Friday, December 12, 2008

The M-5 - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

"I thank you for your time, and please keep the Swift in your prayers. Captain Bartholomew, out."

Enid Daystrom was dismayed at that: not only for Mr. Jervis but for all on board the Swift. Her time with Star Fleet personnel had changed her attitudes towards the Fleet in many ways, and while never diminishing their sacrifice, it had been brought home strongly, once again, why Richard Daystrom started the M-Series. She didn't let that distract from her current work, which was holding a short briefing on the M-Series for three of the Gorns that had come over to join the project.

They were, as Gorns are, not nameless but having no referentially meaningful name designation beyond what they did. They knew each other by biological means, at least one theory put forward on that seemed to be panning out: by acoustics, pheromone analogs, skin coloration, and, most likely, out of normal spectrum visual and electrical senses that allowed them to know each other, individually. So if they knew who they were, who others were, and what they did, why have names? Humanoids and almost every other sentient species save, possibly, the Horta, had need of names: Gorns did not. From talking with them she had puzzled out that even their starships only had some nominal designations but each ship's crew knowing what other ships did and coordinating on that basis at some level was the over-riding way things worked.

Grace had been going over some of the background on the M-Series and the theories the team had generated to-date on how it worked. She had bowed her head at the end and waited a moment before continuing.

"Your comrades are honored for their work and its perils. You have our concern for their return to safety from what they do," said one of the Gorns that was a human-interaction specialist, although they all had that bent of attitude amongst their group. This one was, more or less as the designators go, the Group Lead.

Grace looked up, "Thank you, all, as I know you speak for all of you. It is an all-volunteer ship, but their return is something that would be blessed."

"That is the case with our ships, also. Only volunteers to accept such hazards."

Day-to-day working with Gorns is an immense challenge, Enid realized, but the small things they say and do describe much more than what the diplomats and other researchers normally get. Gorns were not seeking to set themselves apart, they know they are apart, but in working together they make an effort to understand us that is, perhaps, even harder than our attempts to understand them. Somehow the large papers on them always seem to come off as missing prime things, and the final conclusions were skewed, while it is in the smaller outlooks and remarks that something different is captured. More and more, Enid Daystrom was coming to realize that the entire structure of science in the Federation was fundamentally flawed. She hadn't seen much of it in her specialty, but there were times and some people... it was very disturbing to think that those flaws were replicated on the large scale Federation-wide.

"This project is not without risk, also," said Enid," and we thank you for joining us in taking it with us."

"It is good work, to seek saving the lives of those in danger when they cannot save themselves," said another Gorn, a rare Cybernetics Specialist, of which there were not many in Gorn space, perhaps less than a hundred if the universal translator hadn't messed the numbers and annotation up too much. That poor piece of technology has had many failings with Gorns from the first meeting, onwards. Even the Metrons really don't understand the Gorns, proving, yet again, that energy-based life had its own problems for all that it is accredited with being 'advanced'. So 'advanced' they can't even figure out that Ship Group Lead is not the same as Captain, although there is a rough equivalence but just about any Gorn could take that position and it was often passed amongst many in the ship based on current mission and needs. Not that humans or the Federation did much better in that realm, to be fair, but at least we make an honest effort to understand.

"It is, Enid Daystrom, that is why we are here."

"I am sorry to interrupt, Grace, do continue," said Enid.

"No Enid, our co-workers and you are welcome to talk about items not on the agenda, and this is an important one. If I may ask, now that this is public and I have been working on the battle damaged equipment, do the Gorns here have knowledge of analysis in such things? We are out of ideas on the kind of weaponry that could do such work at a large scale."

"It is not a specialty, but we have that knowledge with us and will help as we can," said the Systems Specialist, "our kind have faced many foes over the eons."

Again Enid was left in a quandary, as Gorns had a definition of eon that ranked up there with the scientific community's: vast amounts of geologic time, billions of years. The two competing modes of thought had been that either the Gorns had an incredible over-rating of themselves, or that they actually had survived that long and generally unchanged biologically over that long time span. Examination of their body structures yielded analogs in various planetary histories, but no good match. Their make-up, physiologically, pointed to a lineage that started out in a generally wet climate and then adapted to a drier and more hostile one, adapting with thickened hide, scales, polarizing eye coverings of their multi-faceted eye systems, a higher sense of atmospheric disturbances... it was that part of their brains that actually took to communicating and their current language has been tested to be very well suited for covering tens of kilometers over long, desert conditions even with winds involved. Many had puzzled over their lack of binocular vision until the true nature of their air disturbance sense was found: it is not only 3D but includes a sub-meter capability for the sub-surface. Gorns did not perceive the world as any other species did, and while not having the benefits of long vision, they were extremely capable sensing and reacting to close-in threats. Their brain capacity increased over what is thought to be at least 10 million years, possibly as high as 50 million, and included increased cooling during the daytime and muscular derived warm-blooded capability during the night time. It is theorized that they were the only all-day, all-night predator on their home planet.

All of that speech, sensory identification, color overlay on 3D perception and their full-spectrum hunting capability left them immune to at least two extinction events, as they tell it. Even when the planet shifted to a higher humidity, higher rainfall domain, their sensory apparatus allowed them to survive where none of the species that were in their start cohort did. After the second event, while already having language and a form of social grouping, they added what would be known as 'technic' civilization. Their oral historical record is vast in ways that cannot be fathomed outside their species, and when they talk of 'eons' it is not boasting. Biology won out over hubris in that debate. Dealing with a species so uninterested in interacting with other species, however, that was a major problem. And they didn't have 'government' although they had much in the way of localized administration, all the way to self-defense of individuals, they did not have a formalized way of outreach. They had and accepted no embassies as such, although there is the 'outgrouping' that the Federation treated as one and called it such, and that made trade nearly impossible even for the black market. Wanting nothing, giving nothing, they sought to be left alone. To Enid this was a biological marvel and a social enigma, and they were on her project as it was 'survival level' to them. That was troubling to her. Very troubling.

"Any help you can give us is very welcome and I thank you for it," said Grace.

"We are part of the effort for Enid Daystrom," said the Cybernetics Specialist, "that help is for the smooth running of that effort with those around it. That is necessary."

Grace didn't know if that was insulting or just plain, blunt, truth by beings that had little in the way of social formalities. She guessed the latter, as she couldn't imagine a Gorn ever bothering to insult anyone. Especially considering her last name, which had to go into familial matters going back centuries to a part of the region of Europe known as Italy. Better not to let family heritage and insults get mixed together at this late date. "It will, and beyond my being a member of the team but for all of us trying to figure out what happened. Thank you."

Enid had to fight going into what her colleagues and numerous clients had come to call, 'observation and analysis mode', yet a large carnivore with interesting traits invited that deeply. She suppressed a smile, pursed her lips and tried to re-focus on the tasks at hand. She knew that the Gorns had used the personal database system for comms, so that they had private information contact via encrypted routes... which was pretty duplicative given the nature of their sub-vocal speech patterns. At least five teams, and possibly as many as three times that when Klingon, Orion, Ferengi, Tholian, First Federation, and other sources were thrown into the mix, had tried to figure out just what it was that passed between Gorns on a constant basis.

And failed.

For all the things that examination and technology were good for, the Federation had some surprising lacks when it came to applications. And when those things failed individuals, many just kept on trying the same thing over and over, which was not a prime indicator of higher levels of thought. The 'universal translator' had problems in that much of the thought patterns did not formulate in areas of Gorn brains normally associated with conscious thought, like that air sensory area. It isn't surprising that their thought is so tied to their ability to perceive. What is surprising is that much of that thought cannot be traced fully within any individual Gorn, save when fully isolated, and then some parts of the mental functioning start to go awry. The Gorn definition of 'insanity' (such as it was) had the references to 'individual isolated for more than one month' as its basis. It was unrecoverable, too. From that Gorns are inherently social individuals, in that they are always in constant association with each other. That association also acts as a thought facilitator in ways not understood by anyone and that sub-vocal to low vocal range of constant sound must be a part of it. And everyone fails that tries to figure it out.

And she had shifted back to her observation mode, again, and shifted in her chair to catch what was being discussed.

"... that aberrant thinking by Richard Daystrom led him to ways to counter the perceived threats. First, his already lax note-taking went downwards during the M-Series project. Second, he removed multitronic code from the M-Series that interfaced with the memory module structures and placed it in hard code, gaining it efficiencies in starting and regulating the evolutionary neural nets that formed. Third he staged a multi-part concept for creating capabilities in the M-Series, so that each part that he was looking for would succeed, while the overall presented specifications would fail. Each of these is indicative of a highly developed mind that has seriously gone wrong in its thinking, and yet there was still a part of Richard Daystrom that kept track of all of this, even while his more surficial thought structures decayed. Righting the balance of his surficial mind did not change the outlook of those deep-seated thinking capabilities, but did make it impossible for him to approach many of them without risking debilitating instability again." Grace had been going over the forensics part of the project before this and was now doing the overall summary.

Enid appreciated her methodical way of doing things, and exacting attitude that her profession had granted Grace. Or that she brought to her profession. Plus she was a regular with the hand-weapons group, and certified instructor in a number of areas, too, so Enid had a chance to reciprocate the learning experience she had been doing for understanding what she knew of the M-Series. People really do lionize those with multiple talents and don't register their own amazing abilities too well. Many on the team had that, due to historical analysis requiring so much work across specialties, but most of the people at the Base didn't recognize that actively.

"It was not physical isolation of him that caused this, but some form of social isolation?" asked the Systems Specialist.

"I... well... that isn't easy to specify. We do know that there was a personality trait that could lead to this with Richard Daystrom and that many of life's events would reinforce it. Even though there was no active movement against him, externally, there were a number of individuals who sought greater recognition for their work while marginalizing his. There was no single, overall problem to cause this, but a series of problems that self-reinforced to cause this instability."

"That is understood, this is a problem of many species," said the Group Lead.

Working with Gorns was slow torture, Enid realized. There were tens, if not hundreds, of individual minor references that she would love to track down, and yet to get things done right she couldn't. That was both frustrating and educational to her, as she rarely had her mental faculties challenged so much in so short a period of time. Maybe, once this was over, she would take up T'sau on some diplomatic work, and leave Karl to run the company for a few years. Or Revar Umak, even with his quirks, although the concept of 'trade' wasn't one that translated into the Gorn realm of things. Even that, alone, indicated something very profound, and Enid could feel it. She was looking forward to the successful end of this project and, finally, clearing up things left uninvestigated for so long. As sabbaticals go, she could have done worse, but cooped up in a an orbiting Fleet base, no matter how good, wasn't something that attracted her.

"So it wasn't a problem of isolation, as such, but other conditions coming together. For this one man, we have found it to be a difficult subject because of his brilliant mind. We are lucky to have his great granddaughter to help us, and she has given us some insights that aren't available by normal records. Still, we may never know all of it, but we can piece together the outline. That brilliance that was only his, is seen throughout what we have investigated."

"Yes," said the Cybernetics Specialist, "he had something that we had not considered before and find it of interest that he did so. It is a set of ideas that are good in their simplicity."

'Good in their simplicity'! Don't mind how much effort it has taken to piece together, but get right to the point and it is dead-on accurate. His idea was simplicity in thought, just very difficult in execution. She was coming to suspect that the Gorns recognized that and were paying their own sort of homage to work with her team. She took it that outside of some areas of warp drive and weapons, that Gorns did not incorporate much of what other starfarers used in their own arrangements. They were 'too sophisticated to be of use' was a phrase she had heard earlier, and of all of the things she had heard that one resonated deeply in her. High technology had its limitations, and the mental ones they bring were, perhaps, the worst of those.

"An approach to a ship as organism is unusual and has good insight, which is why we are honored to help in this work," that from the Systems Specialist.

"I am honored that you joined us, to help put the troubled memory of my great grandfather into full balance. And to share his works with you to save more lives of both our peoples," said Enid.

"History is ever-making, Enid Daystrom. His works and your team's effort will be remembered," said the Group Lead.

Just how far back did Gorn memory as a people go? That is something that has not ever fully resolved itself, but as an aural tradition that is highly active it dates back to near their discovery of language and ability to master its strange form that only they fully know. She took it there were very few individuals actually remembered amongst the Gorns, although events, happenings, outcomes all were deeply remembered.

"Grace, are you covering the MIT work of my great grandfather?"

"No, Roger is doing that. I understand that Gorns do not have a need for multiple instructive meetings, save for those requiring manual and physical skills."

"Ok, just wanted to keep track," that had been a major change to the schedule, as she had been expecting at least two or three sessions per area, but the Gorns had indicated that was not necessary. She was very happy to have L'Tira go through and cancel all of those sessions and clear out the time as there was little left to get actual work done. "Tomorrow will be hands-on work with the systems, and I think we have good examples of interface units appropriate to your physical make-up to help in the assistance."

