THE PATTERN OF ALL PATIENCE
Previously: Episode Two
JUMPER’s LOG, Star Date 2266, June 12th (10 Months, 12 Days)
A month after my promotion to Lieutenant JG (9 months into my first year), the Potemkin entered an area of space where several transport vessels had gone missing in the past few weeks. Piracy was suspected, but no wreckage had been located, and none of the local criminal outposts had seen any of the cargos. Longstory short, they were eaten by spacedragons. I singlehanded slew seven of them wielding only a quantum lemon and a bottle of gin. Don’t believe me? Fiiine. Remember, you asked for this.
We were cruising through the area, running long range scans, when, hidden in amid the moons of a Brown Dwarf we started picking up the power signatures of the missing ships, all on standby. Suspecting some kind of trap, the captain ordered the ship to Yellow Alert. Of course, I was in sickbay, being all ready for whatever, and not on the bridge where anything interesting was happening. Thus I can’t really tell what happened up to the moment the entire crew was transported off the ship and into the center of a giant stone labyrinth.
The walls were reddish stone, tall enough to tower out of sight. The lighting seemed to emanate from the floor, but was soft and vague enough to make even that determination practically impossible. There was utter confusion as people who, a moment before, had been prepping for an ambush, or studying readings, realized they weren’t where they’d been before. The various Petty Officers got their people calmed down quickly while the Senior staff filtered through the mass of people to find each other. I followed along, mostly out of a lack of any specific duty, but also curiosity. I was also faintly annoyed to find that, like everyone else, I’d been transported in only my underwear. My Tricorder, OmniGear, and holdout pulse blaster (ME) and clutch 38 derringer (Infamous) were almost certainly lying on the floor of sickbay. I figured I could, in theory, pull more weapons from my Warehouse, but wasn’t ready to do any such thing at the moment. I made a note to myself to find some way to retrofit a warp drive onto the Black Jenny, as (as stupid as it sounds) it had not dawned on me until that moment that she was sublight only without a Mass Relay.
The command group pretty quickly started divvying up orders… they were in command for a reason. The Science section was set to figure out what had happened, if we could, while various other teams were set the task of mapping the local area. Of course, we had no paper, nothing to write with, and no way of communicating with each other, but what did that matter. Anything was better than just waiting for who knows what to happen, right? Normally, I’d have agreed with the Captain and Senior Officers on this matter, but I hadn’t spent 7 years studying my ass off at Hogwarts to be thwarted by a Labyrinth. I placed myself in a corner, closed my eyes, and used a little bit of wandless magic to fade from the perception of others. It wasn’t much, but as long as I remained essentially motionless, they wouldn’t find me unless they were looking specifically for me.
And then, I started mapping. Magic has many uses. Most of them are kinda pointless outside a fight, and many of them are kinda… I mean, seriously, what use does anyone ever have for turning a raven into a teacup? But mapping spells can be useful. Awareness Expansion spells can be useful. I used both. The Marauder’s Map had always fascinated me. How could it accurately identify everyone and everything in the school… even stuff that had changed over the time between its creation and the Harry Potter books. How could it know everyone’s names. How could it track moving stairs. The answer was very complex mapping enchantments tied to a semi-sentient magical object with expanded awareness. For all intents and purposes, the map was constantly scanning and remapping all of Hogwarts and it’s immediate environs, all the time.
And so, following the old Gamer Adage, Left Until Death, that’s what I did. My awareness raced down corridor after corridor… once I’d verified that yes, there really was a ceiling about 100 feet up in the darkness and yes, it was covered in what I assumed were some kind of cameras… tracing a mental map on my consciousness. I hit dead end after dead end, blind loops and cul de sacs, but I was slowly drawing a definite barrier to the maze. It was huge, at least 8 kilometers on a side and I soon located the first of the missing crews, a Tellarite cargo vessel. They’d gone mad apparently, beating each other to death with their hooves from what it looked like, and one of them had run off into the maze, alone. The second I came across were Klingons, and they too had apparently killed each other, but there the sole survivor was just kneeling among the bodies, howling a Klingon Death Dirge in a broken voice. The third were Orions, all of whom had been attacked from behind… one of them while in the act of garroting a third. Two human crews followed… one were engaged in what I can only describe as an orgy of hate, acting utterly drugged and unmindful of the viciousness of their copulations, the other had scattered to various dead ends and were yelling at each other about trivialities. It was as if none of them realized they were prisoners. Within 6 hours, however, I’d mapped the entire maze. There was no way out. It was a death trap, 12 kilometers on a side. This was a circus, intended to drive us mad.
