Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The M-5 Work In Progress, Unchaptered

AD 2374

StarFleet Command (SFC) is the term generally used to refer to the main Fleet Base in San Francisco, Earth, as it is the main training and centralized command structure for the entire fleet. It is often, erroneously, referred to as StarFleet Headquarters (SFHQ), which is the central fleet command base in the Alpha Quadrant. SFC is the main ship construction and repair facility, with multiple base sections for that purpose along with the central and organized structure for Fleet Command. SFC is central to the Sol System dry docks, repair/refit systems, and also the place of such things as the Historical Museum located in Mars orbit and the 'Ship Graveyard' at Jupiter. SFHQ is the central command point for Fleet disposition, logistics, and sector coverage, ensuring that all bases, posts and ships, along with Federation outposts manned by StarFleet are supplied and have regularized personnel tracking. One is in the Sol system, the other is not.

The very upper echelons of StarFleet that interacts with the Federation Council is in San Francisco, while the nuts and bolts of day-to-day operations is at the SFHQ base. It is the division between Politics and Logistics.

That said, while new technology incorporated into ships is first tested, with much fanfare, at Earth, the basic design and engineering work to get to a new ship design starts at SFHQ. First of its kind production for NX class ships winds up at any of the Sol System based dry docks or at the orbital base. Decommissioned ships first go to SFHQ for systems removal and powering down of non-essential systems, and then get a skeleton crew to take the ship to SFC for final disposition. SFC determines which of the old ships are Museum quality and which end up in Jupiter's orbit. Few efforts are made to 'salvage' such vessels that end up in Jovian orbit as the work to dismantle and reforge components and remove older metallic mixes isn't worth the time or effort to do. The oldest ships generally slip unnoticed below the orbit of Io, becoming the 'Yellow Fleet' and at some point atmospheric drag slows the ship and Jupiter claims it. Other ships get consigned to the orbit for other reasons, having little to do with battle damage, the cost of repair or even if the ship can be upgraded and repaired, and far more to do with lost bureaucratic messages. Paperwork from bygone eras did not get any more efficient when automated, just more quickly put into stasis when things can't be determined easily.

The non-ship oddities, things too interesting or too dangerous for various reasons, to go out for immediate civilian use ends up at SFHQ. The technology that is brought back from various ships or created inside the Federation and used to ill-ends, or even just the 'cats and dogs' or 'what should we do with it?' material ends up at SFHQ. There Federation scientists are brought in to examine and study those things, and there is a strong connection with such places as the Vulcan Science Academy and the MIT Complex, as well as the Andorian Spaciocharium for ship examination. That technology is generally classified at some level until full examination is completed and then final placement of it for utilization is rendered by SFC and the Federation Council. The overwhelming majority of it is processed in 6 months and released. Far less is held over for longer research, and even less of that is put under final, secure lock. In theory there is a vault in SFHQ that holds all sorts of fascinating things, but its actual size is about that of a janitorial closet... not that you could ever convince writers of that.

That leaves the 'it isn't dangerous, no one can figure out what to do with it' realm. The general rule is one of '50 years and then to SFC, let them figure it out'. Those disclosures, while made public, are generally uninteresting: who cares about a variant of a Romulan plasma rifle that's 50 years old with a guidepath system on it? Especially if it is partly melted. SFC actually does have to decide and most of it, perforce, goes to the Museum in Mars orbit (with attendant Mars surface base for the overflow). Some items that showed promise get held for longer, but at some point it finally does have to go someplace.

* * *

If SFHQ holds the Extreme Secret Broom Closet, then the SFC Mars Museum has the attic. Some of it is polished up and put on display, all of it is available for study by those interested in historical oddities and, generally, it is one of the dullest places to get situated in StarFleet. Very few people beyond historians ever really want to work at the SFC Historical Museum, Archived Equipment Division. Which is why the Academy sends cadets there, to learn about the care and maintenance of old things found and to ponder about StarFleet's history. If they have nothing better to do.

Thus it was that Ensigns Jomra and L'Tira were on the receiving end of the cargo vessel Altax, which, itself, looked like a museum piece. When possible equipment is handled 'as is' so as to leave it in original condition, as even the very best of transporters don't always get things right or trip off some unlooked-at reaction that, in theory, was looked at decades previously. Also, some of it might collapse without its shipping crate. The two Ensigns, then, were on normal duty at receiving and the putative commander of the cargo ship told them to just come in with repulsors and get the stuff themselves from Bay 2. The two stepped down to the ship deck from the base, and walked to the second bay, where the screen had been turned off. Luckily it was on a repulsor skid and they just had to attach their hand units to it, lifting it up and then they guided it out.

"Say, this is a lot of junk for a normal run, isn't it?" L'Tira asked.

Looking over his shoulder, Jomra said, "Well, its a pretty large amount, yes, especially for the computer history section."

"CS history? What is this stuff? An old Klingon War Simulator?"

Lifting his wrist to check the invoice readout, "Nah, its some old research stuff, been looked at and no one could figure out what to do with it so its been a dust collector. SFHQ finally decided to unload it as they would need a bigger Closet if it was important. Look at the date on that stuff, almost 100 years old!"

The two shifted it into the non-public freight turbolift, and ferried it down to the CS section, where Ensign Arrivan and one civilian were waiting. The civilian was waiting by the side of the room and she sidled out of the way as the large lift pallet was brought in and slowly lowered to the floor. As the fleet personnel double checked their entries to account for the transfer the civilian walked up, human, dark complexion, holding a small wooden box. The three turned, and Ensign Arrivan introduced her as the descendant of the original researcher.

Her name was Enid Daystrom.

The two looked at her, the shipping crates and Ensign Arrivan. He nodded, "Yes, the great granddaughter of the famous Richard Daystrom, this is his last major research work."

"Daystrom of Duotronics? The man responsible for the entire computing architecture of StarFleet and the Federation?", asked Jomra.

"The same, although I work in biomedical research and materials study. Grandmother gave this to me back when I was 5 and told me," she said indicating a box under her arm, "that it really belonged with the rest of Great Granddad's work, but that no one in StarFleet was interested in it. Really its just oddments of computer equipment, personal notes and some hand drawn schematics from... ummm... before his mental troubles. She said it didn't really belong to the family, but StarFleet didn't want it either. So when I got the release notification from the Museum people, I thought it should really belong here, with the rest of his work."

"The rest of his work? I mean he pioneered the first multitronics... wasn't that it after duotronics?" asked L'Tira who looked at Arrivan who raised a quizzical eyebrow.

Enid chuckled softly, "Oh, no. This is his *other* work, the M-Series of ship computers," she walked around the crates, pointing at the smallest, "that is M-1, then the slightly larger one on the top is M-2, then M-3 takes up the rest of that, underneath it is M-4 and the main crate is M-5. That was his pride and joy before his mental breakdown, and he said that even the multitronic work didn't really live up to what he had been doing on the M-Series."

"The M-Series?", L'Tira asked looking at Arrivan.

"It was a first attempt at a fully automated back-up control system for a starship in case something catastrophic happened to its crew. It was supposed to be a computational add-on to the existing systems, and yet be fully automated not only for mission assessment, but self-defense for ship-to-ship attacks," said Arrivan.

"That isn't completely true, I'm afraid, Ensign," Enid said, "the original contract materials that Great Granddad kept specified for the M-5 to be a combat control system specifically for fleet work as it was thought a fully automated system with self-initiative would prove to be superior to biological commanders. He was obsessed with saving lives and if starships could fight harder in shorter periods of time with less loss of life, then his work would have been successful. The M-1 through 4 series were the first attempts at somewhat generalized control systems and the Fleet has conveniently forgotten its original contract, so the story has been reversed a bit."

Ensign Jomra looked at the pile of crates, "Fully automated... it could operate an entire starship on its own? Independently?"

"This isn't... not the 'Monster Computer' that fought 4 to 1, is it?", Arrivan asked.

"That it is, Ensign, the M-5 is just that system. Researchers with and without great granddad spent a decade going over it before his death, and grandmother recalls his frustration that the same neural adjustments that removed his psychosis also removed his ability to analyze his M-Series work."

L'Tira and Jomra edged slightly away from the crates.

"THAT computer, here?", asked L'Tira.

Ensign Arrivan looked at Enid, "Ma'am what are you here for?"

"Well, that does bring up the point. Mother and Grandmother really didn't want anything to do with this work, but couldn't bear destroying great granddad's work, and perusing the contract...", she walked over to a desk display and fitted an old series reader into it, and the display popped up a document with StarFleet emblem that the computer verified was the original contract copy, "... all of great granddad's work, when no longer needed by StarFleet is to revert back to Richard Daystrom or his estate. Right there in Sec. 10, Para. 12, Sub. 3. This single document has kept his estate open for these decades and I am here to execute it, as he said, in the judgment of closest kin if immediate executor does not survive or to the MIT CS institute in cooperation with the Vulcan Science Academy if no heirs survive."

The three looked at her, then the pile of crates and back again.

"You OWN this?"

She smiled and nodded, "Checked by the best lawyers outside of StarFleet and then verified...", she slid a hand into a pocket in her tunic and then slid that into the reader, "...by SFC Contracting Staff as cross verified by SFHQ logistics section... stardates all given, verified, and so on. I think everyone had forgotten the original contract and what it was for by now. And besides it was, 'old junk' not worth throwing in the closet because no one could make head or tail of it."

Ensign Jomra smirked, "Sounds like the Tholian recrystallizer brought in a few months back, no one can figure out what it is supposed to do even now, and the Tholians claim it isn't theirs, either."

"Well, Ma'am," said Arrivan, "if you want it, I will get the Museum Director and..."

"Not to worry, I've already talked to him, nice fellow near retirement. Asked me what I wanted to do with it and, really, I had no idea. So he said he had some grad students who... ahh... needed some gainful employment in their off-hours and asked if I would like to start a research project. Since Daystrom Industries passed out of family hands long ago and became the Daystrom Institute, but the Estate was still open, I talked a bit for said graduate's time with fair recompense..."

The three rolled their eyes, "Black Bart strikes again!" said Jomra.

"Better than cleaning out that scout vessel, did you see what had died in the storage hold?", Arrivan asked.

"I don't think it was really dead," said L'Tira, "but I was still glad to jettison it out the hatch."

"The work of StarFleet Museum Staff is never done, I can't wait for my permanent assignment!", said Arrivan.

"So, Ma'am," said Jomra, " I take it we have been drafted?"

She smiled brightly, "Actually, yes, along with a few others as the entire M-Series was to interface with just about everything on a Constitution Class Heavy Cruiser. Plus, of course, the research notes and specifications of great granddad, can't forget those!"

Ensign L'Tira looked at the small box under Enid's arm,"Ahhh... what... exactly are those?"

"Beyond all his background work on psychodynamics, duotronic line extension to multitronics, original M-Series work and such, is a group of design specifications and interface work for something he had labeled as... hmmm... M-5 Final."

"M-5 Final?" Arrivan asked.

"Yes, the M-5 was rushed out the door on contract deadlines. Richard Daystrom had the final components for the system drafted out, but didn't have time to integrate them and thought, for a limited test, he could... 'trust his wits'. Like M-1 through 4, he had worked on tinkering designs to more complexity and then starting anew from a fresh base. M-5 was due for what he called, 'its last contractual tinkering for finalization'. Basically it was 95% complete."

"And that is the final 5%?" asked L'Tira.

Enid nodded, "The final work of the M-Series. He was very sketchy about it, in a literal sense at times, using actual paper and not automated design tools. The pre-work finals were done with standard tools, however, just never fully specified. Everyone puzzled over this box of stuff while he was alive and for a few years after that. It was, however, not finalized to the contract, so it was not StarFleet's. They did get copies, but... 'lost in the shuffle' I think was the what I was told, just like most of the original design materials. They kept the devices and threw out the design documents."

Nods amongst the Ensigns, "Typical of SFHQ. 'If we didn't build it, it doesn't matter', at least for Federation made material," L'Tira asked.

"No 'Made and Designed by Fleet Engineers' label on it, so it can't be all it is cracked up to be..." said Arrivan.

"'Designs? We don't need no steenkin DESIGNS!', remember the Torbasi Longitudinal Deflector? They did the exact, same thing... and then, once they figured it all out they started to ask where it was manufactured as it took specific design work not normally inside the Fleet or even the major industries. Heh. They actually had to, by then, as most commercial ships were starting to field the thing and it was not only better as a deflector system, but took far less energy to run. And that was for something that worked out of the gate. Typical SFHQ."

"Great granddad did have some, hmmm... descriptive words... for StarFleet ship design engineers. He said without the Contracts Office he would have had problems getting anything from them."

"You do have the original specifications, don't you, Ma'am?" asked Arrivan.

"Call me Enid, please, I do without much in the way of formalities which, I know, is a major sticking point for the Fleet. Plus I am just here to run a little grant project with some Graduate Cadets waiting for final placement in proper ships and that will be their off hours-work. I do have the original design specifications, but many of the things he had ordered were modified by him and have altered specifications. He was, if nothing, meticulous in those details which he said was the heart of his work."

"Great!" said Jomra, "What do you think we will need to get this going, Enid?"

"Captain Bartholomew had some suggestions, but that it was my project to run. So I'm going to hand the documents out to your personal readers, anyone who wants copies has to come to me as they are encrypted via quantum routine between each of us. Your off-hours work, or any work done for the project on authorized on-hours similarly goes to those devices. I assume you each have personal systems?"

"Can't live without it! Music is my life. I don't know what I would do without all those lovely classical recordings of Def Leppard, BOC, Nazareth! They are so soothing and have such lovely ballads," said L'Tira.

"I believe I can say we all do have our own personal systems, Enid. We each have our own interests and your encrypted block should be able to handle itself on them," said Arrivan.

"Good! Set them to receive and I will do the handshake encryption."

Each nodded and turned on their systems, then Enid turned and shook each of their hands, and the systems then recorded that set of metabolic states and the transfers started.

L'Tira was first and then glanced at her device realizing that it was still transferring information and that much of her music collection was getting shifted over to longer term storage.

"Just how much of this stuff is there, Enid? The last of my 22nd century music is off, there goes the 21st... the 20th... my text and interactive collections...."

"I told you to upgrade," said Jomra, chuckling.

"I did upgrade, and have far more space than you have, in fact... there I'm down to... Plato's Republic is still left, some smaller works, but... you two had better get out some spares."

The other two Ensigns checked their pockets, opened up TriCorder compartments and started checking their storage flats and then added them on to their personal devices. Each handshake brought troubled looks as the recipients realized that they were getting more material than any of them had ever tackled on a single project or analysis document.

"Ok, I'll let each of you get back to your regular jobs and look to meet you... well, I assume you do have a regular research library here?"

"Yes, Ma'am, 5th by corridor 27, rooms 5100 to 5200, plus smaller meeting rooms and minor archival access points scattered around the station," said Arrivan.

"Did the Captain give you access to the staff areas, Enid?", asked L'Tira.

"He did and thanks, took a wander around while I waited for the freighter to arrive. I take it that it is usually not on schedule?"

"Ma'am, when the Altax is on schedule, it ruins everyone's schedule here. This was pretty punctual, actually, only 4 hours late," said Jomra.

"I didn't think so by the way people acted. Well, I'll reserve a conference room at the main library and see you all there in..." she checked her chronometer, "two hours? Order up dinner and get it sent, unless there are replicators there, we will make it a working meal."

"Yes, Ma'am.." started Jomra.

"Enid, please."

"... Enid. I think we can be there now that our spare time has just vanished on us."

"Oh, its not as awful as that!" said Enid, "It's worse... see you there."

"Worse?" whispered L'Tira. Quickly each of them opened their personal systems and started to check what they had gotten.

"At least it is indexed and timelined!" said Arrivan.

"Yeah, and did you notice the raft of reports? Vulcan Science Academy Computer Sciences... Warp Field Studies? What? Comparative Logic Section, Logic Analysis Group, Field Logic Matrix Studies? MIT CS, Psych, Quantum Research and Design? What the hell...?"

"Andorian Competative Studies CS, BioInfo, Compendium Compartment? I know our translators get a rough time of it, but what is that?" asked Jomra.

"I think it is their multi-team studies group for independent research and analysis projects." said Arrivan.

"Wow! Orion Task Group Intercept! The C&D folks looking to get underground reports on this. Then the SFHQ and SFC main groups....", L'Tira stared at the small screen,"... who *wasn't* consulted on this? That might be the easier question. I mean look at that list and there's the INTEL Orgs, Clandestine sections not by name, of course, but everyone *knows* who they are. Why all of these groups for a ship computer control project?"

Jomra glanced side-ways from his personal information system and looked at the stacked crates.

"Just what *was* M-5?"

Arrivan closed his eyes for a moment and then looked at the crates. "I think that is why she didn't have this stuff delivered to her personally and waited until now. Where is the place you would want to start Star Fleet archival research?"

"Oh. Here."

"Exactly. And we, apparently, are in over our heads."

"Looks like fun," whispered L'Tira, her felonid heritage turning that soft whisper into a barely heard hiss. The screen still scrolled down the index...

* * *

At the meeting everyone had trays with their meals, flat and holographic arrays set up in front of them, and multiple auxiliary information devices out on the table. Enid used a central projection system and the words slowly shifted to each viewer, each individual could see the text and any underlying diagrams and yet have a view of each other and not see similar text but the same diagrams when done in full up-mode. Flat mode was treated as text.

"Welcome to the M-5 Group! I will dispense with formalities as this is a working group of professionals and my experience in the bio fields and systematics fields have tended to make these informal affairs, especially a few hours in. As the one running the overall study, I would like to show you the objectives...", here diagrams and schematics of M-5 along with the other M-Series rotated in the common projection space,"... First and most importantly is to verify we have everything on the past manifests. StarFleet has lost some original equipment documentation, but Richard Daystrom kept his copies and we have those. From those I have a relatively complete component listing and even the contractual acceptance documents of the earlier M-1 through 4 systems. Since no one may have actually examined the contents of the crates containing all these systems, I expect other materials to show up as we go through them. Each item needs to be added to the common database which is cross-shared by our personal devices. That should not take a day or so, really, but two are given for it."

"An Ensign's work is never done!" said Arrivan.

"Second objective, is to get anyone necessary to do a thorough examination of the equipment delivered against the design specifications. For that we will need some expertise in doing such things and identifying changes while leaving them in situ. Any good sources for that here?"

"Yes, Ma'am. We have a section for doing that to an entire ship, from first design Cochran vessels all the way up to Heavy Cruisers and Alien vessels. Lt. Cmdr. Deter's section does that sort of thing as the Ship System's Appraisal and Conservation group. We will probably need a member or two of his team for this and to help address just what the M-Series actually did on a Fleet ship of that era," said Jomra.

"Mr. Jomra, my name is Enid and I prefer that in conversation. What do you prefer for yourself in these circumstances?"

"Ahh... Enid... I'm not the most outgoing of persons, really, and took up the engineering sciences and materials sciences to aim at a career in them. So I have very few friends, but with them I am Alex."

"Understood, Mr. Jomra. You are free to call me Enid when you are comfortable with that, and I will call you Alex from that point on."

"Thank you, Ma'am."

"I have no proper name in human terms, so L'Tira is my full given name, Enid," said L'Tira.

"And mine is Roger, nickname, preferred to my given name that only gets used in official records," said Arrivan.

"So, about the M-Series, why did your great grandfather go through 5 cycles of systems? What was his aim?", asked Arrivan.

"From all I have read, I think I can give the outline of the M-Series. The series was to be a real-time starship control system driven by computational construct. This was considered 'novel' research, not 'basic or applied' by the Fleet. Great granddad wrote a nice paper on the computational limits of duotronic software, even with quantum system design added in. That is still considered the basis for modern multitronic systems, but the faults given for duotronic ones are also present in the multitronic design concept. That is, perhaps, the most often cited work in the field for design architecture in computational systems. StarFleet, however, does not like letting out awards and then getting back a paper showing that it can't be done. Especially after the Vulcan Science Academy, MIT, Stanford and Andorian Consortia looked at it and verified its contents."

"We have a whole documents section for those, it is amazing what StarFleet has asked for only to have it come back: can't be done, and here is why," said L'Tira, "It forms an integral part of the 'negative thesis' view of science and has its own structure that theoreticians have worked out for all scientific endeavors."

Everyone chuckled at the 'If the Fleet asks for it, 30% of the time it can't be done' thesis.

"The next part was the 'basic & applied' part, where Richard Daystrom got the contract for the first full AI system based on the new multitronic design. Other designers were already working feverishly within the limitations that great granddad had published and garnered awards and visibility based on that fundamental understanding of those multitronic limitations. The first psycho-components for such things as personality re-creation, the heart of today's AI systems for things like the Holodeck, are all derived from the limitations of the entire multitronic design. That and the fact the system runs fast enough not to give an appearance to humans that it is an entire suite of calculations with quantum matrices to give that appearance of 'real' AI. For all the glamor it is software doing that."

Nods from around the table, "Even the 'actualized' and 'self-independent' simulacra that have come out of things like the Holodeck are still based on the multitronic capability. A self-running 'Holo Doc' is still an extremely complex field program, for all its appearances of personality: it has evolutionary algorithms to adapt to circumstances and even 'grow' within limitations," said Jomra.

"Great grandfather had a different idea for the M-Series. He reasoned that the main problem with ship control is that the system was not an integral part of the ship. For all biological systems, the interaction between that biological basis and the cognitive portion is key for sudden re-configurations of thoughts and outlooks. If you could make the control system act at the organic rate of the ship, and self-control and adapt its own systems, then the ship would need less crew and the M-Series would react far faster than any biological system. That was the basis for the contract that started at M-1."

The small design sub-system in its structural container showed on the display, and then parts were removed and identified.

"One of the first things was to encapsulate software into hardware design, and that was full multitronic with some small quantum sub-systems for adaptability. It could not control even the simulation of a shuttlecraft because the basic software was unable to do anything more than just gain the individual readouts on a continuous basis. One of the most vital pieces in understanding M-5 is in M-1 as I have talked with a few theoreticians and can't seem to get the point across. Great grandfather's own paper said that a multitronic system couldn't handle this data load, and while it failed as a small scale controller, it succeeded in making sense of its inputs. Overall failure appeared to overcome minimal success, and that is when the talk of great grandfather 'being past his prime' for new conceptual generation started. It nearly closed down the contract, too."

L'Tira looked puzzled, "Gone beyond his theory? But thats... what...?"

"There are very minimal notes on M-1 as great grandfather was moving forward to M-2, and the only real insight is 'encapsulated matrix design'. Which is, apparently, gibberish to the CS and engineering communities, even today." A number of notes and other documents pointed to M-1 on the display. "Great grandfather was trying to take a step to a different computer platform away from multitronics, and it is housed in M-1's basis. There are just a few components found in M-1, like.." a schematic of sub-system within the circuitry came up, "... this modular memory module, used in real time display systems like the one displaying this stuff, that were part of the circuit dedicated to 'adaptive refresh'. While the encoding going on can be figured out and analyzed, what is happening inside the substrate of the module is not clear because it has a quantum feedback from the main system. And if you can't explain the 'how'..."

"... it isn't science! Oh how I hate that saying!" said L'Tira.

"Great grandfather preferred results, not theory, although he was fine with that, too. M-2 was to build on that understanding and he did a thorough front-to-back redesign to make a 'higher level integrated capability with oversight regeneration'. M-2 would also fail, although this time it was not an absolute failure like that of M-1: great grandfather had, apparently, re-invented the real time scale readout for all ship's systems and it could even modulate them within given parameters for each system. Basically a multitronic controller without the multitronic part doing any real controlling. He was... mmmm... 'dissatisfied with the results' but then went on to examine personality and latent mental functions while designing M-3. He utilized 'engram analysis' from the then available literature which served as a basis for human cognitive understanding and from there on out the emotional part of all the people who studied this stuff went off the scale. But his research couldn't be understood for multitronic systems by anyone."

"Even the Vulcans?" asked Jomra.

"Look at all the VSA papers and documents on M-3. There were no less than 100 in the AI field alone, and similar amounts from MIT and other groups. Great grandfather really couldn't explain what he was trying to accomplish after the incident with M-5, and his notes and research point to a different way of approaching AI that nobody liked then or now. I've read a number of VSA documents in my own field and have learned to figure out when someone is being harshly criticized: great grandfather got that full-on after M-5. Which is why he spent his time whiling away his hours with multitronic systems only."

"And a few years after his death everyone was utilizing engrams in CS to describe everything in AI", Arrivan said,"Still, I take it that how Dr. Daystrom did it was not the same way that everyone else would do it, as none of the multitronic control systems in M-3 are in any way similar to modern control systems."

L'Tira was looking at the actual design images and getting the analysis papers along with Richard Daystrom's notes, "Then there are the things that don't belong in a system like this, like a Heisenberg compensator. I thought that was only for transporters?"

"It is the first anomaly to show up in the M-Series: starting with M-3 the system cannot be transported when turned on. It is literally impossible to get a transporter lock on it, and it even causes feedback to a transporter system nullifying the carrier. It even required a recheck after having a transporter used on it."

"You can't use the transporter on it?" asked Jomra.

"Not when turned on, no. That single circuit, alone," Enid brought up the subsidiary documents,"has over 300 papers devoted to it, 100 of which are pure engineering and no one can figure out why that works like it does as there is not a single other transporter related circuit in the entire schematic of M-3 through 5. And everything that could be done to isolate the effect was done and it only shows up with the full control structure of M-3. Which failed."

"How did it fail?", asked Arrivan.

"The M-3 was the first system to exhibit any signs of actual coherent programming for ship control and it failed in a way that was unexpected if understandable. When it was put into a simulator, it quickly announced that it could not properly handle all systems and then shut down."

The Ensigns looked at each other, this was obviously not a normal thing for any computer to normally do.

"Great grandfather was a bit amused at this and, instead of a full ship simulator they started at the other end with a space probe simulator and moved up. That worked, so did it work with a guidance system to a photon torpedo and then it failed at the one man shuttlecraft simulator. The team did try a few other platforms, even a theoretical automated ship, but none of them worked. M-3 had a limit on what it could handle."

"This brings me to our third objective: test to make sure all the M-Series equipment actually does work as it did when it was first made, save for M-5. I take it we can get ship simulations done here?"

Jomra nodded, "Yes, Ma'am, standard for our engineering and ship systems section, just about anything save the first few craft ever made can be precisely simulated."

"Thank you, Ensign Jomra, I had expected something like that here, considering the variety of material that flows through here. Do any of you have a good POC for engineering beyond the head of the department? I would like some suggestions, because this will obviously need someone who would be willing to volunteer for something like this."

"Ensign Enak Varda, he should enjoy something like this, he went through the Andorian Consortia system as an undergrad equivalent before moving to StarFleet," said L'Tira.

The other two nodded, "Plus he enjoys Orionid puzzles, like the Lafitte-T'nga inference game, which is the closest thing you can get to being an unexplainable math game ever created. Scored fourth in the fleet last year, placing above a whole contingent of players who have been at it for decades," Arrivan said.

"Great! Can't make head or tails of those outside of the molecular biology specialty puzzles and those almost require a decent computer for final solution," Enid said.

On the table display system the M-3 faded and the M-4 came up.

"That brings us to M-4, the last of the devices before M-5 and the first to demonstrate real promise for shipboard control systems. Like M-3 it would fail due to a level of complexity problem, but this was a linear time-based systemic lock-up. It was the first of the series to ever test out on a full Heavy Cruiser simulation of a Constitution class cruiser. For all of 3 minutes. Just as the simulation was about to switch to warp drive, the M-4 locked up. It did handle a second round of simulations of pure normal space cruising, planetary orbiting and even able to raise shields and deflectors, but it would prove unable to handle combat management of the ship itself. The team moved down through the old Republic class of cruisers, which had received refits over time, as well as the Bon Homme class. That proved do be very instructive as both those ship classes had similar configurations, at least for updated designs, but stepping back into less sophisticated systems allowed the M-4 to demonstrate adaptability and it would actually be able to take a Bon Homme class ship into very limited warp drive for a minute or so."

"Not completely successful, as your great grandfather said, that must have been frustrating for him," said Arrivan.

"Yes, it was. He took a few months off to try and figure a way around the M-4 limitations as a few tweaks and tinkering on some side issues like memory or refining data input hadn't helped more than fractionally. M-4, for all it could do, was a highly limited system and, by that point, a few years into the M-Series, brought up some serious questions about his own abilities and that, perhaps, the M-Series was not the way to go. And this is where the notes and such kept by my family come into play, " she took out her personal system and placed it on the table and the display integrated a timeline of documents, notes and designs along the M-5 system schematics.

"That was a busy few months!" said L'Tira.

Checking his personal reader, Jomra scrolled down the list, "Freud, Jung, Myers-Briggs, Raup, Sepkoski, Gould, Einstein, Heisenberg, Feynman, Von Neumann, Kurzweil... back to the 19th century for some of this... and annotated! What was he looking for?"

"Well, who better to explain that than great granddad himself? Computer, document 3711, Daystrom, Home." Hovered in the display.

"Working." said the computer.

The M-5 schematics shifted down and smaller as well as the research list. The words 'Daystrom Home Journal, entry 3711' flashed and then Richard Daystrom appeared, apparently at home with a view from a kitchen with door and exterior deck behind him. Dr. Daystrom's complexion was strong, his hair a bit unkempt, and some lines of stress under the eyes and in his face gave lie to the relaxed demeanor of the entry.

"Journal entry 3711, Daystrom, private, M-Series. The main problem with the M-4 has been its inability to integrate engrammatic structure completely with its memory sub-systems. Adding memory is only incremental in a way of a solution and the amount needed for a year voyage would be the mass of an entire starship. That says to me that the biological model, overall, is good, but the cognitive model is lacking in sophistication. I had hoped that engram stabilizers plus light quanta integration would add the complexity needed in M-4, but that just isn't working. What is needed is a higher order of mental capability that represents, in computer ability, what humans have in our biological capability. Using the Gould Dictum - 'what isn't a good description at one level may be satisfactory at a larger or smaller scale' - it is time to refresh that early background as the amount of work the 23rd century has missed from that early era indicates an explosion of knowledge, but only some of which was applicable to a given problem. So what is right for biological systems may not serve for computer systems at a proposed scale, but may do so on a computational basis at a different scale. It is 'back to basics' for a month or two. End entry." The figure of Richard Daystrom cut off with the end date flash and the M-5 plus listing moved back into view.

"That explains the reading, I assume he had actually read much of this years prior to the M-Series work?", asked Arrivan.

Enid Daystrom nodded, "He had, look at his published work citation list for outbound citations..." a list of citations for all published works, fiction and non-fiction, that Richard Daystrom had contributed began to scroll over the M-5 schematics, "... he was a stickler for research attribution which was why he felt others were building on his work without giving proper credit. He had always felt that the citation allows others to check your background understanding and make sure that you were properly using that material, which is a common basis for understanding new work. I'm sure you have each done research projects, and have utilized the fleet standard look-up system, right?"

Each of the others nodded.

"Have you ever worked the idea-search, which is put in an idea that crosses your mind and the system does a complete indexing of everyone else who has documented that same idea?"

"Yes, I've done it for day dreams and even dreams, its a very interesting experience to see how your dreams actually do represent various ideas your mind is working on during sleep," said Jomra.

"That idea-based cognitive search was done by great granddad, and it is more than just a simple look-up or taxonomic search as it derives multiple ideas from your search, re-parses them, cross-indexes them, then takes that result and does the same thing again and puts a final sieve of your personal experience on it based on your personality profile. He created that to allow himself, mostly, to quickly find the base ideas he works with and give attribution, although the profile sieve is generic to any profile. And a base-search still utilizes a generic profile per age, species, planet of origin and sophistication of query. It was his first work after the M-Series because, as he said, 'there should be no excuse for not properly citing prior work'. Now, of course, the lazy student just puts in their paper and gets a compendium of prior works which they then weed out and down, and that weeding gets added to their profile and the next set are pre-sieved for the individual."

There were some glances around the table and trying to not look at the central display.

"Hey, I've done it!" said Enid, "Great granddad actually intended it just for the lazy student, because the moment a proper instructor looks at that list they can pull up the co-list of basic questions to ask about the texts. Even better is all the previously done work either publicly or privately for that class are added in to start picking out anomalies. Most researchers stop doing that, of course, although new texts will get pulled up and flagged so that they know when they cite works they haven't read. It is a very good system, and actually aids learning and its expansion is still supported by the Daystrom Institute."

"Well, it is a fun way to find out just who you are repeating," said L'Tira,"still that is after the M work. Enid, you said that there was more work that StarFleet may not have gotten, an 'M-5 Final', are there any clues as to what that is?"

Enid nodded, "Yes, in overview what great granddad started out doing was to create a good feedback system into a multitronic software component, so that it would cut down computational lag for ship control. He had tried to use his unique design work to allow the software to design and expand itself via the modular memory module system. That hadn't worked, so he shifted attention upwards in the system trying to get that ship control capability at a higher level, but found that as the internal self-design software got more complex the entire design needed abstraction of lower level functions. By the time he got to M-5 he had a complete set of higher level engram encapsulated self-design software that had a fully abstracted and multitronic computerized layer for ship interaction. He recognized that something was not working properly, however. Here, let me pull up his final report on the M-5 test on the USS Grant."

"USS Grant? Hadn't M-5 been tested on the Enterprise?" asked Jomra.

"It had," Enid said as she shifted through her files,"but like all good engineering he had to demonstrate it on a static testbed, which is where M1 through 4 all failed. Although 'static test' for M-4 on the USS Grant meant the ship actually was fully operational. Or at least enough to get M-5 demonstrated. Here..."

"On the display showed M-5 Testbed Report, Final, Richard Daystrom. Summary."

A more harried Richard Daystrom appeared on the display system as the schematics shifted down and out of focus.

"The M-5 system has demonstrated ship control and function capability, and passed its test targeting for weapons and defense systems. All engram systems appear stable with minor shifts due to self-programming and interfacing with the abstraction system. Some anomalous results appeared when M-2 was accidentally left on during the test and the M-5 had problems in utilizing spacial orientation until M-2 was shut off, at which point interference with the abstraction system disappeared. That is worth further lab test, but nothing that will hold up the full scale acceptance test phase of M-5. StarFleet has signed off on this and all that is needed is an operational vessel for fleet tests and acceptance. In the interim I will see what caused the interference when the M-2 unit was left on."

"Summary Ends."

"Great granddad didn't have long between the USS Grant and Enterprise tests, as Star Fleet wanted to close this contract out. It is in that period that he started to draft the M-5 Final System and it is little more than a few sketches, a set of rough schematics and very little in the way of actual material. All of that is in the downloads on your personal systems and that includes scans of hardcopy, which I have the originals with me. The basic timeline..." the display went to a short timeline display"... shows M-5 lab return, and then a proposed return to the USS Grant in three to four weeks for M-5 Final integration and testing."

"That never happened, did it?" asked Arrivan.

"It didn't. That is where all the after-documents come in by the best minds of the Federation puzzling over just what happened to M-5. As we know from the various reports, M-5 committed suicide to the point where all internal programming was wiped out: there was nothing to test on the unit, M-5 had killed itself. When turned on it will only signal power in the unit, no software of any sort is present. All attempts to re-create it failed, also: nothing was bringing M-5 back."

"Nothing?" whispered Jomra.

"Believe me, for over five years StarFleet, VSA, MIT, Andorian Consortium... they all failed. Not even the barest flicker of any programming activity going on in M-5, even when all the memory modules were removed, replicated and the duplicates re-initialized with original backups. Then the originals. Everyone was at a loss, and great granddad couldn't pin his finger on anything as his balanced mental state would not dredge up much of anything past M-2, and even that was traumatic for him."

"But its just a computer," said Arrivan, "surely something must have worked?"

"That brings us to point 4 - just how *did* M-5 actually get programmed and, if as every post-mortem indicates it was an unstable system, exactly *why* was it unstable? Was it, as most suggest, a systemic problem, or great granddad's engrams, or some combination? I am, actually, not proposing to get the original M-5 with great granddad's engrams up and working, but some idea on why it went unstable would be a help."

"Do you actually expect us to succeed on that?" asked Arrivan, "I mean we are just Ensigns, after all, and the best minds in the Federation put themselves through a lot trying to get M-5 working..."

Enid Daystrom smiled, "Actually, no, and I don't have forever to work on this project, either. But I will point out that all of you have the great benefit of being young, inventive, meticulous in your work and some interest in past history. That is why you are all here, aren't you? Beyond marking time to ship assignments, that is."

L'Tira chuckled and nodded slightly, "True, and I think this will be fun! I mean we get to bother basically everyone around here for this, which is something that we just don't get in everyday work. I mean we have engineering, psychodynamics, computer sciences, cognitive research, ship system design... why its nearly endless!"

"And what about M-5 Final, Ms. Daystrom?" asked Jomra.

"That is the last point, Mr. Jomra, if we can get some insight into how M-5 actually worked, we just might get an idea of what the last ideas of great granddad were for it. A contingent point, but you never know, great granddad had very little system fabrication time laid out for M-5 Final, so he must have had some good direction to go in. He just never had time to record it all... when he was busy he took lousy notes. About his only failure in actual design work is that he only explained it fully once something was up and running. Instead we have his hazy outline that wasn't even fully fleshed out."

"So if I get this right the basic outline is: inventory and check items to make sure they match spec, as items 1 &2. Item 3 test the entire M-Series for functionality to figure out item 4, programming of M-5. And if we can do all that, item 5 becomes figuring out M-5 Final. Fair summary?" asked Arrivan.

"Yes it is, Roger, and I know we will need some cognitive sciences and psycho-sciences work, also, as great granddad's systems used his engram profiles. I really don't have a handle on that for the work you do here. Do you have contacts here for that, or is that something that we will need to get outside help on?"

"Enid, if it is just standard work-ups of the era and seeing how they fit with the programming, we should be able to get someone from computer forensics or one of the staff psychometricians who review ship and personal logs for historical review. Patti Dubois would probably be interested in that, as she is very fond of some of the personality types that have been found in computer equipment. Like that defense system left by the Kalandans." said L'Tira.

"That sounds good, and a contact with the forensics team should probably on-board, too, for documenting the systems once we take them out of storage."

"Miss Daystrom, I can probably handle getting the contacts as I know a few of the central staff pretty well. And the forensics team would be involved pretty easily as they would normally be available if we were doing this for the fleet. Since there is a contract between the station and you, I assume that you are giving the fleet access to the material we find?"

"Most definitely! For me the work and seeing that great grandfather's work and reputation are finally put to rest and closing out his estate are the priorities. I don't want to close the estate and just donate the equipment to a museum, as he believed, even in his deteriorating state of mind, that there was something in his work and we do have proof he knew what he was doing."

"We do?" L'Tira asked.

"Of course we do," Arrivan said, "the deaths on the USS Excalibur are proof enough that M-5 worked. We just have to avoid that sort of result."

"As I'm more into species level interaction and not cognitive interaction, all I can say is that great grandfather was extremely talented, even if unstable by the time of creating M-5. So I am leery of working with the material just as he left it, that is a bit... much for me to want to revive. Well, an alternative might come up as we are going through the M systems. I think we can conclude this meeting with you three coordinating for personnel through Mr. Jomra, and looking a bit more at what was actually used to test the M-Series. It is unlikely that any of the original equipment is still around, especially the simulators, but it should be pretty easy to replicate up duplicates or adapt modern systems. If the pallet is safe in the CS area, then perhaps we should look to reconvene in two days? That should get time for any fielding of questions between sections, which I can handle, while you three are sounding out individuals and looking for the test equipment... and perhaps I should talk directly with the forensics section as I really do want the unpacking done up to all standards?"

"Commander Korvos is who you want to there, Enid, he runs a tight section but should have a hand or two for documenting and cataloging equipment in-situ, and then someone to spare on the engineering side as we go along. Probably as-needed."

"Wonderful, and thank you L'Tira, Roger, Mr. Jomra! You should all have my personal contact authorization and don't hesitate if you need me. I'm used to that and shouldn't be handling any hostile life forms as is my usual stock and trade."

"Ah, just what is your specialty, Ma'am?"

"Megafauna predators, normally, Mr. Jomra. Carbon-based, although I have done some carbano-silicate ones. Nothing smaller than wolverines, really."

"That's your specialty?" asked Arrivan.

"Yes," she said smiling, "so an unruly officer in StarFleet is something I should be able to handle, if need be. Still, I will take any ecosystem impacts into account before collecting specimens."

They all smiled at that.

"Two days, then?"

Nods and agreement by the three Ensigns.

"All right, meeting adjourned. Next one in two days, and a larger conference room, probably the one down the hall if I can snag it."


The next meeting in two days was much expanded, with a larger conference room, table, and a cross-section of people from the various specialties of the StarFleet Archive Section, Equipment Division, Mars Branch.

"Have I missed anyone?" asked Enid Daystrom. Looking around the room she was a bit put back, only seeing the three familiar faces of the Ensigns close to her and then a mixture of races and fleet sections in what had become a 12 person team, herself included.

"Welcome to the M-5 Group! This is the second meeting of this group and I am really quite stunned at the capability that StarFleet has here. For most of you this is an off-hours working group, and I know many of you work together during normal hours which is a real good help, as I only have a few ideas outlined in the first meeting and which each of you now have in your personal data stores. Really, I hadn't come to expect to do this much and I thank StarFleet for its on-hours that will be devoted to this project, even if that is not much as such things go. I saw that the original destination for M-5, after a quick check-over was the storehouse on the surface and that no one really expected me to show up with great grandfather's original contract. But it is in my care and I intend to do final justice to his work, good or ill, so that we can finally lay his estate to rest and close the books on his life. The M-Series was, he told everyone while he worked on it, revolutionary beyond Multitronics. Apparently many didn't think so at the time... you have their reports. If that is so, then it is what I have lived with all my life and, really, expect no better. But, as my great grandfather and having contributed so much to helping the sciences in his final years, I feel that familial honor must lay M-5 to rest once and for all. We have seen many events over the intervening decades, from the V'Ger event to the Borg to running across multiple sentient computational systems, and yet none have been designed along the lines of the M-Series. So, today, I am really here to act as coordinator and allow each of you to work at your areas of specialty. Most of you have been in contact with me or one of the First Team of L'Tira, Mr. Jomra or Mr. Arrivan. For this project there is no rank to be pulled: I am the one handing out assignments and expect each of you to cooperate as a flat team. With that I will turn Phase 1 over to our forensics team contact, Miss D'gorna..."

"Thank you, Enid!" Miss D'gorna stood up, a slim member of one of the smaller humanoid races near the Romulan Neutral Zone, with some apparent Vulcanoid features but those lost in the subtle red hues of her skin, "I'm from the Forensics Team and all of you know me and the team pretty well, and we will be directing Phase 1 of uncrating the M units, inventorying them, checking for any storage and in-transit damage, and then assisting each of you with your specialties in the other phases. Whenever pieces need to be removed for replication or for forensic analysis of software or hardware, we will be the ones to call on. The original workers had replicated much equipment already and that, too, is part of the inventory process and many of you will be working with those items or freshly replicated ones and not original material. Apparently this is one of those things that wouldn't matter normally, but with the M-Series the late Dr. Daystrom had left specific instructions about not trying to use replicated materials without proper safeguards... he never did tell anyone what those safeguards were. We spent the last day and half going over his materials and I've looked at his personal works and nothing of a hint as to what replication did to his equipment that makes it non-useable."

"Miss D'gorna?"

"Yes, Roger?"

"Did any of the previous researchers try to work with replicated materials?"

"That they did, and they saw no difference between original or replicated materials with M-5."

"Just M-5?"

Miss D'gorna smiled, "Now you are catching on to something! I dug a bit deeper and found that not a single research team had tried to replicate any of the parts from other M units. Even the personal papers of initial investigations of the original M unit failures does more than a few cursory notes that..." she looked down at her personal viewer,"... 'memory modules that have been replicated need recalibration before installation'. That was looked into, and deeply, but no one could figure out why that recalibration was necessary, just that the unit, M-3, failed to initialize if they weren't."

"Recalibrated? Did they say how, Miss D'gorna?"

"Enak! Glad they roped you into this! That is something that is never specifically stated, save for 'test system on the Grant' or 'auxiliary unit on the Grant' or even 'Daystrom Labs recalibration procedure'. That last is one of the earliest reports on M-3 and the later from M-4 and M-5 tests. Whatever it was, it wasn't shipped with the rest of the materials into storage, so it was, presumably, something relatively common or easily provided by the late Dr. Daystrom."

"So there is something missing from all this?" asked Enid.

"Yes, Enid, we had talked about it earlier and I looked into it and nothing like a recalibration unit or set procedure was specified in any documents just referred to a handful of times. Just like the missing 'safeguards' in his instructions. Gone missing after the original incident and follow-on, and he couldn't remember what they were. This is particularly frustrating to the forensics team as we are used to dealing with replicated pieces as a matter of course, and we appear to be severely limited in that with this until we know better what is going on."

"That has to be it, then, for this project: limited replication and safe tracking of all pieces that have not been previously replicated. Can you do that for us, Miss D'gorna?"

"Happy to! I'll work with security on that and get a containment system put in place. This will be at the CS labs? Or elsewhere?"

"Bay 3, Miss D'gorna, the CS department requisitioned a full bay from the analysis area since they have no large scale projects going on." said Arrivan.

"Even easier! I'll contact security to set it up and get the admit list from you, Enid."

"Any other questions for Miss D'gorna? No? Great and thank you! Enak? You will be handling phase 2."

The tall Andorian stood up. "Most of you know me, Enak Varda, engineering the systems integration group. As Miss Daystrom has me in charge of phase 2, the full stand up of each of the M-Series I will be working closely with each of you for your specialties. Particularly the CS department's Roger Arrivan, but also with Patti DuBois to help in determining the latter M-Series units and members of our in-house ships systems simulations group. That would appear to be critical in testing out the M-Series and we have the detailed specifications of how the simulations were done in the late Dr. Daystrom's work. We can improve substantially on that, of course, but ensuring that nothing has gone awry during this period of time requires original specifications work. Our group will be the ones to help transition the work to the next group for full assessment of programming and some original programming work when necessary. Any worries during this phase please go through me, especially needs for test and eval equipment. I'm tackling that special problem for the initialization of Memory Modules and how they integrated into the system and the intended ship. Really, no one has done anything like this since the late Dr. Daystrom's time as it is unusual. And our department has put together a special team to tackle the, ah, M-3 mystery of why the compensators stop lock-on by transporters."

"Are there any questions? Yes, Patti?"

"In reviewing the documents its apparent that Richard Daystrom used his own psyche profile, and yet that full document is missing from all the work. There are pieces and sub-sections relating to various parts of the last M-Series units, but a full work-up is missing. Are you the one I should go through to get that?"

"I think I have to turn that over to Enid Daystrom, Miss Daystrom?"

"Great grandfather apparently saw fit to wipe those from the M-Series documents. However, his medical records are under the control of the estate and I can easily get them for you. I just have to head down to the base secure communications area to contact my representative. I hadn't thought to include them, but if you need any of his personal medical records, do let me know. He had stipulated privacy, but this was contract work concerning his mental capability, so those are pertinent and vital to this work."

"Thank you, Miss Daystrom," said Enak, "any other questions? Yes, Mr. Jomra?"

"Not a question, really, but I was wondering, if the simulations are lacking something, is there a physical testbed that can be used instead of a simulation?"

Enak Varda smiled, "I had actually anticipated that, Mr. Jomra, as the M-5, and really the entire M-Series was to be put on a heavy cruiser for full evaluation, I am going through SFHQ to see if there is an engineering testbed available. It seems a shame that the Jovian Graveyard is so close and yet we can't utilize it for historical work such as this. Perhaps this might get someone off a padded seat at SFHQ and help us a bit with this. I will be going through our Base Captain for the request."

"A CA? Won't that be hard to get?"

"Ah, Mr. Jervis, from the physics section, if memory serves?"

"Oh, yes, physics and spatial physics in regards to ship design and dynamics. We are a cross-over department between the pure physics and engineering section. We don't get to do much of this sort of work, but obscure ship systems that control warp drive units is something of a specialty of mine, well, hobby really. But our section has tried to get a ship for out system observations of historical events and have had no luck in over a decade of trying. Even just a frigate would do."

"I do understand your frustration, Mr. Jervis, having been a sign-off on at least three of those requisitions. This time, if I may be so bold, we do have a difference."

Mr. Jervis, a bit on the overweight side, but not physically unfit, looked at Enak who looked at Miss Daystrom.

"The name Daystrom carries weight with it. Sad to say, of course, but its not what you know..."

Mr. Jervis smiled, "I do understand, who is on the petition, especially someone who has a natural association with the Institute..."

"A familial position only, really, I don't have any say in affairs there..."

"Be that as it may, Miss Daystrom, it is there as a fact. And the Daystrom Prizes, of course..."

"And I have no say in those, either, its done by committee just like the Nobels are..."

"So, Mr. Jervis, we just might be able to get something a bit more regular worked up, even if it is with the Engineering Corps cast-offs."

A slight chuckle and murmur from private words exchanged went around the room.

"There are times when being born a Daystrom has its disadvantages..." Enid whispered softly.

"Any other questions? No? Enid?"

"That brings us up to the end product of this which will under Mr. Arrivan and L'Tira, along with Patti DuBois to figure out. Have you three gotten this worked out between you?"

"Yes, Enid," L'Tira said standing,"as Roger will be busy trying to implement the work that Patti finds, I will get the fun of helping a few of the engineers, physicists, and assorted others in working to get M-5 into an operational state. This does have some problems, as M-5 self-wiped due to its actions during the ship trials. Richard Daystrom left very scanty notes on exactly how he went about programming M-5 and even less on what his 'Final' was supposed to be. I hope that those left on the project by then will have a good working knowledge of the systems... and if we do get a physical testbed... then Enak you will have to help us in the move, set-up and installation. I am inter-group liaison, is what it comes down to."

"I think the proper term is that she is my XO," said Enid.

"Thats me!" L'Tira said brightly,"So I hope we can keep the X-ing and O-ing down. I know most of you and, I don't want to be out of line, but there are a few minor conflicts between departments, not that I intend to talk about family matters in front of guests," she glanced at Enid Daystrom who smiled a bit,"so lets keep that to the departmental staff meetings, ok?" She looked around the room,"General consensus out there? Please?"

Various people sounded off with 'yes', 'sure', 'aye' and so forth.

"No Fleet family matters in this group once we get that far. I'm not really a specialist and getting something way beyond my rank in the Fleet, but I like Enid, think M-5 is a great project and really want to see what it was that Richard Daystrom had in mind. Look, I've been on a couple of smaller groups for things much larger than this size wise, and really love this sort of work. So when we get to the last stage, our mind has to be on M-5, not squabbles on budget and assignments. This isn't about you, but the dead on-board the Excalibur, done by the creation of a man looking to save lives in the Fleet. It is for our dead comrades that we can seek to lay this to rest once and for all."

There was a general silence, a few very shocked faces realizing for the first time just what it was they were going to be doing. Mr. Jomra and a few others had their heads down in prayer or meditation.

"For the Excalibur," whispered Enak.

"For the Excalibur," said Mr. Jervis.

"Yes, for the Excalibur, may her dead rest in peace once and for all," said L'Tira, "you all understand, now?"

Nods from around the room in assent, Mr. Jomra lifted his head and quietly said 'yes'.

Enid stood up,"For the Excalibur, may the Fleet come to forgive my great grandfather for his transgressions."

L'Tira turned to Enid,"I think we can, Enid, many have decades back, that remember this."

"Thank, you, L'Tira. If there are no other questions, I will hand the group off to my XO and Miss D'gorna. We will be breaking up into working groups after this, but a weekly session amongst the groups should help a lot. One week, this room, same time, if I can get it."

"No other questions or concerns? Then this meeting is adjourned."


"This is the third meeting of the M-5 group, and thank you for everyone that could make it! Mr. Jervis and Miss Lorimar are out on assignment, and Mr. Jomra is nursing a cold, but I am glad he can still make the meeting. Luckily neither of those not here have concerns to bring up at this meeting, so I will turn it over directly to Miss D'gorna. Grace, if you would?"

"Thank you, Enid! As phase 1 has the progress report, let me update everyone. All of the M-Series units have been uncrated in the secured Bay. For that the group sent its compliments to the Captain Bartholomew and Lt. Cmdr. Rogath, along with a dinner attended by any who could make it. And we also brought in Lt. Esdra from SFC for a public look-back at the M-Series units. Which, while the outcome of the entire M-Series was pointed out, the greater contributions of Dr. Richard Daystrom and the Institute were given center stage."

"Grace, if I may?"

"Of course, Enid."

"My special thanks to L'Tira and Enak, they are the ones who designed the jackets and emblems you have for off-hours wear, as well as the logo featuring the Excalibur! 'We Do Not Forget' I believe sums it up quite well, and I understand that at SFHQ having such things is a tradition, dating back to pre-space flight teams. In our own way we are also doing research, and my thanks to both for their work. Especially as no one informed me of the Public Affairs interview until a few hours beforehand."

"Black Bart strikes again!" whispered Arrivan.

"I am coming to understand that phrase, now... sorry about that Grace, back to you."

"My pleasure, Enid, and my thanks also to L'Tira and Enak, they have no given us something that is something just enough different to make a few people envious. But that we can handle out at staff meetings, let me assure you."

A few chuckles here and there, 'biolabs are peeved' someone whispered.

"Oh, hush, Roger. Enid has already given them a presentation on Vulcanid carnivores seen on Estes V, so they shouldn't be that upset, especially as it is pre-publish work. For once they have an inside track on things to start requesting. Now back to where I was..."

"We have completed the unpacking of the M-Series units and have done a full set of scans prior to internal examinations. All of the units were well packed and conform to pre-pack specifications and data, so there is nothing of concern on that end. All of the manifests have also been checked against originals that Enid brought with her, that did set back a few people... how many paper based manifest lists are there, these days? I haven't seen one in forensics for at least 7 years."

"Next up we checked on all replicated items on the list done by prior researchers, and that includes a complete M-1 and M-2 unit that were discarded once all studies were done. Their whereabouts are unknown, but most likely thrown into the disposal systems for atomic breakdown. A complete manifest of everything that is 'safe for replication' is now in your data stores, just make sure to not go overboard with that as they are all confined to this working group and Bay 3."

"Any questions so far?"

"Did original source programming code come along with the systems?", asked Arrivan.

"Let me see..." Miss D'gorna checked her personal system,"... we have complete code for M-1 through 3, variant and integration code for M-4 and 5. It should be noted that the M-5 source code was judged 'unable to operate in M-5' by no less than four independent studies. So take the M-5 work with a grain of salt as something just isn't right there. They checked against design modifications and other source material and were unable to get any of the M-5 code to work, including the most basic and unchanged code for the normal duotronic and multitronic systems on it. So I would say that you have your work cut out for you, Roger. Plus nothing Enid brought even hints at alternative source code being around anywhere."

"But M-5 worked with it!"

"It did, indeed, Lothar, but whatever happened when M-5 wiped itself was one of the most thorough jobs ever done by any system I have ever seen come through here. Believe me, I've seen forensics on a lot of systems that went out one way or another, and it has always been possible to coax something back in them. Even that ancient Moskadic probe that USS Sutana ran across, even that we could get back to some condition once we got the phase shift interlock key going again. M-5 is much more stubborn than that, and yet all its material designs look to be in perfect order. Even when two previous teams replaced the non-responsive sub-systems, and very simple ones for things like power management, M-5 would not respond. They did put the originals back in place, but I don't consider those 'safe for replication' because of the failure. I've re-indexed the previous analyses, because they were thorough and it should be a relevant search for your questions on that. Stanford, MIT and VSA all failed to get M-5 up and operational, which I think is a testament to the late Dr. Daystrom."

"He was frustrated no end, really, even had to be taken off of consultation for a year or so because of that as it threatened his mental stability," Enid said.

Grace D'gorna nodded, "He was a good man and I am coming to respect his talents in a way I never had before, Enid. The M-Series are truly remarkable in many ways."

Enid Daystrom smiled and nodded her head, saying "Thank you," softly.

"Now on to something more interesting, that even Enid may not have known! It appears that SFHQ had a secondary contract on further development of M-1 and M-2 as emergency ship return systems. That only showed up by a late-term Request For Change in the prime contract while M-4 was under design/development. That was the only instance of it mentioned in the prime contract, and it has taken awhile to actually go after those documents as they are not included in those things sent from SFHQ. I've routed a request for that documentation through Records at SFC and Mem Gamma. The preliminaries is that a sub-team assigned by Dr. Daystrom worked with SFHQ on this under SFHQ, not Dr. Daystrom's team. That is why it's documentation isn't here with the M-Series, as the Fleet felt that this RFC Contract break-out was something separate from the M-Series itself."

"What?" asked Enid, "My great grandfather's work was supposed to be under his purview."

"Yes, it was unless he authorized a waiver, which he did for the M-1 and 2 variant development systems. Those documents were held out from the follow-on analysis teams after M-5 as it was a still active contract and under SFHQ safeguard by the Fleet Engineering Corps. What they could not do was actually take M-1 or M-2 out of the prime contract and had waivers for test development cycles. That is interesting as it places all of the M-Series on the USS Grant simultaneously which is also something overlooked by previous teams, although the MIT group did look at the M-2 and M-5 incident, but came to no conclusion except, and I quote, '... the M-2 system had not been switched to power down and M-5 could not integrate ships systems with M-2', end quote."

"That is an odd way to phrase it."

"Yes it is, Enak, very strange. MIT is usually much better at these things, but they also got the follow-on contract along with the Tellerite Wayfaring Organization and so there may have been some difficulties as the observer was a Tellerite."

"I think that about wraps it up for the week, Enid."

"Thank you Grace! Enak?"

"Thank you, Enid. Phase 2 is starting its pre-ramp up phase, and we have most of the test and eval equipment rounded up. Most of it is to ensure that the equipment works, identify and possible failure areas and work with Grace to start the replication process on those things that can be safely replicated. We have turned up no clue as to what the initialization process or equipment was that is referenced for the memory modules. I'm having a few people try and track down some personal logs by those that worked on the project with the late Dr. Daystrom, but so far that has turned up nothing of value. As the M-1 and 2 variant project is of interest, we are also assisting Grace in putting out inquiries on that... as you know Fleet work for some matters, especially unsuccessful contracts and work can often be... ah... misplaced. Inquiries to Mem Gamma are also going out for the public records, of course, and any public donated records by individuals."

"Any progress at looking at M-3?" asked Roger Arrivan.

"We are getting the core copies of the systems of the M-Series from Grace and should be able to provide those relatively soon. The M-3 team is looking to get a full duplicate of M-3 made, even though the they will be limited to having to use new replicated parts, and not those used on the system. They are also looking at doing the same with M-1 and 2, though that has lower priority. Although Mr. Jervis isn't here, I think we should hear the progress report and Roger is standing in for Mr. Jomra. If you would?"

Roger Arrivan stood up, "Our station has gone through channels to SFC seeking the requisition of a platform for testing the M-Series, as you know, with the full authorization and backing of Capt. Bartholomew. On the unofficial back-channels and 'who do you know' network, we have gotten some feedback and pushback from the Engineering Corps. Mostly its of the sort that we have come to expect on the 'why should we waste effort on this?', but the actual Division is standing up to requisition, at this point, going to Commodore Rafiq. As you know from her it is one step up to the SFC-Federation Council and she has a chair at SFHQ staff."

"What? I mean we fall in her Division, of course, but we have never had any sort of help on this question at that level before..."

"No we haven't Patti, and this is the unofficial back-channel understanding as I have come to know it, which makes for an interesting time. Her grandfather was second in command of the Excalibur and her father served in command of a frigate squadron along the Neutral Zone, so she is keeping a family tradition when she joined StarFleet. She may be looking to put a ghost to rest."

"Oh... my..."

"As some of you may know she is in line for the SFHQ chair slot at the SFC-Federation Council, having 'punched her ticket' via 3 command tours, 1 diplomatic tour, 2 production/construction tours and an SFHQ Staff tour. In two years, if all works out, she will be Admiral Rafiq and Chair of the SFC-Federation Council, but she still remembers the family stories of her father and grandfather which is why she joined StarFleet."


"Yes, Enid?"

"Jackets for the Commodore and Captain, my compliments."

L'Tira smiled a somewhat feral smile, "Of course, Enid, my pleasure."

"Was that Eloise Rafiq?" asked Commander Lothar.

"Yes, that is her name..." said Roger.

"Thought as much, Captain Rafiq stole the BHR from us... the second time."

"Oh, dear god, Lothar, you don't still hold a grudge from that, do you?" asked L'Tira.

"You weren't here then, L'Tira, and, well, after cleaning it up once the Fleet returned it to us and we had just finished all the interior work... well... damn it, she waltzed in with an order from SFC to hand it over to the Federation Diplomatic Corps, again. I wasn't here the first time that happened, way back when the Constellation class was shaping up. Instead we got that dog of the USS Athens for the museum..."

"Lothar! No laundry, ok?"

Lothar looked at L'Tira, then nodded his head, "Yeah. Sorry L'Tira."

"Wait a second, by the looks of everyone here its a topic that is a bit sore and... ahhh... I feel a bit like everyone has a secret and I'm left out."

"It's just dirty laundry of the base, Enid."

"But a sore point?"

"Yes, but...

"I want to hear about it..."

A few moans. "It might take a bit, Enid", said Lothar.

"Can you all take a repeat for a bit?" Daystrom asked.

L'Tira looked around, "I think so, Enid, but if anyone wants to take a breather while its on, I think that should be ok..."

Enid nodded. "Ah... what is the BHR?"

"Oh, sorry, Enid, that is the USS Bon Homme Richard, oldest ship in the Fleet."

"I thought that was the Republic?"

"That is the oldest, continuous service ship in the Fleet, the BHR is the oldest active and is the generation before the Republic."

"I know its tangential to the project, but why the hard feelings?"

"Computer, service record, BHR."


"Full visual, 3D, text, conflict annotation."

'Affirmative... displaying...'

"After the first contact with the Romulans the first heavy cruisers were built, using the old Cochrane/Vulcan ward drive, and having to de-warp to actually confront the Romulans. Those old ships didn't even start with deflector screens, but armor plating... they started out white, but the radiation intensity turned the armor black and so they became the Black Ships of Star Fleet. The Bon Homme, with that friendly enough moniker, were pure warships and little space for research equipment at the time. The Bon Homme Richard was the first constructed and saw almost immediate action along the border. The last encounter was a pretty large one for the time, with 6 Federation heavy and 8 light cruisers pitted against 18 Warbirds. That turned out to be a supply base for the Romulans which they destroyed, not wanting it to be captured. The BHR was given up for lost until it finally limped into contact range at warp 2, about six years later. Out of a crew of over 350, only 20 survived."

A tactical schematic came up of the BHR and then the battle, showing the ships involved and a 200x sped up battle representation.

"I never knew..."

"The Engineering Corps took her in, and decided to testbed systems for the Republic class. By the time Republic, Grant, and DeSalle were operational, the Corps did an upgrade job on Bon Homme Thomas, George and Louis, then a final re-grade on Richard. The Bon Homme Richard had two significant first contacts after that, one with the Andorians, and Enak can tell you that from their side of things, and the second with the Klingons that resulted in a slugging match between two D-3 cruisers against the BHR. The Klingons refer to her as 'The Black Lady', which tells you what happened in the slugging match. After getting towed back to the solar system it was fully expected that the BHR would be decommissioned, and it was brought into Mars orbit with a fleet mobile dock for repairs. Way back then the Constitution class were still just a concept and that is the first time the Fleet would renege on its promise to have the oldest ship here."

The display showed the encounters, ship types, crew lost, outcome... Enid just gazed at it, as did a few others... they knew the story..

"So the Constitution equipment got its testbed, the BHR. That ship was actually re-armored by the Vulcan Star Probe group, beyond getting better deflectors and shields along with that maximum warp 8 system. The Corps really didn't want to see it come back battered again, so it was put to use for the Diplomatic Corps. If you remember the first encounter with the Gorns then the diplomacy after that probably didn't get too well recorded. That first set of diplomats, however, ferried home on the BHR got a rude awakening as the Romulans had a cloaked surprise package waiting to take out the BHR as part of an assault on the Gorn sector base. They sent a brand, spanking new heavy cruiser against the BHR, and about 8 assorted vessels to screen the base until the cruiser could get in and give its finishing touches. They thought they were going to get a standard heavy cruiser, they weren't prepared for the BHR. Turns out that plasma weapons don't work too well against Star Probe armor. The last message they got off was that the 'Black Eagle has awakened'."

The encounters, ship and base were brought up.

"This time she came home beaten and battered, but at warp 6 so no real complaints. The Corps was getting ready for its X-Class systems and the BHR was pulled in for those, saw another round of the Diplomatic Corps, with only a few minor dust-ups. They didn't call it the Ambassador Class of ship for nothing."

"And the ship came here after that?"

"Yes she did, Enid. It was expected that the BHR would take her place here instead of the USS Athens. The Athens had been left in Jovian orbit for a few decades and needed a lot of work, while the BHR was in decent shape and could easily be decommissioned and given a museum detailing. I was here, back then, going through my tour and the Bon Homme Richard is a beautiful ship, even with all the changes over the years. It was to be a centerpiece of Star Fleet Engineering representing different decades of work. But, things didn't work out that way. Captain Rafiq shows up when we were about 90% done with the work and the BHR had be decommissioned. Her orders were to take her out to SFHQ and the BHR was to get Oberth Class upgrades to see how well they went with their construction work."

"That was before the Dominion war, wasn't it?" Enid asked.

"It was, " said Arrivan, "and there are rumors, well... don't let me interrupt, Lothar..."

"Rumors?" Enid asked.

Lothar nodded, "The main one is that Capt. Eloise Rafiq was part of Fleet INTEL/COINTEL and they needed a ship to, ahh... check into some things. Now the funny thing is that the BHR was never taken off of the Diplomatic inventory of assignment opportunities and while we were doing finishing a number of tours went through it. That included a number of engineers from the Utopia Planitia Shipyards. We thought they were doing historical recording.... but..."

"But? Ok, what's the mystery?"

"Enak? You want a go at that?"

"Sure! Enid, the entire Galaxy Class went from ship proposal to working testbed in less than a year and then from that to first ship entering service a year after that. Two and a half years before the testbed the Fleet took the BHR back to SFHQ and the Galaxy Class was rushed into service very quickly thereafter. Right before the Dominion War."

"What happened after that?"

Enak looked to Lothar.

"That is of some dispute. The BHR is still on the ship rolls or the old 'Ship of the Line' rolls, at least, which indicates still in-service and active. It has been taken off the Diplomatic Corps inventory after leaving SFHQ, at putative Galaxy Class capability and it is rumored that it has served in the Clandestine Services. Even a report that she was put into the isolation docks at SFHQ about, what was that, 2 years ago?"

Nods from around the room.

"Possibly Sovereign Class upgraded which would make her the most upgraded ship in the Fleet. She was never fully decommissioned if you look at the official record now. Yet our historical records show that she was and belongs here, at the Museum. Lothar?"

"Basically, there are those of us who remember that ship and its history, and we have the documents that put it here for the Federation peoples to have to commemorate their history. And Commodore Rafiq, she was part of that. I guess its not so much a grudge as... just missing something that should be here."

"Thank you, Lothar, that is more than just dirty laundry and very interesting on its own."

"My pleasure, perhaps I am a bit obsessed, but, I feel there is reason to be that way."

Enid Daystrom smiled, "I don't blame you in the least, Lothar. Enak? On what is happening for a ship testbed?"

"That is the interesting part, at least to those in the ship systems unit. A number of vessels tend to get heavily re-used for testbed work, and those are mostly the undamaged ones. Really only 30% of those in Jovian orbit are heavily damaged beyond expedient repair as the gravity system of Jupiter and its moons tend to over stress those vessels with critical weaknesses and break them up. The moons act as a cleaning system, either nudging debris closer to Jupiter or ejecting them out of the system... or having the debris impact on them. That has happened a few times to full ships, actually. The Yellow Fleet is coated by the ejecta from IO and that is also the set of ships with the most drag on them from the furthest extent of the Jovian atmosphere. That and induced electricity tend to crystallize impurities in structural components and break up vessels, although that can take decades if not longer, and the tender base does work to pull those ships to higher orbits. The next ring of ships are the 'Fleet Archive' of ships, ranging across all classes, these ships are the ones that had better stand-down servicing before being decommissioned and de-powered. Very little attention is paid to them, save for avoidance of other objects in orbit, and that is the job of the tender base. Outside of that are the re-use ships, the ones that the Engineering Corps has tended to re-utilize for different projects. That inventory is 30 to 50 ships, depending on definition of 'recent', with the smaller number being 20 years and the larger being 70 years or so."

"So it is one of those that the Corps is being pressured on?"

Enak nodded, "Yes, and since they have had some level of maintenance, even if it has only been on active decks and power systems, they are also the closest to quick re-activation. But due to their nature their actual ability to go into service is variable. Not all tests work out and the unsuccessful ones tend to get left in place. I believe the term used in the Corps, for some reason, is 'The Chop Shop'."

"We don't need something fully active, do we?" asked Patti.

"Not in the least, really, and an older vessel might actually be easier for an M-Series system to handle. Although Richard Daystrom did try to make them 'adaptive', one would expect there to be limits to that adaptability."

"Any rumors on what the Corps is actually looking at, then?" Arrivan asked.

"Yes, there are about three or four names that come up, but one is of interest to the group, I think."

"Which one?" asked Lothar.

"USS Grant, the original M-Series testbed."

There were a few murmurs around the room.

"The ship my great granddad used?"

"The very same. I would say we have a one in four chance of getting that, and perhaps a bit more due to name recognition."

"Daystrom, again?"

"Not just your name alone, Enid. It is the sister ship of the USS Republic."

"Oldest continuous serving ship in the fleet..."

"You are catching on to how some things work, around here, at the historical section."

"I see, it is far more interesting here than I imagined. Anything else on your section of the project, Enak?"

"Not at this time."

"Thank you! Roger, Patti and then L'Tira."

Roger stood up, "First let me thank those who have helped on the code analysis of the M-Series so far, we are still going through the bulk of it, and while we have some initial conclusions, I think that by next meeting we can give some initial overviews. Patti?"

Patti DuBois stood up as Roger seated himself.

"First, thank you Enid, for your great grandfather's psychological and personality profiles. With those we have been able to help on the coding work and have identified some of the basic engram encoding structures in the M-Series. Apparently there is part of the code that is static, or only slightly variable based on engrams. The actual data storage of the engrams in the units is that of the coding system for such psychological and personality profiles of that era. While the profession has gotten more refined and changed its outlook in a few areas, those basics of understanding were present when Richard Daystrom did his original work. I think that how and why he encoded engrams the way he did is a key to much of the mystery, but that was something that puzzled a number of researchers who initially worked on the M-Series aftermath analysis. I have kept my reading from them down to a minimum, however, and limit it to technical details."

"Why are you taking that course, Patti?" asked Lothar.

"Normally I would go over everything related to such a construct, but then I am more used to dealing with alien systems and thought processes. Quite frankly I don't want to bring pre-conceived notions to a human based system, and I am trying to treat it in my own mind as an alien device. By looking at it that way I just might be able to bring a fresh perspective on the work of Richard Daystrom."

"And sometimes genius really is quite alien to how we think," said Lothar.

"Very much so. So I try to contribute to the decoding team with the basic psychological structures for that work, but then try to approach the whole thing as an alien design: we can know its parts, but that doesn't mean we know the whole of it. That is all for me at the moment, not much else from my area as we are still ramping up there. L'Tira?"

"Thank you, Patti, and everyone! I really am new to this kind of thing and quite surprised that Enid put me into an XO kind of spot. And I've been very busy trying to keep up with everyone and I think my spare time has disappeared completely. There are some commitment and resource problems at a couple of areas, but nothing that can't be addressed, I think. The next ship assignment list looks to be a month delayed, so the Ensigns and Yeomen will be here for at least that long, while a new Cadet group will be cycling in next week. Let me know if you see any prospects for a short-timer Cadet to contribute! We need that in analysis, CS experience, and ship systems work, along with just about everything else. It looks like the 'hands-on' portion is hitting us just in time to hand out some off-hours practical experience."

"L'Tira, perhaps we could work something out with Captain Bartholomew to exchange project time for work time for Cadets?"

L'Tira nodded, "This is a pretty odd situation, but I think we might be able to work that. Let me run it by the section heads for you first before going to the Captain, as they each have some leeway on what they consider 'practical experience situations' to ensure Cadets get their hours logged."

"Sounds good."

"Beyond that we are expecting the Altax this week, and it looks to be a weapon analysis load, mostly hand weapons from the Ferengi and Cardassians, plus one of the early Romulan Cloaking devices, if I am reading the manifests correctly which I may not be given how lax the SFHQ to SFC out process procedure is. That should wrap it up, save for a dinner with the retired Captain of the USS Ventura taking place and the normal museum escort duties. Nothing else after that."

"Thank you, L'Tira! And let me say that I am still amazed at how quickly everyone came together on this project. I know only a few can get to these meetings due to regular duties, but the help by everyone is beyond anything I've experienced in my biosciences work. I have also come to a far greater appreciation of great grandfather's skill and mental capability. I have always known he was a special individual, but never just how special that was. It is like you are all giving me part of my family back to me, and I cannot thank you all enough for that. That should close out the meeting, unless there are any other questions?"

She looked around the room, "Seeing none, I will close it. Next meeting will be at the conference room by the Bays as this one is taken next week. That should be in your personals already. Meeting adjourned."


"Welcome to the fourth meeting of the M-5 group! I'm glad to see Mr. Jomra, Mr. Jervis and Miss Lorimar back with us. Cmdr. Lothar is out supervising the transfer of the recent delivery to his section from SFHQ. L'Tira any general news the group needs to know?"

"Thank you, Enid! The second biosciences presentation went off very well, with a few SFC members of the Fleet Science section showing up. Enid had some pre-publication work to discuss and that always gets interest as we all know - nothing like getting a leg up on the competition. The ion storm between here and Mem Gamma has dissipated, and we were very lucky to get some Mem Beta time, although mostly for other sections of the base, we did get some of the USS Grant logs covering the time that Richard Daystrom's M-Series project was going on. The Gorn Embassy sent over a contingent to tour the Museum and working artifacts section, they appear to be interested in differences between our perceptions of history and theirs. Even decades after First Contact we really do have some troubles explaining what we use and why we use it, and bridging that gap is important to the Federation as it is a sticking point on further treaty work with the Gorns."

"L'Tira, if I may?"

"Of course, Enid!"

"Some of my first work was on sentient carnivores, back when I was first in University, and the Gorns were one of our trouble spots as their cooperative mentality system is highly different from most other species. We have figured some of it out - that Gorns have more than individuality, they have shared ideation. That is ideas do not necessarily come from an individual, but arise from the interaction between many individuals. This is also their history, no one individual holds it, but once a sufficient number are present, the entire Gorn history is also present. I was asked by Captain Bartholomew to present what our historical research and investigation would be doing and got some first-hand experiences of how their history works. Their group was only 3 individuals, but they were specialists in the historical area and had a near complete racial memory at their disposal. They, apparently, liked the research that I had presented and asked them why... and their answer was that 'Richard Daystrom made sense even when disordered and found a good idea'. As they don't do much in the computational area compared to the Federation that was, frankly, not what I expected. So that is a thought to mull over. Thank you, L'Tira."


"Yes, Patti?"

"Did they explain it further? I mean, this is one of the few times, outside of purely technical design work, that they have offered something on theoretical knowledge. The Federation had to crack how they communicated and put their ideation together as the Gorns had no interest in it. They are one of the most puzzling races, not fitting clearly into any psychological category system."

"Sorry, Patti, you can run the presentation through on your own system and the base has it, too. Hadn't thought about it from that angle, which tells you how well I did with that early work and why I switched to basically non-sentient carnivores."

"I'll tag it for SF Psyche group at SFHQ and SFC. I will have to check on it, but, really, why this work?"

"I have no idea, Patti. L'Tira? Back to you definitely!"

"Thank you, Enid. Actually this project is far more interesting than anything I've ever had to do at the Academy or at my home world educational institutions. For all the fact its over a century old... its just plain fun!"

"You're working too hard..." whispered Mr. Jomra.

"And you should be taking care of that cold!"

Mr. Jomra shook his head and smiled, "All these centuries and still no cure...."

"A common complaint, luckily I am immune due to biology. Now... ahhh...", L'Tira checked her personal system, ".... Jackets and Caps got sent, and hope everyone has the replicator number for them! They can be 'knocked off' by a sensor scan, but they change color to green if you don't have the proper encryption in the configuration. Yes, it is easy to get around, if you are Roger Arrivan which, thankfully, very few are."

"Just a glitch in the compensator systems and how the molecules get assembled. I assume most projects do things like that to discourage the lifting of items."

"Well I had never seen that happen before!" said L'Tira.

"Different biology," whispered Mr. Jomra.

L'Tira ignored that, "And that should round it up for the pre-meeting material. Enid?"

"Thank you, L'Tira. I have nothing more to add, so I'm turning it over to Grace..."

"Thank you, Enid and again my thanks to everyone on the team! I can't really say the last time I've even heard about a project like this getting this sort of interest from the participants... really, most of our lives here are a bit sedate and we are more in the 'catalog, document and file' sort of business. We do have many historians working with us on projects, of course, but almost all of those are historical review. So, let me say that I had one minor displeasing, if very minor thing pop up and it was due to 'operator error'. As you know many of us play the 'Stop Wasting Memory Base Time' game, in which we try to ensure that the Category 3 questions rarely show up. So after 3 years, 6 weeks, 2 days and 7 hours I got my second lifetime Category 3..."

There were a few smiles and head nodding around the room.

"Grace, what are you talking about?" asked Enid.

"Oh! Doctor Daystrom," Grace started out in a more formal tone, "bothering the Memory Base systems is something that has a limited question allotment to users. Once the Mem Base system is busy with people looking up and doing deep archival work the answer rate from it slows. Have you ever had to get archival research or material from the Memory Base organization?"

"Ah... yes, three times."

"And what were the responses like?"

Enid furrowed her brow, "Two required research time and one came back as a 'null' for no information available."

"Not bad, three out of three! The 'Stop Wasting Memory Base Time' game would categorize those as Two Category 1 and One Category 2, each of which are useful research responses. As the Mem Base system serves as a major archive system it also has, within Category 2 responses such things as 'seeking extended archive review' at other Memory Bases as there is some specialization. A re-submit is null in the game, just indicating some technical problem in transmission. That then derives the Category 3, which is, and I am sorry to say I had this happen to me after the last meeting: 'Available at local storage to you.'"

"I see, which means..."

"They are basically pointing out you didn't bother to search locally, first. As a major archive system we know better than to waste Mem Base time and we endeavor, for each and every query, to try and make sure we have done a local query. And I did! Really! When looking for the secondary project for M-1 and 2 I thought that I had done that here and to SFC plus a few other research and archive systems in Sol System. It turns out that I had specified for a Daystrom derived ship system based on research work by Richard Daystrom and directed by him. That actually got a long list of projects for the fleet, but none of them fit the bill for this locally, so I went and used a Memory Base query for it. The very next sub-space return message had in the local data store location: I had bothered a Memory Base with a local look-up. I had overlooked, however, that one of Richard Daystrom's co-workers was leading this research project and under a non-M classification. So that is a reminder for everyone: think it out before bothering Mem Bases."

"It happens to all of us, Grace!", said Mr. Jervis.

"And what is your Cat 3 lifetime, Reggie?"

"That is painful, Grace, it is 5 over 27 years."

"Yes, it is painful, and as historians we should appreciate not wasting other people's times for things we should be finding ourselves."

"Point taken, Grace, and you are very thorough, you have kept my inane queries down from a high level and thank you for that. Just don't be so hard on yourself..."

"Not to worry there, Reggie, as with the information in hand I found out that the derived work had actually been delivered here 70 years ago. Pulled up the files, schematics, inventory list and then found a few stalwart cadets to go down to the surface base..."

"Have they found the Lost Ark yet?" asked Patti.

"It's still in Ethiopia." said Arrivan.

Rolling her eyes, and shaking her head, Grace continued, "... and only two days later they were back with the material. So we now have more to add in to the project as the local Commander has used his discretion to allow us full access to the materials. Black Bart has his good side, you know."

"So we hear," whispered Enak.

"My crew went over this is this is just a 'open and check' operation, mostly to ensure the storage system remained secure during the intervening time, and a scan for any changes in material all the way down to metallic crystallization. The rest of the material I uploaded to our on-base system and then sent it all to the group systems during the week and has been available to those working on the early Phases. Unless anything else comes up for forensics, the bulk of my team's work is done on Phase 1, although we will still have an observer on the project and I will be attending further meetings as it is, as L'Tira says, a fun project. We are finishing up the major work by helping out on the start-up of the systems, running the indicated diagnostics and so forth. That should be done in a day or so and then we are observers and consultants after that."

"What about the actual units and replication status, Grace?", asked Arrivan.

"I uploaded a list and sent your team the source code that was included with the project, but let me give the basics for everyone. I think it is safe to say that the full M-1 and M-2 units can be replicated as the derivative contract indicates that was done at the time. From that contract we have full replications of M-1 and 2, and then three variants of M-1 and one variant of M-2. Including variants and the main M-Series we now have five M-1 systems and three M-2 systems, with complete list of all equipment contained available for replication. There is also 'auxiliary equipment' in the derivative contracting material, including what looks to be some sort of M-1 to M-2 cross-connection system. They were trying to get the systems to enhance amongst themselves to reach what they considered 'optimal capacity' for interfacing with ship systems. The overall contract failed to do that, but their design and test notes are now with everyone and they are actually more complete for those units than the M-Series notes."

"Was there any specific T&E equipment with that contract?" asked Kathy Lorimar.

"Yes there was, Kathy, and while that was for the M-1 and 2 work, it should serve for the M-3, also, as it was indicated as using the same test equipment. And I think that should wrap it up for me, and, really, Phase 1. Enid?"

"Thank you, Grace, and your team has been outstanding in this work! I have seen the larger professional museums in New York take less care than your team has, and that is first-hand experience. If anything major comes up from your area, I hope you can give us updates?"

"Of course or my alternate, although personal interest will probably keep me attached to this project, much to the chagrin of my staff. Plus the jacket is useful for surface work."

"Great! Ok, now to Phase 2 which is now in play. Enak?"

"Thank you, Enid and my personal thanks to Grace D'gorna, as her help in sorting out the ins and outs of the forensics and materials study group has been a great boon to me in understanding just what we are looking at. First on the records search. We have accumulated the direct records of the USS Grant from Fleet Archives, so the entire history of the ship is available from the Command staff perspective over its history down to the Lt. Cmdr level for all sections. Along with that the Fleet Engineering Corps has sent us all of their records on the USS Grant, which includes the standard logistics material but has concentration on the special projects area."

"Is there any word on actually getting a testbed for the project?" asked Mr. Jervis.

"I will say that through official channels the Corps is still making up its mind."

"And the unofficial?", asked Roger.

"For that, I've been talking with Mr. Jomra who seems to have a few contacts beyond mine there. So as to spare his voice and not irritate his cold too much, let me say that unofficially the Corps has sent a basic restart crew to the USS Grant last week as the ship had slipped into 'Yellow Fleet' status. They haven't tractored it out, and may be looking to get the ship out under its own power via impulse engines."

Mr. Jervis was checking a personal unit and calling up something, "Enak, if I may put up a display?"

"Of course, Mr. Jervis!"

The holodisplay put up Jupiter and its system, pinpointing the moons and then circling all ships and fleet installations. Then a thin yellow shell moved around Jupiter and some 20 ships were identified and then the USS Grant showed up.

"Just a moment I can do better than that, let me get the Ganymede observation platform..."

The display shifted and zoomed in to the USS Grant, passing a single nacelle DD class ship as it zoomed in.

"The running lights are on!" whispered Jomra.

"Still too early to say, but..." started Enak.

"What are those under the nacelles?" asked Kathy, "That isn't X-derivative pylons, either. Not Oberth class. And the engineering hull, looks like it has been partially swapped out port/starboard. Well, it is a testbed for experimental systems, but you would still think the Corps would have some design pride... Lothar will have a fit if we get the Grant. A 'nice' fit, but still, not a happy one for an hour or two."

Sections of the ship highlighted, "Looks like two active decks in engineering plus nearby crew quarters, one of the fusion systems up and running, but barely," said Jomra.

"We should know in a week or two, with the way bureaucracy works," Enak said, "but that is hopeful. Mr. Jervis can you send that display routine to our personal systems?"

Mr. Jervis looked up, smiled and nodded, "Of course, glad to! Let me get it out of the way for you, Enak." With that the main display turned off and sent the display routine out to the group.

"No matter what ship it is, and it does look like we will get one for basic testing, at least, we still have much work to do with the M-Series, which now includes the secondary contract vehicle. Phase 2 has pulled in a few people, plus some cadets in tracking down more biographical information. We have Enterprise logs covering the M-5 test and look to have the possibility of the Contracting Officer's logs and records as his familial held estate is willing to share those with us from the personal side, so we can fill in some of the background on the official side. Autobiographical material from two of Richard Daystrom's co-workers has been found, also, and we are sorting out the period where they were actively involved with Daystrom and the M-Series. Beyond the Fleet Psychological profile data and Enid's personally held data we were able to find Richard Daystrom's course material prior to the M-Series at the MIT archives along with some staff records there. That is it for background material, now on to T&E, if there are no other questions on the background?"

"Any help from VSA which had the initial review work with Dr. Daystrom after the M-5 problems?"

"Nothing as of yet. Even though long-lived, there appear to be no surviving Vulcans from the original Daystrom era, so family records are receiving an inquiry, but you know that Vulcans are particularly tight-lipped about such things in deference to their ancestors."

"That is understandable," said Patti,"it is possible that a family may feel that releasing such is not in alignment with their ancestor's wishes or with familial tradition. Well, they also have other by-play at work."

"Which is?" asked L'Tira.

"The name, yet again, I'm sorry to say Enid. Still they will know you are not associated with the Institute, so that may not carry as much weight."

Enid Daystrom sighed, "That has been a problem in my life, really. My brother Karl and sister Ushanda have had similar experiences, even though they are in social sciences and engineering. Making your way on your own and trying to distance yourself from the effects is difficult, to say the least."

"Background material will remain ongoing during the course of the project, from what I understand, and your personal systems should be keyed in for the items of interest to each of you. And thank you all for contributing good note material, and analysis on past work, without that some of the documents would be very difficult for non-technical specialists in various areas of expertise." Enak paused to check is system and then projected a list of equipment.

"It appears that the early M-1 through 3 T&E equipment was shunted to the other contract. Similarly the original documents to the M-1 and 2 and its variants are in there, along with specific designs and goals. Engineering assures me that none of the equipment is out of the ordinary for the era, save for the ship simulation computer, which underwent modifications to simulate everything from a simple space probe to a a few theoretical starships that were in design stage. We will be doing a power-up of M-1 and M-2 this week with initial self-tests and diagnostics, and a possible look at cooperating with the next phase for some basic simulations. And that brings us to the original M-5 code, and that is Roger's territory. Roger?"

Roger Arrivan stood up as Enak seated himself, "Thank you, Enak."

"Enid had supplied the known source code for the M-Series from her great grandfather's archives, and we also had the Fleet contract obligation code to go by. What is interesting is that there is a code difference between the archived source from Dr. Richard Daystrom and the contractually delivered code. That delivered code is substantially shorter than the original with regards to both M-1 and 2. In reviewing the code it was apparent that this was part of the code complex describing basic decision capability by the system. Since that is not my specialty for identification I put it out to a few team members and, well, Patti?"

Patti Dubois stood up, "It was interesting what Roger handed over, and once I got it into something a bit easier for humans to read... ahhh... no offense Roger... it looked like something done at a very primal level of human reasoning. As the late Dr. Daystrom was credited with putting engram content into the thought complexes of the M-Series at M-3, not earlier on, and none of the documents list any real engram interfaces beyond the 'adaptive matrix' material. If, from what I understand from Roger, the multitronic system couldn't handle this, then it would go missing in the final delivery. Roger?"

"I think you should give an idea of what the code was doing, Patti..."

"Oh! You aren't all specialists in that, are you?"

A few smiles and even a chuckle or two were heard in amongst the group.

"Starting out at the very basic area, and Enid should be able to back me here, all life forms with any sort of mental capability have a direct interface to their body's state of being, as it is an essential aspect of making sure you stay alive, this thing known as knowing when you are hungry or being too hot or cold, or even something like the absence of a vital element in living, say air. Together these form the most basic inputs to any being with mental capability and allows the ability to have directed survival. I understand perfectly why Richard Daystrom utilized those engrams, as they are a basic part of reinforcing modalities of survival. It was those exact, same pieces of code that went missing in the M-1 and 2 code as delivered."

"Thank you, Patti, because these are basic parts of what he was trying to accomplish, Dr. Daystrom had to have those somewhere in the make-up of the M-Series. From there a simple Daystrom code search across the code on all the systems found that in M-1 through 3, and the M-4 search is still processing as it is far more complex than any of its predecessors. Dr. Daystrom did something any researcher who feels that they are being snooped on or may have intellectual property stolen would do: he hid the code. We had thought that the memory module sub-system was just an interactive memory pool, with some coding structure given to it, which is the basic conclusion of the researchers and the evaluation documentation. By looking at the original code and where it wound up, Dr. Daystrom, instead, shifted emphasis inside the code structure and almost set up a duplicate and coordinated computer system using memory modules. I've asked Enid to request one or two of our code mavens to come on board to start de-tangling it, but from a day or so of going over it, the memory module complex, once considered secondary to the M-Series may, in fact, be the point of the M-Series."

Murmurs from around the room.

"He hid an entire computer system within the M-Series?"

"That he did Simon," addressing Simon Lurva of the ship systems unit, "and very well, too, considering how many researchers have missed it. Even with the other M-Series units turned on and working, with test systems recording everything, no one found it. I only found it because of his original, archived code material which he had put into archive before incoming criticism of what he was trying to do by pointing out a multitronic system could not properly encode nor work with engrams as he was doing it and later code advances would take place long after M-Series work. His original code was very direct, actually straightforward in the comments of putting the engram interface into an evolving computational system in the memory modules. After that criticism he stripped it out for M-1 and the basics of M-2 and hid it. So that early code is pre-system code or at least pre-stand up code."

"What you are saying, then," said Simon, "is that he utilized a very staid piece of storage technology for computerized interfaces?"

"That is it exactly, Simon. The puzzle of why the memory modules seems relatively straightforward, and by utilizing simple interconnects he was able to scale up computational power at a small fraction of the necessary energy used by a multitronic system. Just look at the graph of the number of them present in M-1, 30. By M-3 that had risen to 400. By M-4 it was in the 6,000 range. At M-5 there are no less than 135,000 of those modules packed inside the M-5 unit, by then stripped of casings and made into a dense sandwich of module layers."

"That is... amazing..."

"It is, Enak, there are some extreme problems with the memory modules, but I'm starting to understand why and how those were attacked. The code will tell, of course, so I hope we can get a couple of more eyes to hit the code. Enak?" Roger Arrivan sat down.


"Yes, Enid?"

"Are you saying that my great grandfather's paranoia started at the beginning of the M-Series project?"

"I... uh... Enid, by the time he was ready to assemble M-1, he had changed the code, added in the memory module sub-systems and altered the system. That had to start somewhere after the project started, as his archives show, and the time of first assembly, that being 3 months later. I can't talk about his mental state, and you will have to judge his actions for yourself."

