Solving the Puzzle

“This is a message to all hands,” IronAngel’s voice boomed over the intercom in the MLS D. Shovel. “We have just gotten word from Lt. Commander Click that everyone that was missing on the Viking has been recovered!” He paused knowing there would be cheers going throughout the ship, and continued after a pause, “From what we have heard, they are a little banged up and bruised but receiving medical care. Vikings may rush in to the fray, but they will be damned if they leave a soul behind. Stay wary, I don’t want us to fall into any traps ourselves. Carry on.”

IronAngel released the comm button, as he sat in the ready room with Utoxin and Rue.Tylar.

“It was flipping foolish what they did!” Rue mutters, hanging her head.

“Glad they’re all right, but that was quite the scare they gave us.” Utoxin adds.

“heh” IronAngel almost chuckled, “They’re Vikings, what did we expect?”

“A smidgen more caution and respect for their lives?” Rue snarked back.

“They do not know how. All they know is how to rush headlong into that thing, whatever it is. Stories, raptor pits, whatever. Let’s just celebrate that they’re home safe.”

“I am thrilled that they are home safe, I am just… frustrated. We’ve been out searching for Timmy and the flagship for how long now? And we’ve got a bunch of random clues that don’t make sense. Sorry, I get cranky when I’m tired, I think I’ll hit the rack.”  Utoxin and IronAngel nodded carefully as Rue stood to leave.

After she left the ready room and headed for her quarters she started compiling all the clues they had about the robot’s whereabouts. She was still holding the datapad with all the information as she stretched out and fell asleep.

*****

The next morning over breakfast she was having a conversation with some of the cadets who had been trying to solve the Timmy mystery on their own. Trying to glean from them what she could, she inhaled the replicated stack of pancakes with syrup and sipped her morning cup of k’la.  She remembered having to program the recipe in for k’la, and then having to tweak it a few times to get it right. It was rather kicky; good for jump starting the day, but had been quite bitter, originally being made from the bark of an old Earth tree. With cream and sugar added it was drinkable and helped get her brain going.

Overall the mood of the ship seemed to be lighter than it had in the past week while everyone had been worrying about the Viking recruits. And the command staff was glad to see it. IronAngel even had planned a fire show for the weekend to help the recruits blow off some steam and watch flames move to music.

“So can I wear the wings this week?” Rue asked IronAngel as she caught up with him outside the forge after breakfast. She was referring to a pair of hammered metal wings where the backs had a small reservoir for the alcohol he used in his shows. This allowed the wings to burn for a short time while the wearer was mostly unscathed.

“No, nor are you getting the flame thrower.” He smirked back.

“Poo. I could handle the wings.”

“Maybe, but this ship can’t. So no wings.” IronAngel’s tone was stern. Deep down Rue knew he was right, but she had wanted to wear the fiery wings since she first saw them. They bantered back and forth, about music selection for a while before going their separate ways. Rue kept punching things on the data pad trying to make the things from Timmy make sense.  Even her linguistic skills were tapped out when it came to that robot. She just couldn’t understand what he was trying to get across to them.

As she puzzled over the random clues they had collected. “Talking all the difference. And a deceitful stroke shall make them annoyed. Scared every time you say velociraptor…! Them after a while. Shield his innocent child and thanks for all the fish,” she muttered to herself, remembering what Timmy had spouted off when he’d taken the Baty.

She passed a cadet in the hallway and they stopped, hailing her. He showed her a puzzle game he was working on. He offered her the gaming pad and let her take a turn or two with the puzzles, knowing she enjoyed that kind of thing, and he watched as she crushed them. Having always been able to problem solve, and mix and match things. She smiled having enjoyed the momentary break that still kept her brain going, and eventually went on to see to the communications, and make sure everything that had come in was logged and sent out appropriately. Wouldn’t want a letter from home going to the wrong cadet. That would just be embarrassing. These tasks kept her busy and kept her from obsessing over Timmy and his antics for a short time.

The console lit up with an important message from the MLS P. Ninja. Rue tapped a button, “Yes Lt. Kistoway?”

“Important communication coming through. We had an adventure and got a clue.”

“Adventure? Everyone okay?” Rue inquired concern in her voice.

“Yea we got sucked into a black hole or something, found a new fuel source, and got a clue about where that Fu…flufferbuttle bot might be. Figured Tox might want to take a peek,”  Kistoway quickly corrected herself. Rue figured it was probably stress, as Kistoway was not prone to colorful language.

“Yea send it on through and Utoxin and I will take a peek. Then you need to take a break, you sound frazzled. More than usual, I should say.”

“It’s been a bit of rough patch. I could never go into another Black Hole Of Doom again. And yea, I’m heading to relax for a solid 24 hours. Captain WitchyRobyn’s orders.”

“Good deal. Talk to you soon. Thanks for the intel.” Rue tapped the console which pulled the newest clue into Shovel’s main computer systems. She added it to her data pad of clues.

Shortly after the communication came in a cadet came to relieve Rue at the communications array. Rue sent a quick ping to Captain IronAngel, and Utoxin, “Ready Room? New clue. Found out why P. Ninja went communication dark.”

“Indeed, there in 5.” she got back from IronAngel.

“On my way” Utoxin replied.  She made her way to the ready room, knowing that the clues needed to be shared, but not sure if now is the best time to tell the ship about the P.Ninja’s little adventure.

*****

In a few short minutes everyone was sitting around the ready room table with replicated beverages in hand.

“So whatcha got?” IronAngel inquired, brow arched.

