Friday, December 12, 2008

The M-5 - Chapter 6

Chapter 6

This was a 'no guarantees' maneuver, to say the least, Lothar thought to himself.

Lothar was in his space armor and strapped into a shuttle chair like the rest of his team were. All the emergency seats had been deployed and secured and all the loose equipment stowed and the shuttle checked to make sure it was secured in place to the shuttle bay surface. Then the shuttle had been closed and pressurized as the Grant slowly went into the atmosphere of Jupiter. The pressures would be awful, the actual gravity of Jupiter would be diverted from the shuttle somewhat by its internal life support. Still it would increase as Jupiter cannot be denied its strength. All of the metals on board for critical systems met up with the pressure tests and original ratings. That there would be damage was beyond question. Hopefully it would all be cosmetic in nature.

The external view ports were unshuttered giving a clear view of space beyond the shuttle bay doors.

"Phase I entrance started. Expect internal comms to be disrupted until we are through the clouds." said M-3/V.

"Affirmative, M-3." said Enak.

"Steady as she goes," said Lothar.

"Aye-aye, sir. As best I can." said M-3.

The air started to whistle, a high pitched keening. The stars started to twinkle as atmosphere, rarified but present, started to replace vacuum. The ship dropped steadily with sudden jerks on each axis as it went further in. The armored shutters closed on the view ports and were replaced by an internal projections on the ports from external sensors. The keening intensified, then began to deepen, the atmosphere screaming into the constricted openings of the ship and through its unblocked spaces and then funneled through and out the impulse engine vents and out of the shuttle bay. The first wisps of white appeared on the display, very bright and then slowly deepening to yellow and then into deep red.

"Pressure... aft Engineering... unstable... pressure vent," the comms crackled from M-3/V, static electricity and discharges racing through the atmosphere would soon shut down all but comms inside the shuttle.

"Repeat, repeat, repeat, M-3, garbled." said Enak.

" molecule.... phase change pressure... warning, war... phase change discharge... bay..."

Lothar lifted his now heavy arms and started shifting compensators on the shuttle, a very low level deflector system which would not, hopefully dislodge them.

"Vent, vent, vent, ready, ready, ready, M-3" Lothar said.

This was always a possibility: an organic molecule structure that would compress to something liquid or potent and need to be vented out the shuttle bay. It was horrifically dangerous as that unknown mix might do any number of things, including break back down to smaller molecules... or radically recombine after doing that.

"... vent... 5....5....5..."

"Brace yourselves," Lothar said over the intercom, "under 5 seconds."

The wind had been roaring through the shuttle bay and in a few seconds the liquid was vented out from aft of Engineering and into the shuttle bay. The screen went from deep, dark red to actinic white, Lothar quickly tripped switches trying to keep whatever heat there was from the shuttle. The Grant swept forward on powered descent. While it might be a low heat combination for Jupiter, it was expansive and the ship jetted forward in a way it had never, ever been designed to do. The roar was so deep it couldn't be heard only felt. Long minutes it went on and if the ship gained too much speed... Lothar quenched that thought.

Suddenly the roar disappeared and dim, grey light suffused from outside. After that the sound of atmosphere jetting by was pure whistling and the view meant that the Grant had steadied below the red, roiling cloud mass above them. A faint trail of cascading white and lightning had temporarily marked their path, soon lost to the winds of Jupiter.

"Status is nominal, all systems," came the voice of M-3/V.

"Affirmative, shuttle nominal, also. What was that M-3?" asked Enak

"Unknown. A mixture of methane, ammoniates, some chromium, formeldehyde, hydrogen, and water. It had to be vented as it was liquid and destabilizing trim."

"Understood," said Lothar, "currently experiencing 2.5 g-force. Is there an ETA on exit?" asked Lothar.

"Affirmative. Run time has decreased due to excess speed gained from that vent. I have full thruster fuel but do not want to change current orbital vectors or speed. Time to leaving decreased by 1 hour and is now 2.3 hours approximate."

"Understood, 2.3 hours. What is the mix like?" asked Enak.

"Current mix is 94% hydrogen, with dispersed mix of cloud bank. Deflector sorting working. APU #2 and #4 full, all others minimal 20%. Impulse engine fuel, 1.2%."

Lothar took a slow, hard breath.

"Affirmative. Steady as she goes."

"Aye-aye, sir. Steady as she goes."