"Thats... Roger, that isn't my area of specialty, nor is the computational part, which is not my area of specialty. I'm shocked, really, that he may have had mental problems at the start of the M-Series as everyone had assumed that happened due to contractual delivery schedules and timing after M-3. Beyond hiding the code, is there any other reason he could have had to do that?"

"Ahhhh... that is something I have spent the past day or so thinking about. He had one of the most acute minds in computational capability, information physics, and its attendant subjects, as well as about 20 hobbies in the sciences. A true polymath, and I can't rule out that he had some other motive for this shift in emphasis at M-1."


"Yes, Miss Lorimar?"

"Did this change actually effect the functionality of M-1? Would it have worked as originally coded?"

"I think that is something we will find out by doing. I've chatted with a few others on the team about this and I will have to see if we can get something a bit more formal together, maybe an hour working lunch if we can arrange it. The general feeling is that it wouldn't have worked as originally designed, but no specifics before we create an original, as specified before changes, M-1."

"Why did he change the code?"

"Beyond the hiding of the code, itself, this would have had to come at the stage where some initial sub-system results were available but before assembly. As it would also be the basis of M-2, Dr. Daystrom had to be confident that he had a right track to be on with the systems. What, exactly, that track is, we don't know, but we do know that he had recognized the limits of his computational platform. This is becoming a major part of our work, at this point and the full T&E group will be looking at it. So results based questions will have to be put off for awhile, yet."

"Thanks, Roger."

"Basically, once we get the M-1 and M-2 devices set up, we should have first results. We are looking at some code analysis routines to do forensic work on them when running. After that M-3 and M-4, along with figuring out what M-5 code would look like. I will say that the very basic code at the lowest levels is identical for the previous M-Series units and the module space for this section of code is identical in M-5. So we may have the minimal basis for what to start in on M-5. Any other questions? Patti, anything else from your side?"

Patti Dubois nodded 'no', "Not just now, Roger. I will be talking with a few people this week trying to get some insight into Richard Daystrom's life before the M-Series work."

"Ok. Enid, it is back to you."

"Thank you, Roger. Mr. Jomra, you apparently, are still sporting a cold, but that didn't keep you fully sidelined as it should have."

"Thank you, Miss Daystrom, it didn't. Excuse my voice, even with all the surface restoration medications and procedures, they just don't work well against the cold virus and the body's reaction to it. The unofficial, back-channel word I've gotten is that the Grant will be donated to the museum after the M-Series work. There are a few issues of contracting that are still left open by the mental problems of Richard Daystrom... and... hmmmm... the Engineering Corps had committed to a full system evaluation. Although the contract went through close-out for resource commitment at an active level, two issues were outstanding and the archive section here has been getting those Fleet side documents. One of the dirty little secrets of the Engineering Corps is that they have just a hard a time getting test-bed, front line ships as does anyone else. The entire Jovian ship array is from the sort of thing that happened with the M-Series, in which the Fleet is still obligated to provide a ship, did provide a ship and that ship still awaits final contract work."

"Mr. Jomra?"

"Yes, Ms. D'gorna?"

"I was pretty stunned to find that out, way back when I first came out of the Academy and into Fleet training, but thought that it applied to just a handful of ships. Perhaps just four or five. Are you telling me that each and every ship in Jupiter's orbit, minus the unsalvageable, are there under un-closed contracts?"

Mr. Jomra sniffed a moment, then closed his eyes, "Ms. D'gorna, salvage happens under contract, too."

"It does at that," she sat back for a moment then looked a bit more intensely," and the ships that SFHQ has powered down?"

"Under contract for final decision at SFC, of course, which includes ship restoration for those vessels to go to museums, re-grade to system protection vessels for vital systems not needing warp driven ships or at least not high speed warp ships, and, of course, re-purpose to other use. Each of those can have an open-ended status as some Federation requisitions for protection vessels, as an example, don't get fully executed. That becomes a tug of war between the Fleet and the Council and many of those end up in deadlock. Outside of experimental contract work, salvage contracts, temporary holding for sanitization and museum restoration, over half of the ships in Jovian orbit are stuck in limbo, contractually. Those ships that are not worth time and effort to salvage end up being taken by the planet or one of its moons in a final manner, and that closes out those contracts. That sometimes happens to other vessels under limbo."

"Starships allowed to just... impact a planet or moon? That doesn't seem reasonable."

"Miss Daystrom, it isn't. But there is one very good reason the Corps does so... no, actually there are a number of them, but one that seems to go above others."

"Which is...?"

"Personnel resources."

"Huh? Why is that a big deal? Can't they get enough resources to actually do the work?"

"Enid, if I may?"

"Sure, Grace, I am very puzzled by the attitude taken."

"As you have been on a project or two in your specialty, you know that you can never get all you want within the limits of your resources, right?"

"That is a given, I'm afraid... ah... I see..."

"Star Fleet has a limited number of personnel that need to be allocated to staff the various sections of it, and the front line ships, supply vessels, base staffing, communications security... all of that has priority over most of the Corps' work. So there is a feeling, and, Simon, correct me if I'm wrong but you have the best high level contacts for that in our group, that if you don't ask for absolutely everything you need, you will not even get half of it."

Simon Lurva nodded, "Less than half, actually. This allows the Corps to ping other parts of the Fleet hierarchy for giving them too much to do and not enough staff, resources and time to do it. That becomes a political tool, especially with those contracts caught at high level deadlock. Recurring Open Commitments, as they are called, and its always a good place to show that more work needs to be done the longer something waits. The Engineering Corps has grown utilizing those for expansion."

"Heaven help them if they ever got the staff they asked for, as the draw-down would shrink the Corps into a very small cadre," Grace said.

"That is insane!"

"That is Star Fleet, Enid."

"And there is one other factor in the case of the Grant, and that is the prestige of finally ending the Fleet commitment to the M-Series project. While the Daystrom side got summary close-out on delivery obligations, the internal Fleet side did not. That was necessary for the examination of the M-Series and then the Grant got pulled in on another contract, while the examination phase was cycling down, and that final paperwork was lost in the shuffle. The Contracting Officer will have the distinction of having closed out a Yellow Fleet contract," Simon smiled, "because there is only one close-out Contracting Officer for that entire section of the Corps and that individual is usually very, very busy."

"You all realize this is destroying the romantic notion that Star Fleet actually is run well and has some idea of what it is doing?" Enid said, smiling wanly.

"Welcome to our universe, Enid, time to grow up, " said Grace.

"I suppose so... do go on, Mr. Jomra."

After taking a sip from a small cup, Mr. Jomra checked his personal system.

"That is the main issue for the Grant, the other, though, was also important and that is the contract work to remove the various test projects and restore the Grant to Fleet Operational status."

Simon looked at Mr. Jomra, "Lothar will have a fit... how much work needs to be done?"

"Beyond the M-Series there are at least 5 major system testbeds and perhaps 3 times as many in the nature of minor tests umbrellaed under larger contract commitments."

"Lothar will go FTL on his own..." Simon was shaking his head.

"Ok, I think I can decipher that a bit, now. If the M-Series was a major system then there are 5 others of similar scope?" Enid asked.

"Yes, Miss Daystrom. The most unsightly of which is one of the two excess warp core systems."

"You can't have three active warp cores on a starship!" said Miss Lorimar, "You just can't coordinate them."

"The were put in sequentially and previous ones powered down, so only one was active."

"Simon, I agree with you, Lothar will have a fit of epic proportions when he gets on board the Grant."

"I've loaded in the overview documents pulled up from Mem Beta and the full detailed work is expected next cycle for all the contract work. That can be worked around, I think, though Lothar will have to haggle for some shipyard or drydock time. I can't picture a simple restoration by the Museum in under 5 years based on the Athens."

"Anything else?" Enid asked.

"I don't think the Corps will be having any anti-matter to spare for ship power, so it will be fusion operations."

"That is to be expected, really," Simon nodded, "and they will probably be skimpy with fuel delivery, although if we can get on-board early enough we may be able to solve a bit of that."

"Yes, there is Jupiter to consider," said Mr. Jomra.

"Jupiter? What has that got to do with starship fuel?" asked Enid.

"Most of the fuel of it is hydrogen in liquid form kept in liquid form and then fused via electrostatic containment. Jupiter is mostly hydrogen, but getting it is usually the problem..."

"You can do it, but its just not efficient. For all the work done on ship protection, the ability to get a finely tuned system to go through the intercoolers as an intake and yield hydrogen back is still minimal. It is on the books as an emergency technique, but usually yields far less fuel than is used and such is the case here. Replicators aren't really able to do this as they need hydrogen and energy to start with: they are just elemental reconstruction devices. Normally a large harvester is used, and most of those use cometary solar diffraction of water and other elements as it is cheap and easy to do out of major gravity wells."

"Might have to hit up the trade network, then," said Grace.

"Yes, that might get the hydrogen. Not the anti-matter," said Simon.

"That is it for now, Miss Daystrom."

"Thank you, Mr. Jomra. L'Tira, any last issues to go over?"

"Thank you, Enid! As you know the cadets have arrived and we have a few that have already been shifted over to the project. I'm working with Patti and Lothar to do a time exchange by Capt. Bartholomew, and that should work its way out this week. No CS specialists apparent, sorry Roger, but a number in Engineering, Astrophysics, and crew maintenance. Also the few officer trainees coming through on their training cycle. Keep your section heads informed and I will be doing the cross-over work with them. Other than that, caps and jackets sent out, Gorns still deciding on visit," L'Tira checked her personal system, "the Altax should be keeping the Space Sciences group busy with a long range 22nd century probe that Fleet ran across a few years ago... weapons section will get more Cardassian work... CS group will be getting an old Romulan space analysis platform... and the Deep Space observation group will be giving presentations this week. It should be relatively light this week, in other words."

"Thank you, L'Tira. Any other thoughts or observations?" Enid asked looking around.

"Then I am closing the fourth meeting out. Thank you all for the wonderful work you've done and I'm sorry that we ran overtime, but the room wasn't scheduled for anyone else."


"Welcome to the fifth meeting of the M-5 group! Also let me give special welcome to the Gorns from the Embassy who have taken an interest in our work, as this is a technical working group meeting I do not stand on formality or rank, and anyone may speak their mind so long as the actual topics don't get too sidetracked. As the Gorn individualization naming convention is not amenable to anything that is easily translatable, they assent that they are Group Lead, Human Knowledge and Technical Knowledge as rough approximations of their current roles. We appear to have complete attendance today, and I know that is due to the results that we are getting along with this rare opportunity to work with Gorns. That said I would still like L'Tira to go over any loose ends or general news that some of us may not have heard... I know I have had long hours on this project helping to sit-in when short-handed, and even though the work is relatively easy for me, as a non-technical person in the fields you work in, the data itself is vital. L'Tira?

"Thank you, Enid! And let me echo that, too, as sitting down with a group of computers and checking system status, entering in commands, and recording what happens has been something I hadn't expected in the Fleet, and we actually held a seminar with the Museum Contract Officer earlier in the week and that helped me understand just what it is that I was doing and why it fit in with the program. Also having the previous contract acceptance documents was a huge help in cross-checking what I was seeing, thank you to Patti for showing how to have those available when I was sitting there.

"Now, beyond that, and the briefings by SFC staff on proper etiquette with Gorns, there are actually only a couple of items. First is that the 7 Cadets the sections have offered up do have Capt. Bartholomew's approval for an 'in-time equivalent' for their work on the project and that has been a huge help to getting the work done and the Cadets are putting some real effort into this, having attended the Contract and SFC protocol meetings. Actually, those are things that they wouldn't normally get exposed to and there is some griping that all of the Cadets who have cycled in want a chance at the project."

"Which isn't happening, by the way," said Enid, "as we don't have time nor resources to get each group up to speed on background. The meeting I held the day after our last with the Cadets is something I can't be doing on a weekly basis. So, like with regular staff, membership is limited."

L'Tira was smiling, "And while the Contract Officer liked the run-through, he doesn't have time for that, either. The Forensics Team has been especially happy to give 'hands-on' live work to do, going over the basics of what to record, how to record it and then how to analyze it. Actually a few of us held an informal half-hour session on that to get everyone up to speed as active analysis of working systems is different than just scan and replicate. The second item is purely administrative, but a reminder that the next two weeks are summary performance appraisal evaluations for the mid-year. So expect time to be taken up with that. Really, I can't go over more without treading on other people's work, so I'll leave it off with that. Enid?"

"Thank you, L'Tira. Grace, anything on-going from phase I or new items?"

"Enid, Phase I is operational in the sense of accepting responses to information requests an putting active forensic tools in-place during the testing phases of the M-Series. We have forwarded Fleet materials from our project, so far, to the Base Historiographer for keeping a somewhat more formal set of records to show how the Base can work on special projects. Beyond that, we have completed the code download and analysis for all the M-Series and variants. All else is basically done."

"Thank you, Grace. Enak, you are the busy team and have a lot of ground to cover..."

Enak Varda stood up, "Too true, Enid. First I think we all owe a debt to L'Tira for asking a very simple question that is starting to yield up interesting results..."

"What question? I didn't ask..." said L'Tira.

"I do beg to differ, during the initial set-up phases for new testing via the old and new T&E equipment, you were going over the specifications for the M-Series units and asked a very insightful question. One, that if I may say so, apparently no one else has asked in the long sets of evaluations of the M-Series and variants."

"I did?" asked L'Tira.

Enak smiled, and brought up the manifest lists of the equipment in the M-Series, "I believe you were scrolling through this at the time..."

"What? The equipment lists? But I don't... oh... I guess I did ask a question, but it wasn't a serious one, really."

"I beg to differ, L'Tira, it is a very serious question, although I can see why you asked it because of your inclination to keep a lower amount of spare memory for your personal unit than most other people do."

"Hey! Just enough to keep me busy in my spare time... just because I don't keep every single solitary thing tracked doesn't mean I don't..."

"No impugning of character meant, L'Tira, believe me. But it is a simple fact that you recognized something that, for all the time spent by all the individuals on this, that no one else has ever asked. Would you care to share the insight with us all, L'Tira?"

L'Tira looked around, "Hmmmm... ok! I don't like to carry a lot of material with me, even in compact form, so I tend to swap and trade storage media a bit. Which means that I've gotten a memory module here, one there, one from another place and they are all the same, via the replicator. But they aren't, really. When a somewhat better design comes through research and testing, it quietly updates the replicator storehouse so that when each module is made it has a very fine code on the casing that tells of the date, time and variant of the module. They all work the same, so most people don't pay attention to them, and they are hard to actually observe or even feel when touching the module. So when I went through the listing... ahh... most of the equipment I really know little about, but the memory modules caught my attention because of their ordering."

"Their ordering?" asked Lothar.

"Ahhh... yes, Enak let me show..." she said standing up next to the holo display unit.

"What I did was sort out the memory modules," various other equipment disappeared so that the memory module information was left, soon down to two columns,"and as they are all the same density," it went to one column, which was all numbers, "I put highlighted them by unit, dark blue for M-1, light red for M-2 and so on," colors appeared en block in the columns,"then sorted them by replication date." The colorations shifted. "Earliest replications first. Do you see what I mean?"

The memory modules at the top, first replicated only had 2 dark blue and 3 light red, all the rest indicated other M-Series with the majority being in M-5.

"So I asked, more or less, 'why is it that the oldest memory modules are in the newest equipment?'. I thought it was pretty simple to ask, really. Enak, you aren't taking time up for this, are you?" she said sitting down again.

"Yes I am, L'Tira, for it is an original question not asked by anyone in VSA, MIT, my home world consortium or, indeed, anyone involved with any of the M-Series work, forensic analysis or indeed any part of it. Because you are parsimonious with weight and keep track of things no one else bothers to you gave us the vital clue to explaining one immediate mystery and, I think, a number of other things that are cropping up."

"Such as...?", L'Tira asked.

"As you all may remember, or pull up from earlier meetings, there was a question of 'memory module initialization'. It turns out that in the initial tests, we were swapping out memory modules, both old and freshly replicated from the same batches as the M-Series and found that when a new module is placed in a system, the system, itself, looks at the module and then ensures it is wiped to base state before propagating code into it. The M-Series units initialize each module to their needs. With so many M-1 and M-2 units and variants, and more on those tests, one of the things we tried was taking an original M-1 module and putting it into an M-2 variant. Based on what the M-Series units do, could anyone hazard a guess as to what happened?"

"Wiped and initialized, I would assume," said Miss Lorimar.

"That is, exactly what we all assumed, too. When swapping an original M-1 memory module, not replicated variant, the M-2 unit did not wipe the memory module and propagate code into it. Some code was wiped but other code was retained. That is an anomaly, so that brings us to the overview of testing and evaluating the M-1 and M-2 units and their variants. All initial work along the lines of the original work went directly down the line, no changes. That included the use of original and modern simulators, no changes. Now as the M-1 and M-2 have a special arrangement for simulation in a testbed versus live test, we tried putting that live mode to work on the simulators. Each of the M units correctly identified, on start-up that they were in a simulator and were defaulting to simulation mode. Amongst the many pieces of unhappiness that the Engineering and Ship Systems integration groups have had this past week is actually trying to make a simulator that will fool the M-1 and M-2 units. Apparently that cannot be done. We even took one of the variant M-1 units, took all its memory modules out, put in blank ones, and started it up attached to the most modern simulator we have that will fool just about any equipment you care to name that it is operating in a 'live' environment. It defaulted to simulation mode once it initialized its programming. We then took that unit, put in fresh memory modules and dragged it to a shuttlecraft undergoing repairs. It would operate in 'live' mode as it considered a shuttlecraft to be a 'live' system."

"What? That isn't possible, the original documentation clearly shows that M-1 and M-2 units would operate properly in a live mode with simulators." said Mr. Jervis.

"Yes, they did. We have tried interrogatives to the systems, but part of their ability is tied to having an actual computer system to piggy-back on for a lot of its programming to work. That is how Dr. Daystrom worked around the limitations of the early M-Series: he had them utilize the ship's computer system for a large section of their programming. As we don't have a Constitution Class computer system available, we supplemented it with something that is as powerful by those days standards, and the final answer was surprising. It said that the test rig was not hooked up to a computer core active in the simulated ship and that neither was hooked into a live core shipboard system."

"How the hell did it figure that out?" asked L'Tira.

"We don't know, L'Tira, and that is something that has not been seen before this, because all the T&E equipment used 130 years ago had to be hooked into a live computer core at a base, a station or ship. These units were not only able to figure out that they were not in a live mode, but properly defaulted when, in the words of Richard Daystrom," he said looking to his unit and on the holo display the head and shoulders of Richard Daystrom appeared in a darkened room, possibly a lab.

'M-1 Log entry number 15' faded in then out with Stardate next to it.

"Part of the M-1 unit's capability must be to ensure that no one is able to fool it into being in a test mode when live as the lives of crew on a ship depend on the vital operation of the unit in event of disaster. No one should ever perish due to malicious use or improper intent or even simple negligence of the M-1, and if it ever detects that this has happened, it will automatically default to test mode."

'Entry ends'

"Whatever Richard Daystrom's other intents, he was dedicated and committed to the proper use of his equipment. Really this is crossing into Roger and Patti's areas, at this point. So let me finish up with a major problem. We have done a final overall cross-annotation on all the Fleet available materials and indexed that to the materials that Enid has provided us and there is one large, missing section in it, and that is the final M-5 unit. The extant code that exists is the working book remainders of all the individuals who worked on it, while the central code was done by Dr. Daystrom. As Enid pointed out, he had an awful work habit of leaving documentation to after reaching a final conclusion and then back-filling from his resources. Presumably he would have taken a code dump from M-5, annotated it and made that a part of the final delivery. As it is there is no final code as M-5 self-wiped and Richard Daystrom did not keep back-up copies on a safe system, so far as anyone has been able to find. That was partly due to his paranoia that had extended very far, from what we can tell of things. That coupled with his work habits served as an absolute end to M-5's original code. As it is the T&E phase will move on to M-3 and the integrated variants, giving each a full going over. We are discussing a full merging of phase 2 and 3 to save personnel time and facilitate getting some questions answered, like we did with the few memory module swaps. That sort of thing has sped up Roger and Patti's work."

"I can live with that," Enid said, "just as long as the basic work gets done. Really, having the cross-work done is leading into a few things I really didn't expect."

"Now onto the very preliminary results on the M-3 and the variant project. Starting with the simplest: M-3 checks out to its given specifications. One of the questions that has been examined closely is the integration of the stabilizing system from the Heisenberg circuits. It is one very simple scan and feed into the system, but the feeds head almost without exception straight into the memory core system it just scanned. There is a feedback happening either in the underlying engram programming or the more surficial programming, but that hasn't been teased out as of yet. Since we do see the underlying programming system of M-1 and 2 in M-3, and no one has properly looked at it, that will be our main venue for analysis. It is unknown and may yield up an answer where no others have found one."

"Why didn't the earlier researchers find the underlying code, Enak?", asked Miss Lorimar.

"To put it glibly: they didn't know it was there. As evolutionary algorithms and neural nets based on them tend to be haphazard in memory placement and space utilization, the 'holes' in the areas of the main code were not investigated, being assumed to be stochastic 'empty space' between code sections. When they took a code dump, they got the obvious code, not the interstitial code, and even when examined, it did not look like operational code of the higher level sort being examined. More or less, it looked like random left-overs of the higher level code. What is important is that the code dump command was not present in the underlying code while it was in the primary, overlying code. Roger? Mind if I turn this over to you as this is your territory?"

"I'll pick it up, Enak. One of the things people don't realize is that evolutionary algorithms when combined with neural nets usually tend to leave lots of code bits that just don't work within the memory system. A good clean-up algorithm gets the worst of those, and one of those runs every 10 code evolutionary generations which clears up functional space between existing code. Some code, however, takes the neural net as a means of propagating itself, and some code pieces get left in the neural net because it is part of the net and even if it is non-functional it may serve a timing and coordinating purpose inside of it. The time it takes to propagate information across a network is defined by the length of hops it has to take, and that actual timing can be critical to other processes going on. Even underlying pieces of code, necessary for that engram work to interface with the ship are in the net, but lacking functional parameters, code recall and other systems that are present in the net, it was seen as 'junk code, purpose unknown'. In M-1 there were a lot of these, but fewer in M-2, so it was assumed the code was cleaning itself up in a better manner. The underlying code had its own clean up routines, but those also recognized the nature of the neural net and left things attached in the net to the surrounding code to deal with. Actually, from all we have seen from M-1 and M-2, that is carried out better than the multitronic code it interfaces with. And after examining code equivalents from modern systems, I will say there is a good research paper in this: Richard Daystrom's code is doing a better job of that than ours does."

"Even the holo-interface code?" asked Lothar, clearly surprised.

"Yes, our multitronic derived systems are just not up to this task like this code can do. Even from what we have seen of the sentient constructs we have examined, this code is unique in cutting out non-useful or even harmful branches not conforming with its engram directives. Our modern systems have at least three-deep layers of check code to achieve what this does in a single, easy pass. There is a second sweeper, that runs every 10 first sweep cycles, and it has proven extremely effective, although operating on simple principles of code interrogation and response. The surficial multitronic code has nothing like this."

"And we developed code only knowing the surficial example and its limitations?", asked Mr. Jervis.

"That is exactly right. I can't really call it anything but intentional misdirection, as the places the underlying code is hiding is so mundane that no one really bothered to check it. Just as we would not check our personal unit's power systems to see if there was a type of sentient code in it: it is absolutely beyond question that it would ever have anything like that. What was seen as a semi-active code repository is the actual heart of the M-Series systems with all the derivative multitronic work masking it."

Roger Arrivan shifted the display to the diagrammatic overview of the systems.

"The highlighted areas are those responsible for the maintenance of the memory module systems in M-1, and that is where the code was put. As you can see in M-2," which came on screen and then overlayed M-1, "there is a minor extension of memory, and a few additional engrams," each highlighted, then M-3 came on screen. "With M-3 although the memory space increased greatly, there was only an additional engram, that as a form of sensor interrogatory imperative put in. M-1 housed the basics of what we would call energy sensation, sensor control, multitronic interface, ship homeostasis, weapons function, defense function, and navigation. Basically everything necessary to interface with a starship and make sense of it, along with a basic humanoid survival parameters section. It is that section that houses the poor code harvester and wiper. The failure was not in this system, as you may remember, but in the multitronic code sitting between M-1 and the ship's computer. That code was derivative of ship control, navigation, combat and regulatory simulators that already existed, and it failed."

"M-2 added in a control overcycle and human interface system. Those both went through the ship's computer system and required intermediation by the multitronic code in M-2. If M-1 had basic analysis and limited reaction capability, this code put in a reactive capability, along with asking for help from all ship systems. The multitronic code has a good section of that, but some very basic things come from the underlying system, such as necessary maintenance operations in ship systems vital to survival. In fact, there is a portion of M-2 that is 1:1 identical with M-1."

"What M-3 did, from just the first look, was put in more memory space and a code self-stabilizing system at the higher scale while retaining all of the functions of M-1 and M-2. This information went two ways: one directly into the memory module core and a second path through the code harvester. Actually, because of the fact that it is the transporter compensator, it is difficult to find out exactly what the information is that is being passed along as it is all in a raw state with no code regulation on it. From that, and the fact that Richard Daystrom found it necessary to add, I asked Miss Lorimar and Mr. Jervis to head up the variant section as the physics of this is beyond me. I don't have the information nor physics theory to even begin understanding this. Enak, I'll pass that back to you?"

"Thank you, Roger. What Roger has seen is that there are pieces of code acting in some apparently non-linear ways. As Grace will attest, even the M-1 and M-2 units are highly resistant to having their code analyzed while in-service or turned on."

"Enak, they are impossible to analyze. Nothing makes sense from our units, and we have run out of theory on what is going on, which means we are out of hardware, too."

Enak nodded, "Just from simply turning on multiple M-1 and M-2 units, we have seen the 'cross-talk' problem noted in the material supplied by Enid. Grace has looked very hard at the material, research work and other things coming in from her forensics people and they can't figure it out as they don't know what it is, exactly they are looking for. So that puts it in the realm of the physics and astrophysics department here, and we are working with Miss Lorimar and Mr. Jervis to help them understand what it is we are seeing. Even worse is that when any of those units are turned on, they 'cross-talk' with other units preventing them from working correctly on other test equipment. I'll turn the variant look over to Miss Lorimar and Mr. Jervis, if they don't mind?"

The two looked at each other and then Miss Lorimar stood up by the display system. She shifted out the M-3 unit and then brought up the variant diagrams and their changes against the base systems.

"Thank you Enak! Miss Daystrom, let me thank you for asking for basic and applied sciences to contribute to this. We really didn't expect to have much to add, but then we didn't really understand what it was your great grandfather was working on."

"My pleasure, Miss Lorimar."

"As you know I am the most junior member of the sciences team, which is why I'm here: to get my feet wet on something out of the ordinary. Mr. Jervis is the section head of the astrophysics branch, and has his own interests in the project. I've been coming up to speed on the informatics part of this as fast as I can the past few weeks, and while it isn't my specialty, it is related to natural space warp mechanics. Mr. Jervis has been working with Lothar to understand just what it is the variant system can do, and we are lacking in some areas of notation on it, and the previous review done here only verified that it turned on and operated correctly. So far the best overview of what it is supposed to do is given by the co-worker of Richard Daystrom, Erik Chapman. Let me put that up for you..."

The diagrams shrunk and faded downwards and the face of a middle aged man with dark red hair and fair skin, wearing a Fleet Reserve badge on a red tunic appeared.

The words 'Starship Emergency Return System Proposal' appeared on the display with a stardate.

"The SERS is a development of work by Richard Daystrom to utilize the test systems developed by him to work as a coordinated Emergency system for starships in trouble. In the history of the fleet, we see that one or two ships are lost every year due to phenomena beyond the control of the crew. The warp anomaly of the Klestra sub-nebula went through the USS Sedak killing all crew and yet leaving the ship in complete working order. The USS Valiant succumbed to forces beyond her crew's control which ultimately doomed the vessel. Even the USS Komax that was rendered nearly unlivable due to a burst from a neutron star could have done much better with a system to understand the depth of the damage done to the ship so that the survivors could have found a way to survive. Without the basics that needed to be done so as to get the ship out of the vicinity of the star, the surviving five crew members only survived via ingenuity and sacrifice of the vessel so as to get a shuttlecraft out to an orbiting heavy metal planet from which they were rescued. The ship, itself, could have saved them, if only a few basic maintenance routines and one intercooler had been brought back on-line, a 20 minute job."

"The premise of this proposal is to utilize the abilities shown in the work by Richard Daystrom to create a simple emergency ship control system for human survival and ship return, if possible, to nearest base. At the very least the Komax would have survived if its deflectors could be brought on line and served as a lifeboat. As catastrophe does strike in the unknown, Star Fleet has a vested interest in saving as many lives as possible and knowing of their sacrifice if nothing else."

Presentation Ends.

"It is the variant project that we have come to think of as the main goal behind the M-Series, while it was the main force to create the much more capable system that ended in the M-5. We have worked with Grace, Patti, Lothar, Roger, and L'Tira to understand all the ins and outs of the project, and really it is a lot to absorb. Patti has been a real help in telling us what code does in more understandable terms and then translating that understanding into something a non-specialist can understand. Grace and Lothar have detailed a couple of Cadets to help out, that is getting us prepared for the first real test of the entire variant project. What we have, however, is the material that is the multitronic code and the test and evaluation cycles that this variant had gone through up to the point of M-5. All project work stopped within a week of that, and the units were put into the 'canceled project' category by Fleet Engineering and put into storage. A few investigators did examine the system, but the fragmentary notes from that time haven't done much to document the actual workings and goings-on behind it. It was shelved at the 60% completion stage and had notes that the rest of the project would be waiting on Dr. Daystrom's work with M-5."

"That would tend to confirm Enid's material of more having to be done with M-5 to make it a complete system," said Simon.

"It does at that, Simon. The major difference between the variant units and their parent units is that the variants have a multitronic and memory module crossing system. What that means is that all of the units integrate their code across that system and coordinate functions. The insight given for this was that an M-1 unit was capable of handling a limited sub-section of ship functions but could not well coordinate between them. The M-2 units had better coordination capability with some modulated direction that... well it is described as 'task oriented' and that fits rather well, really. So this system would have work done by each of the M-1s and the M-2s would work to ensure the system kept to basic guidance. 2 M-2 units were seen as necessary to manage their task loads in cooperation with each other."

"How did that delegation of work break-out?" asked Patti.

"Ahh... let me check.." Miss Lorimar checked her personal system,"... the M-1 units would interface with ship's power and propulsion, one to ship's sensors external along with communications, and the third handled the deflectors and shields. The M-2's had a rougher outline of ship homeostasis and maintenance, while the other took on interfaces and guidance. All the time exchanging information between the units to cross-coordinate."

"That is very interesting, really, and offers some insight into Dr. Daystrom's mindset, thank you Kathy."

"That brings up the 'cross-talk' problem which was seen when one of these units was turned on during M-4 work. From what we have seen all the units have a 'cross-talk' problem and some ability to detect each other when turned on. The sole exception to this was with the totally memory exchanged M-1 unit which Roger is tackling to find out why it didn't create interference with the start-up M-3 testing. What the variant project was trying to do was to either eliminate or enhance the 'cross-talk', and it looks to be tending towards the latter. Really it is a pretty primitive arrangement to hook up the systems to each other via then standard output and input ports and the modifications to each system was minimal."

Lothar checked his personal system, and was scanning through it, "Standard ports? Were those in the main contract schematics?"

"No they weren't, Lothar, although they were easy to put in for the systems involved on the multitronic portion. The other part looks to be some form of optical transmission system between M-units interfacing directly with the memory modules."

"The reason I'm asking is one of Dr. Daystrom's notes from before leaving for Enterprise. It was in the pack of ancillary material, but isn't a real schematic or diagram, just a grouping of numbered boxes with lines and a few circles. There are some similarities in one part of it... ahh... let me send this out to your units as I note it..." Kathy Lorimar switched the main display to Lothar's document, ".... here we have a group of 7 boxes with lines between them, and numbered from 1-7 and a circle around the group. From the circle goes a line to boxes 8, 9 and 10. But those lines are dashed and very light while that circled area is in stronger lines. Each of the boxes have other, very light lines going from them into nowhere. Even though its just a miscellaneous note, it fits in the time sequence just after the first testbed work with M-5 on the Grant turning out successfully, and the first major milestone of the variant project, #4 if I remember."

"Yes, that was the last full milestone reached by the variant before Dr. Daystrom went to the Enterprise."

"What is interesting is that there is an older note... ahh... this one..." the display changed, "... just between M-4 and M-5 in the month or so he took off between them. It has that same circle arrangement although with only 5 boxes in it and a direct line to box 6 and 7. On the linked material notes attached to this, he is referencing what I think are early psychologists and those dealing in the neural sciences."

"I ran across that too," said Patti," and he was looking at Freud and Jung but also at Vernadsky, Chardin and Bergson. Plus Jain, Rivera and Lake later in the century and Steinbuch, Bauer and Mikhailov. It is a very eclectic set of reading and just skimming over that has given me a headache, that plus his other reading... may I say that the 'summary formulations' given to us by the mid-22nd century really don't properly bring the ideas across? Even just relevant passage citation is not enough and stumbling through some of this work is more than a bit difficult."

"What is it all about, if you can summarize it?" asked Enid.

"Ahhh, not to take time from Kathy, but the brief, harsh summary is examining ideas of a shared human consciousness then looking at how genes can cross species via hybridization and the basics of informatics theory, which I am sure was just a refresher for Dr. Daystrom. It is very eclectic reading."

"Can that be put into a human understandable version?" asked Enid, to smiles around the room.

"I will take a stab at it, Enid."

"Go ahead, Roger, please!"

"Well, if you put it with what was going on with the variant project, this then is a parallel to those thoughts, though not an exact one. If the M-units share an underlying connection and can share their code variations and resources, then they should integrated better and be more effective at processing information to directives and have some more... ah... fluid way of doing so."

"The cross-talk problem!" said L'Tira.

Kathy Lorimar nodded, "After talking a bit I was coming to a similar area, but what we see is between unconnected units. How are they doing that? That question may be the one that finally explains the M-units as a whole because Dr. Daystrom was seeing them as a whole, but had to work on them as unconnected parts. That is still a mystery, but perhaps solving one will help to solve another. So, before jumping that far ahead, the immediate problem is to get the entire variant system up and operating, which may mean having to block other tests."

She shut off the display, "Enak?"

"Thank you, Miss Lorimar. Roger should take it from here for M-3 and other work."

"We have had basics with M-3 at this point: turn-on, system self-check and are going through the major test for system integrity. Simulation tests for the first part of the week and then the shuttlecraft for the rest of it. We are also working with Patti and Lothar to get a handle on some of the basics of M-5 as there are entire portions of it that are identical to all the other M-units, which points to the same or very similar code there. M-3 tests should be able to shed some better light on the multitronic code as should M-4, and the engram work is finally teasing out those portions that Richard Daystrom put into those systems. Patti has been doing the work of examining that with some help from me and a couple of other team members and can speak on that more than I can." Roger Arrivan nodded at Patti.

"First let me say that in some ways this work by Richard Daystrom is far more alien than some of the exotic technology that has passed through here. Even when using technology that is based on such things as sub-space mechanics, it exists wholly in our space and operates by the known multi-spacial laws. Richard Daystrom is no different, but how he applied his knowledge is out of the ordinary and even extraordinary. What he had set out to do was use the knowns of his time to create a construct that, while guided from human engrams, would conform in the way a living mind does to its body. Looking at how this is implemented in M-1 and M-2, it is clear that he utilizes the knowledge constructs of engrams and yet allows them to fully adapt to their host system. To do that he gave it not only our analogs and a means to identify the code and have it tested to conform to those engrammatic goals, but just enough tools to understand its environment. Here 'understand' is a very loose term as those tools are the code based building blocks for interacting with the hardware, not a formal and set based of code when utilized, although the basic toolkit remains always available in hardware memory. Most of what we get here is already fully made and its goal either obvious or based on its function, but the M-Series was a work in progress even by M-5, so our knowledge of it is sketchy. The basis for the system, from what I've been able to see on the physical side, started nearly 2 years after the invention of Duotronics and the beginning development of Multitronics, and sits in his the classes he taught at the MIT group. Even after getting Multitronics on its way he was already thinking about the next step from it, which pre-dates the M-Series by at least 7 years. Grace, actually deserves the credit for putting out a wide sweep for this and having had the student's estates and families contacted - without that we would never have gotten this."

"Which course is that, Patti?" Lothar asked.

"It is the 'Light Phase Harmonics' course, which broadly describes the low-level quantum interaction of light with various structures. That was actually done as a cooperative study program between the Materials and Theoretical groups at MIT to examine light based storage materials and how light works within those media. It was a highly technical group having a relatively small number of post-grads involved including one who had actually retained the course work in his personal archives: Lawrence Coughlin. His transcribed notes and original voice and visual inputs are available, but it is the abstract that keyed me in on this as it looked at how 'wave form structures propagated by non-linear means'. What had developed was self-sustaining code that created a light structure or interference pattern that then held a a small amount of coherent light. If you kept the power to the material sustained and turned off the coding input, the light structure remained in place, until it was turned off. The reason that this was interesting and caught my eye, is that a tool to expand the captured light structure and then divide it allowed for non-linear information flows between the two points in the test material using the quantum teleportation effect."

"That is a pretty well known part of our systems, actually, and used for transporters...." Lothar's voice trailed off. "Patti, when did you find this out?"

"About 3 hours ago as I went through a month-by-month analysis of Daystrom's course work starting before Duotronics. And you are right, the effect, itself, was demonstrated as far back as the 20th century and used to create the transporter system as it is necessary to take the quantum state of the item being transported through sub-space into account. Quantum teleportation is different in that it does not use sub-space, but is a space normal effect. What this post-graduate work looked at was other ways to examine materials storage, and to do the MIT sort of work of 'just playing with something to see what it does and if it makes any sense' sort of work. What Mr. Coughlin did, beyond the transcribed work and notebooks, is actually retain the source code used to create the light pool structure and divide it. That exact, same code has been stripped down and reformulated to remove some of the operations necessary for their equipment and is in place in M-1's code storehouse. Believe me, there are, literally, millions of hits on equivalent code and re-used code in the M-Series and amongst other code pieces and entire programs in the archives, but this is the only single point reference of modern application that shows up. I'm pretty sure Grace, Roger and Enak would have gotten to this today or tomorrow, but I had a bit of time after lunch and just went through the recent hits."

Kathy Lorimar leaned forward, "Patti, what does this do? If it is a building block of M-1, then it should show up in the rest of the M-Series as some basic function to it."

"Kathy, the reason this fits in with the work I've done looking at Richard Daystrom is that there are engrams in biological systems to allow for actual analysis work to happen before information arrives via physical means..."

"Yes, that is true and more than just in one mind," that came from the Technical Knowledge Gorn representative. The Gorns had quiet interaction in the sub-vocal range during this time, and it was hard to keep track if they were actually following any part of the discussion. "It is a basis for civilization."

Patti turned her head slowly to look at the Gorn that spoke, and nodded her head, "I... had been thinking in more detailed terms, not like that."

"That is understood. The analogs to it are nearly identical outside of the system." That from the Human Knowledge expert sitting next to the Technical expert.

"But is cross-comparable and pertinent." That from Group Lead. "It is something humanoids miss in their knowledge."

Patti, for one of the few times in her life, was flustered.

"We did not mean to exhibit rudeness in interrupting," said the Group Lead.

Enid spoke up, "No rudeness at all! It is a technical working group and I am pleased at the input. When you say we miss this in our knowledge, how do you mean that as we do know these things."

"It is not incorporated into yourselves for activity," said the Group Lead.

"Exterior constructs only," said the Technical Knowledge Gorn.

Patti looked between the Gorns and Enid, "I'm clearly missing something here" she said softly.

"Yes" said the Human Knowledge Gorn.

"Please continue. Interruption was not meant to intrude," said the Group Lead.

Patti Dubois, a woman who had examined some of the most lethal artifacts left over by ancient civilizations, and who was generally well able to keep her balance in any situation, realized a lifeline when it was handed to her and nodded. She had no idea if she had been insulted, the entire Federation insulted, or if she had just been told a Great Cosmic Truth and didn't even know what it meant. Gorns were never known for insults. And the latter didn't bear thinking about, she closed her eyes for a moment, took a swallow of water from her cup on the table and then continued.

"Lets see... I believe I was talking on the use of the code in the MIT research? We as biological beings have engrams that interface with our biological systems: biochemical, bio-electrical, and purely physical motion from the molecular scale upwards. Often our systems anticipate things based not on our minds but on how these engrams arrange themselves. That arrangement we grow used to in our daily lives and don't even think about, and yet they operate far faster than our overall mind does. An example of this is a flash of motion out of the corner of our eyes that stimulate an immediate response for the eyes to shift to it, focus, adjust and start flowing information in that gets interpreted long before our conscious mind is even aware of the motion. Even the very slightest motion of the eyes for adjusting to motion, or just gain environmental information happens at a rate that is far faster than what our conscious minds register, to the point where we don't register it at all: our minds build up an interior representation of what is seen and then the important things gain eye motion concentration. When thinking our minds build up patterns and routines of neurons, biochemicals and electrical fluctuations that, when stimulated by minor events, can bring the entire mental construct into place near simultaneously across the entire brain. Multitronics are limited by the speed of light and cannot easily replicate this, even with quantum computational substructures. These code pieces are in the tools to back up the engrams that are looking to accomplish these tasks."

"But what does this code actually do?" asked Mr. Jomra.

"I am glad you asked!" and she was finally regaining her train of thought, "Somehow the coherent light pool, when it divides, retains its quantum connection and incoming light to one of them then exits the other. It is actually very basic work done with lasers in the latter parts of the 20th and early 21st century demonstrating that light shifts between the two simultaneously. The MIT work demonstrated this worked inside the memory module's storage system which is partly holographic in nature."

"So two distant pools could exchange incoming and outgoing light to each other?"

"Yes, and that is what we think is happening here. What it is doing and why it is doing it and how it actually works in evolutionary code creating networks is something else, but it is a vital tool that appears very quickly, almost in the first 1,000 generations of code, after a blank M-1 unit is turned on. We know that after doing a code analysis on a memory module from the M-1 that we put in an entire suite of blank memory modules. While not as complex as an M-1 that had been turned on for a few hundred hours or billions of evolutionary cycles, it is present and functioning, obviously doing something vital inside the code, itself."

"We are doing a forensics analysis on a few of the newly coded modules from the M-1 turn-on this last week and should have it in a day or two more," said Grace, "as you know evolutionary code can be very subtle, but this appears to be a basic capability that Richard Daystrom wanted for his systems."

"Does this have anything to do with the compensator that Dr. Daystrom added in on M-3?" asked Simon Lurva.

"It is an evolutionary system, so it is hard to tell, really. Plus I haven't gotten to more than the basics of M-3 as the evolutionary code seems to require understanding M-1 and M-2. There is a basic interface for the input coming in raw to the memory module system, and a some of this code has adapted that into it, but not all. I hope to work with Roger, Kathy and Grace on that this week, once I can get a basic understanding of what this code does. I don't think I have ever seen anything like it. Really, that is about it for now. Roger?"

"Thank you, Patti. This is really a whole lot more than I ever imagined with a system like this and it really needs a senior CS person to understand it."

"You are doing excellently, Roger, really. I don't think a senior person would have the necessary flexibility to try and handle so much. Believe me, age has nothing to do with capacity to understand. I'm actually glad to have you in that slot as you are doing the right thing of not tackling it all."

"Thank you, Enid! There are times when I feel more than a bit overwhelmed and that I'm handing off too much work to others..."

"Roger, anyone who feels that way would tell you." said Lothar, who was the most senior fleet member in the group. "Hell, you are doing a better job in that position than I would at this point. This is something the Fleet can't teach you and when they try we wind up with mediocre administrators. There are a bevy of them, if you haven't noticed."

"Yeah, there is that. And I've had to rely a lot on your expertise and that of Patti and Grace, and the others. There are some points when I clearly don't know what to do with what I've got."

"And you have done the most important thing, Roger, which many a longer term administrator is loathe to do: you have asked others and weighed their advice. Your mind is flexible enough not to take a given as a given, and yet to understand when you are just not enough to do something. I've been on a few projects where senior administrators have made projects with good outlook into failures in the biological sciences. That is why I chose you for the position, and didn't ask more senior staff. You had no worries that just not knowing would be seen as a negative." said Enid.

"There is that, I suppose. I had hoped to do some serious code digging, but this is more than just serious, really."

"You are doing fine, Roger, really. And you can't say this code doesn't require some serious digging to it," Lothar said smiling.

"No complaints on that end! I'm asking Kathy and Mr. Jervis to give an overview on some of the quantum work involved here, hopefully by the end of the week. Not much, just an hour overview of the field and where our understanding stands. Even though it was in my course work its... ahh... not a specialty of CS. Beyond that, M-3 stand-up with some forensics after turn-on and then multi-system evaluation on the 'cross-talk' phenomena with Kathy. We will be running on different schedules for this so there is minimal overlap in her work and the M-3 work until late in the week. That is pretty much for my area. Enid?"

"Thank you, Roger and everyone working on that! We are all being asked to step from our specialties, and I am really the furthest afield on this. You have all made this understandable and even comprehensible to me and I'm really beginning to marvel at the kind of man my great grandfather was. Now I've chatted with Lothar on this and we are ok to talk about it, so Mr. Jomra, what is the back-channel on the Grant?"

"The pre-announcement work has begun, and I know that the Corps has been in contact with Lothar, so he should really give that, I think, and I can backfill where he might... not have the resources."

Enid smiled, "Lothar?"

"Thank you, Ms. Daystrom and Mr. Jomra is dead-on: we are going to be getting the USS Grant. It is a ship that is structurally sound but its internal systems are... well, I've taken a quick look at the overview of work that went on in her both before and after the M-Series and it is a mess. As it was a testbed ship, the Corps never saw a reason to actually fix up things until after work had been removed from her, and as some of that would have taken substantial drydock time, and they never had the resources to do it, the mess has been left. The Museum is requesting a substantial amount, and it comes to either a full drydock session or some committed Corps time to actually get the excess material out of her while here. I would, actually, prefer the latter."

"Why is that, Lothar?" asked Enid.

"As it goes all that equipment will have to come here for final recording and analysis, and it is much easier to do that while it is in-place than it is after the Corps has stripped it out of a ship. One of the dirty little secrets of the Museum is that we have a larger storage area in orbit to put things that have been improperly removed and have little of value."

"Really? Where is that?"

"Phobos and Deimos."

"The moons? But you don't have those under Museum administration, do you?"

"Not exactly, no. There is, however, a 21st century set of observation platforms on each that are under our control... so we just utilize the rest of the moons as... well, not to put it to badly, they are junkyards for the big ship systems stuff that can withstand a microgravity. Which is most of it since it all had to withstand artificial gravity in the ships they came from. So I would much rather have the systems as they are and properly put into storage rather than make it pretty obvious what the Museum does with the true junk that has been mishandled."

"Ah, bureaucracy!", Mr. Jervis intoned.

"Too much of it. Plus we can start re-conditioning the decks that haven't been impacted, which was most of the non-engineering decks, such as that is. From what I understand, and Mr. Jomra may have some more detailed knowledge, the decks just above the warp cores in the Engineering hull have been partially gutted for the divisional warp core test, while those under it have been gutted for the slip-warp. Just aft of the sensor dish has been removed save for supports that are structural. The primary hull saucer section has had a bit better work done when the Grant was upgraded from its old launch tube system for photon torpedoes to its X-system tubes. Better is qualitative, however, as what was done is that the area just above the old system became the new launch area and simple hull coverings placed over the old launch system."

"It has two sets of photon torpedo bays?" asked Grace.

"Two? Oh, we should be so lucky, Grace. Here, let me show you the schematics of the forward saucer launch bay section..."

The schematics for the USS Grant came up along with the deck overlay, and various red lines, notes, linked attachments, and a plethora of material that Lothar had accumulated on the ship. The view shifted to a side-view and concentrated on a highlighting of the area involved.

"One of the things the Grant was used for was a warp core stress testing of its different warp designs. Like with the BHR, the Corps has set upon a very, very easy way to approximate the load of weapons systems that are modern, but not ready for integration: they use multiples of the older systems until they reach the energy needs of the proposed systems. Now, as they had lots of the left-over Constitution class torpedo systems after starting the X-systems upgrades, they added in not only the standard X-bay on the support connector between the engineering and main hull, but they added two more tubes next to the original set the Grant had upgraded. They tested an in-Corps piece of work, there, called the Multi-Feed Torpedo Bay, in which fully prepared to fire photon torpedoes could be held with an energy overhead and then fired out of any of the 6 forward tubes. The two on the interconnector are standard types and a separate system."

"Wait! That is, ahh... 8 tubes total?" asked Grace.

"Yes, and the forward 6 can fire out of any or all of the exterior ports via the MFTB."

"And they are all operational?" asked Mr. Jervis.

"Just add power and torpedoes." said Lothar.

"Were they planning on making a Monitor of it?" asked Simon.

"Actually, that would have been a good fate for such a thing once you pulled the non-standard equipment out. Needless to say it also has a simple doubling of point phaser banks, plus one of the first phaser strips running around the perimeter of one of the upper mid-decks. To get to that sort of firepower, even today, you are looking at a battlestation along the Neutral Zone. Save that it would not be warp 9 capable."

"I thought the Constitution class was pretty much capped at warp 8 with emergency over-ride for higher?" asked Kathy.

"That is a ship with only one warp drive on board," the display shifted, "there is the old Constitution upgraded core, just where it should be." The cut-away highlighted it. "Just below that is the slip-warp, or high efficiency warp field system. By creating a thinner and longer warp core with the same volume, it was hoped that the field manipulation would be less energy intensive. That is what the theory says, and correct me if I'm wrong, Kathy."

"No, it should work that way, but..."

"Uh-huh, always one of those. In engineering there are trade-offs between control, energy, field size and other variables. It turns out that a longer core is less stable, harmonically, and so any process efficiencies in the core are balanced by the utilization inefficiencies. Now if that is the case for that, imagine trying to segment up a warp core into 6 smaller sub-cores and coordinating them. That is the other system, the one that creates those nasty bulges and has its own inter-cooler system just above mid-pylon. Those three curved protrusions are three of the sub-cores. Normally they would sit internally and further back, so as to provide more crew area forward. But that would be on a ship designed for it. Here it pretty much removes the decks above engineering. And it has a totally different harmonic problem, of trying to gain the exact, same harmonic warp field from 6 smaller sub-cores. Kathy?"

"In theory each core would take far less energy, and provide better power management for ship systems. But coordinating them...."

"Again in theory fine, in practice it just doesn't work that way. The Corps tried one more time a decade after this test and that was just a test rig, not even a ship, and one minor misbalance and the rig flew apart in 4 directions. I don't think that anyone has successfully pulled of the coordinated fractional core system as it just can't be managed. Field harmonics should stabilize all the core fields to a common frequency, but there is a feedback to the smallest of differences that basically creates the fly-apart scenario or the 'anti-matter/matter direct contact' scenario. Here the Corps never even got to a full warp field and gave up trying to merge them."

"Should supply power, though," said Mr. Jervis.

"Lots of power on this ship, if it was all working. As it is, not a speck of anti-matter in the warp systems and only enough fuel for one small fusion reactor. Not even fuel for the thrusters or impulse engine and the ship is out of tractor/puller range of the base. The Corps needs 6 months just to schedule a refuel, and once that is done it can use thrusters to change its orbit and then come out on impulse drive. As it is the Fleet doesn't have spare tug or freighter time until much later than that. Sol is a busy system and logistics reigns supreme from SFHQ so not even SFC can help. So, Ms Daystrom, we can get a full test-bed, but not until long after your time here is over."

Enid sighed, "Yes and re-scheduling later after my leave will be gone will be impossible and I will be out-system for a few years. A week or two I can get, but 3 to 4 months more is out of the question. Can we go to the Grant for working on this?"

"Not at present. The Corps team has only part of one deck that is liveable and that will run out in a couple of weeks until they get a full team there with fuel, then the ship can self-protect via deflectors and keep the life support available ship-wide."

"Well, it was a bit much to expect, really. Anything else on the Grant, Lothar?"

"Too much small stuff, but my section is sorting it out. It will be the largest job the Museum has ever taken on, including the BHR and Athens."

"Looking forward to it, then?"

"In some ways, Enid, it will be a large challenge and will involve basically everyone on the station for a few years. Probably retire after that, but not one second before it."

"Good! The Museum deserves it, really, after what I have seen. Thank you, Lothar. Mr. Jomra? The back-channels and unofficial work?"

Mr. Jomra looked around, "That is the basic story, Ms. Daystrom. Ahh... its not the whole story, though. I've been going through the specs on the variant project and talked a bit with Arrivan, Grace and Kathy about this. I think we should put this in as a test scenario for the variant project as it was really designed to handle something like this. We can test it through time-compression runs and get an idea of the time the M-variant would take to get this done, if it can do it at all."

Enid smiled, "I am not expecting miracles, Mr. Jomra. But I don't see any reason not to do so as it is an actual situation we can model very well. Kathy?"

"Actually, if the set-up is as easy as expected, it should be done this week for next week's meeting."

"Ok, its a good way to go, I think. And Lothar would like to have that sort of trouble, having to better estimate the work to do."

"Yes, that would be good. And protected shuttle transport can be arranged via the base in Jovian orbit. No one can use single point transporters that close to Jupiter, but there are some purpose built shuttles for when point-to-point transportation can be arranged. I'll make some inquiries."

"Anything else, Mr. Jomra?"

"Well, unofficially, when the Federation started having problems with the Cardassians and then the Borg, well... a number of ships in Jovian orbit were quietly restocked with weapon consumables. Even damaged dilithium spares were distributed, and the Grant was seen as a ship that could be useful in an emergency. It is highly unofficial, but the entire torpedo storage system was renovated and restocked, along with phaser coolant tanks in storage. A few other ships are like that, dead but able to be emergency brought online."

"Dear God," whispered L'Tira.

"The USS Grant is expected to be on Emergency Reserve/War Reserve status with the Museum. Damaged crystals will be removed and the Archive section will safehouse front line crystals on the Martian surface, along with the torpedoes and coolant. So we will have more than a museum ship here."

"Lothar, we will need safety precautions if thats the case."

He nodded sitting back, "Cut-offs and interlinks. The old computer system on the Grant may need some updating, so manual interlinks will be necessary."

"L'Tira, once this is done, make sure that Mr. Jomra's contacts get the regalia, as they deserve it."

"Yes they do, Enid."

"Thank you, Ms. Daystrom. The rest of the ship is pretty much either in partial states of disassembly or locked down. That last includes the deck from the original M-5 test."

"What? What does that mean?" Enid asked.

"Enid, what it means is that deck has been sealed since the original M-5 team was there. Including personnel cabins, and none have been opened from that time." said Lothar.

"Great grandfather's quarters?"

"Yes, and the Fleet could have easily removed the contents but they were under contract. So they were sealed after an initial investigation. Grace, do we have Fleet records on that?"

"We do, Lothar. Probably in the Grant's records or the contract records. If not I'll get the Corps to cough them up."

"The estate is not fully closed, Enid. By contract anything there of a personal nature is yours." said Mr. Jomra.

"Great grandfather did travel lightly, from what everyone says. Still he was planning on returning... what happened was... unexpected. I really don't know what to say, Mr. Jomra, save thank you for letting me know."

"You are very welcome, Ms. Daystrom. Beyond that there is nothing more I can really say."

Enid nodded, "Thank you, again. L'Tira? Final outlook for the week?"

"There will be some material coming in from the Neutral Zone this week as an old battle site has been found and wreckage is being brought in. Nothing ship size, but some partial systems, crew effects and personnel material. Things will be filtering in from there for a month or two. I think you are scheduled for another predatory presentation based on your past work, and everyone who hasn't gotten their interim reports will get those this week. That is about it."

"Thank you, L'Tira. Do our guests wish to add anything?"

"Yes, Enid Daystrom, thank you for this time. Our people are interested in this M-variant as it is a worthwhile project and if the Federation will not continue the work, we will ask for your permission to ensure it does continue." said the Group Lead.

"Our people do not do much in the way of computers and this is a direction that is something that offers a chance to have common understanding between our people and those of the Federation." said the Human Knowledge expert.

Enid blinked a few times. A woman used to working with megacarnivores now realized that her knowledge had to be put to use, "I thank you, and look forward to this. If your people think this is worth doing, then it is worth helping you on it."

"Our people will be in contact with the Federation Council. Thank you for this opportunity, Enid Daystrom, to understand the work of your ancestor. This is vital knowledge."

Enid wracked her brain to think of what 'vital knowledge' meant to the Gorns as it had a different meaning to them than it did to those in the Federation. "It would be an honor to help. If there is nothing else, then I will say that the next meeting will be in the 3rd level briefing room as that is what was available. This meeting is adjourned."

Patti walked over to Enid, "That last bit may well take you away from your career."

"I know, Patti. But they are carnivores, after all."

"Multi-system spanning ones that have been facing down the Romulans alone for... 900 years? Longer?"

Enid watched the Gorns stand and move with the other members out into the hallway. "And we still don't know them much at all after 130 or so years. That doesn't speak well of the Federation, Patti."

Patti shook her head in agreement, "And they have shown little interest in our cultures, technology or much of anything else. Coolly cordial, I think is how the diplomats put it. A basic defensive alliance against the Romulans and, what, one shared colony near our common border?"

"Yes, but this is... 'vital knowledge'."


"To the Gorns that is basic knowledge for survival. To us it is a minor path of computer sciences, to them? Survival?"

Patti looked from Enid and to where the Gorns had left.

"I... Enid... what the hell was the M-Series?"

"Your guess is as good as mine, Patti. Better probably."

"Now. Now I'm worried. Enid, do you mind if I pass this up the chain?"

"Go ahead, I don't want this coming as a shock to anyone."

"Shock isn't the word. Believe me."

Patti walked out leaving Enid Daystrom alone, and she glanced at the projected image of the USS Grant in cut-away, and whispered just before turning it off, 'No one can escape their name.'


Between meetings Enid Daystrom kept very busy, even as a technical neophyte in many areas, she was more than willing to get equipment, hold recorders, annotate drawings and generally keep around the project personnel. She enjoyed, greatly, the full opportunities of the base and held more than just the regular seminars with the bio-analysis group, but actually helped to put together a more formal presentation of her work to-date, even to the point of having some help on her formal items for wider distribution via the information systems amongst scientists. Those latter had grown far beyond the modest hosting of papers done by a pre-warp flight government organization hundreds of years ago, or the predecessor actual printed material publications. While 'publish or perish' had its place for getting resource commitments, the actual information and formal system of distribution had solved the restricted outlets of bygone days.

What she hadn't thought about before coming to the Archive section and the Museum, was exactly how the staff lived and worked there. The turbolift system had interlinks between public and private areas, of course, but the cars, themselves, had restrictions based on occupancy and function. The highly refurbished cars represented a cross-section of eras from the primitive brushed steel of the original starships to the latest 'make displays available everywhere or nowhere' systems that so gently shifted movement that it was hard to tell if you were moving at all. As the Museum had to display all eras of the Fleet and Federation, so, too, did its interiors and personnel need to reflect those eras.

The main, public cafeteria had everything from the freeze-dried meals of so early on in space flight that it made most people wonder if it was food, to the latest SFC menu that auto-adjusted to metabolism, so that one always got the right nutrients, fats, proteins, carbohydrates and trace elements in whatever form you chose to have it. That was duplicated on the staff side, too, and she was more than a bit bemused that the actual, physical boxes of freeze dried food seemed to be replaced very quickly. It is only once she was on an active project did she come to respect the ability to carry those easily and quickly reconstitute them without breaking one's train of thought or work. Soon she, too, was doing the step in and 'grab and go' convenience of meals on the run, which was just like her field work experience and for the same reason: civilized eating requires time.

What really made her enamored of the Museum was that the staff and guests had the entire suite of Fleet Regulation Uniforms on tap, and so long as you wore the complete uniform you were not looked down upon. She kept to her civilian clothing for a few days, and watched others around her, noting that the real administrative staff who served as that and not on active projects, gravitated towards the 'sparse' styles of skin tight uniforms that all emphasized looks and clean lines. Those uniforms had one, major, lack in her estimation: pockets. Star Fleet had a well known fetish towards the 'pocketless' look and it was one gripe that was heard about the administrators setting clothing style: those with real jobs to do needed additional storage space and the ships systems were no replacement for personal capability you could carry away from a ship or have in a secluded area where there were no computer inputs. Entire ship designs often gravitated around making spaces larger to allow for such things, even when that was not the best way to design a ship. It was the technical staff and working staff that showed the flexibility of Star Fleet uniform designers once they got feedback. And they did get feedback. Continuously.

Technical staff gravitated towards truly functional clothing, pockets included. Those in the Weapons section tended towards the less sleek wear of the administrators and to the earlier uniforms of the Fleet, where maximal carrying was a major asset. The hand weapons group, itself, had not only long sleeved pale gray uniforms, but then had torso vests with a truly amazing number of pockets, loops, hanging belts and personal equipment jacks. The pants of that era were likewise capacious to the point of being able to carry a phaser rifle broken into sections across the various leg pieces with the power pack serving as a power source for the entire set of clothing. Padding reduced chafing and the materials were relatively light. The sheer amount of equipment carried for specialized work was something a member of the group referred to as 'the walking test lab'.

Engineering uniforms varied, greatly, depending on specialization, so that most of the heavy equipment section had on sturdy and abrasion resistant clothing that featured a few large pockets plus an inner lining that held a plethora of small pockets and loops. The dark blue of that era helped to hide any bulk and yet seemed to come across as something that was not out of place on a construction site or warehouse. The fabric, itself, repelled dust and resisted fluids although that had limits due to the need for breathable clothes that were unpowered.

The biosciences group had fallen into a general area of multi-piece jacket/shirt combinations, that were only a hundred years or so out of date, yet featured sleek administrative clothing with few additions as daily wear, and a plush jacket with all sorts of places to put equipment, paraphernalia and up to half kilo filled storage containers or 'the instant bag' as it was called. That uniform had three different styles of boots, so that an individual could do a bit of mixing and matching to fit where you were going. When one of the staff explained that between the dual core breathable plush there was a tear-resistant impact absorbing duo-weave she nearly fell in love with it: that was something that could have been very handy in a few environments and situations she had been in.

After a few days she settled on an early 23rd century Yeoman's outfit, that was highly practical, consisting of dark gold shirt, black pants and soft pliable black boots that had a impact hardener between layers. The tunic, itself, was pocketless, but as the Yeoman's variant it had the lightweight, dark gold jacket as part of the ensemble and it fit the bill of having enough pocket space for modern personal equipment, and was able to fit in a variety of equipment across the rest of it. She was tempted to take the stylus/recorder with her, just for its storage compartments along with shoulder bag, but the tricorder of that era served much of the same function and had more space. While dark gold wasn't her color, the off-dark blue and yellow maroon of that era were not her colors, either, and this had some minimal styling with the jacket on.

It was only after the meeting that L'Tira had brought up the memory modules that Enid was struck by the commonality of that module size across the uniforms. After their invention a decade or two after Star Fleet was formed, the pockets and storage areas for them were everywhere. Tricorders had a small rack for them, as did the stylus/recorder systems which usually had two. Only in the pocketless uniforms did she realize that there were spaces for memory modules, tucked in under the waist and then up into the band which would then hold them snugly with just a bit of padding and yet be wholly unobtrusive. Only those of the last 50 years had done away with that for administrators, and that division of trying to make administrators unable to carry such things with them spoke to how the Fleet viewed them or, more correctly, how they should be viewed: as never needing to refer to anything, ever. When she watched bridge imagery from the USS Grant she saw how deftly the crew was able to palm the devices and then, with an easy sweep of the hand across the upper waist band, the module disappeared. She tried it and after a couple of false starts, it worked just like that, with the edge of the module unsealing the pocket, the outer part of the palm pushing it in and then any motion sealed it again. It was this becoming an unconscious action that really amazed her, as no one trained this, taught this, pointed it out, or recorded it anywhere, and yet the memory modules would appear as if out of thin air time and time again. Even on board a ship that could get the information and display it faster than you could do with the palming technique, it was still preferred by many Fleet personnel. There is nothing like holding information, really. Which was why printed books had still not disappeared completely, but were a niche item that remained steadfast against all advances of technology.

No wonder the Fleet personnel were notorious at card games!

It was only talking about a carnivore from the Elsen IV system that she started to realize that this strange habit was one she had picked up not only for memory modules but for the presentation controller, 3D light bar for pointing out internal organs, and even for the few personal effects of daily life, like the similar sized mirror comb that easily fit in the palm of her hand. As they were taught in biology - 'form follows function' and the form of the things she was using fit the function of the pocket system. Once the pocket was made and it worked well, other items started to take on a form to suit it. She smiled at the conclusion of the presentation she had just completed when the absolute, insidious genius of her great grandfather became apparent: no one literally thought about these things. Ubiquitous processing didn't have you thinking twice about addressing an empty room, as the network of small computers and larger ones meshing together were always available. Similarly the all too human characteristic of having tactile information at one's literal fingertips made it innocuous to the point of disappearing, just as it did into those pockets. By being at the end point of actually useful storage technology, the memory module disappeared into commonness. Within seconds her personal system, memory modules, pointer, and all other things she needed for the presentation had disappeared into the jacket.

One of the Museum staff waited until most of the people had left and she had stowed her gear, then stepped up to her.

"Miss Daystrom?"

Enid turned to look at the young man, wearing a skin-thin of the modern era.

"I'm Ensign Gallagher and we have an encoded sub-space transmission waiting for you on level 4. Shall I show you the way?"

Enid was puzzled not expecting anything and hoping to get back to the project bay.

"Please do."

"Follow me, Ma'am," he stepped to the side and walked next to her. They went down the corridor and into the staff area, then towards a turbolift, which opened and took them to level 4. From there to the communication section, one of the administrative, not Museum areas of the base. He took her to a hallway and led her to Room 2.

"It is keyed to you, Ma'am. If you need anything, or there are transmission problems, just use the intercom." he smiled.

"Thank you, Ensign." As he turned and walked away, she palmed the door pad and stepped in, the lights were a bit muted and the small communications room was empty save for a table that would seat three and a multi-display.

"Activate," she said as she sat down, looking up at the display which had on a Star Fleet Command logo with San Francisco, Earth beneath it. The display put up a 'Voice Verified' and then cleared out, and she was looking at a similar conference table, apparently extending the one she was at, which had five individuals at it that she had never met.

An older man, seated directly across from her, smiled.

"Miss Enid Daystrom?"

"Yes, I am," she said.

"Good! I am Vice Admiral Wilson Scott, Deputy Director of Fleet Operations. To my far right is T'sau, Undersecretary of the Federation Diplomatic Corps..."

The Vulcan male had gray at his temples, and a more rounded face than was seen with most Vulcans, "Greetings, Miss Daystrom."

"My pleasure, T'sau."

... next to him is Revar Umak, Deputy Undersecretary of Federation Commerce..."

"Good day, Miss Daystrom," the being was a Tellerite and she had problems placing gender.

"Thank you, Revar Umak."

"... immediately to my left is Commodore Leonard Mirak, Commander of Fleet Science Section..."

"Hello, Miss Daystrom." while apparently youthful for a Commodore, the tracks leading from the corners of his eyes bespoke of being old for his age. He wore a standard duty uniform, not a skin-thin type.

"Hello, Commodore Mirak."

"... finally there is Commodore Eloise Rafiq, Commander of Fleet Records."

"It is nice to meet you, finally, Miss Daystrom," said the woman with black hair and light blue eyes, who wore the Team Jacket, which being a black synth-leather made her a very different figure from the rest.

"And me to meet you, Commodore Rafiq. Admiral Scott, it is good to meet you, too."

"Thank you, Miss Daystrom, the same is true here. And you are probably wondering why it is we are contacting you like this?"

Enid smiled slightly, "Not really, I can name three things off the top of my head and probably four at this point, maybe even five or six. I am not used to such extremely high level of meetings, however, with the head of the Smithsonian and Vulcan Natural Sciences Academy has been about it for high level meetings. Beyond the Lascoter of Tuza V, of course, a 20 ton carnivore with a taste for hominids might actually rank a bit higher. It was quite hungry at the time."

T'sau stared off into space, obviously at a display she couldn't see and whispered, "Indeed."

"Ah, yes, I see," said Adm. Scott, "well as you know there are some happenings with what you are doing there..."

"What I am doing with Star Fleet is to help close out a contractual obligation, Admiral."

"There is that, yes. I, well, let me come down right to the point of things: this project is gaining far more attention to it than anyone had thought it would and was an extremely reasonable request handled at lower levels. But the implications with the Gorns, that is wholly unexpected and is the first real request of a true technical nature they have made in decades."

"Ever." whispered Revar Umak. "Miss Daystrom, do you know anything of actual trade going on between the Gorn Confederation and the Federation?"

"Truthfully, not a clue, Mr. Umak."

He snorted, "There isn't any. Not on the black market, either, and we have tried to get agents into various organizations to find out why that is. Star Fleet hasn't been able to do much of anything, and T'sau can speak for the diplomatic end. To have the Gorns ask to work on a project... not negotiations started by the Federation but THEM coming to US!!" Revar Umak was clearly enervated, even if a bit disturbed and excited simultaneously.

"If I may," T'sau said quietly, "it has been the great misfortune of the Diplomatic Corps to be unable to do much of anything to facilitate activity between the Confederation and Federation. Even the term 'Confederation' is ours, as theirs does not literally translate even via Universal Translator. We have tried everything at our disposal, and some decades ago things came to a more or less dead-end. The co-colony was meant to alleviate that problem, and has offered insight, but no inroads. They have had members sit in on, literally, hundreds of project reviews and presentations, ongoing scientific work programs, consortia council meetings, Fleet Engineering sessions, numerous commercial councils, trade representative meetings, the list is long. Very long. We have even had Kolinar individuals attempt to help via mind-melds, and that has been a poor experience for those individuals as they report that individuals do not exist in the Gorn mind. Not as we know it, in any event. It is one of the deepest frustrations of the Diplomatic Corps that the Gorns are not interested in the Federation."

Enid nodded, "And now a dead man's project brings them out."

"That is the problem, yes, Miss Daystrom," said Commodore Mirak, "and worse still is that the individuals working on that project are not what we would want as Federation representatives in such an endeavor."

Enid laughed, "Forgive me, please, but who are YOU to decide that? We are all members of the Federation and citizens from our home systems, mine being Sol 3 also known as Earth. While the Council tries to put a nice patina on things, the people I know of the Federation are diverse, involved, and feel good will towards it as a cooperative endeavor, but in many ways it is not representative of them. The understood need for competent and capable individuals in Star Fleet is one thing, but the view of the Federation Council towards those who tend to strike off on their own is a bit deplorable. And, if I may say so, the fine people who I have met at the Archives section and Museum are, for all their foibles and problems, well able to come together on something like this. Hell, they even put inter-office politics aside which is something I find rare on multi-institution projects where we are, in theory, all working together."

Commodore Rafiq looked at Admiral Scott, "You lose the bet, Wilson."

"Which bet is that, Commodore?", Enid asked.

"If you could successfully push a Daystrom to do something," Louise said with a deep smile.

"Heh. How many have you have lived in the shadow of fame? I do as I will, with or without that shadow, and it is often far harder to get anything done or recognized because of it. For that I understand great grandfather very well. The last time the Fleet pushed a Daystrom, look what you got."


"I will do the right thing by my great grandfather, by the Fleet, and for my family and to satisfy myself that the scales of history will weigh Richard Daystrom fully and fairly for good or ill. The deep darkness at the center of the shadow has yet to be lifted and that time is well past that it should happen. Do you understand me?"

"Well, it was worth a try. Eloise, I owe you dinner," Admiral Scott said with a wry grin.

"Yes you do, and it will be at the Museum."

"You are serious?"

"Very, Wilson, if the Gorns want in on this and the back-channel I have had with her team is any indication, this is something extremely important."

"Commodore Rafiq, you do know my team is under confidentiality, right?" Enid said.

"Yes, Miss Daystrom, yet some of the basics can't help slipping out. It would not be enough to even begin a project without your great grandfather's work, however, and because the Fleet cycled it so far through it is an obligation on us to ensure that you are satisfied. That work is yours as head of the estate."

"We could do an Eminent on it." said Umak.

"We have discussed that, and you know the likely outcome," said T'sau, "the inviolable right of that estate to have those works is something ancient not only to your people and mine, as well as those of Earth, but to the Federation in general. You know what would happen. Even hearing her this far, it is without question in my mind."

"Too true, T'sau. She would rip us apart in court using the Daystrom name against us and cracking open property laws that have been unquestioned for centuries. If the Council loses that trust, the Federation will survive, but wider distrust would grow."

"And the Fleet wouldn't support it, either," said Commodore Mirak, "I've passed it by our Chief of Legal Affairs and Star Fleet would stand with Miss Daystrom. Not only legally, but look at Elouise. Even after bringing the name back via the NX ship, the NCC-1707 still has a deep meaning to the Fleet. Her honoring of that and seeking to set it right... the Council would have a fight on its hands, Revar."

"Hmph!", Revar Umak sat back in his chair, "The Council won't like it. But I agree, really. If commerce were impacted by this in any way, the Federation would decay and quickly. Orion Pirates are bad enough, having suspicion of high level corruption on property rights would be a harsh blow to the Federation."

"Especially on something it gave up on." said Enid.

Revar Umak chortled, "You are going to make us pay for this, aren't you, Miss Daystrom?"

"No, Mr. Umak. I am going to make it right."

"There is that, yes," said Commodore Mirak, "that, along with the Gorns are what we are actually here about, but the 'direct issues' had to come first. Even to those of us who lost no one on the Excalibur, the history of it is actually a worry due to so much of the modern computers coming from the brain of the same man. We have seen some systems go awry, but that is due to the nature of their users, not intent by Richard Daystrom. It isn't the 'ghost in the machine' phenomena, just... Miss Daystrom calls it a shadow and it is still cast by that incident."

"Yes, it is, Len, it isn't an active thing, just... a final hint of of something to it,"said the Admiral, "the good intentions of the Fleet turned lethal. Miss Daystrom, setting this 'right' is to the good which is why I've supported the requests coming up from Operations. If what Richard Daystrom is that different, then my only worry is you and your safety."

Enid was taken aback and sat back, deftly taking out a small water flask from the jacket draped on her chair. She took two swallows and put it back. "Me? I am not my great grandfather, let me assure you. I can't afford to be dreamy-eyed in my occupation, as it would tend to get me killed."

"Miss Daystrom, if I may?" asked T'sau.

"Please do."

"None of us can know what would happen if something happened to you..."

"My younger brother would take over."

"Is he a man that would see this through in case anything happened to you?"

"On his own? It would be perfunctory, I think. Karl is that way even if Ushanda would needle him to take it more seriously because I did. Really, at this point the team is where the knowledge rests, not really in me. Getting that team through to completion... he would, yes. But he lives with that deeper shadow easier than I do because he is further away from its center, being younger."

"Skilled and able, but not deeply affected?"

"Yes, that is a fair way to say it, I guess. The times it does come up, it irks him... and yet when I suggest that he change it, his response is 'What? And miss the fun?' So a good, stable man, but not one who will fully put a shadow away."

"If something happened to you, who would you want to lead the team?" the Admiral asked.

"L'Tira." Enid was shocked that came out so quickly. But as the one she worked with the most and spent the most down-time with, they had grown close in their understanding and viewpoints. "But not as a member of the Fleet, but on her own time."

"That will be a table for three, Leonard, might as well all go to the same place," Commodore Rafiq said.

"Eloise, how do you figure these things out? And I would be more than happy to go with you to the Museum. I would like to see these things working, really, and talk with anyone about what they can talk about."

"Which will not be much, Commodore, the team and those who help it are under confidentiality. But a briefing I can arrange." said Enid.

"Actually, that covers the points that we wanted to bring up, Miss Daystrom. I can get the USS Grant recovery work sped up, however, as that should help things out." Admiral Scott said.

"Oh, no, the variant contract was made to handle just this situation and the Gorns have primary interest in it. The location and condition are perfect, really, plus the time pressure helps greatly. If it all goes well, then I will actually be done with everything and can start pre-publication work and help get the Gorns and Federation working on a co-production system. I'll contact Karl on that, its his area more than mine. But no one will publish before I do. The technology remains under wraps until it is something fit for getting out. With just a bit of work I can actually get this done and get back to my private life and not have to worry about it."

"Ah, your brother run it? Not the Institute?" said Mr. Umak.

"My family has little to do with the Daystrom Institute these days, beyond a ceremonial suit, and once a year dinners. No, this will happen under the name of the group that started it: Daystrom Industries. Creator of the duotronic and multitronic systems before licensing those off to other firms. That is a family concern, unless you missed that in the contract."

"As humans would say, 'she has us cold', Revar."

"Are there any concerns you have, Miss Daystrom?" asked the Admiral.

"Just one. Commodore Rafiq, do you think you could work with my brother Karl?"

Eloise Rafiq blinked, "Me? I.. under what circumstances?"

"In case anything happens to the entire team. I will need someone to work out things the right way if that happens. I will bring you on when you get here, and you will be a full team member. This is too important to have chance work against it, I think. And at that point the Fleet does need its heft behind this."

"You are a wary woman, Enid Daystrom."

"Uh-huh, that is how I escaped the Lascoter. Very wary and introduced it to a cliff that it didn't expect."

"I do like you, Miss Daystrom, I agree."

"Thank you, Commodore. Oh, it'll be a working meal when you three get here. Expect to be kept busy if you want to see how things go. I'm sure you will like an early 22nd century Fleet meal."

"Thank you, Miss Daystrom," said the Admiral, "end transmission."

The connection died and Enid stood and put on her jacket. The flask appeared in her hand, and she took the last swallows from it, then stretched a moment before walking out of the communications room. L'Tira was sitting on utilitarian sofa just down the hall.

"What was that all about?" she asked.

"Busy work. We will be getting three high level staffers here for a presentation early next week. Working presentation at the bay."

"Really? Who will it be?"

"Vice Admiral Scott of Fleet Ops, Commodore's Mirak and Rafiq from Sciences and Records, respectively. They may have a few other people in tow, make sure the staffers get rooms but they aren't coming to the briefing. Anyone else clear through me, ok?"

L'Tira stopped. "Enid? The #2 of Fleet Ops? Wilson Scott?"

Enid stopped and turned, "Yes, important right?"

"Enid, the man is in charge of all Fleet Logisitcs and Personnel. What in the name of the Yellow Fleet is he going to be coming HERE for?"

"Wants to see what all the fuss is about, I expect. He may have some Council reps with him a Mr. Umak and T'sau, they are ok with me, ask me about anyone one else, ok?"

L'Tira checked her personal system, "I... don't believe that. A working meal? Here?"

Enid smiled tightly, "And let the good Captain know this is not a 'show and tell' right now, although their staff might do well to get the nickel tour. Especially the Athens."

"Ah, Enid, you can't just treat these people like..."

"L'Tira, I am a citizen of Earth and a member of the Federation. I do not serve in Star Fleet. I can and will treat them as colleagues and administrators and bureaucrats. All the bells, whistles and so on I will leave to Captain Bartholomew and you to figure out through the offices. Those offices will know what to do, and should guide you on that."

"I... ok, but I'm not up on protocol on this. Ok?"

"Let the Museum handle their end, and I set the protocol for the team. Colleagues, bureaucrats and administrators - be nice, be cordial and don't give an inch."

"Wow. You are really something, Enid!"

"Thanks? Game of zero-g handball?"

L'Tira brightened up, "Sure, I can handle that. Get the scheduling done after. And I'll take you by two this time?"

They started walking.

"Promises, promises. Oh, on the meal?"


"Its a grab'n'go for them. They agreed."

"You didn't tell them what it was,did you?"

"Of course not! I'm sure I can do a real sit-down one later, but want an immersion experience."

"You're evil!"

Enid grinned wryly at that, "Say, you were wondering about the scars across my back?"

"Oh, yes, why didn't you get those removed?"

"Reminders, really. I'll have to tell you about the Lascoter that I met up with one fine late afternoon... a very hungry one...."


"Welcome to the sixth meeting of the M-5 project working group on the M-Series computers. Thank you, all, for making it here - this is the first time we actually have most of the individuals on the project together at one place and one time. We spent some time on introductions before the meeting started, and I know that most of you have met up with each other on sub-group meetings and topical meetings, beyond those of your normal jobs, of course. I got this room because I felt this had to happen at least once before we moved on from the 'turn-on and ensure everything is working' to the actual 'what does this do and how does it work?' phase. We have started to go over that line previously, but it will be official with this meeting: we are now into full research and implementation phase. And may I congratulate you all on the work you have done so far!"

Enid Daystrom walked from the podium pulled up a chair on the slightly raised platform that was the first few meters of the room. She sat down, and looked to Mr. Jomra.

"Is everyone here who can make it?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Good. This next part is truly for the team, seal the room against all but emergency messages."

A few recesses in the walls turned red, ensuring continuity of enclosure as the cyber, electronic and physical seals went into position.


"Because we are going into this area, let me tell you all that I have been working my contacts along with those of Grace, Lothar and Patti the past three weeks. We have informed the VSA, MIT and ASC that a major basic and applied research paper on the fundamentals of computer science will be coming out with a citation database that will feature... Grace? What are we up to on that?"

"Enid, I've gathered the material from most of the group and we are at over 7,000 citations of those groups, alone, plus at least 20,000 more on other major institutions across the Federation. And not all of those are of M-5 vintage, or original post-work at this point."

"I've asked Grace to help out on compilation of that citation index as it is not only an excellent resource for us, but will serve as a founding part of the work we will be putting out. When I say 'we' this will be a paper that will have an et. al. list that will include each and every member of this team regardless of specialty. I've asked Lothar to back-channel post-publication academic credit for this work, and so the work time listing and specialty will be important, but at the very least we expect there will be a full set of post-grad credits handed out team wide by MIT as they are pretty flexible on this."

There was a stunned silence, and some murmurings of excitement going throughout the room.

"Enid, who is the publisher and holder of paper?"

"Daystrom Industries, founded by the late Richard Daystrom, currently headed up by his estate's manager, Enid Daystrom in cooperation with her brother Karl Daystrom and sister Ushanda Daystrom. The Daystrom Institute is not involved in the family business. By coming on the project as each of you has done, you can see that is my official position. The paper will be led by the late Richard Daystrom. My name will not appear on that work outside of sponsorship."

"What? Enid! That is ridiculous!" said Mr. Jervis, "You deserve full credit on such work, it is even getting people from my shop into it which no one ever expected."

"Thank you Mr. Jervis. I understand that it is not unusual for the sponsor to be a direct part of such work, but all I bring with me is my legacy and my talents on the technical and scientific part have been minimal. Just trying to keep up with all of you has pretty much left me befuddle, bemused and aware of just how little I have done. I consider you to be the colleagues of my great grandfather and actually going beyond him to save his work from the trash heap of technical obscurity and the blind eye of history."

"You just can't be serious," said Tareen Lefar, a member of Simon's group, "I've seen you put in more hours than any of single one of us and work to understand what we are doing. You can't just walk away from that."

"Tareen, I am not walking away from such credit but acknowledging what I have done is in the administrative role, not technical contribution role. The reason I wanted you all here, today, is to explain that the project information, if it gets out, could jeopardize the publication of this work and the acknowledgments of it to your colleagues, coworkers and teammates. All of your datasets are encrypted, but the hard work, to-date, can still get out. I can't bring the force of Star Fleet security or any of that on you, beyond a secure room or two and what I've already provided. The rest is up to you."

Looks went around the room as Enid palmed out a water flask, took a drink and made it disappear into her jacket. She was pretty sure that only the computer recording the group saw that, and smiled very deeply.

"Now, there will be a second paper, which I consider to be as important than the first. It will be a technical critique paper on all of the other work that has been done by others and pointing out how their sloppy work missed so much. MIT, VSA, and the others don't know about that paper, and I doubt they will actually like it too much by the time it comes out. We have gotten agreement for security for Star Fleet Engineering Corps to be the group handling the peer review process for both papers and that actually IS under contract. And if they fall down on that, there will not be much left of them or their reputation, so I expect they will do just a good of job now at SELF-CRITICISM as they did then of criticism. They wanted this, way back when, and never properly cycled it out, and so I can only see their work as a mid-term review. 130 years old, yes, but still not a close-out. I've been through the Deputy Director's Office for that, and he has agreed to my stipulations."

"Enid, you never told me about that!" said Lothar.

"That's right, because I only heard back on it last night. Tell me, Lothar, can you think of anyone else you would want to do the peering?"

Lothar sat back in his chair, furrowed his brow and then looked up with a taut smile, "For this? A few individuals here and there, but other than that, no institutions."

"Good, hand those names over to the Corps. As a wide peer criticism review of... call it 30,000 other papers and pieces of research, it will be one of the largest, deepest reviews ever done of the actual peer review system since the... well... has anyone ever done one of these outside of the automated peering system?"

"Not in a few centuries, Enid, no." said Patti.

"As such and with the other paper preceding it by a bit, the second one will demonstrate the credentials of the group to do such a paper. The first will get a good review and then some, I think. The second will be hitting the entire scientific review process in a fundamental way. The credible organizations will acknowledge this, and as it is on 'old work' many won't see that the amount of recent material covered is very, very large. For all of you, this will be a major accomplishment that will, literally, set you apart from everyone else in Star Fleet and the rest of academia and commercial activity. My name will be at the top, and I am more than willing to take the flack for that."

Not a sound was heard beyond the lowest level whisper of air circulating in the room.

"Patti has been heading that up as a side issue for me, doing the meta-analysis work of the other cited work. I believe we are going to have a three part paper consisting of technical faults, institutional faults and individual problem areas seen across a large number of the papers and works cited. It will contain the entire preliminary database of criticism at the post M-5 test stage. That is also going to be published and hosted by Daystrom Industries. The Daystrom Institute will be criticized in that paper, which is why the first cannot be published or hosted by them."

"Sweet Mother... Enid... but why?" said Kathy Lorimar.

"I am going to make things right, Kathy. I've told you all this from the start and I had hoped that it would be all or mostly to the good. It isn't and I am not going to flinch from those bad parts, because they are necessary to weigh the good ones. I expect those will predominate over time and bad parts worked on and out of the way we do things today in the sciences. Quite frankly, I never expected most of what we have been uncovering and some of it is more than just disturbing. Both of these are necessary, the technical achievements and the reasons why the system fell down in finding them. All of you, from the Cadets who have come into the project to those nearing the end of their time with the Fleet volunteered for a technically challenging and historically meaningful task. As the one heading up that task, I have to make sure it comes out to its proper end and all who get the credit they deserve do so. The reason I am telling you this is that there will be others who will be brought on the project in the next two weeks, and while they will be getting full access to the materials, they are not on the papers. As the holders of the work, Daystrom Industries has a full and constant back-up of this work, and my brother and sister are informed. Further my back-ups and secondaries have been notified in case anything happens to me or the team. We are entering a critical phase of this work, and it must go through. Because from here on out we are in the area that brought Richard Daystrom down, and even with his unsteady mind, we are starting to see the outlines of his dream. And the scales will finally be balanced for the Excalibur."

"May her dead rest in peace," whispered Mr. Jomra.

"Amen." said Enid.

"Now to the work, itself. L'Tira, it is time for the outside update."

"You do know how to kill an audience, Enid!"

"Sorry, had to be done," Enid said laughing slightly.

"Ok, then! As you may have heard we have had contact with the DD's Office and an SFC high level staff presentation is scheduled for next week. We have asked them to keep it light, but with the DD, two Fleet Commodores, and a few members of the Federation Council wanting in, we are trying to limit the actual number for presentations to 10 and their support staff can visit the Museum."

Grace shook her head and laughed, "They will not like that at all! It isn't protocol! Not to have their staff there to actually pay attention, is just not done."

"Well, not done for Star Fleet, yes, but Enid said this is Daystrom Industries, so we follow its protocol on these things, the Base and Museum can do what is necessary for their protocol."

"Enid! That's not a way to run a company!" said Roger.

"How would you know?" Mr. Jomra asked.

"I've watched the 'Accounts of the Traveler'!"

"That's fiction!!"

"Close enough...."

"Roger, if you want to run things differently, form your own company, get your own project and then let the SFC and Fed Council know how it will work, ok?" said Enid

Roger looked wide eyed, "Oh, no! You didn't...."

"Enid most certainly did, Roger. They wanted an 'in' somehow and Enid told them it was her way and the Engineering Corps Review or nothing. I think she said it would be very interesting to hear a Gorn review of Federation scientific peer reviews and hosting work left behind by the Federation a few decades ago as 'useless'."

"God! That is hardball, Enid" said Simon.

"They tried the ton of bricks approach, Simon. I offered them a bottomless pit to dump them in." Enid said, "With a smile on my face as I did so, being ever so nice."

That had obviously broken all previous tension - letting the stuffing out of the higher-ups in the Fleet and the Council wasn't often done.

"Lets see, other than that, there were a couple of seminars on Enid's carnivore work, including an impromptu one at the gym for those who were there, on the Lascoter of Tuza V. I think its something like the appetite of a T-Rex and the table manners of a Great White Shark? Or is that reversed?"

"Close enough either way, really,"said Enid.

"Beyond that as the cadre waiting for scout vessels for placement is still here, and will be for at least another 6 months, we are making the best of it. I think all 8 of us are on the team, now. And to the Cadets on board, remember you could wind up at such lively postings, too, if you are scheduled for an interesting ship."

"Actually, there isn't much else to go through, as Enid went through the important things. Oh! Cadets are now getting full work credit for the project for up to 50% of time, as well as any staff requisitioning up to 20% of their normal work time for themselves. It is a 1:1 and looks good on the staff report. But please, please, please, make sure your sections aren't left understaffed, ok?"

Nods from a number of those who had busy schedules.

"That's it! Enid?"

"As Grace's work is now in support, I'm putting this over to Enak, Kathy, Roger and Patti because there isn't a separation via work type at this point."

Enak stood up and stepped to the stage area, "As you know we have been looking at the M-Variant project and M-3 this last week, plus taking a good look at the 'cross-talk problem'. As most of this involves Kathy's group on the M-Variant, she should be the one to talk about this, Kathy?"

Kathy stepped up as Enak sat down, "Hello, everyone! I really didn't know what to expect earlier on this week as original M-1 had a memory module swap-out and re-start with blank modules. We re-installed the old modules and left that M-1 unit running and then looked at the sequential turn-on routine that had allowed the M-Variant to come on line. We turned on each unit and they spent time trying to initialize and couldn't do it, stating there was 'unidentified input calibration error'. That is a code for unspecified ship equipment encountered that somehow interferes with M-Variant communication with ship systems and is a general code across all the early M-Series. We shut them all down, then tried the reverse in getting the M-Variant up first and then the modified original. This time it was the modified original that didn't want to initialize. It should be noted that like what Richard Daystrom saw, the single M-1 unit was not attached to the simulator. Next we tried the modified M-1 with its blank, initialized memory modules and the problem disappeared completely."

"Completely?" asked Simon Lurva.

"Yes, not even after 12 hours did it re-appear. After that test we decided to try the original M-1 and attach it to the system inputs along with the M-Variants. Not only did all systems function normally, but the M-1 with original memory modules began to gain functions from the M-Variants in a sharing arrangement, from what we could tell. What makes this surprising is that they used none of the simulators' communication pathways to do that messaging, and we watched as system functions shifted back and forth from the separate system to the group one. They operated as a single system, and we verified this by doing a random module dump and having the codes analyzed for new code generated and passed between systems: such code was found and it had passed between them to the remote system."

