by Amy Mason and Anna Kresmer
Curious to see what other secrets the building holds, the six Dots dash down another hallway and make their way through some of the oldest parts of the building. Unlike the rest of the building they had encountered so far, this area has undressed walls, bare wooden floors, and the stacks and stacks of boxes made it clear that this area had been used for storage. Continuing on, the group rolls up to the open doors of an elevator shaft. The elevator car is nowhere to be found. Thick metal cables stretch into the darkness below.
As the more mature members of the crew begin to confer on the best way to descend, the young ensign impetuously reaches out to the nearest cable, wraps himself around it, and disappears into the darkness with a joyful, “Wheeee!”
“Ensign! Report! Are you injured?” calls Doctor Spot.
“I’m fine, Doctor!” The crew can hear the excited ensign bouncing below. “The doors to the next level are open! I can’t wait to see what else is down here!” The ensign’s voice fades as he bounces away from the elevator.
“When I catch that kid, I’m going to court-martial him, Number One.”
Squeak, squeak. “I’ll handle it personally, Captain.”
“Now, now, Commander. We were all young once, and this is Bean’s first away mission,” soothes Counselor Mote.
“Well, at this rate, it’s going to be his last!” grouses Captain Dottie.
“Shouldn’t we go catch him, Captain?” Jot asks.
A few minutes later, the rest of the team enters a long, rectangular room. Standing over in the corner, next to a large and unfamiliar machine, is the still bouncing Ensign Bean. Barely containing his excitement, he calls to the others to join him next to the strange contraption. “I found out how they make the dots!”
“I’m going to dot you, Ensign, if you don’t learn to listen to orders from now on!” snaps the commander, for once his beard forgotten.
“Commander Point, it is unwise to waste time on demerits during the mission. Discipline can be better handled on the ship.” Doctor Spot brushes him aside. “The dots, Ensign?”
Bean hands him an embossed booklet from a stack nearby. Intrigued, the doctor immediately begins to read aloud, “Braille: What It Is and What It Is Not…”
[Note: Link to or copy text of “Braille: What It Is and What It Is Not,” by Sister M. Elaine George, IHM, Future Reflections, Volume 28, Number 1, https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/fr/fr28/
Most of the crew listens attentively as the doctor reads the short article out loud. However, Lieutenant-Commander Jot, being more interested in how the machine actually works than the end result, has moved in closer to inspect the massive embosser that had printed the Braille document. Producing a couple of tools and a battery pack that had been secreted on her person, she begins to fiddle with the apparatus. Then at the touch of a button, the dormant machinery roars to life and resumes its task as if it had never stopped.
Marveling at her own work, Jot leans in with a soft, “Ooh…” While simultaneously Counselor Mote, startled by the loud noise of the machine coming back to life, takes a step backward and bumps into the lieutenant-commander. Unable to stop herself, Jot pitches forward and is caught by the paper-feeding mechanism, which flattens and sucks her into the inner workings of the ancient machine.
As she silently disappears from view, the embosser begins to make strange popping noises, as if someone is bursting bubble wrap, which attracts the attention of the rest of the crew.
“Jot!” exclaims Counselor Mote. “Where are you?”
Jot’s muffled voice can be heard from the inside of the machine, but her crewmates can’t make out what she is saying.
“What’s happening, Lieutenant-Commander? Jot? Report!” yells Captain Dottie.
Suddenly, at the far end of the embosser, Jot’s voice begins to ring out clearly. “I’m fine, Captain! In fact this is quite invigorating. Even better than a massage!”
Doctor Spot speedily rolls around to find the flattened edge of Lieutenant-Commander Jot, which had first entered the machine, slowly falling down into the waiting paper tray, hundreds of Braille dots now embossed across her skin. A mouth forms and cheerfully says, “You guys really should try this!”
Bang! Crash! Boom! The room is filled with even louder noises as the machine grinds to a screeching halt. Silence descends upon the crew.
In a quiet voice, Jot says, “Oh! That must have been my wrench… I wondered where that had got to.”
“Jot! Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Bean asks.
“I’m fine, Bean,” Jot said, her voice as chipper as ever. “But I think this machine has embossed its last dot… And I appear to be stuck.”