Title: Finale Author: Jemima Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Series: VOY Part: 19/19 Rating: PG Codes: crew Summary: This is the finale of "The Museum", a series of AU stories within one larger story. In the Finale, Tuvok breaks a promise, Neelix sets sail, and, of course, Voyager sets course for Earth. Disclaimer: I took these characters from an alternate universe without copyright laws. Mwhahahaha!
The prone Vulcan propped himself up on one elbow. "Captain, where are we?" He looked around the hexagonal room in puzzlement.
She scowled, though when she'd woken up in the middle of the night and asked the computer to locate him, she'd already known, in her heart, where he was. "You tried the Mobius band again."
"I am sorry, Captain."
"You gave me your word six years ago."
"I think I may have found a way home."
"You thought so on Sikaris, too. I'm having you beamed to sickbay. We'll discuss this in the morning."
Tuvok had a disturbingly familiar conversation with the EMH in sickbay. As far as he could determine, he was back in his own universe. The possibility of being trapped forever in an endless sequence of universes generated by the Mobius band was disturbing, but Tuvok trusted that the builders of the museum had taken measures to prevent such an infinite regress. Trusted, or hoped.
In the morning he reported to the Captain's ready-room as ordered.
This time he broke the silence. "I apologize for my actions."
"I've placed a reprimand in your file." Janeway paused before explaining, "I don't like what the Mobius band has done to my crew, Tuvok. Tom and B'Elanna are clinging to each other as though they've been through a war. Seven has slipped back into her Borg habits, except, unaccountably, she's dating Ensign Kim. Even Neelix seems depressed." She didn't mention her own haunting memories. "But the worst part, Tuvok, is that I don't trust you anymore. Needless to say, your little escapade didn't help."
"You told the Doctor you saw the future."
The familiar words rolled off his tongue. "The first universe I saw through the Mobius band was very similar to our own, as I reported at the time. It was my hope that the alternate timeline would resume where it left off after my first trial - almost the present time."
"Did it?" she asked.
"Yes," he answered, determined not to go into as much detail in this, he prayed, his own universe, as he had in the previous one. "It was the same universe, but the time was after our discovery of this planet and the Mobius band."
"And we made it home...how?" the Captain wondered aloud.
"Starfleet sent us the specifications for a transwarp drive."
"Do you remember them?" she asked.
"Engineering is not my department," he said. "However, the other universe was nearly indistinguishable from our own. I believe that Starfleet will send us the information soon."
"Is that what you meant when you said you had found a way home?"
No, that was not what he had meant. "I was disoriented, Captain."
She eyed him suspiciously, but what could she do? Her prejudices against another Tuvok who had abandoned her on another New Earth were as misplaced here in the real world as her feelings for Chakotay were. Or were they?
"You may report for duty, Mr. Tuvok. Dismissed."
Not having the Captain's backing for his plans, Tuvok did not ask Seven of Nine to leave Astrometrics. He merely keyed in his authorization code, and a Starfleet commander bearing an unprovable resemblance to 'Teero' appeared on-screen.
"Voyager has encountered an abandoned alien technology the potential usefulness of which is unbounded. It shows the user alternate universes--"
"Starfleet's security interests lie in *this* universe," Teero interrupted.
"A sufficiently disciplined mind can direct the device to observe universes nearly indistinguishable from our own, though quantum effects prohibit viewing our own universe. The security implications are--"
"Yes, I see."
Tuvok knew that the erstwhile Bajoran was convinced, but he elaborated his arguments. "By investigating more varied universes, Starfleet Research may be able to discover new technologies."
After some thought, the distant Commander asked, "Can you send us technical specifications?"
"No, we do not understand the device at that level. However, it is small, so we would be able to bring it back to the Alpha Quadrant with us." Tuvok paused.
"I doubt that Starfleet Command would permit that, but I will make inquiries. Thank you for bringing this to my attention."
"You're welcome, sir," Tuvok replied.
"Starfleet just sent us the specifications for a transwarp drive," Janeway gestured at the console on her ready-room desk. "You were right, Tuvok - you did see the future."
"Up to certain quantum limits, I did. As time passes, my knowledge of the future will grow less accurate."
"Is there anything I should know?"
"In the other universe, we installed the transwarp drive and reached the Alpha Quadrant without incident. I hope the trip goes as smoothly here."
"I hope so, too," the Captain replied distractedly. She looked her security chief straight in the eye as she added, "I also have an interesting report from Seven of Nine on your conversation with one Commander Meron, a security expert."
"I took the opportunity to consult with a colleague in my own field."
"He didn't have much to say, apparently."