"Yes, our Interface Specialist approved of its design and commends its efficiency," said the Systems Specialist.

In truth it was very strange to look at those interface kits, which came in a basic briefcase format that had been ruggedized for Gorn use. The actual display had three major sensory areas, with two split panels on either side carrying visual data and the central part was a tractor/presser beam system with mini-replicator unit in it. It was a novel 3D projection design system that wasn't an outgrowth of holodeck technology, which required too many field systems and did need to encompass an area, but a tiny replicator that put up thin film representations of objects, with scaling factor given on either side. Gorn ships, apparently, utilized a raised surface system with micro and nano controllers allowing for volume memory to be used as the system rotated a design along three axes. That was wonderful for a starship, used little power and hadn't been changed much in... well... how long were the Gorns a space-faring people? Still, the Diplomatic Corps had provided workstation overviews, which were somewhat strange arrangements for humanoids, and one of the Cadets had thought that an adaptation of an old holographic system could be updated after not being used for nearly two centuries. The system allowed for fine-scaling, and had a large ball device in the center to allow user based orientation. That class, yesterday, had been a marvel of watching just how quickly the Gorns learned the positives and negatives of the system: they had only been with them for a half-hour and were already able to call up dynamic displays of landscapes, buildings and such things as their staterooms. Their appreciation was already working its way through Diplomatic and Fleet channels, which would serve as a major positive aspect for those involved.

"It will be busy early tomorrow with Lothar taking the last of the equipment to the Grant, but we have a second M-3/V set-up for basic simulator use and the M-4/V will be coming on-line a few days later, with any luck. So as the testing goes on, we will be assisting, and as soon as we can shake a shuttle free we will head over to the Grant for full systems integration and testing, while upgrading the in situ M-3/V to M-4/V status."

"As we will be going," said the Group Lead,"we can offer the services of our shuttlecraft."

"That would be wonderful," Enid said, smiling,"make sure to carry all basic survival needs, including high workload food packs. While water is something we can supply via portable systems, until the replicators come on-line, we are strictly on a 'what you bring is what you have' realm. If you think you need it, bring it along. I am recommending a month, minimum, of food per individual."

"Thank you, Enid Daystrom. That is easily done. Our shuttle is not equipped with Federation standard docking mounts, and will require a shuttlecraft bay. Our shuttle is equipped with the lock-down placements for shuttle storage on Federation starships," said the Systems Specialist.

"Lothar should have that section of the ship secured by then, although we will not have an on-board tractor or standard guide system working yet due to lack of spare power."

"We have two individuals that can do such piloting, and we are all capable of basic piloting. If there will be no ship environment protection, we will add our suit systems to what we bring for movement to ship sustained environment areas," said the Group Lead.

"That will be necessary, although hand-cargo moving equipment is available once we are there, but the shuttle deck will be in a zero-g environment and vacuum," how quickly people forgot that artificial gravity, artificial atmosphere, and artificially created supplies were all artificial and required a working infrastructure to make them available. It was one of the few things that holodecks weren't all that good at doing, really, as there is no good way to remove atmosphere in a station or any holodeck without having extreme bracing for the pressures that would cause. Luckily she had gotten time on the Athens to test out some of her standard equipment and projects she had started here, although the suit was in replicated form as the originals had been left packed at home on Earth. No one trusted Fleet life support belts, no matter how wonderful they were: one minor crack in a dilithium crystal and your environment, recycling system... everything was gone in an instant. And they weren't made to take some of the radiation belts around Jupiter, either.

"You will also find generalized ship-board conditions for the Grant and near Jovian space. For humans this requires space armor for external work and G/R-21 suits at minimum for internal work in unprotected areas. Once in an artificial environment, the only thing to check for is daily radiation exposure, which only gets to be bad near the outer skin portions of the ship."

"We are advised, thank you Enid Daystrom," said the Group Lead, "we all have such equipment necessary to do this work per individual."

"Good! Are there any questions on the overview of Richard Daystrom and his intent for the M-Series system?"

The Gorns were still for a moment, but just at the range of her hearing some of the sub-vocal sounds were felt if not heard.

"Not at this time, Enid Daystrom." said the Cybernetics Sepcialist.

"Then you are on your own until we meet tomorrow, it will be early to help shift some containers to the shuttle, then hands-on simulator work with M-3/V and perhaps some assisting with M-4/V while in its M-4 stage. Until then, you have the base layout, various entertainment and dining facilities, sports, exercise, and chapel area listed. If you need help or can't find something don't hesitate to contact me or L'Tira, especially if Museum personnel can't help."

Enid Daystrom stood up, and she waved to Grace as she left the room, aware that the Gorns were also standing and filing out as Grace shut down the various displays in the conference room. She decided on 4 up, 2 over and some zero-g workout time with a couple of exo-suits from Engineering which, while not equipped with power systems outlets, gave her greater flexibility and general radiation protection above the 21 rating. Of course the 2 over put her on the Athens, but no one used the shuttlecraft deck there for much of anything. Except her.

* * *

"Welcome to the eighth meeting of the M-5 project working group. This has been a historic week as Lothar has taken over a full M-3/V assembly to the USS Grant and installed it there. Also with him are Theresa, Brian, Enak, Mr. Jomra and Cadet Walsh. We have Simon Lurva back to discuss that and the condition of the Grant. Kathy, Roger and Patti have been working on the M-4 transitioning to M-4/V and getting initial runs of the M-5 going. They will be talking about advances in their work and some outlook on their work with Grace to get the final scientific and technical reports prepared for their communities via the Corps of Engineers. I thank our Gorn contingent in helping us in large ways and small. They have given us one or two insights into the M-V concept that, I think, might have escaped us. I will be heading over to the Grant tomorrow with M-4 while final work is done on M-5 and its transition to M-5/V is done here. As the bulk of the project will be on the Grant, our next full meeting will be on the Grant to address final work and installation, if we have time for that, and the future of the project. Actually I don't know if there will be time for a full meeting between now and then, and may have L'Tira do a summary meeting here. So, to get things started, I will have L'Tira give us project interface items with the Museum and elsewhere. L'Tira?"

"Thank you, Enid. As you know the USS Swift has been found in the ion storm source, which is a cloud of generally neutral interstellar hydrogen. Captain Bartholomew has given us a 'heads-up' that while the ship has been found, all aboard her are missing. The ship systems record no attack, no use of transporters or shuttles, and no escape pods have been used. Star Fleet is sending over a team from the Corps and Science branches to find out just where the crew is. The ship was found drifting in a state like that of the ancient vessel Marie Celeste, with systems functioning but unattended, meals half-eaten and left. The sensor arrays did record a sudden spike in ionic discharge, but nothing beyond the capabilities of the Swift to handle and the disappearance of the crew was instantaneous. There have been vigils scheduled at the chapel and Enid has offered our team's hopes, worries and services to not only our science section, but to Star Fleet."

"Disappeared? Without sensor recordings anything of note?" asked Kathy.

"Apparently, yes," said L'Tira, "which is why the Fleet has limited release on the information. Captain Bartholomew has given this to the Section Heads, which is how we came to know about it. You are all under that confidentiality need until the Corps can figure out what happened to the Swift."

"Neutral hydrogen clouds are the deserts of space, to be examined for charge characteristics before entering. Even wary ships have been caught by them." said the Space Specialist of the Gorns, "Yet they still must be traversed, due to such happenings being rare and the conditions behind activity unlikely."

'... the deserts of space...' that from a species that came to sentience in a desert environment, thought Enid.

"Do you know what causes these events? They are a mystery to us," asked Kathy,"which is why we are researching them."

"Kathy Lorimar we have three general identified types of ion storm causing sub-space interference. All take place in areas of neutral hydrogen gas and volumes of space with high sub-space flux, and the vast majority of all ion storms go unreported as the latter condition is rare. Once in place that accounts for over 98% of all sub-space interference coming from ion storms."

"Ninety eight percent? That is an unusual statistic," said Kathy,"there is a two-percent residual?"

"Yes," said the Systems Specialist,"that residual falls into the other two categories of ion storm causes."

"Something else causes ion storms?" asked Kathy, "Do you have any examples of what those two things are?"

The Systems Specialist looked to the Space Specialist.

"Yes. They fall into the categories of those cause by natural creatures that have transitioned to the normal space, sub-space interface and can travel freely in both, and those caused by a technic civilization that has transitioned almost fully into sub-space."

The conference room was very quiet as the humans looked at the Gorns.

"No normal space living being can survive sub-space for long without disassociation of component normal space structures," whispered Kathy, "it's impossible."

"That is not the case, Kathy Lorimar, we have records and history to demonstrate tens of thousands of ion storms that are not naturally normal space happenings and of the two classes they represent." that from the Group Lead.

Kathy just stared, as the idea of having records of tens of thousands of storms, to represent two percent put the few thousand the Federation recorded into its proper place. And most of that without good sensors and recording equipment. For the first time she had a gut level understanding of just how long the Gorns had been around. Not only had they not seen traversal to energy being state as desirable, but they actively did nothing to themselves to change their physical or mental capabilities. Her mind had already started to look at that basic number zone, the expected size of Gorn space, and the number of years that would be necessary to render that residual. She had to make sure of the exponent on the power of ten as it was coming up as a 9. And not a low number to that exponent, either, pretty much back to when background radiation died down in the galaxy and the first super-giant stars had violently exploded to form the first dust clouds, most likely reforming into a somewhat smaller super-giant and exploding again to get the heavy elements necessary for life... making the Gorn home star one of the first to have a habitable zone for life. That and its nearby systems still traveled together from that initial formation, leaving that cloud behind, perhaps, as it slowly created more stars or just a normal giant star which had since exploded in a normal supernova. Now she understood just why the Gorns did not see the Federation as anything special. The thought of 'mayflies' went through her mind.

"There are records of six distinct large scale animal types that live in that interstitial space and journey freely into both. The smallest observed is approximately half kilometer by quarter kilometer, and has the highest mass density. The largest measures over 20 kilometers and has low mass density. Their interaction for neutral hydrogen is uncertain as none of these utilize it. It may only be a temporary resting area while they travel in the interstices between normal and sub-space continuums," said the Space Specialist.

"And the technic civilization?" asked Enid.

"Our people have not seen a recorded instance of them in a span of timing stretching 100 times past their previous recurrence rate and we speculate they may no longer exist or chose to migrate elsewhere, although activities in recent times may point to a return," said the Group Lead. "Their previous rate of activity was 10,000 of your standard years."

"Ten million years?" whispered Kathy.


"Who are they?" asked Grace.

"Others have named them, we have found no suitable name for them. When they arrive, they swarm. The Slavers found them difficult to deal with and their arrival at the Slaver home system would signal the start of their civil war. Earlier the people you call the Targuans made defensive systems against them and continue to exist that way," said the Space Specialist.

"This is known by our people. We have heard of other species that have been visited by the swarming visitation and tell of it. Many civilizations rise and fall without having a single instance of contact," said the Group Lead.

"What do they want?" asked Kathy.

"They seek space normal matter as exists in star systems. Your Federation has run across stars that only have extra-system bodies in them, but there is no native planet, dust, gas clouds or far reaching Oort cloud. Those are systems they have visited, they leave nothing behind," said the Group Lead.

"Has anyone attempted to communicate with them?" asked Patti.

"Many have, we did during our first encounters with them until the First Swarm, then we no longer attempted that," said the Cybernetics Specialist, "all attempts have failed. We did not have the technology of the Targuans and so took the efficient route to stop such happenings."

"What do you do?" asked Enid, truly interested and morbidly fascinated.

"We utilize each colony system fully. Inhabit it fully. And have vessels ready to defend each in the tens of thousands. We do not want conquest. We want the predations to stop, and they have over the last 10 million years," that from the quiet Weapons Specialist.

There was deep quiet in the room. If this was true, and their ability to withstand casual smuggling, the Romulans and generally wanting to be left alone pointed to it. That gave their total population of Gorns a size that dwarfed the entirety of the Federation, Romulan, Cardassian and Klingon space plus all minor space faring civilizations. By at least five times.

"They cannot swarm if they find resources are extremely well defended," said the Group Lead, "we do not colonize like other races do as we wish to survive."

"No wonder you don't care much about us..." whispered Grace very, very softly.

"This project of Enid Daystrom's is survival critical to our people. We will be willing to teach your people how to survive like we do if it succeeds." said the Group Lead.

"Yes.." said the Cybernetics Specialist,"vigilance is hard."

"You expect them to come back, don't you?" asked Enid.

"We do. Their precursors are apparent the last million years. They will return. In force. Our people have deprived them many times and they ask for nothing, give nothing and take all. We think they will go after our people as we are not prey to them any longer. We will be ready."

