Posted on Wed Mar 13th, 2013 @ 3:33am by Lieutenant J'dAs son of udAs
Location: USS Nox, Starbase 241, Bridge
Timeline: LD -62, 0900
Maor sat in her office going over the files for the crew that remained with the Nox, getting a feel for which ones were most likely to cause her headaches. The acting XO was one of them, from everything she got from his file he really didn’t like to share information about himself. Her tail flicked forward to wrap around Meatloaf as he chittered on her desk. “Yes I know. That one is going to be tricky.”
At that moment Omen stood on the bridge monitoring the warp core prefire test. Green eyes flicked from one reading to another. Each hand performed a system diagnostic of the secondary and support systems. Their saboteur was still on the loose and to date he chose to booby trap only secondary and support systems. Omen maintained his theory that the saboteur's mission was not to destroy Nox but to delay repairs past the 88 day limit imposed by Admiral Nechayev.
At first he considered it likely that Nechayev might be directly involved, testing the Nox crew in order to find out if they were indeed responsible for performing the "miracles" required to get Nox home. While ruthless in her defense of Federation interests Nechayev's pattern indicated that she only placed the lives of those directly involved on a mission at risk.
It made sense as danger came with the uniform but increasingly subsystem damage resulted in injuries. Either Nechayev's agent was sloppy - unlikely given the precision of the saboteur's attacks to date - or someone else worked to prevent Nox from launching on time and they weren't concerned about "collateral damage."
Omen concluded now as before that "who" was responsible and "why" he did it was irrelevant. What mattered was "how" he sabotaged Nox under the noses of highly trained and vigilant professionals - quite literally the Federation's best. They needed to find the sabotage before it inflicted more damage. Eventually someone was going to die from these attacks.
To this end Omen performed laborious diagnostics across all systems connected to the Electroplasma System or EPS, the power system and heart of the ship as well as the Optical Data Network of ODN, the computational nervous system and brains of the ship. All registered as nominal and that bothered Omen.
"Come on," he started examining the structural integrity field or SIF. He keyed a system diagnostic and listened as the prefire test got underway. "I know you've done something, you bastard, but what did you do..."
+RED ALERT, WARP CORE BREACH IMMINENT+ the Nox computer announced as the entire ship went to red flashing surged and shuddered in the Sampson’s mobile star-yard armatures. +DILITHIUM CHAMBER COMPROMISED, RED ALERT+
+Bridge!+ the voice of the Kolari acting CEO called up, shouting and hissing sounding in the background pickups. +Don’t let the Nox eject her core! There’s no isolation field and the Sampson is under us. It’ll kill us all!+
"Nox," Omen called the computer by her name. "Disable core ejection protocols Authorization Omen, Lambda-strike-seven-seven-three-four."
+CORE BREACH IN PRO- + the computer began again and then paused and there was a sound almost like an ‘ahem’ before the voice said +RED ALERT IS STILL IN EFFECT, UNKNOWN MATERIAL CONTAMINANT FROM WARP CORE HAS BREACHED CONTAINMENT AND HAS BEGUN PENETRATING THROUGH THE DECKS. THE MATERIAL APPEARS UNSTABLE. ALL CREW EVACUATE DECKS THIRTEEN THROUGH TWENTY-ONE, SECTIONS FOURTEEN, FIFTEEN AND SIXTEEN+
Omen boosted power to the transporter system as emergency transporters sufficiently evacuated crew. He seized opportunity to engage cargo transporters and remove critical and volatile materials from the affected decks to safer locations. As the molten mass of dilithium penetrated the containment chamber he yanked power across all systems to boost structural integrity and drop containment force fields.
And it went straight through the force fields like they weren’t there at all.
In seconds the material hit deck twenty-two and burned through to twenty three before an explosion rocked the ship and the bridge shuddered like the hull had been breached! By some miracle, that hadn’t happened and in the huge area of destruction where the material had disappeared into, it seemed to have stopped moving.
“Report,” Rowan demanded, though her tone was more of a plea than a demand, she needed Omen to translate what what happening for her. The sabotage was driving her to distraction and the stress was starting to show, her usual crisp uniform had a wrinkle here and there, and her hair, usually smoothed back into a tight bun had wispy strands sticking out from it, and her look was completed by a slightly crooked comm badge. She had come with Omen, hoping her presence might deter the saboteur for this very critical test. But no, something had to go wrong, again.
"Something went wrong with the core test fire in Engineering. Preliminary reports are that a meltdown in the dilithium chamber breached containment and melted through to Deck 23. It's a good thing it stopped there." He breathed a sigh of relief.
“Do I dare ask why?” Rowan asked with a small growl.
"Antimatter storage pods are stored on Deck 24," Omen gave her a sidelong look.
“Fuck a zombie,” she muttered, thankful that it had stopped in time, “Evacuation and clean up?”
