"I think we're big enough to handle the Cartel," Captain Janeway told Commander Chakotay.
"Of course, it helps that they're all hobbits."
"But they're MAFIA hobbits."
So what is the Cartel? I don't know. We're dumped into the scene without any explanation of what's happening, except that Janeway and Chakotay are having an argument about... something. So to all readers who don't watch Star Trek, I left nothing out of that that you might need explained to you, except possibly the main characters (and that is what wikipedia is for).
She wants to march us in there, bold as brass. Kim had to admire her audacity,
... while being glad that Mr. Timid Rabbit Who Sits At Ops All The Time doesn't have to do that.
Everyone on the bridge was watching, except for Paris, who was sitting at the conn, acting as if he didn't notice them arguing right behind his shoulder.
... or maybe he's just not in the mood to pull an Exorcist head-swivel so he can watch two people politely bicker.
So Chakotay is saying that he thinks they should do this from a Maquis standpoint, aka guerilla shit where you swoop in and take stuff, and damn the authorities. Janeway doesn't like that, because she's Starfleet and thinks that it actually means something on the other side of the galaxy. Yes, this is the first page of the PROLOGUE, and already Janeway is pulling the arrogant ass card.
So she gets pissy and demands that Chakotay come to her ready room so they can slug it out or toss a coin or... however they make decisions.
This causes Harry to have an emotional crisis.
He hated it when the captain and Chakotay disagreed; he trusted them both implicitly, yet in this case, one of them had to be wrong.
"Why won't Mommy and Daddy stop fighting? Are they gonna get a divorce?!"
So Chakotay and Janeway's fight is upsetting everybody. Are we going to see their debate and hear the pros and cons of their positions? Nope, we will not hear a WORD of what either of them are saying, or . We're going to sit on the bridge and listen to people talk about NOTHING.
ever since Voyager was drawn off course by a plasma storm that stretched across several sectors.
It would sure be a shame if we read about something THAT exciting.
So we finally get an explanation on what is going on. Apparently they are near the Tutopa binary system, which contains the legendary Hub. What is legendary about it? It has a lot of star maps and surveys! It's the "information center" of the Delta Quadrant! ISN'T THAT AWESOME?
Yeah, I don't know why it's so legendary. Important, certainly. Interesting, maybe. But probably not "legendary." You'd expect "legendary" to be a place that had something more exciting to offer, and more varied than just "we haz the bestest maps EVAH!"
"Sensors indicate another vessel proceeding along this vector," Kim announced, noting the trajectory of the ship.
"They're... yes, it looks like they're waving out the window!"
Paris is pretty thrilled because, well, if there are four other ships heading for a planet, it must be Las Vegas In Space! Because if a place has space maps, logically it must be a fun place for shore leave. And because Tuvok hates joy, he has to crap on Paris' fantasies.
"You are employing faulty logic. If we were in Federation space, you would not be assigned to this vessel. You would currently be serving your sentence in the New Zealand penal settlement."
I'm not exactly seeing that as a bad thing. Has Tuvok never watched Lord of the Rings? If I had to be in a minimum-security prison ANYWHERE in the world, I'd probably choose New Zealand. Worst case scenario, you'll get attacked by orcs. Best case scenario: you get to live in the Shire!
Being snarked at by Tuvok makes Paris sad, because his feelings are apparently made of tissue paper. This causes him to flash back to when Tom first talked about his backstory, which causes him to flash back AGAIN to some kid he knew in elementary school. What did this kid do? He soaked a little girl with water for the lulz, but this upset her and he didn't know what to do.
What does this have to do with Paris? Nothing. At all.
as the little girl gazed up at him, her hands spread wide, innocent and hurting, wondering why anyone would do this to her....
It's because you have cooties, dear. No other reason.
Paris' hurt feelings are immediately healed, and he and Tuvok bicker about nothing at all. This makes Kim even sadder than when Mommy and Daddy fought, because now his big brothers are fighting too.
Paris never seemed to know when to give up.
He really needed to stop poking Tuvok with needles.
Then Chakotay and Janeway come out of the next room, and we don't know what they said or did in there. For all we know, they covered themselves in bacon and did the Dance of Joy.
By the way, this is EXTREMELY not in character for these two. Frankly, Chakotay seems to have lost his nads shortly after joining the crew, and the rare occasions when they DO disagree, she doesn't listen to him even if he's very obviously right. She certainly wouldn't agree that they needed to do things in a way other than The Holy Way Of Starfleet.
"We're going to be discreet," the captain announced with a wry glance at Chakotay,
"This time, we're NOT going to greet them with boob-squeezing."
So they set a course, and Janeway starts vomiting exposition: "Mr. Paris, we are attempting to acquire information about worm-holes--we are not venturing into Cartel space so you can dive into the local gin joint." I'm not even sure why they think there ARE gin joints. Maps are not FUN. They are BORING. Places that sell them are boring.
Chakotay was perfectly calm, despite the tension.
It's easy to be calm when you won the argument. Actually, I'm shocked he isn't doing a victory dance on the chair.
Then Janeway asks the question that nobody ever wants to ask: "Where is Neelix, by the way?" Sigh. Why does she even care, since they already know where they're going? And apparently Neelix has already briefed them on this Tutopa place, meaning they've probably milked him dry. So how come they want him on the bridge?!
