In which Barclay promises to get everyone home and it works as well as any plan ever does.
Starfleet missed a datastream last month, but the next one is expected shortly. Everyone’s looking forward to it, and Harry’s a little grumpy about picking it up at two in the morning. This month’s is larger than usual and gummed up in delivery, because that’s how bandwidth works apparently. He’s been working with Seven to download it, and as it turns out the messag eis a holoprogram. The comms transciever wasn’t designed to store ‘photonic data’ and it will eventually degrade, so at least that answers why they can never make a backup of the Doctor – photonic data is somehow more volatile than other types of files. Harry shunts the data over to the holodeck, risking burning out some relays but for an important hologram it’s probably worth it. The hologram is none other than Reginald Barclay, or at least a (very) slightly suaver version, promising a way to get home in the next few days.
Grid 898 has a red giant, which Federation scientists around a similar star will attempt to open a controlled Geodesic Fold (distinct enough from a wormhole to have a separate taxonomy). Janeway’s objection is that Voyager‘s shields don’t protect against ‘Geodesic radiation’ otherwise they would have done this yonks ago, but Starfleet has schematics for shield upgrades and crew protection. The suspicions about last month’s datastream can be allayed by the simple explanation that last month they tried sending a full, ‘unabridged’ version of the holoprogram, which overloaded the array.
To accomplish this, they have to give Reg the mobile emitter, and the Doctor immediately starts going stir crazy. All other resources are devoted to the task as well, and Reg is laying it on real thick. Tom, of course, is a little bit of a realist with a memory of how all their shortcut attempts thus far have gone, and how much they’ve had to pay for the ones that work.
Seven shows off some Borg tech that they use to stay stable in their transwarp conduits, and Reg revels in basking in the presence of the crew, and tries to convince Seven to go to all the fun events they’ll have planned. She’s afraid that as a Borg she won’t be welcomed, bur Reg assures her that people are anxious to see a recovered Borg, because nobody’s ever done that before. Now, if this were a sublte hint that somehow this whole thing isn’t on the level, that would be great assuming it was possible to distinguish this as a hint rather than a continuity error in amongst the noise, because Reginald Barclay should know better. Being held up as a beacon of hope seems to have gotten Seven’s attention as sufficiently relevant a reason to attend.
We cut now to Earth, the Starfleet communications division, where the real Reginald Barclay is hard at work inputting data to determine that yes, in fact, the datastream Starfleet sent was terminated mid-flight, in the same place it disappeared last month. Sounds like a cyber attack, but in fact moments later it’s confirmed that they were indeed trying to send a hologram, and they suspect it of degrading. Why they would send a hologram containing a novel new tech in an untested format is beyond the limits of sensible doctrine, though. Reg explains that the holographic matrix contains twice the data density of traditional messages, but going back to my original hypothesis, nothing in the conversation between Reg and Pete suggests that the hologram was loaded with a shortcut. So man-in-the-middle attack it is.
Pete is in fact taking schoolchildren on tours of the datacenter, when Barclay bursts in with a Eureka that the Borg assimilated his hologram. Or the Romulans. Wild theorizing, as is Barclay’s way. As such, he’s ordered to go take a week off, which of course he’ll spend in a holodeck running simulations.
The Voyager Reg attempts to assure the Doctor that the new innoculations he’s provided will successfully protect against ‘geodesic radiation’ despite all indications to the contrary. They are designed to work in concert with the shield modifications, so a partial success is enough. Torres and Harry have just succeeded in repairing the transciever when Reg stops by to squeeze in one little progress report, which will of course kill the transmission or alter it sufficiently so as to – yes- trigger the sabotage hardware (which looks vaguely Cardassian) to reroute the message. In fact, it’s a Ferengi device. Reg has gotten specifications for Seven to send to his Ferengi hijackers, who are looking to get their hands on Seven’s borg implants and nanoprobes, with the understanding that the whole crew ill be too dead to contest them.
Reg has, in fact, made it to a beach resort that employs shoreside waiters. This further restricts the possibility space for the Federation internal economy – if you have shore waiters, you either have to have people who really want to be waiters, who are unlocking future opportunities by being shore waiters, or who need to be waiters to maintain whatever luxuries they want in their life. Reg, of course, looks ridiculous and is stalking Troi. Gatecrashing on her vacation with Riker is… mega creepy, but then again he is in the throes of a full-on paranoid episode. That he happens to be correct is beside the point, I’m sure. To be fair, he is keeping in touch with the rest of the crew, and he was in the midst of an Up period, until the hologram disappeared and his relationship fell apart and he went all Barclay.
