18.5.17

Contest 1

First Contact Day

The Pathfinder-class with Discovery-class pylons U.S.S. Ragnarok sat out in deep space as Captain Oroku Seifer, a Trill and Starfleet officer, took a seat on the Bridge of his ship.

"Space, the final frontier," he started. "These are the voyages of the Starship Ragnarok. It's never-ending mission, to seek out new twirls and new synchronizations— Hm. I think we need to rewrite that. We sound like a dance ship."

Lieutenant Commander Moggs, a Caitian and his science officer, suddenly spoke up. "Uh, sir, you don't have to recite the opening every morning. You do realize that, by repetition, you're just feeding into the very diagnosis of insanity, right?"

"What I realize is that you're interrupting an essential Starfleet prerequisite to encountering new alien species," countered Seifer. "Without innocuous affirmations, we're a Federation of wanderers and rogues with no sense to dream, or look up at the stars, and a preoccupation with Klingon coffee taste-augmented by metal cups."

Then he smiled to himself and looked back upon his first encounter with an alien life form.

"Ah, my first contact, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a teenage Star-jelly with attitude at the Academy, and we were to share a room before our first day. Except he wanted the top bunk, and I wanted a date with the indomitable Mary Sue."

Lieutenant Aramaki, human and tactical officer, turned from his station. "Sir, did that even really happen? Those two things both sound impossible, especially that last one?"

"I think?" Seifer said, suddenly doubting himself and searching his memories. "Did we fight Tribble-Tzenkethi hybrids last week, or is my recollection somehow being modified by the targ soup I'm eating right now?"

Just then, the entire Bridge went dark and his whole crew and soup disappeared. The Trill found himself in a cave somewhere, latched to a metal bed with neural interfaces connected to his temples. He was now several years younger, and wearing civilian clothing.

"Well, well," said another man, who stepped out of the shadows to reveal he as a look-alike. This Oroku was years older and wore the Odyssey-type Starfleet Commanding Officer Service Uniform the younger one was just wearing seconds before. "You figured out that you were in a simulation. Excellent work, past-me."

The younger man squinted. "What? I'm you?"

"In two days from now, you're going into your final test for the Symbiosis Commission to receive your Trill symbiont and then join Starfleet. I wanted to run my own test, temporarily modifying your memories, to see how you would fare within life aboard a starship; mine, in the future, to be exact."

Oroku shook his head. "So, I haven't even left Trill? I've never actually met another alien before in my life?"

"Not yet," replied the Captain. "You see, I remember this exact encounter when I was your age, and speaking to an older version of myself, and I knew if somehow I got here again that I had to fulfill my own destiny. That, and I really did fight a Tribble-Tzenkethi hybrid last week, and I needed not to think about that anymore, however possible." He shuddered at the thought of it.

The young man squirmed, trying to get free. "This is crazy! The Klingon Targ War, the Lukari Pink Spray Tans, judging the Borg Cooperative Beauty Contest? Why test me with these fake events if I'm just going to end up like you?"

"Oh, all those really happened, but to me in the future," the Captain said. "You see, the galaxy is full of crazy, over-the-top, mind-altering insanity and, due in-part to that, I was accidentally thrown too far into the past by a time-travel mechanic named Marhs. It's nonessential madness like his that you need to be prepared for."

Oroku scoffed. "Or, I could, you know, discover all that on my own? What is this obsession people have with coddling their younger selves? Maybe who you are today is due to how you dealt with the challenges and the people you weren't prepared for!"

"Well, I wasn't prepared for that," the older Oroku blinked, thrown-off. "Never-the-less, I know the aliens you're about to encounter, and, trust me, some of them are irrational, centuries-long, grudge-holding Iconians. Oh, and there's this Ferengi named Madran who had a horrible Son'a face-stretching accident, and—"

Having been secretly breaking loose, young-Oroku pulled himself off the bed and stood up. "Enough! I don't want to hear any more from you! All a man ever needs is a perfect, seamless series of encounters with what's out there and here you are providing me with this pre-processed, half-Kirk'd Trill-symbiont-manure."

Then, young-Oroku sighed.

"Though, I suppose even meeting you is its own unexpected contact. So, it's all the same by that logic? I just wish my first encounter with 'what's out-there' was an alien, and not 'me'."

Older-Oroku thought about his argument for a second before recalling his pointy-eared space-companion. "Oh, right. I can help you with that. As part of randomized time travel choices, Marhs sent my Caitian science officer with me—" And then, "Mr. Moggs, will you reveal yourself and proceed with formal, awkward social interactions against this youthful, handsome fellow?"

"Yes, Captain," Moggs, a tall and grey-fur-colored man, said as he stepped out from beneath the shadows and extended his hand. "Hi, I'm an alien and such. Do you like... stuff?"

Younger-Oroku's jaw dropped at the sudden, unexpected encounter. "Do I—?? Stuff is why I've been hoarding unrefined dilithium under my pillow all my life! Wow, and you must have so many ticks?"

"I only have five," argued a suddenly annoyed and itchy Moggs. "Anyway, I think embracing your encounters as you go is a good ideology. I ate five Star-jellies yesterday. Good luck, time-spoiled-Oroku."

Oroku nodded. "Thanks." But then he noticed his older self and Moggs begin the slow-happening, dramatic process of dematerialization. "What's going on? You haven't even told me how to get out of here?"

"Looks like Marhs is reintegrating us with another temporal version of ourselves," the Captain said, looking around at his faltering molecular structure. "It's the Voyager version of a temporal paradox. You'll get used it! Oh, and to leave this cave-section, you'll need to solve an ancient, definitely fatal pre-Trill civilization stone-puzzle that focuses on Bronze Age symboliz—"

But before he could finish, he and the Caitian had disappeared, leaving young-Oroku to his own devices.

"Dammit, me!" he cursed. "Well, at least I met a giant cat-man as my 'first contact'. Maybe the crazy, over-the-top mind-altering insanity isn't as bad as I future-put it."

Then he noticed the fur on his palm, from the hand-shake, prompting the young Trill to shake it off as furiously as possible.

"Ugh! He was shedding! So disgusting! Ew! —Forget this. Future-me is going to pay for that! I'm taking up anbo-jyutsu and seeing how he likes losing a few brain cells to slow and clunky 'martial arts'. That'll show him and his weird, lanky tall-cat."

And, with that, and a first alien encounter under his belt, Oroku exited the chamber to embark on a future of wild fascination and pure science-driven, servable revenge. What lie beyond space and time were now his to dream and his to explore.