"Perhaps he will communicate his insights at a later date," the Vulcan suggested.
The Captain was no philosopher, but she felt as though something had slipped in the multiverse, and her free will was slowly draining away down a crack between realities. She was pining after her lost husband - though he was in the next room in his incarnation as her first officer - and now her oldest friend had turned fortuneteller, to some unknown quantum degree of accuracy. The hand that moved the stars had picked up her tiny ship and was reaching back to toss it, willy-nilly, back to the Alpha Quadrant.
She sighed and nodded to Tuvok, who returned to his duties.
During their last month at the planet, while Torres and her staff completed the engine modifications, the rest of the crew intensified their efforts to record the boundless information contained in the museum.
"I could stay here forever," Chakotay told Janeway as he was showing her his favorite exhibit. It was their last day at the planet.
"Maybe Starfleet will send Voyager back here to continue our research," Janeway suggested. "She is a scientific vessel, after all."
"I'd like to come back."
"So would I."
Voyager was ready to depart, as Harry Kim emphasized by counting down to their departure time. "Please finish transmitting scientific data by 1600 hours," he instructed the crew still in the museum over the comm system. "Off-duty personnel should return to Voyager in the next ten minutes."
"I guess that's us," Chakotay said.
"Rank has its privileges," Janeway replied. They strolled on through the hexagonal rooms for far longer than ten minutes, saying goodbye to the exhibits with every lingering glance.
Once he'd piloted Voyager out of orbit and pointed her towards Earth, Tom joined the inevitable party in the mess hall. Neelix made a show out of announcing the pool winners, and also gave a little speech about theirs being 'the best of all possible worlds'.
The Captain and Commander Chakotay made a token appearance.
"How long are they going to hold out?" Tom whispered to Neelix, who shrugged. "If only she saw things Seven's way," he added with a sigh.
"She doesn't have the data Seven had," Neelix replied.
Tom grumbled at the breach of betting-pool security Seven of Nine represented. Harry's impressive winnings in the pool could doubtlessly be traced back to the Borg leak. But Neelix was still looking at him; what was the Talaxian getting at?
"You're not suggesting..."
Neelix grinned. "We have 63 moving love stories about the two of them in our database," he said, tapping the master PADD. "It only took thirty to convince a Borg drone to set up house with Ensign Kim."
"But will she read them?" Tom asked.
"Who can resist a good story?"
In the end, Neelix passed the duty of telling Janeway love stories on to the Parises; he himself became the first crewman lost on account of the museum. Voyager dropped out of transwarp after just two thousand light years, and the Talaxian set sail in his old ship, Baxial, for parts unknown to the rest of the crew.
Neelix, however, knew what he was about. He claimed there was an asteroid full of refugee Talaxians nearby, at coordinates he recalled from his spacefaring days in another universe. Captain Janeway offered to bring him all the way there, but he said the Talaxians didn't care for aliens.
"What if they're not even there, in our universe?" everyone from Naomi to Tuvok asked him. In either event, he would reply, he planned to return to the museum and run the snack bar. If Voyager ever returned, they might find a colony of Talaxians turning the K-class planet into a hospitable little rest-stop.
Chakotay asked him whether the paranoid refugees he hoped to find in his asteroid would want to live amid the bustle of a galactic cultural center. Neelix insisted that Talaxians were naturally sociable, and, when pressed, he admitted to the Commander that he believed the museum had defensive capabilities. It could never have lasted this long - Jurot dated the museum as at least 350,000 years old - in the Delta Quadrant without some protection against vandalism.
Ensign Wildman assured Neelix that Starfleet would send science vessels back to the museum; he could come back on one of them and find his Talaxians then. Didn't he want to see the Alpha Quadrant first, though?
No, he didn't. He missed his wife, even though he hadn't married her yet. Maybe they'd take a little trip to the Federation together, once they were settled down at the museum; he promised to visit Sam and Naomi then.
The crew lined up outside the shuttlebay to bid Neelix good-bye. Tuvok summed it up well with his final "Live long, and prosper." And thus the good ship Baxial set sail once more.
Janeway hadn't expected the Mobius band to change anyone's life. Nothing had changed before, though they'd been out here wandering for seven years. Well, almost nothing - Kes had changed, leaving Neelix alone. Tom and B'Elanna had grown close, and Seven had grown human. But Tuvok, Harry Kim, Chakotay and herself remained, more or less, the same people who had been torn away from the Alpha Quadrant seven years before.
Now Neelix was out chasing Talaxians and Harry and Seven were joined at the hip, but Janeway still hadn't changed. For all the variety of universes, a starship captain still had a role to play - a script that could be changed only in the insignificant details, unless it were rewritten by some apocalyptic event such as assimilation or disease.