The end of his relationship was really abrupt, too. She left him, packed up, moved away, and went off the grid. That’s extreme even from someone willing to date Barclay, and pretty clearly she was a Ferengi agent in this scenario. She was a great listener about the Pathfinder project, too. Reg suspects it, but it does in fact take an empath to realize that he’s in denial. Though neither of them think it’s likely, Troi convinces him to report the possibility that she’s an infiltrator regardless.
Voyager contionues on, with Reg doing Janeway impressions. Barclay designed the Reg hologram to be the social butterfly he never was, none of which distracts Tom from his pessimism. The Doctor soon calls him to the holodeck for golf, which he tries to duck out of to go play space-checkers with Seven and then throws a tantrum when the Doctor tries to get his emitter back.
In the security review, Admial Paris interviews Leosa, Barclay’s Ex. She’s a dabo girl, not a teacher. She works on a Ferengi casino-ship and moonlights as… at the very least… a geisha. The interview doesn’t go all that well, but Troi gets a moment alone with her at the end of it, threatening her with extended psychiatric observation if she doesn’t give up the goods and confirm that Leosa was a Ferengi agent. She also gets the signature of the ship they’re looking for, but doesn’t know what the plan was. They dispatch a message to the USS Carolina, two hours away, and Leosa finishes squishing Barclay’s heart. And drops that she did know something about the plan after all – she knows that the Ferengi were after the nanoprobes. They’re worth two billion times their weight in latinum, which means that a single nanoprobe is (assuming they mass roughly the same as a red blood cell) worth about 2 grams of latinum. Seven’s schematics said she had a few million, so that’s quite a lot of latinum indeed.
The Doctor tries to convince Janeway that there’s a problem with Reg, as it’s displaying traits that Barclay never had – not just the positive ones Barclay valued like extroversion but being rude and careless as well, and Janeway’s too blinded to see it. The Doctor eventually convinces her to do some due dilligence, and he agrees to a diagnostic with 1 light-year to go on the transfer. And in that countdown, Barclay is trying to figure out how the Ferengi intend to (or perhaps already did) get their hands on Seven, while Troi argues about the single part of this that Barclay actually has good evidence for. And Barclay hasn’t told Pete because of the track record of dismissing Barclay’s theories when they’re wild fantasy. Which seems to be slightly poorer strategy that one might expect, but still generally good policy.
Reg’s program has checked out, and the final stage of Operation: Murder Everyone On Voyager begins. And with the Carolina in the area and the Ferengi being monitored by the Pathfinder team, they detect the pulse and Barclay immediately recognizes the geodesic fold. As the one on the Delta-quadrant end forms, Seven observes three radiation types the shielding doesn’t account for, and is promptly taken out and impersonated before she can warn anyone. Apparently, if a hologram intersects your body, it can have deleterious effects on your brain – this makes sense as they have to incorporate shaped force fields, and if it’s possible to project those intersecting with someone’s body it’s probably really terrible news for them. It also has to be a somewhat inefficient form of attack, or else we’d see at least one species out there with Force Field Guns that project a plane that slices things up. Maybe that’s something we can expect in Quentin Tarantino’s movie.
Using the MIDAS array, Barclay has managed to hack into the Ferengi telemetry and is monitoring Voyager‘s progress. From here they can piece together the plan, but although they can receive telemetry coherent enough to monitor the progress they can’t send a message through it. One can only speculate on the unique properties it takes to create a one-way passage like that. Instead, Barclay runs the Voyager simulation and pretends to be the altered hologram to try to get the Ferengi to close the fold – for their own safety, or Janeway will hunt them down. They do so, although on the Voyager end, Reg beams Seven to an escape pod headed for the fold, but Janeway manages to transport them back on board in time. They’re going to do some forensic analysis to determine what went wrong with the program, but so far, no luck. Maybe they’ll figure it out before the next datastream comes through explaining it. Until they, it’s up to tom to spin tall tales for Harry to keep his spirits up – and off the fact that his quick thinking in snagging the hologram is what almost killed everyone.
Oh, and Troi and Riker are setting up a double date to get Barclay back on the dating horse.