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Fanfic / The Universe Doesn't Cheat

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"The Universe Doesn't Cheat" is a Star Trek Online one-shot fanfic by StarSword, written for an unofficial literary challenge on the game's forum. It is a prequel to Bait and Switch

The fic steps back a couple of years from Star Trek Online's present day to January 27, 2407, ten days after Lieutenant Junior Grade Kanril Eleya, the second shift weapons officer of the USS Kagoshima, was forced to take command of the ship after every officer senior to her was killed or assimilated by the Borg during the attack on the Vega Colony. (This is later shown in From Bajor to the Black.) But because she didn't take enough command classes when she was at Starfleet Academy, and because she's only 27 and has been an officer for less than four years, some in Starfleet Command question whether she's able to command.

The solution? Eleya takes the infamous "Kobayashi Maru". The no-win scenario.

The fic alternates Eleya's usual First-Person Smartass perspective with another perspective from the peanut gallery that is the Starfleet Academy instructors officiating the test.

This fic provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Anachronism Stew: The Maru has future knowledge:
    I don’t have time to think right now why a 23rd century Klingon can recognize my species,
  • Analogy Backfire: Sivuk throws the old "it's a no-win scenario and the universe is not fair" argument regarding the "Kobayashi Maru". T'Var calls that logic fallacious and Eleya says that the universe doesn't cheat.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: The classic Crazy Ivan, plus something called a Sulu Flip (a reference to something Hikaru Sulu did in My Enemy, My Ally) that involves Eleya's conn officer putting the ship through a 180 degree backflip at high warp.
  • The Bus Came Back: Inverted. Lieutenant T'Var, Eleya's operations officer prior to Reshek Gaarra, only made a brief appearance in Bait and Switch, but is a supporting character here.
  • Call-Back:
    • Kirk's little adventure with the "Maru" is mentioned a few times. Among other things Commander Haas calls Eleya "a young Kirk with a crinkled nose."
    • Commander Hackett compares Eleya's ramming attack against a Klingon battlecruiser to something Picard did in 2366. This refers back to a rather spectacular scene in Star Trek: Federation where Picard rams and obliterates a D'deridex-class warbird.
    • Eleya's order for a "Sulu Flip" refers to a scene in My Enemy, My Ally where Hikaru Sulu puts the Enterprise through a 180 degree backflip at high warp to bring the forward phasers to bear.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: As per how the "Maru" is supposed to go, sans Kirk hacking the scenario, the computer cheats. Unfortunately, because Eleya keeps changing tactics, the computer has to resort to violating realism, first by making the enemy D7 battlecruisers faster than that class was actually physically capable of, then by decloaking a battleship that wasn't even capable of cloak right on top of her. In the end this part of the simulation is deconstructed because Eleya and T'Var deem it an immersion-breaking factor when they are defending their actions to the review board.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": As previously established Eleya prefers to be addressed as "ma'am" or "Captain".
    Petty Officer Daniels: Aye, sir.
    Eleya: "Ma’am", Petty Daniels. "Ma’am."
  • Epigraph: Part of the refrain from James Taylor's "Never Die Young" at the start of the fic, neatly summing up Eleya's approach to the test:
    … Never give up, never slow down
    Never grow old, never ever die young
  • Field Promotion: Eleya was brevetted up to lieutenant commander, apparently the minimum rank before you can command a starship. Admiral Arkad makes the promotion permanent at the end.
  • Foreign-Language Tirade: Eleya's apparent Cluster F-Bomb in Bajoran when the computer Drops a Battleship on Her.
    "Sher hahr kosst. Phekk’ta yepal y’kren al’borea tash kelot!"
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Eleya's tlhIngan Hol greeting to the Klingons uses this.
    SuvwI’pu’ tlhIngan batlh, Eleya, Torvo puqbe’ jIH. HoD Constitution yuQjIjDIvI’ ’ejDo’. jatlh neH.translation 
  • In-Series Nickname: Apparently the instructors at the Academy called Eleya "Scarface" behind her back.
  • Logical Fallacies: The discussion that provides the Title Drop calls the Kobayashi Maru simulation a "false analogy" fallacy, because while there is truth to there being "no-win scenarios" in the myriad ways a Federation mission can go wrong, it is impossible to obtain the simulation's desired lesson of "shit happens, you'll eventually screw up and you must Face Death with Dignity when it comes" when it's obvious there is something out there blatantly doing its damnedest to try to make you cry "uncle" — the universe doesn't cheat, but a Reality Warper does.