Or the arrival of B'Elanna Torres, pregnant enough to pop, at one's cabin door. Janeway let her in, sat her down on the couch and served tea. After the usual pleasantries, B'Elanna began, hesitantly, to explain her visit. It was, as everything was these days, about the Mobius band.
The normally ebullient engineer had become rather taciturn since her experiences, and curiosity tinged Janeway's concern for her as her purpose unfolded.
The two women made scientific small talk for a few minutes, discussing the science behind the Mobius band - the same idle speculation that the science departments and Engineering had been tossing around since the discovery of the museum. Janeway's visitor soon changed the subject, however.
"Sometimes I think we just saw what we wanted to see," B'Elanna said, "and that disturbs me most of all."
Janeway suspected as much herself, but found it the least disturbing of the various proposed explanations. "Why?" she wondered aloud.
"I murdered someone there - two people," Torres confessed. "Isn't that the perfect crime - killing people in another universe?"
"It wasn't you, B'Elanna." They were empty words, but a captain had to say something in these situations.
"It sure seemed like me at the time."
"Does Tom know?"
B'Elanna shook her head.
"I suppose it was a Maquis operation," Janeway said, but immediately regretted her words. She suspected mutiny, and she didn't want to know the extent of it.
B'Elanna neither confirmed nor denied her suspicions. Instead, she flew off on a tangent: "Why couldn't I have seen Voyager's war against the Borg, where Chakotay almost exterminated the Collective trying to get you back? Or the universe where he spent two years of his life to prove Seska had murdered you? Or the one where we settled down with the 37's and all lived happily ever after? Then I'd be telling you about my rowdy sons and your pretty daughter.
"Instead, here I am, confessing to your murder."
Janeway looked up sharply. That was exactly what she hadn't wanted to know. Had B'Elanna thought about how this might affect their official relationship as Captain and Chief Engineer? Some things were better left unsaid, especially those that couldn't be unsaid afterwards.
Her Klingon friend had murdered her, her Vulcan friend had abandoned her - Janeway wondered where she stood, as the dark chasms between universes opened beneath her feet, again.
A Captain had to say something - it was in the script. "That was another world, 'Lanna - just an example of what might have happened, but didn't, like that war against the Borg," she said, hoping to change the subject.
"It's all here," B'Elanna said, handing Janeway a PADD. "I don't feel nearly so guilty about Tuvok, for some reason."
Janeway glanced at the PADD's file list. "Where did you get all this?" Hadn't she declared the other universes taboo - quite wisely, it turned out, if unsuccessfully?
"Neelix collected it for Tom's betting pool." Blame the Talaxian, now beyond Starfleet justice. "Everyone is represented, anonymously, though some of the stories are a little short on details."
B'Elanna began to hoist herself off the couch, a time-consuming process in her condition, especially when her back hurt as much as it did tonight.
"I shouldn't read these," Janeway said, trying to hand the PADD back to her fickle friend.
B'Elanna ignored it, saying, "You're the Captain. You ought to know what goes on on your ship."
Miral Torres chose that very evening to be born.
"Mission accomplished," B'Elanna told Tom as they hobbled off to sickbay.
"I shouldn't have let you talk to Janeway." Technically, this wasn't premature labor, but his wife seemed to be pained by more than the occasional contraction.
"She needs to know who her friends really are."
Tom shook his head. "We're all friends here."
"We'll be home in four months, Tom. Things will change - the crew will be split up. You and I are getting out of Starfleet." She punctuated this prediction with a glare. Her husband had no intention of protesting, in any event. "We'll move on with our lives. We'll make different friends - friends we choose, not friends the Caretaker chose for us."
They had arrived in sickbay. Tom and the Doctor helped B'Elanna onto a biobed.
"What did you say to her, B'Elanna?" Tom asked.
"I gave her the PADD. She'll read it."
That was not an answer, but this was not a moment to argue with one's wife. He concentrated on being supportive and keeping sharp objects out of her reach.
The Doctor wasn't quite sure how to fill in the birth certificate, since Miral was the first child on record born in the nether space of transwarp. In the end, he just wrote 'Beta Quadrant'.
As Voyager crept Earthward, Tuvok felt a growing, illogical desire to see his wife and children again.
For a master of the kohlinar, such desires were unthinkable, yet he thought them. Perhaps having lived a second life and died without meeting his wife again had pushed his Vulcan discipline beyond its limits. Death was a logical end to a logical life, but first, he would see T'Pel.