Yes, 'vigilance is hard', thought Enid Daystrom. Still to a race willing to merely build its defenses and expand slowly, they could not afford the hop, skip and jump mode of colonization that the Federation could. No wonder the Romulans were in a stalemate... and they probably had no idea why their ships, strategies and technology failed them time and again. And the Gorns never even mentioned them as a threat. The Federation had gotten very, very lucky with the Gorns as a death struggle with them would not succeed.

"Well, lets hope it isn't this swarming civilization, then," said L'Tira, knowing that not only was that subject a likely time-eater, but that it couldn't be solved with what everyone knew.

"It is not likely," said the Energy Specialist,"there are some creatures that can do what is described to the Swift, and they happen far more often."

"Good! Now, back to where I left off. For the higher ranking members of the team, Quarterlies are due, and you know who you are. Enid wants to make sure that we don't impinge on normal reporting and routine, so those are a priority." She knew it was a clumsy attempt to get things on track, but it had to be done.

"I know. That's why Lothar is on the Grant and I'm here," said Simon who looked agreeable on getting back to business, "he hates admin work." Even if it meant that same work...

"Other than that, the Museum is still working on the old battle damage problem and coming to no real conclusions. Help is requested from anyone who can shed light on to what weapon or weapons could cause such damage and who would attack both fleets. And that should wrap it up for the overview. Enid?" L'Tira was coming to figure out that the job of XO for Enid Daystrom was a major, full-time affair... of course Enid used lots of field work to get away from the time necessary to run all the details in her life. No one really questioned someone that busy. And the details still got done, which L'Tira still couldn't understand.

"Thank you, L'Tira. Simon, your update is next."

"Thank you Enid," he said turning as he stood up and putting up a holoprojection of the Grant on over the table and saw it replicated on the smaller units in front of the Gorns. He had never seen the units in action, and was delighted to see that there was almost no time lag time involved.

"As you know, the interior of the Grant is a mess and Tareen was there helping me out. Starting aft at the shuttledeck, Lothar had a hard day or so of the welding teams doing the plasma join welds to secure that to the ship's superstructure. It needed that, and badly. Here you can see that anyone coming off of the shuttledeck and the maintenance section below it are in for actual cat-walks with some overhead pull lines. A landing on the shuttle deck must be a powered one and then work done to quickly secure the shuttle to the deck itself after landing. When the deck was removed the upper receiving area was taken from the lower maintenance bay for removal, so even if there was full power to both for tractors and artificial gravity, there is no way to get a shuttle out of the bay and into maintenance due to the removal of equipment and connecting superstructure. That is far, far, far down the list of 'things to do if we had a few years'."

He shifted the highlighting from the shuttle deck to the areas adjacent to it, and the Gorn systems minimally thickened the solid projection around the areas that were highlighted for the rest of the team. "These areas surrounding the shuttle bay have a number of catwalks where decks used to be. On those catwalks we would see reduced gravity as the two decks above and three below it were taken out completely and lost to the scrap yards of the Corps. In theory those decks should, actually, still be sitting at the ship yards. They aren't. The Corps left the major superstructure in place, of course, so you see some of the major beams and support members of the ship, itself, as you walk or float around inside. The rooms immediately around the shuttledeck were used as storage of equipment and some other items, and no real inventory has been taken there. If you look down coming into this empty section down from the orbital axis and looking forward, you can see the Slip Warp core and cooling systems, which are attached to major structural members and a standard engineering perforated tread metal walk area around it. There are zero-g pull lines to get you directly from the catwalk to the Slip Warp, and we replaced those with new ones due to vacuum off-gassing problems and some crystallization on the original lines. As you move forward you see normal decks re-appear with catwalks, pull-lines and ladders between the decks and the upper and lower catwalks, plus those used for warp core maintenance and testing."

Simon had ensured that everyone got to see the distances involved which had some sheer drops if life support and gravity could be turned on for the area. Packing crates, spare parts areas and other 'we will use this again, soon' items had been littering the full bottom catwalk/deck and all of that was shoved into the crates and secured to the sides. In theory it should be floating around, but the orbit around Jupiter slowly pulled everything in the floor direction. No one bothered with an itemized list: that would take weeks to do and general images with computer pull-outs from those had been enough to indicate that there was nothing of major need in that junk. Just the sheer amount of loose detritus was a bit unnerving to those who had previously served on Federation starships. Everyone on the Grant carried around that Engineers look-up system which fed directly into a database for those on the Grant, and the database cataloged a huge mess of tools and equipment spanning decades, along with a disturbingly large number of things just not in the database. In theory you could find where anything in the database was. In practice, things were not so nice.

He skipped over the inter-cooler system, which had suffered a major rework for the segmented core system: the Corps had used Bernoulli's Law to neck-down the old system at the Engineering hull and then nozzle it into the old intercoolers, which effectively made that the most efficient and most dangerous cooling system for the other warp drives ever seen. One tiny structural flaw and the entire thing would either take off the entire inter-cooler nacelle, or the entire pylon due to the thermal gradients involved. The added, segmented warp intercoolers were then added in by the space freed up by that and the entire thing jury-rigged to use either system, based on testing needs. If you used it properly, the entire cooling system might actually make the nacelles the coldest areas of the ship, not the hottest, by that nozzle action. Simon shuddered when he thought of the mechanical strain due to that heat differential that had never been called for in the original designs.

"Once you get back to normal ship territory and the major part of Engineering, things look a lot better. They aren't. Currently, as of today, we have life support on the main deck there and the support decks top/bottom of it, plus the Auxiliary Power Unit area forward and down. Turbolifts do not service this area, even if the ship had power. The lifts are locked into place in the Engineering area and are unconnected to ship's power save for doors. The major problem is that all the tube system to the saucer were cut away at the Engineering hull for putting in the segmented warp core. Basic safety requires closing gangway hatches when you are not actively going through them and those are manual at this point. I will skip the activity area for the M-Series in Engineering to complete the overview. Going forward more of the ship's decks were cut out to insert the segmented warp core, or 'multi-barrel warp'."

The view shifted to the cut-away forward of Engineering and the multi-cylinders of the segmented warp system showed up.

"As so many structural members went through here, the Corps utilized those in a way that can only be called ingenious, if it wasn't foolhardy. They actually laid entire, new structural members throughout this entire section of the ship to reinforce the sensor array and dorsal interconnector to the saucer section. After that they cut out the older supporting structures, decks and nearly everything else, save power conduits and cybernetic comms, slipped the segmented-warp system in sideways then rotated it ninety degrees into position and then slid it into place. Once it was secured, they then put new hull plates on, installed the intercooler lines to the main switching system for that, and ran power conduits to major connection areas just between the Engineering area and APU. Additionally they put in two decks of Engineering flooring and ladders along with the catwalks to get to the actual turbolift tubes and interconnecting accessways that would get you to the saucer section."

"Why is that foolhardy?" asked Kathy.

"What they did was change the center of mass for the entire ship by about 10 meters forward of where it was, plus a bit down. All the heavy equipment needed for the cores acts as a fine mass-balance to the large saucer section so that the dynamic stability point of a starship rests aft of the interconnector and in empty space. Now that dynamic point is actually in the interconnector and somewhat down, almost exactly where the X-Class torepdo bay is. The reasoning was that if the segmented core worked, against all previous trials and attempts to do that showing otherwise, then the entire ship would change its maneuverability characteristics to something very close to that of a Destroyer class vessel. Unfortunately that didn't happen and it probably has the maneuverability of the early and scrapped designs for a Dreadnought, which were scrapped because tugs were more maneuverable. Plus the interconnecter and saucer would both need sturdier support members to actually utilize all of this and that was never done. A multiple upgraded Republic Class cruiser going through Constitution and X-Class still has limitations due to original design. Worse than that was that almost all of the major cross-beams were put in with emergency releases, which is the problem we had there and in the shuttledeck area. In theory all of those should hold just fine while under strain, possibly even flex some. That is under original specs, however, these have been sitting in a vacuum for a long time and some of that flexibility may not be there. Plus no one has really tried to pilot a ship with such an arrangement through anything that puts much stress on those things, as they are seen as temporary means to allow multiple access so that beams can be quickly removed and re-installed. It isn't the release part that I'm worried about, but the strain those were meant to take. Lothar agreed and so the plasma join welds started almost as soon as he got off the shuttle."

"Is there any way to compensate for the mass of the segmented warp system?" asked Grace.

"Sure! Put about 5,000 tons of dead weight around the shuttle deck and you will almost perfectly restore the balance of the ship. Yes, a segmented warp system requires extra bracing, but what was done was a bit overboard, like someone had plans to do a thorough ship overhaul, then what is there would serve as the basis for a new superstructure. Forward of that is the sensor array, which has multiple parts that, while described in documents, have never been fully tested, many failing their original tests and left where they were. Some parts actually do work, like the long-range mass detection system, but have little real use. That brings us to the interconnector, which has had major refurbishment for X-Class upgrades. It is relatively easy to work there in zero-g because of those, and actually features the last photon torpedo upgrades done by the Fleet during the 'restocking session' some years ago. It has a decent fire-control system and the last generation of photon torpedoes which, in some ways, are actually more accurate than the more powerful quantum version we have today. It also had decent cabling installed to Engineering and the Command areas in the saucer. There is a single, ancient, 'Auxiliary Control' area that serves as an ersatz 'Battle Bridge' in Engineering and it is spartan to say the least. Still, if you can't get to the Main Bridge, Emergency Bridge, or Combat Bridge of the saucer, or its Auxiliary Control area, then the one just between Engineering and the APU is the safest place to be. It works, too!"

"The others don't?" asked Enid.

"They do, but, without life support and its gravity systems, well, even our modern designs usually take those in as the major mode of operation. Mostly those haven't even been looked at, although all major Command systems have been 'plugged and tested' as we went along, and I even sent someone to each to make sure that they get displays and such. Just don't mind the exposed cables, floating deck pieces, some chairs being removed, and general feeling of disarray in them. In some of the control areas the actual control panels need to be re-seated and locked down, and they float freely in zero-g. The control areas are a model of perfection compared to the staterooms in the saucer."

"I don't want to ask, do I?" asked Enid.

"No, you don't. I will concentrate on the major systems. As you know, Brian and Theresa went there after the initial assessment by Brian was 'dear god, what were they thinking?' once he saw the way the connections of the power systems to the weapons had been... ahhh... haphazard is nice, I guess. We found coils of brand new power and control cabling sitting in the torepedo bay forward and phaser banks, plus inputs for the ring phaser. All of that should, really, have been connected up via existing power distribution systems and control comms to give a good, full-power utility to all of the additional units. They were seen, however, as just 'power sinks' to test out other systems and by distributing an increased load over it to its designed capacity they maximized the system and the Corps didn't see the need to put in the redundant and separate power feeds once they did that. It was interesting to see coil upon coil upon coil of cables sitting in packing crates, all clearly labeled, with the local power distributors still in their original packaging and nothing done to them, while a number of patch cables were just installed as a quick and easy fix. Still, it was an experimental platform so not much more than was necessary was done, even though it was planned for."

"Simon, as that was a ship stocked for Emergency War Reserve use, how would you grade its capability to actually handle that sort of situation, if it were pressed into use as you found it?" asked Grace.

Simon stared at the display as he brought it out to give a larger ship overview. He glanced at Tareen who arched a quizzical eyebrow in the 'well, don't look at me' area.

"From what I've seen, it would have been able to power up, have some limited maneuverability, arm its weapons and shields and take, maybe, one strong hit from something like a second generation Romulan Plasma Enveloper. Possibly two, although most of the weapons systems would have shut down due to multiple circuit failures and the internal part of the ship would have been under heavy strain. For active combat, it was relatively useless, although as a distance fire platform for photon torps it would serve very well. It could dispatch a relatively small ship easily, but a one-on-one ship-to-ship engagement with anything beyond a Frigate class vessel, and I wouldn't want to be on it. It would give a good account against a Light Cruiser, and be a short, but honest opponent of a Heavy Cruiser. Really, Grace, if I were handed command of it as it was when we found it, I would urge for the fire-support role and active combat only if there were no normal vessels left. It could not be outgunned, but could be out-fought even by a Frigate if a Captain understood its weaknesses. A solid flank or rear attack would cripple it via overloads internally."

"No wonder the Corps handed it over," said Roger.

