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Great Expectations

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"No," said Janeway, her fists balled on her hips in a way that promised trouble. Tom admired her bravado--not that he would have expected anything less of his captain--but he couldn't help wishing she would display a little more flexibility regarding their current predicament.

"No?" repeated the tentacled alien holding them at phaser-point on its ship. Its multiple pink eyestalks swung back and forth in confusion. "That is not a satisfactory answer to my question. I repeat: 'Mate or die'--which do you choose?"

"Neither." Janeway nodded to Tom and moved forward swiftly, catching their captor off-guard. A few blows later, punctuated by the satisfying crunch of exoskeleton and the thud of tentacles hitting the ground, she straightened up in triumph, the phaser rifle in her hands. "Tie him up."

Tom rummaged around the small scoutship for suitable materials, and finally settled on the strap of the bag he'd been using to hold rock samples, a reminder of the supposedly simple--and safe--mission they'd been on, what seemed like a hundred years ago. But it had only been a few hours since they'd beamed down to the seemingly unclaimed and uninhabited planet to conduct a minerological survey, just a few hours since his biggest misfortune had been Tuvok ordering Harry to accompany him, leaving Tom to be partnered with the Captain--and disrupting Tom's carefully laid plans for a leisurely afternoon away from Voyager.

Tom sighed and turned his attention back to the task at hand. Tying up the alien was harder than it looked; it took a few moments until he was sure he'd gotten all the tentacles secured.

"And now," Janeway said, once the alien was properly immobilized. "Just what do you mean by this sort of hostile behavior? Is this your idea of 'first contact', to kidnap peaceful individuals, transport them to your ship and then subject them to bizarre demands?"

The alien groaned. Tom was no judge of its physiology, but its smooth green epidermis now sported several purplish blotches that hadn't been there earlier. Moreover, it looked as though it was going to have a black eye--or three. The tips of a few tentacles fluttered weakly.

"Yeah, whatever happened to 'take me to your leader'?" Tom said. He subsided at once at a glare from Janeway.

"Well?" the Captain demanded.

"I meant no harm," the alien whined, its voice rising in indignation. "It is your behavior which is inexplicable! I was simply following the protocol outlined in your own cultural document!"

"What cultural document?" Janeway said, puzzled.

"The document found in that one's--" the alien tried and didn't quite succeed in waving a tentacle in Tom's direction "--possession. Take a look for yourself! Is this not a record of how Humans greet members of other species?"

Janeway turned to Tom, while still keeping the alien firmly in her rifle sights. "Do you have any idea what he's talking about?"

Tom suddenly got a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Uh, actually, Captain, I…he might be referring to an old 20th century video I brought along to help pass the time, you know, if we hit any lulls in the course of conducting the survey…" His voice trailed off.

Janeway knelt down and opened the bag. Shifting aside the various rocks, she pulled out a slim plastic case and straightened up. Tom held his breath as she read the title on the cover.

The initial look on the Captain's face suggested she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. And then her expression shifted to the one that many denizens of the Delta Quadrant had come to know and dread over the years.

"Don't believe everything you read," she said, tossing the 'cultural document' aside. Without further warning, she fired.

The alien let out a high-pitched shriek, only belatedly realizing he wasn't the target of her wrath.

Tom, after a cursory check to make sure he was still whole, dropped to his knees next to the smoking remains of the plastic case. He realized he'd gotten off lightly, but he still couldn't help mourning the loss of his only copy of "Earth Girls Are Easy."