All the sensors were running at maximum capability now that there was excess energy for the ship, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that, unless they could get somewhere north of 5% impulse fuel, would be experienced a couple more times. Some would be post-processed by what M-3/V was able to capture, but most came in the short period in the cloud banks. The engines could work on pure hydrogen, of course, just not as efficiently as a more complex fuel mixture.

"Structural integrity check shows nominal. All sulfur residue removed from the ship's surface," said M-3.

"Affirmative, that. Internal structure?" asked Enak.

"Nominal, bandwidths available. Some members have undergone a 300 degree cycle in under one hour and will need closer examination."

"Understood. Catwalks and engineering duraflooring will be safe. This is well within its guidelines." said Lothar.

"Ditto the weapon areas. Those are expected to have major changes like that," said Brian.

"Good work with what you've done, M-3. How was it from your end?" asked Lothar.

"I was very busy, Lothar. I can send you the overview to your suit, but I was running some pure atmospheric mix into the thrusters to keep on course."

"Might as well, for what you have, M-3. Send it to the shuttle's storage systems."

"Acknowledged, sending."

It would be beautiful, Lothar mused, if he didn't weigh so much and you could get rid of the feeling that you were looking into a dark pit below the horizon as hydrogen went liquid then solid heading towards the core of the planet. He started to examine the initial entry and kept having to shift from sensor to sensor, system to system, until he realized he was less than a minute into the run. A full examination would take hours to do. Possibly days. Minutes dragged by... then an hour... a few were sleeping but not well, their helmets keeping their heads upright, breathing passages open.

"Lateral thrusting to avoid downwelling."

"Affirmative," said Lothar.

The ship skewed to the left, and as they passed they saw a roiling mass of red clouds diving down to the hydrogen below. That looked like billowing clouds but the speed of that was very high, and the deep upwelling inside brought near pure hydrogen to the cloud bank surface. Time crawled slowly as the minutes passed and the clouds roiled and shifted over the clear area and arced into a gray distance with black below it.

"This will never be a popular tourist spot," Theresa said.

"Really? Why not? Look at the view!" said Brian.

"No camp sights. Or overlooks."

"True. Hotels are lacking, too," said Enak.

"Give it time. I'm sure someone will make this a popular ride." said Mr. Jomra.

"Say, M-3?"

"Yes, Brian?" said M-3.

"When you brought the weapons tracking sensors on-line, and thank you for getting that done, at about 3 minutes 05 seconds after the self-test lock-on mode, there appears an actual lock-on that comes and goes of the next 10 seconds, then re-appears just as we move out of the cloud bank. Any idea of what that is?"

"Negative, Brian. Mass sensors were ineffective, and all optical and thermal sensors were similarly ineffective and then the lock cleared once we were out of the clouds. I ran the Emergency Targeting system starting at minute 4 and 10 seconds and operated both. It could not get lock-on."

"Did you run the two systems simultaneously?"

"Affirmative. I thought it might be a spurious error in the main system."

"No, it has self-tests and internal checks to guard against that, plus a back-up program. It is locking on something, but can't give me a silhouette or outline. Any ideas, Theresa?"

"Not really. I mean our software is extremely sophisticated so if it can get a lock-on that means that there is something there to lock-on to. The distance rating is the ever lazy eight, and that can't be for the atmosphere. Anyone know the effective lock-on rate for a weapons system in a nasty reducing atmosphere at high pressure?"

"Ah... I don't think anyone has ever thought of that, Theresa," said Brian.

"Ok. M-3, what was the maximum visual on any available sensor spectrum less than infinity?"

"For targeting that would be low-band infrared to 300 kilometers, Theresa. Effective 100 kilometers. For non-targeting it is much longer, out to the edge of the atmosphere."

"Hey, if the software can actually lock-on to anything in the atmosphere I would be surprised. 100 klicks at low IR is phenomenal. What would be the heat signature differential at that range?"

"That would be 200 degrees centigrade," said M-3.

"Uh-huh. Enough to keep a small ship warm and cozy. And it is sticking to the clouds, so it is in a powered orbit."

"Theresa, are you telling me that someone is actually tracking us, in a ship, in Jupiter's cloud bank?"

"Yeah, Lothar, thats what I'm saying."

"If we charge weapons they will know we have seen them," said Lothar.

"Uh-huh. They aren't Federation, whoever they are, Lothar."

"We can't fight in that soup, that is for sure."

"Ten minutes to cloud bank re-entry," said M-3.

"But we do need to see them, right?" asked Mr. Jomra.

"Yeah, that would be a large help knowing who in the name of all that is sacred they are."

