In which Weyoun, Martok, and the Scorpion King all beat up Seven.
This Friday in the ThunderSphere (which is like a thunderdome but with a concave floor) our returning champion with glowy bits on his gloves and shoes will face off against a hirogen who just does not play to the crowd. The gloves and boots they wear cause an electical discharge if you hit your opponent in the chest-target. The audience is out for blood, and even Torres and Chakotay know how to appreciate a good prizefight.
This is a hightly populated area of space, where Janeway will be taking shore leave elsewhere so everyone gets to relax. Neelix is working on blowing up the mess hall in new and exciting ways, and Chakotay is in charge in Janeway’s absence. Torres runs by to demand he skive off work to go see another fight. Just time to show a little sympathy for Neelix getting an awful bilateral sunburn and to do the exposition about the Tsunkatse matches. Seven finds the exercise crude and pointless, and so she and Tuvok will run off to survey a nearby phenomenon. For fun. She gets some flak from Paris about packing literally every tool she owns into terrible cylindrical containers. And from the Doctor, for not developing her social skills.
In the shuttle later, she and Tuvok discuss their mutual valuation of silence before finding themselves pursued by a ship of unknown configuration which knocks out all their systems and beams over what is pretty obviously a live grenade. It doesn’t give them time to disarm it (it’s got a force field) before exploding, and when seven wakes up, Jeff Combes is analyzing her in a barracks and explaining that she’s going to be a popular fighter, for her novelty. He is Penk, who runs a stable of fighters. Tuvok is badly burned, and Penk motivates Seven to fight by offering her the choice between fighting for his medicine or putting Tuvok in a fight to the death. The hirogen also seems to be pulling for her.
On Voyager the crew are discussing their bets for the next Tsunkatse matches, and it turns out Harry was a three-time Academy champion at the Federation’s own insane bloodsport, Paresis Squares. This turns into some good-natured machismo. Chakotay is going to see more matches and since Neelix has a horrifying reaction to his homebrewed aloe, he goes with Chakotay to the next match. The next bout has Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson enter the ring with some minimal forehead prosthesis, and facing off against Seven.
When they can’t get her attention from the stands, Chakotay calls Torres on the bridge to effect an emergency rescue, but Seven is not, in fact, in the pit. The pit is, in fact, a holodisplay. Makes sense – that’s a fairly small spectator ring for a prizefight, but a decent crowd for a sports bar. From the actual fight location, apparently they can tell (and compensate for!) errors in transmission.
Also, if we study this fight we can see that Chakotay’s explanation of the rules doesn’t really cover it – if hitting the target was most of the game, I’d expect to see The Rock deliver a lot more rabbit-punches to Seven’s back while he has her in a hold.
Chakotay has called Janeway back from her vacation while they try to trace the transmission. Meanwhile, in captivity, the Hirojen is treating both Tuvok and Seven, and telling her about what it’s going to take to survive. Penk has other plans – everyone likes to see a borg suffer, so Seven’s going to be put up as a jobber for a deathmatch. With that on the line, Seven decides to lean strategy. There’s a question of whether she’s actually planning on killing to survive, but since she’s currently defending Tuvok it seems pretty likely.
The Hirogen has been part of this stable at least 19 years. There are not a whole lot of clues to make the determination one way or the other whether there’s any kind of governing body overseeing this sport – the Hirogen was taken on a hunt – presumably that could be seen as poetic justice by the civilized peoples of the quadrant, even if they knew he wasn’t a volunteer. Speaking of which, Neelix has just returned from a diplomatic and fact-finding mission and seems to not believe that this whole ‘abduction’ thing is a surprise to the locals. They depend on the revenue so they don’t care about how the sausage is made.
Torres and Kim have used astrometrics to map the source of the fights – the broadcasts are coming from a purpose-built ship that outclasses Voyager. And aboard it, the Hirogen makes a point of telling Seven to be sure she wins. Tuvok has been attempting to break out of the barracks, but won’t be able to do it in time. It will be up to Seven, who has some issues with the idea that she might actually be capable of taking life. Tuvok reminds her that it is more logical to kill than be killed, at least in this scenario. To twist the knife, her opponent is the Hirogen himself, who is ready to die, but in the warrior culture way where you need to die well, in earnest combat.
The timing is right for Voyager to arrive at Penk’s ship and demand their people back. Penk’s not impressed, and the Hirogen is doing everything he can to let Seven take her shot. Voyager has successfully rescued Tuvok, but the fighting pit has better shields than the rest of the arena ship so they can’t grab her either. Since Voyager is getting pounded and can’t make it through the shields, they switch to focus on the transmission towers, and the Flyer coming out of warp delivers a follow-up that’s enough to take off one of the dishes. Seven starts winning too, but hesitates long enough to get beamed out without having to murder – unlike certain machines-transisioning-to-be-human I could mention.
In the epilogue, Voyager has managed to make contact with a Hirogen hunting party and return the fighter, who will go out to look for his kid having been taught a valuable lession about the wisdom of seeking third choices. Tuvok thanks her for her efforts on his half, logical as those efforts were, and checks in on her mental health – but feeling guilty about being emotional is part of being human too. It’s just that Janeway likes to focus on the happy parts and it takes an outsider to see the path for what it is. Or something profound like that.