Travis Mayweather is removed from his bed for an odd alien experiment. Can he work together with other species? Are any of the people he's been kidnapped with even real?
The Puzzle – A Tale Told in Pieces
Piece 1 – Tangle
Travis Mayweather woke up or rather was jolted awake and found himself not on the Enterpriseand in his warm and comfortable quarters but instead in a nondescript room, tangled amid a mass of bodies. There were green legs and blue arms, an antenna here, a furry arm there. He disengaged himself from the mass and stood up. A thin, pale arm with spidery blue veins was sticking out. It appeared to be human so he pulled on it and was pleasantly surprised to see it was attached to an elderly human woman with a very long grey and white braid snaking down her back. The woman was dressed in a nightgown.
Travis looked down at his own attire. He was still in his usual sleeping outfit, a sweatshirt with a ratty old tank top under it and a loose drawstring-waisted pair of pants. He was barefoot, and so was the old woman. She was saying something to him in some Slavic language. He blinked a few times, still getting used to the scene. He pinched his own arm a few times. No, he wasn't dreaming.
The mass of arms and legs disentangled itself and he saw Vulcans and Andorians, among others. There was a vague sound of machinery kicking on, "I said, 'Do you know where we are?'" said the old woman.
"You're speaking English," said Travis.
"No, you are speaking Russian."
"I guess a Universal Translator must have come on. And no, I have no idea where we are. I'm Travis."
"And I am Yekaterina Petrova. You must excuse me, I am not familiar with most aliens, I just know Vulcans; they come to the Library sometimes."
"Yes, I am Chief Librarian of the New Moscow Library on Lunar Colony One. Do you hear a baby crying?"
Travis strained and heard the cries, "Yes, I think I do. It's coming from over there." He pointed in the direction of a vaguely foggy area away from the other people, who had started to argue with one another, "Let's investigate." He took her arm, it seemed only natural. She reminded him of his grandmother, who he had only seen twice before she had died.
"Ah, thank you, you are a gentleman. You are like my grandson. But he is more handsome. I suppose I am a little biased." Yekaterina smiled at him, "There, is that swaddling?" She pointed to a mass of clothing on the floor.
"Yes, that's what it looks like." Travis dropped her arm and picked up the squalling bundle. He moved a bit of cloth away from the baby's face. It was Klingon. "Whoa."
"Here, let me hold him. Or her." Yekaterina held out her arms and Travis put the baby into them. Nearly instantly, the baby quieted down. This caused the other people to cease arguing.
A Vulcan woman neared, "I am T'Bek. Do you have any information about our situation?"
"I wish I did," said Travis, "Yekaterina and I are in the dark. And you?"
"No one seems to know, although they are all happy to point fingers, it seems. That is highly illogical. It would appear that an outside entity has brought us all here, although the purpose of this gathering is not yet known."
"It looks like they lined us up two by two," said an Andorian woman, "Two Andorians, two humans, two Vulcans."
"And two Orions," said a booming voice from the rear. It was an Orion man and he was huge.
"Only one Klingon," said a Klingon warrior, a male who appeared to be not too much younger than Yekaterina.
"Two," said Travis, indicating the baby, "Is this your child? Or grandchild?"
"No." spat the Klingon, "I have no children."
"Look, there is a hairy little girl, I saw her before." Yekaterina nodded in the direction of the Orion. Behind him, peering out, was a little girl who was quite hairy indeed.
The girl stepped out from behind the Orion and walked up to a hairy man. She was carrying a small toy, a doll, with red and white striping, "Where's Mommy?" she asked the man.
He leaned down to speak with her, "I don't know your Mommy, I'm sorry." Then he straightened up, "We are Arboreal Xindi."
The little girl counted out loud a couple of times, "There are twelve people here."
"Yes, that's right," said an Andorian teenaged boy.
"This appears to have been staged for our benefit," said a Vulcan male, "Several species, divided by gender and apparently also by age. Hence it is logical to conclude that the infant is female."