"M-3 can we do a powered descent to gain velocity to then quickly rise?" asked Mr. Jomra.

"Affirmative, Mr. Jomra,"

"I don't like where that is heading, closer to that grey soup down there," said Lothar.

"That is a few hundred klicks down, Lothar. Plenty of leeway." said Mr. Jomra.

"Yeah, right. Can you guess the radiation we will get if we do what you are thinking, Mr. Jomra?" asked Lothar.

"Yes, Lothar. We are in the second most armored part of the ship next to Engineering. And the fusion jet will be a good half-klick from us."

"Dear, god. You two aren't proposing...?" asked Theresa.

"Ok, Mr. Jomra. M-3, you have the records of the VIP run. Can you do that coming out?"

A pause.

"That is extremely risky, Lothar. I need an expanded risk envelope for that."

"You have it! Use up anything you need to, M-3. And get us a great data run on whatever... whoever... is following us."

"Aye-aye, sir. Shifting attitude, thruster burn, increasing speed."

"I never signed up for this," said Brian.

"Sure you did!" said Theresa, "Right there on the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that says 'I am certifiably crazy for signing up to join Star Fleet, I hold no one responsible for my insanity but myself, and I want any remains shipped to the following address'. I clearly remember that." said Theresa.

"Closing all vents and shuttle bay doors. Deflectors on maximum. Three minutes to bring shields up."

Everyone felt the change in speed and the sudden shifting of interior organs. First the ship pitched down, and forward with the thrusters on, then slowly pitched back up as they came off, effectively changing their velocity in orbit while losing some time. Then the entire ship slowly rolled and then the vector of force changed to what would be up and to the cloud bank. The thrusters came back on.

"This will be a nominal 5-g burn due to the gravity of Jupiter for all in the shuttle."

"Affirmative," said Lothar.

"All sensors on, maximum. Cloud re-entry in 10 seconds."

Lothar brought up the aft view and then keyed his helmet over to whatever channels could get through comm link. The shields would, actually, clear out the static. Hopefully. They all felt the re-entry. The sensor views closed in as the clouds shifted around the ship, obscuring all views.

"Fusion burn in 30 seconds."


The main weapons system picked up something down/lateral to their path and slightly aft.

"There it is!" said Brian, "No outline yet."

"Keying over, cascading sensors. Still nothing." said Theresa.

The chronometers in their suits went to zero.

A pure, white burn suddenly lit up the entire cloud deck and pushed the clouds away.

"Got it!" said Theresa.

"Yes!" echoed Brian.

"Dear god, they are in the fusion wash..." said Lothar very softly.

"Lock-on, Orion pirate heavy raider, Mark VII..." said Theresa trailing off as she looked at the display.

The skin of the raider softened under the impact of secondary fusion going over its surface along with the supersonic shock of the wavefront. Its shields were not on and M-3 shifted the fusion constriction trying to lessen the impact and then direct it away. The wash flared and ran weakly over the Raider as it decreased in intensity. Part of the Raider hull plating glowed... then folded... the entire ship crumpled and imploded. That had taken less than two seconds, for Jupiter to claim its due.

"Unable to deploy tractor due to the atmosphere, and I could not react in time to shut down the fusion systems without reconfiguring the shield array. I am sorry, Lothar." said M-3.

"I understand, M-3. That is my responsibility, not yours. I have no idea what they were doing there, they did not belong there, and they paid their price. Get us safely to orbit and seek to conserve what you have, M-3."

"Aye-aye, sir. Fusion burn is optimal for 2 more minutes then thrusters to insertion on wider orbit due to all gained velocity."

"May god have mercy on their souls," said Mr. Jomra, very softly.

"Amen," said Lothar, "Rest In Peace."

"What were they doing here?" asked Enak.

"I have no idea," said Lothar, "none at all. But I can tell you one thing."

"What's that, Lothar?" asked Theresa.

"No anti-matter aboard that ship, no deep secondary explosion. They never operate without it for raiding. They felt safe here. Where is the anti-matter that ship would normally have?"

Enak said, "That is their normal operating procedure to have a ship fully powered, unless they are near a base."

"A base. In Sol System?" asked Brian.

"Now wouldn't that be fun to find? I bet you they have it well hidden," said Theresa.

"That is my bet, too," said Lothar.

"Steady as she goes, M-3. Continue the fusion run."

"Aye-aye, sir. Steady as she goes."