“Well, looks like the Ninja went down a black hole, literally. They found a new fuel source, and were able to get out, but they don’t advise the trip. However, inside that black hole they met with some kind of new alien and were able to get us another clue. Lt. Commander Kistoway got this to me just a short bit ago.” Rue tapped a console and pulled it up on the large monitor on the left side of the room.

“Black hole? Everyone okay?” IronAngel’s concern was evident in the furrow of his brow and the tone of his voice.

“A little tired, and frazzled but all present and accounted for. Just in major need of a vacation.” Rue nodded as she moved the other clues from her datapad to the monitor. “These are all the clues we have, and I’m sure the answer is in them. I just don’t know how to pry it out yet.”

“Wow a black hole, I’ll have to get the logs from their ship, I want to see all the data they got from it. We might be able to see how to properly navigate them in the future.” Utoxin’s eyes sparkled with curiosity, his love for space was known throughout the SSA.

“I’m sure that proper navigation would have helped them. All their neat plans and maps never picked up a black hole.” IronAngel smirked a bit. “We’ll need to assign Shovel navigators to all ships if that’s the case.”

Utoxin adds, “Or at least teach them Shovel like navigation. But clues. You said there were clues Rue?”

“Yea these are all the clues we have! And I know an answer is in there but I can’t see it.” Rue growled, frustrated at herself.

“Hmmm it’s like a puzzle, the freaking bot handed us a puzzle with some pieces missing!” IronAngel grumbles. He had never been a huge fan of Timmy.

And with that a light bulb went off above Rue’s head, not visible to anyone else, but a bright and shining AH-HA moment just the same.

“A puzzle, that’s it. It’s a puzzle!” Rue almost giggled. The two men looked at her like she had lost what was left of her mind. “Utoxin, one of the cadets showed me the new puzzle game tearing up the data pad market, some million plus downloads.”

“Yea, was just a fun idea I was playing with, but, I am glad people like it!” Utoxin beams.

“Wait, you made the game Utoxin?” IronAngel leans forward, very interested, steepling his fingers.

“Yea I was goofing with it before Timmy took off. Why?”

“That’s amazing, good job man!” IronAngel cheered.

“Thanks.” Utoxin smiled.

“Wait, if you built the game, this might be easier than I thought.” Rue mused.

“What’s in that head?” IronAngel knew something was going on in her head, he’d worked with her long enough

“Well if this is a puzzle,” Rue gestures towards the monitor with the clues on it. “Then what if we try and put it together like one?”

“Oh yea! We can give each clue a visual representation, and… I mean the coding won’t be easy but it’s possible.” Utoxin tilted his hand in explanation.

“Yep we get a visual rep, we can actually see if we are missing anything.” IronAngel adds. “I mean, every bit of data should have a visual marker of some type. We just have to pull it out.”

Utoxin nodded and opened a console panel on the ready room table, and starts typing away, pulling up the game, and adding this data to the game. “All right, this is a development copy so it won’t wind up pushed out to every data pad in the ‘verse. Let me see what I can do. I’m going back to my quarters, I have a better workstation set up there, more toys, better music. I’ll let you know what we get.”

“Happy Coding!” Rue smiles.

“Can you rework the schedule to make sure Utoxin has the time he needs?” IronAngel asks Rue.

“Of course, I’ll have a new ‘situational’ schedule up in an hour. And Utoxin isn’t expected back….” she taps the monitor for the schedule, “For about four hours. So I have time.”

“Make it so!” IronAngel smirked. Rue rolled her eyes at the cheesy remark and headed off.

*****

About 6 hours later, Rue and IronAngel got a ping. “Ready room. Eureka!”

Rue dashed to the lift, reaching it a bit winded. In uniform but hair slightly more disheveled and spiky than was normal. In the lift IronAngel was waiting for her.  The lift surged as it took them up to the bridge and ready room.

“Captain.” She gasped and saluted. IronAngel returned the salute.

“Running?” IronAngel smirked as they rode in silence, without even crappy elevator music.

“Jogging. My room is farthest from the lift. Also when are we overwriting the lift program to blast decent music??”

“Soon. Once the more pressing things are dealt with, I’ll tinker with the ship some more.”

“Fair enough.”

As they filed into the ready room, Utoxin was there, still in uniform.  Clearly, he hadn’t stopped long enough to even change into something more comfortable. And floating above the table in the ready room, was a hologram of all the puzzle pieces; all the little clues that everyone had managed to pick up about Timmy’s whereabouts.  The messages he had left, all seemingly just his usual gibberish.

“It took longer than I planned, but we do, we now have all our pieces, I cross checked this a hundred times or so, there’s no way we’re missing a piece.” Utoxin was talking fast, hyper, excited. “Unless I’m horribly, horribly, off, then he’s here.”  Utoxin slowly pulled and manipulated the hologram until it was put together. The hologram actually looked like a planet.  Utoxin punched up a map on the monitor on the wall, to not interfere with where the nifty hologram was. “He’s there. On that planet, or in orbit with the ship. But I pulled all the coordinates of where he’s been and what everyone was saying, and this seems to be the only logical place. And it’s only a week out at most. Even for the Ninja who’s the furthest away.”

“Damn good work Tox! Damn good!” IronAngel patted Tox on the shoulder, beaming.

“Yea, that’s amazing Tox, I had thought it might work that way but that’s way better than I could have hoped for.” Rue smiles. “I’ll get these coordinates out to the fleet, and let the SSA and Hogwarts know. Everyone needs to know where we are going.”

IronAngel nods. “Let’s go get a flagship.”

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