In which Janeway would be the villain except that it would require a radical contract restructuring.
The USS Equinox has been in the Delta quadrant longer than Voyager, has deleted their doctor’s ethical subroutines, been harvesting pixies for fuel, and just stranded Voyager to the mercy of the aliens. Janeway was about to get flash-dessicated. For no adequately-explained reason, it skips her and hits Chakotay instead, allowing Janeway to dive for a console and reinforce the shields. Ransom has a moment of regret for leaving Voyager behind, but is not going to let it get to him.
Everyone on Voyager is now walking around armed, in some cases with rifles despite the generally close quarters. I must once again speculate that, based on our knowledge of the tech packed in, that the rifles have some form of gyro-stabilization or auto-aim that makes them more practical for fighting small flying targets. You probably have to configure them for that, though. Sick Bay is pretty full up too, althoug it looks like they’re giving beds to corpses and making living people sleep on the floor. Janeway’s been able to recover the Doctor, but his story doesn’t match up with what we know are the facts – this is the evil one. Harry’s working on communicating with the aliens, based on the screeching sound that they make with the portals show up.
Max Burke has captured Seven and she is the newest crew of the Equinox, assuming she’d rather not live in the brig. Bad assumption, as it turns out, since she’s not interested in Ransom as a role model. Nor in Burke’s attempts at banter. But the Equinox has captured the good doctor – he’s not simply deleted. During this, Ensign Marla Gilmore’s running the warp drive on pixie dust, but it’s shorted out as Seven has ‘encoded the power relays.’ Burke threatens to delete the Doctor if he doesn’t help interrogate Seven for the codes, but Ransom has a simpler solution – delete the ethical subroutines on this one, too. They kept his bedside manner, though.
Janeway has composed a message and Harry has built enough of a translation matrix to send it. Janeway orders them to transmit, and they successfully make non-hostile contact. Well, one non-hostile incursion. The eventual response is more attacks on the shield, and so Janeway completely gives up on the idea of diplomacy forever. She’s driving hard for Seven and for revenge on Ransom, not just for his treatment of Voyager but of Starfleet principles. She is, however, fully aware of how much she wants revenge.
The Equinox has found a planet with an atmosphere they can hide in and some deuterium. Ransom sends Noah down on an away mission, and the Doctor is studying/interrogating/torturing Seven. Without ethical subroutines, the Doctor doesn’t seem interested in getting them back. They’d stop him from extracting the memories from Seven and lobotomizing her. Ransom steps in to ask Seven to capitulate, but no dice.
Chakotay’s asking Janeway to try to find the Ankari, the aliens that Ransom got the summoning tech from in the first place. Janeway’s first priority is to find the Equinox, to save seven and to stop the pixie genocide. Janeway has been studying Ransom’s service record and found that his propensity is to hide in planetary atmospheres. If it ain’t broke…
While Janeway gets high on revenge, Ransom gets high on the poor-mans-holodeck stimulator we saw earlier, that pipes scenic views directly into your brain. It’s his drug, but this one is weird – there’s a person in it, and there never has been before.
On the surface, Noah and his voiceless buddy wander around the park, but get ambushed by Chakotay and Tom. The Evil Doctor calls Ransom to warn him that Voyager is in the area, but he can’t finish his warning, and it’s too late to save the away team. Thus the tactical engagement begins. The Equinox should still be heavily outclassed, but the Equinox has enough aftermarket stuff and Voyager is damaged enough that it’s not a foregone conclusion. Torres tries to appeal to Burke, and Janeway takes out Ransom’s weapons, but he just goes deeper into the planet’s atmosphere. Janeway is forced to break off pursuit to save the shields. Ransom pulls up moments later and goes to warp – Voyager can’t follow until they do some repairs, but they do have prisoners.
Janeway’s interrogating Noah Lessing. Her primary threat is feeding Noah to the pixies. Lessing calls her bluff which may not be a bluff. Chakotay was unware it wasn’t a bluff. Also, apparently it’s possible to drop shields in a specific room, although that may just be the interdimensional barrier shields and not, you know, the actual defense bubble. Neither Lessing nor Janeway back down, and in the end Chakotay has bodily rescue the guy. Janeway will never forgive him, but Chakotay uses this time to deflect and switch to his plan B – looking for the Ankari. Since this isn’t a betrayal of his captain, Lessing breaks on it. However, since Chakotay won’t let Janeway cross the line into becoming Ransom again, she relieves him of duty.
Janeway orders a forcible attack on the Ankari ship in order to get them to talk, and they agree to summon the little dudes. The pixies are not very forgiving, but apparently they understand english and Harry’s translation program was pointless. Janeway tells them that since the Equinox has broken their rules, they will punish Ransom and his crew. She leaves out that she has also broken her codes of behavior and is going to be a lot more selective. It’s not germaine, I’m sure. The pixies want to do the punishing themselves, though, and Janeway agrees.
Aboard the Equinox Ransom appears to be regaining a sense of remorse just in time for pathos. It’s good to remember that he’s the one who deleted the Doctor’s ethical subroutines, who is now playing Seven’s brain implants idly for mid-investigation amusement. For some escape he goes back to the scenery stimulator and sees the mysterious figure again. It turns out to be Seven, although with no implants, and is probably just a manifestation of his guilt.
Voyager has caught up again. Ransom’s not going to hide again, and has had a change of heart. The two captains have rubbed off on each other, but Burke has the upper hand in this mutiny, and he wants to go home. He opens up a channel to the Evil Doctor to get Voyager‘s shield frequency. Burke’s mutiny has relied on the wrong guard for Ransom, however. Gilmore was never on board for this whole pixie-juicing business. The Equinox takes the upper hand, because I suppose it takes longer to remodulate shield frequencies than it does for a torpedo to span the distance between the Equinox and Voyager. Or else torpedoes can be remote-remodulated, because otherwise Tuvok should be scrambling the shields every time the Equinox fires.
Ransom calls Janeway to surrender and she accepts his plan. Of course, she’ll still have to feed him to the pixies, although she might be able to bargain them down to just him (and Burke, of course). Burke foils the plan, so Ransom just has the Equinox crew beam over themselves and goes after Burke himself. Once back on board, the Doctor deletes the EMH before he can trip the ‘photonic charges’ in the holo-emitters. Apparently, our Doctor is perfectly fine in the ethics department now. Oh, also you can just delete an EMH with no ‘are you sure’ dialogue pop-up. That seems…wrong.
Ransom has dropped all the shields he can and the aliens pop in and start attacking the drive. Burk and his loyalists have to make a break for the shuttles and take a swarm of pixies to the face. Ransom heroically stays with the Equinox long enough to take it away from Voyager before it explodes and gain some redemption in death. We never had to see it, but I have to wonder what Janeway’s plan to double-cross the pixies actually was.
The Doctor has to face up to Seven. She doesn’t blame him, because he is, after all, a program, and offers to help him secure his program for the future. Janeway dresses down the survivors from the Equinox, strips them of all rank and sets them as crewmen rather than officers. The question I have is not whether Chakotay will forgive her for going stark raving lunatic, but whethe she’ll take this event as a warning and step back from all the insane decisions she’s made of the the past few seasons. The collapse of the plaque serves as an in-case-you-didn’t-get-it metaphor.