The Grant soon rose above the clouds and the fusion jet sputtered, then died. Shields dropped and deflectors went to low-power to start sieving the fleeting wisps of the atmosphere. For the first time in decades the hull of the USS Grant was pure white and nearly mirror smooth on some parts. As it passed from night side to day, it almost sparkled.

"We are being hailed, Lothar," said M-3.

The shuttle screen cleared and an over-sized armored shuttle appeared, the targeting array identified it as a Gorn shuttle craft.

"She didn't.... and I was too distracted. Put them on-screen, M-3."

"Aye-aye, channels open."

The screen cleared to show spacesuited figures inside a relatively cramped shuttle, with crates securely fastened in the interior. Gorn suits were obvious for their different helmet and sizing in comparison to that of the human on board.

"Hello, Lothar, you didn't have to clean the ship for me," Enid Daystrom could be heard through the intercom.

"What? Enid? Clean the ship? And just why didn't you tell me you were coming over?"

The screen changed to show the Grant in full daylight as seen from the shuttle, its hull as white as the day she was constructed. Even the extra parts had been cleaned to a Fleet conditioned white.

"I had never thought that M-3 would use the atmosphere as a ship washing area. And, yes, Lothar, you were very, very, very busy and I didn't want to disturb good work being done. Besides I have a heavy work crew with me, an M-4 and a translation system for the entire M-series once we get it up and running so that it everyone can get a better idea of just what it is the Gorns are really saying. So, do we have permission to come aboard?" she asked in a more than happy tone.

"Damn it, Enid! You could have at least let me know. Permission granted. We are still just getting unstrapped here, so we will wait for you to land and get secured. It is landing pad three, requires an orbital match and manual lock-down and some fancy adjustments."

"That is understood, Commander Lothar Hampton. Our arrival will be in 5 of your minutes," said the Gorn piloting the suttle.

"And, Enid?"

"Yes, Lothar?"

"We had an encounter while transiting the atmosphere."

"Really, what with?"

"Who, Enid. An Orion Pirate Heavy Raider. They didn't survive it."

There was a long pause.

"Acknowledged. I will want to review that with the crew once everything is locked down and stabilized. Whoever you think will be able to explain it best. I will want two Gorns with me. I assume the rest of the ship needs checking over and that will get priority, but a few people need to get me up to speed on this."

"Yeah, thats what I figure, too. Probably Enak, Jomra and Theresa. M-3 can get a basic check-over list to everyone and work team assignments. Plus there is a small break room we can use as a conference room here. M-3, do you have life-support up in Engineering yet?"

"Affirmative, Commander. I would like to give a system-wide gravity test for the ship, but only after examination. I think the entire ship can be brought up to full life-support, now."

"That can wait. I am sure there are a number of repairs that will need to be done and zero-g is better for almost all repairs. Get us work assignments and assign Gorns by specialty. Any idea of who you will have tied up with us for the meeting, Enid?"

"I was thinking the Human Specialist and Ships Integration Specialist."

"That would be appropriate, Enid Daystrom," said one of the Gorns.

"Good! M-3, key up work assignments as soon as you can on the common agenda system. And whatever else, the intercooler system will need a check-out, internal and external, which will be a pain, but those have to work for the ship to function well."

"Yes, Lothar, I am cross-compiling my sensors and systems work. That list should be ready once the Gorns have landed and secured the shuttle."

"Good. See you when you get here, Enid."

"Thanks, Lothar. M-3, no matter what happened the ship survived along with its crew. That was your top priority and succeeded at it."

"I... yes, Enid. Thank you."

* * *

The Gorn pilot maneuvered the shuttle deftly, even easily into orbit with the Grant, then lightly touched on the landing pad. Immediately four Gorns moved from the shuttle, two swung to the sides and then placed magnacoat boots on the decking and held on to the shuttle while the next two each slid out the top of the door and held on to a bar inside the shuttle reversing their momentum as they swung out, up and over the shuttle. Each touched their hands on the edge and the glove grips changed their momentum again to down relative to the shuttle. In a few moments they all shifted the shuttle to the locking points for Federation older style shuttles and manually lifted the bolt locks into place. Lothar exited his shuttle and directed operations of moving equipment from it and as soon as the Gorn shuttle was locked in place the two Gorns shifted to accept some of the larger loads from inside the Federation shuttle.

A smaller suited figure in a modified Federation construction crew suit did the Gorn somersault routine and landed on the deck next to him.

"Good to see you, Lothar," came Enid Daystrom's voice in his suit,"do you always direct traffic?"

"Only when no one else can do it," he said.