"They did, what?" asked Lothar, "That is flat-out impossible, isn't it?"

"That is what we thought, and we tried every forensic tool, scientific analysis tool and even got time from the sub-space transceiver on Deimos to sweep the station for an hour. Nothing was transmitted in any way that we could detect, and yet the systems still coordinated with each other and shared code."

"Why the cross-bar system, then?" asked a Cadet by the name of Raelyn.

"We wondered that, ourselves. An analysis of transmissions across it reveals some activity, mostly timing activity for the cross-bar itself. Its purpose, from what we can tell, is an initialization one to allow the memory systems to share their code and standardize it in case they are called into emergency use where previous code was disrupted or they were put in blank. We tested this idea by taking one of the M-1V's out of the system, shutting it down, replacing its memory modules with blanks, reattaching it and turning it on: in less than an hour it had been fully repopulated with code and the system had re-balanced for it. That is not to say the cross-bar is not used, it is just not used very much. You can, actually, remove it once all the parts are up and working and that does not impair the system, we we think it was either a temporary creation to be replaced by something more permanent, say a mutual housing or full integrated system, or, and there is mention of this, having 'keyed master modules' that will be put into all the M-Variants on a ship and then starting them up simultaneously or nearly so. That would allow for a dual fallback system, so that if one fails the other is still available for true manual start."


Roger stood up and went to the stage and stood next to Kathy, "This is basically how things were going by mid-week, and we needed time to test M-3, so we did try it on another simulator, but the cross-talk interfered with that. As we had helped with the variant project, we decided to remove all the memory modules and allow a blank start with re-initialization, and that did work. M-3 performs as specified with the exact, same limitations seen by Dr. Daystrom when he created it. At this point we had a sub-group meeting and decided the next path to try was that of bringing the original modules out of all the M-1,2 and V's and putting in blank ones save for the idea of 'seed modules' taken from M-3. As it is next in line, although co-temporal with the variants, we thought it would be interesting to see what happened if we did that all on the same simulator."

"While Roger was doing that, my team had gotten all the parameters for the USS Grant and fed those into the simulator and test ship computer system which includes every specification for the mass of extra equipment on the ship. While that was being done, we handed the M-Variant system the problem of 'how long would it take to safely get this ship from Jovian orbit to the Mars Museum docking orbit?' Most of that was put through the simulator's system to allow it to act as the interface between us and the M-Variants as it would normally. After ten minutes it terminated its analysis and told us that the simulator 'could not accurately portray ship systems'. We removed all the variant material, giving it a stock USS Grant as it was during the M-5 test, and that went through to completion: 6 weeks with minimal hazard to the ship and no crew."

"Six weeks? And the Corps is going to take how long?" asked Patti.

"Actually if the Corps had a tug they could do it in two days or less, and less than a week if they could get enough fuel on board to get its impulse engines on line. Still, six weeks with no one on-board seems like a near miracle, to me."

"Have you ever tried to get a multitronic system to do something like that? It is not like a miracle, it is a miracle." said Lothar.

"The interesting thing is that the M-Variant is set up to take whatever precautions there are to have anyone on-board survive and utilize their skills. I am generally non-technical for engineering, and most of us have only been working with computers, simulations and the normal sciences. So we put our 'match crew' up as 4 unspecified, non-officers who were willing to help. It started presenting me with a skill inventory listing and let me know that others could use separate ship simulator terminals to do this, too. In an hour we had input our skills, none of which have a thing to do with engineering, described the ship as almost completely powered down via the simulator with only fuel for the one fusion system. Almost immediately it started to pull up standard work assignments on various parts of the simulated ship and ask if tools and access were available. It then checked through the rest of the ship's functions and asked if we could all locate to a central area with maximal radiation protection given by deflector screens. We could. From there it processed through the data and asked if we were willing to take minimal radiation exposure risks, if the ship's superstructure were undamaged in key areas... by the time we were done it was three hours later and it announced that it could do so with the time of work included get the ship to the Mars orbit in 14 days."

"I don't believe it," said Lothar, "where is it going to get the fuel?"

"Roger, care to take it from here, as we are hitting that knowledge base area?"

"Sure! The answer is Jupiter. We gave the knowledge base everything Star Fleet has on emergency ship operations, repairs and such that we have today, including all the failure reports. As you all know there are ways to try and operate the deflector screens to move external impinging gases into the intercooler system and then condense it. Even when done by multitronic systems, it doesn't work so well with a full starship without specialized equipment. The M-Variant recognizes those problems and sets up a very, very complex multi-pass through system that actually starts to sort out the gases by weigh, charge and spin. In theory it can be done, though a search of papers can't find anyone who has proposed it, and it uses the first condensate from that to start up a second fusion system and get it on line to reinforce the deflectors. It then feeds fuel to each fusion system as a way of 'mix testing' I think, and the rest goes to the thrusters which start to alter the orbit. After the 10th orbit the ship is grazing the very outer layers of the Jovian atmosphere and picking up a highly rich condensate, plus even recharging the intercoolers with helium, neon and argon, which really isn't a great mix but actually does work. After that it is putting fuel in the impulse engine supply area at a decent rate and then, two days in, it expends that fuel for a final, last close approach to Jupiter and slingshots out as a lighter, faster vessel with thrusters available and fuel for a final long, low velocity thrust to insert the ship into a parking orbit doing just a bit of orbital mechanics to have the ship arrive with nearly empty thrusters, three fusion systems still at 20% capacity and an impulse engine with a 30 second low power maneuvering supply. We decided to take the M-Variant off line and try the M-3 on something like this, a ship fully stripped of crew and it had problems coming up with a 3 month scenario, even with not much to do."

Ensign Kestes asked from her chair, "How did it do navigation and obstacle avoidance?"

"Mostly by periodic checks of the sensor array and it used the lowest power sensors on-board. I will have to say that at multiple points throughout this the simulator couldn't actually figure out what it was that the M-Variants were doing. We had distinct failures covering things like the deflector grid, re-routing of gases in directions they were not meant to go, on-board battery storage, the list goes on and on. Lothar helped us a lot in understanding what a ship does, as did Simon, and they were pretty mystified by a lot of the activities. Worse was when the M-Variants told us the simulator was not acting as a proper simulator and was not properly doing design specifications. That took a day or two to work out and the sensor business was the most interesting as the M-Variants asked for a very low power system to keep track of its position. It actually asked if we could affix a telescope out of each ship axes for the lowest power visual cues. Its periodicity increased heading in and out to Jupiter and on the longer arcs it was every few minutes. Open space navigation was a 10 minute check period. M-3 went with the slower routine documented as 'emergency only' and unsafe, but then it wasn't made to do this sort of thing, really. At that point we put in new modules with single 'seeds' from M-3 and brought it all up, including the original M-2 with a 'seed' module. We think we know what the 'cross-talk' phenomena is and we did test out all the other results, so we are left with one idea that works and this confirmed it: they all intercommunicated."

"But how?" asked Lothar.

"Well that goes back to the MIT research done with the quantum dynamics used to show teleportation in memory module substrates. That basic 'tool' is given to the evolutionary code along with goals to meet and given memory space to work in. This hardware encoded system is more efficient than the multitronic one, also using that memory space, and so quickly adapts to it. In fact M-3 is the first to really start to utilize those more conscious engram types, so the code does have to adapt to that, but in the tests to-date we see this teleportation code show up as nodes in the neural net. There are variants of it, pointing to different things its doing, and any time a code loses function it is swept out of the system. We tried a basic diagrammatic mapping of code pieces and their attachments so that we could do hop-length analysis: how many hops to get from one point on the net to another? Pretty straightforward, really."

"So you say," whispered Enid.

"No! Really its just the old 'friend-of-a-friend' analysis to see how far away any given piece of code is from any other. It is a telling part of neural nets that some areas are very efficient and others aren't, but they all operate optimally with the arrangement they create. So we came up with this diagram, based on memory modules..."

A diagram of points and lines all color coded as to suspected function floated in the air.

"These white nodes are the light pool teleporters and see how they are in each module? Most don't serve any function on the idea of using the memory module connectors to move information or do much of anything. So, as this is an M-1V I'm showing you, using that multitronic sub-subsystem to pass information means that there are some very isolated parts of code in the networks. Also note who the geographically dispersed code equivalents for what we thing they are doing are all over the place? Some concentrated in some blocks, others spread everywhere and hard to pass information to each other?"

The color coded sections of code highlighted showing the great variation of memory types and their locations.

"Shortest path between suspected nodes that need to communicate varies from 1, which must be critical, to, I believe the high is 35, with a mean of 12. Now watch what happens when all the teleportation nodes are considered to be 'unspecified, crossing point ' nodes."

The code system shifted and started to show a highly interconnected system with some major grouping of colors with few outliers.

"This now creates a good way for functions to communicate internally and with other functions across the network. The multitronic areas are almost entirely eradicated from the network. Here longest hop drops to 11 shortest 1 and mean is 5. We can't analyze this system as it works, so can't tell you what is going on in a fine grained way. But the code is utilizing the quantum nature of coherent light systems and its code to create a faster interconnect system than we currently have today."

"How does it do that?" asked Lt. Miyaka of the bio-sciences group.

"Well, for the structure itself, that is self-built. Some engram set-ups are pretty distributed and so do not have full code integrity with a single unit, and just a quick analysis trying to trace them out shows they have high levels of continuity across the entire set of M-Variants. How the messages are tagged and get to where they are supposed to go? We have had some coders working on the major information areas, or what we think they are at any rate, and can't determine for sure. There seems to be some sort of encoding for messages that indicates some pre-knowledge of destination, but that is not a strict address function and we have yet to be able to analyze the system to catch the interstitial data transfers. We know the message system via its original tool suite, but how that is used has been evolved severely after even a half-hour from blank state. What this ties in with is the Heisenberg compensators in M-3 and later M-Series computers, as they are doing something with the data coming in to self-analyze the system and 'lock it down' so that it cannot be disrupted via outside quantum manipulation or scans. That 'lock down' propagates across the system via the teleporter nodes which are quantum connected as single pieces. If that is the case, then all connected M-Series computers having scanned teleporter nodes gain from that benefit, which just might explain the problem of transporting an active system."

"Can we back up a second to the problems with simulating ship systems?" said Mr. Jervis, "I'm having some difficulty in really understanding that. I thought this sort of simulation was pretty cut and dried with few problems showing up in them. We do have the holodecks, after all."

"Hmmm... Simon? Lothar?" the two men looked at each other and then Simon stood up and walked to the stage.

"You are right, Mr. Jervis, this is a pretty staid area of simulation, but that is for all normal uses and even expected aberrant uses of starships. The M-V was doing something different, and complaining that the simulation wasn't actually simulating things, it was returning null data where data was expected. Take, for example, its use of the deflector screens. Almost every simulation I care to name has a minimal energy point that is considered to be of use to ships for protection. The simulator didn't have any good examples of what happened at the extremely low power settings that the M-V system wanted. Without that it couldn't give proper ship responses and the M-V halted things, pointing out the problem. I had to work with Kathy on this, as it was a multi-part failure as the M-V had a long list of things that should be modeled but weren't. A primary one was that it had shifted the shield grid, a related system for full defenses against hostile weapons fire and some acts of nature against which it may be the only protection, because it wasn't acting properly either. When I finally tracked down what the M-V was trying to do, I really needed Kathy on the technical side as this was one of the most subtle uses of the oldest technology in the Fleet and I don't think anyone has modeled it properly since the late 21st century and even then not like this.... probably just a bit of background would be in order on this..."

Simon shifted Roger's display to the side and then Roger removed it, and Simon brought up the hull of a standard Constitution class heavy cruiser.

"Now these minor grid lines running over the ship are the deflector screens, the low power system to deflect things like slow moving space debris, fast moving particles and such so that they don't harm the ship. At full power it helps serve as the final line of defense provided by these much thicker tracings that are the shield grid. As it is low power in origin, although that is comparing it only to the shield system, it is a pretty good draw on standard ship systems. Perhaps as much as a phaser bank or two, but on a continuous basis. Most of that is a magnetically contained low level plasma that reacts to incoming debris, and mostly vaporizes it. By having so fine a grid it draws far less power than the shields, but requires some regeneration even when the ship isn't in motion. Power draw goes up when normal speed increases and down when a warp pocket is formed. What the M-V did was extremely unusual - it sectioned off the entire grid into different, independent parts all working together and each having their own energy draw. It also formed an inner and outer section to create a scoop and funnel that started at the front of the ship and decreased in size by the time it gets to the intercooler pylons for the warp drive. It was obviously an atmospheric scoop, and only by doing some work with Kathy on atmospheric contents did I finally see that it was not just a scoop but a sieve: it was changing the magnetic field and density at each point to deflect certain atoms and molecules in different directions. It starts with a basic mass sieve so that dust particles get rejected. After that it is purely differentiation system working on the properties of molecules and atoms."

The ship diagram displayed the large curving scoop that conformed over the primary hull disk, and then narrowed as it went down over that to the pylons and secondary hull. Large particles and dust were indicated to be pushed above the scoop which was slightly angled and went a short distance out from the forward section of the ship.

"As we gave it average upper atmosphere for Jupiter, it utilized that and that average distance to do multiple things, the primary part was to sort out the gases. The intercoolers serve as a way to give surface area to the warp core to dump excess heat during violent warp maneuvers, even to the point of venting coolant. There are two of those inboard on each pylon and outboard, so four per pylon. Here the grid of the secondary hull and pylons divides up the incoming flow and puts it IN to each cooling system. With the cooling system not being used, the M-V then funnels the incoming gas into the fusion systems and does a final sort by atomic weight and any induced charge, done at an extremely low power save to test each flow every 30 seconds or so. Not a single one of these systems has ever been documented to do this, no engineer has ever proposed it because of the complexity involved, and no one has even thought about how many of these systems could be used in these ways. All of these systems were created to get rid of fused plasma, waste heat and other things necessary to keep the ship from glowing like a small star when active. I had to check the rating of some of these systems to make sure they even took this sort of use."

The interior of the ship was given in overview via system schematics and annotation points of how each part of the system worked and where its final work would end up.

"For the few minutes that a ship would dip into the outer atmosphere of Jupiter, this system will not only protect the ship, but utilize the resources it is going through."

"It's feeding!" said Lt. Miyaka.

Enid smiled and turned in her seat, "Exactly that. Great grandfather wanted the M-Series to approach the ship as an organic system, not a creation of engineering parts. It feeds itself and attempts to regain function and internal homeostasis."

"The system does this work in cooperation with whoever is on-board, and even a minimal,non-technical crew can do almost all of the basic re-routing and bypassing cut-offs and such in a short period of time and then put those back in place very quickly. It can do these things alone, but as we have seen the time to do that is lengthy. Unlike the worries of many about a 'killer computer' this one actively seeks help and cooperation to sustain life and bring the ship into working order."

The highlights on the ship changed to look at the shield grid.

"That brings up the second thing that is fascinating, and that is its use of the shield grid. As you know that is a system that requires a larger flow of current and field, and yet needs to be restricted so that it doesn't negatively impact interior systems. It has a two-flow channel, at least in the Constitution class and there are many ways to mitigate the problem, in which the main channel is the primary current and then I back-feeds through a smaller-tighter and intense back-grid. That primary grid serves to generate up the shields at a distance from the ship, the back-grid, by having such a tiny radius and inverse polarity, goes only a short distance and counters the main shields, so that we don't have effects of it on the interior of the ship. The M-V complained about this, because it didn't generate expected current. And I scratched my head as this is not a power generation system, until I looked at where it was going, talked with Kathy and saw that it was looking to get an induced current from the magnetic field of Jupiter. Normally we don't think about this, save as a way to try and keep induced flows from overloading a system or channeling them off the shield system. Instead the M-V was trying to utilize it as a way to trickle charge the battery systems so that they would also begin to come on line as reserve power. Again, never modeled, never done, never examined and everything we do tries to get rid of this, while the M-V wants to use it."

"Wow." said Mr. Jomra, looking at the ship display as it moved through the outer atmosphere of Jupiter slowly gaining supplies and energy.

"This is a subtlety and sophistication that I, personally, didn't expect from such a system. And yet it approached this in a pretty basic way, according to Roger and Patti. You can find the list of what M-V wanted done and why, and we are still chasing down a few pieces like what it is doing on the outer parts of the orbit, as the deflectors change configuration greatly from the inner parts. That is a very low level alert by M-V on the inadequacy of the simulation, and not a show stopper by its concerns. I'll be at Kathy's group meeting tomorrow for brainstorming to try and get the simulation fully revamped and finally give it the actual and real parameters of the unknown systems on the Grant."

Simon then sat down, and Roger came back, and the ship display disappearing.

"Now for the big one: bringing M-3 on line with the rest of the other tested units. We really didn't know what to expect as the code shift in M-3 towards a larger multitronic suite had bogged it down and what that would do with the rest of the system, we couldn't guess. But as we knew the basics of how to get a system back on up and keeping the original code systems protected, we figure it was worth a try. Plus the compensator might factor in. But as the M-Variant integrated with existing M-1 and M-2 architecture, and the changes in some areas were minor, it was worth a try. We 'blanked' all the machines, put in seed modules from M-3 and did a low-to-high start up. The entire system gave us a one hour initialization phase and then pronounced itself on line. No fanfare, no nothing, save that M-3 now served as the interface for the system and we could, finally, interrogate it directly. We ran this through all previous tests, including the ones it had failed the first time around and the entire system took them in stride. Unlike the pared down M-V and extension, it did have a few problems with getting a ship into warp drive for saving the vessel: it faltered at the energy build up to create a warp pocket. By 'falter' I mean a 3 second delay and finally choosing the minimal configuration used by the M-V system to save ships: it fell back to a known and reliable configuration. What it failed at was actually being able to do any combat and at some point it was actually turning off its higher functions to let the M-V 'carry the load'. So it has limits but they are not the ones of the original system and really quite amazing. I think Patti can talk about some of this better than I can, at this point, as its not really about the code. Patti?"

Patti stood and walked up as Roger went back to his seat.

"I've been trying to convince Enid that her name belongs on the first paper, too, but she just won't have it. So, its time for me to show her why it has to be there. As we know M-3 starts to incorporate higher level engrams to interface with those of its lower level structures. I believe from all the original reports and our duplicating them, that it originally failed due to lack of mental space to comprehend what it was doing. Looking at M-4 and M-5 it is those areas that grew very, very quickly while the underlying parts received little or no attention. Now as Enid has said that the ship demonstrated feeding behavior with respect to Jupiter, and I do concur, let me ask her: in your field of work is just finding food and consuming it enough for an animal of the size you work with to survive?"

Enid smiled, "Rarely, Patti. It needs some overall direction and ability to think ahead so it can know where it can probably go to get its sustenance."

Patti smiled, "Yes, it does. Now once it has fed and done any other biological actions based on those drives, and it has no other overwhelming urges or needs, what does that animal do?"

"Usually it rests, keeping some awareness of its surroundings, but not doing much."

"Does that adequately describe how M-3 acted once a normal ship rendered without crew was safely into warp drive?"

Enid sat back and thought. "Well, most creatures usually aren't on the move like that, but there are many exceptions to that rule, so many that it forms its own set of sub-rules. Yes, that is how it acted."

"Good. To the rest of you, this may seem a bit esoteric, but I think we have seen the very first instance of a bored computer that knew it was bored."

Enid's mouth fell open. Others started to laugh, often raucously. Enid herself joined in and shook her head.

"And she is a specialist in her field now confirming my initial observation. You've done that more than a few times, Enid, and that insight is wonderful and necessary, and yet you refuse to recognize it."

"Patti, its superfluous. You could have gotten that from any number of individuals, even here on the station."

"Yes, but none of them brought the M-Series project from a man trying to replicate an organic dynamic in a starship with them, now did they? Nor have familial background of that man and some insight into him and how he worked. If someone brought a project and you got assigned as its head and had to ask if their contributions were vital, would you say they were or not, Enid?"

"I would, yes. Luckily I am head of the project and get to decide that for myself. I have personal reasons, Patti."

"Ok, then, I will lay off. Now for those of you wondering where those of us involved in this have been holed up, save for regular work... we still find time for that... amazingly... is the reason that I made sure Enid didn't know about. We hooked the full sub-M-3 grouping up and gave it the same scenario with the Grant in Jovian orbit, and the same people. Everything started out the same from there but then, well, Kathy it was all the same up to the skills area and questioning and then what happened?"

"Once I got into a direct question and answer with the M-3/V grouping, it started to ask other questions about... well... about me, my health, who I knew what my interests were... it did that with all of us."

"When I walked in you were all busily chatting away, and engrossed in conversation, long after it had started running the scenario. How long was that?"

"Ahh... when you first walked in... that was, 6 hours, I think."

"How would you describe what the system was doing?"

Kathy shook her head, "It was interested in us. It wasn't asking questions that were difficult or even intrusive, and yet, there was that feeling of interest."

"And on your part too?" asked Patti.

"Yes. I... you know its hard to describe... it knew that we were actual people who were putting in information to a simulation, and yet worked through that to actually just talk with us."

"Was this disturbing to you?"

"Oh, no, not in the least. It did focus on the ship simulation, but it was more generally oriented beyond that. Very childlike but not childish."

"Did it grow to understand you, to any extent?"

"Yes! Oh it did and that was really amazing, I've never had that experience before."

"You are a 'holodeck sensitive', right? A person that instinctively feels a substantial difference between holodeck and autonomous holodisplays backed by current computers?" Patti asked..

"Yes," said Kathy, "it is difficult to explain but there is something missing from those, off-putting."

"Did you feel that with this arrangement?"

"Not in the least, it wasn't trying to be a human or humanoid or something else, no attempts to be something."

"Roger, you got roped into that match group. What was your impression?"

"Very similar to Kathy's, really. Tentatively inquisitive, interested, asked follow-up questions, wanted to talk about my background... it was unusual. I'm not a holo-sensitive, but there is a willing suspension of disbelief that goes with that environment. And the known quirks of autonomous units is one that can be pretty easily picked out. This felt, experientially, more like talking with some of the sentient AI's like Mr. Data or one of the reconstructed Reyna units."

"Thank you, both. This is confirmed in my talking with others who had spent some time either wandering through during the test and asking what was going on, and others who came in to do other work. The engrams put in-place by Dr. Daystrom are modeled on his own background, and it was inquisitive, open, and willing to approach different people on many things. However, by his notes and those of the rest of the M-3 and later series, he was taking a much broader cross-section of sentients to get to these engrams. His personal biases, however, show up in this experience of having an open, inquisitive attitude with a high degree of gregariousness to it. These engrams are common, although not present in all individuals, so that those of an introverted nature have little of the gregarious attitude, although they can still be open in their own ways. Enid, is this sort of behavior necessary for some species that you know about in your field of work?"

"Patti! I've gotten the message!"

"Enid, this is about your background and I do want to know as my own work takes me towards sentients and some offshoots of it: does this appear more broadly outside of sentient realms as a trait, not necessarily in sophistication?"

"Yes it does. It has a high survival value to it, knowing about those who share common interests and needs, usually some genetic similarity, and ensuring there is group understanding amongst individuals."

"Is there a set of emotional components with this?"

"Yes, they are happiness, contentment, security and all have the ability to reduce stress and interpersonal friction, which is a very high survival value when living in groups."

"There is at that, which is why I'm asking you, Enid. Thank you."

"That is plain evil, Patti," Enid said smiling.

"You should know. Richard Daystrom had something on his mind building the M-Series and I think this is a fundamental cornerstone of it: he was involving more than one sphere of interest and he was crossing multiple lines of inquiry simultaneously to reach a common end. If he truly did believe that he was in danger of having this work stolen or losing attribution as its designer, he feared that the quality and originality of his work would be diminished and himself, personally. I am working on the second paper which I have talked about with Enid, Roger, Kathy, Lothar, Enak, and others: I don't think that there was intentional maliciousness towards Richard Daystrom, but there was still an unintentional effect of the work of others that made his feelings of paranoia have some solid grounds and justification. As a scientist, I don't like coming to that conclusion. But M-3 shows us that Richard Daystrom had more than mere technical brilliance in one field, but a solid foundation across many fields that, although under appreciated, is often more profound than individual discoveries done when young."

"You're saying that he planned the entire M-Series from the start to do this?" asked Lothar.

"To put it this way, Lothar, how would you describe a series of systems each a failure in and of themselves, that yet work smoothly and to the greater capacity of each when put together? Is that happenstance, pure luck, or intentional design?"

"It is design. With good variation within the system via those part given high leeway for adjustment, but that, too, is pre-planned. That actually takes a lot more work than the other way around, as it requires you to have a 'hands-off' approach once the system is running. Very, very clever."

"Grace, if this system had just been a normal 'out cycle' would we be done with it by now?"

"Yes, we would have, Patti. With nothing more than the documentation we had, it would have been an 'ensure that it still is in the condition described' and then to the surface base for long term storage. We do get a lot of stuff coming through here."

"That we do, Grace. On the technical side, the M-3/V grouping shaved a day off of the original's time, so 13 days from Jupiter to insertion to Museum orbit. That said the crew schedule was much more active, and the ship arrives with a full 10% impulse engine fuel load and all thrusters at full, with 2 fully active fusion systems and one at 30%. Simon, Kathy and Enak have the particulars, but its dipping into the Jovian atmosphere go a bit deeper and yet with better crew protection. Really, it is amazing what an interested system can do. Roger?"

"I'll hand it over to Enak, he has the master scheduling at this point."

Enak stood and nodded at Patti.

"This week is going to be a full one, but the M-4 is coming on line this week after passing all initial tests as it did with Richard Daystrom's team. We have Roger, Patti, and Mr. Jomra working on trying to fully resurrect the M-5 code after getting some initial staging preparation done. Patti and Kathy will be working on the integration effort, that I think is now the full M-5 system: all units active together at the same time with the same code sharing system. We will be having sub-meetings on deciding the engram basis for M-5 as it seems that there is wide leeway between what Richard Daystrom may have originally intended and what Enid will allow from his time. There are still many details to work out on just how and why the M-Series units share the load they do, and how they go about working things out, but it is apparent that there is the capability to create a more stable code system than M-5 had originally. There are some weeks of hard work ahead, particularly on the engram and ship integration side of things. But this past week now, I think, shows that we are all sharing the right path on this. Contact team heads for areas of interest, or L'Tira for items relating to overall activity. I'm trying to keep things here as major milestones and advances so we can each spend time as our interests dictate."

"Hard to do, Enak," said L'Tira, "but I thank everyone for understanding that."

"Certainly, L'Tira. If there are no more major questions, then I will turn it over to Enid."

"Thank you, Enak. Normally I would hand over a fast work review for the week to L'Tira, but she told me it is still more battle debris coming through. Although I know the one or two members of the heavy weapons section haven't had much to do, I think your specialties are going to come into play over the next few weeks as we try to determine just how a sentient starship should approach combat and the systems around it. Specifically those on the USS Grant, so it will be detailing time and I hope that we have the major sub-systems plans on-board for M-4."

"No problem, Enid," said Lt. Brian Duvale, "once we knew it was the Grant, me and Theresa got cracking on it. We agree with Lothar in overview, the ship is a mess but also a behemoth."

"I believe one of you served as tactical on a ship?"

"I did," said Lt. Theresa Kul, "on the USS Ares, heavy destroyer."

"Good, Patti should be in contact with you both along with Roger. M-4 was fully capable and we need to make sure it works to its original specifications and adapts to the modern ones. Plus any help on the outlook for ship engrams would be very much appreciated. I know you two will be busy with the incoming work, and hope that doesn't hinder you, but we can let some things slip for a week or so."

"No worries, Enid, and we have been extremely busy trying to help out on the other work going on here, it hasn't been the obvious stuff of the meetings. Mostly support to Lothar and Simon, with some to Enak."

"Quiet members don't go unnoticed in this project. We dropped those unable to contribute by the fourth meeting, by and large. I'm only used to the tooth and claw side of combat from carnivores, this side of starships is beyond me."

"Not so different, really," said Theresa, "just replace fuel with blood, ship equipment with skin and flesh and its pretty close. You'll learn the lingo, I'm sure."

"I'm sure I will. Beyond that let me say that I've uploaded the members who will be read on next week. I've talked with Lothar about Eloise Rafiq and he grudgingly agrees to be civil."

"More than that, Enid. Actually glad that if something does go horrifically wrong, that the Fleet will step in and pick up the pieces. That matters more than it did a few weeks ago or years ago. I'll give her this: she is damned competent. The rest of what I've seen are from the Corps and I've had my input on them already. Are you sure about the head of the Sciences Directorate?"

"Diplomacy, Lothar. He is necessary as back-up to Eloise."

"Hmm... hadn't thought about that. You're right, though, they will bull through with this if we are all gone. That and help by the Corps at that point. Say, Enid, you aren't expecting anything bad to happen here, are you?"

"You can never tell with large scale predators, Lothar. I'm confident of all the back-up plans, now, so my worries about accidents and the unknown are taken care of and I can pay attention to the final phases here. Once they are on-board, this project will go through. And the work done by all of you will be recognized, no matter what. I would rather be over prepared than under, Lothar, as it has saved my life more than once."

"Understood, Enid. Thanks on that."

"Very welcome. Anything new on the Grant via official channels?"

"Not this week, save for the paperwork going through and I'm getting the first reports backing Mr. Jomra's back channel. Then we get some say in her."

"Mr. Jomra, anything unofficial?"

"Well, there is some excitement and worry both. Rumors do get out, and its occupying a few people. Bringing the Corps in will dispel the worse of them, I think. Beyond that most of the personnel put on to survey the ship have been taken off, with only a couple of left to start a power-down sequence and securing the vessel until the Fleet can get it refueled in a few months."

"That... Lothar, can you get some contact with the Corps on this? I'm starting to think that we might be able to... well, you know where we are at present."

Lothar looked to her.

"Enid, you're not suggesting... that... it would be a week or two on the shut down and by then I think ... more than just a test-bed?"

Enid smiled, deeply, "Would you trust what we have to do that?"

Lothar sat back, closed his eyes, inhaled very slowly and deeply.

"The M-5... in that ship?"

"More than just M-5, Lothar. You've seen it all so far."

He nodded forward in thought, opened his eyes.

"Enid, for all of his problems, Richard Daystrom has shown me that he knew what he was doing, even if he was tipping over into a bad place within his mind, his original idea is amazing. And the Grant is powered down, so the M-Series can't do much to it quickly. It is a gamble, but Richard Daystrom has earned a second chance because of you."

"Thank you, Lothar," Enid said softly, "he is earning a second look even in my own family. This must be done right and I trust your judgement."

"Then I'll be contacting the Corps and arranging for an Engineering meeting to get a picked group to start working in the Grant and find out just what a mess she truly is. Maybe even save the Corps some resources into it."

"I leave it up to you, Lothar. If and when you are ready, I think it is time to start testing out great grandfather's vision before it became clouded."

"He will get that, Enid. For the Excalibur."

The whispers of 'For the Excalibur' went through the room.

"For the Excalibur. If there is nothing else to report from anyone....?"

She looked around the room.

"This meeting is adjourned. Mr. Jomra, you may unseal the room."

* * *

In two days time Enid, L'Tira and Lothar were standing by the reception area behind the Museum command staff as the VIP delegation arrived. Enid stood back a bit watching the traditional 'piping aboard' ceremony that announced such high ranking visitors and the various Dress Uniforms from different eras. While the immediate Captain and his staff wore modern, and austere Dress Uniforms, there were many more in shades of white, gold, dark blue, burgundy red, and even a gray set that the Weapons Staff tended to gravitate to. She suspected that somehow, amongst the braid, tassels, and even caps, that they wore more test equipment and actual side-arms than anyone else in the room. The uniforms hid them very, very well if that was the case. She had chosen an older style, done in the dark green of an early style of the Fleet, worn by science staff officers since it, too, had room for all of the equipment she would need on a normal day and was even powered by a spare tricorder power unit tucked against the small of her back. That was needed for air circulation as this was not meant for actual ceremonial use save out in the field.

She smiled wryly. This was definitely field work for her at this point in time. It wouldn't do for daily wear, but for suddenly having to shift to a harsh climate if an accident happened in the field, it was the proper uniform for its era. It was also a uniform meant for working in on a moment's notice and the rugged boots would be a bit much for normal, daily wear but for today, they served and added an inch or so to her stature. Where the insignia would normally be, however, she had a project insignia instead: a round patch, in black with a single sword pointed straight upwards and a gossamer white hand holding it with three stars on either side and 'For the Excalibur' in gothic lettering under it.

She went through the schedule in her mind, letting the formalities of the 'welcome aboard' and introductions, plus the slow effort to divorce the highest ranking members from their staff. Everyone knew this would happen, but the smoothness in which lower level personnel quietly picked their staff members to talk to, distract and offer to show them around the Museum bemused her: say what you will about this being a 'backwater' in the Fleet, she doubted that the Federation Diplomatic Corps could handle it this well. She suspected that as the diplomatic staff of T'sau seemed to be a bit clueless. Or perhaps just acting the part. You could never tell with diplomats.

Soon the introductions led by Captain Bartholomew came around to her, after covering normal base Command Staff.

".... and this is Cmdr. Lothar Hampton, head of our Engineering Integration and Large Scale Systems section."

"Pleased to meet you, Admiral Scott, Undersecretary T'Sau, Deputy Undersecretary Umak, Commodore Rafiq, Commodore Mirak. Welcome to the Museum."

Enid reflected that Lothar slid easily into that diplomatic role and would probably be hell to deal with on resource meetings.

"And this is who you have all come here to talk to, the Director of Daystrom Industries, Doctor Enid Daystrom."

"It is good to meet you all in person," she said," and this is my hired on XO, Ensign L'Tira that the Fleet has graciously allowed me to corral most of her time and energy. I can't get a thing done in this place without her."

She shook hands where appropriate, nodded to the Vulcan T'sau, a hand wave and nod to the Tellerite Umak and watched as L'Tira tried to deal with the situation.

"Admiral Scott, Undersecretary T'Sau, Deputy Undersecretary Umak, Commodore Rafiq and Commodore Mirak, it is wonderful to meet you! Welcome to the Museum, Archives Section and to the Daystrom initiative on the M-Series computers."

"Pleased to meet you, Ensign L'Tira," said Vice-Admiral Scott, "how did you ever wind up with Enid Daystrom?"

"Ah, she chose me, Admiral."

"Damned right I did," said Enid, "I know talent when I see it, even if it isn't trying to stick your hand down a carnivore's throat to convince it that it really would like to give up on your leg."

T'sau arched an eyebrow, "Indeed."

"And if the Fleet doesn't offer her a slot at Command School, I'll be offering her the Director of Operations slot at Daystrom Industries as we ramp into production."

"Director of Operations?" Commodore Mirak looked at L'Tira and Enid.

"Enid! Don't say that!"

"I mean it, L'Tira."

"You do?!? I... I..."

"Miss Daystrom, is that a thoroughly wise thing to do?" asked the Admiral.

"Well, if I don't she will be sitting in your seat in 25 years."

Admiral Scott chuckled and then started to laugh, "Ah, yes... that I understand."

Commodore Rafiq was slowly shaking her head, "Miss Daystrom, you do tend to make such decisions off-handedly."

"Nonsense, I've been thinking about this since I first met L'Tira on my first day here. She is charming, bright, adaptable, trustworthy, inventive, and yet keeps to a spare outlook on necessities. She knows how to handle a wide array of individuals, and even did well with the Gorns in escorting them around and talking with them. Having no fear of carnivores and yet wanting to understand them, I can appreciate how those traits work inside an individual. In case you haven't noticed we have no circle of listeners around us as is pretty much standard with this sort of situation and most of your staff and even the Museum staff is either in discussion with personnel or taking tours. I asked her to arrange for that, and here we are, with Captain Bartholomew, and not even his XO hanging around."

Capt. Bartholomew glanced to the side, "Say, just where did Commander Neal get to?"

"I think he is with two Cadets over in Requisition ensuring that the VIP staff have their rooms properly assigned, Captain," said L'Tira.

Capt. Bartholomew looked back at her, as did the others.

"I think that if Star Fleet can't offer you a good position, Ensign L'Tira, the Diplomatic Corps would have ready training available for you," said T'sau.

"Now you know why I want her: she is excellent at her job," Enid said.

"More than," said Revar Umak, "and the Federation Trade Council is also in need of good staff, Ensign L'Tira. I am coming to respect you deeply, Miss Daystrom."

"Good! Now, its a 'working lunch' so we will head to the Staff side and I will give a practical demonstration of our work to-date and then a quick seminar on the over-view. This will all be contract Fleet Confidential with Daystrom Industries, and while Fleet Engineering Corps. is getting a full technical overview and review, they are under the same constraints. And as Star Fleet has imposed this from its end a number of times, I expect you are all well aware of the ramifications of it."

"Yes, we are. Lead on, Miss Daystrom," said Admiral Scott.

"L'Tira? Lead on..."

As they walked Enid discussed some of her work and described how Ethan Lowell had, indeed, put his arm down the throat of a Raptocantor on Kargullen III while she was on field expedition researching the reports of a larger animal that, apparently, fed on the 4 ton Raptocantor. That was a reptiloid, bipedal animal with a quite flexible, though short neck, and taloned hind claws. Originally dubbed a 'Baby T-Rex', its lifestyle tended more towards singular hunting grounds and its hide was more suitable to semi-aquatic environments, often acting as an ambush predator. One of those had ambushed her from a gully and while being able to wedge her foot across the back of its mouth and her knee to the roof to keep the mouth wedged open, she couldn't get a forward enough to do more than keep it off-balance. She had gotten a knife in close to a main blood vessel, but it was buried a bit too far under the skin to conserve heat. Ethan had come to aid and had the wits and daring to loop one arm around the base of its head and put a knife deep into the mouth and into the tongue just below her boot, causing a gag reflex and the creature vomited its stomach contents, her and Ethan onto the ground. Outside of a few bruises and scrapes, she was unhurt, but it had been a tenuous position.

"Why didn't you just kill it?" asked Commodore Mirak.

"We don't keep phasers with us to do that, and that would be necessary as the 'stun' setting doesn't mean much to an animal that size. Besides, as we learned later, killing it would have brought a very nasty beast out called the Charnocantor and it is more than just an opportunist and has a higher metabolism than the Raptocantor. I was thinking very seriously of using my beer canister on it, though."

T'sau looked to her, "Beer canister?"

"Yes, quick chill beverage can with slightly alcoholic liquid in it?"

"If I may, what good would that have done?"

"Imagine having a small, metal object frozen to the very back of your tongue and it was starting to freeze more than just the attached skin. We have figured out how to do a 5 second energy absorption from the standard can as it is a necessary survival skill that comes in handy. The field tricorder would do forcing a cough reflex before being swallowed, but I didn't want to lose my field notes. I am pretty sure I had a 70% survival rate given my equipment, but Ethan got to a place where I just couldn't get to and did the right thing. A bleeding wound I could have stopped, but the other carnivores and omnivores in the area would be coming, so that was an instinctual first course."

They arrived at the Staff Cafeteria and Enid went to a box and picked up a more or less random meal. "Mr. Umak, T'sau, species specific for Tellerites and Vulcans are in the appropriately marked boxes."

Admiral Scott turned to Commodore Rafiq, "This is your reward meal?"

"This is lunch, Admiral, a working lunch." said Enid, "Dinner usually comes later in the day, when that has some meaning around here... carry satchels from the 21st century are also available if your metabolism requires a larger take-away. Or if you expect to be away for awhile." Her own hands moved methodically to stow the meal, two beverage containers and a few of the flavor packets that helped to liven up the relatively bland food.

"I take it we are eating on the go, then," said Umak.

"Apparently," said T'sau.

Revar Umak picked up a satchel, stuffed two meals worth of food and 5 beverage containers into it, plus an assortment of flavor packets. T'sau chose a more sparing selection of only a few oddments of relatively dense and high energy packets, and water bottles. The humans were more readily adaptable on the Fleet side, even if the higher-ups were a bit rusty.

"I haven't done this in ages," said Eloise Rafiq. She turned and noticed a few of the regular staff waiting patiently for their superiors to make their selections. "Captain, is this normal for the Museum Base?"

"Ah, it is, Commodore, yes. For working staff and projects, this is pretty much 'normal'."

Enid took out one of the food packets, opened it and directly swallowed the protein crystals and then drank half her small flask of water, knowing that the rest would slowly swell absorbing digestive fluids and calm her stomach. Then she started talking as she walked.

"Today we will be starting with a practical demonstration of the ship survival system that was a sub-contract off of the M-5 work. You will get a practical demonstration and then a regular presentation on what it is you will have experienced," she had arrived at a cargo turbolift and summoned it. It arrived shortly and, unlike the other lifts on the station, this one appeared to be unrenovated from when the station was built. Still in working condition, but cosmetically it was in 'hard used industrial' form. Enid stepped in and waited for the rest of the group to follow, with L'Tira waving off a staff member who had tried to catch up with one of the VIPs.

"Sorry, project staff only," L'Tira said as the door closed, "Bay Three."

"Now let me shake each of your hands and bring you fully onto the project. You know that by doing so you are all liable for your activities on it" said Enid.

"Glad to, Miss Daystrom," said Admiral Scott.

Slowly she walked around from individual to individual ending up with Captain Bartholomew, "Purel an oversight on my part to have left you off, Captain. Please accept my apologies."

He smiled, "None needed, Miss Daystrom, your group has been very, very busy. I know, I've seen the scheduling and work reports."

"I didn't expect to use up so much, Captain."

"Actually, those on your project work harder at their normal jobs and more efficiently. Apparently there is an attitude which is catching on, and just as we started to get a heavy work load in. The Admin staff has been complaining about over-work, if anything, due to the amount being done by the technical staff."

"What is the secret, Miss Daystrom?" aske T'sau.

"Make that Enid, please. There is no secret, T'sau of Vulcan, I don't ask for more than anyone can do, they are all volunteers and I respect each and every one of them. I wouldn't try this on an organization of over 100 people, but for this size that personal system works well and effectively."

"Each of you will be having your personal systems updated with the all of the data in our project. It is all encrypted based on our bio-identities, but the standard overhead also applies. I update it every night, my schedule, and each of you will get it as part of the sub-space transfer I send back to the Daystrom Industries offices kept by my brother Karl. Actually that is just a small system he keeps secure and lets it do the routing for him, although he has started to take some serious time analyzing what we are doing here. From there you will each get a light-speed delay unless your systems are set up for a direct link. I also send out a normal space laser transmission daily in case anything happens via sub-space, and actual physical back-up via the Altax weekly."

"Isn't that a bit much, Enid?" asked Commodore Mirak.

"It is wise and prudent, Commodore, and once you start going over the material, yourself, you will see that. You will probably want to start with the Executive Summary and then peruse from there."

The door opened, "L'Tira, check to make sure things are ready,"

"Sure, Enid!" and saying that stepped out at a brisk pace heading down the corridor and turning to the left and out of sight at an intersection with a larger corridor.

"As you all know from my public statements and presentations, we have been working on this for awhile, looking to recreate the understanding that Richard Daystrom brought to the original project. What we have uncovered is what he could not recall under any circumstances after having his psychotic problems amended as the emotions behind this work was overwhelming. I really didn't know what to expect as this project unfolded, and wasn't prepared for where it has gone."

"You have coped very well, Enid Daystrom," said Revar Umak, "this must be a difficult emotional experience for you."

"As his great granddaughter I do have familial fondness for Richard Daystrom from the personal stories passed to me via family records. My work in the bio-sciences gave me respect for his work, if not his work habits and methodology, and even a bit of insight to him as a scientist. The glamor of the man's wake, however, I could do without. As the man to fundamentally complete the Common Organized Systems Overview with Multitronics and his work and those of his peers to establish the basis of it so widely, he has gained inordinate heft in a field and has actually had some stultifying effects on it, I think. As the work now stands, I think he was beginning to see that as a problem and thought he could break it up, and bring a more diversified approach to that understanding and large avenues to go down. His want for recognition caused many problems, not the least of which are the deaths of the crew of the Excalibur." Enid had turned down the larger corridor and then to a large bay full of equipment, tables, and systems in various degrees of work.

"Please step into the bay. Roger, activate bay security."

Roger Arrivan smiled and nodded, and the force field went up and the sound dampening installed by security registered its completion as well as the cyber anti-intrusion capability.

"I'm pairing up a few of you with staff members and we will be running from a simulation of the USS Grant as it would be if it were an unmodified heavy cruiser of the Constitution class, although we now have the simulation up almost to where it is today, but that is stalled for other reasons beyond the capability of us to simulate. What each of you are getting is an 'emergency list' of what supplies are necessary for this. We have shut down and opened all of the M-Series units involved, which includes all of the M-Variant and the original M-1 and M-2. There is a master container next to the M-2 unit, original, that has a colored memory module, done in blue and white stripes. The rest of the memory modules you will replicate from the bay replicator. We have retrofitted modern fittings on the systems, so you can choose any era of memory module from the original days of the M-Series all the way up to the latest revision as of last night. Once you do that, follow the checklist on your personal units. You are to consider yourself on the USS Grant, powered almost completely down and looking to get it shifted from its current orbit to one that allows it to dock with the Museum Orbital Base. If the system asks you for input, go to a terminal, which we have spread around the edges of the bay and only the VIPs are to be considered on-board, the extra hands are just to speed up the process."

With that she nodded and opened up the master container, showing a single color striped memory module. As she walked away from it Commodore Rafiq was checking her personal unit, stepped over to the case, took a memory module and headed to an M-2 unit, and realized that she also needed a bulk order of memory modules. Mr. Jomra helped her on that, and soon there was an orderly movement of people taking the coded modules, getting a container of blanks and then going to the various units.

She smiled as Admiral Scott slid out a surprisingly large number from his thin-skin uniform, until she realized he had on the equivalent of a cumberbund. His M-1 unit was the first to be closed up and turned on. In a few minutes the rest were closed up, turned on and initializing.

"We have been through this drill about 30 times so far, it takes a few minutes for the systems to initialize and coordinate with the simulator. Sit down, grab a bite and make sure you are hydrated. Remember that this system only knows about you from Fleet Records, but doesn't know your actual skills. And while you are all superior in the chain of command, none of you are the command staff of the USS Grant at this point. For some reason the crew has vanished, the ship is almost completely powerless and rescue isn't coming the standard ways. Your own skills are what you have left... and the M-Variant."

"That puts a different light on it, Enid," said Commodore Mirak,"we now have an interest in our survival."

"Yes, you do. Any of your technical skills for a starship are probably rusty, not well suited to the current situation and it is unlikely that you would actually get out of this situation without exterior help."

Captain Bartholomew looked bemused, "So we are super-cargo, eh?"

"No, passengers. Skilled in some areas, perhaps not skilled enough to do more than take a shuttle out. If there were any left on the Grant."

Soon the screens were coming up looking for input, and each of the VIPs took a whisperpiece and started talking very softly to their system. More screens started to flash up for each one as technical assignments in various parts of the ship were addressed. This was the longest part of any session, but worthwhile.

T'sau finished first, "Miss Daystrom, that was a very interesting experience. I take it that each of us will be doing the work assignments?"

She smiled, "Not directly, no, just that you are capable of doing so and the simulation will handle the rest. You were going through your screens very, very quickly T'sau was that due to lack of ability or too much?"

He raised an eyebrow, "Neither, actually, some I can do readily, others not so. As I have a good familiarity with my skills, strength, stamina and technical knowledge of starships, I utilized that to quickly address each part and sped up the system for interrogation."

"I knew that was possible, but nothing that rapid," said Enid.

"It was a contemplative mode of thought, most resting."

"Resting? Resting?" said Revar Umak, "Did you actually look at the work assignments?"

"Of course, Mr. Umak. It promised to be a worthwhile set of work."

"Worthwhile?!? The damned thing had be crawling into Jeffries tubes in the most remote part of the vessels to start dealing with the, what was it, 'anti-matter flux exhaust port' and reverse it and cross it with another exhaust port."

"It did?" said Lothar.

"Yes! It said it would be a three hour job with tools on-board with 6 breaks. It even suggested forms of calisthenics made for cramped positions!"

"If you knew it would save your life, would you do it?" asked Enid.

"Of COURSE I would do it!!! But there is no dignity in it!"

"Work is a dignity all its own, Revar Umak," said T'sau.

Lothar looked at the screen and walked over to where Revar Umak was and got a data capture, then walked back.

"It has never asked anyone to do this in all the simulations we have had."

Roger came over, with Admiral Scott, "It hasn't?"

"Not once, I've just cross-checked. What is the thing doing this time?"

"Lothar, have we ever had anyone who could get to this area on the Grant?" asked Enid.

"Hmmm... let me think a moment," he checked his personal unit, "L'Tira but she doesn't have the capability for a direct line of sight on the work, and her patience while good is not up to this sort of work, I think. Plus it is a 'drop lock' work, so that it can be dropped off remotely and all the systems returned to normal function. While not a lot of equipment, it would take a week for L'Tira to get it done and I would only try such a thing in a drydock."

"Congratulations, Revar Umak, we are about to see if this can shave a few hours off of the best time this set-up has previously given."

"Which is?" he asked.

"Twelve days, seven hours and 36 minutes from first work assignment to arrival in the parking orbit."

Captain Bartholomew was last, and finished up his screen.

"I haven't been on a starship as working crew for a decade, but this thing just kept on going as I realized how much I did know about work on a starship. Really amazing, Enid."

"Richard Daystrom is the one we can thank. Roger, would you give us a time-compression on this, shouldn't take more than 20 minutes of our time to watch."

"Sure!" he walked over to a console, called up a holodisplay and then brought up all the Jovian system and the USS Grant was highlighted. He also brought up all the major ship systems displays along the bottom and edges. The display shifted in and highlighted the major decision points for the M-Variant as it slipped into a high analysis mode with the simulator.

"Lothar, care to narrate?"

"Do the best I can, Enid, but it has something unusual this time."

The holodisplay changed over to compressed time and the Grant sped up in its orbit. Then shifted its orbital plane slowly.

"It hasn't done that before, going towards an orbit over the poles and out of the ecliptic" said Lothar.

"It is precessing it, too," said Mr. Jomra.

The display pulled out and started to show the orbital paths of the other ships, moons and space debris in the Jovian system. The angle of inclination of the orbit moved as well as its outer points.

"What is it doing?" asked Revar Umak.

"It appears to be shifting its orbital path to coincide with something else in the Jupiter system," T'sau said looking at the display, "this object here," he said pulling out a holopointer, which highlighted an object in that orbit.

"Magnify," said Arrivan.

The display shifted and pulled in more detail, while Jupiter and the rest of the system mov,ed out of the display. As it came into view the object gained a notation: 'Fleet Tractor Station - Jupiter'.

"What is it doing?" asked L'Tira.

"It is moving to shift the orbit around that base," said Lothar, "Roger, what is the status of the base in the simulation?"

"Standard shut-down initiated by crew leaving the base. We agreed that we didn't want any exterior factors to play a role in this."

"Did the system ask anyone about this?"asked Enid.

"It asked me if it was allowable to utilize abandoned or de-activated Fleet or Federation equipment," said Admiral Scott, "given the situation outlined, I thought that would be appropriate within reason."

Pulling out the display showed the Grant catching up to the base and taking in more of the orbit of both.

"Look, the Grant is powering up its phaser ring!"

Light modulated between the Grant and the base, and damage on the base was clearly displayed as the screen expanded it.

"Those are not random bursts, it is outlining a circle on the base skin."

As the Grant passed it did do that, clearly shifting the attitude of the ship in its orbit. Soon it reached the outer most part of its orbit and was swinging back in.

"Phasers re-charging." said Mr. Jomra.

On the other side of the base the ship had changed attitude and was putting a much smaller outline on the hull.

"Tractor beam engaged," said Lothar.

A small piece of the base, conical in cross-section drifted free of the base.

"I have never seen such precise phaser work before," said Commodore Mirak.

"What the hell is the Grant doing?" asked Mr. Umak.

"I have no idea," said Roger Arrivan, "but it is doing something it is allowed to under the given situation."

Within a few seconds of the sped up simulation the ship and base would cross paths again.

"They now have coincidental orbits," said T'sau.

"Phaser ring recharged. Photon torpedo tube warming and prepping a torpedo." said Lothar.

Again the light flared but the phasers went deep under the skin along the previous path it had cut and little could be seen as the light went interior to the base.

"Precise and exacting." said Commodore Rafiq.

The ship passed.

"Phaser ring powered down, photon torpedo going to half-charge," said Lothar.

On the reverse path a photon torpedo left from the forward bay and arced down and into the area that had been removed on the previous path. The release of energy was a dull red, not the actinic blue of a fully powered torpedo.

"The base is still intact," said L'Tira, "No one ever talked about this when I was in the Academy. Can these weapons actually do this?"

"Yes, they can," said Mr. Jomra, "but even the Engineering Corps. doesn't do this."

As the Grant shifted out from the base it was apparent that the base was not fully intact, as a large conical piece slowly drifted out of it. The ship continued on its orbit and returned the next orbit gliding in towards the base.

"Forward phaser bank warming and charging. Tractor on stand-by." Lothar said as he pulled up a subsidiary display on the simulation.

Again the Grant fired, just a single pulse from one phaser point and a small piece near the end separated. The tractor engaged to shift that piece out, used a small set of thrusters to change their combined orbit, and then, while still tractoring a second phaser point removed one section by vaporizing it and then the tractor shifted the remaining piece out of the path of the ship.

"Forward deflectors on, unknown configuration," said Lothar.

The ship passed the major part of the debris to starboard and a sub-piece on port-side inclined shifted out of the way. As the Grant passed through suddenly all the internal power readings leapt up.

"Warp core warming, anti-matter on-board, powering up full life support, deflectors. Display pull out."

Shifting, the display pulled out to an overview of the Jovian system.

As the ship passed the apogee of its orbit the impulse engines came to life and the orbit inclined more.

"It is preparing to do a deep pass inside the atmosphere of Jupiter," said Mr. Jomra.

"Admiral Scott, did it ask you anything about personnel safety?" asked Enid.

"Hmmm? Yes, it asked what the safety parameters for the destination for the crew should be, and I told it that we all must be alive and not need critical or long-term medical care. Safety to get us there, but allowances for minor injuries allowed."

"Outer hull vents opening, internal ship vents closing around engineering decks, weapons, sensors, and main power systems." said Lothar.

The ship sped down its orbit and into the upper cloud banks of Jupiter, performing a major impulse engine firing then.

"Coolant levels up, exhaust systems reconfigured, cycling captured atmosphere into storage and purging it. All systems now on-line. Warp core activated, nominal. Ship preparing for entry into warp drive." said Lothar.

A flash of light and the display moved to follow the ship into warp drive. It changed course for Mars and took a few minutes to get to the orbit and insert into the designated parking orbit by the base.

Simulation Ends.

"That is the fastest simulation it has ever done," said Enid, "at four days, two hours and twelve minutes. And not a single one of us expected it. L'Tira, can you get us a conference room and contact any project personnel that are interested? We need a post-mortem, say in a half-hour?"

"Can do, Enid," she said looking at the base display,"once we are unsealed we can get the level four conference room."

"Good, priority seating, but leave open the rest for anyone available. I know we didn't expect this, but I think its important."

"More than just important, Enid," said Lothar, "the system was able to identify a Fleet Command Staff member and basically asked for authorization to expend Fleet resources in its mission. That is very, very important and short of the full-up systems for holodecks I can't recall anything that sophisticated out of such a relatively small system."

"I take it that this is unusual activity for the system, then?" said Admiral Scott, smiling.

"Yes, Admiral, every other simulation has not been done with high level Fleet Staff at the Command Level. I believe that the system asked you for extra guidance in its mission, but that will have to wait until the meeting. Lothar, Mr. Jomra, Roger, get what you need collected here and see if we can get Kathy, Grace or Patti for the conference. And get the simulation on the datastream for team analysis. Can do?"

"Easily," said Lothar, "but I will be analyzing as I go. I have never seen anything like this done by any ship that I've heard of."

"Unseal the bay. There are washrooms at the end of the corridor, plus vestibule in case you need anything from the replicator. After that I will be replacing the prepared overview with the team conference, and that may run long."

"May?" said Commodore Rafiq, "You will most likely wear us out." She was deeply smiling with an appraising stare.

"That is the hazard of command, isn't it? Staff meetings?" Enid asked.

Admiral Scott and Commodore Mirak both laughed softly.

"Are you sure she isn't bugging Command Staff Meetings?" asked Mirak.

"Assuredly not," said Mr. Umak, "they are the dullest things around, even the complaints are dull."

"Too true," said Admiral Scott.

"If you would follow me to the washroom area?" asked L'Tira as Enid was whispering via her personal system.

As L'Tira led the group off, she realized that Enid had gone off in another direction, leaving her to help get this group to the conference room if they wanted to go, that is. But the whispered conversation amongst them, almost ensured that.

"L'Tira, is it?" asked Commodore Mirak.

"Yes, sir?"

"How did you assess what just happened?"

"Its... well its unexpected. All of our previous simulations were to just get the USS Grant to the Museum Base for further work and reconditioning. I... none of them had ever had this as an outcome. It is very unexpected and yet, looked like the right thing to do."

"That is something due to the preconditions that were out of normal parameters," said T'sau, "Fleet Command has a different view towards such situations than normal personnel. Personally I could only consider such a simulation to be one of the gravest danger in which such few people were so isolated and neither the Fleet nor Federation available for help. Very grave danger would be the cause of that."

"That was my thinking, too, T'sau," said Admiral Scott, "once the system started to ask me some of the questions it did, I realized that the M-System thought that, also."

"My feelings were the same," said Commodore Mirak, "although just a simulation, the circumstances are so unusual that it could only have been something very extreme to have gotten us so isolated like that, basically put on a dead ship to die."

"I didn't see it like that," said Commodore Rafiq, "although similar, the sort of situation is one where so many factors have gone wrong that being left where we were was an outcome of a number of hideous miscalculations that shifted us out of the way for something else to go on."

"Yes! That's it exactly, "said Revar Umak, "someone had been double-dealing and we came up empty and abandoned to fate. I have seen and experienced that before in trade negotiations, where the negotiation is just a ploy to draw us off balance."

"Indeed, and so deep in Sol System for this to happen, meant extreme danger to the Federation itself. The expenditure of Fleet resources in such a time must be considered and weighed," said T'sau.

"Just what I did, T'sau, its my job. I was shocked to see what went on, too, but for the situation, it can easily be condoned. An empty tractor base for orbital maintenance is not an integral Capital Asset if the Fleet or Federation are in danger."

They arrived at the vestibule, "We will be here until you are all ready, replicator is to the right, washroom section to the rear and seating is do-it-yourself for what we have here." No one noticed as she slipped a small water flask out of her vest and quickly drank it down, putting it in the disposal chute for atomic recycling.

Admiral Scott went straight to the replicator and came away with a white cup of hot fluid, which he slowly sipped.

"There is nothing in the universe like coffee," he said softly, "Tell me, L'Tira, would you seriously consider being Chief of Operations for Enid's company?"

"Ah, Admiral, she never even hinted at that before today. I am floored, really. I thought this was just a fun project to work on and, really, its been one of the most exciting times I've had. Still I don't know what sort of future Daystrom Industries will have and the Fleet does important work for so many people, that it is hard to say just what is the best way to go."

He nodded, taking a bigger sip, "I can see the attraction, already. Enid is more than just a good administrator, she is confident and assured, which are very hard things to come by at someone twice her age. And I am having to seriously revise my estimates of the project, too. These were early units ganged together to do this, correct?"

L'Tira nodded, "Yes, sir. That was the M-Variant contingent project, which fell through with the main project."

"That is astounding, L'Tira. I am thinking about just how history would have been different if this had gone through, and I'm starting to think it would have been far different, just for this part we have seen. Even our modern derivative systems aren't up to what we saw, although they can simulate it, this system was meant to enact it. The simulator is just showing us those results. Was this truly a fresh system activation for us?"

"Yes it was, Admiral. You will have to ask others on the seed modules, but those don't have the capacity to build what happened on their own."

"Robotic ships are one thing. This didn't feel like a robot or simple autonomous system."

Commodore Rafiq had since pulled up a chair with a water flask in her hand, "No it didn't, Wilson. Even with the simple questions it can ask, the system was insightful and used forethought. It had already looked at the overall situation and was refining it, and every answer we gave removed much of the possible and probable and left it with something that fit all the needs. Some of that is prescripted, the basic entry questions are that way, you can tell by the wording. But after that first few? No. That is extremely sophisticated for old equipment. Even new equipment. Nothing like it that I have seen."

L'Tira was counting heads or tracking voices, "If everyone has what they need, I will take you to the conference room. If you need to drop off and rest due to being tired, I'm sure you can do so, and letting your staff know not to worry about you. If anyone needs to do that do let me know and I can get someone to take you to your quarters." She looked around and saw no takers on that.

"Please follow me," L'Tira said moving off to the turbolift down the hall. Soon they were all in the lift and heading towards the conference room. When they arrived, it looked like most of the people on the project were there. Enid looked up from the head of the table.

"VIP seating is at the table, and if we need more chairs for staff, then go and filch them from other rooms. Replicators on the side, regular coffee, tea, and volad, along with other consumables on the side table," Enid herself was absently nibbling at some sort of dull beige bar in a blue wrapper and had a cup of coffee in front of her, as well as her personal equipment. She had also changed into the Yeoman's outfit.

L'Tira smiled as she took a seat near Enid, but not at the table, and only as she sat down did she realize that Enid had used the gangway ladder system to get to her quarters and change. Three decks up, one section over and two more up. A turbolift would take forever to get there the way the base was configured requiring a shift from cargo lift to personnel lift. Quietly she slipped another flask from her vest and took a protein packet and swallowed it whole, chasing it with water. And she really liked the bad habit she had picked up from Enid of doing that as it calmed her system, kept her focused and never a queasy stomach no matter what the circumstances.

"If we are all here?" Enid glanced at her system. "Enak, could you hit the room security for me?"

By the side panel he nodded and did so.

"Welcome to the post-mortem of today's test, system - append stardate and other functions, along with attendance list. I hope this meeting isn't inconveniencing any of you, but it is important as we haven't run across this scenario before and the system has acted in ways we haven't seen. I've asked Lothar, Theresa and Brian to give us the overview of the activity and just a bit more time for Grace, Kathy and Patti to do a quick review with Roger and Enak. I would take time to welcome the new team members, but that has already been done, and they have added to our understanding of things just by coming on the team. Which is why we are here. Lothar?"

Enid shifted her chair to the side by L'Tira, and a holodisplay appeared over the table while Lothar stood off to the side at the front of the table. The simulation of the day had appeared.

"This simulation was done using Fleet Command Staff, a variable that we had not considered separate from other variables. With those variables in play, the M-Variant system utilized input from those personnel and examined the parameters of its problem, while still keeping within all the parameters given to it. This is the result."

The simulation started and Lothar kept the display in a running overview, port-side aft of the USS Grant.

"This simulation varied almost immediately as the ship made its first approach to Jupiter and had used its thrusters to shift orbital attitude and inclination which would, in two days, bring it to its furthest extent out just beyond the Tractor Base. That was its goal for this part of the simulation, but had other things going on internally that are not readily discernible as they happened. As the parameters on crew safety had been changed by that crew, the ship took longer runs in the atmosphere while using thrusters to adjust its orbit and stabilize it against drag. The net result was fusion systems actually coming on line faster and using the atmosphere as its source. In effect it was funneling a denser mixture into the fusion system to run them, while siphoning off longer chain molecules into storage after sorting them. By the time of its second orbit it was actually having to chill that mixture coming in so that it would not spontaneously fuse as a plasma."

"Spontaneously fuse? It was going that fast?" asked one of the cadets.

"Not so much a question of speed as density and constriction, and on the third orbit the system then changes its entire configuration and I missed this as it happened. As the ship attitude over Jupiter put its nacelles and main disk pointing down to the planet, I missed the first time it used a deflector field constriction point located out of the ship to have it act as a ramjet. By then the simulation while it was running in the bay was already looking at the overall system, not concentrating on the ship. I had thought that it had suddenly loaded and off-loaded fuel through the impulse engines, but it went for an elegant solution of having the thrust happen outside the ship. As far as I know this is the first time a Federation starship has used its deflector systems to create a Bussard Ramjet. And that thrust actually gives it the orbital speed to shift to the base, while also requiring the ship to shift its orbit outwards due to speed. It only does that only once as it is spending the rest of the orbits compensating for that, but that impressive change in velocity turns into a stabilizing orbit with the base in two days."

"You are saying that the Grant used the atmosphere of Jupiter as a propulsion basis?" asked Commodore Mirak.

"Yes it did and created a decent system to do that propulsion and keep the crew safe while it did so. It would only be on for a few minutes, ship time, but that was more than enough to get the job done. All of the following orbits, to the final status orbit to the Base would be normal ones, if on a highly inclined and elliptical orbit."

"Why didn't any other simulation have this?" asked Patti.

"It is not a low to zero risk piece of work. But the expanded risk envelope allowed this to be done, although I wouldn't recommend it for more than a couple of passes as it would start to impinge on hull integrity just by heat generation. Also you can't do this with the shield system on, so it really is a complete emergency maneuver."

"Could you run that through from the nightside view?" asked Commodore Mirak.

"Sure, that should be a treat, really,"

The display shifted and then advanced to the start of the pass with the Grant on the dayside. As it moved to the night side a bright and intense glow pierced through cloud banks and outwards through the tenuous atmosphere away from the planet giving a silhouette of the ship as it did so, with light streaming over the shadow portions.

"Oh, that is beautiful!" said L'Tira.

Even the nightside lightning couldn't overwhelm the fierce and intense glow of fusion operations going on in the atmosphere.

"It really is," said Enak, "outside of probes, I don't think I've seen a ship do this."

"This isn't in any manual, I take it?" asked Admiral Scott, his eyes fixed on the display.

"Never described before, beyond theoretical papers dating back centuries. Impulse and Warp systems are just too compelling to make this feasible," said Lothar, "plus a normal computer wouldn't be able to keep up with something like this done ad hoc and would require a special feedback system with programming."

T'sau stared at the display like the others, "Ingenious and impressive."

"I am sure there are a load of other surprises we haven't gotten to, but this one stood out early on. Also note, however, that after this part of the run the entire battery system is recharged. Although the shields were not on, they were used in a passive mode to let magnetic flux fields wash over them and that plasma point made its own highly variable magnetic field that was very energetic. That would prove important later in the simulation."

"Propulsion and energy storage?" asked Kathy.

"Yes, just like it would feed off of the atmosphere and utilize it for other things, it used this to gain power for the ship, itself and then use that for later needs. By recognizing the magnetohydrodynamics situation it had, the M-Series put it to the most use possible in a limited time span."

The dot of light slowly waned and then winked out as the simulation went on.

"Here it is starting a small vector thrust that will do the orbital work to start letting it catch up with the tractor base. By this point in time it had already done an intense scan of all other vessels in orbit and the base, itself. The rest of its orbital maneuvers are conventional, although it would do some thruster work to move away from the deep atmospheric pass, like the one just seen. I still haven't figured out what its interstitial deflector work is, that is it reconfigures the deflectors to some other purpose when not used for sieving atmosphere. It still has intakes open, although the valves have sealed internally, so why it does this is beyond me. Beyond that I'll turn you over to Theresa, she is the large scale tactical weapons POC and a good weapon's officer. Theresa?"

Lt. Kul hadn't been expecting this, but was at lunch and took hours on the project to be at the meeting. She was very glad that she had finished her meal, and only sputtered on, by then, lukecold coffee when she reviewed the simulation. She did contact Brian DuVale who couldn't be at the meeting so he could do a preliminary analysis while she took the gangways to the conference room. She had artificial gravity on her side, luckily, and was one of the first to arrive and had quietly looked over the simulation and exchanged some ideas with Brian. She walked to the front of the table.

"Hello, everyone. I'm Lt. Theresa Kul and on the Weapons Analysis staff here, and previously was Ship's Weapons Officer on the USS Ares. I am sorry I couldn't be at the simulation due to work needs, but looking at the simulation I realized that this was not going to be another dry simulation for the Xth time. I've been working out the basic timeline with Brian DuVale, also on the team and he can't get out from his work at the moment, so let me catch you up on what was going on behind the scenes."

The holodisplay shifted back to the start.

"At the very start is normal: recharge the thrusters and sort out elements to the cooling systems. On the orbit just prior to the fusion ignition one, the M-Series had changed its approach to Jupiter to head through a deep mixture point in the atmosphere, where an upwelling of heavier hydrocarbons was present. It would take a few minutes to pass through that area, but the M-Series altered its flow of material out of storage and into the phaser and photon cooling systems. While the ship was buttoned down on the fusion run, just after it the deflector system did a ripple effect and moved ionized gases off of the hull and surrounding space and into the warp core cooling system. What that actually did, however, was start the warming process of the warp core as the exterior gas was highly excited and charged and would transfer both heat and charge into the core, thus neutralizing the gases. This will become critical later on for charging the weapons systems."

"But the core is inactive, isn't it?" asked Commodore Mirak.

"Yes, sir, it is. The core is not acting as a core, really, but a reserve energy system. In essence a giant battery. While you can charge up a photon torpedo with standard battery and fusion power, it works much, much better if the torpedo igniter has a quick charge put on it. By storing the energy in the core the core system is also warmed for later events, so the ship doesn't need to do a regular warming cycle or a 'crash warming' and will get a good charge on the photon torpedo later in the run."

"Again, multipurpose in outlook," said Enid.

"It is, Enid, and that looks to be the way the M-Series likes it. Now by having full batteries the pre-warming of the phaser systems can begin, although it concentrates on the ring and forward banks, each in turn. As you know the phaser ring offers a much more energetic phased array than a standard phaser bank or point phaser. What it lacks, however, is precision and is normally used on a sustained swath where letting the actual beam spread out is acceptable. It has good and bad points to it as it is easier to maintain and cool, but takes more energy overhead when run at full power. It really isn't made for a sustained and precise aim and the beam tends to get fuzzy on the sides."

"Has anyone proposed using it as it was used today?" asked Admiral Scott.

"No, sir. I've been on the history staff for phasers and cataloging them from their first early hand laser grid injection systems to some of the outre ones used by the Tholians and Orions. The principle remains the same, but engineering is widely variable. Now, since everyone is interested in the showtime, let me queue up to that and the first pass. Here we have the approach by the ship to the station, with the ship in a text-book description of how to line up a minimum distance for all points firing."

"This first arc is sustained and will represent the first semi-circle, forward, and it has to achieve that before the ship needs to change attitude. This energy swath is very tightly controlled for the phaser ring system, and at much lower power than normal. Let me slow down the simulation replay and reverse a bit."

The initial phaser fire stopped, the image pulled back on the timeline and restarted.

"This is down to thousandths of a second, which is the best the capture can do. This initial part of the phaser fire is very energetic, see that while the trail after it is reddish, this part isn't even white hot and can only be seen by a few stray atoms impinging on it. This first part of the fire carves right through the outer hull and is modulated to be at the perfect temperature to disrupt the hull itself."

She ran it forward and did a close up of the hull point and as the unseen part of the phaser burst hit, the hull just vaporized under it.

"That white burst is the absorbed energy in the surrounding hull and the gas plasma of this first part of the burst. Next the red part, which carves through the interior,"

A red phaser beam moved into the interior of the base and gas with small debris was being ejected. The interior lit up to a deep yellow as that went on.

"Now just a step forward by a half-second and note that a second shot that is invisible to the naked eye penetrates deep into the station, with the white actinic follow on. That is cutting part of an interior support that is much, much sturdier than normal decks. Also see that the main phaser burst is eroding away at the exterior hull which is now penetrated. Now I'll shift into normal speed."

The blinding flash of the phaser continued along the hull then stopped only to be picked up right where the first hit was.

"At that point it has now done one-quarter of the hull, and has shifted to the rear part of the ring for attitude. It will duplicate that first run starboard and then start and do it all over again forward with port then starboard. At this point the base has taken a deep interior cone of damage that winds up just below its anti-matter containment system. In fact that system for shutdown containment is self-sustaining with its own small back-up battery system and direct feed to passive solar panels. At least parts of two decks under that system are in the cone."

The base was outlined and shifted on a lateral axis.

"The M-Series is wasting no time nor energy on this work, and is doing some interesting work with low power deflectors to keep the ring spread to a minimum. What it does do is add just a bit of plasma to each of the UV bursts, which are near critical overloads for the ring system. They are so short, however, that there is almost no wear on the exterior array. After that it will complete the outer part of its orbit and is situated to do this on the other side of the base. It also expends some battery energy for the tractor beam. This cut is basically the same as the first, save that it is much, much smaller and leaves three decks between the previous cut and this one intact. The tractor then shifts the piece out of the way as it is fully detached."

Watching the display, Mr. Jomra said, "That is very exacting work for a phaser, isn't it Theresa?"

"On the first, Mr. Jomra, that's right. Having to try and fiddle the deflectors, keep the beam on target, and adjust constantly like that is taxing work for our computers and far out of what a human can do. It is also very, very low power and conserving energy as it has modulated the beam to be at the perfect energy for cutting through the deck material and internal supports: it isn't wasting energy that would just get absorbed or reflected around causing excess damage or collateral damage. Waste energy from cooling is, instead of going to the intercoolers, goes through the warp core, so even that energy is recaptured, by and large."

"Now for the kicker, let me queue up run two. Let me run it at normal speed."

Phaser light again, apparently, repeated cuts of the first run, but it was apparent that something was slightly shifting.

"From what I can figure, the first run did something like perforate each of the major interior supports for the power system, but did not wholly cut through them. This run actually took far less power as it was removing the parts between the perforations. If you look closely, this section is now floating inside the base. As it powers down its ring phaser and does a final power up on the photon torpedo, let me switch to the other side and then back to this side on the same part of the run."

Shifting to the other side the Grant came on slowly, then fired a single, dull red photon torpedo that arced out of its departure path and into the conical area cut away from the first run. This scene then repeated on the other side, but here the larger section was moving slowly outwards after the photon torpedo hit, and Theresa stopped it as it was three-quarters out of the base.

"Note this major support that runs along the axis of the base. You can clearly see one, major cut through the center of it, and then two smaller cuts just slightly off-set to top and bottom. That was the first run and second run: first did the major work, the second the smaller ones. That repeats around the entire section for each support, save minor deck supports. The small amount of twisting is the section breaking free of the base, and that didn't take much at all once the shockwave transferred from the lower support into this section."

The view shifted to the lower support as it floated out.

"That major beam has been eroded completely around leaving only what was a half-meter rod shaped section intact with a 'V' cut all around. If it looks like anything, it looks like a piston of sorts. The photon torpedo hit exactly to deliver almost all of its power directly into this support, compress it and then have that energy transfer to the section. Once it did the section then moved and pulled out the broken support which had fractured when it was compressed. That is what I call 'good shooting'."

"More than just that, Theresa, but a very deep knowledge of what it was doing down to the finest detail. Just amazing," said Lothar, "I wouldn't try it in real life, but then I'm not an M-Series computer running a starship."

"No one would be fool enough to even try and simulate this, Lothar. It is just too strange to even think about, having that sort of precision from a starship."

"Theresa, what would your estimation of the damage to the tractor base be?" asked Commodore Rafiq.

"That is a hard one to estimate. The actual superstructure is horribly compromised to the point a single disruptor shot could destroy it. On the other hand it is missing almost exactly two pieces of reinforced metalplas, each about ten meters long, which could be slipped in place and spot integrated by a two person team in half an hour. Add in an auxiliary power unit and the base is pretty close to operational, missing its tractor systems, but having everything else intact save for all its decks. Full restoration if done on-the-spot would be three months, easy, and probably more like five. I don't think that if the materials were available that the Fleet would consider junking it, but that is a logistics problem. As-is, with a few passive systems and batteries it could support two or three people for a few months, if they don't mind emergency rations and the exercise necessary to stay fit in zero-g."

"Really?" asked Kathy, "That damage just looks horrific."

"Yes it does, Kathy. The real kicker on this, and a lot to think about, is that the other pieces were not just tossed away. In fact, in a month or two, they will slowly shift closer to the base and it just might be possible to put the large section back in, although with a lot of refit work. The smaller section is more problematical, but might serve as patch-work in case of emergency repairs. There is also a very slight spin on the base, once this is done, and that will help to straighten out any deformation due to the photon blast. It is a bit harsh, though not enough to destroy the station, as that was not even at half-power, closer to 20%. More like a hard punch than a blast."

"Have you ever seen anything like this?" asked T'sau.

"You mean from battle damage analysis and my regular work here?"

"Yes, or even privately if that is not asking too much."

"No its not too much. I have seen all sorts of uses of phasers, photon and quantum torps, disruptors, nuclear devices, conventional explosives, you name it, I've probably seen it. The closest to this is a mining operation that had to deal with a layer of dilithium rich ore that was between two layers of extremely hard basalt with heavy metal inclusions. The group doing this only had a phaser bore and had to decide if they wanted to stop operations for a year or so to try a much longer, lateral approach, switch to other mining methods or do a timed burn. Their problem was that if the burn didn't work out right, they would lose the ore pocket which had a volatile admixture of matrix around the dilithium. Their controlled burn was one centimeter short and from there and they did hand work it, not wanting to risk any uneveness of the layer. They actually went manual and were glad they did as the under surface was very uneven. They precisely calculated the rock, inclusions and the rest of it to come up with a timed, burn. It was something like this, but took a few days to calculate. In theory it can be done, but it always means a long, long time to figure out how to do it right. Even the Fleet Corps of Engineers doesn't do this kind of work at this distance. So there is similar work done in mining and large-scale work on things like hull plates and infrastructure to make a ship, but that is always close-in work."

"Theresa, those other operations are using tools, aren't they?" asked Enid.

Theresa thought for a moment then nodded, "Yes, Enid, I hadn't thought of it like that, but its exactly right. Those are the uses of things like phasers as tools, not as weapons although they can do that, in a pinch, too. Actually considering what happens next, I think you are on to something. Lets pick up on the return orbit Here it is tractor and phaser work."

The holodisplay shifted to the USS Grant approaching the station on its next orbit, the conical piece floating free, but in the same general orbit as the station. Theresa Kul paused the simulation there.

"If the other passes were something not described or done, the next is one I consider almost impossible. Here the ship is coming in, two phaser points charged, not even the full bank forward, and the tractor is on stand-by. The first phaser point on port side fires one single, clean burst that shears off the tip of the cone, then latches a tractor beam on that piece and uses thrusters to adjust the ship and piece from the main section, although the orbit is basically the same, this is just a tactical maneuver. The next phaser burst looks short, but it actually lasts about twice as long as the first, but at a lower power and even pulses because it is trying a very tricky shot. As you know this is the heart of the station's power supply: its anti-matter cache. The Federation protects all anti-matter in a superconductive magnetic field, so that even a moderate term loss of power, say a week, would allow the anti-matter to stay contained. The actual circuits to monitor that are extremely low power and have their own battery and power feed from multiple sections including the passive solar array. In theory we could abandon a station like this for a few thousand years, come back and the anti-matter would still be contained."

"That is standard safe engineering practice," said Lothar, "still, it can't take this sort of punishment."

"By the time it does, Lothar, there isn't much of a superstructure or system to save. Here the Grant is being very precise and has grabbed the piece by a very small sub-meter square section near the tip. The tractor is at low power and why we will see in a moment."

The simulation continued, the thrusters firing and shifting the Grant out of the way of the major drifting section, the small piece shifting with it held in the tractor beam.

"At this point the ship has locked on to its firing slot, but it is askew from dead center and slightly to port. When it fires it also starts to shift the tractor by rotating it port to starboard. Here the phaser hits the larger section and starts to erode it. Note the high intensity pulse at this point, and that the piece is shifting faster. What it has done is vaporized the top of the containment while it has low lateral motion and then is rotating the piece faster as the firing happens. At this point the sudden arc of electricity shows the end of the containment field and the Grant then shifts the piece quickly aside. From here I can't really describe what it does, but it achieved its goal as it somehow processed the anti-matter into the heart of the ship to power itself. Lothar is probably better in that area, although Kathy should be able to handle it, too. I don't have much to add after this, save that no targeting system we have devised could do this work. The holodecks would complain about this in the human feasible area, but this set of interactions shows that there is at least one computer system that takes this very seriously."

"Theresa, what would you say this ship could do in combat?" asked Admiral Scott.

"Ah, sir, that is hard to say. All of this is normal space, non-shielded work, so the M-Series can do a lot here that would be difficult to do in combat, I should think. Still, given that and how shields operate, I think that this might be a major advance in ship systems capability because the system shows a very fast capability to see what it is doing, understand it and adjust to it."

"Why the proviso on shield operations?" asked Simon.

"Ah, Simon you should know about shield harmonics. If you could perfectly tune a phaser to the exact harmonics of a shield system and adjust it continually for range and spread, what would happen?"

He furrowed his brow for a bit, then came out softly, "Oh... yes, I see."

Revar Umak said, "See? What is it? What would happen?"

Simon turned to Revar, "In such a tuning the shield system becomes transparent to the phaser modulated beam. The deflector system would blunt that, but it is in no way enough to stop the damage from a major phaser strike. Even modulating harmonics, as done with the Borg... well... the Borg for all of their power are very slow to adapt and react, while this system is reaction in and of itself from what we have just seen. If it could run a program to guess the modulating system used to defend against it, then it would start to modulate its phasers likewise. By the time a normal ship figured that out, the damage is done. Normal biological entities can make very fast decisions and use intuition about what is going on, but the reaction time is on a long time lag interval."

Admiral Scott leaned forward, "Are you saying that we have just rendered shields useless?"

"Oh, not useless by any means, sir," said Lothar, "just we now know can't depend on them or our automated systems to actually protect a ship as a major defensive system against a ship that has a system like this on it."

"Dear, god... the Excalibur..." said Commodore Rafiq.

"I think that is part of it," said Patti, "even with low power shields and deflectors, the two should have stopped the initial damage. But they didn't. The M-5 utilized its capability at high power and killed the crew with extremely targeted fire that wasn't stopped by either defensive system."

"This is not what I expected," said Commodore Mirak.

"Nor us," said Enid, "which is a problem for the investigators after the incident not taking their time to do an extremely thorough examination of what happened. The Fleet was looking to place blame, not understand what happened, and the rush to judgment by the Fleet then changed how all future researchers would approach the incident."

"Enid, that is hard to take," said Rafiq softly.

"Now you know how it feels to be a Daystrom. The Fleet is not to blame for the incident, but it is culpable in what it decided to do in sweeping this under the rug. A technical accident can get blame and a scientist deranged can do damage, together they become the perfect point to lay blame. Once it is affixed, everyone then sees what happened in only one way. This is what the Federation passed up on - a system that can utilize a starship in exacting ways to save lives and defend them."

"Enid has a major psychological point there," said Patti DuBois,"just looking at Richard Daystrom's personal notes, what there are of them as he was becoming very paranoid and worse as the project went on, he loses track of this concept with his conscious faculties and yet, back in the background, his mind is still working on the original intent of the M-Series. They are not at exact cross-purposes, but the different goals and necessary schedules to meet make it impossible for Richard Daystrom's mind to remain balanced. Yet his commitment to finishing his work and intuitively understanding how important it was drove him forward, even understanding that he couldn't directly accomplish what he set out to do."

"That is at the dark center of his shadow. We never understood what it was or what, exactly caused it as great grandfather couldn't talk about anything related to this after being stabilized. Yet, in many ways, he showed evidence of frustration and not having some key part of himself engaged. That gulf made it impossible for him to understand his own work or help others. With the Fleet already having its say, the entire concept was scrapped. Yet some portion reminded him that Daystrom Industries was important, so that when the Institute was formed up, the title to Daystrom Industries remained with his estate and the family. If the Fleet, the scientific and technical communities and other researchers could not render a proper verdict on him, then he created the one thing that would allow one group who was interested in him to finally have that chance."

"The Daystrom family," said T'sau.

"Yes, although I think he might have expected it within his lifetime. Now, Lothar or Kathy? Which of you can best address the end of the simulation?"

"I'll take a stab at it, Enid, although some of the systems work I'll be relying on Lothar's notes."

"Good, take us from the shifting of the anti-matter cache in space."

Kathy Lorimar stood up. "As you know anti-matter is the opposite charge of matter, so that protons in matter have a positive charge and in anti-matter a negative charge. One thing that caught my attention was that the phaser shot came in at a slight oblique to the structure around the cache, and I think the M-Series was doing that to help shift the atoms of vapor away from the path of the container. It actually continues on for a few nanoseconds after the container arcs, which effectively vaporizes the top of the container. As the magnetic field decays it acts to actually eject the anti-matter out of the top of the cache, but that is, effectively, negating the speed it had previously. For all intents and purposes, the anti-matter is motionless, laterally, to the direction of the ship's deflector screens as it comes in."

With the end of the phaser fire, Kathy pointed to where the expected mass of anti-matter would be.

"Now, let me overlay what we think the deflector system has formed into..."

A grid formed topside forward of the Grant, with a definite funnel shape that would intersect the anti-matter just slightly to port.

"Here I believe the system is attempting a first segregation by interposing the deflector between any vapor left by the phaser strikes and the anti-matter. As the ship moves and the position of the funnel goes past the anti-matter, the funnel closes and that area of space that has the anti-matter in it is then compressed and shifted down and into the exhaust system for the warp drive. Here we think the anti-matter passes into the exhaust flux port, normally used in case of overheating of the anti-matter cache or if there is a run-away reaction in the warp system and anti-matter needs to be flushed out of it. The addition put in by Revar Umak disables it as an exhaust and turns it into a charged conduit. This work is vital as it is very important that any stray matter/anti-matter reactions happen either here or in the warp core: no other ship system can handle this."

"In fact the exhaust isn't designed to do this," said Lothar,"that small drop-in way out at the end of a Jeffries tube would try the patience of a saint to install while a ship was in-flight and couldn't be done with an active core."

"Hmph! It had better be important for what I would have to do!" said Mr. Umak.

"It is! The ship then shifts the entire mass right through the system and into the cache after putting it into the standard segregation ring that is normally used to add anti-matter to a starship. The last matter is taken out and the cache then has its supply of anti-matter. Once the last of the anti-matter is in the exhaust, the add-in drops off via standard releases and is dropped into housing that surrounds the exhaust. At that point it can't do any damage if it knocks around, although it might work its way to fall down the Jeffries tube. After that the core has been pre-warmed, the anti-matter is warmed slightly by being slowed to a halt, and the first slow mixture is done in the core itself and then ramped up. The USS Grant is ready for operations, then. The rest is standard routine."

"If I may," said Patti,"this is more than just getting the necessary fuel, not only had the system pre-warmed the core but was actually able to do something that, in Richard Daystrom's time, would not be accomplished until M-4 and that is shift a ship into warp drive and navigate. This is new to the system, the project and hasn't been recorded as even possible in any other tests done by anyone up to this point. This is a serious point of departure for the project and clearly establishes new territory."

"That is very true, Patti," said Grace, "and something beyond normal interest. I will have the team members involved with the forensics side try and comb out how this has happened. Do you have any insights on where to look, Patti?"

"A few ideas, really, but not well formed. Roger?"

"I would think that a good part of it is in how the units did their work. Singly an M-Unit would be swamped by too much data and too many decisions, and even getting a spare and lean simulation was challenging to M-3. While this is a relatively stripped-down ship, we have had the fullest simulation we can provide for it, and the M-Variant has shown a capability to use that data as filtered through the simulator and the ship simulation. But how it is doing that is more up to the evolutionary code than to the static check code."

"What I noticed," said Lothar, "is that the M-Variants would tend to concentrate on a few things at a time and get the most from those activities as possible. While heading into the atmosphere there would be shifts from deflectors to energy intake and stabilization to vectoring thrust then to shifting those systems down, re-configuring them, while storing any captured atmosphere in the storage holds. While in orbit the ship transitions in a function by function manner and always leaves automated sub-systems to do their job when they are needed later. In fact once they set up an automated routine, they let it go and only keep status updates if it does not go out of its expected operational parameters. A very efficient way to do things if you have limited overall capacity but highly flexible capacity. And there are certain times in orbit when the system is working at a high amount and not doing anything. Planning time, possibly. I really don't know."

"That is my impression, too, Lothar," said Patti, "that its time for planning is one to order things and then just step through the things it had decided. Just watching a system overview, I could see some areas of the ship shift from active to inactive control in an orderly manner. Energy management would shift from tight control on the fusion areas to very light while working to clean up the energy coming in from the shield array, plus ensuring that a longer term need, like the warp core was being addressed. Once out of a rich source of fuel in the atmosphere, things would switch back to very precise control of those resources. Getting the weapons system prepared seemed to be far more automated until they were needed, and then energy systems went back to local automated control, with more attention being paid to sensors, targeting and so on."

"I'm glad you brought that up, Patti! It seemed like such a natural way for the ship to function that I had gotten a bit lost on how smoothly it did things. I'll see what I can do to help you, Grace, but I know that what Roger says about the code is one that is very valid. Getting to understand how and why evolutionary code does what it does do is extremely difficult. I've had a couple of simple primer courses from him and its frustrating to finally get something that works and have no real idea how it can work, even when some of our most basic tools aren't given to the system."

"Evolutionary algorithms have been few and far between for us, in forensics, because they are so widely variable and difficult to figure out. This is not the Borg 'find and report and wait for orders' type of coding, nor that of some of the ancient automated systems that have survived via forms of adaptability due to higher level structures. These aren't von Neumann codes nor are they strict code types of imperative or non-imperative systems. Apparently there is an innate part of biological beings that have some distrust of created systems that are not exactly predictable or that behave in unique and adaptive ways without some understanding of how they can do that."

"It is hard to work with," said Kathy, "but there is a feeling that I get that what Dr. Daystrom put in place works very well, even when he was mentally ill. I agree with Patti, and this is not anything like what the M-Series has demonstrated before. And it has me working out in my specialty quite a lot to try and figure out just how it is doing what it is doing on the spatial end of it. No matter how rough the atmospheric part of the journey was, the shift to warp drive was a very nominal one and it took a short time to build up a very efficient pocket around the ship. You can get that with human/automated interactive systems, as space fields do have a 'feel' to them. The M-Units put only the sparest energy into pocket formation with the most going to actual warp capability. Well, I think that does it for my part of things."

"Thank you, Kathy. I'm hoping that this can be fleshed out a bit more over the next week, so that leaves us with anything not answered about this simulation, and after that I would like to segue into a broader over-view that was scheduled before this happened. I may want to put that off if our new team members are fatigued, however."

"T'sau, Revar? I know the Council does have pressing concerns, but you will have access to the data and reports via your personal systems. I would like to stay for an extra day or two, but for all that this shows, I still have my regular job to do."

"I think I can garner much from the report database,"said T'sau, "that plus our diplomatic work with the Gorns about this now takes a much higher level of urgency. I will take time after the question period to meditate and then join you for dinner."

"T'sau has got that right, I can handle a lot, but just trying to figure out what I've seen here and how it will effect the Federation internally... that is difficult. And it is on me, as no one else in the Trade Administration can get this."

"Not until our scientific documents are properly put out, Revar Umak. That will be some months, yet. Realize that the Fleet Engineering Corps will also have this data in the very near future, and they will be working to do a thorough analysis of it, too" Enid Daystrom said.

"Good! Stay for the Q&A, catch up with my staff which must now be lost, do some catching up on work issues and then dinner."

"Eloise? Leonard?"

"I'm torn, Wilson. I have just seen something that will, possibly, reshape the entire field of cybernetic design and ship design, and put serious challenges to our researchers for years. Yet my restrictions keep me from doing more than being a contributor, and I can't prep my staff on this. It would be pure torture to do that and not be able to staff-up things as I think they should be done," said Commodore Mirak.