Pathfinder could not reach them in transwarp, but once Voyager was within subspace communications range, Tuvok sent a message instructing his wife to meet him on Earth upon Voyager's return.
When they were in sensor range of Earth, that blue-green planet was the first thing up on the big screen in Astrometrics.
"Look, Annika," Harry said enthusiastically. He still thought of her as Seven of Nine, but the majority had decided to return to her given name, so his Seven had as well. "It's Earth." Voyager was almost home.
It was a solemn moment for Harry Kim, but it was Annika Hansen who thought to pipe the image to consoles all over the ship. "Land ho!" came Tom's voice from the bridge, and Chell took the opportunity to throw yet another party. The Captain and Commander danced together all night. Even Tuvok attended.
And then, before they knew it, Voyager was home. The crew was debriefed quickly and all outstanding charges were dropped - except one, unspoken charge which Tuvok beamed down to San Francisco to pay.
"We have come," T'Pel announced, when he found her with the children on the green at Starfleet Academy.
"Thank you for meeting me," Tuvok replied.
His children greeted him in formal Vulcan phrases. He inquired after their spouses and his grandchildren, and asked his youngest about his studies.
When they had made full reports, T'Pel dismissed them, saying, "Your father and I would speak."
"Wife," Tuvok said, once the children had withdrawn, "thank you again for indulging my illogical request."
"Was it illogical, husband?"
"I have endangered you for no reason."
"Then we are here to say goodbye. It is as I expected," T'Pel said calmly.
Tuvok remained silent.
T'Pel had never undergone the kohlinar discipline. She felt her control weakening as she asked, "Tell me, husband, who makes you pay this price?"
"It was my choice."
"There was no need to return here. It would have been more logical to remain in the Delta Quadrant."
"Voyager's crew wished to return home," Tuvok replied.
"Did they wish to pay for passage with your life?"
"Why, then, have you abandoned the path of logic?" she demanded.
"I have followed the dictates of logic all my life," he answered. "I studied the kohlinar to perfect my control. I have served those who were more coldly calculating that any Vulcan. I have hurt, killed and betrayed, when there was no rational alternative.
"In all my days, I have taken only one independent action, dictated neither by Vulcan logic nor by security concerns."
T'Pel interrupted to ask, "How does one act for no reason?" It had been almost a century and a half since she had acted with a child's spontaneous irrationality - she had forgotten how it was done.
"I do not know. I had a reason, though my motive was not logic."
"What was it?"
A strange concept for a desert people from an unforgiving world - T'Pel tried to wrap her thoughts around it. Suddenly, she understood; not through her own efforts, but because Tuvok had initiated a mind-meld.
Now other matters were more pressing: she saw the approaching figure of Commander Meron through his eyes and understood the danger. She must accept Tuvok's katra before Meron came close enough to interpret their actions.
A moment later, T'Pel of Vulcan walked away, never having seen the approaching officer with her own eyes.
The autopsy confirmed T'Pel's assertion that Tuvok's death had been caused by an underlying neurological condition exacerbated by his exposure to the Mobius band. Janeway was forced to drop her inquiries into the matter.
T'Pel had invited only her husband's former captain to the funeral ceremonies on Vulcan, but she brought Chakotay along along with her. They walked hand-in-hand through T'Pel's desert garden after the ceremonies were over. The sand under her feet reminded Janeway of the museum.
"Starfleet plans to send Voyager back to the museum after the refit," she told Chakotay. She'd gotten the dispatch just that morning. "We can have her, if we want her."
"You mean you can have her," Chakotay said.
"Are you still determined to resign?"
He nodded. "I've had enough of Starfleet regulations." Enough for several lifetimes, he didn't add. So had Tom and B'Elanna, along with half of Voyager's former crew. "But if you need an anthropologist," he added, "I could tag along - in a civilian capacity, of course."
Of course. Things would be simpler for the two of them that way, and Chakotay was no friend of Starfleet, even after seven years. Was she? Janeway wondered. She had asked Owen Paris about the transwarp drive and the mysterious Commander Meron, but the Admiral claimed they checked out - though Meron had taken a few more leaves of absence than the typical Starfleet officer. So had Tuvok, for that matter.
"Voyager won't be the same without Tuvok."
"Don't blame yourself, Kathryn," Chakotay reassured her, "You brought him home safely."
"He brought *us* home," she contradicted her companion. But she had no proof of it, only suspicions - suspicions of just how good a friend Tuvok had turned out to be.
They'd gone over the same arguments time and again, day and night, ever since Tuvok's death on Earth. Chakotay stood his ground: "Even if he had wanted to," - and what Vulcan possessed such desires? - "what could Tuvok have done to alter the future?"