"To be fair it was the original testbed of the M-Series, and that was part of the reason the ship is as it is right now. That was how the ship was when I got there, now let me give you the update of how it is now. My week or so there had the front segmented core superstructure issues addressed, and Lothar's plasma joins were finished within hours after he came on-board, although done so by using a lot of scrap material left from various projects, mostly old decking, for shielding. I know why the Fleet moved from that method, but it has its uses, and all worries about the superstructure are now addressed for the Engineering hull. Next up is the M-Series, in this case the M-3/V arrangement. Tests here, on a simulation lacking an active ship's computer had yielded that M-3/V was significantly degraded in performance as the entire system's computational capability came to rely on the M-units. The final arrangement was that M-3/V would go into an activated but 'quiescent' state, much like we had seen in other simulations of the other M-3/V systems. That freed up the multitronic circuits to handle the M-2/V workload, with minor augmentations by M-3. We took the weapons systems offline, and put life support on manual and did everything we could do to free up energy to get the ship's computer systems up and running, which we finally did. While that went on the M-3/V then went through system by system to examine each and every other part of the ship that it was connected to. I left soon after the start-up, so will summarize from there based on Lothar's reports which you all have."

"First, the ship's computer system is an X-class upgraded one, but suffering from a long down-time. M-3/V finally had to isolate its connections and resources to those of pure computation areas to limit energy use. That gave M-3/V actual access to a real ship's computer system and the first thing it did before coming fully active was to examine the entirety of all information regarding the ship itself. All of that has been added to our database and is also in the standard Fleet data stores here. Then the M-3/V finally came active, about 10 hours ago, and it has prioritized a whole list of things that it needs to get done, but only the top few are those necessary to actually start re-powering the ship."

"It can actually do that? I mean thinks it can based on the ship and its environment?" asked Patti.

"Yes, Patti, and it is firm that the simulations are not just speculation. It has been running the deflectors at the very lowest of power and has demonstrated that on the very closest approaches on the night side, it can capture almost a liter of hydrogen even though it is 'space' it is also the outermost parts of the Jovian atmosphere. Over 10 orbits that is very, very impressive, and it will bring a second APU online today."

"That's not bad, really. How is the thruster situation?" Grace asked.

"Ah, you're getting ahead of me, but I know everyone is excited to see the M-3/V start serious refueling. What it is doing now is very important as it slowly brings these systems online to test them. It wants the second APU fully fueled so it can do the atmospheric runs we are expecting. It is being very conservative and is examining how the ship flexes in orbit. We have a number of micro-cams for orbital work that we put out an airlock for it, and it has been slowly deploying those. They don't last long close to Jupiter, but it is a stress on the ship, and so far M-3/V puts the superstructure at 'stable but unbalanced' and it will be working to understand what this means with some very small maneuvers. Basically it has one set of ways of how to maneuver the ship that it learned in simulators and its now changing that set of reflexes. The hours it spent in different simulations with different ships is helping it, and it is grateful for the training session suggestions its gotten."

"M-3/V has proven flexible during its testing if showing a bit of trepidation," said Patti,"it is a hard thing for it to go by just the simple and constructive thinking of M-2/V as it now must weigh more factors. Plus the team, as a whole, is more experienced than it is. I looked at the suggestions that many gave and they were just that, suggestions. We've demonstrated an even temper and attitude for M-3/V to emulate and it was doing its best to do that."

"I'll put that test of the ship's superstructure as point two, but the one I was going to look at next was all the extra equipment in the sensor array which is now point three. We had given it everything we knew about all the tests done in and on the Grant, which appears not to have been too thorough from the Corps end of things. One of the largest problems was the main sensor array in that it was in a highly degraded state with only a few types of X-class sensors being operative. There are at least 7 other minor sensor 'upgrades' in the array, very few of which work properly, and Enak has spent some hours tracing out connections and getting a major switching station put together for M-3/V. That is finished and now M-3/V will be able to test out each type of sensor separately and see if it has any useful function to it. We hadn't known that ship-wide comms was down due to all the work in the Engineering hull, but that was the case. Enak routed that trouble out as a few of the sensors had, well, to put it politely, 'commandeered' parts of ship-wide comms. Apparently someone wanted more bandwidth for a test and that was rigged up and left. Still that will not be brought up until we need it, and local repeaters set up by the Corps still serve for all our communicators."

Roger was shaking his head, "It didn't impair ship function, and yet, in an emergency..."

"That is why I gave my doubts like I did, Roger. The big part of the extra equipment is point four and that is the multiple warp drives. M-3/V has sent test energy through each of them and reports they all will work. It has put the idea forward of doing an unbalanced start-up of the segmented core system if we need a warp boost. In theory each of those sub-segments is a full core, just vastly undersized for the work it has to do. Warp 2 would be the maximum that could be done that way, but it would save power and can be done with a dedicated APU feeding it. As we all know, anti-matter is not a necessity in warp systems, but are the prime energy source for going over Warp 3 and dilithium moderation for going over Warp 6. Still that can't be done until there is more power on-board and will wait until M-4 gets there."

"Point four is life support. It is down in the saucer section and no one has had time to do a power and comms check to find out what the problem is. The idea is a mis-connected junction somewhere in the dorsal connector above the torpedo bay. When the heavy weapons team gets to the area, they will work to de-conflict all the power routings and put in a safe and stable system. It is only a problem to try and bring artificial gravity and some radiation protection ship-wide. Part of the M-3/V work has been setting aside any nitrogen and oxygen found in the Jovian atmosphere, but that is pretty scarce. It will help everyone to change over to lighter protective suits and have a standard gravity environment outside of parts of Engineering. Still the weapons connection goes faster in zero-g and even if it was available, now, we wouldn't want life support and gravity on. Everyone likes pushing a spool with a bit of spin and having the cable uncoil and only needing to place it in existing conduits and secure it there. Two or three days to get the saucer power cable laid and then another day or three to figure out the dorsal connections."

"Point five is the extra weapons, themselves. The Corps did top off all coolant systems and re-stock all the photon racks, plus lay in extras of each. The control systems for all the added torpedo and phaser equipment is all co-signal, meaning everything works as a unit. If you want to fire one phaser out of a four point bank grouping, you can't. It is all four or nothing. Brian and Theresa's sensibilities were offended by that and they have been disentangling the controls and properly putting them on separate comms lines for control, along with separate power feeds. While others are laying cable, they are cleaning up that mess. There is enough equipment to do that, its all in crates, unused. Basically, they want it so that no matter how much damage is done to any one part of the saucer, there will be complete fire control for all systems. Their attitude is that if a war started tomorrow and anti-matter was delivered, the ship would be able to fend for itself, weapons-wise. That is the way it should be and they will make it that way. Photon torpedo control is similarly structured, and they are working to make the system robust like it was designed to be when backed by a hot storage compartment. In fact they want to put a second set of coolant lines into the firing tubes with complete placement racks."

"Why do they want to do that?" asked Enid.

"The main problem with torpedo tubes is cooling time. X-class ships increased the cooling by an external radiator system and being able to hot push a photon torpedo from one tube to another in a form of fast firing, but that was an emergency procedure. If you increase the cooling rate and have a fully active hot storage system, then you can very, very quickly cycle through the torps and not worry as much about the tubes. Many engineers in the Fleet have batted this around for decades, and as there is spare equipment available, Brian and Theresa are going to install it and finally see if the 'Gatling Photon Torpedo System' can actually be made. Those hot storage systems have been very hard to get as only Monitor class ships end up with them, and that is for limited use to back a wider set of tubes. Basically they are the last thing used as they are energy hogs and only Monitors have that kind of spare internal energy, and they aren't expected to fight one-on-one fights where a thing like that could be made effective in a maneuver fight, so their tubes are all normal cooling type. This is the first time any ship will have a hot storage system, power and enough cooling of the tubes to test out the theory. If that works, then the ability of the ship to survive not only as a distance fire platform but as a hard direct fire ship increases by a factor of 10, at least in my opinion."

"Why so high? The Grant still couldn't maneuver that well," asked Enid.

"Forward shield punishing capability: this forces an opponent into moving laterally at a distance and you can pot-shot at them continually while the Grant slowly turns. Anyone who starts a fight coming directly towards the front arc of the Grant will find themselves in the place where their main armament has just been put in danger for lack of a forward shield, at some distance from the Grant. All the Grant has to do is get a single lock from its forward section at distance and that is more damage coming the way of an opponent and if you are slowly retreating, forcing your opponent to expend energy to catch up they will sooner or later be forced to dash in with whatever they have charged and try to make it a close-in battle, it is all basic tactics, nothing fancy, due to the accuracy rate of photon torpedoes at distance."

"Thank you, Simon, having never had to deal with starship combat tactics, it was something I had never learned about."

"Thats ok, Enid. It is pretty basic chatter for anyone who keeps track of the Fleet and those who watch it. Anyone can learn the basics, but the implementations are always the sticking point. That is the top 5 of things to do, but M-3/V will look to do multiple things at once, as we have seen in the simulations. One of the higher priorities is the impulse engines, and getting fuel for them, which is the point of the deep atmospheric work. As the gas will already be partially pressurized, final pressurizing is less energy intensive. A big bonus is the added coolant for the weapons systems as they can be cross-used for the impulse engines or intercoolers. Getting heat off of a fully active starship is a full time worry, and it is rare that actually having to get a ship warmed is a problem. M-3/V has been getting a weak but near constant trickle recharge on the ship's batteries just due to thermal differences in the deflector and shield arrays, it is tiny per hour, but makes a difference over a number of days. Lothar said its getting to be the norm of not expecting to see any change in stores, battery charges or other systems and seeing them slowly being recharged or gaining fuel. While we are doing all the heavy internal work, M-3/V is doing the power management, fuel acquisition and recharge work for a ship that wouldn't be getting anything if we depended on the Corps."

"Simon, beyond the basics of hydrogen, just how is M-3/V dealing with the more complex molecules necessary for some systems?"

"I've gotten a couple of messages from Lothar on that, Grace, and what M-3/V is doing is utilizing the various on-board fuel routing systems to do the sorting and then use some of the inactive units, notably the fusion units but also bulk storage chambers, to do the actual chemical mixing. Once set up the system requires little power and gains a slow but steady increase in some of the more complex fuels. We have tried to make everything on a starship compatible with some of the very basics, like hydrogen gas, so that even the impulse engines can run well on them. While the sub-1% volumetrically of non-hydrogen picked up is small by that scale, it goes a bit higher by mass, almost as much as 5% on some of the simpler molecules. There is a wide array of molecules that can be used in the basic chemistry for things like coolant and fuel, and M-3/V has an exacting and painstaking list of all of those and their formulations from our archives. Really, no Chief Engineer could remember all of that or any one individual, yet M-3/V has it all available and utilizes it. Lothar doesn't like running non-standard formulations through some of these routes, but M-3/V has the list of what can and can't be put through there and the chemical properties of each. So Lothar is out of luck and no one to complain to."

"Oh, that isn't good at all," said Patti.

"That is where things stand. As things are going the Grant has a bit longer on life support with the minimal amounts of fuel being picked up, which will allow things to continue on as-is for a few more days. There is too much to be done to reliably get in the deep atmospheric runs that are necessary to get the ship refueled to the point it can leave orbit. Most of that is due to the cable laying, which Brian and Theresa desperately want to get finished before subjecting the ship to the stresses of those runs. Which means that when Enid gets there with M-4, those still will not have happened and the fun of bringing up the M-4/V will be on those on the Grant. By then all the cable should be down and in-place, hull quick links put in place between the dorsal connector and saucer, and all the loose equipment picked up. Then M-4/V gets to see what it thinks of where everything is."

"We all knew it would be a lot of work there," said Roger, "just no one expected so much of the basics that would need to be put in place."

"It is a long list," Enid said, "but everyone has worked to get it done quickly and safely, and no one could ask for more. L'Tira, for those crew on the welding teams, make sure they get my compliments and the normal outfit."

"Sure, Enid! They will love that," she said smiling deeply.

"Thank you, Simon. Kathy, Roger, Patti? How is M-4 coming along?"

Kathy stood up, minimizing the system display of Simon and putting up the system overview of M-4.

"As you know the M-4 is an advance over M-3 in its engram associated elements, and the areas where those are stored are now well identified by having a similar outlay to M-3 which was a major step from M-2 on the multitronic side. M-4 contains a M-2 layout for its physical dynamic interface area and a larger suite of engrams in the multitronic area to interface with that M-2 section. We think that Richard Daystrom was confronting the problem of requiring more immediate computing capacity that has functional nodes in close proximity to each other on the multitronic side. M-4 is actually reclaiming programming routines that M-3 had put into a ships computer system and implementing them on-board. Richard Daystrom knew he was having to figure out how to deal with the limits of multitronic systems, which the M-1 and 2 systems had attempted to bypass. Those systems were seen as necessary for the more rigid coding structures involved in decision making. With M-4 there is less 'leak-over' into the shared memory module area and a higher dependence upon conventional software code."

"Was that to speed up M-4's operations?" asked Grace.

