In the Star Trek universe, The Kobayashi Maru is the name of a Starfleet Academy test that all cadets must take in order to graduate. The test is designed to be a no-win situation, so that students' behavior under pressure can be observed. From these evaluations, cadets are put onto tracks that ultimately decide what their careers within Starfleet will be.

The test itself is a battle scenario. The cadets are stationed on a training starship that receives a distress call from an unarmed ship named "Kobayashi Maru." It is under attack by enemy forces and has no way to fight back. The signal is coming from inside the Klingon Neutral Zone, where, by treaty, Federation ships are not allowed to go. However, Federation ships are also required to answer any distress signal they encounter, Federation craft or no. The cadets plot a course to rescue the Kobayashi Maru.

Once the training ship reaches the given co-ordinates of the Kobayashi Maru, no disabled ship is found, only small pieces of wreckage. Several Klingon vessels decloak and attack the training ship. It's a trap. The cadets are outgunned and outclassed, in almost every way possible. As the attack continues, systems fail, the hull is breached, and cadets "die." The rescue ship cannot retreat and must face complete annihilation.

The simulation ends when the cadets' ship is destroyed. No one is really dead, though minor injuries (things like sprains, broken bones, burns, and small lacerations, abrasions and hematomas) often occur.

It is notable that in the history of Starfleet Academy, there is only one person who ever beat the Kobayashi Maru simulation. James T. Kirk hacked into the Academy's computer systems and reprogrammed the simulation to allow him to win. As a result, he was given a commendation for original thinking and kicked up into officer training.

In and around the Star Trek universe, and among its fans, the phrase "Kobayashi Maru" has come to refer to any no-win situation.

The information about Kirk's encounter with the simulation was culled from on the Kirk biography page. "James T. Kirk" is a trademark of Paramount Pictures, as is "Kobayashi Maru".

I find it quite peculiar that this became the archetypical no-win situation among Trekkies, because, as it is described above, it isn't a no-win situation. It lacks the defining characteristic: the difficult choice between two evils. The initial decision between violating the neutral zone and not helping the vessel under attack might be considered one, but there is a very strong bias towards helping the vessel, both morally (breaking a treaty vs. letting people die) and in the expectations of the testers.

It might be of interest that Kobayashi is a common Japanese family name (meaning "small grove") while Maru is the generic Japanese suffix for cargo ship names.

The Kobayashi Maru is also the name of novel (Star Trek no. 47) written by somebody named Julia Ecklar.

When I was younger I was a big fan of the ST:TOS and ST:TNG series of novels. But if you read these series for any length of time you soon come to realize that most of these books are poorly written crap.

The Kobayashi Maru, however, is a hidden gem that stands the test of time. I own about 40 Star Trek novels and this is the only one I've read more than once. I recently read it for a fourth time after many years and it's still as good as I remember. What makes this book so special is that it relies on character development rather than plot to keep you entertained. Whereas most Star Trek books assume everybody knows about the characters and concentrate on interesting plot twists, this book goes behind the larger than life heroic aspect of the original crew and examines them as real people with real hopes and dreams and fears.

The novel is broken into four flashbacks of how Kirk, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov each managed in their own way to beat Starfleet Academy's Kobayashi Maru combat simulation, the so called "impossible scenario," framed within the "present day" story of a shuttlecraft problem. What makes these stories so charming is that they each show something special about the four characters, who really come to life in new ways when we see them as cadets, but still ring true as the people we know them as in the "present" as Enterprise crewmembers.

This book is true quality, and well worth reading even for casual fans of Trek.

"Now tell me if you think you can do it backwards."

The final piece of my assignment was to face the no-win scenario. The thing was, I recognized what it was in advance of it playing out. I knew I was about to invest myself completely, heart and soul, into a no-win situation.

In Nuevan Mythology there is a very important tale about The Jack, which in the scheme of things turns out to be me. It is kind of cool to be "in the know" about becoming a mythological character in a future belief system as you are doing it. This is a very empowering thing. It leads to a very easy understanding of the people who created new mythologies in the past and their high of power. The few that knew what they were doing got even higher.

Consider a late night one summer not too long ago. Out having a smoke, quite often a catalyst for chance in Nuevan Mythology, The Jack comes into contact with a beautiful woman. They work together at the job they are taking a smoke break from. He has actually remarked to himself in the past that this woman is far too beautiful and has far too giving of a heart to be anything more than a model for a certain class of woman. A painting too beautiful to any more than look at. And she was that. She told him a sad story. It was the story of her life. He saw a tear in her eye and remembered all too well what a catalyst a tear had often been.

"Fuck," he remarked to himself after she went away. "I think she just put a crown on her head."

There had never been a third queen and yet that was what the prophesy had called for. The road was lost, he told himself quite often, it all blew up in New Hampshire where he was bested by the second queen.