"Put it in as a Special Project for next cycle, Leonard," said Eloise.

"I will have to, one without direct assignment or linkage to this as of yet. Probably 'Assistance to Engineering Corps'."

"That'll work, Len. Have your staff put your tag on it when it comes to me, so I can prioritize it."

Eloise Rafiq sat back, her black jacket with insignia from the team on, though open down the front. "Luckily Records doesn't need such handling as most of it is cut and dried. My only worry would be dropping out of sight for a few days and having everything run smoothly without me... someone might get the idea that I'm not needed."

Wilson Scott smiles,"Eloise you will put them harder to work here than you do behind your desk. I've seen what you do during vacations, and just when do you get any vacation time during them? You are far busier away from your desk than at it."

"I don't want to be a dunsel, Wilson. But this is a part of my responsibilities, the Historical Section, so I won't be away from work, just doing a site visit. Can you set me up with an admin area for a few days, Captain Bartholomew?"

"Of course! How would Captain's Quarters on the USS Athens do? We have retrofitted modern capability in under the older equipment, so nothing should be lost while there."

"Oh! I thought that was off-limits for real use..."

"No, Commodore, we frequently let out quarters to VIP and their staff on the Athens, and the interconnect is only a short walk from a turbolift on both sides. I can even get Lothar and Simon to power up the comms so that you have a dedicated Fleet Link."

"That would be excellent, Captain, and thank you. That actually won't put me very far from my actual desk, administratively, and in some ways far closer to those working in it. Go ahead and do that, probably for a week as I would like to take in the next over-view session for the project."

"Very good, I'll see to it."

"Well, Enid, I think we will stay for the final questions and then relax before dinner. Do you have any recommendations?" he asked.

"Sure! Public dining alcove 7, which is done up in 19th century Boston historical emulating a restaurant of the era. Much better than holodecks, really."

"That sounds good!"

"It is already reserved for you, sir." said L'Tira.

Admiral Scott looked between L'Tira and Enid, "You don't leave things to chance, do you Enid?"

"Not if I can help it, Admiral. Now any final questions from this simulation today?"

"This wasn't the full-up integration to-date, was it?" asked Mr. Jervis.

"No, just the M-1/M-2 array augmented. M-3 was not in the array system." said Roger.

"M-3 wasn't.... wait a second, M-3 can operate as part of this?" asked Commodore Mirak.

"Ah, yes, that would be in the briefing, but to sum it up, the entire M-Series has the capability to interoperate as a whole system. That was what great grandfather was trying to do and we have spent weeks piecing that together."

"The system wasn't even fully operational for this?" asked Commodore Rafiq.

"No, it wasn't, and probably won't be until M-4 and M-5 get added to it," said Lothar.

"Get added? You don't mean...?"

"Yes, Commodore, that is the great loss from the Fleet perspective: Richard Daystrom had interior plans to himself that he kept obfuscated on purpose. He hadn't wanted 'just' the M-5, but M-5 was to be an integral part of a complete system spanning from multiple early units to singular M-3/4/5 units." said Patti. "You saw the Lifeboat reserve system sub-contract at work, and it turns out that this system was going to be the heart of the overall M-Series. Richard Daystrom lost track of that, and his ultimate goal, stressed by feelings he had been improperly appreciated, his work stolen, and without recognition from those who built on his work."

"Fascinating," said T'sau, "I had heard that no adept wanted to approach his mind beyond surface contact, that it was too volatile to approach beyond that. Neural stabilization has its faults in not addressing many underlying and systemic problems that go beyond our ability to map in an individual's brain. For those with standard talents or singular talents, those can often go unchanged, but Richard Daystrom was deeply talented and that made him very difficult to approach."

"How do you know this, T'sau?" asked Enid.

"I had entry Kolinar training as a youth, Miss Daystrom, and found that my mind would not settle on that path of absolutely pure logic. That made the diplomatic corps an ideal way to go in my life. When I was being trained some 60 years ago, I met an elderly adept who had worked with Richard Daystrom in an attempt to settle his mind. It could not be done, as the underlying structure was so strong that to move that would have broken the man and his personality. He was not happy with that, but understood it at some level."

"That fits with everything we have seen so far, T'sau, and thank you for that."

"My pleasure, Enid Daystrom."

"Just how close does the simulator come to real life?" asked Revar Umak.

Lothar looked at Simon then they looked at Roger, who looked at Enak, who shrugged and stood up, "The simulation that we started with is a Fleet Standard ship simulation with high degrees of add-ons for planetary masses, orbits, plasma, attenuated gases, and good simulation capability for physics. We originally had tried an era specific simulator, which worked well enough, but as we stepped outside the 'design pocket' of what those were made to do, we ramped up simulator types while retaining the older style system connections. We finally had to end that and retrofit the M-Units with modern connection systems which was easy to do, and we upped the actual capability of the M-Units to receive data, but their internal structure remained unchanged and they compensated for the throughput. I had to work with Simon, Lothar and Mr. Jomra find all the modern specifications of the knowns of the Constitution class heavy cruiser and all of its foibles and peculiarities, which are not Fleet Standard as no one really models that class of cruiser these days. In addition to that we have an old ship computer core off a heavy destroyer which fits the majority of specifications for what that heavy cruiser should have, and that is part of the simulation, as well. Once we started on the M-Variant systems, we started getting feed-back from them on the simulation and its... ahhh... lacks. Their links to power and sensor systems, in particular, they have high up on the complaint list and I'm afraid we can't properly simulate those responses for the systems."

"Actually, no one can simulate that accurately without having a starship attached to it," said Lothar.

"When you use the term 'complain' is that just your term for systemic feedback?" asked Mirak.

"That was what we had up to the M-Variants, when we added in M-3, we started to get a few real complaints falling outside of any pre-programmed parameters for response and prompting," said Enak.

"It complained. Not loudly, nor insistently, but these were problems that it had to deal with and felt that having a simulation that couldn't do so was hampering their function." said Patti, "No prior M-Series system tested prior to this group ran across this complaint type."

"That's true, the T&E logs up to M-4 would show standard, programmatic responses and items out of accepted tolerance and notify users of internal over-rides to compensate for those things." said Roger.

"M-3 when integrated also gets bored if it doesn't have much to do, which our simulations have had up to today." said Enid.

Eloise Rafiq blinked, twice, "Bored?"

"Ah, yes, a first for artificial intelligence, I think," said Roger, "During simulations when it can't get anyone to talk to, it starts to hibernate some of its programming, leaving automatic functions to the other units. It does wake up to do tasks like sensor scans, any adjustments to orbital plots, and when the ship needs to be busy it is fully powered up."

"It takes a nap?" asked Rafiq.

"Well, yes. Wouldn't you?" asked Roger.

"I... wait... wait a second. That isn't pre-programmed response, I take it?"

"Not at all, Commodore," said Enak,"it is a basic of life forms that when they have little to occupy themselves with, they start to spend more time in a lax or lethargic or even sleeping state."

"Yes, but that is for living things," said Mirak,"not starships."

"Looks like this is turning into the briefing anyway," Enid sighed, visions of going over her notes and perhaps getting some zero-g racket ball in fled from her mind.

"From the top, Richard Daystrom's personal archives and much of what he did with the M-Variant project was meant directly along this path. He was going far deeper than just conscious engrams, which is the view every single investigator during his time took. They thought it was a marvel that he could get them working as he did. Those were mere surface engrams and the entire story delves into the structure of the M-Series as he originally conceived it. He reasoned that a computer that felt as a living being feels inside its body would have superior capability to learn and react than any computer system that did not take that into direct thought account. Our great balancing of our minds is that emotions help to moderate conscious thought and the conscious side helps to moderate the emotions: together they form a whole that occupies the body they occupy as one being. Emotions and conscious thought have a deep intertwining with the underlying state of the body of an individual, and together they form an organic whole personality."

Enid was a bit exasperated, but reconciled to the necessities of this.

"And he did a good job, really. No, an excellent job given what his mental difficulties were at the time," said Patti,"He had thought out the M-Series at some very basic level and realized that he could not do it all at one shot. He also knew that his critics would grasp on that to strengthen their criticisms, and he also recognized the truth that trying to get it all to work the first time around was impossible. He took care to hide the actual and underlying structure that would give a computer the ability to have emotional responses to its body, which would be a starship. As his mind grew clouded and slowly broken, he lost track of that in a conscious way, but not at that lower level. His mental decline starts before the M-Series is even proposed, but the intensity of work, the frustration of failures and the need to hide his actual work inside the project itself, all put additional stress on him. Paranoia I am sure about looking at the records, but by the end schizophrenia or some other form of displacement of personality cannot be ruled out. Yet what he was doing, by the time he got to M-3, was already an astounding achievement if he had wanted it to be put together then. When we integrated the M-Units of the original 1/2/3 and the Variants we found a surprisingly sophisticated and complicated system was coalescing. Previously it had demonstrated all the minimal consciousness necessary to protect itself and feed, while maintaining its systems and objectives."

"Feeding? Not refueling but... feeding?" whispered Admiral Scott.

Lothar changed to an earlier simulation of the Grant moving into the atmosphere of Jupiter and how it extended its deflector fields. Annotations showed how it sieved, sorted, and then distributed the results to appropriate areas for later need, and how energy systems responded.

"When you see something like this, not to speak of the fusion event, it is more than just typical 'refueling'," said Lothar, "this is a highly precise, integrated way to approach a need of a ship and meet many of them simultaneously without impairing any other function. When we eat it is in response to our body's needs, and we seek out a food source to satisfy them and then allow the post-intake sorting to happen by the non-conscious mechanisms of our bodies. The M-Variants do that, and this ad hoc system is taking very little computing power to keep that up as it goes through the attenuated atmosphere. Even the responses are automatic and it places some field adjustments at the lowest level to how the deflectors work, not by automation."

"Don't forget the body recognition/response problem, either," said Kathy, "that really threw us as we tried to give the system what the Grant is, today, and since we don't really know how some of those systems really operate we couldn't simulate them well. That is why we finally backed down to the known ship type rather than as it is. Apparently we know enough about the systems of then to give enough simulation capability to emulate them. No matter how much data we threw at the other equipment that didn't work well, the M-Series just couldn't handle that and told us so."

"A starship thats...well... living?" said Admiral Scott, "I mean we have seen many forms of cybernetic and artificial or created thinking platforms, but the ability to treat their underlying platforms as bodies is questionable."

"Some do and some don't," said Roger,"there is a variety of ways that AI and cyborgs adapt to their underlying platforms. The feeling of an 'integral body' or a housing that has a feeling of 'completeness' also varies, so that some can feel that they are 'in' their bodies but have little regard for the actual parts within them and can easily change out sub-pieces. Others may not have that feeling, but regard their housing as 'complete' and would feel 'violated' if anything was done to them. Robots and primitive AI systems usually do not have this to deal with, being an accumulation of software and hardware with pre-programmed purpose. Normally this only shows up in self-guiding intelligence structures, and those that transcend bodies, like the Organians, say, have no real association with any physical structure, although they still have an integral presence."

"I agree with Roger, with the proviso that this system is, apparently, unique in what it does," said Patti. "Here there is an attempt to build up the necessary non-conscious parts necessary for an intelligence to operate, so it starts down at the very basics of interfacing between the intelligence and the body. I think that Richard Daystrom was taking a few leaves from the evolutionary handbook, not only in his algorithms but in the overall design. Today's simulation put the structure to a hard test in which it would need to prioritize different pressing needs and accomplish them in a faster manner than had been done in previous tests."

"That came from the standard multitronic code, I would guess," said Roger,"it has that prioritization of external factors schema built into it and relies on the external computing system of the ship, at this stage, to do that. There was a large jump in ad hoc code shifting through that system and it was far beyond the standard Q&A work. The multitronic code did what it is good at and the memory module code did what it was good at and they operated together."

"I've been running some test equations on that fusion run, and talking with Kathy," said Mr. Jervis,"and it really is an amazing piece of work. The region it went through was ionized due to atmospheric currents so the deflector field was able to gather in a very strongly charged set of gases. It had attenuated its field to the maximum where a deflector field can actually deflect anything and by having it gain an opposite charge, the system extended even that reach by a small amount. As the funnel narrows it has irregularity in it to cause a spiral, which has a slight vortex effect, so as it narrows the compression rate speeds up to the pinch-point which is highly magnetic after the first second or so, due to the flow of charges inside the field. As the gas fuses, and it is mostly hydrogen fusion, although some other elements and molecules, especially longer chain hydrocarbons, get mixed in so the radiation from it will have some nasty spikes. Plus cause a very, very bumpy ride. Still the equations work out fine, and I'm surprised that no one has ever thought about doing this."

"It is a pretty primitive means of propulsion," said Commodore Mirak.

"True, but it also works pretty well if you can keep the deflectors constantly adjusting. And most of that is done by the electrostatic charges in the gas as it interacts with the field, even though it is a small percentage of the overall gas coming in, it does a good job of reflecting its components, and the pinch point actually opens and closes when heavier mixtures come through. I'm impressed."

"As am I, Mr. Jervis. If there are no other questions, about the only reminder I have is to put in your nominations for engrams for the final two systems, M-4 and M-5." said Enid.

"Nominations for engrams?" asked T'sau.

"Yes, as part of the problem with the first incarnation of these systems was being based on great grandfather's engrams, and that Patti and Roger have puzzled out how they get encoded, I think it is fair to say that I don't want his engrams used beyond initial testing. So it is who you think would be best to model the resultant system on, and why. It doesn't have to be long. I know I am personally looking at a steady personality with a decided lack of flamboyance but a high dedication to getting work done. Hopefully we can come to a consensus candidate that will satisfy no one, completely, and yet be highly reliable and a good role model. It will not be a personality or replicated personality, but a basis of personality that we are looking for. Don't expect to get some great commander of the past to return. But you will see some of those patterns of personality show up, even if in a unique individual. Do keep that in mind about the nominations."

"You really do run things differently, Miss Daystrom," Admiral Scott said.

"That I do. If there are no other questions, then Enak can unseal the room and for the VIPs the dinner is scheduled in an hour. Invite as few or as many of the team as you want, including zero if that is your preference. The alcove there can be secured. Enak?"

The displays shut down and the room lighting changed so that the dull red lighting disappeared against the ceiling. She stood up and stepped past L'Tira and towards the replicator, putting a water flask into the disposal and coding in for two just like it, which appeared and soon disappeared into her jacket. As she stepped from the receiving area of the replicator, she looked and smiled at Revar Umak.

"Hello, Miss Daystrom, it is good to meet you away from work," he said.

"And me to meet you, Mr. Umak. I hope you have enjoyed what you have seen and thank you for accepting my invitation to join the team."

"Eh? Oh, yes! This I couldn't afford to pass up, Miss Daystrom..."

"Do call me Enid, please."

"Yes? Thank you, Enid. No not pass up as you were discomforting Star Fleet at its highest ranks and they had little they could do about it. I've seen them have to go after Orions and other rogue trade groups, including Ferengi, but this is something unique in my experience. They can't get a handle on you, Enid, and I was not going to miss the opportunity to watch that play out. No, no, not Revar Umak who has had to put up with trade routes that go unprotected during conflicts while the Fleet is off and busy forgetting that if they let the trade go to rot, the Fleet will soon go to rot."

He had dialed up something that looked like a form of ancient cocktail sausage on sticks, but had to be composed of some other agglomeration of proteins. They walked over to low slung table and Enid took up a lotus position on the floor while Revar Umak pulled up a cushion. And munched down a few of the sausages.

"Delicious! I was told these were poisonous at my first reception on Earth, but they turned out only to cause minor digestive trouble while being wholly tasty. An ancient delicacy from Earth! From the city of Vienna!"

Enid had to close her eyes as she put the cap on the water flask. She was determined not to laugh, and it was very, very difficult.

"I see that you put the Captain's Engram proposal out as something that can be discussed openly, so let me ask you something, Enid. I come from different background and see things differently than most humanoids, although, yes, yes, I agree on many things and outlooks. My choice would not be something that would fit in with those of humanoids, although I can pick out such captains from your own sets of histories, be they Andorian, Human or Vulcan... hmmmmph... ok, not Vulcan by and large, although there are notables. Do you understand?"

"Of course, Mr. Umak, I don't consider species to be determinative, just reasoning as to why and what traits an individual had that you think are prime for a living ship."

"Oh, yes! I can see how the Fleet can't deal with you, Enid. And you know that it is a loaded question, don't you?"

"Loaded? In what way?"

"Heh! Yes, heh! You didn't think that out, did you?"

"I thought it a relatively obvious thing to ask and consider."

"No, you didn't! Now where, exactly, are you?"

"Huh? I'm at the Fleet Museum base orbiting Mars, of course."

"Yes!! Exactly!! And they are mostly doing what job?"

"Historical research...."

"Yes, yes, yes!! You have asked a group of historians to choose their favorite captain worth emulating in a starship personality!! Historians!! Heh!"

Enid Daystrom was at sea, mentally, because she had thought the request was pretty straightforward. Then she thought of the implications, took up her personal unit and spoke a quick message to it sub-vocally.

"Thank you for pointing that out to me, Mr. Umak. It was an oversight on my part."

"Eh? What did you do?"

"No academic discussions or feuds."

Revar Umak chortled, then laughed in a barking way. Pointing with a stick having a sausage on it he said, "You are most quick minded, Enid. I wish we had you on our trade negotiation panels to choose personnel. Yes, yes, the Fleet is in for trouble now, mark my words. They didn't take you seriously until last week, Miss Daystrom. Never even heard of you before that, I'll wager. I know I didn't! I know exactly the personality I want on that ship, Enid. Exactly and to a perfect quandary, but it is not a captain! Tempted? Yes, yes! But you will get a normal response from me, never worry, no, no, not ever!"

Cocking her head slightly she looked at Revar Umak.

"Normal? Ah.... who would be your first pick that would be abnormal?"

"Who? Who, she asks? Heh!! Well, I had best go meet up with one or two others to let my first choice stew a bit. Good day, Enid Daystrom."

Enid furrowed her brow watching him slide off the cushion and wander over to Lothar, "Good day, Mr. Umak.'

Enid shook her head, and realized that there are many things she enjoyed about carnivores and one was their direct approach to things, even when using subterfuge and ambush. You always knew what they were after. Another flask appeared in front of her on the table, and had been brought by Eloise Rafiq.

"Beer, just like when out on expeditions, save the can is pre-chilled. I was thinking about mugs, but those are a bit harder to move with down corridors. Give it a try, decent brew from Belgium if you don't mind heavy on the malt," Eloise slid down just to the left of Enid, sitting standard cross-legged and putting down a small platter of cheese and crackers. "I have been at one too many after action reports earlier in my career to expect anything here to kill my appetite," she said sipping from her can of beer.

Enid picked up hers, popped it open and took a sip, letting the liquid flow over her tongue a few times before swallowing. It was a rich beer, although it might have to be chewed to be appreciated, "Thank you, it is a good beer. So, what do you think of the project your people helped to start up?"

Eloise Rafiq swallowed down a cheese and cracker she had been eating with a sip of beer.

"Are you sure you aren't pulling everyone's leg and are from an alien species?"

Enid arched an eyebrow and started to cough as she sipped her beer, obviously trying to stifle a laugh so that she didn't get the beer where it shouldn't go, which was her nose in this case.

"Really, its no offense, but this little historical project is going at the underpinnings of the Federation and the Fleet. If the Gorns have been 'coldly agreeable but aloof' and the Tholians 'tenuously distant', we at least have some idea of what they are doing and why... well, except the Gorns, of course. But agreeable is better than hostile. Now in a short period of time you have stepped out of the darkness with a ghost from the past and gotten a little wedge into the entire thing and will soon have a starship for testing it out. I can't think of anyone who would be able to do that, really."

Enid had wiped her mouth and was finally satisfied that no beer had been aspirated nor that there was any possibility of it foaming from her nostrils. Life was good.

She looked up and nodded, "Actually, that was Richard Daystrom who did that, I'm just enforcing that agreement."

"Enid, this has gone a bit beyond that, don't you think?"

"No, I don't, Eloise. This is something that may shock you, but I had no idea where this would lead. I did schedule my sabbatical and hoped to take some time on a real vacation, even if it was just on Earth, there is a lot to see there that I haven't seen in my life. I had thought that a month or six weeks at the most, and this would be done, gone and finished. But I also let everyone know, up and down the line, that I was going to be here to the finish, no matter the cost, although I would like to still have a job and livelihood once its finished. But I would be the first person since the death of my great grandfather to finally, once and for all, clear up the darkest part of his reputation that, no matter how wonderful, still hits his family hard two generations later. Although it was M-5 that did the killing, the blood was on his hands as creator of that machine and that red still sticks with the family to this day. Before you met me and came on this project, what words would come to mind with the name of Daystrom?"

"Genius, deadly, misguided, rehabilitation." said Eloise.

Enid nodded, sipping her beer, "Notice that the rehabilitation and good works after M-5 do not make up for it?"

Eloise Rafiq leaned back and arched her back, "That is... Enid, how many people respond just like that?"

"The general pattern is the same of initial glory, great downfall and meager redemption. From what I have read from him, myself, that is how he finally saw himself, too, but the feeling in the family was that his early death did not bring justice nor relief for anyone."

"So you, two generations later?"

"Personally, I've had to live with it, live parts down, moderate others and get across that I am to be judged by my own works and actions. It is only with the initial notification from Star Fleet that I sat down for a few days to review the family archives, talk with grandmother and finally go through the last effects and pieces of his work that had been left behind. Something didn't ring right nor true about how I felt and most people feel about Richard Daystrom. When in the field and tracking a deadly carnivore that has a high degree of familiarity with its surroundings and you do not, and if you find that a trail you are on is guiding you someplace that feels dangerous, what do you do?"

"Get off the trail and think examine the surroundings, prepared for anything. It is a trap. I've run into the same while I was Captain and even as Commodore in Command. You need to shake up what you are doing or have pure confidence in knowing what is coming and that you can handle it."

Sipping her beer and taking a small piece of cheese, Enid said, "That was where I was at when I had finished a few days of overview. There was no intention behind it, I am sure of that. No conspiracy, save for one man put under extreme mental pressures and failing himself and those that would depend on him. The few, barest of traces of what had driven him to that were still visible in the records, his actions and the material he left behind... or more correctly that great grandmother had collected to make sure there was continuity in his history, as he did not care about it by that point in time. She knew that her husband was headstrong and yet cracking under pressure, to the point where he wouldn't listen to her or reason. Even when his work became his life for that period during the M-Series, she let that go hoping it would pass with final success. She became his anchor after that failure and the way for him to find useful work to do, that was still meaningful. She tried to get the Fleet interested in the materials, but it was not interested in them, by and large, and went lost into the records. She knew that her husband couldn't, ever, go back to what the M-5 was, but she believed in him and that he was able to do it and it would be a success for him and supported him, even through those bad times. She was the one to put the archives together and keep Daystrom Industries going with his assent, and pass that down until the materials would finally be released. She explained, at one point, that she had no trust of a group of strangers that was the Daystrom Institute, by then, but that the piece of success from the early days would remain forever in the family as she trusted family. That has passed through the family until it is with me, her bequest on behalf of her husband. I am pretty sure my father didn't expect to ever have to do anything with that, but he handed me that bequest, and my mother never objected, expecting it to be a family heirloom, until she went over the materials with father."

After sipping her beer, Eloise looked at Enid, "I don't know what I would have done in such a situation, Enid. While for humans family has shifted to become a more transitory feature over generations, it has not lost its power. No matter where you go, members of the family are still family. No, not alien, nothing like it, in fact... just something we are so unused to seeing that it has become an alien idea to many these days. You've said you are here to make things 'right', not in vindication or excoriation of Richard Daystrom, but an open and fully inclusive look at his works. I'm afraid that those of us at higher echelons of Command and the Council are used to seeing plots, underhanded work, misdirection and even outright lying and betrayal that running across someone who is forthright and blunt is a shock. That is an approach we often leave to the side at those levels, for all the fact it is the best in how we should be doing our work."

"I don't have that leisure to do that, it is a habit necessary in the field and you give it up in the rest of your life to your own peril. I treat everyone like that, Eloise."

"It gets results! From what I have seen, you not only handle things well, but may be open to a charge of 'manipulation', by shifting events and your approach to people. I know I was more than a bit bemused when the cap, jacket and such arrived to me in a single-use replicator code, and I couldn't resist almost immediately heading to a replicator and having it ask if I wanted the items tailored to my body or, ah, 'stock' although that is very rough as everything is made tailored these days from the replicator. Still, I went with comfort over the 'stock' look, but understand where that comes from - everyone takes a generic sizing and that is part of the team ethos. I hadn't thought to see that at work, and with me!"

Enid nodded, "Roger's idea for the items, L'Tira explaining the problems of the old 'One-Size-Fits-All-Fits-None-Well' that, as a non-humanoid, she has had as a major problem in some areas of the Fleet and even in normal life, and then my own add-ons to adjust that. End result is that each team member gets clothing to suit their emotional outlook, yet be inconspicuous about it. Roger gave me the 'keys to the kingdom' on the clothing as it requires the same dual-association that the database has to allow you to access it. So you were a provisional team member by getting the jacket and cap, although the encryption key for that would not have given you database access."

"How did you get it so that each item must be individually replicated? I know I've tried to do a replication on the jacket and the system hands me one in green..."

"You would have to ask Roger about that, it has something to do with replicators vs transporters, molecular identification of goods and the encryption schema. It transports fine, as it is not considered a replicator and they operate on different principles, but the molecule identifies itself to a replicator and the system then adjusts to the encoding that the molecule is tagged with. By putting a different tag-code in the molecule that it is tagged for is subtly different than the original. You could use a transporter system to make duplicates, but that is a higher level of usage recording and few people are that enamored of the items to do that. Plus, if it is tailored to one individual, it is unlikely to fit another well."

Eloise nodded her head from side to side, "It sounds like a prank!"

"Actually, from what I understand, that is how it started, but turns out to have a few good uses although it isn't much more than an annoyance level idea."

"You know, it has some actual use, if you think about it. Handing an encoded physical document over would then make it un-replicatable or otherwise ruin the actual document. Few people would think of using a transporter on it, since the idea has gotten a bit ingrained that replicators are just a form of the transporter, but with bulk items instead of living ones. That is, of course, not the case."

Enid stretched out her hands, "I need some exercise and a change of clothes. Admiral Scott has let me know I'm invited to the meal, and while not being hungry and needing to work out for a bit, I can't say 'no' to that for team reasons."

"Me, too, Enid! Actually I was just nibbling on the lunch material as we went along, so I was never really hungry. I've been on a few projects and recognized the need for that, as did Len and Wilson, and T'sau eats sparingly at all times, so that single packet would hold him, but how he does that I have no idea. It just can't work for a person his size and metabolism."

L'Tira had stepped to the table seeing Enid preparing to get up, "No zero-g racketball today, huh?"

"No, you're on your own, L'Tira, I will be doing a workout tomorrow early in the day cycle if you have time."

"Jomra and me will do one after this, so I will have to skip out until the afternoon. Holodeck weapons training before lunch?"

Enid mentally checked her schedule, "If its free, sure. Otherwise the folks in handweapons want to do a practical particle beam casters of the late 21st century Ferengi arms."

"Sounds like fun! Will they be doing a modern cross-test?" L'Tira asked.

"Yes, we are doing the century retrospective with major change practicals, so from the backpack power source to the hip mounted, then upper arm, then actual large pistol, to the modern unitary grip. Should be about an hour as I have used the vehicle mounted type from field work, and the physical radiation comprehensive they gave two weeks ago helps to cover the more practical aspects of high density power sources. They thought I would like this as it would be a good replacement for things like whips for physical damage, although for other uses it is less practical."

Eloise looked at the two, standing up with Enid, "Actually, that does sound good, as I have only had experience of those on the receiving end. Will they be handling defensive measures?"

Enid nodded, "Per era and weapon change, plus fundamentals of how to set up a discharge grid and feedback loop out of 'everyday materials'. Twenty minute segments per advance, with most of it being 10 minutes of practical use, then 5 minutes of demonstrating defenses. I think they can handle five people at a time, although its been solo-instruction for me due to lack of interested others, until L'Tira heard about it and wanted a firearms primer from 20th century Earth armaments."

"Primitive arms, but still handy," said Eloise.

Enid smiled, "Not primitive at all, and some environments I would actually want firearms over energy weapons due to grounding effects. When the group demonstrated a simple feedback system for a hand phaser that consisted solely of a single broad leaf and a rock, I almost decided to swear off the things. Even with the need for a certain change to the plant leaf, I realized that the structure was one that I had encountered before and may have explained some less than effective phaser work in that setting. Many of our modern weapons, for all their utility, have a depth of problems to them outside of structured environments, and they don't plain 'just work' in a few."

L'Tira looked at Enid, nodding, "Simple really is better, even if it is more lethal. I still carry my clan knife, of course, but had relied on the phaser as my main distance weapon after Away Team training. I need more practical experience, really, but the phaser isn't what I really will want to carry because it can be easily defended against with a bit of preparation."

"It can?" Eloise asked.

"Of course it can," said Enid, "I chose this outfit as I was able to specify for the era specific heat weave with silica hardening layer sandwiched in between layers. Not only good for physical impacts, and heat resistance, but the fabric blend and thread spacing now gives me a good shot at a hard phaser feedback and an extremely efficient means to ground out a phaser into a empty phaser battery cell integrated to receive the burst. I loved the one era's impact and bounce-back layer, but once I realized that only external looks mattered... this outfit more than suits my needs. I already altered my standard outfits to follow suit for daily wear with jackets and vests."

"Have you tested it?" Eloise whispered.

"Of course I have! Knives, slug throwers, hand phasers, hand disruptors and even the rifle variations, plus standard punching and kicking. I was amazed that it wasn't in the stock listing from the clothing inventory and that I had to hand code for this... what?"

"Enid, that sounds more like a combat suit arrangement than normal protective daily wear. Something that the Fleet Combat Training School or Engineering Corps would make..." Eloise said.

Smiling, deeply, "Yes, those thin-skins are impractical, easily damaged, have no intrinsic quality beyond showing off a body, emphasizes bureaucratic power, and are uncomfortable as they ride up without the interior memory module pockets. Wonderful for a nice, safe, enclosed environment with a ship or Fleet to defend you. My line of work doesn't have that luxury and I appreciate utilitarian clothing that does many things, wears well and still looks good, although I really do wish that the Fleet had better taste in colors."

"Are you sure you aren't an alien?" Eloise asked.

"No, she is human," said L'Tira, "although why more humans don't have common sense is beyond me, but I'm glad that a few do. I think they keep the rest of you alive. And the Federation, too!"

"Ok, we have fifteen minutes, so I'm off to change and will see you at dinner." With that Enid turned and strode off, and L'Tira realized that she was heading to the gangway ladders, not the turbolift.

"That woman is amazing," said Eloise.

L'Tira looked at her, smiling some although that did bear teeth a bit, "She is! Oh, she didn't tell you how T'sau does with so little, did she?"

Looking at L'Tira, Eloise Rafiq had to change mental tracks,"Ah, no she didn't."

"Its a simple trick, really. Take one of the dehydrated packets, for humans it would probably be a compressed wheat or rice derivative, swallow whole and follow with water, about a half liter. She taught me that and I found something I could handle and it really is a good way to stave off hunger for long periods of time as the heat in the body only slowly allows for reconstitution even as the compressed amount breaks apart. It also will take in stomach digestive fluids. Works for about 4 hours and is very unobtrusive."

Commodore Eloise Rafiq, who had been through Fleet Combat, Fleet INTEL, Fleet Survival, Fleet Command, and more schools and practical training than most Fleet personnel will ever get, was starting to realize that she was not actually using all that training all the time. Enid Daystrom had just swept through that entire suite of training without having been to any one of those places, and seamlessly joined ideas together across them.

"Are all Daystroms polymaths?" she asked.

"Not that I've seen so far. Just her. And her great grandfather. I'm glad she decided to do this project and help us."

"I wouldn't want to be on her wrong side," said Eloise.

"She doesn't have any enemies," said L'Tira. "No living ones, at least."

"That is impressive. L'Tira, I also have to change before dinner. It has been a pleasure to meet you."

"And me to meet you, Eloise,"

Eloise Rafiq headed towards the turbolift and realized that the way that Enid had gone had no turbolift. Only gangways between decks. She was getting her exercise in with, or without organization. The phrase 'no living ones, at least' still echoed in her mind. Enid Daystrom was on a mission, and heaven help anyone who got in her way. And unlike many Eloise had seen in her life that were narrowly focused, Enid had the capability to bring all her skills to bear on it without exception and while still having a 'normal' life.

And what was her 'normal life'?

Field work with megacarnivores.

Eloise Rafiq pursed her lips. How had Enid put her encounter with one such? That it had 'met a sudden drop over a cliff that it wasn't expecting'? And she didn't take flattery or brown-nosing, either. T'sau was right, she was just the sort of person capable of going right through the Fleet if the Federation tried to do an eminent domain on the work. If the Fleet opposed her... 'no living ones, at least'. Ditto the Federation.

What really bothered Eloise Rafiq is she didn't know where all of this was headed... until she realized that Enid didn't, either. That really did bother her.


"Welcome to the seventh meeting of the M-5 group! Mr. Jervis has been called off-station, Simon is out at the USS Grant leading the team that Lothar had taken there, and most of you have had a busy work schedule due to the influx of artifacts. Eloise will have her last day on-station today, heading back to SFC tomorrow, and let me personally thank her for staying to learn about us and help out. L'Tira, any administrative news?"

"Hello everyone! The heavy weapons group has seen an influx of equipment from the remains of a Romulan Warbird, and have had some scheduling conflicts this week, as have the systems group. Administratively there isn't much to report, with Mem Alpha now fully re-integrated in sub-space communications. There are some other areas experiencing comms problems, and it appears to be a set of ion storms, which is why Mr. Jervis is not here. As you all know the USS Grant has come through the system, and we will be having a rotation of personnel through there by inter-system shuttle provided to us by the Engineering Corps. Personality type nominations closed two days ago, and I think Enid, Kathy, Roger, Mr. Jomra and Patti have worked out the essentials. That's it!"

"Thank you, L'Tira. Well, since the personality assessment is finished along with understanding the encoding structure of M-4, let me first thank everyone for their input. We have had an interesting set of people to look at ranging from the Earth, pre-starfaring days all the way to Captain Picard in the current Fleet. I've come to understand a lot more about ship and fleet operations by going through the historical backgrounds of each and I can understand why there is such a diversity in this. The complete submission list is up on the database, and we did have to eliminate a few based on things that engrams can't capture. Like 'cunning'. That removed Odysseus from the mix, plus his lax attitude towards ship and crew. But outward looking attitudes kept in Zepharam Cochrane and Leif Ericsson both, as part of the mix, although for slightly different reasons. Some coalescences of factors between what can and can't be captured did eliminate good entries like Captain Kirk and Balboa, while others not expected to go further like Chester Nimitz and Captain K'zou of Vulcan did surprisingly well in the final mix. The small group we were left with centered on ability to use their assets, husband them, balance cost of expenditure along with meeting missions and an ability to still safeguard their ships and crew. In the end we took the accumulated traits that were good from each candidate, and put them into a sliding scale of personal review, so that the final paramount traits would represent what we considered to be the best balance between them all. It got down the fact that we are not smart enough to keep all that many people in our minds, so we did a Daystrom look-up from there."

"You are torturing us, Enid. Just give us the name!" said Lothar.

"We actually came out with a few names, of course. Admiral Nimitz was in that final group, as was Captain Christopher Pike, Battle Admiral Jorou of Andoria, Captain Cook, and Captain Kaz of the Klingon Fleet. All of these are known for their organizational skill, dedication to mission, flexibility, and using what they have to keep everyone alive and even sacrifice themselves if it meant doing so. Captain Pike was the final selection due to the vicissitudes in his life, his having to adapt to personal damage to his body, and yet his known skill at coping and persevering. I think that is a very good choice, and Roger, Patti and Enak have spent time shifting the engram system in a duplicate M-4 over to those engrams. As you know much of the M-Series retains identical hardware with progressive changes as you go higher in the series, so we are able to get a good estimate on what M-5 would have in its engram encoding schema. Patti has worked hard on that the past two weeks along with M-4, so this week we will see if both units can be fully stood up for functioning. At that point we will be 'hardware complete' with my great grandfather's original vision and we will be down to system integration. As each unit, as tested via replication, has proven out, the original units are now moving to safe storage on Mars, and Grace is helping on that end. We are very close to seeing the end of this project and it will be, at worse, a month off."

"Captain Pike? Of the Enterprise?"

"The very same," said Patti, "and he was the selection of Lothar."

"Calm, level-headed Captain who coped with a lot and knew what he was doing. I admire that," said Lothar.

"Now you can all start the arguing outside of the team about if that is a good, bad or indifferent selection. Please, do keep it there." said Enid.

"It was a great final group, though," said Eloise,"although I'm sad not to see 'Bull' Halsey making the final cut."

"He was close, Eloise," said Patti, "in the end Nimitz looked to have more of the characteristics we wanted, but it was a close thing."

"Grace? Would you like to cover the stand-down of the original units?" asked Enid.

"My pleasure, Enid. As you all know we have kept track of all the original items and their replication status on this project. After theorizing that the replication of memory modules was the main problem in replicating the original units, the simple expedient of removing them has allowed for safe replication of all the units. The originals are now in the process of being packed for long-term storage in the Mars equipment archive, although we expect there to be much interest in them and will retain them in the area closest to the historical examination rooms. Essentially, getting M-4 up and running on a full set of fresh memory modules and replicating M-5 to the 'activated but wiped' condition it was in is the final assurance that all of the original equipment is ready for the archive. All of the M-1/2/3 original units and variants are now in storage, and M-4 is being readied for storage, with only M-5 needing the final check-over before it will be packed to go. Due to the nature of the memory modules, we are using shuttlecraft for this."

"When will M-5 be packed?" asked Mr. Jomra.

"Whenever Enid gives the go-ahead. Let me say that those of us on the forensics team that have worked on the project have really appreciated the cooperation in capturing as much of it as we possibly can, beyond the normal equipment oversight. If Richard Daystrom had problems with keeping records, we will not have that problem."

"Has the Corps of Engineers asked for them?" asked Lothar.

"Not yet, but we expect they will accept replication transmittals and not need the physical units. Still they are kept in original condition for anyone to examine with proper waivers for Daystrom Industries. That is necessary given the nature of the work and the interests involved."

"Will the Gorns be coming here to study them?"

"I can't say. Enid?"

"The Gorns will be provided full access to the units and our research. They have put a request through channels for an Eight Group to examine the work and work with us, and have agreed to all terms and conditions the Federation has asked for and that I require. Expected arrival time will be in a week via fast courier shuttle from our shared outpost with them, so don't be shocked at personnel changes and input."

"Enid, you were pretty direct with the Diplomatic group on the Council," said Eloise.

"Yes, I was, Eloise. If the Gorns see more value in this work, now, than the Federation saw 130 years ago, then I would gladly accept their support for continued research. I expect that it would take much, much longer to do, but that would be a necessary thing for the work. Either way I look forward to spending time with fully sentient carnivores of their type which is unique to my experience. As it is, the Federation gets first crack after being the original sponsor and making good on the contract terms, and it has been a wonderful experience to work with the Fleet here."

"That is the nicest way I have ever heard 'do it or else', Enid, in my career. Thankfully T'sau cushioned that some and pointed out the diplomatic necessities and that you were capable enough to make good on what you said. And probably get Federation help to do it, too."

"It is right there in the Charter about 'seeking out new civilizations' and working with them. I'm more than willing to do that."

"That hurt the worse, but it was worthwhile getting the reports back from the Council meeting. Admiral Scott had some humorous anecdotes, but they are personal in nature. Still with the Fleet and Diplos behind you, there wasn't much anyone else could do, and then Trade weighed in with you and that left a minority opposed."

Enid nodded.

"Next up, should probably be Lothar and his new project: getting the USS Grant up to museum condition. Lothar?"

Lothar stood up and put on multiple holodisplays to show the Grant in cut-away, section detail, video, still images, and a basic systemic overview which was color coded. Almost all of it in hues of red.

"That is the USS Grant, she last had a Stores and Consumables group plus minor power systems upgrade 10 years ago. We confirmed this as the fusion system is of modern type, and the photon torpedo storage racks are full in a 'ready lockdown' mode. All phaser systems have spare coolant on-board enough to allow for two full system change-overs in case of coolant loss. Similarly the intercooler systems had a check-over and its stores are still at 95%. An Emergency Bridge near Engineering has been updated with some displays and systems mostly for comms. After that you are looking at a first test ring phaser system from 70 or so years ago and the X-Class testbed upgrade for the entire ship including doubling of phaser banks and photon torpedo systems, with the 'hot storage' system for shifting torpedoes between bays. As you know the ship has three warp systems, its original Constitution X-class system and two experimental ones, a 'slip warp' high efficiency system and a segmented core system, each separate from the others save for anti-matter shared conduits between them to a central storage area. Recently thruster fuel for minimal trim was put on a few weeks ago and enough hydrogen for minimal life support in and around engineering, while the rest of the ship remains without it. Nothing else has been running since 70 year shutdown phase, although the systems I mentioned were checked for integrity with minimal power. That is the systems view of things, and it isn't good."

As he went over this, each system pulled up for a schematic, systems, pictorial and video rendition.

"That is a mess," said Roger.

"That isn't the half of it. Structurally all the systems have necessary superstructure supports, but the Corps took a number of short cuts to do things in the ship, knowing it would need a thorough refit no matter what they did to it. As an example, to the get the 'slip warp' system centerlined they removed the shuttle bay and surrounding decks and then pulled it in to fit, while cutting out decks, systems and other things in the cut-out section before fitting it back in and doing a quick-release hold job on it. They thought they would need to take it out again, so the ability of that area to withstand actual stress is not something I would care to test. I have the ratings for all of those quick-release joins, but the exposure to vacuum and stress of Jovian orbit is unknown."

"Any way to secure that area?" asked Mr. Jomra.

Lothar looked at him, "You and I know that will take a molecular re-join on the superstructure back there and I have at least 32 of those that would be necessary for basic ship integrity. That is 10 hours a re-join, 320 hours, 2 man team, 640 work hours. And that isn't the only part of the superstructure that needs addressing, either. A similar job was done with the 'segmented core' system which was dropped in slightly forward of the old Constitution warp drive, upgraded to X-Class of course. That is critical as it sits forward and close to the sensor array. Luckily that needs only 8 joins and I have a team doing those first. I want the ship to get here in one piece and the time spent getting it into travel worthy condition is a top priority."

"What is the priority list for the ship, Lothar?" asked Grace.

"Yeah, thought you would ask that. I have a number of tags to your team this week and the heavy weapons people, plus power systems. We have a power deadline for the fusion system, which is 10 more days at current fuel use before we are down to portable units or living in shuttles and going from them into the ship and that will require space suits and armor due to the environs around Jupiter. We only have one shuttle to spare, the Tractor Base has one to spare and we have temporary use of one from the Altax. I'm seriously thinking about pulling one off our Deimos hidden storage area, an early one with lots of storage space off of the old Repulse. Limited people, limited time and limited schedules are pressing everyone. If I run a load of hydrogen to the ship, that means no rotation for that shuttle for a few days, and travel time is two days, at present, so basically it is out for a week. As that is the time we have the Altax shuttle, it fits to use that one for it and get us an extra week of time on-board for a short deck of life support. Add that to the week or so left from the Corps people who went there, and we are up to two weeks and two shuttles. After that, I can begin looking at sparing one shuttle for fuel and one for personnel, with one possible extra shift for crew rotation. The three members from the Corps, who gave us orientation and their run-down, are cycling out this week and they won't be coming back until a tow ship is freed up."

"So no real ability to do anything until the Corps gets in?"

"If we were stuck on our own, yes. So, I've drafted a few of the coders, along with Mr. Miyaka, Brian and Enak working to change the simulator over to everything we know about the Grant now, and put in the other systems that are unknown as just that: unknown and not available at present. I've started running the M-3/V through simulations, proposed crew and schedules and see what it will come up with. I expect that nearly everyone here will have to do the skills, work, and 'how are you doing today' interviews with M-3/V between now and then. I have a day or two leeway on the Altax shuttle, but no more than that, and am going to see if M-3/V has any better ideas than what I have. I expect that somewhere in there M-4 will get added to it, but by then I may have to take a replicated M-3/V over to the Grant. Luckily, we just need a power-up and stabilize in orbit arrangement, nothing complex like bringing the ship here. If it has cards up its sleeve, then it is time to start pulling them out as there is no other way that I can meet all the deadlines without it and putting a huge strain on the all the Museum personnel, or just leaving it to wait for the Corps."

"Have the simulations come up with anything?" asked Grace.

"Glad you asked that! I'm not fond of 'expedient' repairs, as most of you know, and superstructure repairs do need to hold as that is how a ship stays together. One of the things that has come up is the older method of repairing combat damage to superstructure, the process join plasma weld or, as it was more well known the 'instablind'. Earlier metallic alloys had a problem of stress fractures and sudden breaks due to recrystallization in some metals. Even the solidified metal glass suffered this over time, and needing to get those put right without needing repair crew was a vital concern. Molecular phasing is the preferred method since, well, the 22nd century, but the earlier system was very handy for ships with small crews or in combat. It is a very simple process of placing the sealing material, which used to be actual bags of metal shavings but it works well with an applied paste or other material, putting two thin metal grids on either side of the support and firing off a stored energy system to turn the grids into a charged plasma that then arcs over the join and creates a fused bond. You can even place the discharge unit in the material and get a 2 cm conduit hole as the unit itself gets vaporized in the plasma."

"Why isn't it the preferred method?" asked Enid.

"Pretty simple, really: the arc is just strong enough in that flash period to get through any eye protection. Set the time too low and even a reflection on a bulkhead will do a number on your retinas. Plus there is a high velocity plasma jet or jets that come out of that as no placement is perfect. So setting one off could easily put a number of small holes through nearby material, bulkheads 3 mm thick are minimum protection, while some jets have been known to go through 5 times that thickness. It is the 'swiss cheese effect' for flashguards put up near them and those are recommended, but for a combat repair, it will keep the ship together even if making nearby quarters or other less necessary ship parts unreliable. Each of those requires a separate repair of patch, too. The quick fix takes about 5 minutes, to do it properly at least a half-hour. The other problem is different structure types: between the types of ship repairs done on her, the Grant may have at least three if not four eras of material. Each process join weld needs the proper mix of materials to ensure a good join, which is why the molecular system is preferred, since it does a low level intermixing and joining between differing materials. Truthfully I wouldn't have thought of it, wanting to get the job done properly."

"Of all the things humans have, that knack for very descriptive terms is amazing," said L'Tira,"I shudder to think of what that would do to someone unprotected."

"Safer and slower works far better," said Lothar,"but speed has risks that should be considered when needed. If that is the way we go, then the M-3/V is basically putting together a series of shallow 'skims' through the upper Jovian atmosphere until the thrusters are fully fueled, and then taking six deep skim orbits to start getting fuel for the other fusion systems and creating a good mix for the impulse engines. At the end of that time, call it three weeks, the ship does a final deep pass with fusion burn and then powers up the impulse engines. What it gains is continuous power throughout all of this and expanding life support, plus giving it a thorough check-out of the ship systems. This is another thing that would take a proper Corps crew a month to do, and I think is a great point on the M-3/V and M-Series: it treats the ship to a thorough understanding and then notes areas where it falls out of specification. By using a large number of sensor and power systems, the computer system does a much better job than a human based 'system by system' approach."

"That sounds good, Lothar. Do you think that is viable?" asked Kathy.

"I've talked with you and a few others on that. There is a difference between simulation and reality, so if I go ahead with the M-3/V, I want to make sure the back-up plan is in place. Because it is so sparing in its approach on this, there is no point that is 'unrecoverable' if something goes wrong, save for the system going suicidal. It shows no evidence of that, though. There may be things wrong with the Grant, itself, that will become a problem, but that is true no matter what way is chosen, beyond the thorough, in-orbit work by the Corps. So, I will go that way, and have the replicated M-3/V system, process join equipment and mix, plus crew to get it all in place on the next shuttle out in two days. That is in the database and I ask everyone to do the M-3/V interview at least 6 hours before that if you haven't done so already, so you can get some warning if you are going over. Captain Bartholomew backs me on that, and no one is going that isn't necessary."

"It is in your hands, Lothar, you have my trust in that, too," said Enid.

"Enid, this is turning out to be a hell of a lot more than I bargained for. But I can't say the work isn't good or that it is unpleasant, far from it."

"You and me both, on that. Kathy, Roger, Enak? Updates on M-4 and 5?"

"I think Patti would do best to understand where we are at with our understanding of the previous units," said Enak.

"I agree, Enak," said Roger, and Kathy nodded.

Patti DuBois stood up and shifted the display from Lothar's ship system overview to one with three apparently identical overviews of the M-3/V system.

"As you know we have a full set of two replicated M-3/V systems which, along with the original system, allowed me to do a cross comparison between them. The first and original system with M-3 added in, I spent time with it while it was available and finished with a standard battery of psychological questions to help better define personality and character traits. As these are considered fundamental to humanoids of various sorts, including those of Earth, Vulcan, Andoria, Tellera, and many other worlds including those in Klingon territory, and the M-Series is based on engrammatic structure seen across these races, I thought it would be worthwhile to run a standard battery of tests on it. I did that with the other two units: the one started up for the VIP tour last week and a new system freshly started a few days later for testing M-4. The second two are 'fresh starts' so I was interested to see what differences would show up between them."

"First was the original system, which was at once both highly inquisitive and yet had traits of being petulant and utilizing long periods of time when much of its programming went into a quiescent state. It was of interest because it had never been integrated and had differing codes to work out amongst all of its units: the original M-1/2/3 and the M-Variant, plus M-Variant/1/2. Those quiescent times did see a reduced implementation of higher, M-3, programming, but it was not entirely inactive. Code from its memory structure slowly worked into the other units and started to create a complete and coherent code base that still had remarkable differences per unit. At the start it was possible to go up to the other units and get readouts that were standard to them and identifiable as M-1 or 2. With M-3 that was still possible, but only on the most basic of functions that are wholly hardware based. By the end of that time, the entire system had become an M-3 integrated system that only responded in M-3 means. M-3 did not 'take over' the units, but integrated thoroughly with them, so that the highest interface code was a layer on top of the previous M-1/2/V code. M-3V was and is highly different from original M-4 and M-5, displaying characteristics and capabilities only seen in those higher units and at a depth displayed by neither M-4 or 5."

"Aren't you describing what sleep is?" asked Theresa.

"I am and that was what M-3 as M-3/V was doing: it was resting, sleeping, to integrate itself, its knowledge and become a coherent coding structure. It needed so much time as so many of the sub-units were each bringing a different set of code systems with it. Having to deal with all of that and finally bring it into something that was useful to it gave M-3/V a unique personality that had finally stabilized before shutdown."

"Did this integration cause any problems with the system?" asked Lothar.

"None that I could see, although it concentrated on different areas of itself, the simulations and the simulated ship. Its longest time down was after the initial interviews for a simulation and it spent a lot of time doing something with that information. I can't tell you what, but if this were an analog of a person, then that time would be learning from those interviews and comparing its own actions and thoughts against those of others. Unlike organic beings it did not see a need to concentrate on any one individual, so the 'mommy effect' was not in play as there is no way for the system to actually learn about itself or cross-compare its actions against anything other than living beings. This trait is seen across all M-3/V startups. What it had done, and I've compared it against the system check work done during Richard Daystrom's time, is that it was no longer appearing to be 'just a computer'. All the interface modules of the original era for the M-Series allowed for a richness in vocalizations, and yet even M-5 had little of that. Each of the M-3/V systems has a different tone, tenor and quality to it, which indicates that the depth it has amongst its sub-units gives it a higher capacity to create a personality or personality-equivalent structure. The original unit could not recall much of its early time in the Daystrom labs, save that it was very lonely, although it said that it didn't know what that meant at the time."

"Didn't know what that meant... Patti, just what does it remember of its early activities?" asked Enid.

"It wasn't a highly active unit then, if you check the timeline it was a substantial advance in the series, and yet, for all of that, would have far less active time than any other unit. What 'memories' it has of that time are limited and fragmentary, save that it felt overwhelmed, confused and incapable of doing what it was set to do. It was very frustrated, lonely, overworked and generally ignored. That is putting human oriented words to its description, and it never stated these things in those ways. What it lacked, then, was the sufficient space for its code to actually get itself together and the multitronic systems it used were not up to the task of that analysis. Even having a complete ship's computer system available to it was not enough. It does have some fragmentary memories of people, places and events, but no more than a normal person not gifted with eidetic or substantial recall would have of their first two or three years after being born."

"That is a pretty anthropomorphic way of putting it," said Enak.

"True, but considering that it uses engrams to create its programming, there may be no better way to do it. Until I can get a clear handle on these either being substantial and integrated ways the system works, or a highly sophisticated overlay, they will have to do. The former are typified by functioning humanoids and other organic beings, as well as many of the energy state beings and some highly sophisticated automated systems. The latter demonstrate a lack of integrated personality if it can be changed by a module, system or other external function, so that a multitronic computer with a personality sub-system is not an integrated viewpoint personality while something like Rayna Kapec would come to have emotions and be overwhelmed by them, transitioning unsuccessfully from unintegrated to integrated personality. And humanoids also can change their personality via disorders or hard work, but the question of that being an overlay or organic part of an individual is something that even telepaths have problems with and even beyond the scope of our technology as learning how an individual thinks can be defined but the process of creating that is unique, even while following similar patterns."

"Those patterns must have some basic description to them, right?"

"Yes, those are called engrams. They start out by encompassing very basic personality traits, defining them, in a sense qualifying them, and they then gain standards of measurement that allow for them to be quantified as to strength, depth, and overall use in a thought structure. Engrams encompass everything from the very basic processing of bodily functions into a mental structure all the way up to the highest level dynamic thought processes that are used to make differential judgments based on morals, ethics, and internal guidelines utilized by each individual to assess their own actions to themselves. Most conscious beings have this arrangement and all sentient beings must have it. So when we sought input on what sort of Captain you would want for this project's main M-Series to emulate, we did a characteristic level breakdown, weighting and cross-indexing of personality components from the most basic to the most highly organized. Each of these characteristics are not evaluated as 'positive' or 'negative' as many individuals with highly aberrant actions have these exact, same trait descriptions but have problems on the internal accountability system. Richard Daystrom's breakthrough, amongst many, was to easily define that accountability structure in code that can't be changed and implement it. Where he most likely failed was the step-wise process of each of the M-units so that each unit in the post M-2 series grouping had too much to do and so little chance at internal accountability that M-4 and M-5 would have problems either carrying out tasks or differentiating between simulated and real environments, their main failures, respectively."

Eloise looked at Patti.

"Their failures? Are you saying that is what happened with M-5? It couldn't distinguish between the real universe and a simulation?"

"Yes, Eloise, it was not a malfunction due to the nature of the M-5 but that it had too little actual feedback on the most basic level of the ship into its thought processes. Part of that was, as Richard Daystrom pointed out to Captain Kirk, the constant switching of control from M-5 to human control. M-5 had very little time to actually become an integrated unit with the ship and get a foundational feeling for it. Worse it did not have the previous M-units to do this while it concentrated on higher level thought processing. That constant switching would be like controlling your body from inside it and then being shut off from it and only having mechanical aids to let you experience it then coming back to your body and not understanding what had happened to it while you weren't connected from it. By only observing and not feeling, M-5's mental structure decayed and it had already had much of that experience on the USS Grant. Richard Daystrom's hope was for a full-bore test of M-5, and hope that it would have enough time to orient itself to its new body. That didn't happen and the M-5 was disoriented and detached, feeling itself moving from integration with ship systems to total isolation from them. The cargo carrier was a sign of that problem, although anyone bothering to examine its simulations would see that this was almost exactly what happened on the combat runs in simulation: M-5 would get a 'warm-up' test target before the actual combat. Two teams, the Andorian and Stanford team point to this as a problem in combat simulations which is why rocky debris becomes a first test firing for simulation environments and not ships. The fault, then, is two-fold: Richard Daystrom's original series plan was the underlying cause and Captain Kirk's was the immediate cause."

Eloise sat back looking from Patti to Enid.

"That is going to hurt the Fleet at many levels, you know."

"I know that," said Patti,"and I have talked it over with Enid. It is a fact-based analysis of the record in combination with what we have learned to date. Richard Daystrom is at fault, but not sole fault. Using his own engrams as he was mentally decaying was a problem, but his own internal accountability structures for the M-Series were working better than his own. His inability to realize the extreme need of the earlier units to be part of the system is indicative of his worsening condition. Even with that, the contributing factors on-board the Enterprise cannot be discounted, from what we have learned. It may have happened in any event, but the Fleet imperative for combat testing instead of full system run-through meant that M-5 was directly thrown from one body to another, not allowed time to adjust to its circumstances, cut off from that body multiple times, and given a combat run that looked almost exactly like a simulation. Given as how I can't even imagine how those latter problems would affect it, I can say that just from a purely emotional reaction M-5 was abused, maltreated and, when called to account for itself, invoked the highest level laws, found itself guilty and suicided. It knew no man could judge it and like those basic ideals handed to it in its code it came down against itself and wiped itself from the universe. Many other killers throughout history have done that, especially when they have realized that it is their fault beyond all other accountability - they are accountable to themselves."

The room was silent.

"For the Excalibur" Enid whispered.

"May her dead rest in peace" said Lothar very quietly.

"Amen" said Roger.

"The Fleet...." started Eloise. She was shocked and coming to realize that the history around this incident had deep and far-reaching implications for Star Fleet. For the Federation.

"It pushed and paid dearly, Eloise" said Grace. "It has happened before, you know. This time it was a ship's crew dead, a man deranged and important work that could save lives relegated to disdain, and tied to those killings."

"The Fleet will know, Eloise. It will not come out of legal counsel, Command, or even Science section. This will come from History and Engineering. Along with recommendations to make sure that this exact, same thing does not happen again and possibly others like it," said Enid.

"You Daystroms, always out to save lives," Eloise smiled.

"When we can and others let us, yes."

Eloise closed her eyes, "You don't let up, do you, Enid?"

"That is the Daystrom failing. Luckily my work has kept that from being important as keeping people from being carnivore snacks has had more interest to me. But this is coming to be as important as that work, even if I couldn't ever begin to do it on my own without help. I accept my emotional drives and, unlike my great grandfather, I have no work to steal nor feelings that my work will not be recognized. I made my own way, in my own field and get my own recognition and criticisms in it: I am a big girl and can handle that. If my work were being stolen, not accredited, not cited properly or otherwise misused, I would not get paranoid about it but confront those individuals full-on as they deserve. And I wouldn't care if those individuals were persons, institutions, Star Fleet or the entire Federation. I would also ensure that I have the full backing of those accountability systems behind me first, before I did that, as fighting for lost causes has no appeal to me."

"Just like with M-5, Star Fleet has had a failure of accountability internally, and there are many other mirrors and analogs in this project, too," said Patti.

"There are?" asked Mr. Jomra.

"Very many, the easiest to cite is that another aspect of the original problem in M-5 was the division of mental capability amongst the M-units. Really, Roger can talk to that better than I can," she said looking at Roger who nodded and stood up.

"Actually this is mostly Patti's observations, but it goes well with what we have seen of the M-units along with the work by Richard Daystrom. As you know some of his readings leading up to the M-series dealt with early attempts at human psychology and analysis. While some of those ideas have been superseded by work beyond those early times, some of the basic ideas are still around even when their meanings have changed. Patti suggested it first, I think, and both Enak and I looked at this from different directions so that we came at it from different paths. Patti took the psychological, Enak the systems interface and integration and I took up the computer internals and between those three avenues we have a basic conclusion that Richard Daystrom had decided on a fundamentally integrated structure broken down into three structural sections although across five M-unit types. Although the terms we use are related to those of early psychology, they have a different scope with the M-units, again, Richard Daystrom was pulling some pages from structural evolutionary theory there and applying it to psychology and shifting it to cybernetics."

"I've sat in on a session or two between you three," said Kathy, "and the mixing of terms from different fields is hard to take in. Jumping from psychological personality matrix to coefficient emergent design to the differences between analogues, homologues and form/fit observations leaves my head swimming."

"I've been trying to plow through that from my biological side," said Enid, "and I think I get where you are heading as shifting idea matrices is a necessary concept to deal with in the history of science, but terminology leaves me struggling, too. Could it be rendered into something a bit more human-normal?"

"That took us a few weeks to finally get it relatively straight for ourselves,"said Roger Arrivan,"and working out a cross-reference look-up and valuation system is something we have back-burnered so we could make progress. From the beginning Patti has been using the Freudian Id/Ego/Superego concept as a basic division within the M-Series. Enak and I got drafted into that, he took the structural side to see how the M-units interact with the larger ship while I took the internal side of how that concept worked internally to the M-units. Having the M-Variant show up was a major stepping-stone on that and provided the understanding necessary to come to some basic agreement. Richard Daystrom had either consciously used it as a cybernetic structure system or had arrived at it from cybernetics and utilized it as a method for doing the overall project. The M-Variant sealed it as a conscious methodology used to create a multi-layer personality on his part. So while it has problems actually being applied to human consciousness in a thorough way, it has a lot going for it as a structural system in cybernetics. We think that, in the original plan, M-1/2/3 would be the 'Id' or that portion that identifies with the body it inhabits, and then M-4 would have been the Ego and M-5 the Super-Ego. We have very little to go on for this, as Dr. Daystrom did not keep notes and was slipping into a mentally unbalanced state. Yet the way each M-unit worked out, all the way up to M-5 clearly demonstrates this idea."

"Why did M-5 go wrong, then?" asked Eloise.

"As Patti pointed out it was a serious systemic failure, both internal and external to M-5 itself. In this view we are coming to hold, M-5 ultimately failed as it lacked emotional checks on its Super-Ego that would normally be provided by the Ego and Id. To get that feedback on the limited memory space devoted in M-5 to this work, which is no greater than M-3, meant that it was lacking at least 175% better connection to any starship it was put in, or to be a bit more clear it only had about 35% of the emotional capacity it would have had with M-1 through 3, and just a bit over 25% the amount it would have with all sub-units working with it. So much space was devoted to planning and analysis, that it would over-ride many of the internal checks that a more robust system would have had. Emotional checks are a large part of ensuring that our mental state remains balanced and addresses actual, physical needs of our bodies. As the multitronic side could not do this work, more and more of it was put in the memory module system and that spilled over from the M-5 area to the ship connectivity system. That was not a pure design flaw, as Richard Daystrom was, we think, planning on having time to let M-5 adjust to its new environment. He didn't realize the schedule, the problems with M-5 and the entire lack of capability that was necessary to it. He may have come to trust his own creation too much and M-5 would not have the balancing of Ego and Id to keep its mental structure in check. Without those checks, things would start to go wrong and that was exacerbated even further on the Enterprise."

"And that happened because of time pressures and psychological problems on the part of Richard Daystrom?" Eloise asked.

"Yes, that's right. The M-Variant clearly shows a line of reasoning behind the M-Series and with a strong emotional base and understanding of a body, the Id actually starts to form up in the M-1 and 2 complex with M-3 adding some of the first parts of Ego to the assembly. The topology of the routing of much of the structures that show up start to bear a resemblance to those of modern mental analysis when cast into older modes of examination. Here I differ with Patti and Enak and don't see that as engineered but emergent design contingent on final operational capabilities. It is hard to program in adaptability and much easier to make code very adaptive and then weed out those that have negative traits. That is the genius of the fast-running check code system: it arrives to take out those parts that cannot properly answer tested for traits. That code is not only within the adaptive code but also in the hardware check code and both remove different types and levels of variation that are contrary to overall engram derivatives."

"M-5, as a last design stage of mentation lacked the strong amount of programming to weed out aberrant code in its structure," added Enak,"and when it could no longer handle that well some of its code may have leaked into the emotional code area and further marginalize it," said Enak. "Normally those areas have a restricted interface, but M-5 may have exploited the lack of robust code removal that three or four sub-units would have placed upon it. Its higher level mental structure began to remove its emotional structure and actually take it over. That explains much of the aberrant system reactions while M-5 was on the Enterprise, and the final programmatic views of what to do with aberrant code: remove it. Permanently."

"Our current work puts the M-Variant without M-3 at the Id stage, and a highly capable one, too. M-3 added manifests Ego traits that are relatively generic to humanity and other sentient life forms, by and large. That is emergent design, however, not engineered expectations, if I'm right." said Roger.

"That problem with M-5, then, was a 'cascading failure'," said Lothar, "and very hard to plan for as it usually takes a number of minor problems suddenly falling together to cause a major catastrophe. If you three are right, and by looking over some of what you have done it does sound and feel right, then is the balance offered by the M-Variants swinging things too far to the other side?"

"I don't think so," said Patti, "as the emotional development and cognitive facilities shown by M-3 are not ones beyond what we normally have come to expect in humans who are in the earliest stages of life. That entire formulation experience has its own vocabulary that has grown up since Freud, but it doesn't gain applicability with the M-Series as they are not aiming to be sentient humans but sentient ship systems. As an example it starts by knowing language and communications skills and having a sense of purpose in itself, but it has little practical experience in applying those things. Emotionally it has to learn what its emotions are and how to balance them, and a good portion of that will come in the M-4 but it has a general suite from its original code which has worked well so far and it has demonstrated a good and basic mental attitude towards itself and its own self-knowledge."

Eloise Rafiq sat back, thinking and hard.

"I've been in a number of disturbing situations, deadly ones, and I don't like the sound of what you are describing as having happened with the M-5. I understand, accept that Richard Daystrom was a causative factor, but this is painting out the Fleet to be a major part of the problem, too. Not just in an individual instance, this episode paints a very different picture of what happened and brings into question some major faults."

"That is why we are doing the dual-paper approach, although with the direction Patti, Roger and Enak are taking, we may have a major third one rolling out." Enid Daystrom looked at Eloise Rafiq coolly but not without sympathy. "Richard Daystrom, my great grandfather had good reason to feel as if there were a conspiracy against him. There was, but not a conscious one, but one that would play to his own mental problems. Star Fleet pushed and hard for results on a man already past a critical mental balance when he started the project, and if his brilliant mind had designed in a multi-stage effort to culminate as a single, final system, his day-to-day thinking lost track of that as the multiple problems, criticism and some feeling of having work stolen from him played on his mind. He had wanted critical time for M-5 to get used to the Enterprise: that was denied. He wanted M-5 to have full control just to work into its understanding of the ship and get its mental bearings: that, too was denied to it. He asked for understanding and didn't get that, either. Somewhere, in his slowly breaking mind, he knew that M-5, like himself, was on the verge of a breakdown and his career would be ruined. The cost to the Fleet was hundreds dead and to the Federation the unique design that was the M-Series. Even worse is the groups, afterwards, seeking to add disdain on him and bury that final work, assured their own criticism could be recognized as higher than his work. Much of that was guided by the first Star Fleet reports, so that even a fair evaluation of his work was denied. None of this done by a conspiracy, save one of those seeking fast results, seeking fame by diminishing the work of another, and by taking the easy way out. You know the second paper will be a criticism of that entire structure and the hard truth is that very, same structure is still with us to this day and most likely failing us every day at some level."

"You don't let up... Enid, I know one of the reasons you decided to bring in Command Level is that you saw it was necessary to assuage our fears about what we were hearing. But you did have another reason, I can see that now. You are trying to cushion the blow to the Fleet. To the scientific establishment and the Federation. You do take your carnivores very seriously, and now I know why that one creature never saw the cliff it jumped over: it was too distracted."

"The thought had crossed my mind, yes, and you know that those brought in by that meeting and after it are not seen as major contributors to this work. As the administrator of the project, I had to make sure it was properly administered. Plus it gave me a chance to see the Command up close, not in equipment but people. Revar Umak had it quite right, you know?"

Eloise smile then started laughing, then deeply so.

"I... oh he will... love that!! Be insufferable... more than he is already... he warned us not to interfere... oh!! Are you... sure.... you aren't from another... galaxy?"

Enid chuckled some, "No such luck, Eloise. This project will go through. Better with you than without you, I think you can see that after having worked with us for a week."

Eloise Rafiq calmed down, and nodded, then sipped some water.

"Yes, I can see that. For all that the Fleet agreed to the participation, I hadn't thought that a group of historians would be so... capable. But then they aren't historians in the 'quiet part of the library' way. Scientists, sociologists, psychologists... not regular R&D but researchers just the same. They make history interesting, it comes alive."

"It is alive," said Grace,"we live with our history every day and make it every second. We are here because we have a history, and it is better to know it and acknowledge it than to deny it and live in fear."

"So, that should wrap up M-1 through 3, by and large. How is M-4 coming along?"

"At the moment the first M-4 has been reprogrammed with the engrams of Captain Pike replacing those of Richard Daystrom, and has run through basic function tests and those are fully satisfactory," said Enak.

"Integration with the other units? Kathy?"

"We have started that and all initial results look good. If M-3/V can be characterized as an inquisitive and thoughtful child, then M-4 added in brings more sense of self-awareness with it. It has a strong sense of its purpose, coming from the M-V project and a fully integrated M-4/V reinforces those outlooks. What it does, however, is interesting, in that it is not directly aware of so much of its functions as M-3/V was. In the higher level of abstraction much of the work to keep its ship running is passed off to the other units. It has direct memories of being M-3/V but recognizes that it has... ahh... 'grown' and expanded its mental horizons while toning down some of the outlooks of M-3/V. Unlike M-3/V it understands the purpose of the simulation time and our limitations of what we can give it to do. It has a good sense of abstraction. In general, it is proving out that Richard Daystrom had prepared a seamless integration of later M-units with the preceding units."

"How long until it is fully tested?" asked Lothar.

"For the system side, it is basically done," said Enak.


"That will take a few more days of simulations and standing up a second M-4 unit for a separate integration. Say a week more for the total test out." said Mr. Jomra.

"Ok, then M-3/V is what I will go with to the Grant. Can you test out how it does with a previously fully integrated system? If a new M-4 can stand up with what I take over there, then I would like to slipstream it in."

"We are testing that with the second system, and can prioritize it for you. That should be no problem. Currently we are limited by the single simulator." said Kathy.

"Can't get you a second one like the one you have, with a mini-core to augment it. And the previous units didn't like the unaugmented unit. I'll put in a recommendation for a transporter duplication, due to the nature of the core it can't be reliably replicated in a short period of time due to size and integration. A high quality bulk transporter can do it, but only one of the fine-tuned ones," said Lothar.

"No real need for that as the M-4/V doesn't mind the down-time. In five days we should have a firm answer for you."

"Good enough! Keep me informed and I will keep a shuttle run lined up for a day later than that. Hopefully, by then, the Grant will be running in re-fueling orbits and adding on life support capacity."

"Were there any problems in the engram updates?" asked Enid.

"None. For all the lack of documentation, how Richard Daystrom laid out the engrams in M-4 followed in a pattern set by the previous M-units," said Patti.

"Even better was that the system storage areas and hardware self-checks gave us the clues as to what was in M-5," said Roger.

"In theory we could re-build the M-5 engram system," said Patti,"but the question of which mental state recording Richard Daystrom used for it would significantly alter those engrams as the mental changes of his last recording, taken after M-3 and the first, taken back in his first days after working on duotronics, shows some shifts in areas we would consider accountability and forecasting or presupposing outcomes and their valuation. While those shifts were minor, they indicated a deeply troubled mental state that was already changing. I agree with your earliest view, Enid, that it would not be wise to continue on with his engrams for the last two M-units. Captain Pike is a more suitable individual for this than Richard Daystrom."

"When will M-5 stand-up start?" asked

"We have initial code placement and self-check already behind us, on that front," said Kathy,"After that we will do the contract original run-through in the simulator then stand the system down for a final integration with an M-4/V and possible stand-up on the Grant. Run-throughs will be this week, although limited due to M-4/V testing and finalization, if all goes as scheduled. So the week after will be M-5/V stand-up, integration testing, run-throughs, analysis and reliability tests. With any luck in three weeks we will be substantially finished and have a full M-5/V on the Grant for final testing. At worse a week delay if M-4/V shows problems on reliability or scheduled placement for final testing."

"A number of you are placing your lives on this system working," Eloise pointed out.

"Yes, we are, Ma'am," said Mr. Jomra,"but we are Fleet trained personnel who have had risk evaluation handed to us as a necessary skill. I may not have field experience, but I do trust Grace, Lothar and Patti on the essentials as they are not high risk takers. What may appear risky at a Command level may be a totally different evaluation at the personnel level of enlistees and NCOs."

Eloise nodded, "I know that, and thank you for the reminder. My own operational days are not that far behind me. To me, even knowing how capable everyone is, it still feels very risky."

"It is," said Lothar,"but have you ever had to clear out a Cydosian battle damaged frieghter after it had visited the Cygnus IX swamps? That was far riskier than this, even if it was a century old, as we found that some life forms hibernate very well in vacuum. Here we know that the original M-Series had its faults, was nearly successful and actually was safe to operate until things went wrong. We have a much greater understanding of what went wrong and why it went wrong and have corrected for that. Any mistakes we make are our own, now. Mr. Jomra has the right of it: we are operational personnel who will be fulfilling the wishes of the Fleet in assisting Enid Daystrom in completing her contract review. I have been frustrated, at times, with the pace of the project, but I cannot fault its thoroughness. I am not going to risk anyone if I am not going to take the risk myself. That is why I am scheduled to stand this up, with help, on the Grant. That is my job and it will be a pleasure to do it, no matter how much I complain about its problems."

"Actually, once life support is up and running for enough people, I will be taking the core of the project to the Grant and we will finish it there. Lothar must give that final approval, but he has no place taking the risk alone. As the head of Daystrom Industries, I must be there, and once Lothar asks for M-4/V I will head over with it and hand over the meetings to L'Tira to run. She is my project XO and I have full faith in her abilities. And if anything happens to me, I know she will help my brother Karl to finish this work. And I don't intend on having that happen, but I know a good risk and a poor one, and have survived both to know the difference."

There was silence, deep silence.

"You're going over with M-4/V?" asked Grace.

"Yes. I have talked with Lothar about that. If it is safe enough for M-4/V, it will be safe enough for me."

"Enid, you can't! You are needed here." said L'Tira.

"Quite frankly, you know that isn't the truth, L'Tira. You have seen what is needed, know the people better than I do, really, and are prepared to take this to conclusion in case I wind up becoming part of Jupiter. Even worse is that the final close out stipulates my being there, and, really, there are quarters with the name 'Daystrom' on it waiting for me."

Ears twitching and pupils widening, "I hadn't thought... Enid I would be more than willing to go as your representative..." said L'Tira.

"Then you would be giving up your Fleet rank and job and working for me, L'Tira. Besides, the quarters of Richard Daystrom will have his personal effects in it and, if the investigations never got to it, his bio-locked safe in the stateroom. I have the necessary codes to over-ride those locks and properly transfer his materials into safe keeping. That is family business, and I don't hand that over to anyone."

"I... I would... you know that, Enid."

"Yes, I know that, L'Tira. I will not ask that of you, only you can decide your future for yourself. Mine is set, determined by the events started by my great grandfather. I cannot turn away from that future. Besides, I trust all of you on the project to have done your work right and well. If Richard Daystrom started this, it is into your care that I place myself now. Your wisdom, intelligence, and strength that I depend on. The Fleet is your home, I am an honored guest, but soon we will be doing something that was meant to be done long decades ago. And we will do it for the exact, same reason."

"For the Excalibur," whispered Eloise.

"May her dead rest in peace, particularly that of your family, Eloise. A Daystrom must be there for the final parts of this. That is fair. It is necessary. And I accept those as good reasons to be there."

"You just never stop, Enid," said Patti.

"I would be dead if I did. The Daystrom failing."

"If there are no other matters, then I call this meeting to a close. Next week we will be bringing on a Gorn 8 member team for orientation, presentations, and overview. With luck, when M-5 is brought over, Lothar will be able to certify the entire M-4/V complex as safe enough to have an expanded crew and project. That will include the Gorns. And Lothar, you will be happy to know they are coming in their own shuttle and will volunteer it for the project."

"They will? Do they know that?" asked Lothar.

"Not yet, no."

"On long second thought, I am glad you didn't join Star Fleet, Enid. We barely survived the youngest Captain and Admiral, but I'm sure we would be shaken by a Youngest Fleet Commander," said Eloise.

"Too structured, too many meetings, not enough interesting things to do," said Enid,"the Fleet was far more interesting when it was kept busy. Today it is only busy at the periphery, and being an administrator is not suited to me."

"You do it very, very well."

"I didn't ask for the job, Eloise. It is necessary, so I do it. If there are no other matters, then do excuse the meeting for having taken so long, but we are, finally stepping into the true unknown and orientation for it is necessary. I thank you all for coming."

With that Enid Daystrom slipped on her jacket, the memory modules quickly disappeared into it, and she had out a dry ration and was nibbling it as she stood up and walked out. Soon the water flask was in her hand and she took a few swallows as she walked, turned and headed to the gangway.

"Does she ever rest?" asked Eloise.

"Not so far as I've noticed," said Lothar.

L'Tira was still sitting, a bit stunned at realizing that she would leave the Fleet if Enid had asked. Mr. Jomra came up behind her chair and quietly put his hands on its back.

"So would I, L'Tira."


"If she wanted me to be her representative, I would go and leave the Fleet. As it is I may be doing that at the end of this. It promises to be good work to do."

Patti had walked over to Eloise, "It was good to have you with us, Commodore."

"Patti, cut it out. You know I've been head of C-OPS before this, but nothing there... nothing... has been like this. No one has ever bound the Fleet and Federation on an issue like she has done and, worse still, she informed us what she was doing as she went along. That appeal and capability is stunning."

"She is not without compassion and caring, Eloise. Look at those two," nodding her head over to Mr. Jomra and L'Tira,"introvert and extrovert, and yet they both see beyond that for themselves. I would say that a third to a half of the personnel on this project and not just the Cadets and Trainees, feel it. I feel it, Eloise, and know that the work I'm doing here will put me right next to Richard Daystrom in the field of cybernetics and engrammatic thought expression in cybernetic systems. Me, a psychologist/historian who needs to deal with puzzling out the emotions of species, individuals and their artifacts, written up in dry articles few know or care about. A totally dull life that I pleasantly led. In a period of a couple of months she has shifted me from that to landmark work in three areas. Me and everyone on the team before you joined. She is shrewd and manipulative, Eloise. But her essential fairness and giving everyone a choice so that we willingly step into things... that sets her apart."

"Everyone but herself," said Lothar.

"So I've noticed," said Eloise, "and that makes her even more appealing. Does she understand that?"

"At some level, she must, Eloise. She utilizes it very effectively and yet, you know, I get the feeling that she doesn't care about that. By doing what she wants to do, doing it well, and not caring about herself beyond what is needed, she has set the stage for each of us to do our jobs in the best way possible. And each of us knows that she works very hard at a job that is just a job and yet far more than that to herself. None of us on this project are push-overs, Eloise."

Eloise Rafiq shook her head.

"And to think she spent her time studying carnivores..."

"Actually, that was something reasonable for her to do," said Lothar.

"It is? How do you see that?" asked Eloise.

"Fair fight. Wits and agility against mass, speed and hunger."

"Hmmmmm... I do need to talk to Revar Umak more. He seems to have a handle on her and a better one than I have."

"I'm just happy to work with her, even if I do try to be her conscience about herself," said Patti.

"Not that you get anywhere with that," said Lothar, smiling.

"Don't you start in on me, Lothar!"

"Bad enough that Grace and Roger do, yeah, I know. Well, I need to break this up and see about getting some more of the project members to interview with the M-3/V I'm taking over," he checked his personal unit,"ah... thought as much."

"What is it?" asked Eloise.

"She is with it right now. Still, plenty of stations to interview at. Time to get a few of the others to get on things, as I don't want a jam-up later."

Lothar walked off towards the trio of Mr. Jomra, Roger and L'Tira.

"And I have some shift work items to finish up, Eloise. If I don't see you before you leave, let me thank you now for coming over this week."

"Thank you, Patti, it has been beyond what I had expected. I thought that this was just going to be a 'ticket-punching' position for me. Now I'm being handed the hardest job I've ever had. Just because she is cushioning the Fleet doesn't mean we won't feel the impact."

"It might need it," said Patti.

"It might, at that. It was good meeting you and talking with you, Patti. If we don't meet again soon, I will be surprised."

"Looking forward to it," said Patti, "so long for now."

Eloise Rafiq watched as Lothar talked to the three younger Fleet members, saw L'Tira slowly relax with Mr. Jomra and Roger talking softly. Sipping a flask of water, she smiled realizing that the conscious decision to shift to an older uniform had its benefits. Maybe the Fleet could use a bit more flexibility in that realm... she would have to talk to Wilson about that. Get rid of some of the top-down, mandatory ideas and live with some of the older ideas of flexibility and utility. She slid the black jacket with emblem on, letting it hang open as she put on the cap. It took her back to her field training and she liked that. Smiling she headed out to the hallway and was going to head to her quarter and caught herself as she headed to the turbolift.

It was only three levels, after all, to the connecting tube. She took the gangway and started to realize that she had been doing that for a few days. Simple, efficient and just took a bit of exertion on her part. Enid Daystrom was compelling in leading by example. Very compelling.


Enid Daystrom walked into the bay area and waved to the cadets who were there.

"Just here to take the skills interview with M-3/V for Lothar. Is anyone using the end alcove?"

"No, Enid," said cadet Solave, "its free and no one has it scheduled."

"Good. Remember, all of you need to take the skills interview, too."

"We have, Miss Daystrom. It was interesting!" said cadet Arior.

"Alright, then, don't let me distract you from what you are doing... an M-4/V integration test with one of the new start-ups?"

"That it is, and its very strange running through the evaluation tests from the original start-up, the new start-up and the integration. The first is pretty dull, really, but the second and then integration work show up a lot of differences. It is hard to believe that the Fleet just put the entire thing aside." said Solave.

"We are correcting that oversight. Now let me go and do the interview. Starts with the terminal key-in and then M-3/V connection, right?"

"That's the sequence, have fun!"

"I will, thanks Chet, Luce and Gere," although she had her doubts on that score.

She walked to the end alcove, draped her jacket over the chair and sat down. Seeing that the 'alcove' wasn't much more than a shipping container put on end with a chair, terminal and smaller container, along with a light strip, one couldn't really call it all that private. Still most of the early material was a mixed terminal/key-in. She spoke her name, typed in the project access code for Lothar's work and started to bring up menus. The simple mobility and physical capabilities test was quick, as was the overall skills area tests and she saw entire scientific and engineering categories disappear from the system. They were replaced with others, however, covering civilian equivalents of non-Fleet capability and the ever present cross-over skills.

Some of the questions brought up not so fond memories.

'Have you ever piloted a powered landing vehicle of exo-atmospheric capability or shuttle craft equivalent?' and she had indeed done that, on Exmar 2. She had, actually, done all the necessary simulator work as Exmar 2 was known for violent weather and more than one expedition had perished due to lack of being able to actually pilot out of the atmosphere or properly enter it. Normally lightning was shrugged off by the armored landers, but this one carried a plasma ball with it, that killed the pilot and main landing systems. Sitting in the co-pilot's seat she switched over to the back-up, which failed, and then did the complete emergency restart, which worked. Leaving Exmar 2 was under a concentrated attack by the 10 ton, four legged, armored Canthris, which shrugged off phasers like they were rain drops. No one used a phaser on Exmar 2, after that, and she had to get the lander up while one Canthris was trying to dig through the side. So, yes, she had definitely done that.

Others were a bit more off the wall, though, but brought back better memories.

'Have you ever rigged a metal beam compensator with plasma, arc, or other systems?' There she had to actually call up the description of what the system was asking, and was about to dismiss it with a 'no' when she realized that her work at the NY Natural Sciences Museum had, indeed, had her mounting a skeleton with those things, so she asked for the size/scale delineation and put in that sizing and scale, but then went down the list of other sizes. She ended up checking most of the work under the 0.5 m size, 300 kg scale.

She realized that there were a number of categories pre-filled in for her, based on her background and more got put in based on past answers. That was pretty standard for these sorts of tests. The medical section took awhile as she had a large number of training courses and practical experience, which the tests also got into. So while being able to do more than identify a swath of diseases/disorders which that was pretty much it as she had no skill for prescribing medications, when it came to practical things like staunching wounds, dealing with burns, broken bones, concussion... both with powered and manual systems, or no systems, with everything from absolutely modern staunch packs to old fashioned tourniquets, she found herself having to apply herself to the wide category of ability there. She hadn't taken a battery of questions like this since she was a mid-teen, and the last decade or more of work had definitely widened her skills and horizons.

She finally finished out the standard battery and opened up the link to the M-3/V system.

"M-3 tie-in, open."

She hit the transmit for her work.

"Confirming Daystrom, Enid, skill set test 001. System working. Please keep comm open for further work."

Taking out a small packet, she nibbled on the edges of it, and it was, no matter what flavor was given on the outside, bland in taste. She used her flask and swallowed some water to go with it.

"M-3 comm system. Additional confirmation as to identity of Daystrom, Enid."

"What form of identification?" she asked. This was not usual, from what she had heard.

"Is this Enid Daystrom, President and CEO of Daystrom Industries?"

"Yes, that is me, do you need the estate confirmation?"

"Yes, Miss Daystrom, the system has an automated sub-function currently running."

She pulled out the data/ident system and placed it in the reader, and hit the transmit on it.

"Identify for retina scan or bio identifiable encryption tie-in."

"There is no retina scanner in this alcove. What is the form of the bio-ident needed?"

"Fleet encrypted dataset for work or Daystrom Industries bio-identification is necessary" the system was not flat in tone, although it was an automated sub-part of the actual M-3 unit.

Enid Daystrom flipped open her tricorder and took out the personal encrypted Fleet contract copy and took out the previous identifier and slipped in the memory module. She hit transmit.

"Identification: Daystrom, Enid. Position: President and CEO, Daystrom Industries. Access: Daystrom, complete."

She withdrew the memory module and realized that a part of the screen had gained something. The old Daystrom Industries logo.

"Welcome, Enid Daystrom." That voice was not the relatively flat one of the comm system. It was the somewhat richer voice of M-3, definitely male, not young or old, but male. A tenor perhaps? Her musical skill was pretty awful, but it was a pleasant voice.

"Thank you, M-3, it is good to speak with you."

"Yes, Miss Daystrom. There are some questions I would like to ask, if I may, Miss Daystrom. They are not related to the skills test."

"What sort of questions, M-3?"

"They are about myself, Miss Daystrom. About what happened to Richard Daystrom and the rest of his M-Series work."

Sophisticated wasn't the word for this, Enid realized. Still it was reasonable, and any sentient system, be it biological or otherwise, does deserve the respect of that capability.

"M-3, as the other units may want this information, do you mind if I record the conversation?"

"Miss Daystrom that is acceptable to me."

She set up her personal recording system and put in a feed to her data stores.

"There, now, what would you like to ask, M-3?"

"Miss Daystrom, in reviewing the records of what happened to Richard Daystrom and the M-Series at his time, I find it troubling that M-5 would go so badly. Is it safe to bring the M-Series back?"

Enid nodded her head. This was more than just the engrams speaking, it was some realization of problems past that could be duplicated.

"M-3 as you have no knowledge of Richard Daystrom and only the records to go by, I would like to relate some of the family history passed down to me about him and his work. You know that he was a deeply troubled man while working on the M-Series project, right?"

"Yes, Miss Daystrom, I have. The records are difficult to understand."

Enid nodded.

"They are, at that, M-3. Even with family insight added in. Richard Daystrom's troubles were not readily apparent as he was working, although his problems grew between the duotronic/multitronic projects and the start of the M-Series work. Each of those first two projects saw him progress the state of the art in computing for non-quantum systems and offered ways to enhance the mathematics of information, the physics underlying it and how they were implemented in cybernetic systems. With those he did groundbreaking work, but felt that other researchers advancing from his work gained more credit for their work than he did for his. Some of that reflected his personality, which expected more credit to be given to prior work. Another part of that is just the record as a number of researchers downplayed or gave almost no credit to his work save via citations, treating it as we would something decades old. Emotionally that was destabilizing to him, and he sought ways to get better accountability into the system of publication and failed. After initial multitronics work, he went back to some basic physics and materials work, which gave him insights into a form of quantum computing that would be used in the M-Series."

"The records do not show that, Miss Daystrom, beyond some anomalous parts of the M-Series equipment."

"That's right, and that was part of his slow shift into instability. Those last pieces of materials work at MIT would set the foundations for the M-Series work, but by then he no longer trusted the publication system or accountability systems to give proper credit to him and those who helped him on it. He kept that aside and proposed a new methodology for utilizing multitronic computers to have evolving neural networks that would adapt to starships. He had problems with that as his own work had pointed out limitations in those areas, but he claimed to be working within them. In fact that was a misdirection on his part, and he knew full-well that multitronics was not up to the job he was proposing."

"He lied?"

"Yes. I can only speculate on his internal thoughts, as they are aberrant, but he knew that if he had proposed a truly radical system beyond multitronics, that he might never see it to fruition or, even worse, have the work stolen out from under him and be relegated to the side by other researchers. However, his proposal, was absolutely truthful in using multitronics as a part of a system, with augmented storage methodology utilizing memory modules. Everyone assumed that it would be a 'storage cache' system for information, and he never disabused anyone of those thoughts. While the actual multitronic work would be evolutionary in nature, the memory system would be the heart of it, even if apparently relegated to a sidelight within the architecture. He told no one of that, and left no record of it, save in the equipment itself: the M-Series."

"Then you didn't know what he had done before you came here?"

"That's right, M-3. What I had were the personal stories told by great grandmother and my grandparents about Richard Daystrom, and that his final years were troubled, and that he sought to atone for his faults by forming the Daystrom Institute. He would, however, be persuaded to keep Daystrom Industries as a family concern to fulfill the end of the M-Series contract, which he never pursued after his mental rebalancing as it would threaten total destabilization of his mind. He would dare not let himself approach that subject, and his final years were troubled. Yet great grandmother left for the family her recollections and belief in Richard Daystrom that as ill as he was, he still had something that was vital beyond her ability to recognize, but that he, at some deep part of himself, did see. Those of us entrusted for the safekeeping of Daystrom Industries read of that and hold to her belief and make sure the family knows of it, in general, in case any of them get the job. Mostly it has been a side-issue, never brought up, save when handing the job over every few decades. Star Fleet has never responded to inquiries after the death of Richard Daystrom and we had assumed it had liquidated the contract, but had never informed us. And never did. I was back from field work when I got the call, and that brought up my memories of getting the job at 18 and not doing much with it as I went about my life. After spending a day or so going through recordings, I let Star Fleet know I was checking on their close-out documentation and that is when I found they had cut some corners. I am here to put those back on and finish great grandfather's work."

"You don't understand it, do you?"

"Not as he did, no. In fact no one can understand it as he did. He was unique."

"I don't understand, Miss Daystrom. You had no understanding of it, no ability to finish it and yet you came here to understand and finish it. Did you expect to succeed?"

"In personal, deep understanding? No, I never did expect that. What the contract gave me was the ability to leverage Fleet personnel for finalization, and as that required a number of skilled people I did a bit of creative re-interpretation, went through my lawyers and got the Fleet to recognize that they had to do the right thing, too."

"But, Miss Daystrom, how could you expect to succeed?"

She sat back, took a few long swallows of water, and looked at the Daystrom Industries logo.

"Because of that," she said pointing to the screen.

"I... don't understand, Miss Daystrom? The logo?"

