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Rationalist TNG

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So I seem to have some rationalist (in the HPMOR sense) fiction trying to get out. One is the story of a technopriest in the WH40K universe who finds a copy of something like http://smile.amazon.com/Rationality-AI-Zombies-Eliezer-Yudkowsky-ebook/dp/B00ULP6EW2/ (the title for that one was easy; “Adeptus Heuristicus”), and the other is “What if everything that happened in Star Trek: The Next Generation occurred in a universe where people were competent?”. Below is the first scene from the latter, since I popped into my head today like the fucking proverbial forehead of Zeus. (Yes, I know that’s not how that myth works; fuck off).

For those of you not familiar with Encounter At Farpoint, the scene is that we’re on an outpost that has been built in an implausibly short time frame. We’ve seen one weird thing (a bowl of apples suddenly appearing), but in my version Riker completely ignores this. We now find Chief Medical Officer Crusher perusing the shopping area. Note that in my version, no other Federation staff are nearby.

Beverly Crusher: Hmm, this fabric is nice, but what it really needs are some gold highlights.

[BC continues to browse]

[BC turns back; fabric has a bunch of gold worked in]

[BC looks up at the shopkeeper, fire in her eyes]

BC: WHAT is this?

Shopkeeper: A lovely piece of cloth! Surely a discerning lady such as yourse…

BC: What is your name?

SK: Uhh, Kexan, miss …?

BC: Kexan. Listen carefully. Twelve seconds ago, this fabric was burgundy. I mentioned that it would look good with gold, and it is now burgundy with gold highlights. What is going on? What is this fabric, exactly?

SK: Oh, but, surely the lady is mistaken. Perhaps you previously were perusing a different fabric?

[BC literally becomes agape with shock; mouth open and everything]

BC: I… uh … wow.

[BC is clearly shaken, and loses her professional demeanor]

BC: I know we’re out on the far reaches of fuck all right now, but you do grasp that I’m a Starfleet officer, right?

[SK, thoroughly taken aback, has no idea how to handle this line of questioning]

SK: Uhh, yes, I gathered that, miss, but if yo…

BC: And you understand that Commander is a command rank? That is, you understand that it would require only a few things to go wrong for me to be in charge of an entire ship?

SK [baffled]: Uhh, I guess?

BC [stunned at apparent stupidity]: Kexan, you are on an outpust petitioning to become a Starfleet base, yet you apparently know nothing whatsoever about how Starfleet operates, which means either you should have fled such a dramatic uncertainty, or you’re a moron, so I’ll try to use small words. To achieve a non-trivial command rank in Starfleet, an organization that specializes in flying around to new places and encountering extremely strange shit, we go back to school for an extra 4 years. Would you like to guess what dominates those 4 years, taking up more than a third of our training time?

[SK speechless]

BC: Observation. We literally fly around the universe waiting for weird creatures with impossible powers to try to do exceptionally bizarre shit to us. I am trained in observation in ways that you can barely imagine. I know that behind me, a man with brown hair is being overtaken (assuming constant speed since I last saw them 17 seconds ago) by a woman with black hair, and that her blue sarong is dominated by a silver broach, but furthermore that broach is of a sehlat, with green gems, probably amethyst by the cut, for eyes, which makes it the second weirdest piece of jewelry I’ve seen on this planet, close behind the ring on the third finger of your left hand … Yes, the hand I can’t see right now, try to keep up … which has a gem setting that is actually empty, and judging be the staining has been for some time. When I’m less angry, you should tell me the story behind that. And now behind me is a portly woman in a red jumpsuit that is just wholly inappropriate in someone her age. I know that you favor your left leg, that you have an old scar on your right ear that was probably caused by an animal bite, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that seventy four seconds ago, this cloth was burgundy without the tiniest hint of gold. And now you are going to explain it to me.

SK [blithering]: I, uh, I don’t, if miss would prefer a different cloth, I could … that is, I mean to say, uhh.

BC: Oh for fuck’s sake, Kexan. Go, fucking, change your underwear or something, before you have a nervous breakdown.

[BC gives up and stomps off, finding an alley with no-one in it, and taps her communicator]

BC: Captain, I’d like to report an unknown entity or entities or systems, apparently sentient, with mater transformation powers of at least level 5.

Captain Picard: Oh? When Riker called this in he called it invisible use of matter generation, and he pegged it around level 4.

BC: Mine turned a piece of fine cloth into a piece of fine cloth with two colors, one of which was the original color exactly, mixed in a complicated pattern, within 12 seconds.

CP: Oh, wow, that’s quite a step up from a bowl of apples. Did you get anything out of the natives about it?

BC: No, the shopkeeper collapsed into idiocy when confronted and I gave up; I can return and try harder if you like.

CP: Hmm. Riker was with the colony leader at the time, and decided that it was more politically useful to have the leader think we hadn’t noticed, so nothing there.

[brief pause]

CP: Suggested protocol?

[This is where the fact that I’m writing this out in screenplay shorthand fucks me up, even though it saved time. In full prose, what I’d do here is some authorial exposition about how BC notes that a captain shouldn’t be asking that unless he’s incompetent or testing here, and chooses to test him back, with the expectation that he’ll figure that out.]

BC: Information gathering protocol ping-pong, sir?

[ping-pong calls for rapidly grabbing random people off the planet via teleporter, interviewing them under oodles of drugs (assuming hypnotic class drugs are known for their species) for no more than ten minutes, and then releasing them and finding someone else; it’s the smash-and-grab of information seeking in hostile situations, and it’s waaaay overkill]

CP: [chuckles merrily] If I wanted that answer, I’d have asked the Klingon. I didn’t ask because I don’t know the answer, I asked because I don’t know you. Try again.

BC: Ah, well, then. The entity shows know signs whatsoever of being hostile, so my thought is, scan the shit out of the base trying to find out what makes it tick, which is reasonable since we’re trying to take it over, and in the meantime send down a fully-drugged 1 observation team and have them start trying to provoke the reactions as much as possible, ideally in safe ways, and try to observe the pattern. Maybe we’ll be able to find the specific power range in the Glissard tables, and then we’d at least know what it is.

CP: Pretty much what I had planned, yeah. You want to lead the team?

BC: Un-drugged? Those things give me a ferocious headache.

CP: Yeah, that’s fine; this issue doesn’t seem to be subtle.

BC: Sure, let’s do it.

  1. (One of the first scenes I have in mind, probably before this, is explaining to the reader that the ensign standing slack-jawed and motionless on the bridge is a trained observer who is drugged out of their mind on drugs that specifically suppress imagination. Their job is to be the last resort in case the ship is being affected by mind-controlling entities of non-theta categories, i.e. entities that require any amount of inclination-to-believe on the part of their victims. The Observer is carrying a stun device capable of knocking out everyone on the bridge instantly. Break glass in case of mind invasion.)