((Computer Access Room, USS Constitution-B))
Chip had been honored (beyond all available measures of honor, even the Kli=
ngon ones) to be selected by Commander Traenor to assist with this task. Th=
is was OPTIMAL! This was a way Chip could assist Captain Rajel in a real an=
d tangible way while relying exclusively on objective fact. And it would be=
considerably easier than the hypothetical designs for a holo-display of so=
meone's past experiences, although he did keep that in the back of his head=
. The commander had led the young engineer from the briefing room to get ri=
ght to the archives. Along the way, Chip pointed out several interesting co=
nduit routing vertices, and a replicator that had logged a surprising numbe=
r of requests for a single spoon, and a panel that he thought could be rema=
chined for easier access, and also that had reminded him of an interesting =
theory of micro-abrader design ...
... naturally, the time just flew by.
But eventually they arrived; this was a small facility specially designed f=
or ready archival access. The commander was explaining the plan of attack. =
Not that they were actually attacking anyone. Or perhaps they were - INFORM=
Traenor: The senior officers are adamant that they were following Starfleet=
Command orders on Zeltion IV. I implicitly trust each and every one of the=
m to be honest. So, why then the charges against the captain? It just doesn=
Chip nodded his big shiny-bald head, and paced to the nearest console after=
Traenor had entered his initial approvals to give them broader access to t=
he records, his prosthetic hand flexing with a soft whir.
Foley: There is not even a minimally detectable amount of jiving, Commander=
! I admit to an initial degree of uncertainty based simply on my unfamiliar=
ity with and distance from the situation, but given the weight of evidence =
and your own assurances, I find myself compelled to agree that there may be=
something anomalous at play! But it should be a fairly simple matter to id=
entify any malfeasance: we simply need to review the catalogued communicati=
ons as a whole, narrow our search to the particular personnel and timeframe=
involved, isolate the relevant data packets, and as Lieutenant Horne point=
ed out we then simply need to identify any indications of alteration. It co=
uldn't be easier! Well, it could, of course. If someone had left a signed c=
onfession that would be considerably simpler. But still! Quite easy!
Traenor: ::smiling:: And that's why you, my good sir, are my new best frien=
d. I couldn't 'isolate relevant data packets' my way out of a wet paper bag=
. But if you can suss them out, then I can check for valid packet transmiss=
ion encoding. If it doesn't look kosher, then you can decompile the data an=
d we can sleuth for tampering.
Foley: Ah, sleuthing! I once considered a career in forensic engineering, a=
ctually! Back in the heady days of childhood, when we all wanted to grow up=
and either design novel graviton propulsion systems or be "cops". ::There =
were those lovingly sculpted air quotes:: An excellent plan for approach, C=
ommander and new best friend! Where shall we begin our broad analysis?
Traenor: Let's start with the most relevant sources, and work our way into =
more obscure logs. ::winking:: We don't want to snoop in somebody's persona=
l logs if we don't need to. Start with transmissions to and from the ship w=
ith Command, especially those with data packets appended. Then we can work =
into mission logs and department logs in an appropriate timeframe. Emphasis=
, of course, on Jalana's communiques and logs.
Chip wasn't sure why they'd want to avoid personal logs; his own were mostl=
y just analyses of any experiments he'd run that day as well as a catalogue=
of his stimulant intake, but he'd take Maxwell's word for it. Perhaps some=
people were embarrassed about their personal experimentation records. But =
transmissions from Starfleet Command were the ideal place to start, certain=
Foley: Optimal! Let's begin, then! Oooh, this WILL be fun! Starfleet's offi=
cer log archival system is an absolute masterpiece of macro-relational data=
basing. I'm going to take my external visual input offline for a moment, Co=
mmander - just tap my shoulder if you need something before I'm done!
Chip brought his prosthetic left hand to the console, and let it rest there=
. His brushed gleaming beryllium-titanium fingers spread - and then keep sp=
reading, the joints extending, spidering out, branching out into smaller ap=
pendages and opening like a flower, until a lace of jointed metal covered m=
ost of the input area. He gave Maxwell a bright glittery smile and then his=
silvery eyes went dull for a moment - before they came back up glowing now=
with a soft amber light. From the outside, Chip appeared to do nothing mor=
e than stand very still, peering off into empty space, his right hand occas=
ionally moving slightly, making little swiping or flicking gestures. The mo=
vements of his wide-splayed mechanical left hand were almost infinitesimal,=
tiny little clicks and shifts, a harmonious machine conversation. It was s=
omething of a rare privilege to see Chip be this quiet.
But to Chip, the computer room of the Constitution blipped away in an insta=
nt, and was replaced with a world of pure data. His father, the polymath pr=
ofessor of a disparate handful of disciplines, had been greatly interested =
in the idea of increasing the efficacy of machine interface. Dealing with c=
omputers through touchpads, physical consoles, and voice commands, his fath=
er had opined, was like digging a well by politely asking squirrels to do i=
t for you. He had created a virtual suite designed to be displayed holograp=
hically. Chip had later refined that system while assisting in the repair o=
f APHAEA, the caretaking AI that had been his effective mother, but his ocu=
lar implants provided an even more convenient way to utilize the operating =
system. He did not need holograms - he could simply replace the world he sa=
w with an unfettered flow of information.