I stood up and walked over to the Captain. “I believe, Captain, that this is futile.” I said in my most utterly Vulcan. The Captain looked up at me from where he was kneeling, studying the floor. “I do not believe the goal of this test, and it clearly must be a test, is to see if we can escape this maze. Clearly, we’d be able to, simply by moving along one wall far enough… assuming the maze does not rearrange itself. That, of course would defeat the test of logic, and thus this cannot be a test of logic. Second, it cannot be a test of Ingenuity, for we have no tools of any kind with which to demonstrate that ingenuity. That means it must be a test of character. I believe we will find the missing crews in here eventually. They will have… failed the test. A Labyrinth is a puzzle that demands solution, and it is the nature of tool using races to find solutions. I believe, however, that this puzzle’s solution is, as they say, not to solve it at all. As one of your movies from before the Eugenics War would have put it… “The Only Solution is Not to Play.””
He opened his mouth, ready to refute my words, but I quickly cut him off. “I believe, at this moment, you are finding my cold logic to be annoying and you are feeling anger towards me. I believe, as well, that you are considering how best to escape by yourself. I further suspect that all the humans in the crew are feeling likewise… or are growing progressively more aroused, depending on if they are Alpha Personalities or Omega Personalities, while the Andorians and Tellarites are growing progressively more frustrated and angry respectively. The Vulcans, I suspect, based upon my own behaviour, are slipping into greater and greater emotional detachment… which I believe is a good thing, because it means our emotions are being played with according to racial stereotypes, not actual core neurochemistry. Otherwise, I believe there would be no one left alive as all the Vulcans lost their collective emotional control and went, as you humans would call it, berserk.”
The Captain considered for several long moments “I do feel… off. Yes. I thought it was frustration at the lack of results.” He stood up “Raise your hand if you’re feeling unreasonably angry right now and aren’t quite sure why.” All the Andorians, Tellarites, and a few members of minority races raised their hands. Some humans too. “Put them down. Raise your hand if you’re feeling… sexually aroused and aren’t sure why.” About a third of the humans raised their hands as well as the ship’s Chief Science Officer, Sumit d’Ono, an Acadian. “Thank you, you may put your hands down. Petty Officers, recall your people.” He looked at me, “Very well. What’s your solution?”
“We should simply sit, and wait.”
“Yes. I believe we are being monitored. It is the only thing that makes sense. None of the ships appeared damaged in the slightest and all were maintaining their relative position to the Brown Dwarf. This must be a test we will be released from, once we have passed. If not, then we shall surely perish anyway. Our captors have already demonstrated that they could have dispatched us with ease.”
And that, essentially was that. It wasn’t adventurous, or daring, or even particularly exciting. We wandered a bit, then sat down and tried to keep our cool until whoever was watching us got bored. Fascinating Television it would not have made. Finally, a soft, androgynous voice said “Vulcans ruin everything.” And we were back aboard our ship. A small imp like man appeared in front of me, standing on the exam table “You’re special. I hate special.” He commented. I materialized a proton rifle from the Warehouse and blew his head off.
As emergency klaxons went off over the sudden appearance of holes in the wall and (and the wall beyond that), I banished the guns and my clothes, then apparated to my quarters. I pulled on a spare set of clothing as the alien’s blood and brain matter simply sloughed off of me as undifferentiated dust, and then banished that too. I rushed out of my cabin and towards sickbay (which wasn’t far as Medical personnel are located close to the bay for… reasons) then pretended to be agog at the damage. I was about to ask what had happened when I was called to the bridge.
Jumping in the nearest turbolift, I was there in moments, in time to see a massive ship that had been disguised as a small moon reveal itself. Its engines were failing and small explosions were rippling through it as we watched. “That appeared moments after we returned. We picked up several hundred lifesigns within, and they’re being beamed out as fast as we can get locks, but they’re in a bad way. Any idea what happened?”
“Perhaps it was being controlled by a singular consciousness and, once that consciousness found what it was searching for, it ceased to have a purpose any more.” I did not mention that now that we were back aboard the Potemkin, my companions had, one by one, slipped into the warehouse and, grabbing Fission Fusion Pump Laser Warheads from the MEverse, had apparated them into labyrinth and set them to drill kilometer long holes through the vessel from the inside out. The Captain didn’t need to know these things and it would only have worried him.
The incident in sickbay was written off as inexplicable and the corpse analyzed, but no matching species was on record. The rescued crews were rehabilitated if possible, returned to their respective governments if not. All of them were heavily traumatized. Several hundred ships were located in the area, apparently harvested over a course of decades or even centuries. The blasted hulk of the Minos, as the Captain named the Labyrinthine vessel, bereft of its station keeping drive, slowly spiraled down into the Brown Dwarf where the incredible pressure eventually caused it to implode, taking its secrets with it. Dr. Yue had advised against sending anyone over to investigate the ship. The risks were just too high.
I was mentioned in dispatches as the old saying goes ‘for inspired thinking’, but inspired thinking doesn’t win awards, and I think the Captain was a little suspicious about how the corpse came to be missing its head. I’d have to come up with something.
Next: Episode Four