Title:   Interlude V
Author:  Jemima
Contact: webmaster@jemimap.cjb.net
Series:  VOY
Part:    11/19
Rating:  PG
Codes:   crew

Summary: This is an interlude in "The Museum", a series of 
	 AU stories within one larger story.

	 In this Interlude, Neelix pesters Tuvok, the Captain
	 makes a decision and Paris plots further mayhem.

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


Tuvok withdrew his hand from the Mobius band. "Doctor," he asked, "may I return to my duties?"

"Are you experiencing any disorientation?" the EMH asked.

"No. I am somewhat tired, but that is all." His glance roved around the white room as the Doctor performed his scans.

"Your neural pathways seem to be singularly unaffected by the experience," the EMH commented. "You did see another universe, didn't you?"

"It would appear so," Tuvok replied.

The Doctor raised a holographic eyebrow, but said only, "Your glucose level is low. I'd recommend a trip to the snack bar before you return to duty."

"Thank you, Doctor."

The Vulcan made his way to the cafeteria, where ordered a bowl of plomeek soup and sat down at one of the many secluded tables, under the starry desert sky. The fates, however, would not leave him to eat his version of comfort food in peace.

Instead, Neelix walked up to his corner table and asked, "Did you see anything interesting in your alternate universe, Mr. Vulcan?"

"It was very much like this universe, Mr. Neelix."

"Weren't there any differences?"

"My son had taken up mathematics, not musical composition."

"Was that all?" the Talaxian asked.

"That was the only notable difference," the Vulcan replied impassively.

"I guess logic is the same all over," Neelix concluded.



After Tuvok's sparse report, the Captain decided to allow the entire list of volunteers a chance at the Mobius band. The Doctor was convinced the device was harmless, and B'Elanna and Seven agreed that it posed no danger to their own timeline.

Chakotay's instincts matched Janeway's - the building was exactly what it appeared to be, a museum. The Mobius band was the most intriguing exhibit - it still made him a bit nervous - but there were plenty of others. The Captain declared a general shore leave, and from then on, the museum was crowded with visitors combining business with pleasure.

Some crewmembers were all business, Commander Chakotay among them. He plunged into the linguistic and archaeological exhibits with great enthusiasm, but seemed to have no interest in the Mobius band itself. Nor was he the only one. By Tom's estimate, at least thirty crewmen had no intention of trying the central exhibit of the museum.

Billy Tefler was afraid of what might happen if he died in another universe. Ensign Tabor had some obscure Bajoran religious objection to out-of-body experiences. Harry joked that he'd seen enough alternate universes in his day. Sam Wildman was unwilling to let Naomi try the Mobius band - she didn't want to lose another daughter - and to soften the blow, refused to try it herself, either.


Soon, with Neelix's help, Tom had a PADDful of data on the experiences of everyone from Captain to crewman who had dared the Mobius band to date. After the first twenty guinea-pigs, he had rough categories marked out, and a title for the new betting pool: 'The Way Things Ought to Be'.

Paris snuck out of his cabin one night after B'Elanna fell asleep, in order to collect the latest information from his mess-hall source.

"What do you mean, the way things ought to be?" Neelix asked him under the cover of a midnight snack.

"Democracy, Neelix, democracy - the majority of universes rules. For example, we already have ten universes in which Chakotay proves his undying devotion to Our Captain - surely that means they were meant to be?"

"But in some of those the proof is posthumous, Tom. In fact, in twelve universes Janeway is dead - that's the majority."

Tom brushed the bad news aside. "Well, I was hoping you'd have some happier data for me tonight, to nudge the balance over in the direction of true love."

Neelix shook his head. "True love seems to be no match for the Borg. Of the five new reports I've gathered, three were drone-lives. Unless being united forever in the Borg Collective counts as a happy ending, it doesn't look good for the Captain and Commander."

Tom's face fell. He really did believe, deep in his cynic's heart, that the Mobius band was some sort of Delphic oracle that would move a heart of stone - that is, Janeway's heart of stone. He would always be a romantic.

"Cheer up, Tom," Neelix said. "You and B'Elanna were certainly meant to be - fifteen universes out of the twenty-five so far."

"I'm not going to get many bets against that one," Tom answered glumly.

"Does it really matter?" the Talaxian asked. "Replicator rations don't mean much now that we have access to the museum's replicators. I wouldn't be helping you with this betting pool if it weren't good for morale."

"What if it turns out we should have all been assimilated - will that be good for morale?" Tom asked.

"It would show just how fortunate we are." Neelix helped Tom enter the vital statistics for the five new people into his database.

"This is so exciting!" the Talaxian exclaimed when they were through. "Exploring all these new, uncharted universes, seeing sides to your friends that you've never seen before--"

"So when are you going to try it yourself?" Tom asked him.

"It's been exciting just hearing about it," Neelix replied, "but I *would* like to see a new universe for myself."

"I should be getting back - thanks for the snack."

"It's no trouble at all." Neelix took Tom's now-empty plate back to the kitchen, and thought about brave new worlds. In the morning, he decided, he would see one for himself.