"That was part of it, and Roger can go over the node shortening plot of M-4 as it was and how it looks as part of the M-4/V system. We think that Richard Daystrom wanted to not only speed up the M-4 system and give it more capacity with that speed, but would be laying a foundation for a fully independent computer control system with the entire M-Series array installed. While the multitronic side of what we think the final array will look like would not have the full computational power of the total ship-board system core/storage and networked nodes, it would have enough to cope with all of the decision making tasks and interfacing with all the critical elements of starships. In someways he was replacing the arithmetic expansion limitations of multitronic systems with the log-based expansion limitations of the memory module system. That would allow relatively small additions to have capability out of proportion with their amount. In that he would also hide what, to outsiders, would be an inconsequential increase in memory modules by increasing the size of the multitronic load. Really they are both necessary, and the balance had to be struck on the project side to make a functional self-contained unit, and on the overall M-Series concept which was based on those things he kept out of sight. This would have some practical consequences for M-4 and M-5 as standalone units, however, as they would have far more multitronic engram-based code that would essentially need to find ways to interface with a starship as the M-2 parts of the system could not do so as a sub-system. That means that both the ability to have a living knowledge of a starship and have an emotions based system to stabilize higher thought are highly degraded in M-4 and completely inadequate in M-5. I think Roger of Patti can talk of that a bit better than I can, but let me see that at this point I can see that Richard Daystrom had foreseen this at the start of the M-Series, the need to get a single operative control system even with its problems, which may not have been fully weighed by him."

"His mental problems were playing into that by M-4, then?" asked Simon.

"Yes, as we had talked about, earlier, M-4 starts to show the slight distance from its emotions that cause it to utilize on-board memory and control systems and not those of the memory module system it has. Its stability problems are directly attributable to that and code spill-over from the multitronic side into the memory modules. I can't really say what his thinking was like or judge Richard Daystrom as a man, but his work was suffering as he did those things necessary to get the final parts of the overall system stood-up as standalone units. Patti?"

"Thank you, Kathy. It is very difficult to look into the mind of a man now dead, Simon. His works do demonstrate some of the same problems of his own, beyond the use of more generalized engrams, his standalone M-units become a reflection of his mental state and his central obsession for secrecy combined with paranoia and possible schizophrenia. M-4 moves away from the close connection with the memory module system and attempts to use the known capabilities to give a reinforced sense of 'self'. Outside of the M-Variant that was a near-final attempt that nearly worked, but contained the storage and processing limitations of still needing exterior systems to augment it. That was not unbalancing on its own, but it couldn't continue to work without heavy reliance on outside memory systems which would finally lock the system up."

"What we have seen with the unit as part of an M-4/V, however, is that the sense of 'self' moves from the simple forms of behavior seen in M-3/V. These are not how the ship is run, as the M-2/V heart of the system does that, although with much greater depth with the equivalent of two more M-2 units put into play. That capacity allows for more cross-linking of paths between all the units, and comes very close to how we experience our own bodies as a natural and fully integrated part of our conscious thoughts. M-4/V loses some of the trepidation of the learning reliant M-3/V but tempers that with the engrams given it. Personality traits showing up in M-3/V get reinforced when they accord with the engrams and somewhat downplayed when they do not. While as a standalone M-4 describes its state and that of the simulated ship in very dry terms, M-4/V puts emotional tone, tenor and content into its description beyond what M-3/V has done."

"Patti, just what is the extent of that in comparison to humans or humanoids?" asked Enid.

"That is difficult, beyond just observations. At some point the observer does have subjective feelings and emotions and I'm no different."

"We all do, Patti. My observations of the Canthris had to detach from my emotions to a point, but those feelings and possible insights I still recorded as part of the record. Any state of awe, shock or admiration I had to put down so that later analysts, and even my own later reviews, would allow for compensation for my emotions."

Patti smiled, "It is standard practice, and has been for over a century, but the basics still come through of trying to do it as dryly as possible without involvement. Anyone in the psyche fields needs that foremost to understand what they are looking at and then see how it is influencing them as observers. I'm moving from that detached view, Enid, and it is due to the compelling nature of what I'm seeing and experiencing. This work is still, to me, on the 'unknown side' so I can treat it as something outside the realm of the normal. Richard Daystrom, no matter what his mental state, intended to make this fully integrated with the normal human state and not into some dry, mechanical phenomena. It is a shock to expect something extraordinary and to have the ordinariness of how M-4/V responds hit home emotionally."

"Yes," said the Group Lead,"without emotions for self you cannot become part of that shared understanding. It is unlike anything we have heard of until this point in time on this project."

"It is difficult working with M-4/V," said the Cybernetics Specialist,"as it is directed as Patti DuBois has said, towards humans. I have talked with M-4/V about this and see that some basic understanding between Gorns and M-Series might be accomplished with additional equipment."

"Really?" asked Enid,"What are you thinking of?"

"Enid Daystrom, M-4/V lacks basic understanding of how to interface with Gorns. It has suggested an additional M-1 unit that can be trained to understand us natively without the need for a Universal Translator."

"I don't see how that would hurt the arrangement. Roger, any thoughts?"

Roger Arrivan looked at the Gorns and then Enid, "That is a great idea, Enid. Actually, something like that would be far better than a Universal Translator once it has had time to learn language distinctions and some of the things it conveys. It is an excellent suggestion, and depending on how long it takes to get a unit trained it should be relatively easy. Integration with other M-Series clusters may be an issue if it is done standalone, so that necessary information and interfaces don't get lost in the integration. That is the big problem when a cluster brings a new unit into it - the need for clearing out previous datastores."

"Maybe an M-3 might be the better way to go through it?" asked Grace.

"How do you figure that?"

"An M-3 uses the Heisenberg compensator to stabilize its programming routines on both the memory module and multitronic systems. As a standalone unit if what we think about how the memory modules work is correct, then the M-3 can be seen as a complex interface system to be attached to a ship and one that works with Gorns. The entire M-Variant cluster should recognize this and even while it changes over some of the memory module programming to adjust to it as a ship system, it will retain its multitronic side and interfaces and what they expect to work with. An M-3 added to a cluster like that will then add conscious knowledge of how to communicate with Gorns, beyond what an M-1 or M-2 can do but be a separate system. The compensator will keep the memory module code relatively intact for those areas necessary in the memory module system hosting it while allowing its native areas to establish integration with the rest of a cluster, and the multitronic code will be kept entirely intact in a separate unit until that integration happens and it becomes an integral part of the system. Then it might migrate as well, until that knowledge becomes part of the distributed information store for it by having those parts of the code included. That is theoretical, really, and we don't have the ability to actually say if any code will migrate. M-Series work is now a brand new area for investigation, and the M-units will have to help on that work, too."

"That is an aspect we had not thought of, Grace D'gorna," said the Systems Specialist,"it works in accordance with the M-Series structure and uses it very well."

"Will it cause problems being unintegrated to start with?" asked the Cybernetics Specialist.

Roger was obviously thinking about this and his face was a measure of internal concentration.

"I don't think so," said Roger, "as an M-3 that is not connected to a larger system it will be approaching communicating with Gorns as its system to learn. That is not an integral part of ship hardware, so integration into a cluster should not disorient it like two different M-Series with the same derived code would have without moderating units amongst them, so no cross-talk problem. That M-3 will be a system to be integrated with, not one that is trying to duplicate structure from an unconnected source like the interference problem previously seen. From what we have seen the cluster system is modular, and even with an M-4/V there is some excess capacity in it. The only problem is time to train a unit and test the integration. We can set up a Universal Translator to help that with the understanding it is not providing emotional and other mental context or even a good translation. M-3 should be able to take it from there once it understands that Gorns are the system it needs to work with. We may have to add in some engrams to shift it away from a ship focus to a personnel focus for particular personnel. That shouldn't take long to integrate and test. After that it is time, maybe a day or two at the most of learning."

"We can afford a day or two, Roger. This is very important. Do it right." said Enid.

Roger nodded, thinking.

"It is very rough on the code, so I'll contact Matthews on it, he is good at the engram patching. Seems to have a feel for it," he said referring to a Cadet who was currently doing Battle Damage Analysis.

Enid had been surprised enough throughout the project so that this shouldn't have been a great surprise. Certainly her understanding of sentience, and she was no specialist, and the malleability of it during learning phases should mean a wide adaptability when applied to a computing platform that had those same traits. And yet the problem of the Universal Translator offering, at best, a 'rough and ready' immediate translation and missing the nuances of language form was something that had not been solved for nearly two centuries of linguistic analysis. The depth and scope of nuances, intonation and such things as body movement from minor facial muscles to larger limb placement had all stifled the creation of a good Translator. It would need far more flexibility than current cybernetic systems had. Energy beings could have a direct conduit to the Universal Translator platform, as had been demonstrated a number of times, but for corporeal beings it had strict limitations. And yet the M-Series might solve the final key to that puzzle being adaptable, self-correcting and able to analyze a wide array of inputs simultaneously and interpret them as a whole. The actual scope of what Richard Daystrom had been working towards still had not fully registered, and it might take decades to register.

Kathy had nodded to Roger, "I think we are basically done with the engram work on M-5, unless Patti has anything else to add in?"

Patti shook her head in the negative.

"Nothing that I can think of. The amount of engrams we have in M-5 is pretty much what can be done with multitronic systems. Some of that will slowly get picked up by other units and in the memory module area, so the full load won't rest just with M-5 but be spread out over the Variant cluster. Matthews should have time to work on an M-3 unit as it wouldn't need much in the way of patching, just some generalization of input areas and a somewhat different variety of interpretive engrams concentrating on speech and cognitive interpretation, which it can do as a standalone unit."

"Lets see if we can get it into the M-4/V cluster," said Kathy.

"That looks good, then, Roger. If it can be put into the M-4/V system, then it would be worth a day or two of slippage, although Lothar will complain. If not we can go without, and just use Universals until the M-5/V is ready to bring on-board the Grant."

"Ok, Enid, it really is an exciting area and a bit closer to my background," Roger said.

"Roger, your background hasn't covered a tenth of what you've had to handle and oversee, yet you have done an excellent job," Enid said.

"I've been far too busy to notice," he said smiling.

She smiled in return, "I've noticed. Still, if you can get something workable in place in a day or two, then it is worth waiting for integration tests. If not, then we can do without, so keep me updated and let me know once you've had a chance to consult with Matthews and get some help from the Gorns on that for the linguistic side."

"It will be a pleasure to help," said the Cultural Specialist,"the Universal Translator leaves much to be desired."

"Yes, it does. Roger if there is nothing else?"

"Nothing that I can think of."

"Patti? Kathy?"

"I think we are done for now, Enid. M-5/V stand-up with full new engrams and final integration of M-4/V for later in the week, say three or four days. M-5/V for similar routine if all goes as smoothly as it has for M-4/V by middle of next week or late next week." said Kathy.

"Then that will be the basics of the project. I know many of you have other work that has been somewhat neglected and need to get back to it. If you need to leave for that, but can remain 'on-call' for problems, I would appreciate it," Enid said looking over the group. "Most of the final work will be on the Grant and when M-5/V gets there, it will be final testing and bringing the Grant to its new home, here at the Museum. Let us hope everything goes as scheduled. I plan to ride back with the Grant at this point and hope for a final meeting and saying good-bye to all of you and working with Patti, Grace, Lothar, Enak and whoever else can spare some time for editing our final reports and getting them ready for putting out on the science publication system. Some of that will be with the Corps, so it will lag the wrap-up of the project by a few months, I expect."

Simon smiled, "Enid, you've shaken things up far more than I ever expected."

"Same here," said Grace,"this has been an amazingly fluid project. We do have good staff compatibility here, but normally we have inter-departmental problems that keep things from smoothing out for weeks at a time until the bureaucracy is signed off. This has been a real treat, Enid."

"Thank you. I will be setting time aside for personal good-byes when I get back. There is still work to do between now and then, and soon we will see if my great grandfather's full vision of the M-Series can live up to his expectations of it. There are times when I have felt his presence here, working with us as we retraced his steps. As a service to my family, I owe you all a debt of gratitude that cannot be easily expressed. Thank you for helping some of that dark legacy being lifted and giving us some of the final good of Richard Daystrom's final creation."

"That will bring this eighth meeting of the M-5 project to a close. My deepest thanks to you all."

As the meeting broke up Enid turned to L'Tira.

"Game of zero-g handball?" Enid asked.

"Ah, sure, Enid. Glad to work out after meetings like this."

"Good, I figure we can get in at least a good hour before I get the call."

"The call?"

Enid smiled and nodded.

"Put yourself in the positions of the five from Upper Echelons on the team and ask yourself exactly what you would do in their position, learning that there is a low but non-zero civilization ending threat that a hostile, non-diplomacy oriented technic group could show up at any moment and that the Federation is under-prepared by a factor of, oh... what? 10,000? And that we have made more progress in a few days of working with the Gorns than the entire Diplomatic Corps has in nearly three generations. What would you do in that position?"

