The episode opens with the Maquis crew socializing well with the Voyager crew. Then the crew receives a distress call and contacts the ship. It turns out that the ship isn't in distress, but says that the Voyager is — for being a primitive starship in their comparison. The Voyager encounters a very hospitable race known as the Sikarians and the crew are invited to visit their homeworld, Sikaris. As the crew set foot on the Sikarian homeworld, they find wonderful things from amazing fabrics to beautiful cities. Shore leave is organized, and during the visit, Ensign Kim and an alien friend transport themselves to another planet, Alastria. Kim notices that the planet has two stars and must belong to another star system. The alien describes the location of the planet, and Kim deduces that the teleporter device — the Trajector — has transported them 40,000 light-years across the Delta Quadrant.
Captain Janeway is informed, and asks Gath, the leader of the Sikarians, if they could modify their technology for Voyager. Gath states that they are forbidden from sharing technology, by their own version of the Prime Directive. Janeway reflects on how many times the Prime Directive has ordered Starfleet not to interfere with primitive cultures, even on the brink of destruction, and how they are that primitive culture to the Sikarian people. When the staff think on a bargaining chip, Harry remembers that he was told that stories to the Sikarians hold incredible value. Janeway takes this into account and makes an offer: the Sikarians use the transport technology for Voyager in exchange for Voyager 's entire library of literature. This is an offer Gath finds tempting — although Janeway later discovers that he never intends to accept, but is attempting to convince the crew to stay on his planet indefinitely.
In engineering, Seska is seen in a daze thinking of her brother's birthday in a few days. Lt. Torres then examines the spacial rift caused by the trajector to figure out how it can work. A while later, Ensign Kim is approached by a civilian who offers to bypass the law and hand over to the Voyager crew the technology anyway, in exchange for the literature. Janeway is unable to authorize this, so she heads down to see if Gath is willing to talk with the other leaders on the subject. Janeway continues to try and convince him, but it turns out all he wants is his pleasure as does everyone else on the planet.
Torres, Lt. Carey, and Seska downloaded the library and after much debate head to the transporter room. When trying to access the transporter, they are unable to and Tuvok walks in on them. Security Chief Tuvok goes to the surface and made the exchange without Janeway's knowledge or permission. He returns to Voyager with the transport device after exchanging the literature, and requests that the engineering team, who are also willing to undermine Janeway's authority, do not attempt to use the device until Tuvok has spoken with Janeway. Unfortunately, the engineering team discover that the technology relies on neutrino emissions from the planet, and as Voyager is about to depart, they activate the device. The attempt fails, the device is destroyed, and it shows that the device was never compatible with Federation technology. Tuvok (much to Janeway's shock) and the engineering team are disciplined by Janeway for undermining her authority, almost blowing up the warp core and nearly destroying the ship, and Voyager continues its journey looking for a way home.