Title: Interlude VII Author: Jemima Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Series: VOY Part: 15/19 Rating: PG Codes: crew Summary: This is an interlude in "The Museum", a series of AU stories within one larger story. In this Interlude, another staff meeting occurs, Tom disbelieves Jor's wild tale, and Neelix pesters Chakotay. Disclaimer: I took these characters from an alternate universe without copyright laws. Mwhahahaha!
At the next senior staff meeting, Neelix reported that 72 volunteers had already tried the Mobius band. "That's almost three-quarters of my list," he said.
"And still no technological breakthroughs," B'Elanna added.
"How about the other exhibits?" Janeway asked.
Chakotay replied, "There's a wealth of information there - mathematics, linguistics, sociology, philosophy, taxonomy - but we've found nothing that will get us home any sooner."
Janeway wasn't surprised. The designers of the museum had frustrated her on several fronts. "Is it designed not to tell us anything we don't already know?" she asked her first officer. If that were the case, they might be able to find a way around the museum safety protocols.
"I don't believe so," Chakotay answered. "If I had to guess, I would say the builders of the museum were uninterested in technology per se. It's too...particular. Their sciences seem to deal exclusively with universals."
"So they haven't identified themselves anywhere because that would be too 'particular'?" the Captain asked.
Chakotay nodded. He rather admired the aesthetics of the ancient, unknown builders of the museum. Their sciences were much more philosophical than those the Federation favored. This lost race was one of the most spiritual he'd found in Voyager's long trek across the Delta Quadrant.
Tom began his own report on the museum: "Ensign Jurot and I have been studying the sculpture in the room adjoining the Mobius band." It had been her assignment, actually, but Tom was so curious about it that he'd gotten involved and helped her run some holodeck simulations for her research. "It appears to represent a taxonomy of universes. We haven't determined whether or not it forms part of the Mobius band's mechanism."
Indeed, everyone had found a favorite exhibit to study, and seemed willing to remain in orbit over the museum indefinitely - with the inevitable exception of Harry Kim, who'd been working on Operation Watson with Seven.
"Harry, how's that trans-galactic comm link coming?" Janeway asked, when the discussion of individual exhibits had died down.
Harry and Seven had come up with the idea of reflecting a phased tachyon beam through a quantum singularity, and in the last datastream from Starfleet they'd made a date for the first cross-quadrant vidphone call.
"We'll have the deflector in position tomorrow, Captain," Harry reported enthusiastically. "You'll be chatting with Admiral Paris and Lieutenant Barclay in no time."
Janeway dismissed the meeting with a smile.
Harry was ecstatic. He was about to talk to his parents for the first time in seven years and even the once-distant ex-drone seemed happy to be working side-by-side with him, although Seven had insisted that the entire endeavor was irrelevant. What use was there in talking to people on the other side of the galaxy?
"You've got to be kidding!"
"I'm dead serious, Tom," his wife repeated. "Jor said that Janeway came back from the future to get Voyager home sixteen years sooner."
When Tom and Neelix had been unable to get Crewman Jor's story, they'd sent B'Elanna in to interrogate her fellow former Maquis.
"Janeway wouldn't violate the Temporal Prime Directive," Tom insisted.
B'Elanna had had as much trouble believing Jor's incredible tale at first as Tom was having now. She soldiered on. "Admiral Janeway brought advanced Federation technology with her, which Voyager used to destroy a Borg transwarp hub, at the same time as they used the hub to get home."
"So what did they do with two Janeways?" Tom asked. That was a wealthy universe, if a ludicrous one.
"The Admiral let herself be assimilated in order to infect the Borg with an advanced virus. She was destroyed along with the transwarp hub." As an afterthought, B'Elanna added, "Our daughter was born at the same time - we named her Miral."
"There's something else, isn't there?"
"Believe me, flyboy, you don't want to know. I almost lost my lunch when I heard it."