L'Tira looked at Enid, obviously in thought. Enid lifted her tricorder and started walking out of the room and L'Tira picked up her few essentials and followed. They spoke in low tones.

"Another long meeting... threats, cajoling, and some pleading to let them step in... ahh... Enid wouldn't that be wise at this point?"

"Hmmm... well we haven't known about the threat for the entire recorded history of any race in the Federation, so another few weeks won't matter all that much, I suspect, but could be wrong. As for the rest, and even including that, trying to back out on your word to me and your obligations will not put you in a good place and those five have that to deal with. And who else in the Federation has a working relationship with the Gorns outside of diplomatic niceties?"

"But, Enid, they will have a point."

"Yes, they will. And I will ask, quite simply, who it was, in particular that got this information for them and why they are looking to ruin that source of information by crossing her. Plus I can point out that there are some minor things they can do that can immediately help in the long term for survival that they really shouldn't need to ask me about."

"There is?" L'Tira asked.

Enid nodded. They had reached a far turbolift and Enid had called it. When it arrived they stepped in and she whispered 'Rec Area' as the doors closed.

"Neutral hydrogen gas cloud observation, investigations into sub-space interference, and maybe starting to beef up the projected capital needs on ship construction a few years out. Once they start to realize the scale of what needs to be done, a few, simple changes into the expenditures column can be justified by what happened to the Swift. Then they can look all wise and prudent when they start letting slip, on the sly, where I won't hear, to various members of the Council that there may be a real large and Federation-wide threat that we really should be addressing if we can keep the thing together that long."

"They will do that?"

"Of course they will, L'Tira. And I will point out that I really did suggest that T'Sau become a regular on the team so that I could ensure that such things had an orderly release to them and through good and secure channels. But that he was too busy to do that."

The turbolift doors opened into the hall leading to the recreation area and they headed into the corridor aiming for the changing rooms after ensuring that a court had been set aside for them.

"Enid, they won't like that."

Enid Daystrom nodded as they entered.

"Well, two won't like it, two will understand and the last will say 'I told you so'. You just have to figure out which two go with which on any one subject."

She put her palm to a locker assigned to her and she started stripping her uniform off.

"Ok, at least an hour of this and lets get our minds off of the unpleasantness to come."

L'Tira nodded.

"I'll spot you three points, Enid."

Enid nodded her head negatively.

"Its even between us now, L'Tira. Time to play hard."

L'Tira gave a toothy, felonid smile.

"You don't mind losing, Enid. I like that."

"Keeps me honest, L'Tira. I can't do it all, but I will have fun trying... and just how did you learn to play so well?"

"It was my favorite thing to play once my father joined the Fleet, Enid. Got to play with a lot of other children at the base he was assigned to."

Enid nodded, hanging her jacket up.

"Best 2 out of 3?"

"You actually expect to win one?"

"No, but we need the workout."

"You're on!"

* * *

"Well, M-3, its like this: we are coming down to the situation where we can actually get a deep atmospheric run in. The final cable work at the dorsal area is being locked down, all comms and other systems now can function across all decks if we had enough energy, and you are slowly getting the fuel for that on the light runs. How is your status and what do you feel about it?"

The M-3/V console looked like a standard computer console for its era, although not as large as an M-5 unit's.

"Lothar, we have been over this before. I've sent normal test and evaluation signals system-wide and my systems are integrating the rest of the ship into my thought structure. I can tell the ship is structurally sound, but there is no way to examine every vent, every structural member or every system before going in as that energy expenditure would make it impossible to do the run. I put all critical and necessary systems at 80% nominal once the run starts and I can begin the atmospheric processing, and then I will have an increasing energy budget. That puts the risk of something critical failing at 1 in 5. By what my programming gives me, that is a larger than moderate risk to the ship and I can't do that without authorization."

"Nothing has changed those odds?"

"No, Lothar. They have stabilized at that level. I can only go by the records of how Star Fleet's vessels have handled given the type of work done on the Grant, and there aren't many precedents for it. And none for a base Republic Class ship upgraded multiple times and then having parts of the superstructure changed. I do not have the experience to do better. Lothar, this is something I can't judge properly."

Lothar nodded. He was in command of the vessel, highest ranking member here, put in charge by Captain Bartholomew, and had been over as much of the ship as he could get through, which was all the critical accessways, Jeffries tubes, and examination of the superstructure. He had been thinking on this for a few days, talked it over with everyone and was coming to much the same conclusion as M-3/V.

There was just so much that could go wrong on a starship that it wasn't funny. And he had seen a number of ships while in active service, and what could go wrong as part of his Museum restoration work.

"Starships weren't designed to do this sort of thing." He started, more in low tones above a whisper than normal speech.

"Even though the Fleet has tried to design in safeguards for just about everything you can think of, no one has done something like this. Our biggest risk is atmospheric pressure on the hull: it isn't made for this kind of work, period. The solution is to equalize pressure internal/external by letting the Jovian atmosphere into the ship and that is a pretty nasty chemical mix for 'mostly hydrogen'. We will have to get down to suits and be in the locked down shuttlecraft as that is the only thing made for this sort of work, which means that you will have total control of the ship without any help. We can't afford any loose oxygen running around and causing problems, and even armored space suits will not let us out at the maximum pressure zone. We are sure to overlook something in all of this, even after we have put extra seals into place or sprayed on coatings to equipment that can be harmed by that chemical mix. I hope we can keep that exposure to a small period of time to get below the cloud deck and to that zone of hydrogen and helium gas and out of the range of liquid for them. The cloud deck is a reducing mix and that is worrying as we don't know exactly how all the materials on the ship will behave to it under pressure and varying temperature. Actually I was impressed on how little of that sealing and coating there was to do, still much of it is in vital areas and we aren't finished yet. We have done what we can do there so far and another shift should do it. We won't factor in everything, and I know you can't, either."

"Yes, that is why I keep coming up with the percentages on this, Lothar. The cloud deck offers the best opportunity for the complex chemicals for various systems, but the main purpose is hydrogen. I can't get any better estimation on those percentages as the Federation still hasn't done enough work on gas giants like Jupiter, as the concentration has been on the hot giants of other star systems."

"Same here. Now I have seen some pretty abused ships in my life, that was part of the problem with the Athens. She had been so abused by having to do anti-pirate work that she had seen not only atmospheric work but once even had to go through a liquid carbon dioxide moon. The hull damage from that was not pretty, let me tell you. Even after replacing some of the major structural members, I still wouldn't trust her for more than low warp work and we still find small metal shards falling off structural members today. The Grant started with a stronger base of construction and the Corps adding in the superstructure work for the segmented warp and actually made some improvements, for all the blasted idiocy of it. So even if you had to jettison the saucer and the nacelles got ripped off, the Engineering hull would still have its thrusters and be able to get to a stable orbit coming out of the run. Just have to stay out of the liquid transition zone and keep an eye on temperatures and pressures."

M-3 was quiet.

"Could it really go that far, Lothar?" it asked very softly.

"Yes, but that is low, low probability, less than 2% for total ship loss, maybe, say 8% for critical and massive damage."

"I hadn't.... placed it that high, Lothar." M-3 spoke softly, tentatively.

"Good! Glad for the optimism and trust in the Corps. The operational side of the Fleet tends to abuse the hell out of ships - I know, I was part of that and know why we do it, and the Grant is no different for that. I've looked at the service record and probably have a better idea of what goes on than you do on that score. It isn't pretty and the long blank areas of the last few decades point to basic maintenance that hasn't been done. Still, Theresa, Brian and Enak, plus the welding teams have given high marks on superstructure. And if I brought a naked Engineering hull out of this, well, I wouldn't be here for too much longer, let me say that. 'Ripped a new one' is the ancient term and it still applies."

"Then perhaps we shouldn't..."

"On the other hand there is Corps. They could have brought more fuel with them, I've seen the manifests, and they didn't. They left the Grant as it was so they would have to come in and 'save the day'. In a few months. Bastards."

"They did?"

"Yes, they want big, high marks for coming and getting the Grant and pulling it out and getting some nice publicity to go with the Daystrom name. And this after Enid brought them in on things for the review cycle of the project, and first crack at Fleet implementation once we are done. They had time to do things, maybe not much but enough. Blaming SFHQ for your non-use of local resources doesn't wash." Lothar sat back in one of the old style seats that was in Engineering, thinking.

"You know Richard Daystrom's problem was caused by this sort of crap, and I'm getting to see why he got to where he did. If they delay the Grant, they delay final work, they delay publication and they get extreme credit for everyone else's work. Really, they should know better."

"I hadn't... people actually do that sort of thing, Lothar?"

"Damned right they do, M-3! So waiting and letting you and M-4/V and M-5/V sit here in orbit just slowly refueling until the Corps decides to pick up its end of things, well that just doesn't sit right. We both know the numbers and, short of getting a phaser bank up and running and cutting some ice out of a moon and tractoring it out, there is no way the Grant will get out without an atmospheric run that gets to some pretty high pressures."

"Its not really... it?"

"No, its gloryhounding and it can be worse than any sabotage. And, you know, I'm not going to let that happen to another Daystrom."

"I... Enid?"

"Yeah, she would take it in stride. Pretty sure that when she dies she will then start to tell Death about how it hasn't been doing its job right and give it pointers. Maybe enough to send her back... if she doesn't storm heaven on her own, that is. She knows what happened to her great grandfather and why. I don't think the Fleet should try to do that to another Daystrom. I don't think we would survive the encounter. Hell, I would join her on that!"

"I... yes... her insight has helped me, Lothar."

"You, me and just about everyone who has been involved in this, M-3. So going the safe route isn't what I want to do, as it will be far more costly once she figures it out. That means an atmospheric run. And if we have to do it, I do NOT want her on the Grant when it happens. She is more than willing to do it. Anyone who knows what a Canthris can do and uses a live one for target practice is more than used to the concept that 'hey, this might kill me, but it still has to be done'. I re-read the bio-report and engineering review of her Exmar 2 work. She is not going to face an unnecessary risk because I have misgivings and might lose some rank and spend a decade in Fleet prison for doing extreme violence to a ship. I place major strucural failure at 1 in 20 and the Engineering hull would still survive that on thrusters and orbital velocity. And if we have to do it, best get it done now."

"You are changing the risk parameters, Lothar?"

He nodded, leaned forward towards the M-3 console and spoke up.

"Yes. So ordered. One more light run to give us time to secure the last of the loose junk and worry over what we've done one last time, then its suits and evacuate the engineering decks and get to the shuttle."

"I understand, thank you, Lothar. I feel as you do but don't... it isn't my position to decide that."

"That's my job, M-3. Let everyone know ship needs for next shift. Are there any last reports I need to be aware of?"

"You have the record of the last meeting of the project. Beyond that there is a build up of charge in the sulfur ring in Io's orbit, and some other charged gases building up between the orbits of other moons. Most of it is sulfur, some ammonia and water vapor. It is a very complex system to be in, Lothar."

"Uh-huh. Anything to be worried about?"

"The levels of charge are slightly higher than normal, and rising a bit faster than usual for the Jovian system, but not by more than 0.25 sigma."

"Nothing to worry about, then. Get us a course plotted through the atmosphere and take some care on the cloud banks as there are some very bad thermoclines there. We will probably go from frying pan to freezer a few times and that won't help things."

"I will, Lothar. I will try to avoid the small white spot storm areas and the upwellings/plungings areas."

"Ok, then. That puts us a bit over an orbit and a quarter away. Minus 1.25 orbits. About, what, 30 hours?"

"Yes, nearly 30 hours to atmospheric descent."

"So ordered. Get us a course, M-3. Lay it in and execute."

"As ordered, Lothar."

The thrusters changed the trim of the Grant slightly, with this run being the lowest of the high atmosphere runs and the next being the deep atmosphere run. Soon the deflectors would be on, and final check-out begin.

Lothar touched the intercom on his chest.

"We will begin a deep atmosphere run in 30 hours, M-3/V has set the timing so key that up for yourselves. I want everyone to take 2 hours to finish up what you are doing and call it quits for the shift. Everyone gets 8 hours of rest, save for emergencies. After that will be a 10 hour shift and we will be doing the final sealing, spraying, securing and opening of jammed doors that will be necessary to get the Jovian atmosphere to flow through the ship. M-3/V should have a list of those. I know we have one turbolift stuck in mid-shaft in the saucer section and that needs to be moved out and put into a dead-end like the rest of them. Also all the exterior vent servos need a check-out, at least the large ones over 1 square meter, as they are so rarely used on a normal basis that most ships can't even open them if they had to. After that it is 8 hours of rest, mandatory, then 2 hours to move to the shuttle. If it is critical to you and can be damaged by the atmosphere and extreme heat and cold, and can't be taken with you, it must be protected. Under bed storage should do it in quarters and closets without vents otherwise. Full armor suits for everyone as I'll be upping the internal pressure of the shuttle as we go down to help give us some more leeway on our course. Then the fun begins of figuring out what we missed when we get out. Two hours, everyone, then the hard work begins next shift. Lothar, out."