Floating data arrayed before him - the logs of the USS Constitution-B's off=
icers, divided by department, floating in vast interconnected webs. And the=
logs were just the heart of it. A Galaxy-class ship generated nigh-infinit=
e bits of data, of course, petabytes of it, spreading out before him like a=
panoply of stars. Ship's records of officers being assigned to assist with=
different departments, logged tasks, course corrections, Ops transfer shee=
ts, engineering inventories, Security blotters, replicator requests, turbol=
ift logs. Every single action taken on the ship generated a record somewher=
e. Just walking down a corridor created shifts in the ambient temperature a=
nd minute variations in the eddies of the internal atmosphere and the compu=
ter took note of everything, and some system or other logged it. It would b=
e easy to get lost in so much minutiae, so much pure information, all laid =
out before him. Chip already had a passion for logs and records, and so thi=
s was like a dragon's hoard of jewels.
But he had his task at hand. And for all his wide-ranging vast cosmic loops=
of thought and his conversational rambles and his tendency to free-roam Je=
fferies tubes, Chip Foley could bring to bear a focus like a laser drill. H=
e began to sift, and data blurred past, bright and sharp.
First the broad sorting. Command communications. This immediately pulled ou=
t from the great mass a shimmering string of information, of communiques fr=
om Starbases and command ships, mostly addressed to the senior staff of the=
Constitution. Some of these were confidential, resolved by the virtual dat=
a manipulation environment as flat squares of matte black lined in glowing =
colors based on the department of the officer to which they were addressed.=
Others presented the entirety of the included message. He gestured, bringi=
ng the floating Command communiques before him.
Then he isolated the results of that search, and ran a much broader one, ap=
plying a broad search for relational terms to "trade agreements", "Zeltion =
IV", "Xaltrac". This went ship-wide, through the entirety of the vessel's a=
rchives, a monstrous amount of data that the Constitution sorted out nearly=
instantly. From there it was simply a matter of cross-referencing those se=
arches to draw as many connected points of reference as possible.
Chip's augmented mind raced through the collated data that danced in front =
of him, pulling together a weave of search results. Names began to recur in=
the senior staff's comms logs - Ruvator Zadra, the governor of the City of=
Xatrac on Zeltion. Salzaar Valys, listed as a representative of the UFP Tr=
ade and Economic Outreach Bureau. Trade Minister Anastasia Duvchenko. He ha=
d the sorted the dross now, and the sift narrowed. Focusing in further.
The communications looked nominal from what he could see, from what flicked=
by. Orders to go to Zeltion IV to investigate the gas mining operation the=
re, records confirming receipt of the orders. But there was something wrong=
. It wasn't anything you could immediately pin down - each message individu=
ally was correct, meeting quick-scan parameters for the sender's writing pa=
tterns, confirming Commander Maddox's reports. But there was something miss=
ing on the broader scale.
Why WAS there so much communication referencing trade ministers and a civil=
ian rep of the UFP's economics bureau if the Constitution was being sent to=
just look at a gas mine? That's what was odd. Every message individually m=
et expectations, but as a gestalt they jangled the nerves.
He began to pull out specific messages, with appended data packets. He pull=
ed references from the senior staff's logs to the specific economic personn=
el. He compounded everything into a single file, and then -
- a few minutes later, Chip blinked, and his eyes went back to their bright=
silvery glow. His left hand made a series of ratcheting clicks and regaine=
d the shape of a standard humanoid hand as he lifted it from the console an=
d waggled the fingers, and he smiled brightly at Traenor.
Foley: Ooh, that WAS interesting! I've found some curiosities I think we sh=
The young ensign discussed his concerns with the science officer - what had=
disquieted him about the overall search, what he had identified, and ran t=
hrough the catalogue of log records he had pulled.
Foley: I believe these may be worth investigating further. I'm quite curiou=
s about them - for these communications with Captain Rajel especially, wher=
e one would expect an official record of the mission as assigned by Starfle=
et Command, that record exists. But the metadata of the comms file indicate=
s it should be more extensive than the actual packet appended is.
Foley: Precisely! I'm FIZZING with curiosity as if the inquisitive emotion =
was some sort of effervescent tablet. I'm not sure if that's too much levit=
y for the situation at hand but I can't actually prevent it at this point! =
We have so much to learn!
Foley: Yes, sir! Optimal concision. So what impression do you get from the =
Foley's bright eyes widened.
Foley: ... that is EXTREMELY sub-optimal.
Foley: Well! Is that ... hmm. What DO we do now? This is a purely explorati=
onal area for me - political intrigue at the Fleet level seems as lethal as=
ionizing radiation without as much as interesting opportunity for studying=
Ensign Chip Foley
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