by Amy Mason and Anna Kresmer
From the Editor: Since January the Monitor has been running a serialized version of the NFB Quest from the 2016 National Convention. The NFB Quest was designed to be a fun game to break the ice between Federation members meeting in person for the first time and to make Federationists active participants rather than passive observers of the presentations and speeches. This is the final installment of the adventures of the Dots from Space crew, just in time for those Federationists attending the 2017 National Convention to embark upon the new NFB Quest. And now we return to the adventure with Lieutenant-Commander Jot trapped in an ancient device as the crew searches for a way to rescue her:
After a fruitless hour spent attempting to extricate Lieutenant-Commander Jot from the ancient device, Captain Dottie called for a new plan of action.
“All right, people! This is obviously not working, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in this room that can free our shipmate. We need a new plan—and we need one now! Any suggestions?”
“Well, Captain, as you say there is nothing in this room, so logically we should begin by searching some of the other rooms.”
“Excellent suggestion, Doctor Spot,” replies Commander Point, stroking his beard meditatively. Squeak, squeak.
“Yes, but I don’t like the idea of leaving one of our members behind, even in this seemingly abandoned place. Just look what happened when we were all together!” the captain laughs sardonically.
At this, Counselor Mote perks up, “I’m happy to stay with her, Captain. You should take the rest of the team on ahead. If anything happens, I’ll contact you.”
“Very well, Counselor,” she says. “The rest of you, come with me.”
Leaving their teammates behind, the rest of the crew begins to search the other areas of the floor, but finds nothing except offices filled with more obsolete technology once used by the previous inhabitants. Undaunted, they decide to expand their search to the floor below them.
Reluctant to trust the tiny elevator that they encounter in the hallway, they choose instead to take the stairs. Rounding a bend at the bottom of the steps, they encounter yet another locked door. Still riding high on his boundless enthusiasm, Ensign Bean charges ahead, reaching for the door handle.
“Hold it right there, Ensign!” the commander barks. “Charging ahead without waiting for orders is how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place!”
“You’re quite right, Commander. We should pause and look at the situation logically. What do you suggest we do?”
“I think the ensign should be the one to hold this position while we ensure that there are no more surprises in the room beyond.”
Young Bean, drooping a little, begins to complain, but is brought up short when Captain Dottie nods approvingly and says, “Excellent idea. Make it so!”
The junior officer steps forward, with a resigned sigh, and leans into the doorknob. Finding the door to be locked, Bean extends a thin filament into the lock, feeding more of himself in until all the internal nooks and crannies of the mechanism are filled. With a twist, he turns the knob, pulls the door back, and stands aside as the others file past him.
Upon entering, they discover another storage room filled with rusty metal shelves. Aging Braille and print documents, covered with a fine layer of cobwebs, still stand in stacked piles on many of the shelves. In other areas of the room the floor has deteriorated and left gaping holes. The sound of dripping water can be heard, and the musty air is humid.
“Fan out! You, too, Bean. See if you can find anything useful,” Captain Dottie commands. “But be careful! That floor looks unstable!”
The Dots search the room in silence, only the creaking of the floor and the rustling of pages marking their passage.
“Captain, I believe that I have found something.”
“What is it, Doctor Spot?”
“If I am reading this correctly, there’s a tool somewhere in this building that may help us to free Jot.”
“In this building? How do you know?” Squeak, squeak.
“Simple. The author of one of the stories in this small book that I have found—a Dr. Maurer, I believe—mentions a device for cutting wood and other hard surfaces that was stored in what they called ‘the Center.’ I think that may be one of the names they called this building.”
“Well, what is this strange device, Doctor?”
“I believe it was called… a chainsaw.”
[Note: Link to or copy of “Children and Chain Saws,” by Marc Maurer, To Touch the Untouchable Dream, the Kernel Books, https://nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/books/kernel1/kern1503.htm]
After searching for a few more minutes, they discover that the shop is next door and contains precisely the tool that they are looking for. Hopeful that this is the solution to their problem, they return to their trapped teammate in the technology room. As they near the open double doors, they hear the soft voice of the counselor say, “Okay, here’s another one! Why did the sun go to school?” Silence fills the room. “Oh come on! You know this one. Just take a guess!”
In a deadpan voice, Jot says, “I don’t know, Mote. Why did the sun go to school?”
“To get brighter! Get it? Why aren’t you laughing? Isn’t that one funny?”
Jot sighs gustily.
“Okay, try this one for size. How do you organize a space party?”
“You planet!” Bean bounces into the room followed by the rest of the team.
“You got it!” the counselor exclaims.
“Yeah, yeah, Mote. That’s great. Captain! Tell me you’ve found a way to get me out of this thing!”
“Yes, Lieutenant-Commander, I believe we have. But it may be dangerous.”
“That’s okay, Captain, I’m ready now!”
“What can you tell us about the inner workings of the machine? Are you near the top?”
“No, Doctor, I’ve been trying to work myself free since you left. Most of my body is now wrapped around some of the rollers near the base of the machine. Something is still caught, and I can’t get out, but I’m clear of the top third of the box.”
“Excellent. Brace yourself, Lieutenant-Commander,” the doctor instructs her.
Stepping forward, he pulls a cord, and the chainsaw splutters to violent life. Laying the edge of the idling blade against the side of the embosser, he waits for the captain’s signal. “At your command, Captain.”
Having freed their compatriot and feeling that they have now learned all they could from the long abandoned building, the six Dots (in two columns of three) make their way back to their ship, the Particle, which is still waiting for them on the roof.
“I wonder what happened to them all…”
“The people who lived on this planet, Captain, but especially the ones who lived here. With all that we have read about them, I feel almost as if I know them.”
“We may never know, Ensign, but I remain hopeful that we will find answers elsewhere.”
Later that week, as the Particle wings away from the lonely planet, Lieutenant-Commander Jot sits in engineering. She is surrounded by mountains of ancient hard drives and other media storage which the crew pulled from what they now called the Center. Grabbing a drive from the top of the nearest stack, she instructs the ship’s computer to scan the device. The computer analyzes the contents and informs her that, “83.2 percent of the unique content on this drive refers to something called ‘K-N-F-B Reader.’”
“Computer, stop!” Jot cries. “I wonder, could it be?”
Growing increasingly excited, she peruses the documents on the drive in much greater detail. Finally, several hours later, she calls the captain to report her findings.
“Captain, you’ll never believe what I have found! I was looking through the data we collected from the aliens at the Center location. I think they may still be out there somewhere!”
“What makes you think that, Jot?”
“Shortly before they disappeared, they had released a program for scanning and interpreting text that could not be read tactually. They called it K-NFB.”
“That sounds familiar. Where have I heard that name before, Lieutenant-Commander?”
“It should sound familiar, Captain! The new translation devices we recently purchased in the previous sector, which we just so happened to be using while we were exploring that planet, were built by an organization which goes by that name!”
“You don’t suppose?”
“Yes, Captain. I don’t know how, but I think they are still out there. Living the lives that they want!”