"Moar and J'dAs are tending to crew evacuations below decks. I'm routing power away from damaged sections and alerting Damage Control teams to radiation hazards." He stopped a moment once his immediate tasks were completed and called up Nox's engineering deck plan. He closed in on a section and a look of suspicious curiosity broke out across his face.
“What is it?” Mack swallowed and raised one brow.
"That mass should have penetrated through to Deck 24," The enigmatic exec announced flatly. "The only thing in Deck 23 that could have interacted with the mass is this plasma relay," he pointed to the map. "Internal sensor readings taken just before the moment of impact show the mass interacting with an modular harmonic stabilizer." He met Rowan with stern green eyes. "The stabilizer reinforced the deck, directing the energy of the reactive mass outward as an explosion."
“And that’s a good thing?” the captain prompted motioning with her hand for him to continue.
"Yes, it is a good thing, it's just," He scratched his bristly chin, shaking his head, "Harmonic stabilizers are very specific pieces of equipment. There is no no need to have one installed at that plasma relay." He pointed for emphasis. "We were saved by a piece of technology that should never have been there, it should have been a half-meter port of that position. If it hadn’t been there, the reactive mass would have hit an antimatter pod.."
“Do we have a saboteur and a guardian angel?” Rowan met Omen’s eyes, searching for an answer to what the hell was going on.
“Apparently,” Vez said as he approached and held out a PADD, catching the last question as he entered. “The construction logs that showed Rowan’s authorization to move this component over due to a spaceframe conflict with a shifted main strut.” The PADD showed the specs in layers so they could see how each component cascaded into the next and required the authorization. The original spaceframe strut change was due to the damage of that half of the ship being replaced, having to be moved to compensate for a structural defect cause in the entire frame from the overall damage.
“I don’t remember authorizing this,” Rowan said, handing Omen the PADD to examine.
The resourceful Renaissance man copied the contents of Rowan's PADD to his tricorder, a prudent move since they discovered the saboteur tampered with her programming. Omen put the software through his personal filters and ran a diagnostic.
A short time later Omen arched his brow, "Everything checks out. If it is a forgery it is an exceedingly accurate one."
“She didn’t do it,” Vez pointed out and held up another padd, one in which it showed the time index of a conversation happening between Rowan and a warrant officer in the medical bay on the day of and at the time of the orders being approved. “I pulled that from the security archives,” he added, before anyone could ask.
"Sergeant Semz isolated the Klingon DNA trace to just over 48 years in our future. It's entirely feasible that someone in that time frame either has access to what would be for her a historical database and through that, access to the captain's code or a more intriguing possibility..." He turned his green gaze to Rowan, "Forty-eight years from now you, in fact, authorize this."
“But putting the command back in time would require...” Vez paused and he considered and then finished, “probably very little power.”
"Also, technology that is likely only theoretical in our day and age," Omen added.
Semz and Vez traded a look and remained silent at that.
Omen looked between the men, with a bemused smile, "If you gentlemen have something to add this is the time and the place for it."
“I hate time travel,” Rowan muttered rubbing her forehead.
“Sir the Slipstream deflector control system is a precognitive computer and sensor platform,” Vez pointed out. “So we sort of have some of that technology now.”
"So are you saying that in a week I need to use that computer and sensor platform to send this order back in time to make sure we don't all blow up?" Rowan asked, waggling the PADD she was still holding.
“No ma’am,” Vez replied quickly. “I actually don’t think you sent that message in the first place, from the future or the past or wherever. I think someone else hacked our system in the past to head off this accident from being catastrophic. That seems to meet the pattern of the person who’s interfering with the saboteur. Maybe there’s a timeline somewhere we’re destroyed and that person backtracks what causes it and then works out a way to thwart it by altering the past of the event in an extremely subtle fashion, nullifying the event. Ultimately,” he spread his hands, “saving us and protecting a particular timeline in which we survive. I think that whatever purpose our launch serves and whatever we’re going to do, maybe, in a future, is undesirable to our enemy and is beneficial to our savior. Of course, an added dimension is the saboteur is trying to restore a timeline in which our demise has a large positive effect and the person saving us is instead the saboteur.” He then looked decided unhappy about that prospect.
Omen thought for a moment before he spoke. "We know not of the future, and cannot plan for it much. But we can hold our spirits and our bodies so pure and high, we may cherish such thoughts and ideals, and dream such dreams of lofty purpose, that we can determine and know what manner of men we will be whenever and wherever the hour strikes that calls to noble action...No man becomes suddenly different from his habit and cherished thought."
He smiled, "Wise words from a very courageous and wise soldier, Joshua Chamberlain. They are as true now as when he spoke them. I'll add only this, we can't know what is in our future, we can only know what is in our hearts and lead our lives in such a way that inspires the future."
Green eyes once more fell on those assembled. "I say we examine the wreckage thoroughly for clues. Once that is done we repair and move on."
“Understood,” Vez nodded once firmly. “I’ll get right on it and limit the number of personnel directly involved and exposed. I’ll send encrypted findings reports to Commander Omen."
