Star Trek Hunter
Episode: 16: Slavers
Scene 18: The Solution
Ensign Geoffrey Horatio Alstars had called for three holographic clear dry-erase boards in the engineering conference room. These had replaced the clear lacquer conference table, which, like the antique teak table in the executive conference room, was also a hologram, projected only when needed.
But Alstars had, for the moment, given up working on his recursive warp equations. Instead, he was walking from one board to the next, randomly writing numbers and bits of equations in random places among the three boards. This was his long established method for clearing his mind and he thought of it as more of an art form than any disciplined attempt at mathematics.
He strode back and forth on his long legs, writing randomly on each board with both hands. Sometimes simultaneously, stretching his arms wide, sometimes with his eyes closed. As more and more numbers and operands and other figures appeared on the clear boards, equations started to run into each other, up and over each other, down and under, wandering off at diagonals. Alstars didn't care. He was just scrawling.
After nearly an hour of this, he stepped back to scowl at his creation.
"Graffiti," he grumbled. "Modern art… Insanity… I don't need tea… I need a straight jacket." Alstars chuckled grimly. "I have loaded a bushel of numerals into a trebuchet and launched them into space…" He raised his hands and his voice. "Hunter get ri.."
"STOP THAT!" came an unfamiliar voice. Alstars couldn't make out who had shouted through the equations - he could see part of a uniform. Someone short - but everyone was short around here - with a few notable exceptions. Alstars stepped to the side so he could see around his cluttered clear boards.
"Lieutenant Tauk?" Alstars asked, surprised to see the ferengi director of ground operations in engineering.
"Come here, Ensign," Tauk ordered.
Alstars loped over to join Tauk. He had joined Star Fleet for new experiences and being ordered about by a ferengi about 2/3 his height and more than three times younger than him certainly counted as a new experience.
"Look," said Tauk, gesturing toward the cluttered clear dry-erase boards.
"We're looking at it from the back. It was gibberish when I was looking at it from the front. It even has a couple of nonsense symbols…"
"Base twelve," said Tauk.
"What? No! It's just nonsense. I was just grabbing numbers and symbols out of a bag and throwing them at the board," Alstars responded.
Tauk walked up to the clear boards. He pointed at a symbol that looked vaguely like a house with a caved in roof. "Ten." He pointed to another symbol that looked vaguely like a butterfly with a knife jabbed through it. "Eleven. Then the 1 followed by the 0 is twelve." He stepped back to stand next to the towering mathematician.
"No, that's nuts, we use the letter A for ten and the letter B for eleven…"
"You humans do. Vulcans use those symbols," said Tauk.
For a moment, both mathematicians just stared at the backside of the clear boards, viewing all of Alstars mathematical doodling in reverse.
2nd Lt. Sun Ho Hui's voice drifted down to them from deck one: "Tommy, have you seen Geoff?"
From somewhere on the other side of the engineering deck, Thomas Hobbs could be heard: "Over there, by the conference room."
"Thanks Tommy. Geoff, would you mind…"
"Hui," said Alstars, "Come, come come here. Have, have a look at this would you please?"
Lt. Sun walked to the back of deck one, ducked into the ladder and slid down the ladder like a fire pole. Alstars had finally adjusted to this breach of safety protocols because everyone in engineering (at least those under the age of 50) did it endlessly. He had given up trying to discourage Yolanda Thomas and Kerry Gibbon from doing it when their department director and assistant director did it all the time.
Sun, only a few inches taller than Tauk, easily more than a foot shorter than Alstars, stepped over and stood on the other side of Alstars from Tauk. After staring with them at the back of the clear boards, he turned and shouted up to deck 2: "Salek!"
The engineering director, Lt. Moon Sun Salek, stepped out of the navigation/deflector control room at the front of deck 2 and looked down over the railing to the main engineering deck, two decks below. "You don't have to shout, Hui - it came through my communicator…"
"Salek," said Sun, "would you come down here and look at this, please? Bring Gaia with you."
Dr. Moon turned to the still open door into navigation/deflector control and said, "Gaia, Hui wants us on the floor." She straddled the ladder and slid down straight through the access for deck one to the main engineering floor, followed by 2nd Lt. Gaia Gamor, who climbed down the traditional way almost as quickly. They walked over to the other officers and stood next to 2nd Lt. Sun.
After a minute of gazing at the jumble of numbers and operands in reverse from the backside of the clear boards, Dr. Moon called for the ship's interactive holographic avatar: "Hunter…"
The holographic old man appeared next to her.
For another few minutes, six mathematicians stood in a row, just looking at the pile of equations, most of them fragments, from behind. Dr. Sun, Dr. Alstars, Dr. Tauk, Dr. Gamor and Dr. Moon, almost in unison, slowly tilted their heads to the left at a 45 degree angle. Hunter, on noticing this odd behavior, mimicked it a few moments later.
"Hunter," said Dr. Moon, "what are we looking at?"
"A set of interrelated, interactive equations expressed in base 12," the pudgy, elderly-looking avatar replied.
"Actually," Hunter continued, "Unless I'm mistaken, I think it's…"
Alstars finished his sentence: "The solution. Give me another clear board…"
Another holographic clear dry-erase board appeared between the mathematicians and the original sets of equations. With one great stride of his long legs, Dr. Alstars stepped forward. He held out his left hand: "Marker…"
A holographic marker appeared in the old mathematician's hand. He quickly and deftly sketched out a very simple equation in base 12.
"That's it!" said Hunter. "That's what I've been trying to come up with all year! We can run controlled tests to confirm, but if you're right…"
"We can safely get the entire Prowler class of ships, all 46 of them, into recursive warp without needing artificial intelligence," said Dr. Moon. "And just when we have never needed a critical strategic advantage more…"
"But it's such a simple equation…" Dr. Sun objected.
"Elegant," said Tauk, "simple in terms, but nearly impossible to come by. It took all that," he waved his hand at the gibberish they had all been looking at, "all that and more to bring this epiphany to Dr. Alstars. Hundreds of thousands, probably millions of mathematicians have been looking for this simple equation and didn't find it."
"Most of those mathematicians weren't working in base 12," Dr. Sun observed.
"I didn't know I was working in base 12 until Tauk pointed it out," said Alstars.
Gaia Gamor turned toward Dr. Moon. "Weren't all those math equations we found in the library of the progenitors in base 12?"
Moon turned toward Alstars. "Geoff, do me a favor…"
"Sure," said Alstars. "What?"
"You know those math treatises that Dr. Carrera downloaded from the library of the progenitors?"
"Don't ever read them. You're easily as smart as Sarekson and I don't want you to wander off at a right angle to reality and vanish on me. I'd like to keep you around for awhile…"