"I hadn't thought... that last will help with the shuttle, Lothar. I can take the ship down to some of the ratings for the fuel containment system."

"Yeah, thought it would help. But friction will not be nice to you. Probably need earplugs and active compensation for everyone. You will be opening the shuttlebay doors, right?"

"Yes, Lothar, the pressure will build up worse there but the release will help in maneuvering. I will be using the louvers for attitude control throughout, until there is enough of the right mixture for thrusters."

"I don't want to know how much you are going to abuse the Grant ahead of time, M-3. You can give me a laundry list once we are done, as I am sure there will be a lot of work to do."

"Thank you, Lothar. I will worry about it for you."

"You do that!" Lothar smiled as he said that.

"Ok, I've got work to do. Get a list of all the critical vents, conduits, piping and infrastructure you need to have examined. A nice work list once we get up should do, though I doubt anyone will sleep well, I want good and solid work done by people who are not exhausted."

"I will, Lothar."

"I might as well head to the saucer and see about that turbolift. Probably just vacuum welded to its guide tracks," he picked up a counterbalanced sledgehammer,"nothing a bit of banging would hurt."

* * *

Enid and L'Tira were cooling down, after showering and changing clothes, at the small cafeteria at the recreation area. Enid had some form of iced liquid, while L'Tira had a protein enriched cold drink in a portable container. Enid was slipping the water flasks she normally carried into her jacket when Capt. Bartholomew showed up. He was wearing the team jacket over his normal uniform.

"Mind if I join you two?"

"Go right ahead, Captain," Enid said, "we are just cooling down after some exercise."

He smiled and nodded.

"Sorry I couldn't make the meeting, Enid. Bureaucracy and 'Rank Hath Its Responsibilities' which goes with the other RHIP for the privileges. While you two were here I was reviewing the meeting and know what is coming. You are pressing the buttons at SFC pretty well... and even at SFHQ, not to speak of the Council."

Enid arched an eyebrow at L'Tira who was calmly sipping her drink through a straw, which was a wonderful invention her species loved the moment they saw it. So simple and useful!

Enid stowed the last of her flasks in the jacket and slung it over the back of the chair, then sipped her iced tea while sitting back, looking at the Captain.

"Captain, you know that I didn't ask for this job? Getting handed title to a company that exists in a few databanks and scraps of paper and then having to come and sort out an issue that should have been done decades ago was not in my career plan. Not in any plan of mine, but I accepted the responsibility when I reached majority and agreed that, if the time came, I would carry it through. Really I had expected a very cut-and-dried overview, a report backing up all the documents and just a bit of an idea of what it was my great grandfather had sought in this project with what really went wrong with M-5. He had the pull to get all of that into place, not me. Have I told you what his last coherent words were, as his brain's neural structure decayed while still leaving a healthy body, though in early old age?"

"No you haven't, Enid. What were they?"

"It is something we in the family know, given to us by my great grandmother who was at his side in those final days and she told my grandfather and his children, and he told my father, my mother and me: 'Save M-5. It was not to blame.' She couldn't, of course, and when all the inquiries were done the Fleet had bottled up everything under its Security. She died passing that on, and that got passed to me. I expected that I would be giving the legacy to one of Karl's children on the 'oldest of the next generation' basis. That would have been in 5 or 6 years, and I've only given him a couple of the stories that I have from the family. And the expectation that, like clockwork, every two years he would file a polite inquiry to the Fleet just as I have been doing to show that we have continued interest that gives us claim to the work. You've read the work we've done, Captain. You can decide for yourself if I am justified in a bit of button-pushing."

Captain Bartholomew nodded and sat back.

"Do you know what my command was before coming to the Museum?"

Enid looked at him, smiled, "No, I don't, Captain. What was it?"

"I was Commander of a three ship Frigate Squadron doing border enforcement along the Romulan Neutral Zone. Normally we coordinate that with a number of smaller system and Policing vessels and one or two fast intercept ships. Since the discovery of the Cloaking Device the Federation has deployed one of the thickest and most extensive arrays of motion and energy sensors along the border and above and below the plane of the Galaxy by up to a hundred light years. Patrol there is something called a game of 'find the cloaked ship, if its there'. Unlike other tours, that is a 3 year tour for any crewmember as it is a nerve wracking experience. It gets really bad where Klingon and Tholian space adjoin the area in the outer spiral and Gorn space adjoins it on the inner. Plus the Klingons took up the thing, so, even on friendlier terms with them, actually finding a cloaked ship doesn't mean that it will be a Romulan ship. The ship's crews are constantly on edge peering into sensor read-outs from the ship, the other ships in the squadron and from the sensor web. And everyone dreads the day that someone missed something and a Romulan battlecruiser suddenly de-cloaks with weapons charged. You expect that of every hour of every day of your entire three years there."

L'Tira was nodding, she knew the types of duty stations that one could get assigned to in the Fleet. Rarely were they glamorous, high visibility or even somewhat safe. They were all necessary, however, to protect civil transport and ensure that hostile governments or groups did not erode the structure of the Federation. A stop-over duty station at the Museum was the Fleet's way of getting some newly minted Fleet members to understand what it was the Fleet was about, so they could spread that knowledge and wisdom into the Fleet.

Smiling slightly, Enid nodded.

"The predators of the night never announce their presence, save for sudden appearance of tooth and claw, bloody by nature. Are you the hunter or hunted? Was that one you found an adult or a juvenile with the rest of its pack nearby looking for it? Did you set the sensors up right? Sleep lightly to save yourself from death in the night? That is hard duty for a few weeks, Captain, and three years must be very hard on a Captain and crew."

"It is, Enid. There are a few and select crews that thrive on it, and they get the fast intercept ships. Those ships are made to be some of the fastest to go from cold start to full warp drive without a controlled detonation in the warp core. Mostly they run on APUs and just wait, interpreting their own sensors and that of the sensor web looking for tiny variations that automated systems miss. The USS Swift was one of those, converted to scientific work, and very, very few space phenomena can overhaul one before it can get up to warp speed capacity. That was an all-volunteer crew, going into situations where the unknown, even close to the home sectors in the home quadrant. Nothing normal would catch them by surprise, even a de-cloaking Romulan Dreadnought would still leave time for warning and a slim possibility of escape - but the ship, itself, would be destroyed. What happened is frightening, Enid. If those fast-intercept ships with their heavily reinforced sensor arrays could not see or stop or run from what took the crew of the Swift, then there is something far, far more dangerous than Borg or malignant energy beings around in our neighborhood of space. Even the sub-space sensors would have recorded something, but I'm coming to think that our knowledge of sub-space and its perils haven't led us to the ability to actually probe it well. The Gorns brought us that information, Enid. We have had a very few incidents like this in the past, and no one could figure them out. You know this is passing beyond Admiral Scott, Commodores Mirak and Rafiq, T'sau and Mr. Umak right?"

Enid nodded, "Yes, Captain. I can't deny this is a threat, perhaps to the Federation, but let me ask you: do you know of Earth and its super-volcanic complexes?"

"Yes, I've heard of them. What do they have to do with this?"

"We know they erupt infrequently, and that any given day there is only the slimmest of chances that anything may build up in one to an eruption. It is a certainty that over tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of years, that one will erupt. The great complex in Yellowstone has been slowly shifting for centuries, and we have probed it, scanned it, set up deep sensor arrays, examined it and what has been our solution to it, after nearly 500 years of doing that?"

Captain Bartholomew sat back, looked at Enid, L'Tira and back.

"Nothing," he said quietly,"we can't control how Earth will do things, not at that scale. Trying to relieve pressure gives an opening to eruption, so that idea to 'laser lance' the complex was shelved. Similarly phasers. Photon torpedo bored tunnels. Geothermal cooling systems. Everything we have learned says that if we do something, the chances of making the immediate situation far worse on the scale of an entire planet are more than slim... or moderate."

"And yet it will erupt, someday. What have we done?"

"A series of transporter systems to shift people to other continents, then to orbiting bases or the Lunar bases."

"The entire planet will become hostile to our technic civilization for centuries, Captain. We don't have the terraforming skills to change that. We don't have the knowledge base to understand all the wide varieties of interactions that will take place when we try something. For all of our computational power, use of warp drive, horrific weapons of destruction, we cannot stop a planet set on its course. I've walked in Yellowstone knowing full well that 'today might be the day', just as others have for centuries. And it might go like this for further centuries, Captain. Or go even as we speak. There is only one people that know how to do this, Captain. They are the Gorns. For the last century or so they saw little need to talk with us as we are a fleeting life form to them. And yet they have 'fully utilized' entire planetary systems around stars, all the way out to cometary clouds a light year or more from the central star of a system. And they fear the threats of sub-space, after seeing Empires more complex, more technically capable and more powerful than all we have today pass away into dust because of that threat come manifest. Do I know this is punching the buttons of the Fleet and the Council? Yes. And I will continue to do the right thing as I see it, Captain. We will survive a few more weeks without letting this be more widely known... and no 'security' clause in any charter of the Federation can stop the publicizing of a threat to all peoples of the Federation. That threat might come manifest tomorrow, in which case we have little we can do. Even 10 years cannot start the type of program at the scale needed to address this. And in that scale a few weeks don't matter. And if the Gorns have been seeing history flow around them as they slowly expand in the safest manner they know, for a few billions of years, a few weeks aren't that much at all compared to their steadfast safety. This is not a 'crisis' save when it manifests. And then we need to be prepared, not frightened. So while they will let word leak out, the orderly release of information to the scientific communities and the public will serve all of us much better than high members of the Council screaming for action now, today, when the threat is one that cannot be safely understood now and today. A 'cure' like that is something that will set us on each other inside the Federation, which would be worse than the threat if it does come tomorrow or in a decade... on the ten thousand year scale it may matter less, but then our cultures will not have survived this test and a new one will have to deal with it."

Captain Bartholomew smirked, "Watching, waiting, preparing and never knowing if that next sensor scan will be the enemy cloaked ship, or just something setting the sensor off. That is very tough on crews. Can we survive that as the Federation?"

"We are going to find out, aren't we?"

"The other mayflies have died. Are we as they are?" asked L'Tira softly. This was a chilling discussion to hear and what the Captain and Enid Daystrom had laid out was... what it was.

"If we adapt slowly, we will survive. With help, L'Tira. I am blessed by being the great granddaughter of a man who sought safety for his fellow sentients through his work. It is a dream worth having. One worth taking up and working on, although it will never, ever, be finished. We can just see if we survive the tests handed to us by what happens. We may not like the Gorns, with that instinct against their form and kind and thought, and yet they recognize the threat and can reach out to us... to those they see as mayflies. Are we ungracious enough to think that we, who have had such short time, are so superior to them as to refuse? I won't, L'Tira, for that would betray the dream of Richard Daystrom and make my name far worse in history than his."

Captain Bartholomew nodded.

"The Fleet will back that. It is our duty to all of those we protect. Much of the Fleet has grown lax, even with the Cardassian conflict, and the Federation Council sees the Fleet as a tool to political ends. But the Old Families of the Fleet remember, Enid."

"How far back, Captain?" asked L'Tira.

"My family started at the Space Academy when it was in tents, L'Tira. And Zefram Cochrane taught warp theory and engineering. Rafiq goes back five generations, Mirak seven, Admiral Scott's few times great grandfather bunked with mine in the wilds, when clearing brush went side-by-side with learning the basics of how to build a starship. Lothar goes back that far, his ancestors running the equipment and taking time off to study during the night. Grace's family, from what we know, had a multi-great grandfather on the staff that designed the missile that the Phoenix rode on into space and they were teaching how to build starships, not having built much of a first one. Eloise Rafiq is about as young as you can get and consider yourself to be in the Second Families, those after the proper founding of the Federation. Mirak's just between and so First Families, though a generation on. We all quietly do our duties. Just like you do, L'Tira. We don't take to any spotlight, because it is our service that matters."

Enid slowly shook her head.

"I always wondered what kept the Fleet in line."

"You aren't the second Daystrom to have an impact on the Fleet, Enid." Captain Bartholomew said softly.


