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From the back cover: Under the guise of helping the crew find a way home, a group of aliens board the USS Voyager, and then steal the main computer. To get it back, Captain Janeway is forced to negotiate with the thieves -- who are from a consortium of planets where thievery is a way of life. But as Janeway and the crew fight to retrieve their computer in time to save the barely functioning ship, they become embroiled in a political battle that could not only destroy the USS Voyager, but the crew as well!
When Voyager approaches a region of space governed by a species called the Tutopans, Neelix has little to offer except a warning about the natives predilection for "acquiring" ships that enter their space. Nevertheless, in hopes of obtaining information about possible wormholes, Vogager enters their system, though only making contact with the presumed-safer factions along the periphery. Through one Tutopan contact, Janeway arranges to trade starcharts in exchange for the wormhole data. But when the Tutopans insist on exchanging the data in person, Tuvok and the security team are disabled in the shuttlebay by some sort of alien chemical agent. While the entire crew is incapacitated, some recover more quickly, and soon discover that the trade was merely a ploy for the Tutopan pirates to steal Vogager's computer processor - cut cleanly out of the computer core and whisked away, leaving Voyager incapable of pursuit.
Harry and B'Elanna manage to tweak the systems enough to pursue the pirates deeper into the system by thrusters alone, but soon Voyager finds their only resort is to go to the Hub, a massive spaceport in which all Tutopan activity centers. As Harry and B'Elanna work to keep the ship from falling apart - and the Doctor from disappearing entirely - Janeway and Tuvok travel within the station to get answers about the whereabouts of their computer processor. After some wrangling, Janeway manages to learn that the House Min-Tutopa has likely taken the processor to their planet deeper in the system, and she arranges for transport there to negotiate for its return, taking B'Elanna with her.
Meanwhile, in order to repair the bioneural gel network, Tom and Tuvok attempt to acquire drugs from the black market on the Hub. Once Tom learns of a recent slew of computer thefts, he, Neelix, and Harry manage to use a Tutopan janitor to hack into the Hub's computer to investigate. On Min-Tutopa, Janeway and B'Elanna become caught in the middle of Tutopan politics. As the House Min-Tutopa anticipates the election of a new Supreme Arbitrator, Janeway and B'Elanna find themselves unsure of which political camp to trust in their efforts to track down their processor.
On Voyager, Harry learns the corrupt Tutopan peace-keeping force known as the Cartel has been spying on Janeway's escort, Andross, and suspects he is responsible for the recent string of computer acquisitions. Harry, Kes, and the Doctor work to treat the bioneural gelpacks from both an engineering and medical perspective and with a series of drugs acquired from the underworld of the Hub, they make some progress. Meanwhile, on Min-Tutopa, Janeway and B'Elanna become pawns in the revolutionary plot of Andross, who uses their processor and familiarity with it to take control of the planet-wide communications net, in order to advance an individualistic political agenda.
As Tom undergoes "testing" by the Cartel before his interrogation, Janeway and B'Elanna learn the purpose for the coup from Administer Fee (leader of Andross' revolutionary camp). The revolutionaries intend to install Fee as Supreme Arbitrator, so as to allow her to order the restructuring of Tutopan society away from communalism toward a system that respects individual choice more and to wrest control from the increasingly powerful Cartel. Andross appeals to Janeway for help in operating the processor to accomplish his goals but the captain adamantly refuses.
As the Cartel prepares to interrogate Tom, they request another human to use as a baseline against which to measure his reactions. At first, Chakotay refuses but eventually he sends them Harry. With Harry's help, and taking advantage of the Tutopans' ignorance of transporter technology, Tom is freed. At the same time, Voyager breaks free of the Hub in a spectacular display and lurches toward Min-Tutopa to rescue Janeway and B'Elanna. With the Cartel bearing down, they transport them and the Board of House Min-Tutopa aboard. Janeway uses the leverage of the attacking Cartel to force the Board to appoint a Supreme Arbitrator of the House, capable of returning their processor. Reluctantly, Fee is chosen, the Cartel is called off, and Fee agrees to return the processor and pay Tom's bond.
As the crew prepares to get underway, the Doctor calls them to sickbay to inform them of an unexpected development: due to the protein introduced to the bioneural network to facilitate operations Voyager's computer is developing, in a manner that could eventually lead to some semblance of sentience.
- Andross • Carter • Chakotay • Collins • Fee • Hamilt • Hobbs • Kathryn Janeway • Kes • Harry Kim • Navarro • Neelix • Tom Paris • Prog • Seska • Sprecenspire • Tala • B'Elanna Torres • Tracer • Tuvok • Yarro • Zimmerman
- Delta Quadrant • The Hub • Min-Tutopa • Tutopan Cluster
- Referenced only
- Alpha Quadrant • Deep Space 4 • Deep Space 9 • Harn-Tutopa • Sassaniwan Cross
Races and culturesEdit
- Bajoran • Human • Klingon • Ocampa • Talaxian • Tutopan • Vulcan • Yawkin
- Referenced only
- Cardassian • Cordovian • Ferengi • Palusion
Starships and vehiclesEdit
States and organizationsEdit
- The Doctor refers to himself as Zimmerman in the novel. This was intended to be his name in the series, as mentioned in the series bible featured in the Star Trek: Voyager Companion.
- Presumably, the crew learned important lessons from this experience and equipped Voyager to better handle the experience of losing its main processor before VOY episode: "Concerning Flight".
- References are made within the novel to the events of VOY episode: "Prime Factors" and VOY episode: "Ex Post Facto".
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