"Good," The enigmatic exec turned his focus to Rowan. "We were ahead of schedule for the first time, the saboteur needed to take drastic action. However, we might have pushed him into revealing something about how he has been blinding us."
"Oh?" Rowan asked. While the others had been on the bridge she'd stood tall, or as tall as she could, spine rigid, and kept a nearly neutral face, but now that she was alone with her friend she let herself relax her posture with a sigh of frustration.
"I performed a diagnostic on the EPS system just prior to the test fire," Omen called up the data. "As you can see everything up to and including the first moments of the test fire read as nominal. I recall the meltdown occurred immediately." He fixed Rowan with level green eyes, "We know the saboteur hacks into our computer systems. I believe it might be more extensive than that. I suspect we can't trust any of our ship readouts and any engineers that depend on diagnostic information from Nox are at risk. The ship's computer is the most centralized piece of equipment aboard ship. Through it anyone can access any system with a minimum of effort."
"So you're saying that whoever is doing this has access to our central computer?" Rowan paled at the thought, "That's really bad news... isn't it?"
"Very," he leveled green eyes on her for emphasis. "Worst case scenario the saboteur can lock us out and use our systems against us. There are two ways we can combat this. The first you won't like. The second is time intensive but I believe it's necessary.
“Alright hit me with them,” Rowan said with a look on her face like she was waiting for a blow to fall.
"I can relax some of the restrictions against Nox's AI and allow her to defend herself. If she is less constrained by code, she can more readily inform us when her systems have been compromised.”
“You’re right, I don’t like it, what’s the other option?” she asked pinching the bridge of her nose while she thought.
"We can link up with Sampson's computer core and use it to track down inconsistent code. There is risk is to Sampson, as there is undoubtedly booby traps against location and tampering in the system."
“I don’t like that one either. We’ve already co-opted their crew and their parts, we can’t risk shutting them down completely,” Rowan was thinking furiously, “Walk me through the worst case scenario with the first option?”
“I can help with that sirs,” Semz murmured, looking uncomfortable but getting a quick look of support from Vez. “While the Commander is relaxing the code controls, I can speak to Nox and explain to her what’s happening and help her ‘learn’ her new directives. She’s already self-aware, if restrained, though she enjoys a lot more decision-making freedom to preserve her crew and herself. So expanding her anti-intrusion parameters wouldn’t necessarily be difficult, though we have to be careful to install comprehensive access-points to prevent someone co-opting us or our characteristics to simulate clearance.”
Omen rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "We'll need encryption that one from the future can't simply download from a historical database."
“Biometric fractal lockouts,” Vez replied and looked at Yamparti and Omen expectantly, clearly expecting them to know something of the extremely difficult encryption method.
Omen offered Vez a look of surprise and respect, "It could work."
Kallay smiled broadly, nodding, "Very well infact."
"Someone want to explain that to the non-uber geniuses in the room," Rowan groused, "I mean I know what a biometric lockout would entail but....?"
Kallay turned bright eyes to Rowan, "As I am sure you know, biometric mean biological information, typically DNA. Fractal encryption is a code that uses recursive geometric shapes instead of Euclidean geometry. What I believe Vez is proposing is a fractal encryption that includes biological information, most likely DNA segments taken from those expected to have access. Even if the saboteur gained access to our mapped DNA he would have to input the exact number and sequence of DNA fragments. Given how many fragments of DNA in a typical human body, the combinations for such a code are beyond ridiculous. Fractal lockouts are extremely secure, they even worked against the Borg. A biometric fractal encryption would be beyond that, near indecipherable." He stopped for a moment and thought about it, "But Nox would have to take the DNA components and organize them using an encryption key made of up the DNA of the person trying to access the system and apply them against an ever-changing fractal algorithm to find a solution to unlock the security lockouts."
“Exactly,” Vez nodded seriously, once, brevity in action.
"I think we should employ both," Rowan said after a moment of thought, "But keep me apprised of what's going on with the AI, I don't want us to end up slave to her whim."
“Assuredly,” Semz nodded, “we’ll make sure that her core directives remain in place and unable for her to modify them. Nor will we allow them to be modified unless she is fully shut down,” he added.
"Good, also keep Moar in the loop, as with any intelligence there is a psyche there that may need tending," Rowan said trying to think ahead and address problems before they became issues.
“I’m unsure if she’s qualified to counsel an AI,” Vez considered. “There are a handful of beings in the Federation who have those qualifications, Cybernetic-Intelligence Therapists, they’re really rare. But I will of course alert her,” he nodded compliance.
“But she’s what we have,” Rowan conceded, “and better her than nothing, at the very least it will show the ship's computer that we care enough to try. If that makes any sense."
“It does,” he replied with a smile and a nod.
"I want a check-in every 12 hours on the work with the AI, not an official report, just keeping me apprised." Rowan said, intentionally not looking at Omen as she gave this order she needed to stop checking with him when she gave orders and moreso she needed the crew to see her as a strong leader and checking with her first officer wouldn't do that..