"We need Neelix," Janeway commented.
"Because for some reason we didn't ask him to tell us anything before! Damn the need for exposition!"
Of course, that's Neelix's cue to come rushing into the room, and declaring "Sorry I'm late, folks! Kes needed me." I assume he's lying, because a minute ago Chakotay said that he was held up because of his boilers. Unless he was stuffing Kes in the boilers, but... I don't know. Maybe he was hiding a corpse.
So Janeway notifies him that they're going to Tutopa, which SURPRISES him. Yeah, a minute ago they were talking about the information he had given them about the place, and now they're revealing that GUESS WHAT, they're going to that place he told them all about. Does Neelix have short-term memory loss, or does he regularly inform them about places they WON'T go to on the basis that they won't be going there?
That got his attention. "Are you sure you want to do this? I've never even been to Tutopa, in spite of the opportunities there."
For the love of fuck, he's apparently told them all about this place... but not vital information about why they SHOULDN'T go there? I'm starting to wonder if he's trying to kill them all.
"Let's just say that Tutopans tend to acquire vessels. Not that they're aggressive, mind you, but people usually leave only after they're working for one of the Houses or the Cartel, the conglomerate that runs the Hub and serves as the joint security force for the Houses."
"You see, the Godfather makes you an offer you can't refuse, and if you don't accept it, you will sleep with the fishes along with Luca Brasi."
Janeway then declares that they're going to avoid the Hub, even though I don't know what the damn thing is. For all I know, it's a giant floating metal cap on a tire. Neelix responds that she can get whatever she wants
"That is why we're avoiding the Hub." Janeway shifted away slightly. "Is there anyone we can negotiate with in the secondary system?"
Neelix's eyes lit up. "You know, you could probably get anything you wanted in exchange for that `beaming' trick of yours."
"We cannot trade technology," Janeway told him. "That would break the Prime Directive." "Ah, yes, that prime-thingy again." Neelix gave her a serious look.
"It would be much easier, you know, if you could see yourself around that rule every once in a while. It certainly seems to get in the way."
Janeway made a sharp gesture with her hand. "I've tried to explain this to you before, Neelix. We simply can't hand over advanced technology that could cause a shift in the natural development of a culture. I'm sure there must be other ways."
"Oh, there's always other ways," Neelix quickly agreed. "It all depends on what you want to pay."
Chakotay considered the screen where the binary stars of Tutopa were growing larger as they approached. "What is the Tutopan form of payment?"
"That's the odd thing," Neelix told them, leaning forward again.
"It's one reason why I never much bothered with the place. The Houses mostly deal in information--blueprints, technology, formulas, things like that. They play with stakes much higher than my reach, let me tell you."
"We don't intend to deal with the Houses or the Cartel," Janeway repeated patiently. "We're trying to keep a low profile."
"You don't have to go to the Hub, the Houses have adjuncts in the secondary system--" Neelix broke off at her expression, holding his hands up. "But you're right, Captain. There are other ways that won't attract as much attention... such as certain fringe elements who, shall we say, deal on the dark side of the moons."
"The dark side?" Janeway repeated dubiously.
Paris tossed over his shoulder, "Sounds like he's talking about the black market." "Are these fringe elements engaging in illegal activities?"
Janeway asked Neelix.
"The only law in Tutopa is the Cartel." Neelix shrugged as if that said everything. "Darksiders are fair game for the Enforcer patrols, but I doubt they'll bother with us. Their ships are maybe a quarter the size of yours." Neelix quickly corrected himself: "Ours."
"Where do we find these `darksiders'?" Chakotay asked.
Neelix opened his eyes wide. "I told you, I've never been in this system before."
At the front console, Paris let out a snort. "Some native guide you are...."
Tuvok's brows drew together, the only sign of displeasure he usually allowed himself. Kim figured he was itching to reprimand Paris.
"Do you have something to say, Lieutenant?" Janeway demanded, much more sharply than Kim had expected.
Paris checked his navigation display, as if his mind was occupied by more important matters. "If you ask me," he said. "This place looks like the Sassaniwan Cross--that binary system between Ferengi and Cordovian space. It's a hot trading spot, and they've got a healthy black market going in the secondary system, mainly in the asteroid belts."
"Don't tell me you've had experience with the Sassaniwan black market?" Janeway asked Paris.
"Enough to know what I'm talking about."
Janeway looked from Chakotay to Tuvok. "What do you think?"
"I am reading an asteroid belt in the secondary system," the Vulcan informed her. "However, this is not the Sassaniwan Cross," Paris groaned, dropping all pretense of disinterest. "We wouldn't need to worry about finding wormholes if this was the Sassaniwan Cross--right, Tuvok? We'd already be in the Alpha Quadrant, safe and sound."
"I am simply reminding the captain of the unknowns," Tuvok replied.
"However, in theory, it has been established that individuals who are desperate enough to endure conditions commonly found among asteroid belts are indeed more likely to operate outside the normal channels of society."
Paris didn't seem sure how to react to that. "It sounds like you're agreeing with me." "He is," Kim murmured, too low for anyone to hear.
"He is," Janeway told Paris. "Lieutenant, set a course for the asteroid belt. Let's see if we can find a way home."</div>