Title:   Prelude
Author:  Jemima
Contact: webmaster@jemimap.cjb.net
Series:  VOY
Part:    1/19
Rating:  PG
Codes:   crew

Summary: This is the beginning of "The Museum", a series of 
	 AU stories within one larger story.

	 In the Prelude, the staff meet, an away team goes
	 away, and Captain Janeway discovers a strange object.

Disclaimer:  I took these characters from an alternate
	     universe without copyright laws.  Mwhahahaha!


"The past is not what it was."
- G. K. Chesterton, A Short History of England


It was the sort of day when the crew of Voyager wondered whether they'd taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way.

Everyone was on edge. B'Elanna craved unique foods she couldn't replicate under the current circumstances, and Tom was worried about her and the baby in this barren sector of space. Chakotay seemed depressed over certain unfortunate events in the last inhabited system Voyager had passed through. The Doctor itched to be a Command Hologram again; and Harry also missed his days in the big chair. Neelix and Janeway were concerned about the rest of the crew, as usual.

The senior staff assembled the conference room. Lunch had been something bitter and mauve, but dinner would be Starfleet emergency rations if the crew of Voyager couldn't find vegetables for Neelix or omicron particles for the replicators.

Once everyone was seated around the table, Seven began her report. "I have detected a K-class planet within range,"

Neelix immediately interrupted, "We won't find any food there."

"Nor energy sources," B'Elanna complained.

"Please allow Seven to complete her report," Tuvok chided them. Frustration and impatience were added to the usual flood of human emotions around him. Only Seven retained a calm demeanor. Listening to her emotionless reports soothed the Vulcan.

"Our scans have detected no natural energy sources. However, there is an artificial structure on the surface which seems to possess its own power supply." Seven watched her audience for a reaction.

"What about long-range scans?" the Captain asked, fishing for a good excuse to investigate.

"There are several M-class planets farther along our course," Seven replied. "Investigating the K-class planet would not delay us significantly."

Janeway glanced at Chakotay, who made no motion to object. "We'll take a look at it, then. Now about rerouting Holodeck power to the shields..."


The Captain insisted on heading the away team. Since there were no hostile aliens for sectors around, Chakotay's objections were perfunctory. Janeway took Paris, Jurot and Mitchell with her to the surface of the inhospitable planet.

The away team materialized just outside the building, which had proven impervious to Voyager's scans. The clean lines of the structure, concealing mysteries, contrasted starkly with the empty desert around it. The dry, thin air bore no scent, the yellow sands no trace of footprints, not even their own.

The away team walked half the perimeter of the large structure, tricorders humming, but found nothing besides the solid white walls, twenty meters high at points between the sand dunes. Then, in this world where nothing happened for millennia at a time, a wind came up and swirled the ageless dust around them.

"Sandstorm," Mitchell shouted, but before they could call for a beam-out the dust cloud over the building had dissipated.

"That was no storm," Janeway said. When the team rounded the next corner of the hexagonal building, they found the sand dunes blown flat in front of a doorway ten meters high.

"Someone's giving us the red carpet treatment," Tom commented.

Janeway was engrossed in her tricorder, but she had heard him. "There's no one in there to treat us like royalty, Mr. Paris. I'm detecting a heavier atmosphere inside, but no life signs."

"Some sort of force field is blocking the entrance," Jurot added.

Janeway was halfway to the door before Tom realized she had moved. By the time he reached her side, she had plunged one hand through the force field. "Permeable," was all she said as she drew it back.

Tom took his medical tricorder off his belt and scanned her hand. "Harmless," he reported, echoing her style.

"Captain," Chakotay's voice filtered down to them from orbit, "we can scan the building's interior now. We should be able to transport you out if you run into trouble."

"Acknowledged, Commander. Janeway out."

She strolled through the doorway with Tom tagging along behind her.


An hour later, Tom and the Captain had reached the center of the building. All of the rooms the away team had explored were large - at least six meters across - and all housed displays of one sort or another. With hundreds of rooms to explore on several levels, they had split up into pairs in order to cover more ground.

The explorers found no hallways; the interior consisted of hexagonal rooms packed together like a honeycomb. Open doorways connected the chambers; some rooms were junctions with four or five doors out of their six walls, while others were cul-de-sacs with just one doorway.

Janeway and Paris had had difficulty finding the single entrance to this room in the maze formed by the building's honeycomb layout. Janeway sensed that this central chamber was the most important, though it was the same size as the others and was relatively bare, besides. Tom investigated the room's only other doorway, which led to a dead-end room.

A few panels covered in alien script hung on the plain white walls of the room where the Captain remained, and a hexagonal, white pedestal rose chest-high from the center of the floor. A circular band of metal stood on edge atop the pedestal. Scans of the object were inconclusive, so Janeway reached out and touched its sharp edge...