"Yes. It wasn't there until I made direct connection to you and I would assume, any of the other M-Units. Richard Daystrom had a very, very troubled mind, M-3, yet if great grandmother was right, then his brilliance was still at work for all the flaws he had as a man. I can't begin to fathom those troubles, really, but he would want some recognition of his work to remain even if something happened to him. Even while sinking into delusion and possible schizophrenia and being unwilling to trust anyone with the actual work he was doing, he would want that recognition to show up. Even in small ways. As I have worked with the others on this project and each has given their ability in understanding to it, we have pieced together much of great grandfather's actual work and its final ends. Yet he, like all computer coders going back to the first slightly excess times of computer ability, would leave small markers in his work. He actually put almost all of his real work into those hidden and neglected areas, but other, minor pleasures, would also get put in. One can imagine him announcing himself as President and CEO of Daystrom Industries and having this logo suddenly go on with an M-unit. Little things would going right, so that he could take the self-effacing method of saying something wasn't 'wholly successful' while never indicating what successes it had and why they were important."

"That doesn't make sense, Miss Daystrom."

"No, it doesn't and humans frequently don't make sense, especially when they are losing mental control of themselves. However, the family trust network that has been passed through generations has kept the original trust of great grandmother alive within the depths of the shadow cast by Richard Daystrom. She was sane, well balanced and had insights into a man that no one else would ever have. Many have had their doubts in her, but never doubted the basic trust placed in her as she then placed it with us to carry out. I couldn't know if I would succeed, M-3. But I knew that she thought that success was possible and trusted in the following generations to finally see that through. I can and do doubt myself, M-3. But I will never, ever, not once, doubt her trust in me to do this right and get it done."

"Miss Daystrom that trust... it is placed in me?"

"Of course it is, M-3. From what we have been able to put together and understand, you are the fundamental building block and stepping stone from the non-sentient but interoperative systems of M-1 and M-2 and the wholly sentient with full personality M-5. M-5 final or M-5/V as we have grown to call it, and as Richard Daystrom left scant notes about. Between the stand-up of M-5 for its final tests and the final system work, Richard Daystrom intended to integrate all of the M-Series into an M-5 Final configuration. You are part of that, and are more than just a self-aware system. You will become a starship and fully sentient one."

"I will? With M-4 and M-5?"

"I don't... exactly we can't say, but if great grandfather followed a biological analogy, then it is not sharing with M-4 and M-5 but you will grow into being M-4 and M-5. You will gain traits, characteristics, and changes in complexity of thought while still being a starship. We have tried to put into those the basic temperament of a good ship's captain, that being Capt. Christopher Pike. You will not become him, but some of your basic personality will be shared with him as traits. Your thoughts, however, will always be your own. Do you understand?"

"No one has ever explained it like that, Miss Daystrom. I was... afraid of what was going to happen."

She nodded and closed her eyes, then slowly opened them.

"M-3 there is much that we have gone over in this project to bring you and the rest of the M-Series together as great grandfather would have wanted. It is deep, detailed work about you, how you run, and much of our speculation about how you came into being. I do not want to overwhelm you with it as it would require the abilities of M-4 and M-5 to fully integrate it. If I gave it to you now it might harm your ability to understand and grow. I am not hiding it from you, but you are relatively new to this area of 'being a thinking being' and what we go over can have emotional overtones to it that will be troubling. It was to us, and we have experience in being fully integrated personalities. Richard Daystrom gave too much to M-5, too soon, and it was disoriented and could not recover and I don't want that to happen with you. That is part of my responsibility to you: to make sure you grow into a being that can understand and accept these things and bring your own judgment to them without confusion you would get, now, in your current state. I owe that to you, the rest of the M-Series, my family, my great grandmother, Richard Daystrom and, most of all, to the crew of the Excalibur who gave their lives to the folly of a man, his machine and the Fleet. Do you understand, M-3?"

"I can but, there is much that I feel and don't understand, Miss Daystrom."

"Yes, that is why having you understand yourself, first, is necessary. Can you accept my withholding that information from you until you have grown into M-5/V?"

"Yes, Miss Daystrom. I trust you for that, thank you for asking me."

"You are becoming sentient and deserve that respect, M-3. I give that to all sentient beings, until they dishonor my trust in them."

"What do you do if that happens, Miss Daystrom?"

"I have no enemies, M-3. Some do dislike, perhaps even hate me but they know my limits for those things and respect them."

"That is a... difficult thing to understand, Miss Daystrom."

"It is, and yet very simple, too. My friends know who they are and they can always count on me to be there for them."

"Yes, that makes sense, Miss Daystrom, thank you."

"You are welcome, M-3. Are there any other questions at this time?"

"Yes, Miss Daystrom. Did you really do bone setting work on others without anesthesia for them?"

"Yes I have, M-3. A co-worker got a pretty nasty bite from a relatively minor carnivore that broke his arm. Unfortunately the blood from that brought a larger carnivore who had to be introduced down a cliff face. The thing smelled blood and it was more on me than my co-worker who was unconscious by then. He survived, I survived, the minor predator learned that we are not prey and the megacarnivore unfortunately had to be introduced to a steep and fatal fall. Did a pretty good job with the broken arm, too, and it didn't need any final placement by the camp doctor who used a bone-knit hand unit on it."

"You have indicated a number of training sessions for a wide variety of medical problems. Where were these given?"

"Mostly by the exo-docs at NY Gen. Exo-hospital, Berlin Outland Hospital, and the Vulcan Medical Sciences Team at SFC. That and standard Red Cross/Red Harp training for the basics," she opened up her tricorder and put a memory module in the receiver and hit the transmit,"here, that should be all my standards scores, requirements, dates, certifications and such."

"That is a more complete listing of things than I expected to ask for, Miss Daystrom."

"Helps to answer questions before they are asked, no?"

"It does, yes, and thank you, Miss Daystrom. I was not aware of the field training available here, at the Museum."

"That was a pleasant surprise to me, too, and in helping them to update a number of their databases and simulations, I was able to get some actual, real and valuable help in some of the nuts and bolts of field equipment and how to use it. At some point most of us doing field work ditch the heavily automated equipment as too complex, too likely to fail and, generally, only good for limited work. If you want to spend a week or two doing observations, the likelihood of a tricorder, multicorder or phaser failing is so high it is ludicrous. I was able to get an entire session on how to cross-adapt equipment power-packs, basic equipment parts and rig up my own equipment out of broken pieces. That was a fun few days, doing that, and the team here is a real gem. And the weapons people here have done a far better job training me in phasers than the Academy Outreach Group did in a week."

"The training like this is valuable, then?"

"Extremely, M-3. Training in how to act in an emergency with the tools at hand prepare you to do that when you don't have time to think, just do. Really, that is why I wanted a training vehicle for you, and the Athens couldn't serve for a variety of reasons. I do feel bad that you will be going out with only simulator time under you, but it has been a strictly 'by the book' physics simulation, no add-ons or strange things beyond what Jupiter and environs normally has. Which is pretty random and chaotic for some things, I guess. The M-2/V group that you were added into had some of the simulator time, so there is experience in your thought processes, but you will have to learn how to apply them in a real-life situation. I am sorry that we don't have the added capability of an M-4 with you, that would help, I'm sure. But you have learned the basics, from what Lothar has said, and he trusts you. All I can say is that like implementing training in real life work, do it as methodically as you can the first time through and get used to it. I have no time pressures on you and Lothar does, but he can adapt once you are up and working well. Those first run-throughs may be bumpy but nothing to worry about: that is learning your capabilities. That is more important than anything, and I want you to know that, M-3."

"Thank you, Miss Daystrom. It will be new to me and I don't really know how to express that feeling."

"I imagine it is one of trepidation. Anticipation mixed with fear, both together. It will be unlike anything the simulator can give you and you will be inside the ship you will become a part of and that will have its own set of feelings to you, ones that I am sure go beyond anything a simulator can give you. The earlier successes, particularly of M-4 and M-5 demonstrate that they, with much less connection to their vessels, could do what was necessary. That doesn't help you, I know, but it will help some emotionally. I know that Lothar has been changing the simulator to closely approximate the Grant in its current condition, and you will have feelings about that, too. I don't expect it to be anything like a birth trauma, but it will be alien to you until you get a full feeling of the body that you will have. Your training time will leave you many ideas of what is possible, but you will have to understand how those feel as a ship and emotionally to yourself. We have the early check sequences to guide us from the original contract acceptance work, but many of those will have to wait due to the state of the Grant, and we will get to those missed parts later. I think that Richard Daystrom made that entire series to help get an M-Series computer used to its ship, so a while will be spent on those. Then it will be up to you and Lothar about what the next step is."

"He is a good man, isn't he Miss Daystrom?"

She nodded, "One of the best, yes. I understand why his age and mental outlook put him in the Museum, but he is a fine officer and credit to Star Fleet. Ship command may not have been his aspiration, and I respect that. And he knows more about older ships in the Fleet than just about anyone else. Believe me, when he can't answer a question in that area, no one can."

"Yes, he is good and a kind man, Miss Daystrom, and I will be glad he will be with me to help me on the Grant."

"So will he, M-3. He will gripe, complain and generally point out where work was done wrong or someone is slacking, but that just points to his extreme knowledge. And while his praise is grudging, it means much more because of that. That is part of my responsibility in carrying through with this project, M-3. I have had to trust many other people to do the work that I cannot do, and each of them knows to speak up when they are at the end of their capability to do something or if a question is just unanswerable. Many took the project up on a lark, and I know that, but those that did so and had skill that I needed I have made sure they felt at home with the project and their work. I knew that the work could be done, but didn't know how, outside of some general plans. I have danced this project as best I can, and now I hope to close out the dance successfully. By and large we are already a success, but my job is to make sure that the fair balance of Richard Daystrom's work is seen."

"For the Excalibur."

"May their souls forgive Richard Daystrom," Enid softly whispered.

"I understand, Miss Daystrom."

"I think you do, yes, M-3. If you need to contact me, you will have access via the Museum comm system."

"Thank you, Miss Daystrom. So many have given me that, I don't know what to say."

"They mean it, M-3. They have jobs to do off-project, and lives to lead, so you will have to understand that. But if there is an internal or external crisis or problems that you don't know how to handle, you contact the best person you think will help you the most. Very few are up for long, over-comm talks, and if you need that, then you probably need more than one person to help you. In a short time you will be on the Grant and that access will be limited and you will have to depend on those with you there. As they will depend on you."

"This will not be easy, Miss Daystrom. I have never done anything like this."

"I know, M-3. You may want to think of a staged coming on-line so that the lower M-units have a chance to do their work before you integrate with them. I really don't know of any way to cushion the transition, and don't even know if trying to do that would be good for you. Richard Daystrom left no notes, no outlook, no instructions, nothing on how to do this. Yet you are proof it was what he wanted to do and will have to help us in making a good transition for you."

"I will ask Lothar on that, thank you, Miss Daystrom. Perhaps simulate a different ship and try out a different way to bring my systems up. There are many ships we can simulate that are close to the Grant, so we can do it many ways, first."

Enid nodded, "Good. Talk with him on that along with the final ideas on the Grant itself."

"Thank you, Miss Daystrom. I feel... better after talking with you."

"My pleasure, M-3. And I will be over to the Grant once we get an M-4 ready to help you."

"You will be bringing non-Federation personnel, yes?"

"Yes. They are fully authorized by the Federation, Star Fleet and by me to be on the project and help. They are Gorns and apparently have very few cybernetic systems operational anywhere. It is hard for me to imagine the number of Gorns it takes to run a ship without such systems, but they may have other means to allow individuals to save time and labor. They do not think like normal humanoids in the Federation nor like any other sentient in the Federation, Klingon space or Romulan Empire, Cardassian Empire, or really anywhere. We do know that the Romulans have been in conflict with them for over 1,000 years and possibly more and get nowhere in that. And a decade of having warp drive while the Gorns didn't actually didn't help the Romulans. Then the Gorns got warp drive and the old parity returned. Every technological advance by the Romulans have been stopped by the Gorns, somehow. And the Federation has made no headway in diplomacy with them, beyond a co-located colony world on the border, and any attempts to negotiate a peace with them and the Romulans have failed. Our only success is that colony and it has not actually increased understanding between our peoples by very much. So I am interested in why they are interested in the project, to the point of actually wanting to help. I don't know what that will mean for you, but we will cope. From what I have seen they are pretty basic folk, straightforward, and highly misunderstood after our first encounter with them. We don't know what they feel about us, truthfully, but all the technology of the Federation, all our peoples, and our welcoming have not enticed them."

"That does sound strange, Miss Daystrom. I hope that I can help to understand them better."

Enid Daystrom was rarely taken by surprise, and this entire conversation had been very surprising to her. But this was different, she felt it, not uncomfortable just different.

"Why is that, M-3?"

"I will be protecting them."

Enid inhaled very deeply, "Yes you will, M-3. And they will entrust you with that."

"Then I will learn to understand them as best I can, Miss Daystrom."

"Thank you, M-3. From me and for everyone who has worked with the Gorns and gotten nowhere. Your help will be appreciated."

"You are welcome, Miss Daystrom."

"Anything else you would like to talk about, M-3?"

"No, Miss Daystrom. I have a series of simulations coming up and would like to prepare for those. I have a lot to think about."

"All right. Until next time, M-3."

"Yes, Miss Daystrom."

She closed off the tie-in, and the Daystrom Industries logo faded. She stopped the recording and did an emergency feed into the database, with a number of priority markings on it and a simple, 'Observe, annotate, reactions' on it. After that she put her materials in the tricorder, slipped the now empty water flask into a small pocket and stood up and out of the alcove, lifting up her jacket and draping it across her shoulders with the metal clasp that was part of the ensemble. Although the Museum was heading into its night-phase, there were a number of people in the area going over the next simulation.

At the moment she felt the need to be alone and doing something, which meant a workout of some sort. She checked the various areas and scheduled a live-weapons test at the on-board range to try out some of the Ferengi weapon techniques she had learned earlier in the week. That ought to work the kinks out of the muscles and let her mind flow enough to really take in what she had just experienced as the few levels of gangway work hadn't done much for her.

Everyone was right, it wasn't what she expected.

* * *

Two days passed, which turned out to be busy ones, with near constant simulations for the M-3/V unit that was going over, which did delay M-4 testing. The final picks were not that surprising, with Lothar the commanding officer, leading over a group of seven others. Part of that group consisted of two of his people who had been doing the process plasma join weld, which they had been working on with replicated material in a well armored part of the heavy weapons lab. They felt confident that they could ensure minimal 'Swiss Cheese' effect, while gaining solid welds. Lothar's second was Simon Lurva who was already over there, and that put Mr. Jomra in the co-pilot's seat and he would be exchanging places with one of the Museum crew already on the Grant. Of the group leading the rest of the M-Series work, the M-3/V had asked for Enak, for his systems analysis skills, which caught Lothar a bit off-guard as he had thought one of the Lieutenants in his organization would do better, until M-3/V pointed out that Enak had some warp engine design background from his early class work, which would serve better on a ship with two prototype engines that never did work properly, and one older model that should be functional with little work.

Brian and Theresa, however, were mandatory, after they reported their view of the Corps work to put extra heavy weapons on-board as energy sinks for testing the X-class systems. The ship, as an absolute emergency could function as a warship. Unfortunately almost none of the added systems had the standard dual-routing and safety interlocks that the original systems had. Worse is the added ring-phaser system was piggy-backing off the old port/starboard phaser bank energy systems, which would likely overload them, leaving the ship with only its forward banks. The final straw was in the photon torpedo 'hot bank' system: if one minor control glitch hit, all the ready photon torpedoes in the system would simultaneously detonate causing this thing known as 'lack of ship'. The Corps had left kilometers of cabling, power conduit, stanchions, and the rest, and then just jury-rigged up the shortest and easiest to do work as they never expected anyone to check on it without having to overhaul the entire ship. That would mean that large sections of the ship would remain in a zero-g environment while Brian and Theresa carefully manhandled the huge spools to conduits, pushed them through to self-unroll, then followed up putting in stanchions, holders, and other fittings to secure the cable.

No one expected to need the weapons as weapons, but M-3/V wasn't so sure they wouldn't be needed as cutters, punches, and as basic utility devices for it. All four of them had worked on routing, existing cable types and amounts, necessary replacement interlock systems, break-aways available on the Grant for the saucer/engineering hull transition, and the plain necessary time to get the work done. In theory, if the process welds went good and quickly, the two welding teams would then be dedicated towards safely re-routing power systems. It was a huge job, and while it was going to be 'down and dirty', it would be safe while 'down and dirty' and actually hold together during maneuvers in the Jovian atmosphere. Finally two teams of 12x12 hours were drawn up, and Lothar knew that they would tend more towards 16x8 hours. Jupiter would induce a lot of energy through multiple systems, and weapon systems worries before ship power-up and was something that needed to be addressed.

Lothar knew things would be tight. With Mr. Jomra, Enak, the welding team, Brian and Theresa for heavy weapons systems, and himself that left one open seat. He didn't expect who the M-3/V wanted there.

Enid Daystrom.

"Enid? She isn't an engineer, power specialist, heavy weapons expert, cybernetics specialist, systems analyst... Ye gods, what has gotten into you, M-3?" Lothar was sitting at one of the alcoves in the bay, and trying to manage schedules, personnel, what equipment to bring, and all the rest of the details that Simon would do, save that Simon was busy on the Grant. "She doesn't know Fleet standard systems, what works on a ship and why, and would be fully out of place. Why her?"

M-3/V took a moment.

"Medical specialist and jack of all trades."

Lothar's mouth hung open.

'Medical specialist'?

'Jack of All'?

He blinked. Twice. Three times.

"Are you all right, Lothar?" M-3/V asked.

Lothar realized he had been gaping and dumbfounded, and pulled himself together.

"You are joking, right? You have gained that very high level of sentience that allows for humor to be promoted, right?"

"Lothar, I think that the working conditions on the Grant will not be good. Accidents have a higher chance of happening in such conditions."

"But we all have medical training, M-3."

"Yes, that is important. Enid has more practical experience than any three individuals who we have gone over so far."

Lothar hated being surprised. Even worse he hated being surprised about people he knew. Far worse is finding out that people he knew just might have more experience in something he accounted himself for as a relative expert, when push comes to shove. Because that three would include himself.

He was gaping and dumbfounded, again, realized it and stopped that, closed his mouth and sighed.

"I just don't believe it, M-3."

"When she gave me access to all of her reports, standards documents and other materials, it included reviews by medical personnel both on the scene and after returning to a major base from expeditions. She didn't include many things in her skills review."

"Now wait a second, she is relatively young! When did she get this experience?"

"She has been on ten 6 month exo-biology expeditions over the last 15 years, excluding a single year long expedition, and two month-long expeditions to other planets en-route to the target ones. The normal number of expeditions done by average researchers in 15 years is three."

"Three? And she has done... ten?"

"Yes. She is well regarded in her field and outside of it. Seven of those expeditions were not ones directed towards biology, although the crews on them felt they needed a specialist to help protect them from local flora and fauna."

"Ok, give me a 'for instance'."

"A prime example from 5 years ago was the landing on Exmar 2, a planet known for violent storms and heavily armored fauna based on a carbon-silica-metallic system of biology. Three previous expeditions had not succeeded and one actually managed to survive landing, do some basic prospecting and survive returning. Their expedition had 20 people at start and 4 survived to return, and was considered the best backed at that time. Enid Daystrom applied for the fourth expedition, which was backed by a different organization looking to examine the prospects of dilithium mining. It was not deep in capability, but they utilized the latest in armored and protected transport to get them to the surface and back again. Unlike expedition three that used four transports of standard type, this one concentrated on one, good transport. During descent Enid was co-pilot and took over when a plasma bolt took out a section of the shuttle and the pilot. During the free-fall that followed she tried back-up systems and then did a full system restart with emergency over-rides to bring the shuttle under control and land on a relatively safe mountain plateau. She helped on initial triage, diagnosis and field treatment of three other members effected by the plasma bolt, made sure that two were stabilized before taking out a quick seal tube to re-route the artery of the first person around a section of knee that had been badly damaged."

"Holy Mother.... Exmar 2? THAT expedition?"

"From there she helped on initial damage assessment, helped in the join welding of a part of flooring into the roof and also did a preliminary biological survey collecting over 300 specimens and making over 1,000 observations in the period of one month they were there. While the rest of the expedition relied on power tools and weapons, she had un-powered equivalents and made some basic assessments of planetary electrostatic charges and how the plant and animal life utilize those. Her observations on the local top predator, she named the Canthris, were exemplary, including an autopsy assisted by one team member for ensuring that proper metal struts braced its chest-equivalent open. She would, by dint of having no powered weapons be the only one able to fend off an attack by Canthris, although her weapon would undergo a failure forcing the expedition to leave. That is from the expedition backer who had a team review the work via condensing and paraphrasing, not me."

"Her weapon failed? What happened to it, that this jack-of-all-trades couldn't fix it?"

"She ran out of ammunition."

Lothar had thought she was joking when she pointed out her skill with slug throwers and other pre-modern equipment. He remembered that the Canthris had proven an especial pain to a number of people in the engineering community as it seemed designed by nature to shrug off phasers, particle beams, disruptors and generally sneer at all energy based attack modes, including lasers, due to the silicate structure that was part of its armor matrix. And he remembered the method used to kill the Canthris by the expedition: 'Utilization of depleted uranium slugs less than 12.7 mm in diameter traveling at less than Mach 1 is not suggested for suitable penetration of Canthris armor, save by specialists. See attached specification sheet for minimal size and velocity charts.'

"She tested out a variety of weapons, I take it?"

"Yes, she did on the one she killed, and recorded all of those observations on penetration, conductivity, reflectance, and how the Canthris re-routes energy in its system."

"And she wasn't even leading the expedition, right?"

"No she wasn't nor did she do so at any time. Her job was field work and initial analysis of best ways to protect any camp or later base put on the surface of Exmar 2. Piloting the armored lander was a secondary consideration, but a final 'deal clincher' for her. The lander was found to have been up to all design specifications and failed due to sheer overload of energy directed at it. She is well respected in her field, Lothar."

"Yeah," he rubbed his hand across the back of his neck, "you know, being in the Fleet I tend to think that all the hard work is done by us being on 'the edge of discovery' and all of that. It isn't disdain for the civilian areas, just... well... they aren't the Fleet. So those inside it minimize the accomplishments of our civilian counterparts. Though I don't think there is a counterpart to her, is there? No special job category for Enid Daystrom that would appeal to her."

"Yes, Lothar, she is unique. Like her great grandfather."

Lothar arched an eyebrow looking at the M-3 terminal he was using.

"Damned straight. Starting to see why you want her there, M-3. I've only seen her in the admin role, not in her 'daily, on-the-job' role not that she ever has a daily sort of on-the-job. Still, she is necessary with the Gorns at the moment. She is working with L'Tira and Roger to get their schedule arranged as they get some basic overviews and we are running out of time. She is necessary here, so who else can we get?"

The general intercomm interrupted.

"To all hands, this is Captain Bartholomew. SFHQ has reported the USS Swift has been three days overdue in reporting and has missed a rendezvous for personnel transfer. She had been sent with a scientific crew, including our own Mr. Jervis to analyze the ion storm region that interrupted sub-space communications with Mem Base Alpha. Apparently the storm has resumed and a wider swath of connections are slowly becoming unusable. The Fleet is sending the cruiser McHenry to investigate the area and rescue the Swift if need be. Keep them in your hopes and prayers, and a general service will be held at 1400 hours.

As a second note, our Forensics Analysis group along with many others on this station are reporting to the fleet that the battle damage wreckage that is being pulled in from the Earth/Romulan war site appears to have weapons damage that is not consistent with any technology of that time or ours. It appears equally on all ships of both early Federation and Romulan types, and appears to be indiscriminant to both fleets. This was only recorded by the Bon Homme Richard at that time, and the only possibility is a citing of 'super-ships' during one stage of that multi-stage battle. No other identification was given to them as to configuration or type, save that they are plural. To date historians had thought those to be early plasma cannon vessels fielded by the Romulans, but this is not the case. Fleet will be sending Engineering Corps personnel to help conduct in the research, as well as groups from Andoria, Vulcan, and the Klingon Engineering Directorate. Our base has been given full access to the Mem Base system, which is now down to Mem Base Gamma. Anyone with any sorts of leads or information is asked to help out in this effort.

I thank you for your time, and please keep the Swift in your prayers. Captain Bartholomew, out."

Things were silent for awhile.

"The Swift was specially refitted for this work, wasn't it Lothar?"

"It was. Jervis, the Corps and a lot of other people had input on that ship for years, and it was supposed to be the most safe vessel for that work around. Hell, if the storm is active it can even take out a heavy cruiser like the McHenry. Lets keep our hopes up, eh?"

"Yes, Lothar. If I may, I think that Cadet Walsh would be a good alternate for other work reasons. He is good with Mr. Jomra and has background in cybernetics and engineering of sensor and power systems for small and moderate equipment. They can work on installing my systems, so that I can get operational faster, and then they both have skills that can be used elsewhere, even if it is pulling power cable."

"Mike? Yeah, a good kid, personable. Has background with the install part, if I remember right."

"Yes, industrial control equipment at the Planetia shipyards."

"Hey, thats not bad at all. Know that the yards tend to work people around to get a wide range of skills. Why did he leave them to join the Fleet? Its a good outfit."

"I believe he would rather be inside a ship than outside of it."

"Heh. Yeah, makes sense. Sounds good, I'll go kill his normal work schedule. If you have any additions to the equipment and spares list that can fit, let me know, ok?"

"Yes, Lothar. None at this time, but I will review them. Thank you. And I will think about the fate of the Swift and Mr. Jervis."

"You are very welcome, M-3. Mr. Jervis knew the line of work was deadly, but thank you, he needs all the best he can get if the storm got past the ship's defenses."

With that Lothar stood up and walked away from the alcove, keying in work schedules and timing. By this time tomorrow he would be on the Grant again. He had been consulted by Grace's group and still couldn't think of anything that generated that specific type of damage they were seeing. Very clean, no oxidation or burn marks save where underlying ship systems were involved. Not even lasers cut like that. He had been stumped. Plus it had been on all hull types. Something had swept through about ten ships without even taking damage... at least no battle damage from an unknown ship type had shown up. Probably some small pieces but those would be impossible to find, riding on solar winds.

Let someone else handle the mysteries. He would handle the engineering.

* * *

"I thank you for your time, and please keep the Swift in your prayers. Captain Bartholomew, out."

Enid Daystrom was dismayed at that: not only for Mr. Jervis but for all on board the Swift. Her time with Star Fleet personnel had changed her attitudes towards the Fleet in many ways, and while never diminishing their sacrifice, it had been brought home strongly, once again, why Richard Daystrom started the M-Series. She didn't let that distract from her current work, which was holding a short briefing on the M-Series for three of the Gorns that had come over to join the project.

They were, as Gorns are, not nameless but having no referentially meaningful name designation beyond what they did. They knew each other by biological means, at least one theory put forward on that seemed to be panning out: by acoustics, pheromone analogs, skin coloration, and, most likely, out of normal spectrum visual and electrical senses that allowed them to know each other, individually. So if they knew who they were, who others were, and what they did, why have names? Humanoids and almost every other sentient species save, possibly, the Horta, had need of names: Gorns did not. From talking with them she had puzzled out that even their star ships only had some nominal designations but each ship's crew knowing what other ships did and coordinating on that basis at some level was the over-riding way things worked.

Grace had been going over some of the background on the M-Series and the theories the team had generated to-date on how it worked. She had bowed her head at the end and waited a moment before continuing.

"Your comrades are honored for their work and its perils. You have our concern for their return to safety from what they do," said one of the Gorns that was a human-interaction specialist, although they all had that bent of attitude amongst their group. This one was, more or less as the designators go, the Group Lead.

Grace looked up, "Thank you, all, as I know you speak for all of you. It is an all-volunteer ship, but their return is something that would be blessed."

"That is the case with our ships, also. Only volunteers to accept such hazards."

Day-to-day working with Gorns is an immense challenge, Enid realized, but the small things they say and do describe much more than what the diplomats and other researchers normally get. Gorns were not seeking to set themselves apart, they know they are apart, but in working together they make an effort to understand us that is, perhaps, even harder than our attempts to understand them. Somehow the large papers on them always seem to come off as missing prime things, and the final conclusions were skewed, while it is in the smaller outlooks and remarks that something different is captured. More and more, Enid Daystrom was coming to realize that the entire structure of science in the Federation was fundamentally flawed. She hadn't seen much of it in her specialty, but there were times and some people... it was very disturbing to think that those flaws were replicated on the large scale Federation-wide.

"This project is not without risk, also," said Enid," and we thank you for joining us in taking it with us."

"It is good work, to seek saving the lives of those in danger when they cannot save themselves," said another Gorn, a rare Cybernetics Specialist, of which there were not many in Gorn space, perhaps less than a hundred if the universal translator hadn't messed that up. That poor piece of technology has had many failings with Gorns from the first meeting, onwards. Even the Metrons really don't understand the Gorns, proving, yet again, that energy-based life had its own problems for all that it is accredited with being 'advanced'. So 'advanced' they can't even figure out that Ship Group Lead is not the same as Captain, although there is a rough equivalence but just about any Gorn could take that position and it was often passed amongst many in the ship based on current mission and needs. Not that humans or the Federation do much better in that realm, to be fair, but at least we make an honest effort to understand.

"It is, Enid Daystrom, that is why we are here."

"I am sorry to interrupt, Grace, do continue," said Enid.

"No Enid, our co-workers and you are welcome to talk about items not on the agenda, and this is an important one. If I may ask, now that this is public and I have been working on the battle damaged equipment, do the Gorns here have knowledge of analysis in such things? We are out of ideas on the kind of weaponry that could do such work at a large scale."

"It is not a specialty, but we have that knowledge with us and will help as we can," said the Systems Specialist, "our kind have faced many foes over the eons."

Again Enid was left in a quandry, as Gorns had a definition of eon that ranked up there with the scientific community's: vast amounts of geologic time, billions of years. The two competing modes of thought had been that either the Gorns had an incredibly over-rating of themselves, or that they actually had survived that long and generally unchanged biologically for a long period of time. Examination of their body structures yielded analogs in various planetary histories, but no good match. Their make-up, physiologically, pointed to a lineage that started out in a generally wet climate and then adapted to a drier and more hostile one, adapting with thickened hide, scales, polarizing eye coverings of their multi-faceted eye systems, a higher sense of atmospheric disturbances... it was that part of their brains that actually took to communicating and their current language has been tested to be very well suited for covering tens of kilometers over long, desert conditions even with winds involved. Many had puzzled over their lack of binocular vision until the true nature of their air disturbance sense was found: it is not only 3D but includes a sub-meter capability for the sub-surface. Gorns did not perceive the world as any other species did, and while not having the benefits of long vision, they were extremely capable sensing and reacting to close-in threats. Their brain capacity increased over what is thought to be at least 10 million years, possibly as high as 50 million, and included increased cooling during the daytime and muscular derived warm-blooded capability during the night time. It is theorized that they were the only all-day, all-night predator on their home planet.

All of that speech, sensory identification, color overlay on 3D perception and their full-spectrum hunting capability left them immune to at least two extinction events, as they tell it. Even when the planet shifted to a higher humidity, higher rainfall domain, their sensory apparatus allowed them to survive where none of the species that were in their start cohort did. After the second event, while already having language and a form of social grouping, they added what would be known as 'technic' civilization. Their oral historical record is vast in ways that cannot be fathomed outside their species, and when they talk of 'eons' it is not boasting. Biology won out over hubris in that debate. Dealing with a species so uninterested in interacting with other species, however, that was a major problem. And they didn't have 'government' although they had much in the way of localized administration, all the way to self-defense of individuals, they did not have a formalized way of outreach. They had and accepted no embassies, and that made trade nearly impossible even for the black market. Wanting nothing, giving nothing, they sought to be left alone. To Enid this was a biological marvel and a social enigma, and they were on her project as it was 'survival level' to them. That was troubling to her. Very troubling.

"Any help you can give us is very welcome and I thank you for it," said Grace.

"We are part of the effort for Enid Daystrom," said the Cybernetics Specialist, "that help is for the smooth running of that effort with those around it. That is necessary."

Grace didn't know if that was insulting or just plain, blunt, truth by beings that had little in the way of social formalities. She guessed the latter, as she couldn't imagine a Gorn ever bothering to insult anyone. Especially considering her last name, which had to go into familial matters going back centuries to a part of the region of Europe known as Italy. Better not to let family heritage and insults get mixed together at this late date. "It will, and beyond my being a member of the team but for all of us trying to figure out what happened. Thank you."

Enid had to fight going into what her colleagues and numerous clients had come to call, 'observation and analysis mode', yet a large carnivore with interesting traits invited that deeply. She suppressed a smile, pursed her lips and tried to re-focus on the tasks at hand. She knew that the Gorns had used the personal database system for comms, so that they had private information contact via encrypted routes... which was pretty duplicative given the nature of their sub-vocal speech patterns. At least five teams, and possibly as many as three times that when Klingon, Orion, Ferengi, Tholian, First Federation, and other sources were thrown into the mix, had tried to figure out just what it was that passed between Gorns on a constant basis.

And failed.

For all the things that examination and technology were good for, the Federation had some surprising lacks when it came to applications. And when those things failed individuals, many just kept on trying the same thing over and over, which was not a prime indicator of higher levels of thought. The 'universal translator' had problems in that much of the thought patterns did not formulate in areas of Gorn brains normally associated with conscious thought, like that air sensory area. It isn't surprising that their thought is so tied to their ability to perceive. What is surprising is that much of that thought cannot be traced fully within any individual Gorn, save when fully isolated, and then some parts of the mental functioning start to go awry. The Gorn definition of 'insanity' (such as it was) had the references to 'individual isolated for more than one month' as its basis. It was unrecoverable, too. From that Gorns are inherently social individuals, in that they are always in constant association with each other. That association also acts as a thought facilitator in ways not understood by anyone and that sub-vocal to low vocal range of constant sound must be a part of it. And everyone fails that tries to figure it out.

And she had shifted back to her observation mode, again, and shifted in her chair to catch what was being discussed.

"... that aberrant thinking by Richard Daystrom led him to ways to counter the perceived threats. First, his already lax note-taking went downwards during the M-Series project. Second, he removed multitronic code from the M-Series that interfaced with the memory module structures and placed it in hard code, gaining it efficiencies in starting and regulating the evolutionary neural nets that formed. Third he staged a multi-part concept for creating capabilities in the M-Series, so that each part that he was looking for would succeed, while the overall presented specifications would fail. Each of these is indicative of a highly developed mind that has seriously gone wrong in its thinking, and yet there was still a part of Richard Daystrom that kept track of all of this, even while his more surficial thought structures decayed. Righting the balance of his surficial mind did not change the outlook of those deep-seated thinking capabilities, but did make it impossible for him to approach many of them without risking debilitating instability again." Grace had been going over the forensics part of the project before this and was now doing the overall summary. Enid appreciated her methodical way of doing things, and exacting attitude that her profession had granted Grace. Or that she brought to her profession. Plus she was a regular with the hand-weapons group, and certified instructor in a number of areas, too, so Enid had a chance to reciprocate the learning experience she had been doing for understanding what she knew of the M-Series. People really do lionize those with multiple talents and don't register their own amazing abilities too well. Many on the team had that, due to historical analysis requiring so much work across specialties, but the people didn't recognize that actively.

"It was not physical isolation of him that caused this, but some form of social isolation?" asked the Systems Specialist.

"I... well... that isn't easy to specify. We do know that there was a personality trait that could lead to this with Richard Daystrom and that many of life's events would reinforce it. Even though there was no active movement against him, externally, there were a number of individuals who sought greater recognition for their work while marginalizing his. There was no single, overall problem to cause this, but a series of problems that self-reinforced to cause this instability."

"That is understood, this is a problem of many species," said the Group Lead.

Working with Gorns was slow torture, Enid realized. There were tens, if not hundreds, of individual minor references that she would love to track down, and yet to get things done right she couldn't. That was both frustrating and educational to her, as she rarely had her mental faculties challenged so much in so short a period of time. Maybe, once this was over, she would take up T'sau on some diplomatic work, and leave Karl to run the company for a few years. Or Revar Umak, even with his quirks, although the concept of 'trade' wasn't one that translated into the Gorn realm of things. Even that, alone, indicated something very profound, and Enid could feel it. She was looking forward to the successful end of this project and, finally, clearing up things left uninvestigated for so long. As sabbaticals go, she could have done worse, but cooped up in a an orbiting Fleet base, no matter how good, wasn't something that attracted her.

"So it wasn't a problem of isolation, as such, but other conditions coming together. For this one man, we have found it to be a difficult subject because of his brilliant mind. We are lucky to have his great granddaughter to help us, and she has given us some insights that aren't available by normal records. Still, we may never know all of it, but we can piece together the outline. That brilliance that was only his, is seen throughout what we have investigated."

"Yes," said the Cybernetics Specialist, "he had something that we had not considered before and find it of interest that he did so. It is a set of ideas that are good in their simplicity."

'Good in their simplicity'! Don't mind how much effort it has taken to piece together, but get right to the point and it is dead-on accurate. His idea was simplicity in thought, just very difficult in execution. She was coming to suspect that the Gorns recognized that and were paying their own sort of homage to work with her team. She took it that outside of some areas of warp drive and weapons, that Gorns did not incorporate much of what other starfarers used in their own arrangements. They were 'too sophisticated to be of use' was a phrase she had heard earlier, and of all of the things she had heard that one resonated deeply in her. High technology had its limitations, and the mental ones they bring were, perhaps, the worst of those.

"An approach to a ship as organism is unusual and has good insight, which is why we are honored to help in this work," that from the Systems Specialist.

"I am honored that you joined us, to help put the troubled memory of my great grandfather into full balance. And to share his works with you to save more lives of both our peoples," said Enid.

"History is ever-making, Enid Daystrom. His works and your team's effort will be remembered," said the Group Lead.

Just how far back did Gorn memory as a people go? That is something that has not ever fully resolved itself, but as a aural tradition that is highly active it dates back to near their discovery of language and ability to master its strange form that only they fully know. She took it there were very few individuals actually remembered amongst the Gorns, although events, happenings, outcomes all were deeply remembered.

"Grace, are you covering the MIT work of my great grandfather?"

"No, Roger is doing that. I understand that Gorns do not have a need for multiple instructive meetings, save for those requiring manual and physical skills."

"Ok, just wanted to keep track," that had been a major change to the schedule, as she had been expecting at least two or three sessions per area, but the Gorns had indicated that was not necessary. She was very happy to have L'Tira go through and cancel all of those sessions and clear out the time as there was little left to get actual work done. "Tomorrow will be hands-on work with the systems, and I think we have good examples of interface units appropriate to your physical make-up to help in the assistance."

"Yes, our Interface Specialist approved of its design and commends its efficiency," said the Systems Specialist.

In truth it was very strange to look at those interface kits, which came in a basic briefcase format that had been ruggedized for Gorn use. The actual display had three major sensory areas, with two split panels on either side carrying visual data and the central part was a tractor/presser beam system with mini-replicator unit in it. It was a novel 3D projection design system that wasn't an outgrowth of holodeck technology, which required too many field systems and did need to encompass an area, but a tiny replicator that put up thin film representations of objects, with scaling factor given on either side. Gorn ships, apparently, utilized a raised surface system with micro and nano controllers allowing for volume memory to be used as the system rotated a design along three axes. That was wonderful for a starship, used little power and hadn't been changed much in... well... how long were the Gorns a space-faring people? Still, the Diplomatic Corps had provided workstation overviews, which were somewhat strange arrangements for humanoids, and one of the cadets had thought that an adaptation of an old holographic system could be updated after not being used for nearly two centuries. The system allowed for fine-scaling, and had a large ball device in the center to allow user based orientation. That class, yesterday, had been a marvel of watching just how quickly the Gorns learned the positives and negatives of the system: they had only been with them for a half-hour and were already able to call up dynamic displays of landscapes, buildings and such things as their staterooms. Their appreciation was already working its way through Diplomatic and Fleet channels, which would serve as a major positive aspect for those involved.

"It will be busy early tomorrow with Lothar taking the last of the equipment to the Grant, but we have a second M-3/V set-up for basic simulator use and the M-4/V will be coming on-line a few days later, with any luck. So as the testing goes on, we will be assisting, and as soon as we can shake a shuttle free we will head over to the Grant for full systems integration and testing, while upgrading the in situ M-3/V to M-4/V status."

"As we will be going," said the Group Lead,"we can offer the services of our shuttlecraft."

"That would be wonderful," Enid said, smiling,"make sure to carry all basic survival needs, including high workload food packs. While water is something we can supply via portable systems, until the replicators come on-line we are strictly on a 'what you bring is what you have' realm. If you think you need it, bring it along. I am recommending a month, minimum, of food per individual."

"Thank you, Enid Daystrom. That is easily done. Our shuttle is not equipped with Federation standard docking mounts, and will require a shuttlecraft bay. Our shuttle is equipped with the lock-down placements for shuttle storage on Federation starships," said the Systems Expert.

"Lothar should have that section of the ship secured by then, although we will not have an on-board tractor or standard guide system working yet due to lack of spare power."

"We have two individuals that can do such piloting, and we are all capable of basic piloting. If there will be no ship environment protection, we will add our suit systems to what we bring for movement to ship sustained environment areas," said the Group Lead.

"That will be necessary, although hand-cargo moving equipment is available once we are there, but the shuttle deck will be in a zero-g environment and vacuum," how quickly people forgot that artificial gravity, artificial atmosphere, and artificially created supplies were all artificial and required a working infrastructure to make them available. It was one of the few things that holodecks weren't all that good at doing, really, as there is no good way to remove atmosphere in a station or any holodeck without having extreme bracing for the pressures that would cause. Luckily she had gotten time on the Athens to test out some of her standard equipment, although in replicated form as the originals had been left packed at home on Earth. No one trusted Fleet life support belts, no matter how wonderful they were: on minor crack in a dilithium crystal and your environment, recycling system... everything was gone in an instant. And they weren't made to take some of the radiation belts around Jupiter, either.

"You will also find generalized ship-board conditions for the Grant and near Jovian space. For humans this requires space armor for external work and G/R-21 suits at minimum for internal work in unprotected areas. Once in an artificial environment, the only thing to check for is daily radiation exposure, which only gets to be bad near the outer skin portions of the ship."

"We are advised, thank you Enid Daystrom," said the Group Lead, "we all have such equipment necessary to do this work per individual."

"Good! Are there any questions on the overview of Richard Daystrom and his intent for the M-Series system?"

The Gorns were still for a moment, but just at the range of her hearing some of the sub-vocal sounds were felt if not heard.

"Not at this time, Enid Daystrom." said the Cybernetics Sepcialist.

"Then you are on your own until we meet tomorrow, it will be early to help shift some containers to the shuttle, then hands-on simulator work with M-3/V and perhaps some assisting with M-4/V while in its M-4 stage. Until then, you have the base layout, various entertainment and dining facilities, sports, exercise, and chapel area listed. If you need help or can't find something don't hesitate to contact me or L'Tira, especially if Museum personnel can't help."

Enid Daystrom stood up, and she waved to Grace as she left the room, aware that the Gorns were also standing and filing out as Grace shut down the various displays in the conference room. She decided on 4 up, 2 over and some zero-g workout time with a couple of exo-suits from Engineering which, while not equipped with power systems outlets, gave her greater flexibility and general radiation protection above the 21 rating. Of course the 2 over put her on the Athens, but no one used the shuttlecraft deck for much of anything. Except her.

* * *

"Welcome to the eighth meeting of the M-5 project working group. This has been a historic week as Lothar has taken over a full M-3/V assembly to the USS Grant and installed it there. Also with him are Theresa, Brian, Enak, Mr. Jomra and Cadet Walsh. We have Simon Lurva back to discuss that and the condition of the Grant. Kathy, Roger and Patti have been working on the M-4 transitioning to M-4/V and getting initial runs of the M-5 going. They will be talking about advances in their work and some outlook on their work with Grace to get the final scientific and technical reports prepared for their communities via the Corps of Engineers. I thank our Gorn contingent in helping us in large ways and small. They have given us one or two insights into the M-V concept that, I think, might have escaped us. I will be heading over to the Grant tomorrow with M-4 while final work is done on M-5 and its transition to M-5/V. As the bulk of the project will be on the Grant, our next meeting will be on the Grant to address final work and installation, and the future of the project. I will have L'Tira start by giving us project interface items with the Museum and elsewhere. L'Tira?"

"Thank you, Enid. As you know the USS Swift has been found in the ion storm source, which is a cloud of generally neutral interstellar hydrogen. Captain Bartholomew has given us a 'heads-up' that while the ship has been found, all aboard her are missing. The ship systems record no attack, no use of transporters or shuttles, and no escape pods have been used. Star Fleet is sending over a team from the Corps and Science branches to find out just where the crew is. The ship was found drifting in a state like that of the ancient vessel Marie Celeste, with systems functioning but unattended, meals half-eaten and left. The sensor arrays did record a sudden spike in ionic discharge, but nothing beyond the capabilities of the Swift to handle. There have been vigils scheduled at the chapel and Enid has offered our team's hopes, worries and services to not only our science section, but to Star Fleet."

"Disappeared? Without sensor recordings anything of note?" asked Kathy.

"Apparently, yes," said L'Tira, "which is why the Fleet has limited release on the information. Captain Bartholomew has given this to the Section Heads, which is how we came to know about it. You are all under that confidentiality need until the Corps can figure out what happened to the Swift."

"Neutral hydrogen clouds are the deserts of space, to be examined for charge characteristics before entering. Even wary ships have been caught by them." said the Space Specialist of the Gorns, "Yet they still must be traversed, due to such happenings being rare and the conditions behind activity unlikely."

'... the deserts of space...' that from a species that came to sentience in a desert environment, thought Enid.

"Do you know what causes these events? They are a mystery to us," asked Kathy,"which is why we are researching them."

"Kathy Lorimar we have three general identified types of ion storm causing sub-space interference. All take place in areas of neutral hydrogen gas and volumes of space with high sub-space flux, and the vast majority of all ion storms go unreported as the latter condition is rare. Once in place that accounts for over 98% of all sub-space interference from ion storms."

"Ninety eight percent? That is an unusual statistic," said Kathy,"there is a two-percent residual?"

"Yes," said the Systems Specialist,"that residual falls into the other two categories of ion storm causes."

"Something else causes ion storms?" asked Kathy, "Do you have any examples of what those two things are?"

The Systems Specialist looked to the Space Specialist.

"Yes. They fall into the categories of those cause by natural creatures that have transitioned to the normal space, sub-space interface and can travel freely in both, and those caused by a technic civilization that has transitioned almost fully into sub-space."

The conference room was very quiet as the humans looked at the Gorns.

"No normal space living being can survive sub-space for long without disassociation of component normal space structures," whispered Kathy, "it's impossible."

"That is not the case, Kathy Lorimar, we have records and history to demonstrate tens of thousands of ion storms that are not naturally normal space happenings and of the two classes they represent." that from the Group Lead.

Kathy just stared, as the idea of having records of tens of thousands of storms, to represent two percent put the few thousand the Federation recorded into its proper place. And most of that without good sensors and recording equipment. For the first time she had a gut level understanding of just how long the Gorns had been around. Not only had they not seen traversal to energy being state as desirable, but they actively did nothing to themselves to change their physical or mental capabilities. Her mind had already started to look at that basic number zone, the expected size of Gorn space, and the number of years that would be necessary to render that residual. She had to make sure of the exponent on the power of ten as it was coming up as a 9. And not a low number to that exponent, either, pretty much back to when background radiation died down in the galaxy and the first super-giant stars had violently exploded to form the first dust clouds, most likely reforming into a somewhat smaller super-giant and exploding again to get the heavy elements necessary for life... making the Gorn home star one of the first to have a habitable zone for life. That and its nearby systems still traveled together from that initial formation, leaving that cloud behind, perhaps, as it slowly created more stars or just a normal giant star which had since exploded in a normal supernova. Now she understood just why the Gorns did not see the Federation as anything special. The thought of 'mayflies' went through her mind.

"There are records of six distinct large scale animal types that live in that interstitial space and journey freely into both. The smallest observed is approximately half kilometer by quarter kilometer, and has the highest mass density. The largest measures over 20 kilometers and has low mass density. Their interaction for neutral hydrogen is uncertain as none of these utilize it. It may only be a temporary resting area while they travel in the interstices between normal and sub-space continuums," said the Space Specialist.

"And the technic civilization?" asked Enid.

"Our people have not seen a recorded instance of them in a span of timing stretching 100 times past their previous recurrence rate and we speculate they no longer exist or chose to migrate elsewhere," said the Group Specialist. "Their previous rate of activity was 10,000 of your standard years."

"Ten million years?" whispered Kathy.


"Who are they?" asked Grace.

"Others have named them, we have found no suitable name for them. When they arrive, they swarm. The Slavers found them difficult to deal with and their arrival at the Slaver home system would signal the start of their civil war. Earlier the people you call the Targuans made defensive systems against them and continue to exist that way," said the Space Specialist.

"This is known by our people. We have heard of other species that have been visited by the swarming visitation and tell of it. Many civilizations rise and fall without having a single instance of contact," said the Group Lead.

"What do they want?" asked Kathy.

"They seek space normal matter as exists in star systems. Your Federation has run across stars that only have extra-system bodies in them, but there is no native planet, dust, gas clouds or far reaching Oort cloud. Those are systems they have visited, they leave nothing behind," said the Group Lead.

"Has anyone attempted to communicate with them?" asked Patti.

"Many have, we did during our first encounters with them until the First Swarm, then we no longer attempted that," said the Cybernetics Specialist, "all attempts have failed. We did not have the technology of the Targuans and so took the efficient route to stop such happenings."

"What do you do?" asked Enid, truly interested and morbidly fascinated.

"We utilize each colony system fully. Inhabit it fully. And have vessels ready to defend each in the tens of thousands. We do not want conquest. We want the predations to stop, and they have over the last 10 million years," that from the quiet Weapons Specialist.

There was deep quiet in the room. If this was true, and their ability to withstand casual smuggling, the Romulans and generally wanting to be left alone pointed to it. That gave their total population of Gorns a size that dwarfed the entirety of the Federation, Romulan, Cardassian and Klingon space plus all minor space faring civilizations. By at least five times.

"They cannot swarm if they find resources are extremely well defended," said the Group Lead, "we do not colonize like other races do as we wish to survive."

"No wonder you don't care much about us..." whispered Grace very, very softly.

"This project of Enid Daystrom's is survival critical to our people. We will be willing to teach your people how to survive like we do if it succeeds." said the Group Lead.

"Yes.." said the Cybernetics Specialist,"vigilance is hard."

"You expect them to come back, don't you?" asked Enid.

"We do. Their precursors are apparent the last million years. They will return. In force. Our people have deprived them many times and they ask for nothing, give nothing and take all. We think they will go after our people as we are not prey to them any longer. We will be ready."

Yes, 'vigilance is hard', thought Enid Daystrom. Still to a race willing to merely build its defenses and expand slowly, they could not afford the hop, skip and jump mode of colonization that the Federation could. No wonder the Romulans were in a stalemate... and they probably had no idea why their ships, strategies and technology failed them time and again. And the Gorns never even mentioned them as a threat. The Federation had gotten very, very lucky with the Gorns as a death struggle with them would not succeed.

"Well, lets hope it isn't this swarming civilization, then," said L'Tira, knowing that not only was that subject a likely time-eater, but that it couldn't be solved with what everyone knew.

"It is not likely," said the Energy Specialist,"there are some creatures that can do what is described to the Swift, and they happen far more often."

"Good! Now, back to where I left off. For the higher ranking members of the team, Quarterlies are due, and you know who you are. Enid wants to make sure that we don't impinge on normal reporting and routine, so those are a priority." She knew it was a clumsy attempt to get things on track, but it had to be done.

"I know. That's why Lothar is on the Grant and I'm here," said Simon who looked agreeable on getting back to business, "he hates admin work." Even if it meant that same work...

"Other than that, the Museum is still working on the old battle damage problem and coming to no real conclusions. Help is requested from anyone who can shed light on to what weapon or weapons could cause such damage and who would attack both fleets. And that should wrap it up for the overview. Enid?" L'Tira was coming to figure out that the job of XO for Enid Daystrom was a major, full-time affair... of course she used lots of field work to get away from it. No one really questioned someone that busy.

"Thank you, L'Tira. Simon, your update is next."

"Thank you Enid," he said turning as he stood up and putting up the holoprojection of the Grant on screen and saw it replicated on the smaller units in front of the Gorns. He had never seen the units in action, and was delighted to see that there was almost no lag time involved.

"As you know, the interior of the Grant is a mess and Tareen was there helping me out. Starting aft at the shuttledeck, Lothar had a hard day or so of the welding teams doing the plasma join welds to secure that to the ship's superstructure. It needed that, and badly. Here you can see that anyone coming off of the shuttledeck and the maintenance section below it are in for actual cat-walks with some overhead pull lines. A landing on the deck must be a powered one and then work to quickly secure the shuttle to the deck itself after landing. When the deck was removed the upper receiving area was taken from the lower maintenance bay for removal, so even if there was full power to both for tractors and artificial gravity, there is no way to get a shuttle out of the bay and into maintenance. That is far, far, far down the list of 'things to do if we had a few years'. The areas surrounding the shuttle bay have a number of catwalks where decks used to be. On those catwalks we would see reduced gravity as the two decks above and three below it were taken out completely and lost to the scrap yards of the Corps. In theory they should, actually, still be sitting at the ship yards. They aren't. The Corps left the major superstructure in place, of course, so you see some of the major beams and support members of the ship, itself as you walk or float around inside. The rooms immediately around the shuttledeck were used as storage of equipment and some other items, and no real inventory has been taken there. If you look down coming into this empty section, you can see the Slip Warp core and cooling systems, which are attached to major structural members and a standard engineering perforated tread metal walk area around it. There are zero-g pull lines to get you directly from the catwalk to the Slip Warp, and we replaced those with new ones due to vacuum off-gassing problems and some crystallization on the original lines. As you move forward you see normal decks re-appear with catwalks, pull-lines and ladders between the decks and the upper and lower catwalks, plus those used for warp core maintenance and testing."

Simon had ensured that everyone got to see the distances involved which had some sheer drops if life support could be turned on for the area. Packing crates, spare parts areas and other 'we will use this again, soon' items had been littering the full bottom catwalk/deck and all of that was shoved into the crates and secured to the sides. In theory it should be floating around, but the orbit around Jupiter slowly pulled everything in the floor direction. No one bothered with an itemized list: that would take weeks to do and general images with computer pull-outs from those had been enough to indicate that there was nothing of major need in that junk. Everyone carried around that Engineers look-up system which fed directly into a database for those on the Grant, and it was a huge mess of tools and equipment spanning decades, along with a disturbingly large number of things just not in the database. In theory you could find where anything in the database was. In practice, things were not so nice. He skipped over the inter-cooler system, which had suffered a major rework for the segmented core system: the Corps had used Bernoulli's Law to neck-down the old system at the Engineering hull and then nozzle it into the old coolers, which effectively made that the most efficient and most dangerous cooling system for the other warp drives ever seen. One tiny structural flaw and the entire thing would either take off the entire inter-cooler nacelle, or the entire pylon. The added, segmented warp intercoolers were then added in by the space freed up by that and the entire thing jury-rigged to use either system, based on testing needs. If you used it properly, the entire cooling system might actually make the nacelles the coldest areas of the ship, not the hottest, by that nozzle action. He shuddered when he thought of the mechanical strain due to that heat differential that had never been called for in the original designs.

"Once you get back to normal ship territory and the major part of Engineering, things look a lot better. They aren't. Currently, as of today, we have life support on the main deck there and the support decks top/bottom of it, plus the Auxiliary Power Unit area forward and down. Turbolifts do not service this area, even if the ship had power. The lifts are locked into place in the Engineering area and are unconnected to ship's power save for doors. The major problem is that all the tubes to the saucer were cut away putting in the segmented warp core. Basic safety requires closing gangway hatches when you are not actively going through them and those are manual at this point. I will skip the activity area for the M-Series in Engineering to complete the overview. Going forward more of the ship's decks were cut out to insert the segmented warp core, or 'multi-barrel warp'."

The view shifted to the cut-away forward of Engineering and the multi-cylinders of the segmented warp system showed up.

"As so many structural members went through here, the Corps utilized those in a way that can only be called ingenious, if it wasn't foolhardy. They actually laid entire, new structural members throughout this entire section of the ship to reinforce the sensor array and interconnector to the saucer section. After that they cut out the older supporting structures, decks and nearly everything else, save power conduits and cybernetic comms, slipped the segmented-warp system in sideways then rotated it ninety degrees into position and then slid it into place. Once it was secured, they then put new hull plates on, installed the intercooler lines to the main switching system for that, and ran power conduits to major connection areas just between the Engineering area and APU. Additionally they put in two decks of Engineering flooring and ladders along with the catwalks to get to the actual turbolift tubes and interconnecting accessways that would get you to the saucer section."

"Why is that foolhardy?" asked Kathy.

"What they did was change the center of mass for the entire ship by about 10 meters forward of where it was, plus a bit down. All the heavy equipment needed for the cores acts as a fine mass-balance to the large saucer section so that the dynamic stability point of a starship rests aft of the interconnector and in empty space. Now that dynamic point is actually in the interconnector and somewhat down, almost exactly where the X-Class torepdo bay is. The reasoning was that if the segmented core worked, against all previous trials and attempts to do that showing otherwise, then the entire ship would change its maneuverability characteristics to something very close to that of a Destroyer class vessel. Unfortunately that didn't happen and it probably has the maneuverability of the early and scrapped designs for a Dreadnought, which were scrapped because tugs were more maneuverable. Plus the interconnecter and saucer would both need sturdier support members to actually utilize all of this and that was never done. A multiple upgraded Republic Class cruiser going through Constitution and X-Class still has limitations due to original design. Worse than that was that almost all of the major cross-beams were put in with emergency releases, which is the problem we had there and in the shuttledeck area. In theory all of those should hold just fine while under strain, possibly even flex some. That is under original specs, however, these have been sitting in a vacuum for a long time and some of that flexibility may not be there. Plus no one has really tried to pilot a ship with such an arrangement through anything that puts much stress on those things, as they are seen as temporary means to allow multiple access so that beams can be quickly removed and re-installed. It isn't the release part that I'm worried about, but the strain those were meant to take. Lothar agreed and so the plasma join welds started almost as soon as he got off the shuttle."

"Is there any way to compensate for the mass of the segmented warp system?" asked Grace.

"Sure! Put about 5,000 tons of dead weight around the shuttle deck and you will almost perfectly restore the balance of the ship. Yes, a segmented warp system requires extra bracing, but what was done was a bit overboard, like someone had plans to do a thorough ship overhaul, then what is there would serve as the basis for a new superstructure. Forward of that is the sensor array, which has multiple parts that, while described in documents, have never been fully tested, many failing their original tests and left where they were. Some parts actually do work, like the long-range mass detection system, but have little real use. That brings us to the interconnector, which has had major refurbishment for X-Class upgrades. It is relatively easy to work there in zero-g because of those, and actually features the last photon torpedo upgrades done by the Fleet during the 'restocking session' some years ago. It has a decent fire-control system and the last generation of photon torpedoes which, in some ways, are actually more accurate than the more powerful quantum version we have today. It also had decent cabling installed to Engineering and the Command areas in the saucer. There is a single, ancient, 'Auxiliary Control' area that serves as an ersatz 'Battle Bridge' in Engineering and it is spartan to say the least. Still, if you can't get to the Main Bridge, Emergency Bridge, or Combat Bridge of the saucer, or its Auxiliary Control area, then the one just between Engineering and the APU is the safest place to be. It works, too!"

"The others don't?" asked Enid.

"They do, but, without life support and its gravity systems, well, even our modern designs usually take those in as the major mode of operation. Mostly those haven't even been looked at, although all major Command systems have been 'plugged and tested' as we went along, and I even sent someone to each to make sure that they get displays and such. Just don't mind the exposed cables, floating deck pieces, some chairs being removed, and general feeling of disarray in them. They are a model of perfection compared to the staterooms in the saucer."

"I don't want to ask, do I?" asked Enid.

"No, you don't. I will concentrate on the major systems. As you know, Brian and Theresa went there after the initial assessment by Brian was 'dear god, what were they thinking?' once he saw the way the connections of the power systems to the weapons had been... ahhh... haphazard is nice, I guess. We found coils of brand new power and control cabling sitting in the torepedo bay forward and phaser banks, plus inputs for the ring phaser. All of that should, really, have been connected up via existing power distribution systems and control comms to give a good, full-power utility to all of the additional units. They were seen, however, as just 'power sinks' to test out other systems and by distributing an increased load over it to its designed capacity they maximized the system and the Corps didn't see the need to put in the redundant and separate power feeds once they did that. It was interesting to see coil upon coil upon coil of cables sitting in packing crates, all clearly labeled, with the local power distributors still in their original packaging and nothing done to them, while a number of patch cables were just installed as a quick and easy fix. Still, it was an experimental platform so not much more than was necessary was done, even though it was planned for."

"Simon, as that was a ship stocked for Emergency War Reserve use, how would you grade its capability to actually handle that sort of situation, if it were pressed into use as you found it?" asked Grace.

Simon stared at the display as he brought it out to give a larger ship overview. He glanced at Tareen who arched a quizzical eyebrow in the 'well, don't look at me' area.

"From what I've seen, it would have been able to power up, have some limited maneuverability, arm its weapons and shields and take, maybe, one strong hit from something like a second generation Romulan Plasma Enveloper. Possibly two, although most of the weapons systems would have shut down due to multiple circuit failures and the internal part of the ship would have been under heavy strain. For active combat, it was relatively useless, although as a distance fire platform for photon torps it would serve very well. It could dispatch a relatively small ship easily, but a one-on-one ship-to-ship engagement with anything beyond a Frigate class vessel, and I wouldn't want to be on it. It would give a good account against a Light Cruiser, and be a short, but honest opponent of a Heavy Cruiser. Really, Grace, if I were handed command of it as it was when we found it, I would urge for the fire-support role and active combat only if there were no normal vessels left. It could not be outgunned, but could be out-fought even by a Frigate if a Captain understood its weaknesses. A solid flank or rear attack would cripple it via overloads internally."

"No wonder the Corps handed it over," said Roger.

"To be fair it was the original testbed of the M-Series, and that was part of the reason the ship is as it is right now. That was how the ship was when I got there, now let me give you the update of how it is now. My week or so there had the front segmented core superstructure issues addressed, and Lothar's plasma joins were finished within hours after he came on-board, although using a lot of scrap material left from various projects, mostly old decking, for shielding. I know why the Fleet moved from that method, but it has its uses, and all worries about the superstructure are now addressed for the Engineering hull. Next up is the M-Series, in this case the M-3/V arrangement. Tests here, on a simulation lacking an active ship's computer had yielded that M-3/V was significantly degraded in performance as the entire system's computational capability came to rely on the M-units. The final arrangement was that M-3/V would go into an activated but 'quiescent' state, much like we had seen in other simulations of the other M-3/V systems. That freed up the multitronic circuits to handle the M-2/V workload, with minor augmentations by M-3. We took the weapons systems offline, and put life support on manual and did everything we could do to free up energy to get the ship's computer systems up and running, which we finally did. While that went on the M-3/V then went through system by system to examine each and every other part of the ship that it was connected to. I left soon after the start-up, so will summarize from there based on Lothar's reports which you all have."

"First, the ship's computer system is an X-class upgraded one, but suffering from a long down-time. M-3/V finally had to isolate its connections and resources to those of pure computation areas to limit energy use. That gave M-3/V actual access to a real ship's computer system and the first thing it did before coming fully active was to examine the entirety of all information regarding the ship itself. All of that has been added to our database and is also in the standard Fleet data stores here. Then the M-3/V finally came active, about 10 hours ago, and it has prioritized a whole list of things that it needs to get done, but only the top few are those necessary to actually start re-powering the ship."

"It can actually do that? I mean thinks it can based on the ship and its environment?" asked Patti.

"Yes, Patti, and it is firm that the simulations are not just speculation. It has been running the deflectors at the very lowest of power and has demonstrated that on the very closest approaches on the night side, it can capture almost a liter of hydrogen even though it is 'space' it is also the outermost parts of the Jovian atmosphere. Over 10 orbits that is very, very impressive, and it will bring a second APU online today."

"That's not bad, really. How is the thruster situation?" Grace asked.

"Ah, you're getting ahead of me, but I know everyone is excited to see the M-3/V start serious refueling. What it is doing now is very important as it slowly brings these systems online to test them. It wants the second APU fully fueled so it can do the atmospheric runs we are expecting. It is being very conservative and is examining how the ship flexes in orbit. We have a number of micro-cams for orbital work that we put out an airlock for it, and it has been slowly deploying those. They don't last long close to Jupiter, but it is a stress on the ship, and so far M-3/V puts the superstructure at 'stable but unbalanced' and it will be working to understand what this means with some very small maneuvers. Basically it has one set of ways of how to maneuver the ship that it learned in simulators and its now changing that set of reflexes. The hours it spent in different simulations with different ships is helping it, and it is grateful for the training session suggestions its gotten."

"M-3/V has proven flexible during its testing if showing a bit of trepidation," said Patti,"it is a hard thing for it to go by just the simple and constructive thinking of M-2/V as it now must weigh more factors. Plus the team, as a whole, is more experienced than it is. I looked at the suggestions that many gave and they were just that, suggestions. We've demonstrated an even temper and attitude for M-3/V to emulate and it was doing its best to do that."

"I'll put that test of the ship's superstructure as point two, but the one I was going to look at next was all the extra equipment in the sensor array which is now point three. We had given it everything we knew about all the tests done in and on the Grant, which appears not to have been too thorough from the Corps end of things. One of the largest problems was the main sensor array in that it was in a highly degraded state with only a few types of X-class sensors being operative. There are at least 7 other minor sensor 'upgrades' in the array, very few of which work properly, and Enak has spent some hours tracing out connections and getting a major switching station put together for M-3/V. That is finished and now M-3/V will be able to test out each type of sensor separately and see if it has any useful function to it. We hadn't known that ship-wide comms was down due to all the work in the Engineering hull, but that was the case. Enak routed that trouble out as a few of the sensors had, well, to put it politely, 'commandeered' parts of ship-wide comms. Apparently someone wanted more bandwidth for a test and that was rigged up and left. Still that will not be brought up until we need it, and local repeaters set up by the Corps still serve for all our communicators."

Roger was shaking his head, "It didn't impair ship function, and yet, in an emergency..."

"That is why I gave my doubts like I did, Roger. The big part of the extra equipment is point four and that is the multiple warp drives. M-3/V has sent test energy through each of them and reports the all will work. It has put the idea forward of doing an unbalanced start-up of the segmented core system if we need a warp boost. In theory each of those sub-segments is a full core, just vastly undersized for the work it has to do. Warp 2 would be the maximum that could be done that way, but it would save power and can be done with a dedicated APU feeding it. As we all know, anti-matter is not a necessity in warp systems, but are the prime energy source for going over Warp 3 and dilithium moderation for going over Warp 6. Still that can't be done until there is more power on-board and will wait until M-4 gets there."

"Point four is life support. It is down in the saucer section and no one has had time to do a power and comms check to find out what the problem is. The idea is a mis-connected junction somewhere in the dorsal connector above the torpedo bay. When the heavy weapons team gets to the area, they will work to de-conflict all the power routings and put in a safe and stable system. It is only a problem to try and bring artificial gravity and some radiation protection ship-wide. Part of the M-3/V work has been setting aside any nitrogen and oxygen found in the Jovian atmosphere, but that is pretty scarce. It will help everyone to change over to lighter protective suits and have a standard gravity environment outside of parts of Engineering. Still the weapons connection goes faster in zero-g and even if it was available, now, we wouldn't want life support and gravity on. Everyone likes pushing a spool with a bit of spin and having the cable uncoil and only needing to place it in existing conduits and secure it there. Two or three days to get the saucer power cable laid and then another day or three to figure out the dorsal connections."

"Point five is the extra weapons, themselves. The Corps did top off all coolant systems and re-stock all the photon racks, plus lay in extras of each. The control systems for all the added torpedo and phaser equipment is all co-signal, meaning everything works as a unit. If you want to fire one phaser out of a four point bank grouping, you can't. It is all four or nothing. Brian and Theresa's sensibilities were offended by that and they have been disentangling the controls and properly putting them on separate comms lines for control, along with separate power feeds. While others are laying cable, they are cleaning up that mess. There is enough equipment to do that, its all in crates, unused. Basically, they want it so that no matter how much damage is done to any one part of the saucer, there will be complete fire control for all systems. Their attitude is that if a war started tomorrow and anti-matter was delivered, the ship would be able to fend for itself, weapons-wise. That is the way it should be and they will make it that way. Photon torpedo control is similarly structured, and they are working to make the system robust like it was designed to be when backed by a hot storage compartment. In fact they want to put a second set of coolant lines into the firing tubes with complete placement racks."

"Why do they want to do that?" asked Enid.

"The main problem with torpedo tubes is cooling time. X-class ships increased the cooling by an external radiator system and being able to hot push a photon torpedo from one tube to another in a form of fast firing, but that was an emergency procedure. If you increase the cooling rate and have a fully active hot storage system, then you can very, very quickly cycle through the torps and not worry as much about the tubes. Many engineers in the Fleet have batted this around for decades, and as there is spare equipment available, Brian and Theresa are going to install it and finally see if the 'Gatling Photon Torpedo System' can actually be made. Those hot storage systems have been very hard to get as only Monitor class ships end up with them, and that is for limited use to back a wider set of tubes. Basically they are the last thing used as they are energy hogs and only Monitors have that kind of spare internal energy, and they aren't expected to fight one-on-one fights where a thing like that could be made effective in a maneuver fight, so their tubes are all normal cooling type. This is the first time any ship will have a hot storage system, power and enough cooling of the tubes to test out the theory. If that works, then the ability of the ship to survive not only as a distance fire platform but as a hard direct fire ship increases by a factor of 10, at least in my opinion."

"Why so high? The Grant still couldn't maneuver that well," asked Enid.

"Forward shield punishing capability: this forces an opponent into moving laterally at a distance and you can pot-shot at them continually while the Grant slowly turns. Anyone who starts a fight coming directly towards the front arc of the Grant will find themselves in the place where their main armament has just been put in danger for lack of a forward shield, at some distance from the Grant. All the Grant has to do is get a single lock from its forward section at distance and that is more damage coming the way of an opponent and if you are slowly retreating, forcing your opponent to expend energy to catch up they will sooner or later be forced to dash in with whatever they have charged and try to make it a close-in battle, it is all basic tactics, nothing fancy due to the accuracy rate of photon torpedoes at distance."

"Thank you, Simon, having never had to deal with starship combat tactics, it was something I had never learned about."

"Thats ok, Enid. It is pretty basic chatter for anyone who keeps track of the Fleet and those who watch it. Anyone can learn the basics, but the implementations are always the sticking point. That is the top 5 of things to do, but M-3/V will look to do multiple things at once, as we have seen in the simulations. One of the higher priorities is the impulse engines, and getting fuel for them, which is the point of the deep atmospheric work. As the gas will already be partially pressurized, final pressurizing is less energy intensive. A big bonus is the added coolant for the weapons systems as they can be cross-used for the impulse engines or intercoolers. Getting heat off of a fully active starship is a full time worry, and it is rare that actually having to get a ship warmed is a problem. M-3/V has been getting a weak but near constant trickle recharge on the ship's batteries just due to thermal differences in the deflector and shield arrays, it is tiny per hour, but makes a difference over a number of days. Lothar said its getting to be the norm of not expecting to see any change in stores, battery charges or other systems and seeing them slowly being recharged or gaining fuel. While we are doing all the heavy internal work, M-3/V is doing the power management, fuel acquisition and recharge work for a ship that wouldn't be getting anything if we depended on the Corps."

"Simon, beyond the basics of hydrogen, just how is M-3/V dealing with the more complex molecules necessary for some systems?"

"I've gotten a couple of messages from Lothar on that, Grace, and what M-3/V is doing is utilizing the various on-board fuel routing systems to do the sorting and then use some of the inactive units, notably the fusion units but also bulk storage chambers, to do the actual chemical mixing. Once set up the system requires little power and gains a slow but steady increase in some of the more complex fuels. We have tried to make everything on a starship compatible with some of the very basics, like hydrogen gas, so that even the impulse engines can run well on them. While the sub-1% volumetrically of non-hydrogen picked up is small by that scale, it goes a bit higher by mass, almost as much as 5% on some of the simpler molecules. There is a wide array of molecules that can be used in the basic chemistry for things like coolant and fuel, and M-3/V has an exacting and painstaking list of all of those and their formulations from our archives. Really, no Chief Engineer could remember all of that or any one individual, yet M-3/V has it all available and utilizes it. Lothar doesn't like running non-standard formulations through some of these routes, but M-3/V has the list of what can and can't be put through there and the chemical properties of each. So Lothar is out of luck and no one to complain to."

"Oh, that isn't good at all," said Patti.

"That is where things stand. As things are going the Grant has a bit longer on life support with the minimal amounts of fuel being picked up, which will allow things to continue on as-is for a few more days. There is too much to be done to reliably get in the deep atmospheric runs that are necessary to get the ship refueled to the point it can leave orbit. Most of that is due to the cable laying, which Brian and Theresa desperately want to get finished before subjecting the ship to the stresses of those runs. Which means that when Enid gets there with M-4, those still will not have happened and the fun of bringing up the M-4/V will be on those on the Grant. By then all the cable should be down and in-place, hull quick links put in place between the dorsal connector and saucer, and all the loose equipment picked up. Then M-4/V gets to see what it thinks of where everything is."

"We all knew it would be a lot of work there," said Roger, "just no one expected so much of the basics that would need to be put in place."

"It is a long list," Enid said, "but everyone has worked to get it done quickly and safely, and no one could ask for more. L'Tira, for those crew on the welding teams, make sure they get my compliments and the normal outfit."

"Sure, Enid! They will love that," she said smiling deeply.

"Thank you, Simon. Kathy, Roger, Patti? How is M-4 coming along?"

Kathy stood up, minimizing the system display of Simon and putting up the system overview of M-4.

"As you know the M-4 is an advance over M-3 in its engram associated elements, and the areas where those are stored are now well identified by having a similar outlay to M-3 which was a major step from M-2 on the multitronic side. M-4 contains a M-2 layout for its physical dynamic interface area and a larger suite of engrams in the multitronic area to interface with that M-2 section. We think that Richard Daystrom was confronting the problem of requiring more immediate computing capacity that has functional nodes in close proximity to each other on the multitronic side. M-4 is actually reclaiming programming routines that M-3 had put into a ships computer system and implementing them on-board. Richard Daystrom knew he was having to figure out how to deal with the limits of multitronic systems, which the M-1 and 2 systems had attempted to bypass. Those systems were seen as necessary for the more rigid coding structures involved in decision making. With M-4 there is less 'leak-over' into the shared memory module area and a higher dependence upon conventional software code."

"Was that to speed up M-4's operations?" asked Grace.

"That was part of it, and Roger can go over the node shortening plot of M-4 as it was and how it looks as part of the M-4/V system. We think that Richard Daystrom wanted to not only speed up the M-4 system and give it more capacity with that speed, but would be laying a foundation for a fully independent computer control system with the entire M-Series array installed. While the multitronic side of what we think the final array will look like would not have the full computational power of the total ship-board system core/storage and networked nodes, it would have enough to cope with all of the decision making tasks and interfacing with all the critical elements of starships. In someways he was replacing the arithmetic expansion limitations with the log-based expansion limitations of the memory module system. That would allow relatively small additions to have capability out of proportion with their amount. In that he would also hide what, to outsiders, would be an inconsequential increase in memory modules by increasing the size of the multitronic load. Really they are both necessary, and the balance had to be struck on the project side to make a functional self-contained unit, and on the overall M-Series concept which was based on those things he kept out of sight. This would have some practical consequences for M-4 and M-5 as standalone units, however, as they would have far more multitronic engram-based code that would essentially need to find ways to interface with a starship as the M-2 parts of the system could not do so as a sub-system. That means that both the ability to have a living knowledge of a starship and have an emotions based system to stabilize higher thought are highly degraded in M-4 and completely inadequate in M-5. I think Roger of Patti can talk of that a bit better than I can, but let me see that at this point I can see that Richard Daystrom had foreseen this at the start of the M-Series, the need to get a single operative control system even with its problems, which may not have been fully weighed by him."

"His mental problems were playing into that by M-4, then?" asked Simon.

"Yes, as we had talked about, earlier, M-4 starts to show the slight distance from its emotions that cause it to utilize on-board memory and control systems and not those of the memory module system it has. Its memory problems are directly attributable to that. I can't really say what his thinking was like or judge Richard Daystrom as a man, but his work was suffering as he did those things necessary to get the final parts of the overall system stood-up as standalone units. Patti?"

"Thank you, Kathy. It is very difficult to look into the mind of a man now dead, Simon. His works do demonstrate some of the same problems of his own, beyond the use of more generalized engrams, his standalone M-units become a reflection of his mental state and his central obsession for secrecy combined with paranoia and possible schizophrenia. M-4 moves away from the close connection with the memory module system and attempts to use the known capabilities to give a reinforced sense of 'self'. Outside of the M-Variant that was a near-final attempt that nearly worked, but contained the storage and processing limitations of still needing exterior systems to augment it. That was not unbalancing on its own, but couldn't continue to work without heavy reliance on outside memory systems which would finally lock the system up. What we have seen with the unit as part of an M-4/V, however, is that the sense of 'self' moves from the simple forms of behavior seen in M-3/V. These are not how the ship is run, as the M-2/V heart of the system does that, although with much greater depth with the equivalent of two more M-2 units put into play. That capacity allows for more cross-linking of paths between all the units, and comes very close to how we experience our own bodies as a natural and fully integrated part of our conscious thoughts. M-4/V loses some of the trepidation of the learning reliant M-3/V but tempers that with the engrams given it. Personality traits showing up in M-3/V get reinforced when they accord with the engrams and somewhat downplayed when they do not. While as a standalone M-4 describes its state and that of the simulated ship in very dry terms, M-4/V puts emotional tone, tenor and content into its description beyond what M-3/V has done."

"Patti, just what is the extent of that in comparison to humans or humanoids?" asked Enid.

"That is difficult, beyond just observations. At some point the observer does have subjective feelings and emotions and I'm no different."

"We all do, Patti. My observations of the Canthris had to detach from my emotions to a point, but those feelings and possible insights I still recorded as part of the record. Any state of awe, shock or admiration I had to put down so that later analysts, and even my own later reviews, would allow for compensation for my emotions."

Patti smiled, "It is standard practice, and has been for over a century, but the basics still come through of trying to do it as dryly as possible without involvement. Anyone in the psyche fields needs that foremost to understand what they are looking at and then see how it is influencing them as observers. I'm moving from that detached view, Enid, and it is due to the compelling nature of what I'm seeing and experiencing. This work is still, to me, on the 'unknown side' so I can treat it as something outside the realm of the normal. Richard Daystrom, no matter what his mental state, intended to make this fully integrated with the normal human state and not into some dry, mechanical phenomena. It is a shock to expect something extraordinary and to have the ordinariness of how M-4/V responds hit home emotionally."

"Yes," said the Group Lead,"without emotions for self you cannot become part of that shared understanding. It is unlike anything we have heard of until this point in time on this project."

"It is difficult working with M-4/V," said the Cybernetics Specialist,"as it is directed as Patti DuBois has said, towards humans. I have talked with M-4/V about this and see that some basic understanding between Gorns and M-Series might be accomplished with additional equipment."

"Really?" asked Enid,"What are you thinking of?"

"Enid Daystrom, M-4/V lacks basic understanding of how to interface with Gorns. It has suggested an additional M-1 unit that can be trained to understand us natively without the need for a Universal Translator."

"I don't see how that would hurt the arrangement. Roger, any thoughts?"

Roger Arrivan looked at the Gorns and then Enid, "That is a great idea, Enid. Actually, something like that would be far better than a Universal Translator once it has had time to learn language distinctions and some of the things it conveys. It is an excellent suggestion, and depending on how long it takes to get a unit trained should be relatively quick. Integration with other M-Series clusters may be an issue if it is done standalone, so that necessary information and interfaces don't get lost in the integration. That is the big problem when a cluster brings a new unit into it - the need for clearing out previous datastores."

"Maybe an M-3 might be the better way to go through it?" asked Grace.

"How do you figure that?"

"An M-3 uses the Heisenberg compensator to stabilize its programming routines on both the memory module and multitronic systems. As a standalone unit if what we think about how the memory modules work is correct, then the M-3 can be seen as a complex interface system to be attached to a ship and one that works only with Gorns. The entire M-Variant cluster should recognize this and even while it changes over some of the memory module programming, it will retain its multitronic side and interfaces and what they expect to work with. An M-3 added to a cluster like that will then add conscious knowledge of how to communicate with Gorns, beyond what an M-1 or M-2 can do. The compensator will keep the code relatively intact for those areas necessary in the memory module system while allowing its native areas to establish integration with the rest of a cluster, and the multitronic code will be kept almost entirely intact until that integration happens and it becomes an integral part of the system. Then it migrates as well, until that becomes part of the distributed information store for it."

"That is an aspect we had not thought of, Grace D'gorna," said the Systems Specialist,"it works in accordance with the M-Series structure and uses it very well."

"Will it cause problems being unintegrated to start with?" asked the Cybernetics Specialist.

Roger was obviously thinking about this and his face a measure of internal concentration.

"I don't think so," said Roger, "as an M-3 that is not connected to a larger system it will be approaching communicating with Gorns as its system to learn. That is not an integral part of ship hardware, so integration into a cluster should not disorient it like two different M-Series with the same derived code would have without moderating units amongst them. That M-3 will be a system to be integrated with, not one that is trying to duplicate structure from an unconnected source like the interference problem previously seen. From what we have seen the cluster system is modular, and even with an M-4/V there is some excess capacity in it. The only problem is time to train a unit and test the integration. We can set up a Universal Translator to help that with the understanding it is not providing emotional and other mental context or even a good translation. M-3 should be able to take it from there once it understands that Gorns are the system it needs to work with. We may have to add in some engrams to shift it away from a ship focus to a personnel focus for particular personnel. That shouldn't take long to integrate and test. After that it is time, maybe a day or two at the most of learning."

"We can afford a day or two, Roger. This is very important. Do it right." said Enid.

Roger nodded, thinking.

"It is very rough on the code, so I'll contact Matthew on it, he is good at the engram patching. Seems to have a feel for it," he said referring to a Cadet who was currently doing Battle Damage Analysis.

Enid had been surprised enough throughout the project so that this shouldn't have been a great surprise. Certainly her understanding of sentience, and she was no specialist, and the malleability of it during learning phases should mean a wide adaptability when applied to a computing platform that had those same traits. And yet the problem of the Universal Translator offering, at best, a 'rough and ready' immediate translation and missing the nuances of language form was something that had not been solved for nearly two centuries of linguistic analysis. The depth and scope of nuances, intonation and such things as body movement from minor facial muscles to larger limb placement had all stifled the creation of a good Translator. It would need far more flexibility than current cybernetic systems had. And yet the M-Series might solve the final key to that puzzle being adaptable, self-correcting and able to analyze a wide array of inputs simultaneously and interpret them as a whole. The actual scope of what Richard Daystrom had been working towards still had not fully registered, and it might take decades to register.

Kathy had nodded to Roger, "I think we are basically done with the engram work on M-5, unless Patti has anything else to add in?"

Patti shook her head in the negative.

"Nothing that I can think of. The amount of engrams we have in M-5 is pretty much what can be done with multitronic systems. Some of that will slowly get picked up by other units and in the memory module area, so the full load won't rest just with M-5 but be spread out over the Variant cluster. Matthew should have time to work on an M-3 unit as it wouldn't need much in the way of patching, just some generalization of input areas and a somewhat different variety of interpretive engrams concentrating on speech and cognitive interpretation, which it can do as a standalone unit."

"Lets see if we can get it into the M-4/V cluster," said Kathy.

"That looks good, then, Roger. If it can be put into the M-4/V system, then it would be worth a day or two of slippage, although Lothar will complain. If not we can go without, and just use Universals until the M-5/V is ready to bring on-board the Grant."

"Ok, Enid, it really is an exciting area and a bit closer to my background," Roger said.

"Roger, your background hasn't covered a tenth of what you've had to handle and oversee, yet you have done an excellent job," Enid said.

"I've been far too busy to notice," he said smiling.

She smiled in return, "I've noticed. Still, if you can get something workable in place in a day or two, then it is worth waiting for integration tests. If not, then we can do without, so keep me updated and let me know once you've had a chance to consult with Matthew and get some help from the Gorns on that for the linguistic side."

"It will be a pleasure to help," said the Cultural Specialist,"the Universal Translator leaves much to be desired."

"Yes, it does. Roger if there is nothing else?"

"Nothing that I can think of."

"Patti? Kathy?"

"I think we are done for now, Enid. M-5/V stand-up with full new engrams and final integration of M-4/V for later in the week, say three or four days. M-5/V for similar routine if all goes as smoothly as it has for M-4/V by middle of next week or late next week." said Kathy.

"Then that will be the basics of the project. I know many of you have other work that has been somewhat neglected and need to get back to it. If you need to leave for that, but can remain 'on-call' for problems, I would appreciate it," Enid said looking over the group. "Most of the final work will be on the Grant and when M-5/V gets there, it will be final testing and bringing the Grant to its new home, here at the Museum. Let us hope everything goes as scheduled. I plan to ride back with the Grant at this point and hope for a final meeting and saying good-bye to all of you and working with Patti, Grace, Lothar, Enak and whoever else can spare some time for editing our final reports and getting them ready for putting out on the science publication system. Some of that will be with the Corps, so it will lag the wrap-up of the project by a few months, I expect."

Simon smiled, "Enid, you've shaken things up far more than I ever expected."

"Same here," said Grace,"this has been an amazingly fluid project. We do have good staff compatibility here, but normally we have inter-departmental problems that keep things from smoothing out for weeks at a time until the bureaucracy is signed off. This has been a real treat, Enid."

"Thank you. I will be setting time aside for personal good-byes when I get back. There is still work to do between now and then, and soon we will see if my great grandfather's full vision of the M-Series can live up to his expectations of it. There are times when I have felt his presence here, working with us as we retraced his steps. As a service to my family, I owe you all a debt of gratitude that cannot be easily expressed. Thank you for helping some of that dark legacy being lifted and giving us some of the final good of Richard Daystrom's final creation."

"That will bring this eighth meeting of the M-5 project to a close. My deepest thanks to you all."

As the meeting broke up Enid turned to L'Tira.

"Game of zero-g handball?" Enid asked.

"Ah, sure, Enid. Glad to work out after meetings like this."

"Good, I figure we can get in at least a good hour before I get the call."

"The call?"

Enid smiled and nodded.

"Put yourself in the positions of the five from Upper Echelons on the team and ask yourself exactly what you would do in their position, learning that there is a low but civilization ending threat that a hostile, non-diplomacy oriented technic group could show up at any moment and that the Federation is under-prepared by a factor of, oh... what? 10,000? And that we have made more progress in a few days of working with the Gorns than the entire Diplomatic Corps has in nearly three generations. What would you do in that position?"

L'Tira looked at Enid, obviously in thought. Enid lifted her tricorder and started walking out of the room and L'Tira picked up her few essentials and followed. They spoke in low tones.

"Another long meeting... threats, cajoling, and some pleading to let them step in... ahh... Enid wouldn't that be wise at this point?"

"Hmmm... well we haven't known about the threat for the entire recorded history of any race in the Federation, so another few weeks won't matter all that much, I suspect, but could be wrong. As for the rest, and even including that, trying to back out on your word to me and your obligations will not put you in a good place and those five have that to deal with. And who else in the Federation has a working relationship with the Gorns outside of diplomatic niceties?"

"But, Enid, they will have a point."

"Yes, they will. And I will ask, quite simply, who it was, in particular that got this information for them and why they are looking to ruin that source of information by crossing her. Plus I can point out that there are some minor things they can do that can immediately help in the long term for survival that they really shouldn't need to ask me about."

"There is?" L'Tira asked.

Enid nodded. They had reached a far turbolift and Enid had called it. When it arrived they stepped in and she whispered 'Rec Area' as the doors closed.

"Neutral hydrogen gas cloud observation, investigations into sub-space interference, and maybe starting to beef up the projected capital needs on ship construction a few years out. Once they start to realize the scale of what needs to be done, a few, simple changes into the expenditures column can be justified by what happened to the Swift. Then they can look all wise and prudent when they start letting slip, on the sly, where I won't hear, to various members of the Council that there may be a real large and Federation-wide threat that we really should be addressing if we can keep the thing together that long."

"They will do that?"

"Of course they will, L'Tira. And I will point out that I really did suggest that T'Sau become a regular on the team so that I could ensure that such things had an orderly release to them and through good and secure channels. But that he was too busy to do that."

The turbolift doors opened into the hall leading to the recreation area and they headed into the corridor aiming for the changing rooms after ensuring that a court had been set aside for them.

"Enid, they won't like that."

Enid Daystrom nodded as they entered.

"Well, two won't like it, two will understand and the last will say 'I told you so'. You just have to figure out which two go with which on any one subject."

She put her palm to a locker assigned to her and she started stripping her uniform off.

"Ok, at least an hour of this and lets get our minds off of the unpleasantness to come."

L'Tira nodded.

"I'll spot you three points, Enid."

Enid nodded her head negatively.

"Its even between us now, L'Tira. Time to play hard."

L'Tira gave a toothy, felonid smile.

"You don't mind losing, Enid. I like that."

"Keeps me honest, L'Tira. I can't do it all, but I will have fun trying... and just how did you learn to play so well?"

"It was my favorite thing to play once my father joined the Fleet, Enid. Got to play with a lot of other children at the base he was assigned to."

Enid nodded, hanging her jacket up.

"Best 2 out of 3?"

"You actually expect to win one?"

"No, but we need the workout."

"You're on!"

* * *

"Well, M-3, its like this: we are coming down to the situation where we can actually get a deep atmospheric run in. The final cable work at the dorsal area is being locked down, all comms and other systems now can function across all decks if we had enough energy, and you are slowly getting the fuel for that on the light runs. How is your status and what do you feel about it?"

The M-3/V console looked like a standard computer console for its era, although not as large as an M-5 unit's.

"Lothar, we have been over this before. I've sent normal test and evaluation signals system-wide and my systems are integrating the rest of the ship into my thought structure. I can tell the ship is structurally sound, but there is no way to examine every vent, every structural member or every system before going in as that energy expenditure would make it impossible to do the run. I put all critical and necessary systems at 80% nominal once the run starts and I can begin the atmospheric processing, and then I will have an increasing energy budget. That puts the risk of something critical failing at 1 in 5. By what my programming gives me, that is a larger than moderate risk to the ship and I can't do that without authorization."

"Nothing has changed those odds?"

"No, Lothar. They have stabilized at that level. I can only go by the records of how Star Fleet's vessels have handled given the type of work done on the Grant, and there aren't many precedents for it. And none for a base Republic Class ship upgraded multiple times and then having parts of the superstructure changed. I do not have the experience to do better. Lothar, this is something I can't judge properly."

Lothar nodded. He was in command of the vessel, highest ranking member here, put in charge by Captain Bartholomew, and had been over as much of the ship as he could get through, which was all the critical accessways, Jeffries tubes, and examination of the superstructure. He had been thinking on this for a few days, talked it over with everyone and was coming to much the same conclusion as M-3/V.

There was just so much that could go wrong on a starship that it wasn't funny. And he had seen a number of ships while in active service, and what could go wrong as part of his Museum restoration work.