"And none of us know each other, at least I didn't know Yekaterina until now, and the Xindi don't seem to know each other. Is that true of everyone else?" asked Travis.
"We are not acquainted." T'Bek indicated her counterpart.
"Neither are we," said the Andorian boy, gesturing to the Andorian woman.
"I do not think I own this one." The Orion pointed to a pile of rags on the floor. The rags stirred, and a woman's face appeared, green and alluring, with tomato orangey-red full lips and bedroom eyes, "But check the tattoo on the back of the neck."
Travis went over to the Orion woman. She cowered a little, "It's okay, I'm not going to hurt you. What's your name?"
"Merchandise does not have names. Just numbers." roared the Orion, "Check the tattoo or I will do so myself." He made it clear that the prospect was not a pleasant one for the Orion woman.
She flipped her hair back obediently but said nothing, "42753." Travis read, "My God. Don't you - what does your mother call you?"
"Mother?" 42753 whispered hoarsely, "What is Mother?"
"The one who bore you, who cared for you when you were small, like her." Travis indicated the Xindi girl.
"Mother is gone. Sold away." 42753 lowered her lovely eyes.
"Enough talk, or I start charging." thundered the Orion male.
"I thought you said you didn't own her," said the Andorian boy, who had come up to where Travis and 42753 were sitting.
"The Syndicate owns that one." the Orion male straightened up, "And I follow the Syndicate. So I will take custody until we are through here, wherever here is. Unless someone cares to make a purchase."
Travis stood up and helped 42753 up. He reached in the pockets of his pants. All he found was a folded tissue, "You're not on Orion. Can't you treat her a little, well, better while we're all stuck here?"
The Orion was about to answer when the baby started to scream again.
"She is hungry, I think," said Yekaterina, "This one seems to be a newborn. Can any of you ladies nurse?"
The Vulcan and Andorian women shook their heads. 42753 looked down.
"Do you have an infant?" T'Bek asked her.
"Very well. There is nothing we can do to feed the infant," said T'Bek.
"Look!" called out the Andorian boy.
The fog had cleared and the room was suddenly well-defined. It was circular, with doors all the way around.
The Xindi girl tried to count the doors and lost track a few times. She finally said, "I think we each have a door."
"The child appears to be correct," said the Vulcan male, "Even the infant seems to have a door."
"But which goes with which? They all look the same," said the Xindi male.
Travis remembered something from long ago, "It's like a story I read, The Lady and the Tiger." he offered.
"Go on," said the Andorian woman.
"It's only two doors, I think, maybe three, but a man is in prison and offered the choice of doors. Behind one is a man-eating tiger so it means death. The other has a beautiful lady so it symbolizes life."
"Which did the man choose?" asked T'Bek.
"I can't remember, I think I didn't finish the book." Travis said sheepishly.
Water began to seep into the room, from under the doors, "What's happening?" called out the Xindi girl, her voice betraying some panic.
"The water is getting higher!" exclaimed the Andorian woman.
"Here, child, let me lift you up." the Xindi man bent down to the girl and she obligingly got into his arms.
"Take the baby." Travis said to the Klingon.
"Because Yekaterina might slip."
The transfer was made and the Klingon raised his full arms high above his head. As the water continued to rush in, Travis picked up Yekaterina. She was little more than a bag of bones.
"Quick! A door! A door!" called out the Andorian woman, who was starting to try to swim.
The Orion man heaved against a door and it did not move, "The panel!" screamed the Xindi girl.
He hit the panel hard with the palm of his hand. A thunderous bang was heard and the room changed immediately to a warm, dry circular room with no doors. There wasn't even a drop of water on the floor.
Travis gently put Yekaterina down as the Klingon brought the baby down to her level, "Here, she is better with you," said the Klingon. Yekaterina had her hand on the baby's leg as he began to transfer the infant to her. Suddenly, the baby disappeared.