"Spill it, B'Elanna."
"You asked for it," she said, shaking her head. "Chakotay and Seven were married."
"Married?" Tom turned pale. "Sit down, dear," he said gently. "I shouldn't have asked you to talk to Jor. She could have sent you into premature labor."
"There are a lot of strange stories in your database," B'Elanna said once she'd settled down on the couch. She'd insisted on access to the betting pool information in return for taking on the mission to Jor. "This one is the least believable. I'm beginning to agree with Jurot about the Mobius band."
Ensign Jurot was one of the few scientists aboard who believed that the 'alternate universes' were fictions generated by the alien technology, rather than true glimpses into the infinite variety of the multiverse. There was really no way to tell, one way or the other; an alternate universe was fundamentally inaccessible, at least to Federation science. Jurot was just being a pessimist, in Tom's opinion.
Neelix paced through the museum cafeteria casually, until he spotted the person he was looking for. He approached his target slowly, stopping to greet several other crewmen on his way to the desired table.
"Hello, Neelix," Chakotay replied. Ayala stood and offered Neelix his chair, saying he had to get back to the ship for his duty shift.
"I think almost everyone on my list of volunteers has tried the Mobius band," Neelix said.
"And here we are, still stuck in the Delta Quadrant."
"Well, it's been quite a shore leave, anyway. You haven't tried it yet, have you, Commander?"
"No, I haven't, Neelix."
Neelix could understand Ensign Kim's reluctance - he'd seen his share of alternate universes before he tried the Mobius band - but not Chakotay's. "I would have thought that you, as an anthropologist, would be curious."
"I am curious, but there's enough to see in this universe. I don't need to see another."
"I don't understand, Commander," Neelix said, although he still felt ambivalent about his own adventures on the other side.
Chakotay looked around. The cafeteria was emptying out, on account of the approaching shift change. He turned back to his bowl of soup.
"I was almost over her, Neelix," he said, fiddling with his spoon. "She'd been over me for years, of course, but it took me longer. I was so close, though. I was going to move on."
"To Seven of Nine?"
"How did you know?"
"I hear a lot of things from behind the mess line, Commander. Lately I've heard a lot about Seven and Harry Kim."
Chakotay was clearly surprised. "Harry? I didn't know."
"It's the talk of the ship. It seems everyone has seen them together - in Astrometrics, on the holodeck, wandering around the museum - even Naomi asked her about it."
"What did she say?" the Commander asked.
"'My personal life is irrelevant.'"
Neelix tried to comfort him. "Maybe you're not all that interested in Seven, if you never noticed your rival had already snatched her away."
The human shook his head. "I was, before." Or so he'd thought at the time.
"This happened," the Commander answered, waving vaguely at the white walls of the cafeteria. "The Captain was beamed to sickbay; I went to see her. I hurried, but I didn't run down the corridors the way I would have a few years ago. If you had seen the way she looked at me..."
"She saw a universe where you were still together on New Earth - wasn't that it?" the morale officer prompted him.
"Yes. Now when I see her, it's like the first time I came aboard her ship. All the years erased, all the sorrow."
"All the indifference."
Chakotay nodded. "I don't want to go through it all again, Neelix - the slow but unavoidable loss of passion, the fights, the irreparable damage to our friendship, the creeping death." He sighed. "But I can't stop it either. It will all happen again; it's already started. She smiles at me, then remembers where we are. She confides in me, then backs away."
"I can see why you don't want to try the Mobius band." Who would want to go through all that a third time, in an alternate universe? Then again, things could only get better, in the optimistic Talaxian's opinion. "Maybe you'd see the universe she saw," Neelix suggested.
"I suspect that would only make it worse. I would end up hoping it could be different this time, but I know it can't. She's a universal constant - she doesn't change."
"Maybe you would, though, Commander. Give yourself a chance."
Chakotay met Neelix's eye. "Maybe I will, Neelix, maybe I will."