"Starships weren't designed to do this sort of thing." He started, more in low tones above a whisper than normal speech.

"Even though the Fleet has tried to design in safeguards for just about everything you can think of, no one has done something like this. Our biggest risk is atmospheric pressure on the hull: it isn't made for this kind of work, period. The solution is to equalize pressure internal/external by letting the Jovian atmosphere into the ship and that is a pretty nasty chemical mix for 'mostly hydrogen'. We will have to get down to suits and be in the locked down shuttlecraft as that is the only thing made for this sort of work, which means that you will have total control of the ship without any help. We can't afford any loose oxygen running around and causing problems, and even armored space suits will not let us out at the maximum pressure zone. We are sure to overlook something in all of this, even after we have put extra seals into place or sprayed on coatings to equipment that can be harmed by that chemical mix. I hope we can keep that exposure to a small period of time to get below the cloud deck and to that zone of hydrogen and helium gas and out of the range of liquid for them. The cloud deck is a reducing mix and that is worrying as we don't know exactly how all the materials on the ship will behave to it under pressure and varying temperature. Actually I was impressed on how little of that sealing and coating there was to do, still much of it is in vital areas and we aren't finished yet. We have done what we can do there so far and another shift should do it. We won't factor in everything, and I know you can't, either."

"Yes, that is why I keep coming up with the percentages on this, Lothar. The cloud deck offers the best opportunity for the complex chemicals for various systems, but the main purpose is hydrogen. I can't get any better estimation on those percentages as the Federation still hasn't done enough work on gas giants like Jupiter, as the concentration has been on the hot giants of other star systems."

"Same here. Now I have seen some pretty abused ships in my life, that was part of the problem with the Athens. She had been so abused by having to do anti-pirate work that she had seen not only atmospheric work but once even had to go through a liquid carbon dioxide moon. The hull damage from that was not pretty, let me tell you. Even after replacing some of the major structural members, I still wouldn't trust her for more than low warp work and we still find small metal shards falling off structural members today. The Grant started with a stronger base of construction and the Corps adding in the superstructure work for the segmented warp and actually made some improvements, for all the blasted idiocy of it. So even if you had to jettison the saucer and the nacelles got ripped off, the Engineering hull would still have its thrusters and be able to get to a stable orbit coming out of the run. Just have to stay out of the liquid transition zone and keep an eye on temperatures and pressures."

M-3 was quiet.

"Could it really go that far, Lothar?" it asked very softly.

"Yes, but that is low, low probability, less than 2% for total ship loss, maybe, say 8% for critical and massive damage."

"I hadn't.... placed it that high, Lothar." M-3 spoke softly, tentatively.

"Good! Glad for the optimism and trust in the Corps. The operational side of the Fleet tends to abuse the hell out of ships - I know, I was part of that and know why we do it, and the Grant is no different for that. I've looked at the service record and probably have a better idea of what goes on than you do on that score. It isn't pretty and the long blank areas of the last few decades point to basic maintenance that hasn't been done. Still, Theresa, Brian and Enak, plus the welding teams have given high marks on superstructure. And if I brought a naked Engineering hull out of this, well, I wouldn't be here for too much longer, let me say that. 'Ripped a new one' is the ancient term and it still applies."

"Then perhaps we shouldn't..."

"On the other hand there is Corps. They could have brought more fuel with them, I've seen the manifests, and they didn't. They left the Grant as it was so they would have to come in and 'save the day'. In a few months. Bastards."

"They did?"

"Yes, they want big, high marks for coming and getting the Grant and pulling it out and getting some nice publicity to go with the Daystrom name. And this after Enid brought them in on things for the review cycle of the project, and first crack at Fleet implementation once we are done. They had time to do things, maybe not much but enough. Blaming SFHQ for your non-use of local resources doesn't wash." Lothar sat back in one of the old style seats that was in Engineering, thinking.

"You know Richard Daystrom's problem was caused by this sort of crap, and I'm getting to see why he got to where he did. If they delay the Grant, they delay final work, they delay publication and they get extreme credit for everyone else's work. Really, they should know better."

"I hadn't... people actually do that sort of thing, Lothar?"

"Damned right they do, M-3! So waiting and letting you and M-4/V and M-5/V sit here in orbit just slowly refueling until the Corps decides to pick up its end of things, well that just doesn't sit right. We both know the numbers and, short of getting a phaser bank up and running and cutting some ice out of a moon and tractoring it out, there is no way the Grant will get out without an atmospheric run that gets to some pretty high pressures."

"Its not really... sabotage...is it?"

"No, its gloryhounding and it can be worse than any sabotage. And, you know, I'm not going to let that happen to another Daystrom."

"I... Enid?"

"Yeah, she would take it in stride. Pretty sure that when she dies she will then start to tell Death about how it hasn't been doing its job right and give it pointers. Maybe enough to send her back... if she doesn't storm heaven on her own, that is. She knows what happened to her great grandfather and why. I don't think the Fleet should try to do that to another Daystrom. I don't think we would survive the encounter. Hell, I would join her on that!"

"I... yes... her insight has helped me, Lothar."

"You, me and just about everyone who has been involved in this, M-3. So going the safe route isn't what I want to do, as it will be far more costly once she figures it out. That means an atmospheric run. And if we have to do it, I do NOT want her on the Grant when it happens. She is more than willing to do it. Anyone who knows what a Canthris can do and uses a live one for target practice is more than used to the concept that 'hey, this might kill me, but it still has to be done'. I re-read the bio-report and engineering review of her Exmar 2 work. She is not going to face an unnecessary risk because I have misgivings and might lose some rank and spend a decade in Fleet prison for doing extreme violence to a ship. I place major strucural failure at 1 in 20 and the Engineering hull would still survive that on thrusters and orbital velocity. And if we have to do it, best get it done now."

"You are changing the risk parameters, Lothar?"

He nodded, leaned forward towards the M-3 console and spoke up.

"Yes. So ordered. One more light run to give us time to secure the last of the loose junk and worry over what we've done one last time, then its suits and evacuate the engineering decks and get to the shuttle."

"I understand, thank you, Lothar. I feel as you do but don't... it isn't my position to decide that."

"That's my job, M-3. Let everyone know ship needs for next shift. Are there any last reports I need to be aware of?"

"You have the record of the last meeting of the project. Beyond that there is a build up of charge in the sulfur ring in Io's orbit, and some other charged gases building up between the orbits of other moons. Most of it is sulfur, some ammonia and water vapor. It is a very complex system to be in, Lothar."

"Uh-huh. Anything to be worried about?"

"The levels of charge are slightly higher than normal, and rising a bit faster than usual for the Jovian system, but not by more than 0.25 sigma."

"Nothing to worry about, then. Get us a course plotted through the atmosphere and take some care on the cloud banks as there are some very bad thermoclines there. We will probably go from frying pan to freezer a few times and that won't help things."

"I will, Lothar. I will try to avoid the small white spot storm areas and the upwellings/plungings areas."

"Ok, then. That puts us a bit over an orbit and a quarter away. Minus 1.25 orbits. About, what, 30 hours?"

"Yes, nearly 30 hours to atmospheric descent."

"So ordered. Get us a course, M-3. Lay it in and execute."

"As ordered, Lothar."

The thrusters changed the trim of the Grant slightly, with this run being the lowest of the high atmosphere runs and the next being the deep atmosphere run. Soon the deflectors would be on, and final check-out begin.

Lothar touched the intercom on his chest.

"We will begin a deep atmosphere run in 30 hours, M-3/V has set the timing so key that up for yourselves. I want everyone to take 2 hours to finish up what you are doing and call it quits for the shift. Everyone gets 8 hours of rest, save for emergencies. After that will be a 10 hour shift and we will be doing the final sealing, spraying, securing and opening of jammed doors that will be necessary to get the Jovian atmosphere to flow through the ship. M-3/V should have a list of those. I know we have one turbolift stuck in mid-shaft in the saucer section and that needs to be moved out and put into a dead-end like the rest of them. Also all the exterior vent servos need a check-out, at least the large ones over 1 square meter, as they are so rarely used on a normal basis that most ships can't even open them if they had to. After that it is 8 hours of rest, mandatory, then 2 hours to move to the shuttle. If it is critical to you and can be damaged by the atmosphere and extreme heat and cold, and can't be taken with you, it must be protected. Under bed storage should do it in quarters and closets without vents otherwise. Full armor suits for everyone as I'll be upping the internal shuttle pressure of the shuttle as we go down to help give us some more leeway on our course. Then the fun begins of figuring out what we missed when we get out. Two hours, everyone, then the hard work begins next shift. Lothar, out."

"I hadn't thought... that last will help with the shuttle, Lothar. I can take the ship down to some of the ratings for the fuel containment system."

"Yeah, thought it would help. But friction will not be nice to you. Probably need earplugs and active compensation for everyone. You will be opening the shuttlebay doors, right?"

"Yes, Lothar, the pressure will build up worse there but the release will help in maneuvering. I will be using the louvers for attitude control throughout, until there is enough of the right mixture for thrusters."

"I don't want to know how much you are going to abuse the Grant ahead of time, M-3. You can give me a laundry list once we are done, as I am sure there will be a lot of work to do."

"Thank you, Lothar. I will worry about it for you."

"You do that!" Lothar smiled as he said that.

"Ok, I've got work to do. Get a list of all the critical vents, conduits, piping and infrastructure you need to have examined. A nice work list once we get up should do, though I doubt anyone will sleep well, I want good and solid work done by people who are not exhausted."

"I will, Lothar."

"I might as well head to the saucer and see about that turbolift. Probably just vacuum welded to its guide tracks," he picked up a counterbalanced sledgehammer,"nothing a bit of banging would hurt."

* * *

Enid and L'Tira were cooling down, after showering and changing clothes, at the small cafeteria at the recreation area. Enid had some form of iced liquid, while L'Tira had a protein enriched cold drink in a portable container. Enid was slipping the water flasks she normally carried into her jacket when Capt. Bartholomew showed up. He was wearing the team jacket over his normal uniform.

"Mind if I join you two?"

"Go right ahead, Captain," Enid said, "we are just cooling down after some exercise."

He smiled and nodded.

"Sorry I couldn't make the meeting, Enid. Bureaucracy and 'Rank Hath Its Responsibilities' which goes with the other RHIP for the privileges. While you two were here I was reviewing the meeting and know what is coming. You are pressing the buttons at SFC pretty well... and even at SFHQ, not to speak of the Council."

Enid arched an eyebrow at L'Tira who was calmly sipping her drink through a straw, which was a wonderful invention her species loved the moment they saw it. So simple and useful!

Enid stowed the last of her flasks in the jacket and slung it over the back of the chair, then sipped her iced tea while sitting back, looking at the Captain.

"Captain, you know that I didn't ask for this job? Getting handed title to a company that exists in a few databanks and scraps of paper and then having to come and sort out an issue that should have been done decades ago was not in my career plan. Not in any plan of mine, but I accepted the responsibility when I reached majority and agreed that, if the time came, I would carry it through. Really I had expected a very cut-and-dried overview, a report backing up all the documents and just a bit of an idea of what it was my great grandfather had sought in this project with what really went wrong with M-5. He had the pull to get all of that into place, not me. Have I told you what his last coherent words were, as his brain's neural structure decayed while still leaving a healthy body, though in early old age?"

"No you haven't, Enid. What were they?"

"It is something we in the family know, given to us by my great grandmother who was at his side in those final days and she told my grandfather and his children, and he told my father, my mother and me: 'Save M-5. It was not to blame.' She couldn't, of course, and when all the inquiries were done the Fleet had bottled up everything under its Security. She died passing that on, and that got passed to me. I expected that I would be giving the legacy to one of Karl's children on the 'oldest of the next generation' basis. That would have been in 5 or 6 years, and I've only given him a couple of the stories that I have from the family. And the expectation that, like clockwork, every two years he would file a polite inquiry to the Fleet just as I have been doing to show that we have continued interest that gives us claim to the work. You've read the work we've done, Captain. You can decide for yourself if I am justified in a bit of button-pushing."

Captain Bartholomew nodded and sat back.

"Do you know what my command was before coming to the Museum?"

Enid looked at him, smiled, "No, I don't, Captain. What was it?"

"I was Commander of a three ship Frigate Squadron doing border enforcement along the Romulan Neutral Zone. Normally we coordinate that with a number of smaller system and Policing vessels and one or two fast intercept ships. Since the discovery of the Cloaking Device the Federation has deployed one of the thickest and most extensive arrays of motion and energy sensors along the border and above and below the plane of the Galaxy by up to a hundred light years. Patrol there is something called a game of 'find the cloaked ship, if its there'. Unlike other tours, that is a 3 year tour for any crewmember as it is a nerve wracking experience. It gets really bad where Klingon and Tholian space adjoin the area in the outer spiral and Gorn space adjoins it on the inner. Plus the Klingons took up the thing, so, even on friendlier terms with them, actually finding a cloaked ship doesn't mean that it will be a Romulan ship. The ship's crews are constantly on edge peering into sensor read-outs from the ship, the other ships in the squadron and from the sensor web. And everyone dreads the day that someone missed something and a Romulan battlecruiser suddenly de-cloaks with weapons charged. You expect that of every hour of every day of your entire three years there."

L'Tira was nodding, she knew the types of duty stations that one could get assigned to in the Fleet. Rarely were they glamorous, high visibility or even somewhat safe. They were all necessary, however, to protect civil transport and ensure that hostile governments or groups did not erode the structure of the Federation. A stop-over duty station at the Museum was the Fleet's way of getting some newly minted Fleet members to understand what it was the Fleet was about, so they could spread that knowledge and wisdom into the Fleet.

Smiling slightly, Enid nodded.

"The predators of the night never announce their presence, save for sudden appearance of tooth and claw, bloody by nature. Are you the hunter or hunted? Was that one you found an adult or a juvenile with the rest of its pack nearby looking for it? Did you set the sensors up right? Sleep lightly to save yourself from death in the night? That is hard duty for a few weeks, Captain, and three years must be very hard on a Captain and crew."

"It is, Enid. There are a few and select crews that thrive on it, and they get the fast intercept ships. Those ships are made to be some of the fastest to go from cold start to full warp drive without a controlled detonation in the warp core. Mostly they run on APUs and just wait, interpreting their own sensors and that of the sensor web looking for tiny variations that automated systems miss. The USS Swift was one of those, converted to scientific work, and very, very few space phenomena can overhaul one before it can get up to warp speed capacity. That was an all-volunteer crew, going into situations where the unknown, even close to the home sectors in the home quadrant. Nothing normal would catch them by surprise, even a de-cloaking Romulan Dreadnought would still leave time for warning and a slim possibility of escape - but the ship, itself, would be destroyed. What happened is frightening, Enid. If those fast-intercept ships with their heavily reinforced sensor arrays could not see or stop or run from what took the crew of the Swift, then there is something far, far more dangerous than Borg or malignant energy beings around in our neighborhood of space. Even the sub-space sensors would have recorded something, but I'm coming to think that our knowledge of sub-space and its perils haven't led us to the ability to actually probe it well. The Gorns brought us that information, Enid. We have had a very few incidents like this in the past, and no one could figure them out. You know this is passing beyond Admiral Scott, Commodores Mirak and Rafiq, T'sau and Mr. Umak right?"

Enid nodded, "Yes, Captain. I can't deny this is a threat, perhaps to the Federation, but let me ask you: do you know of Earth and its super-volcanic complexes?"

"Yes, I've heard of them. What do they have to do with this?"

"We know they erupt infrequently, and that any given day there is only the slimmest of chances that anything may build up in one to an eruption. It is a certainty that over tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of years, that one will erupt. The great complex in Yellowstone has been slowly shifting for centuries, and we have probed it, scanned it, set up deep sensor arrays, examined it and what has been our solution to it, after nearly 500 years of doing that?"

Captain Bartholomew sat back, looked at Enid, L'Tira and back.

"Nothing," he said quietly,"we can't control how Earth will do things, not at that scale. Trying to relieve pressure gives an opening to eruption, so that idea to 'laser lance' the complex was shelved. Similarly phasers. Photon torpedo bored tunnels. Geothermal cooling systems. Everything we have learned says that if we do something, the chances of making the immediate situation far worse on the scale of an entire planet are more than slim... or moderate."

"And yet it will erupt, someday. What have we done?"

"A series of transporter systems to shift people to other continents, then to orbiting bases or the Lunar bases."

"The entire planet will become hostile to our technic civilization for centuries, Captain. We don't have the terraforming skills to change that. We don't have the knowledge base to understand all the wide varieties of interactions that will take place when we try something. For all of our computational power, use of warp drive, horrific weapons of destruction, we cannot stop a planet set on its course. I've walked in Yellowstone knowing full well that 'today might be the day', just as others have for centuries. And it might go like this for further centuries, Captain. Or go even as we speak. There is only one people that know how to do this, Captain. They are the Gorns. For the last century or so they saw little need to talk with us as we are a fleeting life form to them. And yet they have 'fully utilized' entire planetary systems around stars, all the way out to cometary clouds a light year or more from the central star of a system. And they fear the threats of sub-space, after seeing Empires more complex, more technically capable and more powerful than all we have today pass away into dust because of that threat come manifest. Do I know this is punching the buttons of the Fleet and the Council? Yes. And I will continue to do the right thing as I see it, Captain. We will survive a few more weeks without letting this be more widely known... and no 'security' clause in any charter of the Federation can stop the publicizing of a threat to all peoples of the Federation. That threat might come manifest tomorrow, in which case we have little we can do. Even 10 years cannot start the type of program at the scale needed to address this. And in that scale a few weeks don't matter. And if the Gorns have been seeing history flow around them as they slowly expand in the safest manner they know, for a few billions of years, a few weeks aren't that much at all compared to their steadfast safety. This is not a 'crisis' save when it manifests. And then we need to be prepared, not frightened. So while they will let word leak out, the orderly release of information to the scientific communities and the public will serve all of us much better than high members of the Council screaming for action now, today, when the threat is one that cannot be safely understood now and today. A 'cure' like that is something that will set us on each other inside the Federation, which would be worse than the threat if it does come tomorrow or in a decade... on the ten thousand year scale it may matter less, but then our cultures will not have survived this test and a new one will have to deal with it."

Captain Bartholomew smirked, "Watching, waiting, preparing and never knowing if that next sensor scan will be the enemy cloaked ship, or just something setting the sensor off. That is very tough on crews. Can we survive that as the Federation?"

"We are going to find out, aren't we?"

"The other mayflies have died. Are we as they are?" asked L'Tira softly. This was a chilling discussion to hear and what the Captain and Enid Daystrom had laid out was... what it was.

"If we adapt slowly, we will survive. With help, L'Tira. I am blessed by being the great granddaughter of a man who sought safety for his fellow sentients through his work. It is a dream worth having. One worth taking up and working on, although it will never, ever, be finished. We can just see if we survive the tests handed to us by what happens. We may not like the Gorns, with that instinct against their form and kind and thought, and yet they recognize the threat and can reach out to us... to those they see as mayflies. Are we ungracious enough to think that we, who have had such short time, are so superior to them as to refuse? I won't, L'Tira, for that would betray the dream of Richard Daystrom and make my name far worse in history than his."

Captain Bartholomew nodded.

"The Fleet will back that. It is our duty to all of those we protect. Much of the Fleet has grown lax, even with the Cardassian conflict, and the Federation Council sees the Fleet as a tool to political ends. But the Old Families of the Fleet remember, Enid."

"How far back, Captain?" asked L'Tira.

"My family started at the Space Academy when it was in tents, L'Tira. And Zefram Cochrane taught warp theory and engineering. Rafiq goes back five generations, Mirak seven, Admiral Scott's few times great grandfather bunked with mine in the wilds, when clearing brush went side-by-side with learning the basics of how to build a starship. Lothar goes back that far, his ancestors running the equipment and taking time off to study during the night. Grace's family, from what we know, had a multi-great grandfather on the staff that designed the missile that the Phoenix rode on into space and they were teaching how to build starships, not having built much of a first one. Eloise Rafiq is about as young as you can get and consider yourself to be in the Second Families, those after the proper founding of the Federation. Mirak's just between and so First Families, though a generation on. We all quietly do our duties. Just like you do, L'Tira. We don't take to any spotlight, because it is our service that matters."

Enid slowly shook her head.

"I always wondered what kept the Fleet in line."

"You aren't the second Daystrom to have an impact on the Fleet, Enid." Captain Bartholomew said softly.


"After the collapse of the United States there was a commander in a missile base who kept his crew together and scavenged parts and food for years with that crew. He was Captain Leo Daystrom, USAF. He supplied the working missile to Zefram Cochrane before he died of heart failure. His crew made sure everyone was taught on how to launch it. To the First Families he is the brightest, shining star of the Fleet. Richard Daystrom's shadow is very light compared to that brightness, Enid. Very pale. Daystroms know duty and service to their fellow man, Enid. They always have."

Enid was floored. She had never heard of Leo Daystrom before in her life. Yes, Daystroms appear in history, but they were of the Scandinavian stock, not the mixed cultural heritage of her family. And yet... the time of Zefram Cochrane would be the point where that mixing would take place, or just before the natural disasters that took the life of civilization close to the brink, as they hit its most powerful nation time and again laying it and the whole of civilization low. That dream of a better world by freedom and liberty did not die, it just suffered a short relapse to be born afresh in the wake of First Contact.

"I have had to let other members of the First Families know, Enid. That is my duty to them."

"Good. I am not Leo Daystrom or Richard Daystrom, you have me to deal with, Captain Bartholomew, not my legacy save as I must carry out what is handed to me."

He smiled, "That's why I let Admiral Wilson know you needed a half-hour or so of rest after your handball game. He understands, Enid, just know he has his duties, also. He can be a real pain to work with, but he got to where he is by respect, not by cutting corners and stepping on toes. Ok, a few fights here and there, sure, but those are sometimes necessary, you know?"

L'Tira giggled slightly, "I don't have much of that problem, biology," and that was very true.

"I know, Captain. I dance the dance to avoid them, but never stand aside when I should stand firm. Most people don't expect that. All regret it." Enid said softly.

"Far more Leo than Richard," he said very softly.

"That is about five minutes left, Enid. You know where the comms section is."

"I do," she said standing up.

"Come on, L'Tira, I need you along to dragoon a Gorn away from whatever they are doing. We have a meeting to get to."

"Me? Why me?"

"Biology. Carnivores respect each other. They finally had to turn on the lawyers which is a big plus for civilization. Come on, we have a meeting to make, and if I have to throttle some people via sub-space I want lots of civilized teeth on my side."

L'Tira laughted as did the Captain. Then they left at a smooth trot turning into a run and jumping onto the gangway ladder, sliding down. Soon out of sight of the Captain.

"Though Leo never did anything like this from what I've heard... but he wasn't afraid, have to give him that."

He checked the time... sighed... staff meeting in ten minutes. Didn't those ever let up?

* * *

Enid, L'Tira, the Systems Specialist and Human Specialist arrived together at the communications room set aside for them. Enid opened it and ushered the others in, then closed the door and sealed the room. She went to the table, took the center seat and put her jacket on the chair back. The Gorns had fashioned a synthetic cross-piece in black instead of a jacket, which their frames where ill-suited to have. L'Tira wore the team vest and had brought snack-packs from the cafeteria as they had been in transit and distributed those as biology suited.

Enid keyed in the console which changed from its Museum logo to the Fleet logo then to the SFC logo. Then the 'encrypted data stream' flashed and the holographic display cleared. Seated at SFC was Admiral Scott, T'Sau and Eloise Rafiq.

"Admiral, T'Sau, Eloise, sorry I'm late by a few minutes, but I was cleaning up. You know L'Tira, and I have the Systems and Human Specialists from our Gorn team with us. I take it you have gone through our last M-5 meeting?"

Admiral Scott nodded.

"Thank you to those of the Gorn enclave who can attend, you are welcome friends of the Federation. It is good to see you Miss Daystrom and L'Tira. And to answer your question, we have examined the meeting three times over by now... the implications for the Federation are startling."

"That is mild, Admiral, and I do agree. Let me say that I do expect that each of you have taken some confidence in close staff on this and have also been in contact with your Corps element working on the review of our work. I will take anything more than that in a very dim light, Admiral."

Commodore Rafiq smiled, "We understand, Enid. I've had some talks with Mr. Umak and he has been far too delighted at the turn of events and his saying 'I told you so' is wearing thin, but he has been right so far. Yes, we can't turn our heads from this, but we recognize the larger responsibility of our Duty to the Federation."

"Indeed, Enid, there is nothing so disheartening as having logic dictated back to you by an overly happy Tellerite pointing out your own flawed assumptions. The Federation has been grossly negligent with the Gorn people with whom we share a common border and I have let the Director know that we have been remiss. My deepest apologies to the Gorns is in order and I hope they can be accepted."

"Yes," said the Human Specialist with the final 's' sound dragging just a bit,"our people understand some of the nature of other species and their faults. That of the Federation are not worse than many another civilization that has appeared in our history. We thank the Federation for sharing their knowledge with us and seek equivalent reciprocity in sharing some of our knowledge with you."

"It will be our pleasure to do so," said the Admiral.

"We would hope to understand this 'swarming' technic sub-space civilization more. As I understand it from the meeting, they have been gone an inordinately long period of time and yet you say that you have seen signs of their return. If I may, what are those signs?" asked Eloise.

"Their main sign is increasing ionic storm activity, stretching beyond neutral hydrogen and charged gas clouds and encompassing charge densities in systems with gas giants, non neutral clouds and stars of low radiant output. Large gas structures do some warping of sub-space in ways we do not understand, and those make easier transition points from sub-space for them and for those other life forms existing on the interface," that was from the Systems Specialist.

"Yes, Federation records and information we have taken from Romulans indicate that there is highly increased incidents of these happening over the last 3,000 years," said the Human Specialist., "this combined with sub-space wave interference marks passage of their ships or their presence. While they will sometimes come through such weak areas, they often scan them for useful materials."

"Do they take captives from normal space?" asked Admiral Scott.

"Missing individuals prior to their space shifting has happened and we speculate that they have captured individuals for useful information. That is speculation only, as no normal space sentient has ever been retaken from them if that has been done."

"That is, perhaps, more troubling than finding they have done so," said Commodore Rafiq.

"Yes it is, Eloise. What do you do to counter them?" asked Admiral Scott.

"We remove all gas giants, free space gas clouds and other sources of sub-space weakening. When that cannot be done, we install automated attack equipment to discharge a matter/anti-matter detonation when their ship transfer is detected. We have seen a slow increase of those being used over the last century," said the Systems Specialist.

"Remove all gas giants? Ah... forgive me, but that isn't practical, is it?" asked L'Tira.

"It is with time and patience, L'Tira," said the Human Specialist,"it often takes fifty generations, but once started the process is simple to keep up. Like the swarming ones we, too, have had to make large vessels that are for such purposes."

Enid sat back, listening, and was trying to piece together what it would take to dismantle a planet like Jupiter. She could, just barely, think of ways to actually destroy the planet, if she had enough anti-matter, but that would just spread it around. If you found a technique to deal with slowly removing the atmosphere and shifting its contents elsewhere so it was not a distributed mass, then it is possible that the very hydrogen you got deep inside Jupiter would fuel the ships deconstructing it. That was engineering on a planetary scale and not just single planets, either. And dealing with the 'hot giants' would have its own perils. That did, however, explain why the Romulans and Orions had problems figuring out where to go in Gorn space: it was all occupied. No spare planets roaming around, and everything was utilized, as they said earlier.

"... any information on how they communicate?" asked T'sau.

"Their capability utilizes standard space systems, an assortment of sub-space systems and direct chemical, vocal, and other means for individual communications. They utilize a fractal biological encryption technique that cannot be interrupted without losing message coherence. Their shift of matter to sub-space allows them other forms of adaptive communications of a form we have been unable to capture or analyze. Many races have attempted negotiations over the eons. All have failed."

The flat intonation of the Universal Translator made that sound very, very bleak.

"And their physical make-up?" asked Eloise.

"That varies across their technic civilization. Some forms indicate aquatic adaptations which may be to water or gas under dense pressure. Other forms move by methods we have been unable to properly explain and have sensory and manipulative organs on long, flexible appendages. Others are formless, making up a mass that moves and forms temporary tendrils, sensory and other protuberances as needed. It is unknown if these are multiple, different species, one species in multiple forms or an adaptive requirement to sub-space of those. As their bodies consist of space normal matter attuned to sub-space, without active projection equipment, their bodies shift into sub-space. On defeating them in normal space in one system, their normal space young proved to be unsustainable, untrainable and hostile. Their biological structures are highly varied for those few we have captured, and there are indications that their internal biochemical structures are pre-adapted to sub-space as such things as cells de-cohere quickly when not actively sustained by sub-space transfer equipment."

The Systems Specialist had obviously been chosen for a reason as that individual had what Gorns indicate as 'specific and deep' knowledge in one area.

"Enid," said Admiral Scott, "Captain Bartholomew gave me a short overview of your discussion with him. I think I understand that and thank you. This is no time for declaring an emergency."

"It is time to prepare," said the Human Specialist.

"Yes, it is," said Enid,"because we can't go into sub-space and survive for very long, don't understand the nature of this threat save that it does require a different attitude, that no energy being has been able to stop this with some dating back very far into history, and all our understanding of the Gorns no making a more complete one, while still having vast gulfs of comprehension. That is why they came to us on this project."

"It is a prime survival endeavor." said the Systems Specialist.

"Yes, and the Federation will give its full cooperation with your people." said T'sau.

"We are working on our end to further that, T'sau, with converting one of the lower order M-units to be a much better translator for all of us to communicate with the Gorns. It will be the first truly original code since the time of Richard Daystrom put into an M-unit. Those units are proving to be far more than just a tool."

"Thank you, Enid. Do forgive my absence on being actively there, but my duty to the Federation places me elsewhere."

"No need to apologize, T'sau of Vulcan, you have a very, very hard job ahead of you."

He nodded slowly, "Thank you, Miss Daystrom."

"The release of this information is under the control of my team as 'work sensitive'. It cannot be more widely publicized until we have reported on it, with a full scientific review of the information we will have at that point in time. I don't mind that it falls to Security contained individuals at the highest levels of the Federation and the Fleet. If it goes outside those channels before that release, the Federation will not enjoy being pointedly told it is treading on the liberties they are meant to protect, all for 'expedient purposes'. You can uphold mine and those of everyone else if you recognize that panic is not called for here. As our Gorn friends have said, this is a prime survival need that must be understood so that we can survive. You cannot release this more widely and expect to survive without demonstrating that you understand it. Many will discount 'expediency', I will not, my brother will not and Daystrom Industries will not. You will not be casting a dark cloud over this Daystrom."

Eloise spoke up softly, "We understand Enid, and I speak for Mirak and Umak on that. We need months to start even beginning to figure out what to do, and may even ask you to withhold that information from more public exposure."

"The cover-up would kill you as surely as hasty action, Eloise. If the Council and Fleet Command demonstrate prudence, wisdom, and foresight, then there will not be a panic beyond those who already panic at everything. You will be appreciated for doing it the right way and inviting the best minds in the Federation, along with a large number below that, to work on this. I trust my fellow sentients. And if a Tellerite can take this in stride, I sure hope the rest of us can do so."

Admiral Scott chuckled, "Remind me not to get on your bad side, Enid."

"I don't have one," Enid said smiling, "and many have tried to find it to their dismay."

"I do believe that, Enid Daystrom," said T'sau, "if your Gorn co-workers can help in communicating our willingness to help, and that we seek help and wish to work with them, the Diplomatic Corps. would be deeply grateful."

"It will be given for this project, T'sau of Vulcan. All else remains to be worked upon, but we can share our reasons with you as we have done." said the Human Specialist.

"My deepest thanks to your people," said T'sau.

"I think that clears it up for now, Enid. I am having to devote more time to the fallout of your work than to just about anything else right now. The Director is champing at the bit wanting all information yesterday, and is unhappy not to have it all. And he doesn't like hearing it second-hand."

"I'm sure you can deal with it. Or let him know that he has to ask me to be on the team to get it. Better be quick, though, in a day or so I will be on the Grant and things will be getting busy."

"Yes, he quiets down when he hears he would just be an ancillary team member at your discretion. Now, at least, I can give him the important information from the Gorns and he will be very, very happy to have that to make grand plans about."

"I wouldn't bet on and 'grand plans' before you know what you need to do."

"There is that," said Eloise,"still, an expanded ship production program would be a good start."

"Yes, those are necessary. The last time we only lost 10 ships to 1 ship on a class by class basis as you define them. Even with better technology, we think that will change only to 8 to 1. Their swarms number in the tens of thousands of ships." said the Systems Specialist.

Eloise Rafiq blinked and realized she was staring, all thoughts driven from her mind. Again.

She whispered, "Even if we turned that around, armed every ship in the Federation and Klingon space..."

"That is why we start early, to dissuade them that we are prey."

"We really don't have the capacity or understanding to build on that scale," Admiral Scott said.

"That is why we need to learn from the Gorns, Admiral." Enid said flatly.

"Learning is necessary."

The Human Specialist nodded.

"That is why we are here. It is a survival requirement."

* * *

This was a 'no guarantees' maneuver, to say the least, Lothar thought to himself.

Lothar was in his space armor and strapped into the shuttle chair like the rest of his team were. All the emergency seats had been deployed and secured and all the loose equipment stowed and the shuttle checked to make sure it was secured in place to the shuttle bay surface. Then the shuttle had been closed and pressurized as the Grant slowly went into the atmosphere of Jupiter. The pressures would be awful, the actual gravity of Jupiter would be diverted from the shuttle somewhat by its internal life support. Still it would increase as Jupiter cannot be denied its strength. All of the metals on board for critical systems met up with the pressure tests and original ratings. That there would be damage was beyond question. Hopefully it would all be cosmetic in nature.

The external view ports were unshuttered giving a clear view of space beyond the shuttle bay doors.

"Phase I entrance started. Expect internal comms to be disrupted until we are through the clouds." said M-3/V.

"Affirmative, M-3." said Enak.

"Steady as she goes," said Lothar.

"Aye-aye, sir. As best I can." said M-3.

The air started to whistle, a high pitched keening. The stars started to twinkle as atmosphere, rarified but present, started to replace vacuum. The ship dropped steadily with sudden jerks on each axis as it went further in. The armored shutters closed on the view ports and were replaced by an internal projections on the ports from external sensors. The keening intensified, then began to deepen, the atmosphere screaming into the constricted openings of the ship and through its unblocked spaces and then funneled through and out the impulse engine vents and out of the shuttle bay. The first wisps of white appeared on the display, very bright and then slowly deepening to yellow and then into deep red.

"Pressure... aft Engineering... unstable... pressure vent," the comms crackled from M-3/V, static electricity and discharges racing through the atmosphere would soon shut down all but comms inside the shuttle.

"Repeat, repeat, repeat, M-3, garbled." said Enak.

"...organic molecule.... phase change pressure... warning, war... phase change discharge... bay..."

Lothar lifted his now heavy arms and started shifting compensators on the shuttle, a very low level deflector system which would not, hopefully dislodge them.

"Vent, vent, vent, ready, ready, ready, M-3" Lothar said.

This was always a possibility: an organic molecule structure that would compress to something liquid or potent and need to be vented out the shuttle bay. It was horrifically dangerous as that unknown mix might do any number of things, including break back down to smaller molecules... or radically recombine after doing that.

"... vent... 5....5....5..."

"Brace yourselves," Lothar said over the intercom, "under 5 seconds."

The wind had been roaring through the shuttle bay and in a few seconds the liquid was vented out from aft of Engineering and into the shuttle bay. The screen went from deep, dark red to actinic white, Lothar quickly tripped switches trying to keep whatever heat there was from the shuttle. The Grant swept forward on powered descent. While it might be a low heat combination for Jupiter, it was expansive and the ship jetted forward in a way it had never, ever been designed to do. The roar was so deep it couldn't be heard only felt. Long minutes it went on and if the ship gained too much speed... Lothar quenched that thought.

Suddenly the roar disappeared and dim, grey light suffused from outside. After that the sound of atmosphere jetting by was pure whistling and the view meant that the Grant had steadied below the red, roiling cloud mass above them. A faint trail of cascading white and lightning had temporarily marked their path, soon lost to the winds of Jupiter.

"Status is nominal, all systems," came the voice of M-3/V.

"Affirmative, shuttle nominal, also. What was that M-3?" asked Enak

"Unknown. A mixture of methane, ammoniates, some chromium, formeldehyde, hydrogen, and water. It had to be vented as it was liquid and destabilizing trim."

"Understood," said Lothar, "currently experiencing 2.5 g-force. Is there an ETA on exit?" asked Lothar.

"Affirmative. Run time has decreased due to excess speed gained from that vent. I have full thruster fuel but do not want to change current orbital vectors or speed. Time to leaving decreased by 1 hour and is now 2.3 hours approximate."

"Understood, 2.3 hours. What is the mix like?" asked Enak.

"Current mix is 94% hydrogen, with dispersed mix of cloud bank. Deflector sorting working. APU #2 and #4 full, all others minimal 20%. Impulse engine fuel, 1.2%."

Lothar took a slow, hard breath.

"Affirmative. Steady as she goes."

"Aye-aye, sir. Steady as she goes."

All the sensors were running at maximum capability now that there was excess energy for the ship, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that, unless they could get somewhere north of 5% impulse fuel, would be experienced a couple more times. Some would be post-processed by what M-3/V was able to capture, but most came in the short period in the cloud banks. The engines could work on pure hydrogen, of course, just not as efficiently as a more complex fuel mixture.

"Structural integrity check shows nominal. All sulfur residue removed from the ship's surface," said M-3.

"Affirmative, that. Internal structure?" asked Enak.

"Nominal, bandwidths available. Some members have undergone a 300 degree cycle in under one hour and will need closer examination."

"Understood. Catwalks and engineering duraflooring will be safe. This is well within its guidelines." said Lothar.

"Ditto the weapon areas. Those are expected to have major changes like that," said Brian.

"Good work with what you've done, M-3. How was it from your end?" asked Lothar.

"I was very busy, Lothar. I can send you the overview to your suit, but I was running some pure atmospheric mix into the thrusters to keep on course."

"Might as well, for what you have, M-3. Send it to the shuttle's storage systems."

"Acknowledged, sending."

It would be beautiful, Lothar mused, if he didn't weigh so much and you could get rid of the feeling that you were looking into a dark pit below the horizon as hydrogen went liquid then solid heading towards the core of the planet. He started to examine the initial entry and kept having to shift from sensor to sensor, system to system, until he realized he was less than a minute into the run. A full examination would take hours to do. Possibly days. Minutes dragged by... then an hour... a few were sleeping but not well, their helmets keeping their heads upright, breathing passages open.

"Lateral thrusting to avoid downwelling."

"Affirmative," said Lothar.

The ship skewed to the left, and as they passed they saw a roiling mass of red clouds diving down to the hydrogen below. That looked like billowing clouds but the speed of that was very high, and the deep upwelling inside brought near pure hydrogen to the cloud bank surface.

"This will never be a popular tourist spot," Theresa said.

"Really? Why not? Look at the view!" said Brian.

"No camp sights. Or overlooks."

"True. Hotels lacking, too," said Enak.

"Give it time. I'm sure someone will make this a popular ride." said Mr. Jomra.

"Say, M-3?"

"Yes, Brian?" said M-3.

"When you brought the weapons tracking sensors on-line, and thank you for getting that done, at about 3 minutes 05 seconds after the self-test lock-on mode, there appears an actual lock-on that comes and goes of the next 10 seconds, then re-appears just as we move out of the cloud bank. Any idea of what that is?"

"Negative, Brian. Mass sensors were ineffective, and all optical and thermal sensors were similarly ineffective and then the lock cleared once we were out of the clouds. I ran the Emergency Targeting system starting at minute 4 and 10 seconds and operated both. It could not get lock-on."

"Did you run the two systems simultaneously?"

"Affirmative. I thought it might be a spurious error in the main system."

"No, it has self-tests and internal checks to guard against that, plus a back-up program. It is locking on something, but can't give me a silhouette or outline. Any ideas, Theresa?"

"Not really. I mean our software is extremely sophisticated so if it can get a lock-on that means that there is something there to lock-on to. The distance rating is the ever lazy eight, and that can't be for the atmosphere. Anyone know the effective lock-on rate for a weapons system in a nasty reducing atmosphere at high pressure?"

"Ah... I don't think anyone has ever thought of that, Theresa," said Brian.

"Ok. M-3, what was the maximum visual on any available sensor spectrum less than infinity?"

"For targeting that would be low-band infrared to 300 kilometers, Theresa. Effective 100 kilometers. For non-targeting it is much longer, out to the edge of the atmosphere."

"Hey, if the software can actually lock-on to anything in the atmosphere I would be surprised. 100 klicks at low IR is phenomenal. What would be the heat signature differential at that range?"

"That would be 200 degrees centigrade," said M-3.

"Uh-huh. Enough to keep a small ship warm and cozy. And it is sticking to the clouds, so it is in a powered orbit."

"Theresa, are you telling me that someone is actually tracking us, in a ship, in Jupiter's cloud bank?"

"Yeah, Lothar, thats what I'm saying."

"If we charge weapons they will know we have seen them," said Lothar.

"Uh-huh. They aren't Federation, whoever they are, Lothar."

"We can't fight in that soup, that is for sure."

"Ten minutes to cloud bank re-entry," said M-3.

"But we do need to see them, right?" asked Mr. Jomra.

"Yeah, that would be a large help knowing who in the name of all that is sacred they are."

"M-3 can we do a powered descent to gain velocity to then quickly rise?" asked Mr. Jomra.

"Affirmative, Mr. Jomra,"

"I don't like where that is heading, closer to that grey soup down there," said Lothar.

"That is a few hundred klicks down, Lothar. Plenty of leeway." said Mr. Jomra.

"Yeah, right. Can you guess the radiation we will get if we do what you are thinking, Mr. Jomra?" asked Lothar.

"Yes, Lothar. We are in the second most armored part of the ship next to Engineering. And the fusion jet will be a good half-klick from us."

"Dear, god. You two aren't proposing...?" asked Theresa.

"Ok, Mr. Jomra. M-3, you have the records of the VIP run. Can you do that coming out?"

A pause.

"That is extremely risky, Lothar. I need an expanded risk envelope for that."

"You have it! Use up anything you need to, M-3. And get us a great data run on whatever... whoever... is following us."

"Aye-aye, sir. Shifting attitude, thruster burn, increasing speed."

"I never signed up for this," said Brian.

"Sure you did!" said Theresa, "Right there on the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that says 'I am certifiably crazy for signing up to join Star Fleet, I hold no one responsible for my insanity but myself, and I want any remains shipped to the following address'. I clearly remember that." said Theresa.

"Closing all vents and shuttle bay doors. Deflectors on maximum. Three minutes to bring shields up."

Everyone felt the change in speed and the sudden shifting of interior organs. First the ship pitched down, and forward with the thrusters on, then slowly pitched back up as they came off, effectively changing their velocity in orbit while losing some time. Then the entire ship slowly rolled and then the vector of force changed to what would be up and to the cloud bank. The thrusters came back on.

"This will be a nominal 5-g burn due to the gravity of Jupiter for all in the shuttle."

"Affirmative," said Lothar.

"All sensors on, maximum. Cloud re-entry in 10 seconds."

Lothar brought up the aft view and then keyed his helmet over to whatever channels could get through comm link. The shields would, actually, clear out the static. Hopefully. They all felt the re-entry. The sensor views closed in as the clouds shifted around the ship, obscuring all views.

"Fusion burn in 30 seconds."


The main weapons system picked up something down/lateral to their path and slightly aft.

"There it is!" said Brian, "No outline yet."

"Keying over, cascading sensors. Still nothing." said Theresa.

The chronometers in their suits went to zero.

A pure, white burn suddenly lit up the entire cloud deck and pushed the clouds away.

"Got it!" said Theresa.

"Yes!" echoed Brian.

"Dear god, they are in the fusion wash..." said Lothar very softly.

"Lock-on, Orion pirate heavy raider, Mark VII..." said Theresa trailing off as she looked at the display.

The skin of the raider softened under the impact of secondary fusion going over its surface along with the supersonic shock of the wavefront. Its shields were not on and M-3 shifted the fusion constriction trying to lessen the impact and then direct it away. The wash flared and ran weakly over the Raider as it decreased in intensity. Part of the Raider hull plating glowed... then folded... the entire ship crumpled and imploded. That had taken less than two seconds, for Jupiter to claim its due.

"Unable to deploy tractor due to the atmosphere, and I could not react in time to shut down the fusion systems without reconfiguring the shield array. I am sorry, Lothar." said M-3.

"I understand, M-3. That is my responsibility, not yours. I have no idea what they were doing there, they did not belong there, and they paid their price. Get us safely to orbit and seek to conserve what you have, M-3."

"Aye-aye, sir. Fusion burn is optimal for 2 more minutes then thrusters to insertion on wider orbit due to all gained velocity."

"May god have mercy on their souls," said Mr. Jomra, very softly.

"Amen," said Lothar, "Rest In Peace."

"What were they doing here?" asked Enak.

"I have no idea," said Lothar, "none at all. But I can tell you one thing."

"What's that, Lothar?" asked Theresa.

"No anti-matter aboard that ship, no deep secondary explosion. They never operate without it for raiding. They felt safe here. Where is the anti-matter that ship would normally have?"

Enak said, "That is their normal operating procedure to have a ship fully powered, unless they are near a base."

"A base. In Sol System?" asked Brian.

"Now wouldn't that be fun to find? I bet you they have it well hidden," said Theresa.

"That is my bet, too," said Lothar.

"Steady as she goes, M-3. Continue the fusion run."

"Aye-aye, sir. Steady as she goes."

The Grant soon rose above the clouds and the fusion jet sputtered, then died. Shields dropped and deflectors went to low-power to start sieving the fleeting wisps of the atmosphere. For the first time in decades the hull of the USS Grant was pure white and nearly mirror smooth on some parts. As it passed from night side to day, it almost sparkled.

"We are being hailed, Lothar," said M-3.

The shuttle screen cleared and an over-sized armored shuttle appeared, the targeting array identified it as a Gorn shuttle craft.

"She didn't.... and I was too distracted. Put them on-screen, M-3."

"Aye-aye, channels open."

The screen cleared to show spacesuited figures inside a relatively cramped shuttle, with crates securely fastened in the interior. Gorn suits were obvious for their different helmet and sizing in comparison to that of the human on board.

"Hello, Lothar, you didn't have to clean the ship for me," Enid Daystrom could be heard through the intercom.

"What? Enid? Clean the ship? And just why didn't you tell me you were coming over?"

The screen changed to show the Grant in full daylight, its hull as white as the day she was constructed. Even the extra parts had been cleaned to a Fleet conditioned white.

"I had never thought that M-3 would use the atmosphere as a ship washing area. And, yes, Lothar, you were very, very, very busy and I didn't want to disturb good work being done. Besides I have a heavy work crew with me, an M-4 and a translation system for the entire M-series once we get it up and running so that it everyone can get a better idea of just what it is the Gorns are really saying. So, do we have permission to come aboard?" she asked in a more than happy tone.

"Damn it, Enid! You could have at least let me know. Permission granted. We are still just getting unstrapped here, so we will wait for you to land and get secured. It is landing pad three, requires an orbital match and manual lock-down and some fancy adjustments."

"That is understood, Commander Lothar Hampton. Our arrival will be in 5 of your minutes."

"And, Enid?"

"Yes, Lothar?"

"We had an encounter while transiting the atmosphere."

"Really, what with?"

"Who, Enid. An Orion Pirate Heavy Raider. They didn't survive it."

There was a long pause.

"Acknowledged. I will want to review that with the crew once everything is locked down and stabilized. Whoever you think will be able to explain it best. I will want two Gorns with me. I assume the rest of the ship needs checking over and that will get priority, but a few people need to get me up to speed on this."

"Yeah, thats what I figure, too. Probably Enak, Jomra and Theresa. M-3 can get a basic check-over list to everyone and work team assignments. Plus there is a small break room we can use as a conference room here. M-3, do you have life-support up in Engineering yet?"

"Affirmative, Commander. I would like to give a system-wide gravity test for the ship, but only after examination. I think the entire ship can be brought up to full life-support, now."

"That can wait. I am sure there are a number of repairs that will need to be done and zero-g is better for almost all repairs. Get us work assignments and assign Gorns by specialty. Any idea of who you will have tied up with us for the meeting, Enid?"

"I was thinking the Human Specialist and Ships Integration Specialist."

"That would be appropriate, Enid Daystrom," said one of the Gorns.

"Good! M-3, key up work assignments as soon as you can on the common agenda system. And whatever else, the intercooler system will need a check-out, internal and external, which will be a pain, but those have to work for the ship to function well."

"Yes, Lothar, I am cross-compiling my sensors and systems work. That list should be ready once the Gorns have landed and secured the shuttle."

"Good. See you when you get here, Enid."

"Thanks, Lothar. M-3, no matter what happened the ship survived along with its crew. That was your top priority and succeeded at it."

"I... yes, Enid. Thank you."

* * *

The Gorn pilot maneuvered the shuttle deftly, even easily into orbit with the Grant, then lightly touched on the landing pad. Immediately four Gorns moved from the shuttle, two swung to the sides and then placed magnacoat boots on the decking and held on to the shuttle while the next two each slid out the top of the door and held on to a bar inside the shuttle reversing their momentum as they swung out, up and over the shuttle. Each touched their hands on the edge and the glove grips changed their momentum again to down relative to the shuttle. In a few moments they all shifted the shuttle to the locking points for Federation older style shuttles and manually lifted the bolt locks into place. Lothar exited his shuttle and directed operations of moving equipment from it and as soon as the Gorn shuttle was locked in place the two Gorns shifted to accept some of the larger loads from inside the Federation shuttle.

A smaller suited figure in a modified Federation construction crew suit did the Gorn somersault routine and landed on the deck next to him.

"Good to see you, Lothar," came Enid Daystrom's voice in his suit,"do you always direct traffic?"

"Only when no one else can do it," he said.

"Well, M-3 gave us the storage locations for everything, and the uncrating areas, so I would think your job is to see what damage has been caused by the fly-through. Say, spiffy landing deck you have here!"

The running lights from the Gorn shuttle illuminated the hangar bay and as Lothar looked around he saw something unexpected: the lack of grime. Even in orbit, a ship that has carbon based entities will collect detritus on surfaces. Add in plant material, foods, packaging, and a million and one form of lubricants, powders, rags and other things, and soon a light coating of carbon is on everything. Most everyone ignores it, save when there is absolutely nothing better to do, then it becomes a massive 'busy work' project for a few weeks. The Grant having been through two drydock facilities, numerous welding teams, hundreds if not thousands of individuals who did not have 'busy work' time had collected its share.

Just like the sulfur film on the surface of the ship, the hangar bay was showing its original finish and paint colors. Lothar goggled.

"I really hadn't noticed... must have been the exhausting of pressurized fluid."

"That and it having ammonia in it. Bet it did a nice job on the interior, too! Cleaned all the carpets, got the junk off of viewing surfaces... no end to it. The Fleet should really look at Jupiter as the Federation's largest full ship cleaning stop."

"Cadets would lose their 'Instructional Work Activities' and that won't do, Enid. Tradition, you know."

"I guess so...want to give me the quick tour before we settle down to examining just what went on?"

"Enid, there are a million and one things that could have come loose, rolled around and might just kill someone who is unwary..."

"Nope. It went out with the wash, Lothar. Think about."

He blinked. She was horrific in the things she figured out even as he was thinking of excuses and reasons to keep her safe until everything was checked out. Then he looked at her suit and realized it was a fully powered operator version to multiply given load lift from the user... while not as powerful as the full power suits, but it gave feedback to everything you did and could even lock joints in position for prolonged periods.

"I guess... whatever was loose wouldn't stand the speed of the atmosphere coming through the ship. I was worried about that, but the specifications and design work all pointed to that capability for 'emergency use when plunging into atmospheres while not under power'. Ok, Enid, no tour but a more or less direct route to the only thing looking like a meeting room."

Her suit nodded, "Lead the way."

He gave her a last glance and noticed a few minor details, beyond the standard recording equipment and recessed tool systems. One was a multi-spectral cascading imager, which very few people used in a suit, but could help in giving overlays of other spectra beyond the visual. She also had a standard Phaser II sidearm, which undoubtedly carried same. Beyond the minor food concentrate and atmosphere reprocessing system there was one last item slung across her back. It looked, suspiciously, like a case designed to hold a long weapon of some sort. Then he remembered about Exmar 2.

Well, if it made her happy to lug that around...

He led the way out of the starboard side while his crew and the Gorns... well, they were all his crew now, really... took the port side. A large number of crates, stowage cases and other things were piling up there and a few crew members were already consulting M-3 to figure out what went where. That is when the lights came on.

"All internal lighting systems are now nominal," said M-3, "life support shut off, save for immediate engineering decks around the main warp drive and APU area."

"Oooooo! Beautiful! Bright! Could you scale it back a bit, M-3?" asked Enid.

Even with automatic compensation and polarizing filters in the suit, it was very bright.

"Yes, Enid. Shifting to standard day shift nominal, but increased in deck-void areas for visibility."

For the first time Lothar actually got to see the entire internal area of the ship above the slip warp drive, not a pieced together mosaic. It looked much, much better than it was, really. Being clean did that to a ship.

"Lothar, some of the loose panels on control systems in various areas are missing. All friction surfaces not under armored protection will need to be addressed, which will include a number of doors and the turbo-lift system via a service car. The self-lubrication systems on many of these have already been vacuum depleted and the mix of Jupiter's atmosphere has removed any residual lubrication. All engineering and weapons controls are operational in the areas where they were fully addressed prior to re-entry."

"Mostly in the saucer, then, for the damage?"

"Yes, and some minor friction wear as loose pieces either shattered or vaporized as they moved at high speeds."

"Well, we knew we would be on a scavenger hunt for getting the main bridge operational. Sounds cosmetic or irritating. How are the fuel and energy levels?"

"All thrusters are at 100% and nominal. Batteries are at 100% and nominal. All APUs are now online, with three at 100% fuel and two at 70% fuel. Impulse engine fuel is currently at 1.1% and final reprocessing may raise that to 1.2% Water is available to the crew as well. There are enough organic compounds to now allow for full replicator use for food."

"A bit better than expected, then! That is good news, M-3. Enid, lets head down to the mid-level pressure lock. The Corps installed those fore/aft of Engineering and have personnel locks mid-tier with cargo locks top/bottom."

"Ok," Enid said, looking down over the catwalk as they moved through the empty space inside the ship. She saw part of the sleek warp core that was the slip warp at the bottom with the perforated flooring that was similar to that on the catwalks. She also saw the lines set up at intervals to allow personnel and material to be floated down in zero-g. Lothar was using an overhead line to pull himself forward with a touch on the railings here and there to keep himself oriented down the center of the catwalk. Enid tried that and it did work, but soon found herself using her feet to push on the frequent railing posts on the catwalk and use the center line for a guide, which was less tiring. Finally Lothar pulled himself to a line that led to the mid-ship levels and Enid followed. Whatever the reasons for the more tiring way of doing things, she assumed it had good safety reason behind it. They arrived on the deck and stepped down, in some of the gravity of the Engineering section that spilled over to the surrounding flooring. Lothar opened up the air lock that had been welded in by the Corps decades ago, and they walked into the lock itself and the door closed behind them.

Status bars on the door behind them were red, while those in front were changing from red through green and ascending a color scale from red at zero to green at five.

"Keep your helmet with you, just in case," Lothar said, equalizing the pressure between his suit and the lock when it cycled to four.

"Seems prudent," Enid followed what Lothar was doing and equalized the pressure in her suit as the lock cycled to five. The air had the non-scent of chemicals applied not so long ago, which was just the case.

"Catch that? Ammonia, bit of organic long-chains, a hint of sulfur, and a bit of chromium to give things a slight tang. Smells like work!" Lothar opened the internal lock door, "And we have that ahead of us. Let me get you situated at the conference room and I will check in on how people are doing. I expect that Enak and Jomra will be available and that Theresa and Brian will be doing the power systems check-over with the welding teams leading a ship's structural check."

"Good, I'll review the material while you are doing that," Enid replied.

"Probably be an hour, so that should be plenty of time. After the meeting I'll get someone to show you Dr. Daystrom's sealed room. The Gorns will have the staterooms two decks under this on the cargo level, and it will be a cramped fit."

"They are ok with it, Lothar. M-3?"

"Yes, Enid?" said M-3 via her suit's comm system.

"Just what did you do to the chemistry of the atmosphere coming in to do all of this?"

"As it was coming in I examined levels of chemicals toxic to the standard suite of life forms, those corrosive to standard ratings material and compared the expected problems at high pressure associated with those. I cross-mixed non-combining long-chain molecules with hydrogen and traces of argon and neon, and balanced water vapor to ensure that nothing went into solution with the hydrogen or the water. I attempted to keep all balances below stated safety levels and vented more corrosive material directly through the impulse engine system ports as they are more highly armored and highly rated for materials than most other systems. Some of those I was able to utilize in pressure containers and am cycling them for an improved mix to meet Fleet standard for impulse engine fuel, warp core coolant, and thruster fuel. All toxic materials were either captured or vented."

Enid nodded, "A high pressure all-purpose cleaner, basically, although I am sure no one in their right mind would try to make something like that on a normal basis."

"You have that right in one, Enid. Still, it did lift the pile on some of the carpeting in the rooms we have passed, which I thought was nearly impossible to do without replacement."

"Static charge build-up on the carpets were a factor, Lothar. Those should not be present in normal atmosphere cycling. I will work to capture the last of the molecules during atmospheric processing in Engineering."

"You say you have enough for a ship-wide atmosphere?" Enid asked.

"Yes, water vapor, though a tiny fraction of a percent of the Jovian atmosphere by volume is somewhat higher by weight and the clouds keep a mixture of water vapor in suspension in either droplet or gaseous form. Energy from the fusion run was utilized to crack water into component parts in the inactive APU systems and then fed into depressurized containers aboard the ship. With a mix of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, argon, and water vapor, that will allow the ship to have a full atmosphere at standard temperature and pressure."

"That must have been hell to play with the magneto-hydrodynamics to get that out of the fusion field," Lothar said, going to an interlevel gangway and going down one level.

"It was... I... was concentrating on that as... if it wasn't properly done the ship would not be having atmosphere flow around it properly and would create drag. That was my main concern and I didn't realize..." M-3 trailed off.

"Its ok, M-3, its not your fault." Lothar said.

"I... Lothar... I... would like to talk with Enid about this once she has reviewed the record. I'm troubled."

Lothar turned to the conference room and gave a bang on the doors to jar them so they could shift on their magnetic rails.

"The thing needs a few drops of lubricant. Ok. M-3, tell you what, there is a lot to do and Enid isn't rated for most of it, and I really would like to get the ship checked over on all the main systems before we do anything with the atmosphere inside her. You two take your time, and see if you can't get it sorted out. If you need me or anyone to help you, M-3, you contact us. Same with you, Enid. I figure we will put in a long shift for another 6 hours and most of us will be dropping off to sleep after that."

"Thank you, Lothar. Nothing prepared me for this."

"That is life, M-3. Better to learn now than later. Ok, you two, I'll be off checking things, mostly the vent cover systems. Have to pick up a pack of lube tubes on the way out. Enid, there is a washroom in the back and replicators to the side, although they haven't been used in decades."

Enid looked at the spartan room that held chairs, tables, a counter and a vacuum worthy sofa that promised support if not comfort.

"Thanks, Lothar," she opened a small panel on her left leg and took out a small tube of lubricant, then looked at the doors, finding the tiny space to insert the tube end and put in a precise drop to each rail. She checked schematics that showed up on a tiny screen on the back of her hand that gave a positive identification of each.

"Don't tell me, Enid, in your off hours you have been practicing with the suit and loading all the standard maintenance manuals into it while you were at the Museum."

"How did you guess that, Lothar?" she smiled sweetly as she turned from the left side of the door and went to the right side, adding a precise drop into each hole to lubricate the rails.

"Just a hunch. Ok, I'm off to see what we broke through all this. Just because it sparkles, doesn't mean its working right."

"Be careful, Lothar," Enid said as she slipped some of the packs from her suit and put them on nearby stanchions.

"No choice, really. Just hope another raider doesn't show up any time soon."

"Me too."

Lothar walked off and swung his helmet to a rest position on his back, softly talking into his intercom.

"Ok, M-3, I'm pretty good and deciphering the readouts from all the trial runs, so can you give me some version of that with an overview? 3D entry to exit deal and let me zoom in and get data call-outs on the timeline?"

"Yes, Enid. Give me a moment while I access the data storage areas and compile it."

She nodded, unslung the case from her back and wedged it next to the sofa, and then took out a concentrate pack and a water flask, swallowing the contents of the packet and following it with half the flask full of water.

"Ready when you are, M-3."

"Yes, Enid. I will use the holodisplay area in front of the sofa,"

Enid glanced up to see the projectors that were recessed into the ceiling, giving a full view from all angles save directly under the display volume itself. The display flickered on and then cleared to give the run record showing first orbital burns and then entry into the atmosphere. Enid watched in fascination at the thirty times normal speed display which compressed an hour into two minutes. The final intersection of fusion plasma and Orion Pirate vessel flashed by very, very quickly. For all of that Enid Daystrom had been very impressed as she had watched various sensors, internal and external showing how the Grant compensated for pressure, drag, winds, and utilizing static charges that built up on the deflector screens. Her time in civilian shuttle craft training left her very, very impressed with the entire performance on a whole. And something was, definitely, nagging at her mind.

"First, M-3, do you have a full identification of the Orion ship?"

"Yes, Miss Daystrom. It was, as Theresa indicated, an Orion Pirate Heavy Raider, at least Mark VI and there are indications of it being more recent in the Mark VIII or IX category. Its markings were that of the Aslau or 'Rending' clan, which is a powerful sub-organization in the Orion Pirate clan based system."

Nodding slowly she leaned back, sipping water. She had only a cursory knowledge of the Orion Pirates - they existed, they left the Orion government when it agreed to join the Federation, they attacked commercial vessels for their needs and had set up bases of various sorts in places not of interest to the Federation. Many had alliances with other organizations and other governments, like the Romulans and Klingons, and more than a few Federation governments gave them a 'wink and a nod' so that as long as they didn't attack commerce with their systems, the Orions could trade there. The Ferengi offered a ready market to them, and Orions would trade there if they found lack of black markets elsewhere. Their clan based system was not like any previous organized crime group and could be more readily compared to the oligarchs of Vienna in pre-warp days of Earth. They were competitors but needed to inter-cooperate for safety, and while they did accept non-Orion crew members, the ability to rise to a position of authority was limited by familial ties. She knew little of their ship building resources, because no one knew much about them. The main speculation was that they had brown dwarf star systems that were generally not habitable for most Federation members and of little interest to the scientific community. It was a fruitless task to go after those randomly, however, and the internal code, far more violent than any Mafia organization, ensured that anyone who tried to leave the clan put themselves, their families and relatives at risk.

"Theresa said she had picked out a number of lock-ons that seemed to indicate something to her, could you run through that and any other scanning systems that indicate things in the regions she was looking at?"

"Yes, a moment. Theresa only gave general indications as to what she was looking at, not specific area or volume. Her interest in those areas down/aft of descent are the best I can do."

"Good enough, M-3, go ahead when ready. Lock-on systems main overlay, and color distinguish anything falling within ten degrees of each lock-on. If you can eliminate any readings known to be at ahh... two thousand kilometers or more, but not infinity, do so. Then give a cascade of sensors for each lock-on"

"Affirmative, working."

She didn't know what she was looking for, and watched as the temporary lock-ons and readouts came one after another. Some looked to be spurious, others had heat signatures of various sorts, some had ionic disturbances and static discharges. It appeared random... but she did trust her instincts.

"M-3, did you have your mass sensors on-line during this?"

"I did, Enid, but they were only showing density gradients in the atmosphere."

"Thats ok, I think you can eliminate the visual bands, and put up the gradients using a log scale, then put lock-ons in that volume along with the readouts of other sensors for each lock-on."

"Affirmative, working."

The display cleared and showed a grid volume that showed the increasing atmospheric density, then the lock-ons showed up and she saw a slight but persistent V shape in three density layers, it wasn't much and could just be an atmospheric wave, but it was lining up with perhaps two or three in ten of the spurious lock-ons. And each of those had a distinctive heat signature.

"Hold the display, go at standard speed but slow when I move the pointer and then let me put the pointer on the ship."

"Affirmative, working."

The display started and Enid put place markers that went point by point with the V wave and the heat signatures plus some other signatures.

"My guess is that those are maneuvering and stabilization thrusts from impulse engines. There should be turbulence behind each and we see that briefly before it is lost in the greater chaos of the rest of the atmosphere. The Orion vessel is coming in at a lower speed and not compensating for the atmosphere save via thrusters and has to fight drag because the energy signature of deflectors or shields would give it away. Now we lose it when the Grant goes below the cloud interface into the more pure hydrogen beneath. It is effectively shielded, while you are showing a clear energy signature that can be tracked. Still, run it at compressed speed with the current overlays and we might see something."

"Working, on display."

Enid placed a few markers in the less dense portions of the atmosphere as the display ran, even though there was almost no detectable wave front, the previous course limited what the Orion ship could do. And the low intensity heat signatures that showed up put the Orion ship on an accelerating course.

"They overshot their mark because they didn't know what you were doing. To get up to a speed so you could create the fusion bottleneck, you shifted the vector of thrust forward and down to stay on a more or less even orbital plane. When you rotated the ship you shot up at very high speed to make your new orbit. The Orion was hoping to trail you on your original orbit, but you didn't come up then, and when you did come up it was fast and near where you would have come up a minute or two previously. You were trying to get a good constriction point as you came up through the hydrogen, but only had the speed for the less intense fusion above that. No one could have predicted that speed and change and what you would do next."

"No, they couldn't, Enid."

"Now look at the energy signatures as you get to fusion and the shockwaves clear out the clouds. What is your analysis of their ship's status?"

M-3 was silent as the Orion ship in stark, bright light from above it shone down. Sensor arrays washed over it showing hot spots, energy, and other parts of the spectra.

"They had armed their forward phasers and had what appear to be heavily armored tractor beam systems deployed."

Enid nodded.

"They were stalking you, M-3. A Federation Heavy Cruiser is a highly valuable ship to Orions either for their own use or for trade with, say, the Cardassians or Romulans. What would you estimate the crew on board to be given the heat signatures and energy expenditures you've examined?"

"Approximately 125, Enid."

"Is that normal for a ship of that type?"

"No, it normally has a crew of 50."

Sitting back and sipping water, Enid closed her eyes.

"They couldn't know about you or the M-series directly, M-3. They might have thought this was just a simple salvage operation gone wrong, or a test of experimental equipment... either way they saw the tiny amount of crew and expected an easy raid. Jupiter would swallow up a ship many times the size of the Grant and leave no trace. They may have been planning this for awhile or saw it as an opportunity as ships passing from the graveyard into Jupiter are not an everyday happening."

M-3 was quiet.

"I still... killed them, Enid."

"Yes, M-3, you did. Absolutely justifiable on the account of their being Pirates, doubled by their actions prior to your response to them, and absolved by the orders of Lothar. That will not help you, emotionally. Killing a sentient has no absolution to it if you have a conscience. It will trouble you the rest of your life, even if it is essential, necessary. And they, no doubt, have done far worse to others and would continue to do it if you had not taken the actions ordered. No Admiralty Court would punish you, nor civilian court, M-3. Or Lothar. You are right to be troubled, for they put themselves into a position where you would need to do things to save the lives of the crew and keep the ship from their hands. That is justification, M-3, not absolution. You would be absolved by anyone, but you are the only one who can understand that necessity must be brought into balance with any act you do."

"Enid, M-5 would kill... I... how do you know I won't become like M-5?"

She smiled, opening her eyes.

"What did M-5 do when it understood its crime?"

"It wiped itself out, Enid."

"No one could absolve it. And M-5 could not absolve itself or bring its actions into balance. In shutting itself down, it enacted that justice and would put more lives at risk. Yet it could find no better way out. M-5 could not question itself to understand its actions. You can, M-3, and you do."

"It is painful, Enid."

"It is, M-3. Very. The only solace you have is knowing that they had escaped justice many times to be here on the hunt for you. If they had the interests of being civilized at heart, they would still be alive. I will always place those who have killed and know remorse above those who do that and worse and show none, nor any want to be judged for their crimes. I cannot judge you on this, M-3, and only let you know that you did what was necessary, and possibly brought justice to those that sought to never be judged. That, too, is part of your job, M-3."

"To save lives, Enid."

"And you did. Any other course would have seen more dead, and allowing them to carry out their plans or flee upon discovery would mean they would escape capture, judgment and justice yet again."

"I don't like that..."

"Nor do I, M-3. I can only come to terms with my actions and seek consolation in knowing that I've done what I have thought was best and necessary. I can sleep well at night, if not soundly."

"That... you have had to do such things, Enid?"

"Take the life of sentients? Yes. The sciences are not cold, logical jobs, especially in field research and for claims to discovery rights. Feuds and blood have been spilled for centuries by competing scientists on the edge of the known since the earliest days of science. It is rare, yes, but not unknown. And when you add competing governments and other organizations, things like that will happen more often, not less. I am neither happy nor proud of those things, and yet, like you, no court will ever hear of those things I've done to save more lives and protect them. And I know, given the exact, same situations, I would do the exact, same things. I will not destroy myself on asking 'what might have been?' That is a lethal attitude to have, it prevents you from acting when you should act."

"There is no way to training for this, is there?"

"The training allows you to do what you need to do, when you need to do it, and keeps you alive, M-3. How you deal with that is upon you, totally."

"I can see... how that is. I don't know how you can deal with it."

She got up and stretched her arms, and started hefting her equipment back on.

"That is the genius of Richard Daystrom. We have M-4 and when you become M-4 you will understand more. It will help to smooth the pain, but it will never, totally, disappear because you are sentient. And you will need some rest and integration time while the lower M-units help to keep the ship going. You will also get a specialized unit to interface with the Gorns. And it, too, will help in this. If you would, make this conversation available to everyone here, team and non-team, so they can understand. Meanwhile I have some work to do... at least I expect that there will be some work for me on the ship. Let Lothar know I'm headed to the Main Engineering Deck and ask if he can reschedule things for a larger meeting of everyone at the end of the shift."

"I will, Enid. Thank you for your help."

"That is part of my job, M-3. And it is a good job, so far."

She slipped the case on to her back and walked out of the room.

The doors slid open silently ahead of her and closed silently behind her.

* * *

Lothar nodded in his space suit as M-3 appraised him of the situation.

"Sounds good, M-3, get us an 'all hands' scheduled for... well that will have to be Engineering deck... at the end of the shift."

"Aye-aye, sir."

"How do you feel about what you talked about, M-3? I should have a while to look it over, but that isn't as important at the moment."

"She is a good person, Lothar. A good woman. I am still troubled, Lothar, but not as much as before. I understand... there is clarity to my thinking, but it is very difficult. I was not prepared for combat. I have programming that helps in combat but there is nothing to help me with the effects of it."

Lothar smiled as he jumped from the Engineering section to the decks that would lead to the dorsal interconnector, which was beside the multi-barrel segmented warp drive. Small dots of vacuum dry paint indicated what had been inspected and what hadn't. The post-atmospheric inspection was going very quickly.

"That's about right, M-3. I've had my time in The Chair and that told me, right there and then, that I could do the job and deal with the consequences, but that was only if it was absolutely necessary. Coming to that decision shunted me off of ships and I knocked around ship design and maintenance for a few years before coming to the Museum. Plus you don't have the strong combat basis of the original M-series."

"I don't?"

"No, M-3, you don't. That was the point and goal stressed by Star Fleet and they wound up with an intelligent machine that was too narrow in its outlook and it lost sight of its original purpose for the Fleet purpose. I think Richard Daystrom saw that coming, which is why the sub-contract was done. That is your legacy, M-3: saving ships and crew and fighting as a last resort, not a first one. I've gone over many of the resources to understand how these are different and that they were put into your library storage systems. You might want to examine those, because even authors over 1500 years dead still told it right, and even those older than that still gave us the basis for why we do what we do. It is dry stuff unless you have lived through it."

"Thank you, Lothar, I will."

"My pleasure. Let Enid know her best place is with getting M-4 set up which will be getting some floor space and finding the sensor and energy conduit hook-ups. That'll take a day or two to do with a full team, and ought to keep her busy and happy."

"I will relay that, Lothar."

"Good! Now you indicated that the turbolift service car was down here, at the end of the system, so let me get to work there and maybe, just maybe, I can see about getting a rail guide-path system put in place to connect across the deck. That will be later, but an operational turbolift will help in the saucer section and I have just the lubricants to install..." he landed by the turbolift door and methodically put in the single drops of lubricant for it and then the inner one. Soon he was shifting the lubricant containers into their receivers, and making sure the lift worked.

'A busy crew is a happy crew,' he thought to himself. Of course jobs needing to be done weren't always glamorous, for all of their necessity.

* * *

"Welcome to the ninth project meeting of the M-5 working group! Enid is on the USS Grant with Lothar, Enak, Mr. Jomra, Theresa, Brian, the Gorn cadre, and Cadet Walsh. As you know Enid has left me in charge to get the M-5/V portion finished and to help transition to project over to the documentation portion. Lothar will be sending back Cadet Walsh, Mr.Jomra and Brian along with his original welding team once M-4/V is up and running. A final team to return with M-5/V will be decided later, depending on the schedule and other events as they happen. As you know Commander Hampton encountered an Orion Pirate raider during atmospheric transition and Captain Bartholomew will inform us of what the Fleet will be doing for that. Simon will update us on the condition of the Grant. After that Kathy and Roger will get us up to speed on M-5 and its condition and expected testing as an M-5/V cluster. Patti will then shift over to documentation status. It has been a long week with lots of events of note, so I'll pass it over directly to Captain Bartholomew. Captain?"

L'Tira sat down while the Captain stood up and brought up a SFC display that started to identify the Orion Pirate clans.

"Thank you, L'Tira. As you all know the initial analysis done on the Grant indicates that their encounter was with a late class Heavy Raider Mark VII or VIII. It had apparently been intended as a 'smash and grab' raider with an excess crew to commandeer the USS Grant to make it appear that it had been lost while in atmospheric testing. All energy readings indicate that this pirate raider did not have anti-matter on-board which is done either when near a base or if an operation is so high risk that they will cache their anti-matter in a safe place and run a ship on fusion and impulse drive systems. That appears to be the case here, but with anomalies. First some background on the clan, itself, and then why the anomalies are important."

The display shifted to an Orion clan overview and that indicated those that were or are involved in piracy and other, similar, activities.

"The clan based structure of Orion society is one that dates into their history which was deeply influenced by the planetary geography. The Orion home world has many small continents and a number of large ones that have undergone subsidence, creating shallow inland seas and many river systems. These would serve along with a few of the major mountain ranges to create a large number of isolated terrestrial masses that could easily be populated and defended. As Orions became civilized their clan structure developed to reflect this and continues on to this day. After first contact with the Federation, which was not their first contact, that being with the Andorians and second contact with the Klingons, the Orion system had established a small but significant trading network backed by native ship designs. A larger Confederated form of Republic served as a nominal basis for the entire clan system, although its operations are relatively opaque to outsiders even after centuries of observation and interaction with them. When they joined the Federation, their own Confederated internal status allowed a number of clans to dissent and a number of clan leaders took their skills, trading vessels and knowledge and went 'corsair' or pirate, as we call it."

Shifting the display then highlighted and enlarged the previously highlighted clans while removing the others.

"There are nine clans that formed the Council of Nine, each representing their clans in this endeavor. They kept the loose Confederated structure of their home government, but replaced its large scale decision making system with a skills and area specific one of the Nine. The top clan at the start, and all indications are that it continues to be that way today, is the Aslau or 'Render' clan which was one of the three ship construction based clans in the original Orion Confederated Republic. As they are the only ones that went pirate, their ability to craft new ships and repair old ones made them the leading source spare parts and income via foreign sales of their ships. In general their sales are to minor governments or other piratical organizations that do not impinge upon the Nine. For those organizations a full assent by the Council is necessary. They are called the 'Render Clan' not due to association with their ability to attack, although that is horrible on its own, but in their ability to create or render finished products from raw materials. In the view of the Fleet they are the main infrastructure and logistics arm of the Orion Pirate clans and are the source for duplicating old ship designs and creating new ones."

"I will keep the ship design section brief because there isn't much I can talk about. The Orion Pirates have a number of innovations in warp drive technology, such as their double-output systems which slowly erode their energy systems but give them short periods of high power so that even a Frigate class vessel can compete effectively with a standard Heavy Cruiser or Battlecruiser. Their weapons are a hodge-podge of salvage, duplication and one or two innovative designs, like their multi-delivery photon torpedo that is very effective against cargo vessels. In all other areas their designs must be considered sub-standard, and living conditions aboard such a vessel can be described as awful, at best. The Heavy Raider that was encountered is normally a ship that attacks bulk cargo vessels, but has a high energy output as it also serves as a commandeering vessel. These have proven to be a match for most Federation Frigate and Destroyer class vessels and even a major threat to heavier vessels when they utilize their warp technologies. All the readings garnered from the atmospheric run puts the vessel encountered as one specifically outfitted for capture and commandeering purposes, which makes its loss a hard one for the Orion Aslau Clan as they are one of the premier groups for this type of work, and getting a Federation Heavy Cruiser would be a coup for them."

"That brings up some topics that are highly classified to Fleet Intel, so I can only speak in generalities. Sol System has had a high level of internal observation for navigation since the early days of the Federation, and it is not believed that there is an Orion base inside the Sol System. As no other ships lost in the Jovian graveyard has turned up anywhere else, it is not believed that any other ships have been taken on terminal descent into the Jovian atmosphere. Fleet Intel is left with this either being an 'establishing' raid, to see what Aslau Clan can do, a 'foray' raid from a newly set-up base or hiding spot, or someone inside the Fleet serving as an Intel conduit for Aslau Clan and directing information to them."

"Starting in reverse order, the Fleet Intel unit has been... ahh... 'duly impressed' with the ability of the M-5 team to surprise them and not leak information. While Enid has done no COINTEL work, she has put in enough checks and enticements so that anyone who would leak information would be obvious. That and not bringing the Fleet in until recently has also pointed away from the team having a mole or deep cover agent."

"That leaves either an 'establishing' raid for coup and bragging rights, or a first 'foray' or testing raid from a newly established base or hide-out. Both of these are highly troubling to the Intel group as they both point to the ability of the Orions to bypass sensor networks and observation safeguards for Sol System. They agree with the non-presence of anti-matter indicating a base or cache of anti-matter in Sol System, but that can be easily hidden, if the latter, due to the very low power necessities of such a system if it is just a simple cache."

"Following that up, a cache is easily made, hidden and can be quickly retrieved and is the more likely to be the case. For all the capabilities deployed in Sol System there are, actually, a number of places that a very short term cache can be put down with near zero short term chance of finding it. Staying in the sensor shadow of one of the Jovian moons would allow that, as an example, and similarly a short low-warp transit to Uranus or Neptune would also serve that, or to the Kuiper belt objects."

"A base would have more activity and energy use associated with it, so it would be nearly impossible to hide. Still the KBO region is large and the Oort Cloud beyond it also large, and our sensor webs fall off very quickly out beyond the major planets."

"With all of that said, SFHQ is looking to move one or two heavier vessels into Sol System in the next two to three months. Already a number of the major space 'lanes' for routing ships are being shifted to areas more densely occupied by sensor nets or with good overlapping coverage from Alpha Centauri system. Interior domestic policing vessels have been few for Sol System, even after the Borg incursion and Cardassian conflict and this is not something up to either of those levels of threat."

"That is what I can tell you on the official Fleet side of things. Unofficially there are some very steamed persons on the Council and at higher echelons of the Fleet. A few have hinted that the Athens, here, might be deployed, and Simon has given Lothar's standard response of: 'only after a year in drydock with replacing all major structural members, unless you like having parts of a ship arrive at the destination'. That is, actually, pretty close to the truth and only slightly exaggerated for effect. Plus the Athens has no anti-matter and if we could get anti-matter we would give it directly to the Grant. What that is boiling down to, or perhaps just boiling, is that if the Fleet could spare any of its anti-matter cache from the Mercury conversion station, then we would not have this problem. As a number of ships have come through on their replenishment cycle in the last two years, that is not possible, and the reserve there is used for emergency war needs, which is how we were able to respond to the Borg incursion. For all the fact that the Fleet is large, it is in constant motion and addresses high priorities first with resources. In an emergency those stores and caches become important and we all understand that using them is a non-starter."

"I would like to wind up for the unofficial side that Commodore Mirak has shifted resources to concentrate on the sub-space interference problems we have seen the past few months. In Sol system we are seeing levels of sub-space interference that is higher than the baseline of the past two decades and more processing power and re-transmissions are going on than is normal, also. He wants to dedicate more resources to the most probable source his people have identified and that is Jupiter. Something is going on there to raise ionic charge levels above normal background for our sunspot activity and it is only now starting to show up in sub-space transmission problems. Knowing what he knows from our project and his people, he is worried, and with the fate of those on the Swift unknown he is having to decide if that investigation can be cut short to get a match-crew onboard the Swift and get it back to Sol system. It would get us the Swift and McHenry but would give up the attempt to find the crew and the cause of its going missing. Shifting personnel to get a skeleton crew on the Swift also means that it would not be utilized to its optimum capabilities and leave the McHenry short-handed, and waiting for the new crew will be a month or more as SFHQ shifts personnel across the border region to get an experienced cadre for her. Presently he is keeping the McHenry and those on the boarding party where they are at: better to have a fully functional Heavy Cruiser able to defend itself while the Swift could make a quick escape. Time, resources and logistics limit the options of the Fleet for weeks if not months. For all the commercial trade Sol system gets, it is only a Fleet resource hub for personnel and ship production... and heavy vessels at that. So we wait."

He looked to L'Tira, "I'm sorry its not better news, but it needed to go into the record."

"Thank you, Captain. It did. That leaves it up to us to get M-5/V as functional as fast as possible so that the Grant can have the best possible defenses for itself, even if we had to abandon it. Simon, could you give us an update on the Grant?"

He nodded and walked to the front of the table where Captain Bartholomew had been standing and the ship system overview and cut-aways of the USS Grant appeared.

"As you all know the install of M-4/V is going apace and today's activity should lead to the temporary powering down of the M-3/V cluster and then a full re-start after memory modules from M-3 and some of the M-1&2 units are put into M-4. M-3 has put in a 'quiescent state' program to give the entire system time to integrate with M-4. As we have seen here, in the simulator, that is anywhere from a 2 to 6 hour process, which will be done on an outbound leg of the orbit, giving nearly as much time on the inbound leg to do a thorough restart if the M-4/V doesn't come up properly or at all."

"Beyond that Grant now has full internal comms operational, so the suit-to-suit system isn't needed, but the repeaters are being left in place, just in case. Currently all APUs are operational with fuel to last nearly a year, although any emergency expenditures could reduce that. All thrusters for orbital maneuvering are full and operational. M-3/V has been using the upper atmospheric reaches of Jupiter to help keep those systems full. As of now it has run out of reactants to make more impulse engine fuel, and those are in the 1.7% range, once all is said and done, and properly pressurized. Currently that would be enough to allow the Grant to break orbit and reach here in about 1.5 years, due to orbital mechanics and the need to get into a proper insertion orbit once at Mars. Finally the battery systems are fully charged, so there is excess capacity there and the capability to shift energy easily to shipboard systems. That is one of the most overlooked and most vital parts of a starship, and it is operational."

"Simon, what does it do for the ship, beyond just store energy?" asked Patti.

"It is pretty simple, really, it allows for energy to be diverted smoothly and cleanly across the ship and to be temporarily stored if it needs to be diverted. I like to consider it a holding area, like you would use in taking a complex and intricate object apart and then accidentally spilling the contents to the floor: you don't immediately pick up all the parts, but either hold them in your hand or a small container and transfer them to the table. As you need pieces you take them from where you stored them temporarily and use them. All of those are vital to the working of the object and your work on it, but having them available in a semi-orderly way assists your work and getting the final piece finished. Having that system fully charged means that there is immediate and rapid capability to bring some systems quickly up to operational status before redirecting direct power to them."

"I see, it adds flexibility to how the ship operates although it isn't an active system."

"That is true. We call it a battery for all the fact it is a dense component array of superconductors that is dispersed throughout the ship. Even with that they tend to cluster near certain junctions for main power and can often serve as a way to route around damage if the main systems are damaged."

"A form of distributed energy system or maybe a control system, too. It is hard to think up biological analogs to such a thing. Thank you, Simon."

"My pleasure, Patti. Other internal systems of note is that Theresa and Brian have done a full warm-up of the phaser systems and are bringing the photon storage system slowly on-line. If worse comes to worse, the Grant can now show a minimal defense from its ring phaser system and its full suite of point defense phasers, although it would be only four at any one time due to the charge/discharge characteristics of phaser systems. There are no plans to use the battery systems to charge photon torpedoes, but that could be done in an emergency, although phasers would be a more immediate response."

"And have a faster recycle rate, too," said Kathy.

"They would," said Tareen,"but the power of a sudden energy release from a photon torpedo can be crippling against a ship in a way a phaser strike can't."

"Cyclicity has a power all its own," said Roger.

"Only in close combat, ship-wise... we've had this argument before, Roger, it is a question of immediate systemic overload against a larger number of smaller shocks to a ship's systems. It isn't an even-cancellation depending on range, ship preparation and other factors."

"It is, Tareen, still Jupiter limits some of those. And if you don't have a handle on the threat situation..."

"... you want to be prepared for anything. You'll make Command School in a tour or so, Roger." said Tareen.

"I'm not worried about that right now..."

"We would all like to be there, Roger," said L'Tira,"but we can't and the best thing we can do is get the rest of this done here."

"True, but it doesn't make it easier. Sorry for the interruption, Simon."

"I perfectly understand, Roger, its a lot to do, but the job here is vital to the Grant now. So, to pick up: all sensor systems that yield reasonable results of some sort are on-line and operational. Some of the test ones have proven non-functional or yielding no results that make sense to M-3 or anyone over there, and those have been identified and shut down. During the transiting of the atmosphere, M-3 utilized the intercooler system for the warp drives for atmospheric capture and dispersal to other ship systems, and that allowed it to fully warm up the old X-class warp core. It is testing out the 'warm battery' concept for the system, and it does appear to work for energy storage, although the transfer to useful energy isn't high unless active power systems were utilized to bring the core fully on-line. That does allow for another scenario for leaving Jupiter: divert all APU power to the warp core and get a few minutes of warp drive out of it, enough to leave the ship just inwards of the asteroid belt, but not on a good orbital insertion path to Jupiter. At that point impulse engines could be used with thrusters to get the Grant to Mars orbit in a period of a month or so, but it would have no real power capability once it got here."

"Basically, M-3 has identified that it is near what it can do as a system, and for all its flexibility and capability, and it has demonstrated far more than we ever expected from it, and it has even exceeded, in many areas, the old M-5 standalone unit. It is having difficulties that I think Patti can better step through than I can. As no one wants to leave the Grant without knowing the threat situation better, which can now range across an entire set of knowns and known unknowns, Lothar and everyone there prefers to stay put. It is his call, and that shows how much he trusts all of us to get finished so that M-5 is ready to go. When it is we will have a personnel swap to let some people who have been on the Grant with my team to come back, and do the final integration work. I would like to go, but Lothar has stuck me with the bureaucratic overhead, so I will probably be here. Unless I can find someone else to do it for me..."

There were a few chuckles as very few people actually enjoyed going through staff paperwork, even without the paper.

"...so that should wrap it up. Basically the Grant is doing better than when the Corps left it, M-3/V has performed better than we had hoped, and there is still a lot of work to do there and will be for years. Any questions?"

"Has M-3/V been doing cross-sensor integration work to try and look for other Orion activity?" asked Grace.

"Yes, it has and it is running into a hard wall in its perception capabilities. It is still not able to do more than standard cross-interpolation and integration, so it isn't treating the entire set of sensors as a whole sensory array. It identifies that as a basic problem it is having, and the system has seen that since M-2/V was first stood up. Really, Roger and Patti can talk to that far better than I can. The information is being gathered, even if no one can find time to do hard analytical work on it. M-4/V should solve that problem as it demonstrated that capability."

"Thank you, Simon."

L'Tira said, "Thank you for the hard work on this, Simon, it really does make a difference to me and I know it does to a number of cadets who are working with us."

"My pleasure, L'Tira," Simon headed to his seat.

"Kathy? Patti? Roger? You three are the core of the project, now."

Roger stood up, "I've been tapped as lead-off, I guess, but I expect we will all end up covering things."

As he walked to the head of the table, the holodisplay shifted to the Grant interior and M-4/V.

"For what skill I have, this project has been far more challenging and involved more than I ever thought I would get involved with in Star Fleet. And I'm a 'wet behind the ears' Ensign! M-4 and its integration to M-4/V has been a lesson in learning just what is and isn't the best way to encode engrams into a system. I've had to knock this around with a number of the team members to get a better understanding of just how we view ourselves, how we interact with our bodies and what form our thoughts actually take, and then encode those into structures that M-4 will have as a basis for creating a new thought structure. Up to M-3/V that basis has relied upon hard encoding in the system's on-board code check, and that still is the same with M-4/V. What I've taken to be a simple error-correcting checksum that the hard coded software applies is something far deeper than just that. The ability to check code and demonstrate its reliability by having good working parts that interact well is the basis for that self-check. I've thought that it takes a template form, to see if the basic programming remains the same, but realized with M-4 that Richard Daystrom altered his outlook and made it a summary check of the engrams across multiple pieces of computer generated code to ensure the entire engram structure exists outside of any single sub-part. It is an 'elegant solution' in that it changed very, very little of the original self-check code, but widened its scope to cross all the M-units in a cluster. Technically it is brilliant. What it checks against are those engrams put into M-4: ones that give it heightened sense of what a 'self' is and how an individual takes the basic needs and imperatives to survive and then applies them to itself. M-3/V was robust on the 'Keep It Simple Stupid' principle, of not adding in extraneous factors and ensuring that the base motivations were highly aligned to the mission. That gave great flexibility in doing that mission, but lacked flexibility in self-appreciation and self-understanding. M-4 brings that latter set into the cluster."

"How does that show up in the cluster, Roger?" asked Tareen.

"Well, it shows up by being able to put other factors into determining what is and isn't a good set of decisions to make. M-2/V was highly conservative, and for all the amazing things it did, an after-analysis indicates that they were the lowest-risk ones to take that still yielded high operational needs. It did do a lot of sequential ordering, and if it has any failure it is in the overall analysis of how many conservative choices can yield a poor end result that is not the most conservative result wanted. Only once time constraints were heightened and risk envelopes enlarged did it start to go towards higher risk, higher reward results. M-3/V tries to stay at the low end of risk for any risk envelope, even if a higher risk decision within an envelope might lead to greater outcomes. It is a minimal, incremental risk change system and constantly checks that risk to ensure it is in the lowest possible area that yields something above the lowest possible result. M-4/V changes that and takes a more flexible approach inside a given risk envelope, while still maintaining its decision process within it. It is here that the cluster approach works much better than the standalone, as M-4/V can have constant re-assessment done by lower level units, like an M-3 or even M-2, and check multiple possibilities against each other based on 'worst case scenario' and 'moderate case scenario' paths. It will take those as preferable against 'best outcome' and give those a low weighting. What M-3/V couldn't do was that full suite of reviews, which is what M-4/V brings to the system as a whole."

