In which Neelix has to clean up a mess he makes, and then everyone else’s mess too.
I checked. This is only the third time Neelix has ever called Tuvok “Mister Tuvok” instead of “Mister Vulcan.” Tuvok was ‘supposed’ to let Neelix go on a ride-along on his security rounds, because he wants to be a security officer. Next, he’s berating Torres for missing his Klingob breakfast buffet and showing off his new studying-up when Janeway seems to sense that Torres is about to murder him and calls him away to the bridge. In fact, Voyager has encountered a vast stormy dust cloud, and Neelix names it for us – the Nekrit Expanse. The Expanse is huge, mysterious, full of plasma storms, and plotting a course around it would put them thousands of light-years off course. And nothing bad ever happens when the ship tries to plow through these things. He knows of only one trading post, on the edges of the expanse, which Voyager will stop at to take on supplies.
The station manager greets Voyager by hail, who informs them that the station will take a 20% cut of any transaction made on the station. No word is given as to whose side pays – that may be up to the individual merchant. Station Manager Barat is a very busy man, but warns Janeway that some of the supplies they need for their environmental controls are rare and will be difficult to find.
While Janeway works on that, Chakotay and Paris get offered space-heroin, in blue-crystal format. Neelix, meanwhile, finds a map dealer, but he assures Neelix that there’s no way to plot the Nekrit Expanse anyway, as it’s too unstable. Neelix also runs into an old friend, who’s out farther than most Talaxians ever go and is very evasive about the reason why. Over drinks, Neelix also confides that he’s afraid Janeway will kick him off soon, since he’s approaching the limits of his knowledge about the area. Which is why he’s been so keen on joining the crew in other capacities. And thus, he asks his old friend Wix for a map.
Wix has been able to help out with some of the parts Voyager needs, and also starts in on what sounds either like a lengthy Zelda-style Trade-quest or an elaborate confidence scam. They need to do it under the radar, or Station Manager Barat will take his 20%, and ain’t nobody can afford that. Also, Wix wants to take a phaser. This sounds worse and worse all the time. Thanks to the rarity (read – nonexistence) of transporters, there are no sensors that will detect their entry. Their contact appears to be the space-heroin dealer from before, but it might just be another member of the species. Nope, the medical supplies are definitely drugs, he double-crosses them, and they have to shoot him and escape.
Now Neelix can’t do what he wants to (go to Janeway) because she’ll probably kick him off the ship for being a smuggler, and he can’t go to the manager because then his friend will be frozen in carbonite or whatever. And so Janeway has to hear about the situation from the principal, and she’s not mad, just disppointed. At the site of the murder, Barat found evidence that the drug dealer was killed with a Federation phaser, and so she will have Tuvok set an investigation.
Tuvok’s first angle of attack is to check which Voyager crew were off-ship at the time, and which off-ship people could have managed to take a weapon from the ship prior to the incident. Tuvok wants to question him, even as Neelix sets up some distance, in order to take advantage of Talaxian social cues that may not be universal. Wix has ready answers for all of Tuvok’s questions, but as soon as Tuvok leaves he collapses, because he bought the tubes with money from some vicious traders, who now want three grams of warp plasma to not kill Wix and everyone who looks like Wix, because somehow just injecting it into their own engines will improve the efficiency somehow. Or it’s a lie.
Neelix seeks life advice from the closest thing Voyager has to a criminal element – Tom Paris. He traces all the troubles in his life to not owning up to his mistake in the beginning, because his story is exactly the same as this cadet’s, even though they’re totally different people we promise *wink*. It’s pretty much exactly what Neelix was hoping not to hear, even though he also misses the ‘you’re totally part of the crew, buddy’ offer that Paris extends. Right over his head, so off he goes to steal some warp plasma. Although, the scene ends before we actually see him do it.
He doesn’t do it, and he decides he has a plan to get them out of it. Before he can put it into practice, Chakotay and Paris get arrested for talking to the dead guy long enough to not buy drugs from him earlier. The station manager is dead-set on putting someone in stasis for 50 years for the crime, but Neelix still has a plan. So far, his plan is ‘confessing,’ but the extra wrinkle is in pointing out how useless ‘cryostasis’ is as a deterrent – the two smugglers (one former) tell the station manager this. His plan is to use the warp plasma deal as bait, to let the station manager catch them. He’s amenable, although fully believing that Neelix and Wix won’t survive.
At the deal, the underground trade syndicate does the thing where you loop an image that shows nothing suspicious. Nobody’s ever heard of using hard lines to transmit security data, or maybe this station is just too big. And when Neelix hands over the plasma, the trader scans it, isn’t pleased, and then Neelix tips his hand before the cops show up.
As it turns out, Neelix set the canister to leak, so that the trader can’t shoot him or beam out without blowing up the whole section. When backup arrives, one of the henchmen gets antsy and fires it off, but nobody we care about dies, and Wix got his happy-ish ending. Now all that’s left is for Janeway to chew out Neelix as he so richly deserves. That said, she’s trying to punish him by being all stern and whatnot, but literally the only thing he cares about is that she’s not putting him off the ship.