When Ensign Kim finds a wormhole that might lead to the Alpha Quadrant, the crew believes they may have found a rapid route home. Although the opening to the tunnel in space proves too small for Voyager to fly through, Janeway decides to launch a microprobe into it to see what's on the other side.
To Kim's disappointment, the probe gets stuck in a gravitational eddy before it makes it all the way through, but he's surprised by readings indicating the probe is being scanned by someone on the other side. Janeway suggests they transmit a message through the probe, hoping it will be picked up by whoever is scanning it. Before long, they receive a subspace response — from the Alpha Quadrant, 70,000 light years away!
In the meantime, Kes begins working closely with the Doctor in Sickbay. She's surprised by how rudely Voyager's staff treats him because he's "only a hologram." She asks the Captain if the Doctor can be treated with the same respect as crewmembers. Janeway agrees, and tells the Doctor he should begin thinking of himself as a member of the crew. What's more, she's giving him control over his own deactivation sequence, and his first taste of independence.
When Voyager finally succeeds in achieving voice contact with the Alpha Quadrant ship, they are surprised to find it's a Romulan vessel. The Romulan captain, a scientist named Telek, is suspicious of the communication from a Starfleet vessel, thinking at first that they must be Federation spies. But once they've established a visual link and the two captains can communicate eye-to-eye, Telek becomes more sympathetic to their plight, saying he'll consider relaying messages to the crew's families back home.
Anxious to explore every avenue that will facilitate getting home, Torres explains that she might be able to "piggyback" a transporter beam onto the visual link, which theoretically would allow the crew to beam to the Romulan ship in the Alpha Quadrant. To test the theory, the Romulan captain allows himself to be transported onto Voyager.
Regrettably, Tuvok discovers the crew has actually beamed the Romulan from 20 years in the past, due to a time rift in the wormhole. Knowing it's pointless to transport the crew back in time because it would wreak havoc with the timeline of that era, Janeway asks the Romulan to relay the crew's messages to their families in 20 years. He agrees, and returns to his ship. Later, a database check reveals that the Romulan died four years before he was able to deliver the messages. Although disappointed, the crew presses forward.