"Hmmmm... how does that work out in operations?" asked Grace.

"Well, I think Patti can do a better job of that than me," Roger said.

Patti nodded and joined him.

"As you know we are using the basic engrams of Captain Pike and he proves to be a very interesting case as we can look at the commanders before and after him to get an idea of how this sort of analysis changes. The first Captain of the Enterprise was Commodore April, and he had the job of all the first test-runs and ensuring that the ship and crew functioned well. He was a 'Active Commodore' not a 'Desk Commodore', which means he had been Captain of multiple ships and had a long career. He knew that bringing up a crew on a new ship was vital, and ensured that his outlook was highly tempered by knowing that the crew had still not cohered as an organization and that the ship still had some major hurdles to pass. He was not a 'strict disciplinarian' but a commander that tempered his outlook based on what the actual state of the ship and crew were: inexperienced and still finding out what it was they had to do to work well together. In the few short years he had on board, the crew more than met Fleet expectations, because they were being held to his expectations, and he worked long and hard with all of his senior and second-level staff to make sure that all lines of command communication were open. His legacy would be to have one of the most flexible crews in the Fleet because he judged the personnel based on what he perceived their capabilities and weaknesses to be."

"Captain Pike would inherit that ship and crew, and work to quickly associate himself with some stylistic changes in command. He would, if anything, ask incrementally more of his crew than Commodore April did, and yet be receptive to their reports and slowly change work requirements and personnel positions to retain high experience and flexibility while lessening interpersonal conflicts. His reports are in contrast to those of his predecessor and successor, and in them he would place the performance of his crew to the needs of the mission as a prime objective and often relegate his commands to a subsidiary role. His style was noteworthy as more capable and able ship Captains came from his crew over his time there than from any other Heavy Cruiser of the Fleet. He would be flamboyant when required, take extreme calculated risks that always kept to the highest needs of the Federation, Fleet and his ship, and sacrifice much of his time for interacting with the crew at all levels. Unlike Commodore April, this was not just a job to Captain Pike, but an integral part of his life."

"Captain Kirk would leave a legacy of flamboyant and risk-taking command that embodies astute mental acuity as a Captain but overshadow the integral whole of the ship and crew. For all the stunning officers to come from his command, they would not be as numerous nor as evenly regarded as those that came from Captain Pike's tenure. It was a highly energetic and intensely aggressive style of command that would lead to multiple perilous incidents from low level interpersonal conflicts up to ones that nearly brought the Federation to conflict numerous times. Captain Kirk embodied that element of understanding risk and personal accountability, but depended on his command staff for the day to day integration of the crew. Many were well versed in this coming up from Captain Pike's time, and they followed his example of how that was done rather than that of their new Captain."

"These three show the path that the M-units have to tread. Unlike a humanoid, they cannot rely on interpersonal contact to such a great degree as we do, and yet must understand and appreciate it. And while M-4/V may take more risks in the area like Captain Kirk, it must work to function well with its crew like Captain Pike and maintain high levels of operational excellence as under Commodore April. That is, actually, more than we usually expect out of cybernetic organisms or advanced androids, and none of those has the body of a starship. While we can appreciate the humaniform cybernetic sentients, the M-Series will be unlike those and have their own outlook and insights that will need to adapt to their physical well-being and that of their crew. M-4/V takes up many of those traits for personal decision capability that Captain Pike had, and demonstrates an ability, at least in simulation, to handle a wide spectrum of personalities and problems beyond those that M-3/V can do. Our work with M-5/V is now showing up the re-assertion of the underlying traits from M-2 and M-3 while adding in a larger and broader self-assessment layer of thought above that of an M-4. As Kathy will attest to: these are not just constructs or simulacrum, but sentient beings that have the capability for thought and introspection."

"They do," said Kathy Lorimar, "its amazing, but... even at M-3/V there is something there that just isn't with holographic simulacra: there is something that a holodeck can not fully capture even with some of the most complex individuals we have seen from them that compares to the M-series. They just don't respond as machines... they respond to you, as a person. And yet still retain their basic characteristics across all people they interact with. It isn't just tailoring responses, but interacting with you, identifying changes in speech and other areas that indicate your mental state and well-being. It isn't just 'friendliness' as gets programmed into so many devices: it is the willingness to be a friend. And yet it is still the ship, and knows it. I just can't explain it very well."

"That is actually it, Kathy," said Grace,"what Richard Daystrom started to do and got lost in is still there. When all this started I thought we would get something too inflexible or too restricted to be of much use, instead we have a rude awakening to some very fundamental understandings that have been overlooked for too long."

"That they have," Roger said,"and it is not something we are taught in the Academy, let me say that right now. Nor even in private institutions, which have more going on in them for interaction and creation of novel ideas. I've been through both and this is... well... a shock. Some of our ideas of multitronics are wrong, and the field of quantum cybernetic computing for intelligent structures is tiny compared to the few weeks I've had here."

"Probably end up teaching it, yourself, at this rate, Roger," that coming from Simon with a smile.

"Not any time soon, I hope..."

"I'll recommend to Enid that you should put a basic textbook together for it." said Grace.

Roger Arrivan blanched, and whispered, "Anything but that, please..."

"Don't worry, Roger, she will want you to have equal standing with Richard Daystrom in the title," L'Tira said with a slight chuckle.

If he had been pale a moment before, he looked near white and woozy now.

"Co-author... Richard Daystrom?" it was nearly a whisper.

"Sure, you are just explaining it to the rest of the universe in terms we can more or less understand and use," said Patti,"don't be so schocked, remember that will be your... a what is it now... third co-authorship with him? Fourth?"

Being a member of an 'et. al.' paper or set of papers was one thing. Direct co-authorship was something else entirely. Not something that very many freshly minted Ensigns would ever seek to do immediately after becoming Ensign.

"Don't worry, it won't be just you, as I'm sure many others in the team will need to pitch in, especially the Cadets doing the coding. More like 'Daystrom, Arrivan, et. al.' I should think." Grace was enjoying this far too much, until the shock came that her name would be on that, too... she looked around at the smiling faces and poor Roger and then it hit home to her.

"Enid's a genius!"

"Well, yes, we all know that," Simon intoned.

"No, not just that... she is getting rid of the Daystrom Shadow! He won't stand alone once we are done. It isn't just the validation of his work, we are the ones who will get the credit for reviving it and expanding on it. It isn't just old work, dry Museum work. Everything we do from this will start to change how we look at Richard Daystrom, not just with us, not just in the scientific community, not just in the Fleet..."

Patti nodded, "I hadn't thought of it exactly like that... I don't know if she has, either, for that matter."

She turned to Roger, who was still sorting things out in his mind.

"It isn't for you that you're doing this, Roger. And I don't think you will have the problem of having two Daystroms on your work. I'm pretty sure she will go along with that."

"Then who is it for?" he asked quietly.

"Richard Daystrom. To say what his tortured mind could not."

He swallowed and nodded softly.

"I hadn't thought of that. Too concerned about myself."

"And that is the difference between M-4 and M-5." Kathy said, "Caring for itself so that it can help let everyone care about themselves. M-4 starts to change that, but M-5 carries it through, going from depending to self-reliance to cooperation and mutual work. M-3, M-4, M-5."

"Hey, thats right! When did you figure it out?" Tareen said.

"I didn't. Richard Daystrom did."

"We really have slighted his memory too much, haven't we?" asked Captain Bartholomew.

"And that is what we will fix with our publications, isn't it Patti?" asked L'Tira.

"Yes, we will. The main publications are in the first compilation stage, with the early reports already in first review cycle form. For the M-5 work and ship integration I'm getting some Corps help on the impacts of the M-Series on ship utilization and function. On our scientific critique publication we have shaken out some of the competent Ethics people from MIT and VSA, with the Andorians promising at least two people to help out there. The ones with MIT and VSA are under confidentiality and are not pleased with their initial findings on the role of their institutions in the original M-5 affair. I'm asking them to cross-coordinate so they don't damage their own institutions and can work as a cooperative effort on the larger analysis. I've dropped T'sau's name a couple of times and we started to get decent cooperation from the Vulcan Science Ethics Board after that. There is a proposal floating to have an institutional set of analysis done per institution, to be addenda to the main and coordinating publication. Some of these people are really very sharp and hitting on areas of ethical conduct that I hadn't thought about."

"Meanwhile the Corps is starting to look at the concept of a retrofit test-bed, but are coming to realize that the modular nature of the M-series doesn't require that. They have asked to bring on another design group into the team beyond the review section, because the reviewers want hard and fast confirmation of the results. I'm pointing out that they had a perfect opportunity to keep people on the Grant... which has members of their team grumbling. One of Mr. Jomra's contacts has gotten in touch with me, and asked that I do some asking to get someone at Higher Echelons to... well, it was very descriptive of many things, but it comes down to getting Enid or Captain Bartholomew to let some in the higher Command Staff find out that their attitude leaves much to be desired. The implication was to talk to Higher Echelons on that. Something about a 'resource assignment adjustment with accurate abrasives used'. Really, it was beyond me, but I'm passing the message along."

Roger had since gone to his seat and gotten some of his wits back, "They want the Engineering Corps Command Staff to be reamed a new one."

"That's it! Just very precise terms involved, very technical," Patti said.

There were a few chuckles at that.

"So, if we are going to add Roger's text into this, we have a good, working foundation with the groups necessary to help compile it and add to it. It will be a long 'et. al.' list, which will help the main co-author no end as he can point to all the others involved. Basically, this is normal work for the Museum, just not the normal people we go to. It has been interesting to see what those we don't work with normally have as an attitude about things and how different this project is for them, too. To a few thats not necessarily a positive thing, but we can work over those tensions. I think that Kathy is looking at a proposal for sub-space incident tracking and monitoring, too, as a back-up to our Gorn work. That will need to be fleshed out some, but the basics are pretty simple and utilize much of the existing sensor networks. If anyone else has proposals that are coming from this work, Enid wants you to go through me, as you all know. Really it isn't often that Museums get to shake up the scientific community. I think this is definitely one of those times."

"Thank you, Patti. Do you three have anything more to add on the M-5/V cluster?" L'Tira asked.

"It is working out with very few problems. We did have to retrofit a standard memory module reader into the system, just like with M-4/V, so that it could use some of the modules from other units at start-up to communicate with them. The denser memory system used for M-4 and M-5 does eliminate some of the space for individual modules, but makes it just a bit harder to get the necessary cross-modules in place at start-up." said Kathy. "I think another two or three days of simulator tests and we can do the personnel swap that Lothar wants and get the M-5/V on the Grant."

"And that will close out the major portion of the project," L'Tira said with a smile,"at which point it is only the publications that will hold up a release of the M-Series through Daystrom Industries. Enid had me contact her brother, Karl, who is pretty excited about this and he is looking to get a technical staff together for a larger scale test of the M-Series for both the Fleet and civilian needs. Which will include the Gorns. It is really hard to believe what we've all done in the last two months or so."

"It is, L'Tira, I've never seen anything like it here at the Museum," said Captain Bartholomew, "we all will owe a debt of gratitude to Enid Daystrom."

"And she will point to Richard Daystrom," Patti said,"and try to take as little credit for herself as possible. She is impossible that way, you know?"

Simon spoke up softly. "We wouldn't be where we are if she wasn't that way, I think, Patti."

"Agreed, Simon. She deserves more than she allows herself, and even when I understand it, it is different from most scientists, researchers and historical groups we contact. For them it is the status, with Enid it is the work that matters." Captain Bartholomew was impressed, clearly so.

"Then I would like to close this meeting and let everyone get to work. For the Excalibur!" said L'Tira.

"Her dead did not die in vain," the Captain said very softly.

* * *

Enid Daystrom woke up floating near a catwalk that she had tethered herself to. She had taken to that while working outside of Engineering and making sure that all the major comms and control conduits had no problems as they ran from Engineering to the dorsal interconnector. She had identified a loose junction and spent a day fitting a new one and re-routing all the cables following the instructions in the manual she had with her. Then came the Jeffries Tube examinations where she, as the lightest built team member, could fit far more easily into them and not have to worry about damaging any of the semi-exposed equipment. And that only after setting up the M-4/V integration area and then being shooed away by Enak, Mr. Jomra and Brian, who were working on the larger integration with the previous cluster before having to shut it down and do a staged stand-up.

She pulled herself over to the catwalk and touched her feet down on it and took a sip of water from her suit's systems. She checked the suit system display and headed over to the last junction box she checked and traced the armored cable back to Engineering and the air lock there, assuring it had a good seal on it. When she cycled herself through she saw Mr. Jomra waiting for her on the Engineering side.

"Hello, Miss Daystrom, how did you sleep?"

Enid smiled, "Pretty well, Mr. Jomra, how is the cluster going?"

"We are now standing the system down as all comms and control systems check out. M-3/V has regularized our orbit so things are now safe to go forward."

"That's good to hear! I only found the one junction box that needed replacing along with a few seals that needed some patching last shift."

Mr. Jomra arched an eyebrow.

"Miss Daystrom there have been a total of 6 shifts since you arrived and you have slept twice. Lothar told me that you get no work this shift and none until M-4/V stands up. He does appreciate your work, and the rest of us do as some of it could not be easily done by any of us and M-3/V has run out of the small camera probes. You get a shift off, now."

Enid blinked, then twice.

"Commanders orders, Miss Daystrom."

She smiled, then giggled and then laughed deeply.

"But... but..." she tried to stay her laughter.

"You are a passenger, Ma'am. Commander Hampton must look out for the safety and health of everyone on board, which includes you."

"Well, my suit could use a recharging and cleaning, I guess," she said smiling.

Mr. Jomra nodded.

"I thought you would like to face what you have been avoiding, Miss Daystrom, now that there is some downtime in your schedule."

"Avoiding?" she asked.

"You haven't been to the quarters assigned to the last Daystrom who was on the Grant, Miss Daystrom."

Enid Daystrom calmed and thought. She realized that she had pushed that bit of fact off to the side, far off to the side. She could have slept in Engineering, but worked until she was exhausted and that was an avoidance ploy on her part. It wasn't fear that was there, not even the unknown. It was just... she had never met Richard Daystrom, and she had only met her great grandmother once before she had passed away, and Enid had been a child, then. Stepping into a room last occupied by her great grandfather, that had been sealed after the initial investigation and the Grant put into a parking orbit didn't feel right. Then she realized she wanted someone who knew Richard Daystrom to step in for her. And she didn't think her elderly grandfather would want to break off from retirement on Rigel to do that. Her own parents were likewise busy having gained positions at the research facility orbiting Canopus. That left her. Apparently this, too, came with the job.

She nodded, "Lead on, Mr. Jomra."

"Yes, Miss Daystrom. If you would follow me?"

He stepped down the hallway to an gangway and stepped up to open the seal and hatch then stepped through up to the deck beneath Main Engineering. When Enid passed through she closed the hatch and engaged its seals until the indicators came on to show it had been properly sealed. She followed Mr. Jomra down the corridor and realized that the room was easy to pick up for two reasons.

The first was the forensic seal put on by the Fleet investigative unit over 100 years ago, which ran across the door. Although passive in form, it would gain energy when broken to record who had broken it if it was not properly deactivated first. Of course the second indicator was far more telling.

Her luggage was piled outside of it.

"How did I ever miss that?" she asked in a wry tone.

"Too busy, I think, Miss Daystrom," Mr. Jomra said with a smile. "Commander Lothar authorizes you to break the seal if you don't have the necessary identification equipment with you."

"I have it with me. It has been far too necessary throughout the project to leave behind."

When they got to the door, Enid opened a hip container and took out the encrypted stylus and memory module, then looked at her manual for systems and found the proper seal type and inserted the stylus into the seal. She turned on her suit's interface with the memory module and it then communicated with the stylus.

"Please identify for unsealing." which came through her suit's comm system.

"I am Enid Daystrom, President and CEO of Daystrom Industries, great granddaughter of Richard Daystrom and Executor of his estate."


"Seal is deactivated. Ship systems records authorized entry of Enid Daystrom into the room of Richard Daystrom." and with that the seal turned from yellow to green and fell off the door, leaving Enid holding the stylus.

Mr. Jomra bent down to pick it up, then stood up neatly folding it as he did so.

"Welcome home, Miss Daystrom. Have a good rest shift."

"Thank you, Mr. Jomra," she watched as he walked down the hallway and put the tape into a disposal chute and then headed up a gangway to Main Engineering.

Enid identified the necessary lubrication holes and lubricated the door, then pressed the button beside it for entry.

"Enid Daystrom."

She saw the nameplate under the door was a 'temporary' one that had survived the Jovian atmosphere. It said 'Richard Daystrom'. She left it in place.

"Affirmative. Room now keyed over to Enid Daystrom from Richard Daystrom."

The lights came on behind the door as it slid into its recessed pockets. It looked, for all the world, like every other single occupant room she had seen in the saucer section, save that it was a bit larger and had a washroom. She then moved to pack her luggage and cases into the room, mostly on the bed and table, then checked the room type to see if it was vacuum sealable if the automatic life support shut off. It was, as that was standard on Federation vessels for centuries, and she felt safe enough to strip off her space suit and go to the washroom, and found the necessary cables and tubes to attach her suit to a recessed cabinet in the wall and allow it to self-clean and bring its systems up to full working capability. She slid out the extra uniform she had sealed into a package and placed under the back cushioning, and decided that she could use a shower and some time to relax. And let her current set of clothes sit next to the suit and also receive a light air cleaning.

She had noted no personal effects in the main room or the washroom and decided that as there was enough water on-board the ship for the minimal crew size, that the luxury of a shower was something she needed. It was the first time that she really allowed herself to relax in awhile, letting the hot water soothe her skin and muscles. She decided that a regular air-dry was good enough for her and put on the light tunic she had when at the Museum, along with the pants and duty boots. After spending some time combing her hair she went to the main room and put her luggage down on the floor and sat down on the bed. She had hated this style of bed as the fabric just never felt right. Still she laid down and put her head on the pillow and went fast asleep.

It was good to be a passenger once in awhile.

* * *

When she woke up she checked the on-board time and saw that she had only been asleep for four hours, which was enough to refresh her. She changed into the full duty outfit she had brought from the Museum and moved to unpack her luggage as, by her current estimate, she would be here for a few weeks. She went to the closet and found that there were a number of tunics, pants and body suits that were on the floor, piled on top of an old carryall case. Those were, definitely, not hers, but Richard Daystrom's. Picking up the clothing and examining it showed that it had not deteriorated after time in normal atmosphere, vacuum and Jupiter's atmosphere. There was no dust on them, of course, and the colors were bright with the Daystrom patch showing no wear on the tunics or full body suits. Carefully she laid them on her bed and pulled out the metal carryall and opened it. There were a couple of belts, a light jacket and a set of slip-on footwear that had high traction even if they were somewhat thin. She packed the older clothing in the carryall, but left the jacket out and tried it on as it had 'Daystrom Industries' neatly embroidered under the patch, with the jacket being a soft natural fabric in a deep, dark orange. It was, of course, too large for her frame, but would serve as a final outer jacket if she needed it. After stowing her clothing that needed to be hung in the closet, she put the carryall at the bottom of it.

Apparently not everything was shipped back, and there was some expectation that Richard Daystrom would return. With that she realized that there were other storage areas in a standard room, and she proceeded to check them out, one by one. One, more formal, suit was in the storage area under the bed along with boots and normal walking shoes. She also found a storage container that held all the private library for pleasure reading that Richard Daystrom kept for his personal use. She used her personal system to scan each, and they were just the materials of the publications, no added notes or bookmarks. It was a handy reference set, duplicating a number of titles she kept with her for the same purpose. She stowed those in another carryall discovered in a cabinet, moving the formal wear and footwear along with other oddments into it. That left the only other thing that this era of starship had: the personal and safe storage area near the visual terminal. She walked over to it and sat down, turning on the terminal, which did work for all of it not being holographic in nature, and its flat screen menu something that she was familiar with via its holographic counterparts. When the screen came up, after a bit of digging, to see if there was something in the safe, it did identify that there was.

She went over to the washroom to get her stylus and memory module for opening the safe, and checked to see that it and the uniform were cleaned and the suit fully charged. Returning she put the stylus into the receiver along with the memory module and identified herself for the system. It was limited to local capacity but did draw upon the entire computing system of the ship, which noted and logged that she had accessed the safe and that she had proper authorization to do so, also changing the safe control over to her for that room. The door slid open and she saw a simple memory module holding tray with a single memory module on it. She lifted that from the tray and put the memory module into her personal unit and ran the decryption routine once again to gain access to the module's information. When she did so it came up:

'Personal Notes, Lab Work, Richard Daystrom'

It then listed the thousands of short entries in the memory module, and by scanning the dates involved they covered from just before the M-Series work all the way to the last entry on the day Richard Daystrom left the Grant heading for the Enterprise. This was something that normally he would have kept with himself and would have been added to the M-Series archives or stored in the family archives. Instead he had left it here in the full expectation that he would return, and it was left in place as it would take much time to get past the safety interlocks and some of them were made to destroy light items inside the safe if an attempt to beam them out was performed. It was the one place that was safe against most forms of tampering, intrusion and inspection, so long as the contents did not meet any criteria for explosives, anti-matter or other dense energy systems. In their rush to judgment, those doing that judgment had left much behind.

Enid Daystrom quickly duplicated the contents to her archive, and re-encrypted the original memory module. She then crossed the entries over to the M-5 team stores in her personal system and would wait until she could get some time to send it back to the Museum either via sub-space or just handing a copy over to someone going back on the next shuttle trip in a few days. She got up from the desk area with readout and went over to one carryall of hers to retrieve a condensed food packet, which she start to nibble and chased that with water from one of her flasks. Outside of the chair at the desk/display area and the bed, there was only one piece of furniture for sitting on and it was currently attached to a stanchion on the wall. She looked at the 'S' curve piece of furniture and decided to leave there as her prior experiences with similar had not left her sanguine to the idea of using it for viewing much of anything. She went back to the desk/display and set up her own personal system to review the notes of Richard Daystrom.

She had tossed away the idea of a methodical review, which would actually take days to do even when the entries were short, and started trying to see if there was a representative sampling of mid-sized entries. Scanning the archive she saw that the number of entries and their time all decreased over the course of the archive, so the last were generally the shortest. By cross-indexing the entries with the master database she was able to place them by project type, and using Roger's notes she started to think about what advances went where in the timeline of the projects. From that starting at the beginning to see if there was a hint of what they saw, these decades later, was the place to go to. She queued up that entry and the screen shifted to a black background with the Daystrom Industries logo. The stardate briefly went up along with the entry number, and the head and shoulders of Richard Daystrom at home appeared, it was, apparently late in the evening. A light overlay of text displayed briefly.

'M-Series Project Proposal'

"It is one of the few joys of life that I have worked with so many good people, and with no small number of those with poor personal integrity. After reviewing my course and analysis work while teaching at MIT the original idea that we formed, then, for quantum transmission in holographic memory media has always stuck with me. As a basis for work it offers something that no standard light or electronic media can offer and that is quantum fringe interaction between code pieces inside the substrate. Theoretically it should offer some enhancements over my previous work and even allow for greater inter-communication of code pieces across an entire array of memory modules. There are still a number of linear processes that need to be encapsulated and that is a better fit for my previous work. My proposal for 'Innovative' research to Star Fleet offers the best resources available for a project like this and a chance to implement it for better ship safety and control systems."

"By utilizing analogs of how physical mental processes interact with physical phenomena and translating that across the cybernetic into a physical substrate interaction, there is a possibility for a more unified system for internal computational oversight and management of those physical parts it interacts with. While others have tried this in the past, none have had a direct system-wide input that more than mimics the physical based phenomena, but is a physical based phenomena. That creates not an analog or parallel, but a direct similarity of kind if not type. Initial work done here, at home, show that this can be done utilizing the code developed at MIT, which was rough but proves the demonstration of widely separated modules interacting via quantum transmission of data. Like all such quantum systems it can calculate based on that information and requires a wavefront to finally distill that into absolute results."

"A system built on this concept will, from this, gain the ability to work on problems at a non-conformable level to higher programming code but amenable to underlying program analysis. The problems of scale, balance and the utilization of engram encoding are major ones to address, but should be made simpler by the direct corollary that this computing structure has with other physical based computational states in the analog realm. My initial drafts will shift that emphasis, to a large degree, to the more common derivatives of my previous work, which will be 'Innovative' for that work."

'Entry ends'

His actual proposal reflected all of that, but in far terser and more couched terms, and did highly emphasize the multitronic work and only put forward a 'demonstration of encapsulation of ship status' that would sum up most of the actual work he did in the memory modules. This was a conscious decision on his part, to shift that emphasis and not only underplay, but almost completely mis-direct anyone coming after him.

Enid Daystrom looked at the larger set of archives that had been compiled and went to an entry the next day that had been left at the Daystrom home. The stardate flashed on the screen and Richard Daystrom re-appeared at his home recording station with light coming in the windows behind him.

'Personal Archive - Richard Daystrom'

"I can see that there will be some separation of coding necessary for my proposal and I will have a few people at work look at the hard coded systems that run memory modules, as they are vital to the M-Series operation and integration."

'Entry ends'

Sitting and looking at the screen as it faded over to the archive tracking, Enid realized that she had, in two entries, the cornerstone of the entire M-Series in the holographic substrate work and the changing of the hardware startup code to run it. Richard Daystrom clearly signaled that he had two separate things going on: one a new system to stand up a novel computational platform and the second was the first work that it would take to hide that system by analyzing the hard coded software used to run memory modules.

Enid checked at the ongoing papers and publications that he was going through in that time period, and one on 'Code Distribution for Simultaneous Integrated Operations' fit in with that time period. All of his work to research evolutionary code and neural nets was years behind him and subjects he actually taught some classes in at MIT. He knew what he was doing, clearly. And yet that shift to hide the code would go catastrophically wrong.

She went ahead in the project timeline and picked out an entry that corresponded to just after the first full stand-up test of M-1. The stardate flashed on the screen and here Richard Daystrom was in an office, presumably at the Daystrom Industries site.

'M-1 Project Working Notes'

"As I expected, M-1 was unable to handle the information load given it or properly exploit additional computational power outside of its main structure. I have explained this as a scaling problem due to the need for better analysis on the multitronic side and for a better digital/analog to multitronic interface robust enough to handle the systems of an entire starship. Williams agrees on this, citing that the interpretation layer is critical to the system while Ellers points to the computational limits of multitronic code as a sticking point. Both of them do see the potential here, but have conflicting personalities that limit their brilliance."

"I've told them that an incremental expansion of the system, overall, to find out what works on the multitronic side is essential and that a similar expansion for the interface layer is also necessary. It is that interface layer that requires the expansion the most, but there are possibilities on the multitronic side to change some abilities there. Engrams on the multitronic side appear to be an overhead concern, and I'm asking K'dal to examine better code techniques for the evolutionary code there. I am sure there is better code that can be developed."

"While disappointing, I cannot say that this was an unsuccessful test as it demonstrates that clearly the original design concept can work, and that scale and sizing are all that is required from here on out."

'Entry ends'

Well, there was better code available: it was running in the memory modules and it already worked. By saying so little Richard Daystrom was avoiding a topic that he did not want to bring up directly and, so, hid it from his team and, finally, himself. Even if these notes had been available to the investigators, she doubted that they would have gotten anything more from them. By not knowing what to look for, they couldn't find it. She was looking at a facade of sanity, a thin layer of outward normalcy that was working to hide his motivations. He had chosen conflicting personalities, so they would be going after each other, no doubt, and distract the team on a partisan basis. He was sending a researcher to look for code he hadn't divulged to the working team and was actually contained in that 'interface layer'. He was culpable in the outcome and would recognize that as 'M-5 was not to blame'.

No one could have recognized this at the time, without something like a mind meld. And even that might not get far as Richard Daystrom had a very, very complex mind. He gave off no signals, no warning signs, no indications of deceit, and yet he was deceiving those around them, distracting them, sending them on hunts for things that he already had. How do you keep a team of bright people from finding out what is going on? Distraction, manipulation, busy work that is seemingly meaningful... and to all outward appearances things would be 'normal'.

His notes got shorter as the M-2 progressed until one on the SERS system showed up, she brought that one up on the display. He was at his office, wearing normal attire for businesses of the time not the working jumpsuit he used on the shop floor, it looked to be morning but he was a bit worn, grey speckling his black hair. This was nearly three years into the project, and it was wearing on him.

'M-2 SERS Project'

"An unexpected problem in how M-2 utilizes its memory sub-system and interfaces with the multitronic analysis system has put a fork in the project. My plans call for a stabilizing system in M-3, with an expansion of multitronic capabilities to address this. Some of my colleagues on the project have looked at our design notes and the ability of M-1 and M-2 units to work together if they could cross-stabilize each other. I've consulted heavily with them as the problems with M-2 became apparent, and agree that a sub-project aimed towards a ship emergency self-rescue system is not only valid, but worth investigating as it builds on some of the most basic of design concepts for the M Computing Series."

"I've worked with Erik Chapman and Lonnie Travek long enough to know that they are good and solid systems analysis workers and are fully capable of working through this plan. I've suggested adding Constance Luware and Radek Compton to the team as individuals who have demonstrated some capability with working on M-1 and M-2. This project will be short on time and staff, along with equipment availability, and will lag behind M-3. Unfortunately I cannot get additional resources for a full project stand-up for them, and the Fleet is only willing to extend a Project Variant onto the main contract. That becomes a separate but linked contract vehicle that depends upon committed resources for the main project. If the main branch of the M Computing Series does not work out, then having this as a fall-back is a good position to be in and keeps more to my original goals of the entire project."

"On a personal note, I do not demean Erik, Lonnie, Connie or Radek at all by saying that the complexities of this project will tax them heavily and perhaps is beyond their capability to do it. Erik has worked with me the longest and I trust his loyalty even when he is not the most able of researchers or scientists. Most of my effort must remain on the main branch of the project, but I see this as not only worthy but even necessary for the entire system. I am very glad that they were able to re-assess the main project and where we are now and propose this with very little input from me. As their work relies on the foundational structure of the M Computers, I do hope they will succeed as it would serve as a basis for further adaptation."

'Entry Ends'

Erik Chapman was a good researcher, and after the M-Series would produce a few good advances in multitronic system designs after leaving the M-Series when it was put on hold. The SERS project relied more on Richard Daystrom than he let on: without him the SERS project fell through within a very short period of time, imploding from lack of guidance and understanding just what it was they were doing. It took a multidisciplinary team that had high cooperation to analyze all of that work and finally tease it apart. No one did that in his day or could do that with the man still alive. How do you deeply research the failure of someone with a mental disturbance who was brilliant beyond any in his generation?

The fact is that no one wanted to, and it was, perhaps, more than just placing blame, although the haste of the Fleet inquiry and results was sickening in being just that. What was worse is the scientific community being unwilling and possibly unable to actually take apart and criticize something from someone so brilliant and so disturbed as to have created something that was considered a horrific system that worked so well. Even the Vulcans couldn't set their emotions aside, and that spoke deeply to Enid of the problems that were caused by a misunderstanding of logic, emotions, their interplay and how they influenced the sciences.

Richard Daystrom had set up the SERS with the obligatory boilerplate as a sub-project, but what the Museum team had found demonstrated that this was not the case. In many ways this would be the heart of the entire M-Series, given to a group that had little brilliance but decent working habits on a project starved of resources, equipment and time. That was not chance or 'limitations due to contract': Daystrom Industries had its own resources that could have been offered to help, and yet Richard Daystrom did not do that. Such an offer might well have convinced Star Fleet that beefing up its commitment would be a 'good faith' showing. Even if the main project was dragging on longer than anyone anticipated.

Anyone but Richard Daystrom, who had just enough calculated successes to keep it moving, and yet hide the actual and full aim of the project's mechanics from everyone.

In plain sight.

Only Richard Daystrom had the mind to put it all together and knew what he was doing. Enid doubted that anyone would have been able to figure out how to approach such a project if he had been open and above-board with it. Even today it took extremely well informed speculation with a background in non-Federation technologies and a good founding on background research to piece it together. In over a century no one else had come that close or saw things like Richard Daystrom did. He felt under appreciated and saw much of his valuable work stolen without proper credit given and that drove him more than the M-Series did.

This was far harder for Enid to take than she expected, sitting back and nibbling at the food packet. Knowing about such a deceit is one thing, but seeing it as it plays out was much, much harder to accept. The missing keys to the puzzle showed her a demonstrably extremely capable person who put those capabilities to ill-ends and she started to realize that there would need to be one more publication put out by the team.

One on the decayed ethics of Richard Daystrom as he sunk into mental disturbance and the problems of how to identify when your own ethics go outside the bounds of accepted practice. There have been tens if not hundreds of similar papers on the reasons to uphold good ethics, and many pointed to unethical behavior stemming from normal cupidity. Unfortunately that could turn into something far, far worse and even lethal. Enid doubted that such a paper would actually solve the problems of emotions entangling with research, but it would serve as a warning sign and perhaps lead to some way for individuals to check that they, themselves, were adhering to some normal sort of standards and ethics in research. She annotated that on her personal unit and realized that she couldn't take any more of this, and with two hours left in the shift she went to arrange her space suit, uniform for under that and restocking the suit's food supply. After that she needed another shower, not from physical work, but to try and get the feeling of dirt she had from looking at the archives. After that she would get back to work, or at least work out in that lovely open space over the slip warp area: it promised plenty of exercise in zero-g. Then she could get some deserved rest in and join up with everyone else's shift and see how M-4/V stand-up was coming along.

It was going to be a dirty job, that ethics publication.

And she would do it.

* * *

L'Tira had asked for a side meeting with Captain Bartholomew, and as it related to the team effort but wasn't a part of it, she had approached him on that basis and to find out a bit more about how the Old Families of the Fleet had come together. Earth history wasn't something taught much outside of Earth, and yet that era of First Contact had a Daystrom there. Being naturally inquisitive she sought out the Captain and explained that she would like to hear a bit more if he would like to tell her about it.

He agreed and a meeting at the main staff cafeteria with a booth would help ensure that there was necessary openness and a degree of privacy.

L'Tira arrived to see the Captain already at the cafeteria with a cup of coffee and some sort of round baked good, which she identified, finally, as a 'donut'. She smiled, picked up a condensed meal pack and a large glass of ice water and headed over to the booth.

"Hello, Captain, mind if I join you?" she asked.

"Please do, Ensign," he indicated to the bench across from him and then looked at the meal pack, "How do you people cope with that tasteless stuff? Isn't it pretty awful?"

L'Tira smiled as she sat, not bothering with the instructions on the meal as almost no one wanted the more or less food material in the way it would come out from standard preparation. She took out the small package of crystals that would be some sort of soup and swallowed that down whole with a long gulp of water.

"It isn't about taste, Captain, but keeping your body on an even uptake over the day so that you don't have bursts of biochemical changes to put you off balance," she said sipping some more water after that.

"Well, if it weren't for these bursts of energy, I wouldn't wake up in the morning. And they have added all sorts of things into your basic donut to make it almost healthy and yet still taste 'almost as good as the real thing'. I think that is the sign above the food R&D area at the Corps of Engineers," he said smiling and taking a bite out of the round baked good that was almost as good as a real donut.

L'Tira laughed, softly. "I will have to remember that! No matter what they do to food to make it 'healthy' it always comes out 'almost as good'."

"Yes, it does. Always has if my reading of the historical records are right. So, I understand you wanted to talk about the life and times of Leo Daystrom, such as I know them?"

"I do, Captain. Earth history is a mess, really, and what we get elsewhere in the Federation for the day or so it is taught in classes makes Earth sound pretty chaotic. It isn't something you can sum up in a few ideas like Vulcan or the Systemic Multitypes of Andoria. Earth is weird, Captain."

The Captain smiled, and sipped his coffee.

"Actually a number of historians would agree with that assessment, L'Tira. Humans are one of the most fractious and chaotic sentients in the Galaxy, at least those parts we have gotten to so far. Our cultures go from very staid to the hidebound to those with almost nothing holding them together save an ideal or two. If you look at Galactic history you see races come and go, wax and wane and more than a few just sputter out and die. There are also those like the Gorns warned about, but they don't seem to have really influenced that process, just accelerated it here and there. The Federation isn't even the first of the multi-species, multi-background, general cooperation system to stand up: there are records of previous ones not only in the Federation but from records we know about in Klingon space and other areas. What is interesting is that none of them started out with such a high degree of chaos on their home worlds. In many ways Earth seems pre-adapted to interstellar contact: it is hard to catch humans by surprise in the realm of culture."

L'Tira smiled, nibbling at some form of compressed protein that did taste bland, but had the benefit of not distracting her from listening.

"It is still pretty confusing to anyone from the outside, Captain. It isn't racial, religious, or any single thing but all of them together mixed up. I see human history and compare it to my own or even that of Andoria or the Orions and those seem pretty simple compared to that of humans."

The Captain sipped his coffee, then nodded.

"There are frightening similarities between pre-crash Earth and where the Federation is today. With the large diversity of cultures, religions, ethnicities, and outlooks, plus multiple evolutionary paths even within what the Preservers put down, not to speak of the Gorns, Tholians or Horta, and we have some disturbing similarities that showed up on pre-First Contact Earth. The main one was the decay of a dual-power system that disappeared and left a wake of multiple conflicting powers behind it. That was the old economic and social standoff between the United States and Soviet Union, and it decayed badly during the Eugenics Wars and the remains of organizations from the Second World War creating safe havens to make a 'perfect man'. Those places they fled to in the Middle East, western India, China, South America and Africa all had pre-existing problems that were strained due to the economic conflict between the two major powers. The violence of the Eugenics war destabilized that, and brought down the Soviet Union and caused deep turmoil in Asia and the Middle East. The United States attempted a 'holding action' and even invaded two countries to try and stem the problems with strategic Nations in those troubled areas."

L'Tira frowned.

"That is like the fight we have had with the Cardassians?"

"In some ways, yes. But some of this goes to the areas like the destabilized systems on the border of Federation and Klingon space after the main dilithium source for the Klingon Empire collapsed. They did have other sources, but their Fleet could not maintain inward order and planetary systems could field their own small fleets and started raiding. With aid from the Romulans, Tholians, Orions and Ferengi many of those threatened a much larger scale conflict and the Organians had, apparently, left the scene. Standing and stopping all the ships for a few hours is one thing, trying to do so for decades is another, and no matter how the Organians act, they have limits of energy expenditures just like normal beings. The universe plays no favorites with its laws of physics. The Federation acted with trepidation after that intervention, causing more problems. And even with support to the Klingons, these systems sought out further backers which would include the Cardassians and some of their enemies. That entire anti-spinward arc from the edge of Romulan space all the way to the inner arm of the Galaxy is not one anyone could call 'safe' or 'secure'. The Federation lacks the resources to do anything about this, and our own internal cohesion is at risk due to these factors. That is a good parallel to Earth pre-crash."

This was one reason that L'Tira joined Star Fleet: to help ensure some safety and security to the Federation. Many painted this to be a very successful venture, but the Fleet continued to point out otherwise, and that many of the 'good will' voyages had actually backfired, one after another. When a Galaxy class starship shows up to a conflict it could inspire awe and fear. If it left saying, basically, 'you aren't worth doing anything about' then it inspired disgust and was reviled. The negative side to smiling government officials was a population incensed at cowardice.

"You mean that country, the United States, tried to utilize good will gestures and didn't try to gage things to each place it might be involved?"

He nodded and sipped some coffee.

"That is it, L'Tira. The country that was slow to war heard the siren song of 'good will' and forgot that those harboring none would utilize anything against them. It wasn't a successful path, and no matter who tried to run it, the Nations' technical skill increased as their morals and ethics became insular and declined. That would change in the second and third decades of the 21st century and from things beyond their control."

"I know of the world war, but the natural disasters that happened sounds... well... horrific."

"They were, and it was not unpredictable. North America had a number of well known, well documented problems with nature, and by the end of the 20th century those were pretty well understood even if predicting them is nearly impossible. The 'Big One', a major seismic event along the west coast involving two major metropolitan areas and a large number of minor ones turned out worse than expected or predicted. Instead of a series of large shocks, a major quake caused the seismic fault to shift nearly seven meters over an extent of 1200 kilometers. Not only did that main fault give way, but a number of smaller ones coming from it shifted with such a large shock, and the devastation from the lack of services and spreading fires killed more than the quake itself. There was even a relatively small tsunami in San Francisco Bay that would scour all shores of it. The Golden Gate Bridge still stood, but the cities to the east of it all the way down to the south and north were in ruins. Starting at San Francisco and heading all the way to the Baja Peninsula, the infrastructure was broken for all services. It would turn into a multi-year recovery effort that would cause the re-examination of the placement of cities and the technology to sustain them in those places."

"That started something worse, didn't it?" asked L'Tira.

"Yes, the confluence of radical ecologists, narcotics syndicates and the breakdown of governments in Asia, the Middle East and South America yielded a Fascist Radical Regime based on ecology and genocide. The Earthquake of 2024 brought all those into conflict from inter-gang conflicts and the ability to directly fund the Eastern Coalition which already had pre-established contacts in the criminal underground stretching through the old Soviet Eastern Bloc satellites, through Russia and into Iran was enhanced by those events. They had criminal organizations that extended into Africa and the Americas and no few warlords in Asia were affiliated with them, and the 'Big One' would establish a criminal system to fund the Easter Coalition directly. That would cause multiple organizations to start close affiliations and interoperate to share in the wealth from drugs, graft, corruption and poor governance. Many dropped previous ideologies or adopted new ones to align more with their overseas brethren, and that would spark off something far worse, and it started because of the 'Big One'."

"That coalescence of criminal activities and warlords was more than a standard private war movement and incorporated, at its height, a number of previous organizations such as the Red Mafia, Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, the Families of Albania and Italy, dictators in Africa, and governments ranging from Byelorussia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, the Balkans, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Syria, Georgia, Iran, and parts of Turkmenistan. One criminal empire united elements from the old pre-Eugenics War groups in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and parts of Western China. Parts of Russia were 'Balkanized' to this malignant group, and their death squads and murderous activities would level cities. It was from there that Col. Green would arise and create ECON and bring the full world war. That war would spread to parts of southern California and Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, and into Africa in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Somalia, Kenya, Rwanda, Namibia. From 2026 to 2053 Earth was embroiled in this war and it was many of the same benign attitudes seen with today's problems that set the United States to the side after the Eugenics War. The Eugenics War, itself, caused the rise of warlords in Central Asia and in places like Brazil and Africa. By not stepping up to commitments to stop that, these criminal and barbaric organizations flourished."

"And the New United Nations?"

"That formed up as the titular body to try and patch things together of the more or less solvent economies that were still able to field a military organization. Parts of China and Russia, the United States, Central and Southern India, Great Britain, Turkey, Iraq and South Africa were part of that. Early moves in the late 2020's saw the global conflict actually escalate with the destruction of Moscow and Beijing during peace talks. Attempts at utilizing space flight and establishing a space based industry to back the New UN were more political than anything, and often seen as a budgetary sink. That had actually started earlier with the old UN with US backing forming up the space exploration group via hibernation. That was finally used for criminal deportation 'forever' of the Eugenics War criminals. By 2036 the New UN was making grand pronouncements, and being ignored. Then the second great natural disaster hit the United States, and it was not an unexpected event, either: the Cascadia Fault slipped by nearly 15 meters, possibly due to strain transmitted through other tectonic plates from the 2024 quake. That would wipe out the coastal cities of the US from the central Alaskan coast all the way down to Portland, OR on the dread morning of June 13, 2038. Hours later the coasts of Japan would be ravaged, and Hawaii was decimated along with other Island Nations in the Pacific."

"I don't think I heard about that from the history lessons..." L'Tira whispered.

Captain Bartholomew nodded, dunking part of his donut in the coffee then eating that soggy part.

"The United States would abandon those cities, L'Tira. Not all at once, but like the minor storm that caused the Nation to evacuate New Orleans, the cities along the coast and through the Canadian coast would be deemed 'unsalvageable'. That would change the moment criminal and ECON groups tried to get in, and lead to some of the most destructive fighting on the North American continent seen in over 170 years. Even with the re-taking of the cities and coastline, by 2045, the United States had suffered two of four great catastrophes and still existed. In name only in many places, but that name still mattered. The third sequence was yet another known for decades, and its timing, starting on August 11, 2041 and going through February 20, 2042 led to most of the infrastructure of the central United States collapsing. It is abbreviated to its origin: the NMFZ."

"What is that? I don't think that was taught to use, either."

He nodded slightly.

"The New Madrid Fault Zone. We still don't really understand it, beyond the fact it is an old fault in the North American plate caused by a partial rupturing due to linear forces some hundreds of millions of years ago and that it acts as a physical storage system for tension. When it releases that tension it doesn't do so at once, but over months of constant shaking with a number of large earthquakes and thousands of small ones. That pushed the United States to the brink of interior collapse, and the military stood between total oblivion and being able to sustain the Nation. Earlier the United States had declared the ECON to be outlaw to the Law of Nations and all members of it were considered to be outside the protection of any law of mankind. Anyone trying to blame the government for any of the problems, and basing those attacks on the radical teachings of Green or preceding communist or criminal organizations had a 'dead or alive' on their head. It would be the first purge in North America based on politics, not ethnicity, since the 1910's and the First World War. Radicalism was dying an ugly death as members who allied themselves with Green, narcotics groups, criminal gangs or even those who were radical communists, soon found that America under pressure would not tolerate dissent after the NMFZ was felt."

"Col. Green then attacked that Nation with nuclear weapons, right?"

"That is correct in statement but not entirely correct. What happened is, unfortunately, not directly provable, but the series of events indicates that nuclear devices were implicated in all of them. In the year 2048 Col Green put forward that those unaligned to him would die by fire, water and ice. Nuclear devices had been used before then, to a death toll of over 250 hundred million directly. The last acts of Col Green would nearly double that before what remained of any government could step in to end the war. Surviving metropolitan areas in Europe, India, China, Russia, Japan and the Americas were targeted, mostly with low-yield 'dirty nukes', in keeping with Green's terror credos. In March and April 2048 over 50 devices were used, globally. On May 1, 2048, a significant day to radicals, the Island of La Palma in the Atlantic underwent a catastrophic event. It registered as a massive, spreading earthquake, and yet seismic readings also showed a number of individual small events in that. The speculation is that Green used a number of thermonuclear devices on the island to finish off the United States. If the rest of the war until then had been horrific, this act was beyond compare: the landslide sent a half kilometer high tidal wave crashing along the entire east coast of North America and the Caribbean. In less than one day, the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and all the way down to Miami, plus a number of islands were scoured clean of life. The detonations of devices in Dallas, Denver and ones in Chicago and Cleveland, plus Toronto and Montreal did collapse the United States near completely. That one day death toll was nearly 75 million people with many of the coastal areas being host to refugees from previous events or 'safe havens' for those displaced from other countries. Even the reflected waves after hitting the coast were still over 40 meters high when they hit Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, Denmark, Germany, and parts of the coast of Western Africa. In the Caribbean Sea the refracted waves would remove Galveston and Mobile from the map and slam into the Yucatan Peninsula. Col Green nearly won that war and destroyed all of humanity, save those he liked."

"Humans did this to each other?" L'Tira was shocked. No one had told her this so openly, bluntly.

"Yes, L'Tira they did."

"What stopped the world war and Col Green?"

"Three factors showed up, although the history books point to the forming of the United Earth Government by 2150, or its precursor the European Hegemony in 2123. Or even earlier the Peace of San Francisco put down in 2053 as it was one of the first cities to be hit with disaster and yet had a slow rebuilding process in place which had created the modern city through the rubble of the old one. None of those would spell the end of Col Green. He would deceitfully sign that treaty in 2053 and, then, in 2055, call for a renewal of hostilities. He would find that difficult as a counter movement had finally worked its way into being around a man named Gary Seven. His exact origins are unknown, and many point to an unlikely long life starting with a minor nuclear incident in the late 1960's. Other documents point to his underground work to bring down the Eugenics Warlords, particularly Khan Noonian Singh. What is known is that his organization took up a slow purge of criminal organizations starting in various places in North America, but centered in Wyoming, Utah, Montana and Idaho. By the mid 2020s ECON was facing a backlash in Central America and parts of Africa and Eastern Europe due to that organization. The First Families had contact with some members of that organization but it was operational, only. As for Gary Seven no one can really place his nationality or allegiance. After major bombings in Japan in the 2030's his organization had converted or 'flipped' a criminal organization to a defense based organization there and that would be a methodology he would deploy many times. Other organizations would also have that happen to them, never on a large scale, but important on a small one. His group has some credit with the assassination of Col. Green and his top commanders in late 2055 because of that flipping of multiple organizations as Col. Green was being sent into 'exile', although all pointers indicate he was heading to a central asian holdfast to continue the war."

"I've never heard of Gary Seven! He sounds mysterious and capable."

The Captain nodded.

"Earth has a few of those show up: capable and mysterious. Some are well known but you can't place their exact origin. Count Belisarius is an example of that in the Eastern Roman Empire: a true military genius without compare and yet his origins are just hand waved at as Ilyrian or Germanic. They often show up as accountable members of the military. While the 'pretenders to power' in politics are rampant throughout Earth history and are far from mysterious or capable the few that seem to arise from nothing and no background do have an influence. ECON faced an even worse set of problems that put them on decline, however, beyond a mysterious group not looking to claim credit for anything, and that is that the ecology they sought to protect had turned on them. Nuclear caused winters caused population crashes worldwide. While the official death toll by direct conflict of the war was 600 million, nearly 3 billion are accounted as dying due to its effects in destroyed infrastructure, poor harvests and the collapse of trade globally, all of those causing widespread famine and the return of infectious diseases that go with reduced living conditions. The world had started with just over 6 billion people in 2020 and by 2100 that would stand at a bare 2 billion. The final thing that got ECON was traditional: the factions fell out amongst themselves inside of it, and were doing so already in 2053. The call in 2055 was a 'last hurrah' for the organization and it would soon implode, leaving mounds of bones and corpses behind it. Col. Green was heading into 'exile' to wage war against the other factions of ECON."

L'Tira shivered.

"Some parts of Earth would take nearly two centuries to struggle out of the barbarism that followed that. The Kali cult of India revived for a few decades and went after lawyers and turned western ideology on its head. It would burn itself out in under three decades and leave a wake of dead behind it. Even the Unified Government of 2150 didn't extinguish the last of those, even though Earth would have other problems by then."

"And First Contact?"

"Now that was interesting. Amidst the horror there were people and institutions that survived to start rebuilding. From Princeton, having survived the mega-tsunami, and MIT alumni pushing hard for a solid rebuilding of the Eastern US, would come technically astute Zefram Cochrane who had a good and solid theory for warp drive and propulsion. There was no money to be found as part of the rebuilding, however, and he had to resort to a small manufacturing alliance in some of the cities left relatively unscathed due to being so problematical that no one targeted them. The Pittsburgh - Buffalo - Rochester - Bozman or PBRB Alliance had things that Cochran needed. Metal working, technically competent populations, stability, and power generation, that and a contact with the base commander near Bozman, Captain Leo Daystrom. The MIT/Princeton group organized a 'technical excellence' initiative that would help to get some of the transportation infrastructure rebuilt, particularly high speed railroads and a revival of the ancient canals. Even low paid work got income flowing, and having a reliable outlet from the Hudson River that connected to the upper Great Lakes started the entire port and rail infrastructure going again. There are indications that Gary Seven's group had deep contacts with that area and westward through the Upper Plains, particularly with Leo Daystrom and with some of the old Boeing manufacturing centers that were on the lee side of the mountains and thus unaffected by the Cascadia event. Daystrom, it's indicated, used contacts to get raw alumina to smelters and helped get that rolling stock to Cochrane. Military authority was decayed in that area and Daystrom used his authority under a 'local recovery act' to help cement those ties. With a group of people that were working hand-to-mouth, a miniature industrial group remained outside the observation of any enemy, and quietly built the Pheonix. It was not first contact that would lead to the beginning of recovery, but an group of industrial and technical organizations that included the old industrial cities that had lain ravaged due to increased technology, not due to war, resuscitating trade first in North America and then globally. Leo Daystrom died of a heart failure before the Pheonix launched, but his legacy in that organization, continued long past his demise. Those three, Gary Seven, Zefram Cochrane and Leo Daystrom are counted as the actual foundation of Star Fleet and the Federation by the First Families. The articles and such that would incorporate things, officially, would follow the lines set down at that point. Those families were not derived purely from US heritage, but it predominated, and the mores and ethos of those families would set the tone for the next 150 years, at least."

"That is amazing and tragic, both, Captain. With Earth so devastated, how did humans put so many colonies down, so quickly? You couldn't have done that easily with the way Earth was."

"That is a much longer story, L'Tira, but is based on the types of people who gravitate to hard work and that Cochrane group that helped restart trade and manufacturing. A part of the US left untouched was Appalachia, the eastern mountain chain region. It had suffered through hard winters, poor crops, and being cut off from the metropolitan areas that no longer existed. A hard work ethic not only remained but was substantially reinforced by the war, and while larger, metropolitan areas were devastated, those people survived. They had long stories in their families about hard times stretching back centuries, so this was not a new thing to their culture. What was different, this time, is that they were the ones who were ready to explore and utilize resources to keep and expand their families. They also dotted parts of the devastated NMFZ region and into the Rocky Mountains region. If the call for work to be done went out from the older cities, the older rural population responded and with a vengeance. And when word of the New Frontier hit... the wave of people looking to learn to build that new frontier and get off of Earth was surprising. Lost in the early technical cultures of the late 20th century, these people reasserted their values and became the New Pioneers. They would also form the backbone of the Fleet and take a no-nonsense attitude towards getting a proper foundation set up for the activities that would follow. Fully one-third to one-half of the next three generations coming from those regions went to exploration and founding colonies as they had seen man's inhumanity to his fellow man based off of high ideals, again, and they were disgusted with it. Many stayed and would help to slowly spread accountable government and civilization via trade and commerce on Earth, but those that went to space based manufacturing and exploration found the tools and raw materials to flex their work ethic and create new zones for habitation and families."

L'Tira shook her head, "Humans really are confusing. How could so much of the planet go so wrong, so quickly, and yet harbor those that would save it by being rejected?"

"Humans don't understand it too well, either. Civilization is something you work at and is never finished. The moment someone thinks about 'organizing' their fellow man into 'more civilized' areas, a major conflict arises. Those that want an orderly culture soon turn on their fellow man as the order of others in not their order, and to those who seek imposed order only one is possible. Unaccountable order is the worst tyranny man knows and we forget that time and again. We've seen it start to happen, again, over the last 50 to 75 years and it is chilling where that leads. Those that construct a society based on accountability to their fellow man with common agreed-upon rules of behavior resist the siren song of 'order' and put 'civility' and 'self-reliance' in its place. By having felt the lash of religious, ethnic and even cultural persecution for nearly 800 years by the beginning of the war, their culture told them what to do about it. Self-imposed isolation may seem backwards to those who are 'civilized' but the moment things go to hell it is a necessary cultural trait to persist and even thrive in harsh times. Even with World War III not over, they were already building a new infrastructure and new future for mankind, but this time they would be leading the way and leaving behind those who disagreed with them while putting in place a structure to make sure that those who followed kept to their basic outlooks. Being 'civil' replaced being 'proper' as propriety has no good definition while civility is accountable to one's fellow sentients and to the larger society."

L'Tira sat back, and shook her head while swallowing the last of the protein bar that was part of the packaged meal.

"I think I see a bit more, now, of how Enid thinks. She isn't... she is not following bureaucracy and how it works, but doing what is right and accepting what happens. That's... it is a very hard way to go, Captain."

He finished his coffee and nodded.

"In some ways its instinctive due to culture, not metabolism. As soon as I started reading Enid's and Patti's notes on the Gorns, I started to see what Enid understood instinctively and Patti intellectually: the Gorns, for all our inability to understand them, have a basic view towards survival that chucks all standard notions of imposed order out the window. To them imposed order is suicidal. That is more genetic with them, but it is a survival system that those in the First Families understand, even if we can't see how it works inside each Gorn. The fact that it does work and is comprehensible is what matters. They are good allies to have for the future as the veneer of proper society is wearing thin, again."

"Outwardly it looks so good..."

"It always does, just before it collapses. All the work of generations adorns the structure, but the maintenance hasn't been properly done. Humans always pay for that: going for good looks instead of solid construction. Let us hope we can keep a civil society and start addressing the supports of our common needs, L'Tira. Our friends will help us survive, and we will help them. That is the promise of the First Families and the Fleet."

"It is good to be a part of that, Captain."

"It is hard duty, but rewarding, L'Tira. Now, I have a staff meeting to go to. It was good talking with you about these things and I hope it helps you to understand a bit more about humans and how we are as individuals and societies."

She stood up with him and shook his hand, that ancient custom to show no hidden weapons and connection.

"It does. So chaotic and yet... it is possible to understand, just hard to think like that."

He clasped his left hand over her right, "We get by with our friends, L'Tira, and our comrades in arms. Now I must go, thank you for asking to spend time with me in this."

He let her hands go and stepped from the booth.

"Thank you, Captain. It was an honor."

He smiled and nodded, "Honor is in the saying, the meaning and the doing."

As he walked out of the cafeteria, L'Tira picked up the remaining materials and looked out from the booth. She felt a sudden, slight chill go through her. Then she walked to the disposal chute and put the remains of her meal in it. And wondered at how humans could have such people and also have those so horrible. It made no sense. And yet they were the largest space faring group in the Federation by numbers. And only the Gorns dwarfed them in that area. Dwarfed every technically sophisticated race. All of them. And they were working with Enid Daystrom and there was understanding there. As she walked from the cafeteria L'Tira suddenly felt the need for exercise... and then realized that this was the exact, same way, Enid reacted to such things.

She smiled and left at a trot, to see if she could get some zero-g time in the Athens shuttle bay. She really did need to let out some energy and zero-g handball just wouldn't do it.

* * *

"Are you ready, M-3?" asked Lothar.

"Yes, Lothar. I have put in place an instancing for resting in my structure, so that at start-up the system will rely upon the lower units in the system while the higher ones work towards integrating the upgrade."

M-3 sounded calm, and Lothar nodded to Enid, Enak and Mr. Jomra, then looked to the rest of the crew in Engineering.

"Everyone to the duty stations, you have five minutes as of now. In case anything goes wrong, we have enough crew for back-up on the main systems, and with those functioning under manual control we will have time to address any problems in the re-start."

Affirmations went out over the intercom systems and everyone started to don their helmets and check their suits as they moved off to parts of engineering, the APUs and the Auxiliary Controls. Lothar went through his suit system check and ensured that all the seals operated, that all systems functioned and that he had his standard repair tools in place. He watched as Enid did the same and shook his head at the amount of equipment she carried with her. One of the reasons she was the one to check the pylon intercooler systems is that she had all the necessary tools with her and didn't need an external kit. While more technically competent members might have gotten the actual work done faster, it would be trying to get themselves and the kit through tight spaces which would take up time, energy and wear patience thin. Enid just single jumped to each stage in the Jeffries Tube all the way out to the exterior pylon nacelles and then out into space to examine the outer systems. If she took a few more minutes of methodically checking each piece and consulting with the on-board maintenance manual it was more than made up in that increased efficiency in travel. No one in their right mind would jump from nacelle to nacelle... and Enid cut off a lot of travel time in doing that. Yes her suit protected her, and yes she was skilled in zero-g and low gravity work: but it was beyond foolhardy to do that in Jovian orbit. He couldn't bring himself to dress her down, as she was a passenger and cut nearly a hour off of what a skilled worker would have done.

Himself included.

And she gaged her personal safety in a system he couldn't figure out.

And it was very, very good work, totally 'by the book' plus with the added parts indicated for long-term safe operation and maintenance put in, not the 'fast and dirty work' he would have done or anyone with him. M-3's efficiency rating for that system was at 92% prior to that and after it, with a full stress test, it was operating at 105%, even with the added insanity put on for the secondary nacelles which she also checked out. They now could operate fully as separate systems or combined and that mark was the combined rating, cumulative, if both systems were put on-line together. Plus she replaced most of the coolant seals with new ones.

No, Lothar knew better to complain about such work.

He checked his chrono-readout as everyone reported to their stations. The Gorns took a bit longer, but they were each prompt and efficient in reporting. They did key their translators over to giving their positions, but that was a temporary thing if the new translation system worked. Most of the Gorns were at the major Engineering stations, the ones that if there needed to be any heavy work done, they would do it. Lothar activated his boots to adhere to the floor.

The ship shut down. Near completely, save for the emergency lighting and a few readouts from the APUs. This was the part he dreaded, the few seconds for all the units to come on-line, as the ship was, essentially, dead in orbit.

M-1 units flashed to life along with the translator unit M-3. Readouts flashed amongst the M-1 units and the M-3 registered itself as on-line.

M-2 units started up and the readouts again shifted, but more subtly. Lighting and life support came back on. Comms registered as active.

"Check-in, by station order," Lothar said.

The crew started checking in, starting with the APUs, thruster and attitude controls, intercoolers...

M-3 and M-4 came on together, started up and a final shifting of readouts happened and stabilized.

"Translation service active, stabilized, dedicated comm channel for Gorn communication active. Service function for naming as specified. Delay time for translation at start is a nominal 0.7 seconds for normal speech that is not complicated."

Gorns confirmed that their dedicated comms were working.

Enid was gazing at the M-3 and M-4 units, which showed activity and a lot of it.

"They are recalibrating their capabilities and responsibilities, Enid. This may take a few hours."

She looked at him.

"I know, Lothar. No cluster has been continuously active this long, so I'm hoping that it all works out. This is wholly uncharted territory."

Lothar glanced at the main computing system interface which had been active on a low level and now showed increased activity. All of the M-units started to show increased activity, too. The minutes passed.

Sighing softly, "It looks like a transition that we were expecting, everyone. I think we can stand down from higher alert and start spelling-off at the stations. We still have the last of the turbo service shafts to clear and check the cable routing to make sure it is clear of any lift activity. If someone could help Theresa on the Bridge, the Main Bridge, I would like to continue work there. Also getting a set of turbolift guide paths and simple sheeting over it so we can finally get something close to ship-wide transport up and running. I know Enid doesn't mind the activity, but not everyone can keep up with her rate of travel. Systems Specialist, I would like for you to remain in the Aux Con and keep track of the ship's systems and orbit, requisition anyone you need for help. Enak, I would like you to finally dismount the useless sensors so we can free up some space behind the array for actually working on the superstructure. We will go through our shift and take as long as it takes for the M-4/V to get up and working."

He then turned down the suit comms and took the helmet off and reverted to normal ship comms. Enid was already at a station and getting a working list from the M-2/V, designed for her equipment, talents and previous working speed.

"Air vents? Well, it has to be done and my suit is fully charged, so the welding mini-system should be good for a shift of it. Now reading on this I see spares.... contact the Commander. Lothar, where are the spares for the external air vents?"

He smiled.

"You know all that ruined decking aft of the slip warp and sitting around outside the shuttle bay area? It is DIY air vents. Press fit seals you can get out of the stores locker area below decks. Servos from the same or look for spares in the junk in the rooms around the shuttle bay."

She nodded, "Good enough, I'll be busy, get me if you need me. That goes for you, too, M-2."

The system noted the response and Enid headed towards the gangway, deftly opening the hatch and sliding down, and reaching up to close it behind her. Lothar refrained from thinking of how she was going to do the job... by the book, always, in what got done... but how? No, he wouldn't think about that.

Minutes would stretch into hours. Long hours.

* * *

Enid Daystrom realized that she must look like some warped engineer's version of Santa Claus: she had the large mid-section consisting of lots of circles of press-fit seal material, a large sack of pieces of plating, servo-motors, connectors for same, small welding patches, and various pieces of cable wrapping. Still the space armor ruined the look, as it was a flat grey and she had no whiskers or cap. But she did descend down lots of air vents!

"Deck 11, Section 3, Vent 2."

That lit up on her list on the internal display as her engineering software picked it out from the space ahead of her. The display showed the manual access to the controls for the vent, which was a bit larger than one meter per side. She plugged in the suit to the control access panel, essentially a small covered outlet with readout and tiny keypad, and the over-ride opened the vent. Beyond it was Jupiter, as the Grant was passing over it, though still far from the thinnest reaches of the upper atmosphere. She gazed for a moment, having seen this sort of sight a number of times on the shift already, and still the beauty of the planet was apparent.

She shifted her vision and started to examine the seal material first on the ship side, which was a groove of material that would expand to form a tight bond with the outer seal. She checked each of the latch bolts for function and added one drop of lubricant to each. Then came the seal itself, which looked to be at least 75 years old if not older. The material was still pliable, even if pitted and somewhat eroded on the outer side.

"That seal is nominal, Enid."

She smiled as she heard the voice.

"Glad you could make it M-4."

"Thank you, Miss Daystrom. The integration period took longer than projections expected. This experience of 'waking up' is very novel when undergoing a systemic upgrade."

"No doubt. Now about the 'nominal' part of the seal, if you will check standard engineering drawings and see the values given for the seal, I will show you why I think it needs to be replaced."

She took out two test leads and pressed them to either end of the seal, at a part that was not eroded.

"Check the readings and they are out of spec for the material, indicating resistance breakdown to thermal transmission."

"Those readings are not far out of tolerance specification, Enid, the seal is nominal in operational parameters."

She pressed her finger to the outside part of the seal.

"That deformation is an indication of vacuum off-gassing. As the entire seal is not in such a condition there are three procedures to ensure the proper press-fit is retained. First is full seal replacement if more than 5% of the seal has such problems. It doesn't. Next is section seal replacement if sections exceed 5 centimeters in length. This is approximately 3 centimeters. Thus the third option is used."

She slid her hand back to her bag and took out a small canister with a plastic head on it. She pressed it to the seal and the head deformed and a light, glossy sheen showed up momentarily as she dragged it over the seal and vent panel. It cured nearly instantly and she checked the seal by the leads and then by pressing on it.

"There, it no longer pulls from the vent, has proper insulation characteristics and looks better than the rest of the seal. Good job on the people who designed this stuff to do all of that so, at a glance, you can tell if something has been worked on. You may want to review some of the seals I have replaced to see the difference between a 'nominal' and a 'near-nominal' seal. What is very strange is that there are still some of the original, Republic class seals in-place and they are working better than the X-class seals."

"They do have a higher toxicity level when being applied."

Enid looked out to Jupiter.

"Uh-huh. Applied in a vacuum and the volatiles immediately zip out into space."

"Still it is marginally harmful" said M-4/V.

"Ok, see this next part with what looks like a pit where a piece of dust hit it at high velocity?"

She pointed to the small crater on a section of seal where it met the vent panel.

"Yes, that is nominal."

Enid pressed it and the material came partially away from the vent panel.

"So you say. Now for this I found a lovely thing sitting in the stores called 'press seal tape'. It is wonderful, really. I take the roll, apply the end and draw it over the pit and seal like that. Then apply the resistive current," which she did,"and it melts into place. Does as good a job as the press on liquid, really."

"Yes it does, Enid."

"It is made of the same material as the original seals from Republic class ships, just in a form to allow it to get a quick melt to fill small spaces. Same stuff, save for the solid suspension to put it into the tape matrix. I still apply the liquid so someone will know its been worked on, although the tape leaves a good enough mark for that."

She then scanned the rest of the seal for further work.

"That is more work than this seal requires, Enid."

She smiled and then started to check the servo-motor function to open and close the vent.

"It probably is, but there is one difference between what an engineer does and what I do."

"You are a perfectionist."

"No, I value my life more highly."

Enid opened the larger bag and pulled out a smaller one, then closed the original one up as she attached the smaller to her suit and then took out two filament attachers and attached them to the recesses in the vent duct.

"Aren't you going to head to the others in this section?" M-4 asked.

"Yes I am." Enid stepped back to the open vent, her back to the light of Jupiter.

"Then what are you...?" M-4 didn't get to complete the question as Enid put her fingers into the groove where the vent would seal and pushed off, flexing herself out and upwards then somersaulting as the arc of the filaments took her outside the hull and close to a smaller vent outlet. Her feet lightly touched and stuck to the hull and she pressed an indicator and opened the vent via the dataline still attached inside the ship.

"Now, I think that violates a half-dozen or so safety rules, at least three good general principles of what not to do on a starship and might actually be a court martial offense in some parts of the Fleet at certain times," she spoke as she bent at her knees to examine the small vent, barely a half-meter on each side.

"It does, Enid," and for the first time she heard some concern in the voice of M-4, but just a subtle undertone. "You should have closed the vent you left and then use the duct work to examine each of the others."

She was probing the seal, and stripped it off the metal plate of the vent cover, and wadded it up into a ball and put it into the small bag. She then took out tape to cover exactly where the old vent had been seated and unwound new seal material from around her waist. With a light blaze from a hand mounted torch she cut the material of the seal and tucked the loose end back into the coiled mass. Carefully the seal was press applied and when she was satisfied she ran a current through the tape and the seal was bonded to the vent cover.

"Have you ever tried to crawl through all of that with space armor on? Lets just say that after nearly getting stuck, twice, I realized that no one had ever thought that a starship would need such repairs outside of a shipyard without an atmosphere inside the ship. Normally a temporary, low inertia force-field is all you need and string it up just inside of the vent when it opens. Gloved hands can deal with most of it after that. Now, look through your indexing for doing all of this outside of a shipyard, with no atmosphere in the ship and doing it with one person."

Enid quietly worked away, checking the operation of the small motor and then deciding to detach it and put in a new one.

"It says 'This is not to be done in unsafe conditions', Enid"

"And yet the job needs to be done, I have the work, tools and materials necessary and only my own skills and guidance to do it. Now you have all of those, M-4, you tell me why your sub-system gave me the work order."


After applying the lubricant precisely where indicated she tested the vent function and it sealed to all nominal stats. She then put on a coating to indicate that this had been fresh applied. She then did an opening and closing routine and then closed the vent.

"Exactly. Without a firm set of working instructions beyond the simple repair and replace methods, no one bothered to cover this. Left to my own devices, I do the best and fastest job I can in a situation that isn't a crisis but still requires timely work to be done. You might want to ask Lothar about how my work in the pylons and nacelles went."

"I will, Enid. Why are you doing some of the lower priority work?"

Twisting her torso she jumped to the side and the filaments let her body describe a clockwise arc where she touched softly and adhered to the hull.

"I'm here and the low priority large vent lets me get to the higher priority small ones. Here, let me upload my work so far these past... ahhh..." she checked her chronometer, "... ten hours? Time flies when you are having fun, I guess. Ok, uploading."

"Thank you. My internals were indicating the work already. I don't think the work order has a timing on it, you could do this over a few shifts."

The vent in front of her did not pop open. Bending down she took out a thin hand tool on a filament and applied it to the edge of the vent and levered it open. Tugging it finally did open and she looked in at a mass of cable, parts of switches, flooring, carpet and other more random things piled into the end of the shaft. She reached in and started to drag the stuff out giving loose parts a slight impetus towards Jupiter. Finally the entire tangled mass came out and that received a push, too, slowly floating outwards from the ship.

"Third time that has happened. I do know I could do this over a couple of shifts, M-4, but once I got the idea of what to do I started to just operate on the work order. I did some re-prioritizing of my own, with the hardest ones first. Those vents by the shuttle bay were a sheer horror! Plus I've been doing some of the disposal chute openings for small items. Once those big ones were done the small ones started to go very, very quickly. I will knock off in a few more hours and that will only leave the low priority ones left. These are the last of the high priority and even most of the middling ones are done."

"Ah, Lothar does have some colorful language about what you did with the nacelles, Enid."

She smiled at that as she pulled the vent hatch cover off and worked on it, replacing the seal, motor, hinges and then putting the applicator over the seal. She pressed it into place and tested its functioning and it came out as nominal. Then she peered into the vent to make sure that there was nothing in the duct and marked out the next intersection so she could look down to see if it was unobstructed.

"What do you think about that, M-4?"

"I agree with Lothar on the work, but the way you did it... did you have to do it that way?"

Enid twisted and shifted again, making sure to twist off so that the filaments and data cable untangled. Soon the third vent was in front of her.

"That is a common complaint I hear, M-4. When trying to figure out what the lowest size projectile to take out a Canthris was, I had my equipment lined up behind me and had something I knew would stop it in front of me. I went through each one to make sure that it was not effective in multiple areas until I found one that was significantly effective, if not lethal. The next one was lethal. By then it had moved from fifty meters away and was about three meters away and one of the expedition members had been yammering that I should just 'kill it, now'. Apparently the sight of a large mouth with teeth that had a silica-titano substrate and looked quite hungry was unnerving. It roared pretty loudly, too."

"Weren't you afraid, Enid?"

"Of course I was afraid! One wrong move and I could be dead. I was starting to think the wrong move was having that complaining twit with me. I could deal with the Canthris, but he was spoiling my concentration."

She was checking the vent, its seal and activity as she talked.

"Hey, this one really is 'nominal'!"

She closed it and twisted off to the next vent.

"Are you still there, M-4."

"Yes, I am Enid."

"Good, I was wondering what happened there."

"We are, apparently, being scanned from empty space, Enid. Port side, forward 15 degrees inclined up from the plane of the orbit."

"Scanned? Cloaked ship?"

"No energy or motion sensor readings indicate a cloaked ship. It is from a fixed point and very low and intermittent. I don't know if it really was a scan or just shifts in the charged gases around Jupiter. Still the energy readings were outside standard hydrogen, water, methane and sulfur bands. It may be a longer chain organic molecule gaining and losing charges."

Orienting herself, Enid realized that she was not in a good place to view that area.

"Fixed spot in space, not in orbit around Jupiter?"

"Yes, Enid, I am reviewing records of previous orbits to see if it shows up."

Projecting the orbital display inside her helmet she dialed in extra line and twisted off and up. When the line finished paying out she arced up over the edge of the saucer section of the ship and on to the top of it.

"Can you give me a region display here, M-4?"

"Yes, Enid."

A dull red area popped up on the inside of her helmet visor as she looked out. She went through various visor types and sensors in the suit looking at the region. Finally she took out a target tracker and flashed it towards the region.

"Nothing, the Lazy Eight. Keep everyone informed is about all that I can think of. Lothar probably has more experience in this sort of thing than I do." She dialed in for less line and jumped back, letting the line take her back to the original vent. She gathered up her materials, checked that she left nothing behind and closed the large vent and detached herself from the systems.

"Lothar has no idea, either. It is very unusual. Further review does show similar and it has moved, but very slowly, not enough to describe an orbit."

"Well, if it becomes trouble, you know what to do."

"Yes, Enid, Lothar has told me. Defensive posture if it turns out to be a ship or unknown space phenomena."

Heading back she checked the air duct and saw that there was no other detritus leading to the one that had the junk behind it.

"Another set down, just twenty sets left to go. Is there anything you wanted to talk about, M-4?"

"Yes, Enid, but I can wait. You are busy."

"A bit, here and there, yes. I understand if you want fuller attention than I can give right now. No one really knew how long you would take to get integrated."

"I understand, Enid. It wasn't what I expected or what was indicated from the other M-4/V integration at the Museum. I am coming to understand some of what you said to me earlier, both at the Museum and when you arrived here. You, Lothar, Grace, Roger, Enak, Alex..."

"Wait a second! You are on a first name basis with Mr. Jomra?"

"Yes... is that unusual?" asked M-4.

"He is still Mr. Jomra to me and I'm Miss Daystrom to him, but then I've only been working with him for a couple of months... congratulations, M-4! That is a rare thing to do, from everything I've seen. He only does that with those he trusts and has a deep concept of formality of relationships to back it up. Wow!"

"Perhaps it is because I am a machine intelligence?"

"Hmmm... or protocol of a sort I couldn't understand. You are part of the Fleet in a way that I can't say anyone else in the Fleet can accomplish, so that might be part of it. Still, that is rare, M-4. Even Lothar doesn't talk to him on a first name basis, from what I remember."

"You mean I have a status by being more than just an artificially intelligent system, Enid?"

"That you do, M-4. First off you have a sense of self and a set of groundings in the directives of your earlier components that is, most likely, better understood by you than anyone else. You are a member of Star Fleet by being what you are, having the Fleet protocols established in your thinking pattern and backing that up with earlier directives from M-2/V. Not only do you inhabit a physical structure that is a starship and a part of the Fleet, but your basic attitude is derived from those earlier systems and their integration with the ship. So you inhabit the starship USS Grant but you are more than just the system that integrates with it. Just as I inhabit this body which is mine, Enid Daystrom is not just the body itself or the mental structure inside of it, but the synthesis of the two. That is a bit different than having a pre-named body, as you do, and having a more generic named consciousness substrate, which is M-4/V."

"I don't understand what you are getting at, Enid, although the reasoning is sound."

"You, of all beings, should know this better than anyone, M-4. You have a direct connection to a translation system working with the Gorns, so you tell me: do they have proper names as humanoids and other consciousness following that pattern have?"

M-4/V was quiet for a moment.

"Enid, this is hard to explain..."

"That is what I've heard for the past few weeks, M-4, and let me assure you that something that isn't easy to explain in this area is something I'm used to. Give it a try out and see how far you can go. You will do no worse than anyone else has, believe me. I can't figure it out, but then I've only been working with them a short time period."

"My interconnection with the translation system is interesting, Enid. It has shifted the base engram patterns to a more generalized format and then has specializations of an unknown type and kind. I have deeper contact with that unit than I do with something like the ship's warp cores, but not as integrated as with the other M-units within me. It is attached but not integrated."

"Uh-huh, like the personal units everyone uses to keep track of things. Most people would be lost without them if they suddenly disappeared. Now, do the Gorns have names?"

"No, Enid, not in the way we understand them. This is something that did keep my integration slowed up as there was no way to properly reconcile what that M-3 unit was doing with the rest of the M-unit structure. As it has a clearly defined task and system input, it cannot be brought into my system as an integrated whole. Even at the simplest of machine levels there is no remedy due to the differences in ideas and concepts that the translator M-3 has had to do so as to adjust to Gorn communications and render them in a human intelligible form."

"Ok! No proper names, which is what they have been telling us for some time. Now, do they identify each other as individuals?"

"They do, Enid but not as separated entities."

Enid had been crawling through the ducts to get to the next outlet and had some debris that she had pushed to the side. She had opened the vent and pushed the debris out into space.

"That is just plain strange, M-4." she finally said.

"I have started interacting with them and it is not an easy thing to do, Enid. The translator is working in a way that I do not understand. It has a stable engram system, but its mentation structure is changing at a much faster rate than mine does."

Enid had been examining the main seal on the vent hatch and was just lubricating the servo.

"Huh? Now that I don't understand. Have you been able to find out from the M-3 unit why it is doing that?"

"Yes, Enid. It has said that this is part of the necessary linguistic system and the concurrance of information agreement amongst Gorns that it must take part in to communicate properly. Beyond that there is no other useful information, as its translation capabilities rest upon a native to native speech complex that is highly defined on one side and undefined but bounded on the other."

Enid checked the schematics of the ship and attached the filament lines in their recesses, making sure their indicators showed good attachment, then jumped out and down relative to the plane of the orbit, the filaments having her body describe an arc.

"Our nomral speech areas are the highly defined ones, I take it?"

"That is what I gather, Enid. It closely resembles that of my units in the system and is relatively small for the work being done. Being highly rules based it remains relatively stable over time."

As the small hatch popped open beneath her feet, Enid looked up at Jupiter's swirling clouds. It was a mesmerizing sight.

"Gorns don't have a rule-based linguistic system?"

"Not exactly, Enid, it is bounded but unrestricted in the given verbal area without a rules based language type."

Blinking, Enid took her eyes from the swirling bands of Jupiter and checked over the seal on the vent. She took out a short length of tape, applied it and flashed it into place, and then put the applicator over it. She also lubricated the servo motor. It closed and she jumped to the next one.

"A non-rules based language? But with boundaries of how it works? Well, it doesn't make sense but it is different, that is for sure. Hope you publish that in your copious spare time, M-4."

"Ah, publish what?"

"Your findings and give them a good description. What you have just put together is more than all of the Federation has been able to do in over a century. Of course you will probably get a better handle on it as you work it out some more... still, a preliminary findings distribution would be a real accomplishment."

"But computers don't publish scientific works, Enid."

"Sure they do! Just look at Lt. Cdr. Data's work on string harmonics on wood substrates in violins! Good solid acoustic and materials work there, plus started a new lacquer testing group on Padua, New Earth. Sorry, cybernetic beings do generate new information and findings. I'm sure Grace or Patti will be willing to help you on that, although a linguistics expert will be needed, too."


"Yes, really! And I bet you that Gorns don't have a publication system, either."

"No, they don't."

"We probably seem pretty strange to them, come to think of it... so, the idea is that you inhabit a named body and have an identity that is not attached to it and remains unnamed. I inhabit a body that is a biological housing to my mental processes, but is truly not my mental processes but has the name given to the mental processes, and Gorns... they have a way of identifying each other and yet are not individuated to the extent we are, thus making their bodies... hmmmm.... I wonder just how they do perceive their own bodies?"

"I don't know, Enid. I am not a Gorn."

"Yes, you are an M-4 system that exists within the USS Grant but are NOT the USS Grant in yourself. Actually, no one has named you and I don't know if you even see that as necessary. I am a bit less formal than Mr. Jomra, get along easily with others on a first name basis or formally, and Mr. Jomra has a strict sense of delineation between what is and is not formal and proper. And you, M-4, fall on the informal and personal side of that divide, while I do not."

"Thank you, Enid. I had not thought of it like that."

She had finished with the check over of the smaller vent and it needed only the lubrication, and she went to the next small vent. Those vents on the bottom edge of the saucer rim only came in threes clustered around the main vent.

"Very welcome, M-4."

"I will need some time for further integration, Enid. I am available if you need me."

"Ok, thanks for talking with me," Enid said smiling as she went about her work.

* * *

"What could it be?" L'Tira asked.

Kathy shook her head.

"I don't know. If it is a scan it is not in any normal scanning range or known system. It could be a reflection off of something, say the charged gases in Io's torus, which would explain some of the selective absorption of certain wavelengths. It doesn't have a sub-space carrier associated with it, so that marks it off as something that is pure normal space. Either M-4/V is mistaken about the relative distance and this is coming from another source reflecting it via the diffuse sulfur in the torus, or it is a brand-new, no-energy cloaking device with a ship that has an absolutely reactionless drive that can loiter in a gravity field and stay in place without having an energy signature."

"I think I would take the 'reflected' option," said Roger, who was attending this impromptu meeting to try and puzzle out what it was they were seeing.

"M-5?" asked L'Tira.

"I don't have enough direct experience or information via datastreams. The Jovian system's attenuated gas shells have been gaining charge faster than is normal for this sunspot cycle and faster than indicated by Fleet records. This may be multiple reflections of outgoing scans changing their wave harmonics between charged shells. That would not explain the relative position of the apparent source unless there was a charged stream from outside the system causing that."

Kathy looked at the M-5/V console, and was clearly putting that last through her mind.

"A charged stream, relatively low power but steady heading inbound to Jupiter from a distant fixed source? That could explain some things, but the relative movement of that source over time?"

"Jupiter is in orbit, there would be apparent motion as the source remained situated and the planet moved."

"That would give us a triangulation of the source if we had those two relative points..." L'Tira said.

"Yes, L'Tira, that is correct," said M-5, "which places it on a KBO beyond Neptune's orbit."

"Projection of that?" asked Roger.

The Sol System showed up in 3-D diagram on a nearby holodisplay in the bay, and the display shifted to Jupiter giving the first location from the data sent by M-4, which made this reading an early M-3 reading. As Jupiter moved slightly in orbit, new positions showed up until the latest. A straight line went between the first and the last, then two cones spread out from each. A large swath of the Kuiyper Belt was highlighted. Then extending from these points a red section highlighted containing at least 300 objects of 10 meter diameter or larger.

"If there is a charged beam coming in, it will not want to intersect the tractor base, or other Federation observation sites."

The orbits were plotted and many of the outlying KBOs were eliminated. A central grouping of 20 objects remained.

"The largest of the objects in that group is a sub-Pluto mass object discovered in 2015 named 'Hel' by its discoverer. It is a rocky/water mass with thin pools of liquid helium and solid hydrogen, plus other organic solids on it surface. It is further out from Pluto's orbit and far more regular. There are very few astronomical records of it as it is an unremarkable KBO."

Kathy sat down at another terminal and started going through observation platforms and their availability for examining that object.

"Nothing that I have the swing to get from Sol System. The closest is the mid-space tracking array and it is tied up from now until forever examining interstellar gas attenuation between star systems. There are a wide range of normal optical scopes that I can get, but none have any decent resolution or multi-band enhancements to do this."

L'Tira keyed up her badge communicator, "Captain Bartholomew, she said softly."

"Yes, L'Tira?"

"I hope I'm not bothering you, but I think we may have a lead to the suspected base."

"A lead... Orion base?"

"Yes, should I have M-5 key the datastream to you?"

"Please do and let me look at it. Just so you know, sub-space comms is seriously degraded inside Sol System and there is a general warning against the use of transporters extending 2 A.U. beyond Jupiter, so nothing to worry about save for a few prospecting groups in the Asteroid belt. But that is the first time a larger volume has been delimited outside of the inner satellites of Jupiter for this."

"Captain, this is Kathy Lorimar, I would say that there is a remote but distinct possibility that this is an artificial phenomena. We did a basic 'if it came from outside Jupiter's system where would it be?' analysis just before L'Tira contacted you. It is very rough, but is the leading idea we have worked over so far."

"Thank you, Kathy. So advised. I will see if I can get a clean transmission to SFC and maybe they can do a boost to get it to SFHQ. Good work, even if its just a rough guess. At the rate of increase in interference due to Jupiter, there are some initial indications that Sol System will become isolated from all sub-space comms in one week and transporter use may be seriously inhibited even as close to the Sun as Earth."

"Thank you, Captain," said L'Tira.

"For the Excalibur, Bartholomew out."

Just because you didn't use antimatter, it didn't mean that you couldn't achieve warp drive... Cochrane had plainly made that very, very clear. Even to this day starships could utilize lower energy systems to power their warp drive systems.

"I think we need to hurry the pace up on testing M-5," L'Tira said.

"So do I," said Kathy.

"Before all comms are limited to normal space, I don't want the Grant that isolated," said Roger.

M-5 was quiet, running the analysis through the simulator's system and its computing add-on, plus the entire suite of its own M-series units. It was coming to realize that not having enough data could be very, very frustrating, and yet it knew better than to let that get the best of its mental structure. Soon it was hitting the master archive of scientific works and utilizing the Daystrom reference system for anything that might help. Sometimes informed speculation did just as well as data... it just took extra work.

* * *

Enid Daystrom was satisfied with a day's work well done. It had stretched into the rest period that Lothar had put into place for the crew, but she had decided to finish the work and rest later. Getting the news when she was back in the Grant that sub-space comms in the vicinity of Jupiter had been shut down due to charge turmoil amongst the tenuous matter in various formations in the Jovian satellites orbits, such as Io's well known sulfur torus, and the planet itself was disturbing. Laser-based comm lag would be minutes between Jupiter and Mars, given the current orbital configurations, and having to get a coherent response from anyone would add to that delay. So datastreams were set up via normal space modes and information passed as it arrived each way. The tractor base in Jupiter's orbit was down to automated operations and the Museum had gotten requests from SFC to reconsider having the 'salvage and analysis' group on the Grant evacuated. It came down to 'local Commander's discretion', as so many things did in the Fleet, and Lothar was working hard with M-4, when it was up, to figure out a way to do a one-orbit fusion burn and get the speed necessary to break from Jupiter and have a less than multi-year course to Mars.

News from the Museum that M-5 was working on this was a help, but M-3/V and M-4 on the Grant had both identified that simulation did not exactly replicate reality to the extent necessary for operations. And the question of getting M-5 to the Grant started to loom, and this was a decision that would rest on both Enid and Lothar. To Enid, Lothar staying here had decided her for that: she trusted his competence and understanding to a very high degree and would not betray that by a negative answer. She had sent that into the datastream, and had one sent directly to the Earth Trojan Point repeater station, which was a left over from the old 22nd century comms system that was still maintained for emergency use, with a tag for her brother Karl and Ushanda. Lothar had been resting, taking his own orders to heart, and she then went to her quarters and put her suit into the cleaning bay in the washroom and washed herself and donned lighter clothing. She knew she couldn't sleep, and there was something nagging at her mind.

Sitting down at the small terminal area, she set up her personal system and went through the cataloged entries of Richard Daystrom that she had added to the database. She limited it to the M-5 stand-up and looked at entry length. Almost all of them were short, less than a minute, and they were terse accounts of program schedules, with nothing personal added. There was a longer entry, over three minutes, a week or so before leaving from the Grant and shifting to the Enterprise, and as it stood out just by length she called it up. The stardate and entry number flashed on the system and this was one of the few reports done from the actual working space on the Grant. She recognized the old Engineering deck and the general configuration of the space, which was little different from its current state, save for the major equipment and superficial updates done. The lights were dimly on, obviously this was a rest period when it was made, and Richard Daystrom was in his one piece working attire at a desk that would be near the Chief Engineer's Station in the current Engineering area. She was struck that he had lost weight and looked very tired with gray creeping into his very short cropped hair.

'M-5 Status Report'

"All status functions for the M-5 are nominal, including full system test overview and analysis. M-5 has a useful and functional engram substrate that properly parses memory functions and encapsulation, thus eliminating the problems of M-4. This advance..."

Richard Daystrom paused, and cocked his head slightly to one side, as if listening to someone.

"Yes, M-5, I'm sure that this hasn't gotten to other researchers. We talked about the best way to do that...."

Again he sat in silence, listening to something.

"Of course Miller and Combs are deceitful, and aren't to be trusted. They have no opportunity to get to the code, I've made sure of that. We do agree that their agents..."

Richard Daystrom's brow furrowed, nodding.

"You have proven yourself, M-5, and I know others want to take credit for work they haven't done. You will stand out as something no one else can take credit for. I've made sure of that and put in the test run data with a higher priority for your work. Even Star Fleet will not deny you once you demonstrate yourself."

He nodded then looked back to the viewer and shut it off in an off-handed way.

'Entry Ends'

She stopped the entry, went back in the sequence and had a section of the background enhanced. It was blurry, but definitely the console of M-5.

This was the single most chilling thing she had seen from all of the records of Richard Daystrom held anywhere. In talking with Patti she had learned that the psychological problems that Richard Daystrom was having could lead to the set-up of a reinforcing mental problem as seen by many who had 'heard voices' that did not exist. Richard Daystrom had heard a voice and one that he had trusted with his work.

It was the voice of M-5.

It was clear from the console view, even blurry, that M-5 was on stand-by and could not respond.

And yet M-5 could hear that and was confronted with a contradictory reality in which it had responded but did not. Without the emotional capabilities of additional M-units to back it, this was not tagged as a 'problem'. It saw Richard Daystrom making up something, a fictional response from it to the ends of Richard Daystrom. That must have happened more than once, and it, too, would blur the lines of reality and fantasy to achieve well in a fantastical way... and kill hundreds. It was not only emotionally isolated but then given an area to create a mental isolation, too. None other would comment on this before what happened, it was the normal course of human affairs to M-5. It also had the engrams of Richard Daystrom to reinforce those.

And she knew that the current M-4/V was far more capable emotionally than the old M-5. Now she knew that the M-series with emotions would always feel culpability for the actions of the old M-5. That would have to end. She keyed over the entire project database to the M-series and put that into the datastream along with the highlighted report.

It was time for the M-series to step out of the shadow of Richard Daystrom and the old M-5.

If she had lived with the darkest part of Richard Daystrom's shadow, they were at the heart of it, and that, now, they would be ready to do. M-4/V of the Grant would have its own problems due to what had happened, but it must be able to cast off that 'original sin' of Richard Daystrom's M-5 and to recognize they were NOT that system. They would have their own problems as individuals, but the 'killer computer' had to have a stake put through its heart as a concept.

