Friday, December 12, 2008

The M-5 - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

"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 mission needs 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. Much of that comes from the basic engram work and how they coalesce, and should prove a good founding for a first personality type. 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?" asked Kathy Lorimar.

"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 from Daystrom Industries. That is necessary given the nature of the work and the interests involved."

"Will the Gorns be coming here to study them?" asked Mr. Jomra.

"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 put in as a power draw. 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 shared anti-matter 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 an APU 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 including the time to get the shuttle changed to a fuel carrier and back, 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, and 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 or 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 species, 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 foundation level 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 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 attack 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 then 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," Lothar said.

"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 Lothar.

"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 freighter 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. And the contract stipulates that the final close out requires my being there as the head of Daystrom Industries, 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 quarters 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 her skills 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 of protein concentrate, 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 and the data stream from the tricorder was accepted.

"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 and not direct mention, 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 because of that. 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, rarely 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 so on any aspect of it after he died. 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 a personal, deep understanding way? 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 be 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 skills 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 has been countered 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 practicing the process plasma join weld technique, 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, in 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. Beyond that 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 including weapon systems, so there were worries before ship power-up and that, too, 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.

He had to have a talk with M-3/V about that.

"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 on the list."

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, at least in his specialty area, 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 performed 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. The 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.

"Well that will be about six months to get the specialists here, plenty of time to prepare for them," Lothar said.

"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 safest 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.

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