  • Noodle Incident:
  • Not So Similar: For all of the instructors' snarking about how Eleya is like James T. Kirk, she proves that she has a different mentality by trying to win within the limits of the simulation and then making clear that 1) she didn't expected to win but the orders are to try anyway, hence all of the crazy stunts and 2) she already believes from prior personal experience in no-win scenarios (which in and of itself makes the Maru sim superfluous) but she then accuses the simulation of trying so hard to be unwinnable that it tosses realism out the window and how the heck are you supposed to learn a lesson out of that?
  • Pardon My Klingon:
    • Besides Eleya's usual "phekk", there's an exchange between Eleya and the simulated Klingon captain G'Sten that cribs an exchange from Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The Mind's Eye". Eleya mentions that she learned while she was serving on Deep Space 9 as a liaison officer that if a Klingon insults you, you insult him right back.
      G'Sten: You speak the lies of a taHqeq!
      Eleya: G’Sten ghay’cha’ baQa’!
    • And then, just to get the last word in before she puts her real plan into action, she tells him "Hab SoSlI’ Quch!"
    • She also swears once in English when Suvik asks her opinion on no-win scenarios:
      "Oh, I believe in no-win scenarios. I also believe they mostly take place because somebody fucked up!"
  • Person as Verb: Referring back to James T. Kirk beating the test by hacking the computer controlling it:
    RADM. Brenth Arkad: Think she'll pull a Kirk?
  • Precision F-Strike: From Commander Hackett after Eleya rams her way past the initial encounter with the Klingons.
    "Holy shit! Did you see that?!"
  • Ramming Always Works: Justified when Eleya plows straight through a Klingon battlecruiser. Tess programmed the computer to handle everything with a macro. The ship tilted up on its side, using the saucer like an axe blade, and aimed for the narrow fuselage on the D7. The D7 also had its shields set to combat conditions, and Eleya had maximum power dumped to the structural integrity field and navigational deflector. Then she went to warp right through it, meaning she hit at a sizable percentage of c. Her own ship took severe damage to the forward sections (which she'd ordered evacuated beforehand), but the Klingon ship was obliterated.
  • Shout-Out: The names G'Sten and Ragesh III are Babylon 5 references, the one being G'Kar's uncle, a general who was killed by the Shadows at the end of the Narn-Centauri War, the other being a Centauri colony the Narns briefly occupied in the pilot episode.
  • Title Drop: When Eleya and T'Var are arguing with the proctors at the end of the test.
    Cdr. Suvik: The universe is not fair, Commander Kanril.
    T'Var: Your logic is fallacious, sir.
    Cdr. Hackett: Excuse me?
    Eleya: False analogy fallacy. The universe doesn't cheat.
  • Unwinnable Training Simulation: Deconstructed. The computer ends up having to cheat so blatantly that Eleya's Willing Suspension of Disbelief is broken, which she and T'Var believe renders the accuracy of the test questionable. Even defending the lesson that the simulation is supposed to teach (that there's no-win scenarios) gets ripped apart by Elena saying that she already believes in no-win scenarios, making the lesson superfluous on top of force-fed.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Downplayed. Admiral Arkad chides Eleya for flipping out after she lost the test and requires her to T.A. a few classes as penance, then confirms her right to command and tells her to take out her frustration on the Klingons.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Discussed, in the context of Eleya's and T'Var's having been broken by the computer's cheating. They point out that a "No-Win Scenario" is possible in real life, but this is usually the result of a decision gone bad, not the actions of an apparent Reality Warper.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: There's a brief mention before the test begins that Eleya has an "emergency plan", which T'Var considers too complicated. During the test, she responds to the computer trying to blunt one tactic by switching to another one. Computer tries to jam her transmissions so she can't negotiate with the Klingons? She switches to plain old radio. Klingons brush off her attempt to negotiate? She uses a preprogrammed macro to fire the phasers disrupt the Maru's shields and beam the crew off, while simultaneously going to warp straight through an enemy battlecruiser. Klingons come about impossibly fast? She drops to sublight, pulls a Crazy Ivan, and starts mining her trail with torpedoes. It gets to the point where the computer apparently says "screw it" and quite blatantly spawns a battleship directly in her path to take her down.
  • Your Mom: "Hab SoSlI’ Quch!" means "Your mother has a smooth forehead!"