"You see, my dear friend, there always was to be a third queen. And you will tell yourself you are not ready. You took too much damage at the hands of the second queen, PTSD and all that shit. Did you forget the purpose of the third queen? To reinvent you and to bring you back to life?"

And that she did.

Driven by madness to write bad poetry and exotic prose I set to my work. This far too beautiful and far too giving woman was set to tears and The Jack could not sit on the sidelines and hope for the best. The Jack needed to help her find herself again and to learn to love herself again. And he succeeded in this venture. Had he not it would never have set up the no-win scenario.

Because, as you see, we all have our strengths and our faults. Sometimes they are the same thing.

"Here's the deal, three months of the most passionate and romantic unconsummated love affair in the history of the world, at least as far as your perspective is concerned, in exchange for never being able to consummate the passion and then facing a no-win situation when her all too kind heart brings her back to her husband. Because, you see, despite your own feelings on the subject, the way you have painted the relationship requires that you support her decisions and her right to make those decisions. To make a decision for her would mean you do not really believe in her. To reject her decision makes you the bad guy. You can only support her decision which means you lose her. You can't win this one."

I'm sold. Sign me up. The final penance is the final reward. You see, it is the last line in the two decades old prophesy that frames this absurd religion that I believe in. If I do everything in my power to help her to realize her value and her abilities and her intelligence, which he insults on a regular basis, then I will have done my duty. However, since she is a queen, the value of this action increases over what I scored when I did this same sort of thing for women I wasn't in love with. I cannot do anything else but help her find herself. This is what I do. I help people find themselves. I do it for a living, although they don't really know that is my primary function. I'm not sure they would keep paying me if they knew that was my first focus.

This was known from the beginning. I can do nothing to functionally deny this. I knew I was committing myself heart and soul to something that would fail. And I had to do it. I cannot do anything else. My function is exactly this. And there is a little something I cannot truly explain because I would rather not.

I work with mentall ill adolescents. There is a little saying that goes around my workplace and it goes something like this, "Residents may seem normal, but they're not." And nothing is more true than this. Even gravity. I spend my nights surrounded by psychologically disturbed children. The way I see it, I'm paid to be the champion who bests the bogeyman. It is one way to think about it and it is the way I prefer to think about it.

A resident once told me she was wetting the bed because there were dead people in her bathroom. I went in the bathroom and said, "Get out, dead people." She told me I was silly and I couldn't do that. I told her I could and shrugged. She never told me about dead people in the bathroom again, and never wet the bed when I was on her hall. When I wasn't there is was a different story.

"I heard through the grapevine you saw dead people in your bathroom again."

"No, they're gone. I was just messing with the people who don't know."

"Very good then. Carry on."

That is pretty much what I do. Why they are paying me to complete the mission I was sent to do by my home planet is beyond my ability to comprehend. Humans must be cultivated. It is what they are good at.

Anyway, I digress. It is the way of my people. The no-win scenario with the third queen was intriguing because it was what appeared to be the case with the first two queens. I set out to win the love of the first queen and instead ended up giving her faith, self-respect, confidence, and some other crap I can't remember right about now. I set up to live happily ever after with the second queen when she attempted suicide three times while claiming she was doing so to be more like me. In the end I turned a sociopath into a functional member of society who has invested herself in the future of her young nephews. So, given these items, how exactly could I not make something wonderful out of this little nutshell?

These things would be wonderful and painless and all that good stuff if it wasn't for the wildcard on the table. A queen doesn't just have to be special beyond the definition of special. She has to cause me to fall completely and hopeless in love with her. Without that she has no power. To be a queen one needs that power. It is the final ingredient.

And for three months something that defied the laws of physics went on, and it did this without consummation, which is what you were thinking about when I said it defied the laws of physics. Don't even deny it. I know you too well. And then came the hammer. It became known in Nuevan Mythology as Casablanca.

In our story The Jack meets up with the third queen at a work related Christmas party. He is prepared to take this to the next level. She shows up with her husband. She meets him at the bar and has one of whatever he's drinking. It is how humans convey the message, "I understand your pain and I want you to know I can feel it too." And she walks out with him as The Jack turns to a co-worker he previously found annoying and says, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

And that co-worker never got it and never will.

"You had to do it, even knowing you could never win, whatever that means. Don't think about what she is going back to, because her greatest strength was her big and resolute heart. It is also her greatest weakness. If you think it is bad now, then realize she will never stop feeling bad about what she did to you."

The attempt created the failure.

It always does. And yet it is always necessary.

There is another chapter. In Nuevan Mythology there is a tale. After completing his three missions The Jack is freed from his debt and can pursue any goals he chooses as long as they do not violate the laws of Rancho Nuevo.

"And I looked out across my land and over my people and I saw that indeed, it was good. Shits all good."

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