object to move and her computer warns of someone else in close proximity. She turns to find a Klingon who attacks her when she begins to identify herself. They fly out into space, locked in combat.
The Shenzhou detects Burnham's body floating free and struggle to bring her back on board safely.
The Klingons mourn and celebrate their "torchbearer" killed by Burnham on their "beacon".
While being repaired from her encounter, Burnham recalls her education on Vulcan. Waking in the medical pod, Burnham rushes to the bridge to raise the red alert about the Klingons. They target the beacon with their weapons, prompting a Klingon ship to de-cloak. Georgiou orders a message be sent that they have engaged the Klingons.
When T'Kuvma orders a new torchbearer to light the beacon, the next in line questions T'Kuvma and is deemed unworthy. An albino Klingon steps up and demonstrates his faith in Kahless and T'Kuvma give him his own weapon to take to light the beacon.
Georgiou's Admiral orders her to hold her position and reprimands Burnham for provoking the Klingons. The beacon suddenly burst into light, blinding the Shenzhou.
When they realize the beacon is sending a message, Burnham excuses herself from the bridge to contact Sarek and ask for help. She asks how the Vulcans formed diplomatic relations with the Klingons.
Returning to the bridge, Burnham advises that they fire on the ship because the aggression would bring respect. The captain refuses to entertain the idea and Burnham argues until she is order to the ready room. They argue. Burnham seems to acquiesce but then incapacitates her captain with a Vulcan nerve pinch and then returns to the bridge where she attempts to prepare the crew to attack the Klingon ship. Saru questions her orders. The captain interrupts her and tells her to stand down with a phaser pointed at her.
At that moment several Klingon ships appear all around the Shenzhou.