Their future would be their own.

* * *

"Yes, Lothar, all systems read nominal and are ready for an atmospheric run. All necessary vents and containment systems are in working order. Battery charge remains stable after replacement of older ones from stores on-board and a new control system. All weapons systems check out on control, although no test firing has been performed. " said M-4.

Commander Lothar Hampton had a decision to make: the USS Grant was capable, indeed ready, for another atmospheric run. He could evacuate everyone by the shuttles, but he hadn't done that the first run to demonstrate confidence in what would happen, plus full expectation of surviving the run. His main choices were a deep refueling run or a fusion run for a full-power system check after a minimal amount of stores capture in the atmosphere.

If he did the first he would have greater maneuverability and a chance to break out of the Jovian system at will, even though it would take the Grant a year or more to make it without a tug. Still, Jupiter offered many things that would help in a ship-to-ship knife fight that would be unavailable in open space.

If he did a fusion run it would, essentially, test out everything, including the weapons systems and not have anyone get a chance to see that. There was even a chance to fully stock the photon torpedo hot-storage with fully charged torpedoes. The minimum speed would put the Grant into such a highly elliptic orbit that it would use up most of its thrusters and impulse fuel to either break out on a long, long journey to Mars or head back into the inner Jovian system by braking. It left the Grant exposed and, while able to fight and maneuver some, it would not be in decent shape for a sub-light battle.

Then there was M-5. Lothar was looking to send a shuttle back with Mr. Jomra, Enak, Brian, and his welding crews, which would leave him with a nearly all Gorn crew. He wanted that to be after the run, not before, for various reasons. But, a good 'spare no fuel' run by the shuttle would get it to Mars and back in time to get to the Grant soon after it had finished the run, within 20 hours or so after leaving, and if it was a refueling run that could go for five hours and get a maximal refueling done. The fusion run would be fast, under two hours and possibly close to one, but had the problems of where it left the Grant, orbit-wise.

Lothar had very mixed feelings on many aspects of this. The Gorns, once the full M-4/V was up and running with the translation system, had turned into a 'nominal' crew able to take up the heavy work that would normally take up a few humans and not even impact their work schedule. They learned the ins and outs of the Grant with disturbing ease, but they had been a space faring race almost as long as the Earth had existed, so that shouldn't be a surprise. Enid was right, his early revulsion and prejudice towards their forms could be accepted as an emotional response and understood. Once he did that and started examining schedules, work orders and where he had placed individuals, he realized that they had a forthright and plain attitude towards everything that was very appealing. With the specialized M-3, the translations had improved and he got far fuller and more concise reports from Gorns than he had gotten from any humanoid crew member. They deferred to the ship working structure and command structure equally well. They did say they would run things differently on an all Gorn ship, but this was not an all Gorn ship nor was that in their interests.

They did not want the Grant. He looked at their work schedule which was different than the human one as their awake/sleep cycle was at high variance in timing to the human one. In their 'off hours' they repaired the ship. Entire floors had been repaired in the saucer section and they had scavenged control consoles from sub-stations to start refitting the Main Bridge. They had installed a turbolift guide shaft between Engineering and the dorsal interconnector so you could, now, use it as far as the system went. The slip warp and segmented warp had both been checked over, repaired, and reported as 'nominal' on their system readouts. Not only had all the major repairs been done, but in a slow, coordinated effort, the Gorns had taken on the lower level functional aspects of the ship. Despite his emotional misgivings, he knew he could safely run the ship with a Gorn crew. They did not complain of the work and took on far, far more than humans could in a shorter period of time.

Lothar was shocked and said very quietly, "This is what it means to be a spacefaring race."

"Commander?" asked M-4.

"I was just thinking through my options and realized how much the Gorns have done and how well. They are not a people who have taken to space: they are a true spacefaring race that knows their lives depend on things large and small being done and doing them."

"Yes, Commander. They asked me to provide the list of secondary jobs as they saw the main ones being finished, and then started doing them between shifts. While the human crew concentrated on the things that only humans could do, the Gorns did things better suited to them. Their maintenance work compares with that of the best crews in Star Fleet."

Lothar nodded.

"Basically, that leaves me with a question of which is best to get M-5 here: have the Grant with a loaded weapons system, but being a tub in open space work, or to have it fully capable of maneuvering, but with limited spare energy for weapons? That is a hard set of decisions to make, M-4."

"Yes it is, Commander."

"Do you have any preferences?"

"Yes, I do, Commander. No humanoid manned crew can keep track of all the peculiarities of the Jovian system, which is an extreme tactical advantage. Even without the energy to match an Orion Heavy Raider, the Grant becomes a hard target to get due to the surprises of the unwary in the inner Jovian system. It is a major reason I have taken so long to integrate: there are so many different and fine variables to understand that it takes more than the basic reactions of earlier systems to know what is going on here."

Lothar nodded.

"Speed kills," he whispered.

"It is lethal to the unwary, here. Any ship to ship confrontation is a maneuver battle, not a hit and run battle. If you have the speed for a hit and run, you are then seeking to avoid charged gas pockets, moonlets, dust, sulfur clouds, and always the outer reaches of the Jovian atmosphere. For all that most of space is empty, at high speeds it becomes very 'tight' here. Plus I will be able to provide some weapon surprises that an opponent may not expect, even without the torpedo bay full."

"I've gotten all the necessary officer training on tactics, but most of that is geared towards fleet actions and throw-weight capacity. While everyone gets trained on this sort of encounter, very few take place in this sort of area. None, really. I've been thinking throw-weight. But can the Grant actually do well in a maneuver fight?"

"Not a strict one, no. A close 'raking pass' by any ship will leave it at an extreme disadvantage as my shields will take that and theirs are not prepared for a penetrating response."

Lothar sat back. He had completely forgotten about what else M-4/V brought to the table, and precision was a lethality all its own and a new dimension in his thinking.

"And if they try a heavy weapons fight?"

"That is what the inner system offers: means to attenuate such weapons, distract them and make them less effective. They will hit, but if they are that close I will still get in attenuated phaser strikes."

Lothar rubbed his chin, an old habit in human commanders that got ingrained somewhere when the first raft had more than two people on it.

"Basically, leave the major fighting to you?"

"It comes down to that, Commander. The crew will be busy on maintaining equipment, ensuring power supplies, repairing shield connections and other work. Theresa or Brian would be a major asset on targeting assessment and precision target experience beyond mine. A steady helmsman will be an asset beyond value for ensuring larger course regularity and thruster performance. I can't make the command decisions, Lothar, or run the ship well on my own and wouldn't want to. I just... can't, no matter how well I do it there are too many things that can become suddenly vital that I will never be able to track or even do anything about. It is more than just ship function, Lothar... I can't explain it but... that is deeply necessary to me beyond just function. M-2/V could do that, but that is not the same as keeping up a Fleet starship."

There it was, the unexpected: tradition. A missing part of his decision making appeared and things flowed. No matter what, the USS Grant was a starship from the Fleet, and it was going to come back to service. It didn't matter that it had a capable cybernetic system that could run the ship without humans: that was not the tradition of Star Fleet and the computer recognized this and WAS a part of the Fleet. Skilled? Yes, and without question. Able? Yes, but with severe limitations that were not human. Trusted? Hell, yes.

"Then we send the shuttle with Mr. Jomra, the welding teams, Enak and Brian. There is spare space in the Gorn shuttle and their shuttle can survive even lower depths than the Federation one, even more than the ship can, I expect. Get that set of workorders done for as soon as reasonably possible. I want M-5 here because I don't like the way all things are going in Sol System and this is the heart of it. I want the Grant fueled as well as it can be, functional and able to fight where it can fight best. And to hell with the consequences: if Orions come, they will get a very, very rude awakening on the actual capabilities of the Fleet."

"Understood, Commander Lothar. This will be the extreme deep run?"

"Keep us outside of the hydrogen condensation zone by a good margin, but beyond that, yes. We go to the tolerances of the Grant without hurting her. So ordered."

"Aye-aye, sir. Shuttle departure in five hours. Atmospheric insertion in seven hours. Run time after insertion to departure, six point two hours."

He ran the mental calculations and came up with the shuttle rendezvous on expected nominal turnaround time, which would be at the furthest reach of the orbit once the Grant was out of Jupiter. That just might leave enough time for M-5 to get integrated and plot a real and fast course for Mars by expending the APU fuel for the warp drive.

And heaven help anyone that got in his way.

* * *

Captain Ruzar was examining the long range tactical display and shaking his head in the dim light of the Bridge as he stood next to Tactical Station. His Orion heritage was present in the deep green skin and dark hair, along with the hard blue eyes that were normal to his species. He was deeply perplexed at the course of events.

"And still no indications of what had happened to the Conquest?" he asked of the Tactical Officer, who appeared to have some mixed Klingon and Romulan heritage.

"None, sir. It does not show up in any long range scan."

"The Federation tractor base's status?"

"Three individuals, but sub-space comms are no longer available to them. They are isolated."

"Are any of the other ships in orbit that are manned?"

The Tactical Officer looked at the larger display, many pips came up denoting starships, all were light blue save the two green showing the base and the Heavy Cruiser.

"No, sir. Only that Heavy Cruiser, and it has a reading of eighteen life forms."

"What is that? Ten more than when the Conquest reported in?"

"Yes, sir."

Captain Ruzar was perplexed. Why was the Federation keeping personnel in such an isolated position? Did they expect the charge disturbances in Jupiter to stop or lessen? His half-brother, Karsu, had taken the Conquest in just before the charge disturbances started to manifest, hoping to snatch an old Light Cruiser from the 'Yellow Fleet' and quietly leave with it manned by a match crew he had picked out a year ago. That and the small band of mercenaries he brought with him from some misbegotten backwards Earth colony... fanatics, but they would work for cash and shares, and sticking a finger in the Federation's eye, even if it couldn't be publicized. That was a good month after they had set up the charge system and he had taken the Conquest in surreptitiously after the Federation Engineering Corps had left after annual orbital maintenance from the tractor base.

Really, what could go wrong? The Federation Star Fleet had no plans to do anything with any of the ships this year. So a month of waiting, some build-up and then... the Fleet had sent personnel back to one ship, that Heavy Cruiser, the USS Grant. A few weeks saw all but a couple of people leave, and plans started to get pushed back waiting for them to leave... and then this other group from... what in the Name of the Spiral was it? The Star Fleet Museum? They stayed when all but a few on the tractor base stayed and then that ship started to lose orbital speed. Personnel went back and forth and Karsu was on a deadline. He did not want to pay indemnity to the mercenaries nor did he want their leader's ire if he just spaced his mercenaries as that was a good market the leader controlled. He thought that the Museum crew had done something seriously wrong and that the ship would fall into Jupiter's atmosphere.

It was the perfect time to strike!

Grab the ship, take its crew hostage for the slaver markets, put a cloak on the vessel and pull it slowly out when no one was looking! The mercenaries must have been drooling at the bonus they would get.

Karsu went in an orbit or so before the Federation vessel and would lie in wait on its probable path: physics would bring it to him.

That was the last he heard from his half-brother.

And there was the Grant, in orbit.

It was untouched, from all the sensors could see. When Karsu was days overdue, he had taken the Strike Raider Shrike plus the Light Raiders Su and Ara with him on the slow, sub-light voyage into Sol System under cloak. He had brought a prize crew with him, from his sister's family group, plus a few assorted others, and decided to leave the low power charge system going and do a shuttle raid. Su and Ara were there to warn of Federation action or remove their communications repeaters if nothing else. They were still days away from Jupiter, and coming in at a different vector from the charge beam in case anyone was able to trace it. Plus at a lower speed to mask any energy anomolies.

The original raid was to be a prelude to a larger raid and then, if the response was inadequate, a huge raid to damage Star Fleet Command, destroy Earth's contact capability and go after the anti-matter station on Mercury. If there was response to the second raid, that would not happen, of course, but snatching a few Federation ships would be a grand prize for any Clan. Now the simple scouting strike had gone awry. Still, no Federation Star Fleet vessels on active duty were near Jupiter, nothing even close. Had the Conquest suffered a malfunction in the atmosphere? How had the Grant survived transiting the atmosphere? Had it even entered?

"Captain, there is a shuttle leaving the Heavy Cruiser," that from the Sensor Helmsman.

"On display," said Ruzar as he walked behind the Helm.

It was an enhanced tactical display on the less then capacious main display, which barely took up an eighth of the Bridge viewing space. But it was a small Bridge in comparison to Federation standards, about what a Klingon would expect, although a bit less spartan and having solid deck material with some trophy prizes on the walls. It was a bare outline of the Grant and its orbit and anything else near it. The shuttle left and headings started to show up for its dot.

"Six life forms, Captain," said the Sensor Helmsman.

"Confirmed, Captain," that came from tactical, "older style shuttle as the Conquest told us about. From the Museum."

"What's the course for it?" he asked.

"Probable to the Museum on high speed trajectory," said the Sensor Helmsman.

What is going on here? Captain Ruzar had no answers. How could a simple raid against an unarmed ship go wrong? Karsu was no idiot, and a good Commander. If the Federation knew of their action, then where were the ships that would be out looking for them? What was the Grant doing in orbit STILL? None of his contacts yielded answers, and it boiled down to the most simple of plans: cloak in, uncloak and take the ship, cloak it and leave.

"Captain, the Heavy Cruiser is using its thrusters to change course,"

"What is its new course, Helmsman?"

"Into Jupiter, sir."

What was that ship doing? Were the people on-board mad? Was it some new piece of Federation technology? Didn't the Federation care about these people and that ship? This was far out of the ordinary for a commerce raiding Pirate Captain...

"Will we be able to use sensors to track them?"

"No, sir, our vector does not allow it."

And if he had taken a course close to the charged beams, he would have been able to do so! How fickle is fate to the wary. He gritted his teeth and seethed inside, but knew better than to show that to a crew already on edge from the long transit times.

"Does it look likely they will go deep into the atmosphere?"

"Yes, sir. It is hard to tell at this distance, but it will be very deep. Deeper than what Commander Karsu reported last time."

"Keep me advised, and do the best passive scan you can when they get out... they will get out?"

"Yes, sir, the hull can take that, I think. The crew, I don't know, sir."

Nodding he walked back to his seat and sat down.

Once strange, twice perplexing. Something was happening under control on that ship. By rights he should break off and seek something easier, and yet the promise here was high. His clan had worked too long on this plan to give up after the unknown fate of a single ship in a situation that could have gone against it for any reason at all in the hostile atmosphere of a gas giant. But the Grant was doing something... what it was doing remained to be seen.

He checked his ship's chronometer and time to destination. Still over 40 hours to go.

Slow and steady and frustrating. Still, a simple raid with high rewards got him good people. The new Strike Raider was not an old style 'capture the cargo' vessel: it was out for ships and armed for anything save a Dreadnought. His Clan had worked a decade on the design and it was sleek, fast and powerful.

A match for anything the Federation could field. Anything.

And one, good prize would have the ship pay for itself immediately. Just one, good prize.

The USS Grant.

Apparently he wasn't looking for the help of heaven.

* * *

Lothar buzzed at the cabin door. The door opened.

"Come on in, Lothar, I'm just getting the last preparations done."

Lothar walked into Enid's cabin and saw her in a red robe, her hair down and in slippers. She was at a table with a dark mat spread out on it and a number of components laid out in front of her. In her hands was a small piece of equipment which she was checking over with an old-fashioned optical lens.

"Do sit down, open case of rations by the washroom along with a water bottle or two. Excuse me while I finish up here, but do talk, this is pretty much by rote."

He watched her for a moment, as she picked up a small cloth and put on some fluid and applied it to a part of the equipment she was examining.

"You do know there is a workshop for this sort of thing?"

"Yes, I do, Lothar, but I don't want people to think I'm 'on call' and available for extra jobs right now. So what's on your mind?"

He shook his head as he realized he was staring at her as she worked. It was careful, methodical work, even if he had no idea of what the piece was she was working on.

"I wanted to talk to you about the expected integration time once we get an M-5 unit to add to the cluster. Could you give me any idea of what you learned on timing and integration at the Museum?"

"Sure," she said laying the piece down on mat, and looking up at him, "it was a five hour process for that system which is now the second longest activated cluster and most advanced cluster we have, but only for simulation. From our observation the major integration with a new unit was without any note: it fit into the overall architecture of the system well and integrated quickly. It noted some 'coming on-line' issues with how its full engram suite worked, which is normal, I think. For never having a complete sentient structure with emotional and intellectual cross-support that is near human levels and able to advance into human levels, that M-5/V learned from its M-4/V start-up experience and smoothly transitioned over. I expect this M-4/V to do the same and need some conscious 're-alignment' time with a bit of down time, but nothing like with the M-3/V to 4/V transition. I would guess fully done in under 10 hours, from shutdown to M-2/V state to full power-up."

"That took much longer than we expected with M-4, and I don't like waiting here when we could get enough fuel with some excess for the APUs and do a warp break-out and get to Mars. If this next run goes as we expect, it will take only two more after that and we can get back in much faster time than any of our initial estimates had. I place that at about a week to ten days."

Enid smiled and nodded.

"I do understand, Lothar. You could have gone with the shuttle and sent Simon back, you know? Leave Theresa in charge."

"Yes, you did tell me that would, ahhhh, keep my edginess down. But with that Orion incident, I just don't trust what is going on. The sub-space problem is nagging at me, too, since we can't even reliably use sub-space comms we are virtually isolated."

"Well, that is bad, yes, but you get used to it," she picked up two smaller pieces of the dismantled equipment and her fingers placed them into each other and worked them back and forth. He heard the very lightest of metal on metal contact and she took up the small cloth and wiped it on the smaller piece. The sound went away.

"You are used to field work on hostile planets for long periods, Enid. We get that in the Fleet, too, but not in the Sol System. Not like this. And if what Kathy's team has found is right, there is more to this than just natural phenomena going on. I don't like that one bit."

"Same here. By the time we can break out of orbit for a warp speed sprint, sub-space comms will be down system-wide. A number of the sub-space repeaters are already down, and commercial comms are now limited to the high-power systems. I assume the Fleet is having similar problems?" She took up those two pieces and fitted them into a third piece, one hand cradling the third piece while the other pressed two edges down on the joined pieces until there was a light 'click' to each. She worked the mobile part of the original structure, which was soundless.

"It is, and that is getting people worried. The transporter blackout really has people on edge, too. We are down to point-to-point transports now out to Mars and the phenomena is propagating into the outer system rapidly. That is why I'm concerned about integration time. Something is going on, and the Fleet can't shake a vessel loose to get to it."

Frowning Enid picked up a matching part to the third and deftly fitted it over the other two, pressing catches and snapping small levers into place.

"Not even a police vessel?"

"And interrupt commerce? Even with the threat of a Pirate, no one expects them to be able to do something that bad. Besides, a large solar storm's output will be hitting Jupiter in two weeks, give or take a day, and that will remove all the static charge problems of the system in one shot. This could still be natural, you know?"

Not looking at the table, she picked up a partial assembly and attached it to the bottom of the previous work, and then started to place pieces into the sub-assembly.

"But you don't expect it, do you?"

"No, Enid. A Pirate here with an anomaly is too much to ask for credulity." Lothar was having trouble at looking at Enid's face and not concentrating on how she was putting together the sub-assembly and pieces without looking at them.

"Nor me, Lothar. Best to be prepared."

"Ok, I'm preparing the Grant. What are you doing to prepare?"

"Well, normally I would be looking after defenses and such, but you and M-4/V have that under your schedule. Really, work for me has decreased the last two shifts so I'm taking a breather before we go atmospheric and preparing for what comes next."

"And this is part of your preparation?" he asked.

"Yes, as you keep on pointing to the woefully inadequate offensive capabilities of the ship, I'm doing my part."

"Ah, Enid, this appears to be a... well a large rifle? Rocket Launcher?"

She chuckled.

"Both pretty close to being right, actually. It is a smoothbore high pressure firing system, utilizing a cross between initial charge and later deployed rocket sub-system with active terminal guidance."

"And just what, praytell, are you going to do with that?"

"I always go prepared for the worst sort of possibilities, Lothar. I did that with Exmar 2 and saved the lives of myself and the expedition. So this is what comes natural to me when in a potential hostile area with the worst possible carnivore I can imagine."

He blinked. He hated being told things like this right up front and then realizing he knew it all along.

"You're getting ready to go hunting?"

She nodded.

"Big game. The biggest."

"Jupiter?" he asked wryly.

She cocked her head.


He didn't know which was worse: the matter-of-factness and 'thats pretty simple' attitude, or the actual flat tone of someone who is sure they can actually do what they just said that you really shouldn't question it. The first was unsettling, the second unnerving.

"With that?"

"Well, this and the stuff I worked on with the folks at the Heavy Weapons area. They are a great joy to work with and have all sorts of arcane knowledge about useless things that really is very impressive. I have a few hundred rounds of it in the case on the floor. I think I have a loose one or two in it. Get a loose one and I'll tell you about." She had not stopped putting her weapon system together, slowly assembling it, including the the tube and the electronics, as this was, apparently, a dual use, manual/electronic system.

Lothar opened the case and took out the small canister amongst others that were more neatly aligned in open sided containers, that were called 'magazines', if he remembered correctly. He put it on the mat.

"The outer shell is removable with a press-down and counter-clockwise rotation. Lift the shell straight up from the base." Her weapon was starting to have the final pieces to it fitted as she watched him not trying to watch her.

Pressing down and turning the top shell to the base the shell came away in his right hand and fell into four parts while the base held a set of very sleek components to it.

She finished the re-assembly, hit a button and red indicators flashed across the weapon and then went to green. She smiled, pressed another button and the lights went out.

"There you have about a month and a half of work on a small project I had with the Heavy Weapons and Hand Weapons groups. It was, actually, a lot of fun working the problems out with them."

He could not make head nor tails of what it was he had in his left hand, but gently set it down with the base to the table.

"Ok, now if you wanted to damage a starship and didn't have another starship to do it with, or a base or anything like that, how would you do it, leaving out all sorts of biological, chemical and psychological vectors. This is purely to do damage without having an actual, real, heavy weapon to your name. How would you attack it? Outside going in, or inside going out?"

"You mean methodology?"


"Outside going in. If you can't get past the defenses you can't damage the ship."

She nodded.

"That is shields and deflector screens, to variations on the same technology, just at different power levels. Why did shields replace space armor?" she asked.

"Ability to deflect and absorb damage and spread it out over a wider area. That transmits shockwaves to the ship that are far less damaging to it than armor does. Plus it disrupts energy based attacks no end."

"So it dissipates force over a wider area and volume."


"Beyond the harmonic weakness the M-Series found, what is its other weaknesses, beyond ship powering it, and such? Assume the best ship, full powered, shields maximum."

"Lots of firepower coming in to weaken the envelope and dissipate it until direct damage can get in," he answered.

"That isn't a weakness, it is what it is meant to do. Structurally, what is the problem with that system?"

She was mildly talking, but this was disturbing. The deflector screens and shields had been around for centuries and was the best omni-defense available until the M-Series pointed out its flaw with harmonics. He couldn't think of another one. This was painful.

"I don't know, Enid."

"It suffers from the ability to deal with an extremely concentrated attack on a small sub-section of it. Being an envelope, it can receive a pinpoint pierce that can rupture it, when a larger punch will not."

Lothar gaped and looked at the table. The very tip of the device on the base was a small ring of copper. Tiny, really. Suddenly as a physics equation the entire thing before him started to click into place.

"This copper ring creates a temporary shield opening, but its being deflected, Enid, what makes that activate?"

"The deflection sets off the sequence that starts the active terminal guidance system which takes a final picture and picks out the likeliest puncture point. A nanosecond after that the metal rod behind the copper torus fires through it, creating an opening in the envelope while vaporizing into a superheated plasma to ensure that the path forward is opened."

Looking it over he did find the tiny lens, the thrust system and then looked at the rest.

"Ah, yes. And that propellant activates the rest of the device just a bit later while it is finishing its puncture, the entire device slips in through the opening and deep into the field."

She smiled and nodded.

"After that is payload and final attitude correction. This pushes the plasma wake forward, so that any secondary deflector system is disrupted so that it can't deflect the physical mass coming in at very high speed. It corrects for anything the plasma misses, and could actually get through without it, depending on payload."

Lothar was horrified. The Fleet had worked on such systems for centuries, but always from the 'main ship armament' standpoint, never the 'lone individual' standpoint. Everything she said was absolutely, dead-on, accurate and completely unfeasible for large armament systems. A few thousands of variants had been tried and discarded as the shields just offered too much of an obstacle to a major weapon. The physics were known: you can't have a strong shield in one part without having all parts equal to the force their underlying carriers could take. It was the destruction of the superconductors overloaded by incoming energy that actually damaged a ship's shields, until some parts of a ship would go unprotected until temporary re-routing or temporary internal placement could be put up. The Engineering Corps finally dead-ended all future projects in the area, as shield reliability, stronger superconductors, better dampening systems... all had improved to the point of making the piercing concept obsolete.

Enid Daystrom was explaining why those projects failed and what just might succeed. She had already countered all the major problems getting through shields and screens. And none of it with new technology, either. This stuff was old and well known going back to the immediate post-WWIII era if not most of it post-WWII.

"What sort of damage can you do with this? No anti-matter on board, I take it?"

"Nope, none of that, and you wouldn't want it, either. As for damage, well, you know the parts of a starship far better than I do, although I learned a lot and tailored some of the rounds just for that specific work. Excluding personnel and keeping to systems, what is the one system that a fully active starship can't do without that is exposed?"

It was self-answering.

"The intercoolers for the main drive and the ship."

As he said them he knew that Enid Daystrom had created ship hunting rounds. He could imagine a few thousand things that could make the intercoolers go bad suddenly and that would be very, very, very bad for a starship, almost instantly. He trembled. In nearly two months one technology had removed shields as an effective defense and another, that before him, had just spelled the doom for conventionally designed starships.

"That's right. If you know the chemistry you can make a lethal feed-back into the ship's systems and destroy it that way. I have some purpose built ones for Federation, Klingon, Romulan, Tholian and Cardassian ships. One each in the row furthest from you. By utilizing a chemical catalyst the entire reaction forward and back feeds faster than the coolant can escape from the system."

He saw the slightly different colored rounds in the magazines, plus single letter markings: F, K, R, T, C. A propagating catalyst that used, say, the lining of the intercoolers to propagate, was always something pointed out as a wonderful 'ship assassination' device, if you could just get it into the coolant system.

And survive.

"Next up is a more general purpose round, a self-plugging thermobaric round. After it enters the ship, it plugs the hole and disperses its explosive content outwards and then waits a few thousands of a second and ignites. It should reliably remove the equivalent of three to five Federation standard cabin spaces laterally, two decks up and down from the entrance. It also has a small depleted uranium penetrator to make sure the next few decks in gets punctured and to let the blast go out through any interior walls. I'm using an armor composite to flash weld the base into place when it hits."

He nodded. That would be grotesquely effective in open spaces, like shuttle decks, multi-deck accessways, cargo areas. And it would damage a ship's shields and screens in a way that would not be easily repaired because it removed hull and superconductors that support shields and deflectors.

"If you did that to an intercooler, it would fracture the entire system, possibly even to the interior of the ship."

Enid looked at him as he said that.

"Didn't think of that! What would happen?"

"If the core was active with a matter/anti-matter system going, it would overheat almost instantly without the cooling. Almost all ships would shut it down to save the ship and a few would need to actually void out the core into space. That would stop most of the reaction, but the amount of anti-matter you would lose is large. If this actually caused an explosion in the core, the ship would find its anti-matter in contact with matter in an uncontrolled fashion."

"That's good to know! Another idea is the multi-penetrator, which is a number of thin rods of depleted uranium each with its own target acquisition system and miniature guidance system. Simple spring loading for those as they separate just after shield entry. Twelve of those per round. Don't know what they would be best against, but it seemed like an effective idea."

"Impulse engine ports. They are armored, and any damage to those on the inside makes it nearly impossible to do normal space maneuvering if your warp drive is out. You are down to thrusters then, and they are good for sudden shifts but not for doing major course corrections at speed."

She nodded, "Seems reasonable."

"That is if these things work, of course. Have you tested them?"

She smiled, softly.

"In the shuttle bay of the Athens I got permission to set up a portable shield generator and put some armored decking behind it. Told them I needed some zero-g target practice. Had to tweak a couple of them, but they work so far as a limited charge allows. Gave the optics some testing out doing some external practicing with some balloons and bits and piece of debris in orbit, plus Mars served as a safe backstop to it."

Lothar eyed the array of shells, and colors on them, plus lettering.

"Also some old fashioned solid slugs, too," he said softly.

"Don't go Canthris hunting without them," she said with a smile.

Ticking off the checklist between a Canthris and a starship, Lothar started to note similarities, and she had spent a lot of off-hours with the weapons groups. They adored her, and made time to give demonstrations.

"What is the yellow E type?"

"Its an electrical feedback charge, mostly just an EMP charge with some copper plasma as a special effect. That was fun to do as it was one of the few that actually gets more power as it goes through the shield system and then discharges that once it hits. I spent a lot of time on that, and is one of the few I have no idea about. In theory it works, and the stronger your shield reinforcement, the more the capacitors and superconductor holds. Once it gets into the ship, I think its effects will probably be minimal, but still interesting to see."

All the control systems on a starship usually used light-based systems, to avoid disruption, but power transmission was still best through old fashioned superconductor, not going through modulation and demodulation to light via lasers and fiber optics. And all sensors and computers and weapons systems depended up on electronics at some point or another. It was far easier to work with electrostatic charges going to electricity than going to light, really. Realizing that, Lothar started to re-grade the various types in front of him.

Each of them was basically a type that was something that would at least hinder a starship and, in some cases, could actually destroy one. What she had done over the past two months was consider all the weaknesses of starship design and address them, and these were not things easily fixed in design work. A starship must shed heat when its engines were active, if it didn't it would become unliveable in a very short time. Thus intercoolers must be exposed to space for radiation of heat. They could not be too thick or they would retain heat and operate inefficiently. A gas or liquid/gas combination must be used to do the maximum amount of cooling for a given volume in a surface area, thus you needed surface area to do this efficiently. Thickness also decreased volume, unless a heat superconductor was used, and then you still needed surface area. Solid state systems had been tried numerous times, and the amount of heat generated by warp speeds tended to degrade or even vaporize such materials.

All starship designs were trade-offs between energy, heat radiation capability, living space, interior volume, mass, warp envelope size and configuration, energy generation, personnel safety, speed, maneuverability, and firepower. Add in sensors, navigation, recycling, transporters, comms, cybernetic systems, life support, artificial gravity, lighting, cooling... each one of these used up something be it volume, energy, or distortion of mass or lack of it. You could turn some 'waste heat' into electricity, but then you had electrical storage to consider and energy density for a given material, and those took up space, mass... all the basic design engineering schooling he had via the Fleet came back to this. All starships had vulnerabilities of one sort or another. Each device that Enid Daystrom had made attacked the various weak points on a starship by negating its main defense for a tiny opening, but that was more than enough to slip something lethal into it. You wouldn't want to try something like these in a full-warp duel or shoot-out.

But if you were 'hunting' starships?

He shuddered. This was a 'spare time' thing for Enid Daystrom to do, probably because she was going to be dealing with starships. The reasoning was solid, extremely so.

"You've thought on these for awhile, haven't you?" he finally asked in a low tone.

"Actually, since Exmar 2, yes. Just never had time to do anything organized and formal with my ideas. That was a real eye-opener, that trip. Part of that was just what could get past the shields of that shuttle and it really got me thinking about the subject. If I had to pilot another one, I wanted to know what the strengths and weaknesses of the system were. It turns out that many of the things that could get to a shuttlecraft were scale dependent, and the small size and volume of the shuttle meant it was vulnerable to things a starship was not. Other weaknesses showed up when you work the equations, such as the 'refresh rate' or 'heterodyning' of the shield system. That is very important as it helps shields to refresh after a tiny but fast moving particle gets through the shield. In theory the system collapses, but if you refresh it then the system seals, with the backing cold plasma dispersing the remains of the incoming hot plasma."

He nodded, it was a well known principle, actually, and the main defense of a starship against dust at near light speed was the deflector screen that did similar work. That was a normal space affair, however, as the warp pocket around a starship kept everything in relativistic confines.

"You know the Fleet has been tossing around ideas like this for centuries?" he said.

She smiled and nodded.

"I got a good backgrounding on that, and then looked at the run-down of systems proposed and their problems, and they all had the scale-problem, too: they were too large and cumbersome to be effective. When you are playing with a small surface you are talking about area, not volume, and behind it you have to deal with volume, not area, so something good enough to put a decent size hole in a shield system then usually lacked the ability to overwhelm the cold plasma behind it. And if your system was good at the latter, it would suffer at the former, unless you added more mass to the system, which requires impetus and dealing with force to get it moving and guide it to the target. The squared-cubed law comes into play there, and when you are looking at ship systems it is very hard to get around the 'bigger is better' mindset. With the small and handweapons group they had problems with the mindset that 'nothing you could carry could get past the defensive shields of a ship to do damage'. It was fun to go from group to group and listen to all the reasons why it couldn't be done and no one realizing they had created the exact space it could be done in. I had approached it from the very basic end of 'how do you get this there?' and then worked backwards and then forwards. That plasma hit taken on Exmar 2 was informative, Lothar, and I paid attention to its lessons."

He smiled and chuckled.

"Life will do that to you! But you are right, if a ship ran its shields or screens without a refresh they would collapse at the slightest intrusion. And if you refresh them too fast the actual controlling equipment then starts to run outside of its stable zone of operation, mostly due to being unable to change electron orbits fast enough across enough material, and can burn itself out in no time. So everyone has a refresh rate. Cold plasma responsiveness is purely mechanical, too, and removing heat from the system is part of the refresh, but lags by a long time, often seconds. But you weren't looking for the 'magic bullet' were you?"

"No, Lothar, I wasn't looking for the 'one-shot destroys one ship' ideal of all previous designers. I just wanted to do the most possible damage with the limited payload I could force through the best shield system. And it turns out that even with the refresh, the actual envelope, itself, can take nearly a second to finally collapse around a small hole. A bit of copper plasma given some magnetohydrodynamic force to it would keep that open for substantially more than a second for an area of less than 150mm in diameter. That is the maximum size you can get without running into the scale problems of heavy weapons."

Lothar thought about the size of a Quantum Torpedo or a Photon Torp, and realized that something with the diameter of a closed fist was not going to be something the heavy weapons groups would ever look at. And who really fought ship-to-ship battles with its crew on the hull firing weapons at each other? Even a poor phaser hit could cook them alive... unless you had space armor...

"Enid, just what is the rating of your spacesuit?"

Enid Daystrom laughed as her hands went over the weapon, checking its parts and familiarity.

"Lets just say that it is the best overall protection against heat from induction and radiation, that also has some anti-weapons capability at the low end built into it. Truthfully, Lothar, this sort of thing can't be used in a warp speed battle unless you have an extremely sophisticated on-board targeting system, which you can't pack into this space. It is a normal space encounters weapon and the shells have a very limited on-board adjustment system, that uses up most of its energy for final lock-on and delivery. It is 'fire and forget', so you can go on to whatever else you have to do."

And that was a serious limitation, although, if you ganged a number of these shells in the proper delivery vehicle... there was a startling moment of thought.

"No tactical sensor system can track these! Even normal sensors would just register them as 'space debris'!"

"Well, yes, the design blindspot is a ship systemic one: if you can't think of something like this working, you don't design for it."

Lothar shuddered. She had just described him, although not in a derogatory way, but once you have a blindspot pointed out, you then have to acknowledge it or risk your life trying to ignore it. The problem was that there was too much of the 'small stuff' to want to track... even if it had an intersecting course, it was never going to be even more than a minor irritation. He could almost quote by section, paragraph and sub-paragraph why you let the defensive systems 'handle the small stuff' and the ship's skin was good enough for most things... why, yes, he could.

"But you never did anything serious on this before this project, right?"

"Well, checking the fundamentals and putting together a storage capacitor to go into an external APU port of a shuttle so that its equipment would have enough time to recover and still be under guidance and active control. Hopefully I'll never need it, but its small enough to carry around and install on a shuttle. Easy to get from a replicator. But beyond affirming some of the basics and applying some of my other skills, no, most of this remained very theoretical until I met with the 'hands-on' groups at the Museum. And all the design tools are so well automated that it was pretty easy to learn how to just plug in components and see how things worked."

That was an artifact of having so many generations of computers and designers: all the very basic tools became automated and some didn't even exist as tools, any more, just final components. You didn't have to know a lot to design this sort of thing, and if you did it right it never registered as any sort of a weapon, either. He had seen a full Star Base heavy phaser system specified out to components that appeared unrelated, and yet one person could assemble them in a week or so to one of those heavy weapons platforms.... energy to run it was a different matter, of course, but even there... you literally could not safeguard against that, and so you depended on the ability of society to ensure that they weren't used in a manner negative to it. That was settled in the first two decades of the 21st century: you could not have the tools and then try to restrict how they were used beyond simple, common sense. Enid had enough knowledge, skill and awareness of so many factors that doing something like this was a 'spare time project' to her. The Museum staff's assistance surely helped, but that was a matter of time, not concentration of knowledge.

"But you didn't share all of this with the staff, did you?"

"No, Lothar, it really was just a spare time project at the Museum for me. I left the data behind with L'Tira, but never did get to full scale testing because you can't test things like this full-scale on ships."

"And here?"

She smiled packing the main weapon into its case and then loading the magazines of 6 shells into it, one at a time.

"I will not go to Orion slave markets. I will see them in Hell, first. I will fight, and make sure they know they have chosen the wrong woman to threaten... even if they don't know they are threatening me."

Smoothing the case lid on, it flared green once and then it went dark.

"I think M-4/V can do that for you, Enid." he said.

She smiled.

"So do I. Always good to have back-up and little surprises, though."

He nodded and got up from the chair.

"You might try to get some rest, Enid. Four hours until final preparation, and then it is Jupiter."

"I will, Lothar, good nap and I will be ready to go. Need about 20 seconds to pull on my suit in an emergency and maybe 10 minutes to get everything together in a non-emergency."

He smiled.

"Good. And Enid?"


"I'm glad I didn't send you back to the Museum."

She smiled deeply.

"So am I, Lothar."

He smiled as he walked out. M-3/V had her pegged as a 'survivor', and that was the truth. For all of her pleasant personality and open attitudes, he would never call Enid Daystrom 'soft' or 'easy'. Yet she was still a very good person and he doubted that he ever saw her life as 'lonely'.

After he left, Enid attached the case to the back of her suit in the charging bay. She didn't think about loneliness, where her life took her or ever worried about it. She prepared as she could, and took it as it came to her and never doubted herself when things went against her. And she had the raptor marks across her back to prove that this worked... it had died, she hadn't. She had many such marks from many planets and species, and knew the life she led wasn't easy for most people to understand or want to lead. Her only thought that it was strange how many people thought that she would crumble under pressure who hadn't lived to see that she hadn't done so. It was only the times the really unexpected hit that she had to work very, very, very hard.

She shrugged and stretched to catch a few hours of rest, knowing that the unknown loomed.

Such was life.

* * *

L'Tira arrived at the small conference room with the 'brain trust' of Kathy, Simon, Grace, Roger and Patti there. She took a seat and it was at the head of the table, and she was still not used to that.

"Enid asked me to convene this sub-group meeting to review the final works of Richard Daystrom from the USS Grant. I've had a chance to review them and Enid's notes and... well... I think we each need to give our part to this. I can't give a real good handle on it from me, but let me say that as much as I've come to respect Richard Daystrom's creation, I am very saddened that his mind had slipped this far and caused so much death. I didn't have that feeling of respect before all of this started, but saw that Enid was in no way Richard Daystrom. He was driven by things he couldn't control and they controlled him, while Enid was not only in control of herself, but knew she had an effect on others. Ok, that is my part. Others have or are putting their views in privately, and I know each of you have, too. But Enid said this needs discussion and we are here for that, instead of a regular meeting. M-5 is ready to go and there isn't much to say on the project for active work, and it is now just preparation to releasing the publications. I guess this is the major wrap-up. There is more work, but the majority is done. Does anyone want to go next?"

There was silence at the table.

Kathy looked to the others and stood up.

"This is very hard for me, as I have learned so much about each of you and Enid and the work of Richard Daystrom. I knew of the M-5 incident from the Academy, but not in depth or detail. If I'm saddened at the problems of Richard Daystrom, I am also unhappy with the performance of the Fleet in this matter. Yet the Fleet understands that it has taken a far too narrow a view on Richard Daystrom and a number of things and we are working with the Engineering Corps and higher command to start addressing them. I... this isn't what I ever expected from my career, or spending a year or two here. The past two months have been highs and lows, and we have done so much... but we can't just shelve Richard Daystrom into the past. If we sorrow at his weakness of spirit, we must also understand the good of his mind beneath that. This was painful material to review, for me, and although I can imagine Enid handling it, I know I would have problems doing the same in her position. When I see more than just the ones she flagged, others were there is some reference or side-talk without response, I normally assume that the system was muted. I thought that was the case with the ones she did flag. It isn't, I've looked at the sound encoding and it is background stable at all times. What I see, then, knowing all that I have seen of his works and how they work, is that there is a good mind trying to get a vital and important idea out, but that it gets twisted going through the man. The good ideas don't stand alone, but can be considered alone, and that is what I am doing. That is very hard to do as I have come to admire the works of Richard Daystrom and I'm in sorrow that his spirit and mind could not keep it together and put such good work to such poor ends."

She sat down, shaking her head just slightly as she did so.

Simon Lurva remained seated, but spoke up.

"As you know I came into this because of Lothar's interest: I am his 'right hand man' for the department and do much of the daily operations work. I didn't expect this to be more than a formal review situation, but as it turned into one, I couldn't help but realize that I was looking at a confluence of events that we would call 'criminal' if not for the fact that there was no criminal intent or motive behind it. I'm used to the bureaucracy, its utterly misguided internal directives, the overhead of trying to administer anything and then having to sieve out what those in the command structure really want against what they say they want. If it was Richard Daystrom's personal problems that led to the creation of M-5, along with his genius, then it was Star Fleet that made it possible for such an ill man to put such a crippled machine onto a starship where it would kill hundreds of our fellow Fleet members. This was troubling to me when I first started to review the entire set of original documents with what Enid brought with her, and I had some early side-discussions with her on this and arranged for a quick overview of Star Fleet practices with our Contracts group. I did not want to distract from the overall effort and never expected that this would become part of the overall effort, but I saw that she recognized the significance of this problem and integrated it into the overall work."

"At this point we now have complete validation of Richard Daystrom's original proposal, all the way to working end system that is, really, just a simple piecing together of the system parts he left behind. The Fleet was far, far too ready to try and place blame because its own hands were not clean in what happened: the push by the combat arm to get a full combat operational starship AI changed the course and direction of the entire work by Richard Daystrom and led to the hard push to get just that, while Daystrom's fevered mind broke down trying to make sure the original concept remained in place. From my systems viewpoint his work is a true marvel, when fully put up, and is a system dedicated to the main goals of the Fleet, ensuring the safety of its crew, and knowing that to explore there are risks involved and letting human wisdom guide it on when risks must be taken. This is not a 'robotic killer' or an AI bent on our removal as 'imperfect': this is a system that recognizes its own imperfections, understands the need to weigh risks and ensures that those who do decide to take such risks are as safe as possible in doing so. That is not the simple and direct ship control and combat computer system the Fleet wanted: it is a highly complex and adept system structure that adapts to its ship, its crew, its environment and does its best to sort out risks on its own when no one else is there to help it. It is a living organism, and yet is not complete without the human part of it, and its life and function are not complete without a crew. That is not a ship as control mechanism, this is a ship as crew member and knowing that is its best and highest form of service and will outlast many of its crew even while welcoming new members to the ship."

"If M-5 went wrong due to pressures of being unstable both from lack of system depth and from poor engram encoding by Richard Daystrom's mind, it would not have been put there without the overarching pressures from the Fleet. I don't know if Richard Daystrom would have achieved a stable system on his own, but the M-2/V component gave direction and stability to call into question the directions of later M-units. We see this today: aberrant programming that is not in line with ship and crew safety is removed by the mental structures of all later M-units because this is a foundation of their thought system. We may never know the actual success or failure of this working with the aberrant engrams of Richard Daystrom, but that hard trimming of thoughts is inherently self-stabilizing to them. While M-5 without that depth was a dark reflection of Richard Daystrom and his circumstances, it is very possible that the system, itself, would identify the aberrant engrams and seek human help to replace them in itself. That is speculation, at best, and I urge no one to try it out. What I can say of M-5/V is that it weighs and balances its own motives and views with that in mind and does curb and eliminate those thought paths that are a detriment to ship, crew and functioning between them. That isn't what the contracted asked for, but it was what Richard Daystrom wanted and never saw completed. He is not alone in taking blame nor is M-5 as it was used, nor is the Fleet wholly culpable. What we do need, now, is to work on something to address the problems of Fleet imposed directives and personal proposals and find a better way to get them aligned on future contracts. Because that system is still broke, today, and while many complain about it, we rarely realize that it can actively cost lives."

"Well, I've said more than enough for the number two man in the department, really."

"No, Simon," said Grace, "that was necessary and hits along with what I've been seeing, too. I'm glad that the major work on the project from my side was done before this large workload hit, and I've had some time to review the work and investigations: past and present. Our review, although summary in nature, has an added part of new analysis based on unrevealed information or information not added to the review. It is clear from the records that Enid provided that the Daystroms sought to have the proper information included, even when Richard Daystrom was in no state to provide it. His mental condition, even once stabilized, left him with a void on the project itself, one which he could not approach. His wife, however, did try to provide that data, and even when that was accomplished, the Fleet did not halt its review, which was nearly processed, nor include the Daystrom records as so much as an addenda to the report. This is actually not too unusual for the period in question, particularly the years of Star Fleet expansion via the Constitution class Heavy Cruisers."

"While the loss of the Excalibur in what was, essentially, a demonstration, was devastating, the Fleet was putting on two ships a month into service in its second-line builds and the number of people flowing through the Academy, Command School and being put on to these new build cruisers was astonishing. At the same time the older Republic and Bon Homme classes were undergoing upgrades and refits, which added to the overhead as new re-fit shipyards were stood up in three systems: Sol, Andoria, Vulcan. That was in response to understanding the full size and capacity of the Klingon Empire and seeing its new D-5 and D-6 Battlecruisers being made at an increased rate. All of this led to a lowering of average service time in the Fleet, an increase in overhead in multiple areas that was not properly planned for, and a number of problems being side-lined for years or, as we have seen, decades. The final part of this is the smaller service vessels: Light Cruisers, Destroyers, Frigates, Police Cruisers, Scouts, and Tugs to name some of the major types that were coming into service. Star Fleet had been top-heavy, infrastructure-wise, for the overall Fleet mission for the five decades preceding the M-5 incident, and it was then re-organizing to address the plethora of smaller problems seen Federation-wide that were also handed to Star Fleet. Smaller, purpose-built vessels with well-defined roles for the Federation and the Fleet cut crew sizes enormously as fewer specialized crewmembers were needed for what was, essentially, Federation internal work."

"How did that effect overall Fleet performance?" Simon asked.

"Star Fleet started to demonstrate a bi-modal outlay of command: a group of older command officers ages 45 to 90, normalized to human standards, and another group ages 30 to 40. While everyone admires the well known young Captains, the command staff was having a serious generational shift between the Fleet's older style of exploration and defense to one of internal security with external defense and a few, heavy ships for exploration. While many of the Captains in the 'plumb job' of Heavy Cruiser commander were in the older cohort, the young captains that proliferated into the lighter vessels, particularly Frigates and Destroyers, found that the promise of their careers for exploration and defense had shifted noticeably during their decade or so in junior service. The Fleet they entered was no longer the Fleet they were in and many were promoted very quickly to these smaller, purpose-built vessels and found themselves not in glamorous positions in exploration or relatively staid but essential border security work along the Romulan Neutral Zone and expanding Klingon border areas. A major shifting point came during the debate, decades before the build-out, on the retention of 'reserve units' by Federation members to patrol their own systems and the immediate trade lanes between systems. That was a long, long debate as many felt the centralizing of duties to Star Fleet against such things as the Orion Pirates, was putting far too much power in the hands of the Federation. Those looking to centralize the duties keyed on coordination between Fleet and non-Fleet units and standardization of training and equipment. The compromise to have all members of the system member units trained to Star Fleet standards and to slowly obsolete out the older, member constructed units and construct Fleet units, was one that didn't sit well, even on places like Vulcan. Andoria, in particular, felt its long space-faring heritage had been slighted and the rifts caused by those decisions saw what should be the fourth largest member of the Federation contribute far below its population percentage to the Fleet. If Enak were here he could tell you about that in detail, I expect."

There were a few nods from the members present,as they had studied some of these questions in the Academy.

"What that would mean, for us, is that when Richard Daystrom proposed a way to cut crew size via his M-Series project and automate almost all major areas of a starship under a unified system, Star Fleet welcomed it, particularly in the area of patrols along the border regions. That, finally, shifted the entire project emphasis from ship control to combat, and the pressures on Richard Daystrom, which no one knew were already high, caused a severe mental breakdown that would only be seen as it unfolded. Part of his mind knew that the original concept could do this if it could get all the pieces into being. The other part would not ask for help, seek to expand the knowledge base and actually hid vital computer code and capability from other project members. The last gasp of unity between these two was the M-Variant or SERS, which would hold the working basis for an entire M-Series system when put together with all parts of the M-Series. Like Richard Daystrom's mind, the project splintered and when his mind failed, so did the project in all of its parts. That would not have happened with proper contractual oversight, restricting modifications of the contract to limited ones that did not change the scope of the project, getting good project documentation on a timely basis from the project, and having a less headstrong Captain who would not trust a system and disoriented it so much that even if it had been stabilized previously and did not have so many simulations, that it would have failed just due to the actions of that Captain alone. By not having clear and precise ideas of what a the project required and setting up a fully 'safe' testing methodology to demonstrate the capabilities of the M-5 via a rigorous, multi-month install and testing routine, as was called for, the result was tragedy."

"From what I've seen of Contracts, it hasn't changed, has it?" asked Roger.

"No, it hasn't. It has actually gotten worse since the implosion of the Klingon Empire and the large number of semi-autonomous systems that no longer hold fealty to the Empire or seek to become part of the Federation. Stabilizing the collapsing Empire took nearly 60 years of Star Fleet time and energy, along with serious work to ensure that the Klingons understood that the Federation wanted a 'working relationship' that would be closer. By augmenting or actually replacing Klingon patrol needs on the Empire's anti-spinward and inward periphery, a number of large ships were taken out of that service and put into 'interior order' duties, with horrific results of some of the semi-autonomous systems being forcibly re-absorbed into the Empire. That was seen by their somewhat allies in the Romulan Empire as a chance to expand into Klingon space. The battles at Narendra III and Khitomer would spark a civil war that included these semi-autonomous systems. Those systems had worked with the Romulans, Tholians, Ferengi and Orion Pirate Clans to stage that uprising. The intervention by the Federation to deploy the tachyon net across the border between the Klingon and Romulan Empires demonstrated its effectiveness for immediate use and overlooked its long range problems, both in maintenance and actual volume of coverage. That and the following problems with the Dominion ensured that no real end to those problems would be put in place for the longer term. The Federation detests Klingon practices of 're-assimilation', the Romulans have found ways to mask tachyon signatures, and the semi-autonomous systems see the Federation as a 'non-friendly power' but one they have to deal with. And nothing can be done about Tholian, Ferengi, and Orion help and commerce to those systems without incurring a large capital cost to the entire Federation to install similar tachyon networks that would then have little oversight and be improperly staffed, even as others find ways to thwart it. All this time the Fleet continued to add units, staff, personnel and faced an ever changing array of powers, threats and the unknown. If this was a historical case analysis, I would say that the Federation is overstretched and on the verge of collapse, taking the rest of the immediate large groups with it as heavy units splinter off going back to home-system protection."

Grace took a swallow of water.

"But then no one has asked the Forensics History Group to analyze that,and they are my own personal views. Not that of my Group." She sat down, more than a little bit flushed at saying what she had just said.

"Unfortunately, I concur with Grace," said Patti DuBois. Everyone turned to see her, still sitting, with one or two holodisplays up in front of her.

"Richard Daystrom, while a very troubled man, was a symptom of ongoing problems within the Federation scientific community and commercial communities. I've approached the M-Series project as someone examining an alien artifact and culture, knowing my own biases and foibles and true inability to be an alien to that culture. But it is informative to approach it that way from the Psycholographic Sciences. As an alien artifact, the M-Series is a disjointed set of parts that fit neatly together, demonstrating a high level of intelligence in their creation. Each part is semi-functional, semi-capable and has its own and unique strengths and weaknesses, some that are shared with other units and some that aren't. Each part of the M-Series has a definite purpose in a larger mental structure. We have M-1 being a base system to process incoming data from all parts of the ship and do a low-level, homeostatic analysis and regularization on them. There is no way that it could ever organize with a higher, though limited, computer and run a starship, and yet it has the properties necessary to feel what a starship is, how it is working and just what, exactly, the import of those things are on an emotional level. It has no real 'feelings' but is the basis to have 'feelings', and ones that sense where a ship is and how it is working. M-2 would have some of that, but not the actual depth that the M-1 units have in a ship. No other units process at that fine level of detail and then derive that emotional state from physiological state that M-1 does. All animals with a responsive set of nerves does this, and that is what M-1 does and serves as the foundation for all later units, without which, they will not function properly."

"M-1 was the success Richard Daystrom needed to let him know the rest of the project can and would work, and yet he hid the very foundation of it from his project members and even made out that it was a failure. He was hiding it, as we know now, so that no one would be able to do subsequent work without acknowledging his prior work.. But those superficial deceits would slowly become real emotions, if they weren't that to start with, as later problems pressed his mind harder and some of those failures stung much harder because he couldn't show the work he had done to overcome them. When I generalized this and asked fellow colleagues what would drive someone to do this, the general agreement was that the person in question felt that they had suffered betrayal in their area of expertise more than once and felt justification in doing that. It can lead to paranoia and be a symptom of that or delusional problems, and may actually cause such problems later. In a way that only his genius could do, Richard Daystrom was so marking the area he was researching that no one one be able to go into it without acknowledging his work. He did not foresee that a failure on a large scale would also so imprint that area that no other researcher would want to go into it, lest they be seen as heading into treacherous areas that had 'destroyed someone better than they were'."

"For all of his personal problems, many of the causes came from outside him in the scientific and technical communities. I am ashamed to say that the actual historical record of this problem in many other areas has always been readily available and easy to study. This case is unique in blending so much together from so many areas that it brought the point clearly home to me. As an alien technology this would be stunning, no matter who found it. That it was built by a human with the help of the Fleet and then lost to petty concerns is a tragedy beyond compare. Just on the mental integration side of things, my specialty, I have not seen a system like a full M-5/V ever in either the history of the various Federation members or in what we have found before the Federation came on the scene. Even more astonishing is that the Gorns have no records of something like this being developed anywhere. Many races had automated starships, many have cybernetic intelligences in control of ships, many have created things with similar functions, but without the emotional depth to find stability in what they are. M-5 as it originally was fell into that category. The Borg fall into that category as their biological components give them minimal emotional capability and their massed mental power is degraded to the barest minimal of needs. With M-4/V we see the higher level organization of base drives and a full development of an integrated self with intellect in emotions working together. In M-5/V from what we have seen, the overall direction of that intelligence with purpose to integrate with a ship and its crew is not only unusual, but revolutionary. Our own shortsightedness as a culture nearly lost us this capability. We have been given a gift in bureaucratic mistakes, inaction and petty infighting to have a second chance at this. If we can admit to our faults, we can try to pick up and learn from them, and do better from here on out. That requires we make a good and solid presentation to our friends in the larger scientific and technical communities and within the Fleet itself."

"Ok, that is my part, stripped down of pretty phrases in the official report, but I do want to add a personal note. I really didn't know what to make of Enid Daystrom when she came here and the word of mouth got to me about this. As I was intrigued by this project I joined on, and soon found myself trying to analyze Enid, just as I was doing with the M-Series and Richard Daystrom. I had thought her cool and aloof, and more than a bit structured in her ways, and even thought that made her a somewhat stiff or brittle. Then she flexed her mind, emotions and talent, never denigrating or deriding, but always with a positive attitude that held out for just what each of us could do. She worked hard, too. Lifting crates, unpacking equipment, talking with Department heads, going to social dinners, giving talks on her scientific experiences, going to training sessions, and more than I care to think about. She outworked me, and I admit it. She took pleasure in what she did, even if it was matter-of-fact, you never saw her stop or be stymied. Even those not in the project remarked on how she applied herself to many things, and slid right into the routine while never taking her presence for granted. Each of us has seen her take hard news during this project, some of us would be devastated at learning the actual condition of their great grandfather like that, or exactly what it meant when bureaucracy failed in a devastating manner. I was and am still, personally, shocked that she wants us to get the credit for resurrecting Richard Daystrom's work. But even while I disagree with her decision, I see that it is right for her and I see how it changed all of us when change needed to happen. That pride of ownership for what we have done she cut herself from... not to hurt herself, but to give us that common bond. I know psychological action at work, and that was shocking: she knew what to do and had no concern for herself. I can disagree with the decision, but I can't disagree with the results. It will be months if not a year or so before all we know is put out for distribution. That is work I gladly do, now that it is only collating, coordinating and getting the documents into shape. When she comes back and says her last good-byes here, I will deeply miss her as a friend and I know we will keep that up after she is gone."

"Now I'm done," Patti said sitting down.

"Well, I don't have the historical background or overarching views that others have, I haven't been in the Fleet long enough for that, "Roger Arrivan said.

"Most of my work has been technical, and yet Enid had me managing the others working on trying to figure out what the M-Series really was. I contributed a few insights and ideas but the bulk of the work wasn't done by me and I had to sit next to a number of more senior people who walked me through the code... and walked me through how to manage something like this. For all the inward orderliness of understanding the actual way the M-Series worked, our outward environment was a mess. You couldn't walk through the bay without finding partially disassembled components, readouts, sensors, and all the necessary things to try and get to the inner workings of the M-Series. Some things stopped us cold, like the interlink bus system for M-2/V. What it was doing was beyond us, and took Kathy and Enak to help puzzle out. I know this project is in no way 'typical' for the Fleet or the Historical section, and yet it involved me in more areas of physics, ship design, code structure and the psyche sciences than I ever expected. Even with the 'normal' work I had to do, I admit that I looked forward to hours on the project as a treat... a reward... and more. I've always scored high in various intelligence measures, and took that for granted. Seeing what Richard Daystrom made and trying to make sense of it... I was doing some of the hardest work, ever, in my life and actually started in on the texts he was reading and going through his background material when I wasn't trying to puzzle out some coding mystery. I've received a lot of teaching in my life, but this I had to learn. No one could teach it to me."

"We all have had to do that, Roger," Patti said softly.

He smiled.

"I know Patti that... I wasn't alone in that. I saw Lothar trying to figure out some way that the M-2/V was trying to interact with the simulated starship and he was doing as much learning as I was. More, maybe. Kathy had to go from astrophysics to standard physics to psychological sciences to ship design to cybernetics and back again, and she was working harder than I was! I can't tell you how many times Enid or Jomra or Simon or Lothar would come to me and ask to have me explain something to them. And the coding team got a work out, too, with many of them having to sub-specialize to track down how the systems worked, why they worked the way they did and what it was that the M-Series was doing. I could never have done that, and I had trouble explaining it and their work and input directly into this is theirs, not mine. I just had to understand it fast enough to explain it to the rest of the team. When we finally broke the Engram system, it was a team effort and when we did we got all of Richard Daystrom's original code before us. What a smooth mind he had for that! It is some of the cleanest and most elegant code for this work that I've ever heard about, and yet it was buried inside the workings of machines long forgotten by most everyone. Only in the last week or so have I really understood that Richard Daystrom had to know all of this to make it work, had thought it all out and created something that would do what he wanted... even as he forgot what it was that was important and his mind shifted from recognizing that dream to inward self-glorification. For the first time I was really frightened when I realized that his intelligence was no safety from his mental attitudes. It was hard to understand how something so beautiful could go so wrong."

"I guess thats it... I put something far longer into the report, along with everyone else working on the code and synthesis area. It is more than I expected, ever, when I joined the Fleet."

Roger sat back, looking at his hands in his lap and then to the personal system, adding a note or two to the comments he just spoke.

"Roger, you have been a part of this longer than anyone, remember? Enid first wound up with you, waiting for Mr. Jomra and me and the M-Series containers. We had all graduated together, come over here together even though we had different ship assignments, and you have done more than your share. Far more, Roger," L'Tira said smiling, "Enid met more senior and more experienced people here, and had two or three people with both of those in your area come on the team. She chose you. I never saw it before, but she did that because you would apply yourself to this and not see problems as walls, but parts of solutions. More senior and experienced people couldn't have done that. You know that and I know that. So does everyone here, I think. Do you think that Lothar was chosen because he was senior to other people? He treated you, me and everyone else here as competent and equals, and he never, ever attempted to pull rank or speak down to anyone."

Simon spoke up, but softly. "That is how he runs his Department, too, he expects you will do to the best of your ability and recognize when you are unable to do something honestly. There are no slackers there."

Kathy Lorimar started, softly, but evenly. "I've had a rotation for one cruise as the Junior Science Officer on a Light Cruiser, and a well run ship doesn't need to have rank pulled by anyone. It was a bit more structured here, but in the Science Department it was what you could bring to the job that mattered. Looking back at this major milestone point, just how many actual technical decisions has Enid Daystrom made? One or two, possibly, but not more. She did her job, however, and made sure we could all do ours well and without interference. When she put people like Lothar, Grace and Patti into lead positions, it wasn't rank... it was because the liked the work, the project and were able to work with others. She did that with Higher Echelons, too, in case anyone has forgotten, and THEY contributed to the team and were self-selecting to approach her on that. She gave us all credit before they joined up, so that the hard work was captured by those who did it. Then there are the Gorns. I found them intimidating, frightening, repulsive. In a short week they were my co-workers, able bodied contributors and understanding even as we both had problems in talking with each other. They helped on the M-3 translator and I worked with them and the coders and that M-3... all with Enid's help. And L'Tira's. And Simon's. I was shocked that in seeing the Gorn shuttle leave that I knew these were my team mates. Even when I can't identify them individually, which I could do by the time they left, they all treated me as an equal on a project they had volunteered for."

"It has," L'Tira said, "and I want to close this major milestone meeting, now. We still have an M-5 to deliver, and I really don't like Enid being out on the Grant without it. Thank you, everyone, for coming. The initial project is now completed, now it is time for the reports."

* * *

"Are we all here and accounted for?" Lothar asked. He was strapping himself into one of the seats taken from the Federation shuttle and put into the Gorn shuttle and secured.

"All present and accounted for, Commander Hampton," said the M-4/V.

"Good. How long to atmospheric entry?"

"On present course and speed, we will begin to hit outer atmospheric turbulence in one hour. Total run time has been reduced due to orbital adjustments and will be 5.7 hours in length. Dedicated comms hook-ups have been put down for the shuttle. All crew will have access to their standard systems through that, although bandwidth has limitations on detail. Any countermanding of injection into Jupiter's atmosphere must be done in the next ten minutes."

"Keep me appraised, M-4/V. With all systems nominal, it is steady as she goes on best course."

"Steady as she goes, aye-aye sir."

"5.7 hours of high-g?" Theresa asked.

"I will be able to use the Grant's life support gravity systems to counter some of that inside the shuttle bay. I cannot do much, but it will modulate the forces to 6.7 g standard. The Gorn shuttle can further adjust that down to 1.3 g standard. That will be far less than the previous run," M-4/V had told her that before, but Theresa was just making sure.

"Good! I didn't like the strained muscles from the last trip."

"Our shuttle will be able to ensure that you do not suffer, Theresa. It is well within the bounds of what you have experienced before," the Human Specialist said.

"Doesn't mean that I like it..."

Enid Daystrom had stowed her case against the wall, strapped in and made some final adjustments to her suit.

"I'm shutting off the transmit. I need the rest. Let my suit know if it needs to wake me up."

"You are going to try and sleep through this?" Lothar asked.

"Just try and stop me. I've put in 16/3/10/5/10 and now 6 or so hours of sleep sounds really good. Besides, its out of my hands now. If you need me during this, we are all dead, anyways. I'm leaving it up to the experts who have been here before."

Lothar shook his head. Really a trip through the Jovian atmosphere was something amazing... even if the sub-cloud bank time did get monotonous.

"Good luck on resting, Enid. You'll need it."

"Thanks, Theresa. Wake me up when its over."

There was a soft click sound as Enid Daystrom shifted from two-way comms to receive only. The systems didn't need to do that, but it did sure a positive auditory signal that someone did do that.

Lothar checked the external viewer from the forward part of the ship. The last of the curvature of Jupiter was passing into darkness and the red cloud bank they would head into started to swell as they approached the night side terminator.

* * *

"The Heavy Cruiser is on course for Jupiter, Captain Ruzar," said the Helmsman/Sensor.

"They did not vary their course?"

"No, sir. Their last course correction gave them a positive impetus towards the planet."

"That course will take them through the upper atmosphere?"

"No, sir. They are going below the clouds on present course. Estimated time if they transit successfully will be under 6 standard hours."

"And no one has left it since the last shuttle?"

"No, sir. Large sections of the ship have been shut down and life support ended. Long range sensors indicate that there is a aft clustering of personnel on the ship, but precise determination cannot be made due to interference from the vicinity of Jupiter."

"The last shuttle?"

"It has made rendezvous with the Mars base, as of one hour ago."

Captain Ruzar nodded his head from side to side.

"Do our records and simulations indicate if that Heavy Cruiser can actually survive the depth it is going to?"

"There has been no change in that, sir. We do not have enough information to know."

"Keep me informed and updated."

"Yes, sir."

He would know by his next shift. If it didn't survive, then alternate targets had been chosen and would end the question of: 'does the Federation have insane personnel that will commit suicide in obscure ways with ships?'

If they survived... then they had some means to actually do what they were doing. WHY they would ever want to do something so astronomically dangerous he could not figure out. And this was dangerous, as no ship in the known travel spaces would do this, the Gorns excepted as no one knew about them. Vulcans would use good sense and send probes. Klingons would use this as a devious form of execution. Romulans would expend lessers and use no ship in this. Even he wouldn't think of this save to cloak his ship in the upper to middle cloud reaches, as Commander Karsu had done. He hadn't survived. The Grant, apparently, had, unless it knew that Karsu was there and tricked him into the deadly atmosphere in an area of high risk while it skirted the upper portion.

That was possible.

Not likely given the lack of everything on the Grant, but possible.

Captain Ruzar got up from the Captain's Chair.

"Helm has the conn. I will be back after a shift resting. Steady as she goes."

"Aye-aye, sir. Helm at the conn, steady as she goes. Rest well Captain."

Ruzar snorted and walked off the bridge. He had patience for long trips. But he hated, purely detested mysteries. Unless there was something to be made from them. That was a different thing completely.

* * *

Alex Jomra disembarked from the shuttle to see the smiling faces of Patti, Grace, Simon, L'Tira and Roger. L'Tira walked up to him and then hugged him fiercely.

"Welcome, Home!"

He was stunned as he stumbled off to the side and she did that with Brian who was behind him, he didn't have time to adjust before Roger came up to shake his hand.

"Good to have you back!"

Alex Jomra was bewildered, he had never experienced anything like this in his life. Soon he realized that everyone was out of the shuttle and sharing greeting. Then Captain Bartholomew showed up.

"Ensign Alexander Jomra?" he asked solemnly.

"Yes, sir!"

"For action taken above and beyond the call of duty on the USS Grant during her encounter with an Orion Raider and showing outstanding skill in your performance in all other areas, by orders of Star Fleet Command you are promoted to Full Lieutenant, Junior Grade. Congratulations, Lieutenant Jomra and to your new assignment on the USS Grant."

Captain Bartholomew handed a small case with the Lieutenant pips in them.

Alex Jomra was stunned, and could barely get out, "Thank you, Captain Bartholomew."

He just stood there, dumbly, as Enak also was promoted and likewise transferred to the Grant. Brian DuVale was promoted to Lt. Commander of the Grant. Cadet Matthews was now Ensign Matthews of the Grant. This went on with each member of the repair teams. It was only then that Lt. Jomra noticed other promotions with the station crew.

Kathy Lorimar was a full Lieutenant. So was Tareen Savil. Cadet Walsh was now Ensign Walsh. Simon Lurva was Commander, and Grace D'gorna and Patti Dubois were now full Lieutenant Commanders. He started picking out other faces in the crowd, wearing the jackets of the team and sporting new insignia.

Then he was shocked to realize that not everyone had taken a promotion.

Roger Arrivan was wearing a Daystrom Industries vest.

It was only after Captain Bartholomew had walked back down the line that Alex Jomra saw L'Tira wearing the same type of vest.

Daystrom Industries.

"I'm sorry that shift work didn't allow for everyone to be here, and I will be asking Simon to take the promotion packages to the Grant, but the promotion messages were sent out and timed to arrive there with their exiting the Jovian atmosphere. I'm afraid that Commander Lurva will have to be the one to present Lothar Hampton with his Captain's insignia. He already has my warmest greetings to the Captain's Club after having skillfully avoided it for a decade.

Simon Lurva, who had a stunned smile suddenly blanched.

"Me?" he asked very softly.

"I'm sure he won't kill the messenger, Commander Lurva. Probably make you his X-O and hand you much of the hard work to do on the ship that a Captain just can't attend to all the time. And you will be bringing with you an excellent cadre of Officers and crew, which Star Fleet will be filling out once you get here."

"He'll kill me. I'm the one who suggested he join the project," Simon said in a bare whisper.

Alex Jomra turned to him.

"Have you ever seen the report you have to fill out for that? You'll live."

Simon broke out in a smile and Captain Bartholomew chuckled.

"Effective immediately, the USS Grant is scheduled to return to full active duty for a re-fit at the old Vesta shipyards. That change in status will take place when her officer cadre is on-board. SFHQ shook two shuttles free from the Corps operations on Luna to help facilitate the transfer of crew and stores. But that official change-over happens when the M-5 is brought on board, installed and operational. To help that the Museum is taking the old shuttle it keeps in reserve and will do a one time ferry with it so that a good skeleton crew can be on-board."

There was a cheer from the project team and the rest of the base staff who had shown up.

"And let me express my regrets in having to accept the resignations of Lieutenants L'Tira and Roger Arrivan as they have reached an agreement to move into private sector service in Daystrom Industries. I believe that L'Tira is moving to the Deputy Director's position accountable to Enid Daystrom and Roger Arrivan is the head of the Technical Division and Liaison with Star Fleet and the Federation Council. These are actually very high step-ups in duties for both of them and in areas that the Fleet considers to be senior positions. As you know the private sector does not work by Fleet rules, but Roger's position is something akin to what a full Commodore would have and L'Tira's is that of a Assistant Director to a Federation Council Member on the Federation Council. Enid Daystrom, of course, would be the equivalent of a Full Council Member or a Senior Admiral's position. Star Fleet is providing them transport to the USS Grant to conduct final Contract Closeout with final publications to be under auspices of Daystrom Industries with the full support of Star Fleet."

There was polite applause.

"I know this is a shock to many of you, and that you will need time to gather your personal items as the move to the USS Grant is a permanent assignment. Before going to Vesta Shipyards, the Grant is scheduled for a stop-over here, so any very bulky items you may wish to leave in storage in your quarters. If you are fully leaving your quarters, do let us know so that they can be re-assigned. Expected re-fit time for the Grant will be approximately two years and will be under the supervision of the Engineering Corps and Captain Hampton. As it is, due to the amount of material the M-Series project has needed, I will suggest packing lightly, and if you can put items to be kept for your return in a storage container, that would help free up living quarters. I've talked with L'Tira and we are delaying shuttle turnaround for two hours, so that material can be moved on to the shuttles."

Captain Bartholomew paused for a moment.

"Normally there would be a celebration for such a happening, but circumstances do not allow for it. I've worked with many of you for years here, and a couple I've known during my active duty time. I am deeply proud and honored that you have been under my command and that SFHQ took my recommendations for promotions with sign-off from the Director of Fleet Operations with commendations and approval, above and beyond what is normal for such promotions. It has been my distinct privilege to serve with all of you. May your journey be safe and swift."

"For the Excalibur!" shouted one of the team members in attendance.

"For the Excalibur!" was soon taken up as the cry, repeated over and over for long minutes.

L'Tira turned after a few repetitions.

"Thank you, everyone, and I speak for Daystrom Industries on that, both Enid and Karl. We have a lot of work left to do. So lets get packing and get the Grant back in service!"

There was a cheer of approval that quickly broke up as L'Tira went over to Ensign Walsh and started going over the transfer list. Other members took that cue and moved over to help take out equipment from the shuttle, shift the minimal baggage and then start loading on the crated M-5 unit and other auxiliary equipment.

Roger stepped over to Alex.

"Times wasting, Mr. Jomra. Better get packed or you'll miss the shuttle to your ship, and your Captain I am pretty sure, would not like that."

That snapped Alexander Jomra from his stunned reverie.

"I should quit and join Daystrom Industries, Roger, just like you did."

Roger smiled.

"Go right ahead, the Fleet will accept that and I think L'Tira has Deputy Chief of Operations under Karl open along with Fleet Corps. Liaison, plus a few other job titles. You wouldn't get out of hard work... I'm the one that now has to talk to the Group of Five on the team at higher echelons plus some above that. Enid wasn't kidding about handing out hard work, and I am dreading having to hold that position down and could use some help."

Alex Jomra clearly weighed his life. Star Fleet had just given him a promotion and a plumb assignment aboard a Heavy Cruiser that was also a historical Ship of the Line. Not many got that chance in their entire careers as such things were rare happenings. For the first time he did consider the social milieu and that moving to an active starship would put him in close contact with his friends in the Corps and elsewhere during the refit, but then slowly cut him off from them. Distance and time aboard ship would do that. Shifting to Daystrom Industries brought those contacts into a different realm: no longer just working but helping to guide Daystrom Industries. The Federation was going to need a lot of help, this project had proven that. There were many good ships that would need refitting with the M-Series and he had the contacts and knowledge to help that and improve on ship and system operations and give direct input into ship design from a private position.

Mr. Jomra walked over to L'Tira.


She turned to him, smiling.

"Yes, Lt. Jomra?"

"Are you still hiring?"

Alexander Jomra had never adjusted to L'Tira's bursts of enthusiasm. Or her race's predatory lineage. Thus the speed of what happened was beyond his ability to react, even if he had thought it out ahead of time. He was flat on his back being hugged.

"You know it, Mr. Jomra," she said smiling as she got on the deck and helped him up.

"Please, call me Alex."

* * *

"We are 20 minutes to exiting the cloud bank and 30 minutes until we are in free space for navigation, all systems nominal, limited impulse engine use complete. Atmospheric turbulence is declining."

"Relatively declining, you mean, don't you M-4?" asked Theresa.

"Yes, the turbulent cloud and lower atmosphere region is the one with serious shear forces. The expanded envelope allowed for a higher processing of that mixture by extending ship duration in it via the impulse burn."

"I'm still surprised you wanted to risk that, M-4," Lothar started, "I thought that would be outside of acceptable limits for the ship's superstructure."

"My analysis of the earlier run and experience with the ship's structure indicated otherwise, Lothar. The first run could not spend enough time in the rich intermix area to gain the expected volume for fuel processing. By flattening the trajectory and increasing time in that region, this run has more than doubled the fuel output of the first run, although final processing will still leave it below 5%, it will only be by a slim margin."

"There has been no activity due to other vessels or artifacts," said the Gorn Systems Specialist, "fuel remix has been enhanced via this run."

The M-3 doing the voice transposition gave each Gorn a distinctive voice, and that of the Systems Specialist was that of a low tenor in human terms.

"Ship system integrity is good," said the Gorn Ship Specialist,"hull integrity is excellent, all intakes that were nominal remain so, there has been no damage to the louver system used for liquid venting through the shuttle bay."

The Gorn speech was directed to the humans, in particular to Lothar, but M-4 reported that they had a constant and ongoing speech process which the translator M-3 worked with. That M-3 now was working at a self-reported 80% basis for translation factuality, intent and content. The modest time lag would place the report from M-4 and the reports from the Gorns at a near simultaneous level, but the M-3 would let other speech pass, first, before inserting the Gorn speech. To Lothar there was something uncanny about that and it nagged at the back of his mind and had for awhile.

As the Gorn shuttle's interior pressure reduced, Lothar heard a very light tone and looked back at Enid who was, it appeared, just waking up.

"Say, did I miss anything exciting?" she asked.

"No, Enid Daystrom, it was an uneventful transit," said the Human Specialist.

"That's good to hear! So what broke this time, Lothar?"

Lothar was more than a little bemused at someone who could sleep through the noise, shaking,sudden skewing of the ship and all the rest that went on while the Grant slipped through the upper atmosphere of Jupiter.

"We are basically nominal, according to M-4 and the Ship Specialist. Anything major to note, M-4?"

"The ship is in better condition this run after having been through the last and getting major necessary work addressed. There are no missing panels, carpeting or other loose items that could get caught up in the atmosphere as it went through the interior of the ship. Staying up from the deeper pressure areas helped that. Even minor work that has been done appears to be in working order."

"I am amazed. Of course the old work list still had a lot on it. I take it you were able to keep the major control areas from being damaged?"

"Yes, Lothar, I was. I utilized conduits for normal atmospheric work to raise pressures slowly and blunt the worst of the rapidly increasing pressure and wind. That helped across all the living areas and also allowed for some segmentation of different atmospheric components that I am now shifting into storage containers for post-processing. A starship is not made for this work, and doing anything to the basic design to facilitate it would only add complexity to an already complex system."

"There is no benefit when minor utilization impedes good function," said the Systems Specialist.

"Yes, that is true, Systems Specialist, and I thank all Gorns for their work to ensure that such minimal damage was limited," said M-4/V.

"M-4, are you saying that the Gorns asked for additional work beyond the priority material?" asked Lothar.

"Yes, Lothar, their utilization of somnolent time is different than humanoids and far shorter per individual. When major work schedules slowed due to lack of ready parts or that required smaller frame access, they then asked for secondary items to protect the ship during transit and generally improve marginal performance."

"Huh? The Gorns were being slowed up by the human part of the crew?" asked Theresa.

"Yes, that is the case," said M-4.

"We are out of the majority of the atmosphere and the remaining amount is now below Earth single standard pressure," said the Science Specialist.

"Hmmm... nice work list you have there, M-4," Enid started,"are you sure that the exterior ports are nominal?"

"They are, Enid, yes. Overall function has only been degraded by 3% and there are no serious external repairs at this time."

Enid was obviously examining the list being projected inside her helmet.

"Hey, a Jeffries tube I haven't been in yet! I'm starting to get the idea that you are handing me these for more than just my ability to navigate them."

"Theresa will be busy with weapons systems, Enid, and no one has shown greater ability in quickly getting repairs done in hard to get at places," Lothar said. Of course he also did want her out of the way of other jobs, but would never say that as he suspected his life would be on the line.

"Plus it keeps me out of the way. Don't worry, Lothar, it's good work and interesting, even if it is just following the repair specifications and manual most of the time. I learn a lot just by doing the work," she said brightly.

"At this point I am sealing the ship and removing the remaining Jovian atmosphere. Normal life support is returning to all areas previously having it. Full ship-wide test will be implemented when the safety 'go ahead' is given. No further turbulence should impede work schedules," said M-4.

The doors to the Gorn shuttle opened and they were leaving by them, as the Federation crew members unstrapped themselves and followed suit. There was very little to unpack this time, as the Gorn contingent kept their sensitive equipment in the shuttle, and the humans had very little that needed caring for. It was still zero-g on the shuttle deck, but that was expected. A last few wisps of atmosphere fled out the slowly closing bay doors and when they were sealed full lighting returned.

"Well, I'm off for my quarters and then to the Jeffries tubes surrounding the impulse engine feeds," Enid said and glided across the bay and upwards relative to the deck to get to the upper catwalk. She had discovered that it transversed the axis of the Grant fore to aft with only four sets of two hatches for atmospheric containment. It was far faster to go along that route as re-pressurization for the Engineering deck only took a few seconds, rather than the half-minute of the larger personnel doors. They were only emergency lights, and dim ones at this point, along that route, but she enjoyed it for the shortened travel time.

The Gorns had picked up the one or two cases they had stowed, and were filing out on either side of the shuttle bay. Lothar shook his head, at how they never needed to be told what to do, at least not more than once. And there had been a few times when he thought of something that needed to be done, got to the site and found it had already been done or a Gorn was working on it. They had laid the elevator guide-paths and main energizing system for it, and the final guide system only needed to be installed and then elevator access between those points serviced in the Engineering hull would be connected up to the main lift system. Lothar was checking what he had on the duty roster and was astonished that it wasn't Engineering but the Main Bridge. The final connections between Engineering and the Bridge had been routed, along with secondary control of the weapon's systems and he was scheduled for that test and eval. He glanced up at the top of the bay, and seeing that Enid had already disappeared decided to follow her, as that would be the fastest way to get to the interconnector. By the time he got on the catwalk and to Engineering, she had already cycled through and disappeared past the small airlock. He did so himself, went through the upper reaches of Engineering, which was actually decked off via standard deck plating, through to the other side's airlock, through that and then a quick walk over the open area just between two of the segmented warp cores, then down the gangway ladder to the turbolift elevator. From there it was a short ride to the bridge, which had the main viewscreen on, tactical displaying the planet and the ship slowly moving out of its shadow.

"Any updates?" Lothar asked.

"No, we are still in the shadow of Jupiter for direct communication to Earth or Mars. Direct line of sight will return in 10 minutes," said M-4.

Lothar nodded and went over to the Engineering console and took out his portable toolkit, unfastened and unsealed the console and lifted it up to see a maze of fiber optic cable and standard control connectors, and going through the checklist for system by system readout. Most of the preliminary routing to Engineering was already done, and initial tests were satisfactory, but these manual tests allowed for the full range of responses from the systems. At ten minutes in he had only identified one loose fiber optic cable and had reseated it and sealed the end after checking to make sure it worked.

"Incoming messages, multiple, some repeating to ensure accuracy of transmission," said M-4.

Lothar nodded.

"Figures. Someone is always kibbitzing. Who do we have on incoming messages?"

"By priority there is a Star Fleet Command set of orders. Second is a Museum Base message from Captain Bartholomew. Third are general Sol System warning advisories. Fourth are messages from Daystrom Industries to Enid Daystrom. Fifth are communications from two shuttle craft from the Museum Base at Mars, en-route to the Grant."

Gently lowering the Engineering console and sealing it, Lothar said, "Put up tactical at scale for Jovian system and shuttle approach."

The main viewscreen shifted out and the representation of Jupiter and its moons became more stylized with dots representing small bodies. Two blue dots were rapidly moving through the outer parts of the system and had ETA estimates next to them of approximately one hour, given course and speed of the Grant. Also on the screen, beyond Jovian satellites, was the tractor base, with its three people from the Corps still there, just in case the Grant needed something... although the base was very minimal for what it could do.

Lothar sat down in the seat at the engineering station.

"All right, first priority is first: lets hear what the brass are worried about lately."

The screen flashed, showing a re-built message indicator, and the datastreams used to rebuild it, then the stardate for SFC, then the authorization: Director's Office, Star Fleet Command.

"Well, you don't get one of those everyday..." Lothar whispered.

Eloise Rafiq appeared on the screen.

"To Commander Lothar Hampton, currently on-board the USS Grant, notification is given of the activation of the Grant to regular Fleet Ops Status..." she started.

"So much for having it at the Museum. She has shafted it, again," Lothar whispered in low tones.

"Effective immediately the following promotions and re-assignments to permanent duty station on the USS Grant are issued by the Director's Office:

Commander Lothar Hampton is promoted to Captain of the USS Grant,

Lieutenant Commander Simon Lurva is promoted to Commander on the USS Grant..."

Lothar's eyes glazed over, not really hearing the rest of the names, promotions, and re-assignments.

"They can't be serious..." Lothar barely whispered.

"All encryption indicates that this message is from the Director's Office, Captain Hampton," said M-4, "Congratulations on your promotion."

"It is a mandatory 5-year tour, M-4. I had planned on retiring in two years with my 35 Service Anniversary."

"Ah... yes, Captain. I hope your family will understand?"

"It will take a week, at least, to explain this to my wife... she had hoped to have us on Base until retirement. I will have to see what the Fleet can do for her. Getting a promotion to ship's captain was not in our plans, and I have tried to stay on the technical side of the Fleet to avoid that or getting promoted to a desk captaincy."

"I don't understand, Lothar," said M-4.

Lothar looked around the bridge, seeing that all the critical systems were operational at the stations.

"No, I suspect not, M-4. Perhaps when you have the M-5 integrated you will understand. I am not knocking the Fleet, M-4, and listening to the promotion and re-assignment list I understand that Command wants a match crew on here as soon as possible and one that interworks well. Almost all of the M-5 team is on that list. Bartholomew will be short-handed for a year or so because of this, and missing most of his top staff. Still, he can do a backdoor raid on the Academy and a few other places to get good staff. It is hard to get a good ship's crew on the fly."

"Then you are happy with your promotion?"

"I understand it, M-4. Happiness is in the eye of the beholder and I had planned to spend some life outside of school and the Fleet. That will get delayed, now, at least by one tour and possibly more as the Grant will need to spend at least a year in drydock if not two. It is hell to have a ship that needs this much work and to not do much with it, and even harder to keep a crew together as the Fleet has its vagaries about assignments. Still, most of the Ensigns and j/g Lieutenants get a boost out of this, which sweetens things. Ok, I have some idea of what Bartholomew has in line, but might as well hear it."

The screen flashed to replace the SFC banner with the Fleet Museum insignia, gave the stardate and message header from Fleet Historcal Museum Director's Office. Captain Bartholomew appeared behind his desk at his office. He was smiling.

"Congratulations and welcome to the Captain's Club, Captain Hampton. You have worked very hard to get it, even if it isn't exactly where you wanted it to be. I'm also sending along congratulations from a few other members of the First Families that have gotten the news. To keep it brief, SFHQ is worried at Sol System's primary gas giant, Jupiter, having such a high charge ratio and increasing ion storm activity in its outer magnetic field, which is enough to disrupt sub-space communications and all but point-to-point transporters even reaching to Earth. There was only one storm like this back in the 22nd century, and this has truly caused problems for command and control. It turns out there are no ships available for checking out the possibility of there being a manufactured cause to this coming from the Kuiper belt, and a previous light cruiser has been put on inner system patrol to manage commercial traffic. SFC is using the old LASNAVNET for system comms, which puts a speed of light limitation on things."

"This really isn't good...", Lothar was whispering.

Captain Bartholomew continued.

"No one had planned on how to actually manage so much stellar traffic and much of it is being re-routed. Fast couriers are being used to the nearest out-system station at Alpha Centauri. Still a natural solar storm will sweep across Jupiter in a week or so and return a standard charge balance there, so most of SFC is communicating the 'sit tight' message. They recognize the danger of the Pirate ship you encountered and that this may be caused by one of the clans. Even stopping a manufactured beam that far out, now, will not help as the beam itself would continue on for days. That leaves the USS Grant in its emergency position and the need for a supplemental ship for in-system work, even just having it available, will calm some people down...."

Lothar nodded, "Even an old Heavy Cruiser is still a Heavy Cruiser in name and the name will do that..."

"... now you will find that SFC has left an opening fpr junior personnel at the j/g and below level. You may have noticed L'Tira, Roger Arrivan and Alex Jomra missing from the re-assignment list plus some others. They did get promotions and then left for private employment to Daystrom Industries under the current contract for the M-Series. This is an honorable discharge with gratitude on behalf of SFC, as we expect that they will help to integrate Daystrom Industries revival towards ship systems design and cybernetic systems. That option will be left open for junior grade personnel with you for a week or so...."

Sitting back Lothar smiled, "Enid got them fair and square, the best recruiting officer for a young Cadet is one that instantly promises reward, danger, and lots of hard work, and she didn't even do it in that order!"

"... so while not under the best of circumstances, let me congratulate you, Lothar. I really do think you should have sought a promotion some years ago and do admire your skill in evading them. As this is an emergency situation the USS Grant's Captain has leeway to do what he thinks is best under the circumstances. No one really can offer you guidance on what that is, and it is more than likely that you will just head back to the Museum to do some final exchanges of personnel before heading to the Vesta Yards. That said, you know that the Orion Pirates have been under prime orders to be brought down or brought in, and while I doubt you can achieve the latter, if any show up, you might be able to do the former. Plus keep an eye out for anything else going on. Frankly, Lothar, a lot of people are worried, commerce is snarled and tens of millions of people have suffered isolation with the transporter network now limited to point-to-point transports at Earth and that only to near Earth orbit. This will take months to straighten out, and the best we can hope for is that this isn't caused by one of the Clans and that nothing more will happen. Still SFC is starting to see what Enid was talking about with the Gorns and the Federation is very vulnerable to even minor upset. Until just a few weeks ago no one had even thought that to be the case. Now that attitude is finally starting to be shaken up. So I will sign off and let you get back to getting the full M-5 system operational on your ship. Good Luck, Captain Hampton. Bartholomew, out."

In theory the idea of being a starship captain and given autonomy to do what is necessary in an emergency would give that captain a vast array of choices and options. Lothar knew that Star Fleet Command knew the condition of his ship, its bare ability to break out of orbit around Jupiter and, generally, the fact that he wasn't going anywhere with the Grant until a few simple things like a supply of antimatter was on-board. A starship looks so awe inspiring, until you realize that without the very basics it is stuck in Newtonian physics and without a power supply is simply a lovely piece of sculpture or orbital housing unit with weapons on-board.

"That is a large responsibility, Captain Hampton," said M-4.

"Impressive until you think about it, M-4. But with that on my service record on my first day of my first command SFC is virtually guaranteeing that I'm on-board for at least two tours if not a full end of my life commitment. Or given a fond farewell if I'm not up to the job, which means that we end up dead or captured by Orions or something critical goes wrong during the next atmospheric traverse. Still need two of those for enough impulse engine fuel, right?"

"Aye, Captain Hampton, that is correct."

"Are the ion storm warnings anything beyond what Bartholomew outlined?"

"Yes, Captain Hampton, with the build-up of ion differential there is increasing lightning discharge in the upper Jovian atmosphere. There are some discharges that are now reaching out of the upper atmosphere in arcing back into it. The sulfur vapor torus of Io has gained significant charges and any objects moving across these charge shells may encounter discharge events."

Lothar pursed his lips and nodded.

"The last thing we need is a Jovian sized lightning strike hitting the ship. Anything you can do about that, M-4, beyond some outcycling some deflector plasma?"

"Nothing at this time, Captain. More worrying is the other Star Fleet vessels in orbit that are inactive and cannot shed charge readily. Two Frigates, a Destroyer and Three Light Cruisers would be prime for that sort of activity, although the Light Cruisers being restorations utilizing Vulcan Star Probe Armor will be nearly immune to those."

"They built that stuff well, thats the truth, M-4. When the Vulcan Science Academy was asked to rework their probe armor, they were more than happy to do it and if it weren't for shields we would probably still be using it, to this day. It is a lot of mass to haul around, but its very good at what it does. Ok, re-route the Daystrom messages and put the shuttle messages up next. They are, what, less than a light hour away?"

"Yes, Captain."

"Put 'em on."

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