"After the collapse of the United States there was a commander in a missile base who kept his crew together and scavenged parts and food for years with that crew. He was Captain Leo Daystrom, USAF. He supplied the working missile to Zefram Cochrane before he died of heart failure. His crew made sure everyone was taught on how to launch it. To the First Families he is the brightest, shining star of the Fleet. Richard Daystrom's shadow is very light compared to that brightness, Enid. Very pale. Daystroms know duty and service to their fellow man, Enid. They always have."

Enid was floored. She had never heard of Leo Daystrom before in her life. Yes, Daystroms appear in history, but they were of the Scandinavian stock, not the mixed cultural heritage of her family. And yet... the time of Zefram Cochrane would be the point where that mixing would take place, or just before the natural disasters that took the life of civilization close to the brink, as they hit its most powerful nation time and again laying it and the whole of civilization low. That dream of a better world by freedom and liberty did not die, it just suffered a short relapse to be born afresh in the wake of First Contact.

"I have had to let other members of the First Families know, Enid. That is my duty to them."

"Good. I am not Leo Daystrom or Richard Daystrom, you have me to deal with, Captain Bartholomew, not my legacy save as I must carry out what is handed to me."

He smiled, "That's why I let Admiral Wilson know you needed a half-hour or so of rest after your handball game. He understands, Enid, just know he has his duties, also. He can be a real pain to work with, but he got to where he is by respect, not by cutting corners and stepping on toes. Ok, a few fights here and there, sure, but those are sometimes necessary, you know?"

L'Tira giggled slightly, "I don't have much of that problem, biology," and that was very true.

"I know, Captain. I dance the dance to avoid them, but never stand aside when I should stand firm. Most people don't expect that. All regret it." Enid said softly.

"Far more Leo than Richard," he said very softly.

"That is about five minutes left, Enid. You know where the comms section is."

"I do," she said standing up.

"Come on, L'Tira, I need you along to dragoon a Gorn away from whatever they are doing. We have a meeting to get to."

"Me? Why me?"

"Biology. Carnivores respect each other. They finally had to turn on the lawyers which is a big plus for civilization. Come on, we have a meeting to make, and if I have to throttle some people via sub-space I want lots of civilized teeth on my side."

L'Tira laughted as did the Captain. Then they left at a smooth trot turning into a run and jumping onto the gangway ladder, sliding down. Soon out of sight of the Captain.

"Though Leo never did anything like this from what I've heard... but he wasn't afraid, have to give him that."

He checked the time... sighed... staff meeting in ten minutes. Didn't those ever let up?

* * *

Enid, L'Tira, the Systems Specialist and Human Specialist arrived together at the communications room set aside for them. Enid opened it and ushered the others in, then closed the door and sealed the room. She went to the table, took the center seat and put her jacket on the chair back. The Gorns had fashioned a synthetic cross-piece in black instead of a jacket, which their frames where ill-suited to have. L'Tira wore the team vest and had brought snack-packs from the cafeteria as they had been in transit and distributed those as biology suited.

Enid keyed in the console which changed from its Museum logo to the Fleet logo then to the SFC logo. Then the 'encrypted data stream' flashed and the holographic display cleared. Seated at SFC was Admiral Scott, T'Sau and Eloise Rafiq.

"Admiral, T'Sau, Eloise, sorry I'm late by a few minutes, but I was cleaning up. You know L'Tira, and I have the Systems and Human Specialists from our Gorn team with us. I take it you have gone through our last M-5 meeting?"

Admiral Scott nodded.

"Thank you to those of the Gorn enclave who can attend, you are welcome friends of the Federation. It is good to see you Miss Daystrom and L'Tira. And to answer your question, we have examined the meeting three times over by now... the implications for the Federation are startling."

"That is mild, Admiral, and I do agree. Let me say that I do expect that each of you have taken some confidence in close staff on this and have also been in contact with your Corps element working on the review of our work. I will take anything more than that in a very dim light, Admiral."

Commodore Rafiq smiled, "We understand, Enid. I've had some talks with Mr. Umak and he has been far too delighted at the turn of events and his saying 'I told you so' is wearing thin, but he has been right so far. Yes, we can't turn our heads from this, but we recognize the larger responsibility of our Duty to the Federation."

"Indeed, Enid, there is nothing so disheartening as having logic dictated back to you by an overly happy Tellerite pointing out your own flawed assumptions. The Federation has been grossly negligent with the Gorn people with whom we share a common border and I have let the Director know that we have been remiss. My deepest apologies to the Gorns is in order and I hope they can be accepted."

"Yes," said the Human Specialist with the final 's' sound dragging just a bit,"our people understand some of the nature of other species and their faults. That of the Federation are not worse than many another civilization that has appeared in our history. We thank the Federation for sharing their knowledge with us and seek equivalent reciprocity in sharing some of our knowledge with you."

"It will be our pleasure to do so," said the Admiral.

"We would hope to understand this 'swarming' technic sub-space civilization more. As I understand it from the meeting, they have been gone an inordinately long period of time and yet you say that you have seen signs of their return. If I may, what are those signs?" asked Eloise.

"Their main sign is increasing ionic storm activity, stretching beyond neutral hydrogen and charged gas clouds and encompassing charge densities in systems with gas giants, non neutral clouds and stars of low radiant output. Large gas structures do some warping of sub-space in ways we do not understand, and those make easier transition points from sub-space for them and for those other life forms existing on the interface," that was from the Systems Specialist.

"Yes, Federation records and information we have taken from Romulans indicate that there is highly increased incidents of these happening over the last 3,000 years," said the Human Specialist., "this combined with sub-space wave interference marks passage of their ships or their presence. While they will sometimes come through such weak areas, they often scan them for useful materials."

"Do they take captives from normal space?" asked Admiral Scott.

"Missing individuals prior to their space shifting has happened and we speculate that they have captured individuals for useful information. That is speculation only, as no normal space sentient has ever been retaken from them if that has been done."

"That is, perhaps, more troubling than finding they have done so," said Commodore Rafiq.

"Yes it is, Eloise. What do you do to counter them?" asked Admiral Scott.

"We remove all gas giants, free space gas clouds and other sources of sub-space weakening. When that cannot be done, we install automated attack equipment to discharge a matter/anti-matter detonation when their ship transfer is detected. We have seen a slow increase of those being used over the last century," said the Systems Specialist.

"Remove all gas giants? Ah... forgive me, but that isn't practical, is it?" asked L'Tira.

"It is with time and patience, L'Tira," said the Human Specialist,"it often takes fifty generations, but once started the process is simple to keep up. Like the swarming ones we, too, have had to make large vessels that are for such purposes."

Enid sat back, listening, and was trying to piece together what it would take to dismantle a planet like Jupiter. She could, just barely, think of ways to actually destroy the planet, if she had enough anti-matter, but that would just spread it around. If you found a technique to deal with slowly removing the atmosphere and shifting its contents elsewhere so it was not a distributed mass, then it is possible that the very hydrogen you got deep inside Jupiter would fuel the ships deconstructing it. That was engineering on a planetary scale and not just single planets, either. And dealing with the 'hot giants' would have its own perils. That did, however, explain why the Romulans and Orions had problems figuring out where to go in Gorn space: it was all occupied. No spare planets roaming around, and everything was utilized, as they said earlier.

"... any information on how they communicate?" asked T'sau.

"Their capability utilizes standard space systems, an assortment of sub-space systems and direct chemical, vocal, and other means for individual communications. They utilize a fractal biological encryption technique that cannot be interrupted without losing message coherence. Their shift of matter to sub-space allows them other forms of adaptive communications of a form we have been unable to capture or analyze. Many races have attempted negotiations over the eons. All have failed."

The flat intonation of the Universal Translator made that sound very, very bleak.

"And their physical make-up?" asked Eloise.

"That varies across their technic civilization. Some forms indicate aquatic adaptations which may be to water or gas under dense pressure. Other forms move by methods we have been unable to properly explain and have sensory and manipulative organs on long, flexible appendages. Others are formless, making up a mass that moves and forms temporary tendrils, sensory and other protuberances as needed. It is unknown if these are multiple, different species, one species in multiple forms or an adaptive requirement to sub-space of those. As their bodies consist of space normal matter attuned to sub-space, without active projection equipment, their bodies shift into sub-space. On defeating them in normal space in one system, their normal space young proved to be unsustainable, untrainable and hostile. Their biological structures are highly varied for those few we have captured, and there are indications that their internal biochemical structures are pre-adapted to sub-space as such things as cells de-cohere quickly when not actively sustained by sub-space transfer equipment."

The Systems Specialist had obviously been chosen for a reason as that individual had what Gorns indicate as 'specific and deep' knowledge in one area.

"Enid," said Admiral Scott, "Captain Bartholomew gave me a short overview of your discussion with him. I think I understand that and thank you. This is no time for declaring an emergency."

"It is time to prepare," said the Human Specialist.

"Yes, it is," said Enid,"because we can't go into sub-space and survive for very long, don't understand the nature of this threat save that it does require a different attitude, that no energy being has been able to stop this with some dating back very far into history, and all our understanding of the Gorns now making a more complete one, while still having vast gulfs of comprehension. That is why they came to us on this project."

"It is a prime survival endeavor." said the Systems Specialist.

"Yes, and the Federation will give its full cooperation with your people." said T'sau.

"We are working on our end to further that, T'sau, with converting one of the lower order M-units to be a much better translator for all of us to communicate with the Gorns. It will be the first truly original code since the time of Richard Daystrom put into an M-unit. Those units are proving to be far more than just a tool."

"Thank you, Enid. Do forgive my absence on being actively there, but my duty to the Federation places me elsewhere."

"No need to apologize, T'sau of Vulcan, you have a very, very hard job ahead of you."

He nodded slowly, "Thank you, Miss Daystrom."

"The release of this information is under the control of my team as 'work sensitive'. It cannot be more widely publicized until we have reported on it, with a full scientific review of the information we will have at that point in time. I don't mind that it falls to Security contained individuals at the highest levels of the Federation and the Fleet. If it goes outside those channels before that release, the Federation will not enjoy being pointedly told it is treading on the liberties they are meant to protect, all for 'expedient purposes'. You can uphold mine and those of everyone else if you recognize that panic is not called for here. As our Gorn friends have said, this is a prime survival need that must be understood so that we can survive. You cannot release this more widely and expect to survive without demonstrating that you understand it. Many will discount 'expediency', I will not, my brother will not and Daystrom Industries will not. You will not be casting a dark cloud over this Daystrom."

Eloise spoke up softly, "We understand Enid, and I speak for Mirak and Umak on that. We need months to start even beginning to figure out what to do, and may even ask you to withhold that information from more public exposure."

"The cover-up would kill you as surely as hasty action, Eloise. If the Council and Fleet Command demonstrate prudence, wisdom, and foresight, then there will not be a panic beyond those who already panic at everything. You will be appreciated for doing it the right way and inviting the best minds in the Federation, along with a large number below that, to work on this. I trust my fellow sentients. And if a Tellerite can take this in stride, I sure hope the rest of us can do so."

Admiral Scott chuckled, "Remind me not to get on your bad side, Enid."

"I don't have one," Enid said smiling, "and many have tried to find it to their dismay."

"I do believe that, Enid Daystrom," said T'sau, "if your Gorn co-workers can help in communicating our willingness to help, and that we seek help and wish to work with them, the Diplomatic Corps. would be deeply grateful."

"It will be given for this project, T'sau of Vulcan. All else remains to be worked upon, but we can share our reasons with you as we have done." said the Human Specialist.

"My deepest thanks to your people," said T'sau.

"I think that clears it up for now, Enid. I am having to devote more time to the fallout of your work than to just about anything else right now. The Director is champing at the bit wanting all information yesterday, and is unhappy not to have it all. And he doesn't like hearing it second-hand."

"I'm sure you can deal with it. Or let him know that he has to ask me to be on the team to get it. Better be quick, though, in a day or so I will be on the Grant and things will be getting busy."

"Yes, he quiets down when he hears he would just be an ancillary team member at your discretion. Now, at least, I can give him the important information from the Gorns and he will be very, very happy to have that to make grand plans about."

"I wouldn't bet on and 'grand plans' before you know what you need to do."

"There is that," said Eloise,"still, an expanded ship production program would be a good start."

"Yes, those are necessary. The last time we only lost 10 ships to 1 ship on a class by class basis as you define them. Even with better technology, we think that will change only to 8 to 1. Their swarms number in the tens of thousands of ships." said the Systems Specialist.

Eloise Rafiq blinked and realized she was staring, all thoughts driven from her mind. Again.

She whispered, "Even if we turned that around, armed every ship in the Federation and Klingon space..."

"That is why we start early, to dissuade them that we are prey."

"We really don't have the capacity or understanding to build on that scale," Admiral Scott said.

"That is why we need to learn from the Gorns, Admiral." Enid said flatly.

"Learning is necessary."

The Human Specialist nodded.

"That is why we are here. It is a survival requirement."

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