In which Chakotay is rescued by partisans, fights by partisans, and can’t manage bipartisanship.
Jungle, night. A figure strategically hidden by the trees but definitely carrying a projectile weapon stalks through the forest, closely followed by two more. It turns out they’re hunting Chakotay. It would also seem that Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development is probably in play, as not only are these gun-toting natices enitrely humanoid as far as we can tell, but carrying what look like very off-the-rack rifles. The soldiers frogmarch him back to camp where they examine his uniform and determine he doesn’t belong to any of the other factions, with a bunch of stylistic jargon. In their favor, their doctrine insists that if he’s not their specific enemy, he gets to go free.
The squad leader, who ordered Chakotay cut loose, is Team Leader Brone, of the Fourth Vori Defense Contingent. Chakotay does the thing where humans expect all aliens to shake hands, and deduces that their war is why his shuttle was shot down. He was in the area to study the Omicron radiation when he was shot down by the Kradin, enemy of the Vori. The Kradin go for air superiority, and one side or another is putting out a jamming field. Chakotay wants to go back to his shuttle, despite Brone’s warnings, but he does at least wait for dawn.
I can’t say too much for the worldbuilding so far, since it’s basically entirely exposition. We know this is an ongoing war, and likely between two planetary powers of the same species (or Chakotay would have been shot down from much higher by whichever force was spacefaring) and that something weird is going on with the Universal Translator, since it’s clearly got Thesaurus Virus. Also, from the way the Vori force is dehumanizing the Kradin, it’s pretty clear we’re setting up a Men Against Fire reveal here. Chakotay seems to be expecting this, lampshading it, to muddy the waters a bit.
Brone recruits a guide for Chakotay, and Namin steps up. They discuss the nature of killing, and the horrors of the enemy. Chakotay arguing this side is a little ironic, given his history with the Maquis. You know, engaging in a partisan brush war against a relentless occupier, or whatever less dramatic terms Eddington wasn’t satisfied with.
Chakotay’s shuttle has been torn apart, and they are beset by Kradin. Who are not, in fact, the same species. Or they’re wearing masks, maybe. Namin gets killed, and Chakotay gets rescued from having to pull the trigger on one of the Kradin himself. They have a field service and burial, and Chakotay gets Namin’s camo gear to keep from getting the whole squad killed. He also gets a gun, and some limited training in its use. Chakotay is not used to weapons that have gravitational falloff. I’m a little more surprised that he didn’t have trouble with the recoil. Do phaser rifles have recoil?
During a night march, they find a dead soldier staked out and dead of exposure. The Vori seem to believe that in death you have to face downward or you don’t go to the ‘Wayafter,’ so the Kradin stake their prisoners out face up and with their necks strapped so they can’t turn downwards. The Fourth squadron tries to contact the rest of the Seventh, but get no response. Scouts report they’re all dead, the same way. This much, at least, Chakotay understands. Starfleet ideals are one thing, but spiritual desecration may have him onboard. Either that, or coming under fire. The squad takes heavy losses, and Chakotay gets Action Movie Shot in the arm, but is well enough to turn his fallen buddy downwards. Now on his own, Chakotay finds a village where he’s welcomed as a defender, just before passing out.
Finally we cut to Voyager herself. Janeway has been searching for Chakotay’s shuttle for two days. They’ve spoken to an abassador who tells them about the whole war, and Neelix apparently knows something about this war despite having run out of his element a long time ago. Maybe all he’s been doing for the past two days is study?
Chakotay’s been getting a heroes welcome, but while the villagers give him food, warmth, and gratitude, they don’t have any equipment after having been driven out by the Kradin. They can only offer him directions to a supply depot that might help him get in touch with the ship. In the night, a child asks Chakotay about the war, about why the Kradin defile the dead and make war. Unfortunately, the kid’s older brother was with the Seventh division, and is therefore dead. Chakotay doesn’t have the heart to say it, and agrees to take a letter to the restock unit. On the march the next day, he sees two Kradin aircraft bomb the village and start taking prisoners. He’s about to intervene, when he’s captured himself. But unexpectedly, not killed immediately.
On the ship, Tom and Tuvok appear to have bought into the narrative of a relentless, merciless enemy that uses chemical weapons, and Tuvok has formulated a plan to lead a commando raid of the Ambassador’s forces.
Chkotay gets thrown into a prison cave with the surviving villagers. He tries to get some information from one of the guards, but all he gets is pistol-whipped. When he and the moppet of the episode wake up, it’s to the Kraden rounding up the old and the infirm for extermination, as too frail to work in forced-labor camps. The girl makes a scene and gets added to the extermination pile, and Chakotay attacks and is knocked out.
On Voyager, the Ambassador and his commandos arrive and surprise! They’re Kradin. What an unexpected twist.
Chakotay is staked out in the sun when Brone finds him and cuts him loose. The rest of the Fourth is dead, it’s just Brone and Chakotay, who’s gone completely native. It’s worth noting, by the way, that both the Vori and the Kardin use the same label of Nemesis for each other. The entire dialect on this planet is awful. Chakotay and Brone and the rest of the Fifth get flashbanged. Chakotay almost shoots a Kraden who claims to be Tuvok. Tuvok explains the whole situation calmly to break through what has apparently been mental conditioning by the Vori. The whole scenario is apparently a brainwashing scenario. Nothing that’s happened before this battle has been real, it seems.
The proof Tuvok offers is the refugee settlement, back up and running and reacting to his appearance exactly the same as the first time, even though half of the villagers should be dead. The Doctor, in the aftermath, suggests that it was all drugs. The Vori do this on their own people and any passing aliens. It seems a little unsustainable. And when the Kraden ambassador comes by to wish Chakotay a speedy recovery, it’s clear that mere intellectual understanding of the situation isn’t quite enough to overcome the hatred.