"Well, M-3 gave us the storage locations for everything, and the uncrating areas, so I would think your job is to see what damage has been caused by the fly-through. Say, spiffy landing deck you have here!"

The running lights from the Gorn shuttle illuminated the hangar bay and as Lothar looked around he saw something unexpected: the lack of grime. Even in orbit, a ship that has carbon based entities will collect detritus on surfaces. Add in plant material, foods, packaging, and a million and one form of lubricants, powders, rags and other things, and soon a light coating of carbon is on everything. Most everyone ignores it, save when there is absolutely nothing better to do, then it becomes a massive 'busy work' project for a few weeks. The Grant having been through two drydock facilities, numerous welding teams, hundreds if not thousands of individuals who did not have 'busy work' time had collected its share.

Just like the sulfur film on the surface of the ship, the hangar bay was showing its original finish and paint colors. Lothar goggled.

"I really hadn't noticed... must have been the exhausting of pressurized fluid."

"That and it having ammonia in it. Bet it did a nice job on the interior, too! Cleaned all the carpets, got the junk off of viewing surfaces... no end to it. The Fleet should really look at Jupiter as the Federation's largest full ship cleaning stop."

"Cadets would lose their 'Instructional Work Activities' and that won't do, Enid. Tradition, you know."

"I guess so...want to give me the quick tour before we settle down to examine just what went on?"

"Enid, there are a million and one things that could have come loose, rolled around and might just kill someone who is unwary..."

"Nope. It went out with the wash, Lothar. Think about."

He blinked. She was horrific in the things she figured out even as he was thinking of excuses and reasons to keep her safe until everything was checked out. Then he looked at her suit and realized it was a fully powered operator version to multiply a given load lift from the user... while not as powerful as the full power suits used for wrestling heavy construction equipment and decking, it gave a boost to user strength and tactile feedback to everything you did and could even lock joints in position for prolonged periods.

"I guess... whatever was loose wouldn't stand the speed of the atmosphere coming through the ship. I was worried about that, but the specifications and design work all pointed to that capability for 'emergency use when plunging into atmospheres while not under power'. Ok, Enid, no tour but a more or less direct route to the only thing looking like a meeting room."

Her suit nodded, "Lead the way."

He gave her a last glance and noticed a few minor details, beyond the standard recording equipment and recessed tool systems. One was a multi-spectral cascading imager, which very few people used in a suit, but could help in giving overlays of other spectra beyond the visual. She also had a standard Phaser II sidearm, which undoubtedly carried same. Beyond the minor food concentrate and atmosphere reprocessing system there was one last item slung across her back. It looked, suspiciously, like a case designed to hold a long weapon of some sort. Then he remembered about Exmar 2.

Well, if it made her happy to lug that around...

He led the way out of the starboard side while his crew and the Gorns... well, they were all his crew now, really... took the port side. A large number of crates, stowage cases and other things were piling up there and a few crew members were already consulting M-3 to figure out what went where. That is when the lights came on.

"All internal lighting systems are now nominal," said M-3, "life support shut off, save for immediate engineering decks around the main warp drive and APU area."

"Oooooo! Beautiful! Bright! Could you scale it back a bit, M-3?" asked Enid.

Even with automatic compensation and polarizing filters in the suit, it was very bright.

"Yes, Enid. Shifting to standard day shift nominal, but increased in deck-void areas for visibility."

For the first time Lothar actually got to see the entire internal area of the ship above the slip warp drive, not a pieced together mosaic. It looked much, much better than it was, really. Being clean did that to a ship.

"Lothar, some of the loose panels on control systems in various areas are missing. All friction surfaces not under armored protection will need to be addressed, which will include a number of doors and the turbo-lift system via a service car. The self-lubrication systems on many of these have already been vacuum depleted and the mix of Jupiter's atmosphere has removed any residual lubrication. All engineering and weapons controls are operational in the areas where they were fully addressed prior to re-entry."

"Mostly in the saucer, then, for the damage?"

"Yes, and some minor friction wear as loose pieces either shattered or vaporized as they moved at high speeds."

"Well, we knew we would be on a scavenger hunt for getting the main bridge operational. Sounds cosmetic or irritating. How are the fuel and energy levels?"

"All thrusters are at 100% and nominal. Batteries are at 100% and nominal. All APUs are now online, with three at 100% fuel and two at 70% fuel. Impulse engine fuel is currently at 1.1% and final reprocessing may raise that to 1.2% Water is available to the crew as well. There are enough organic compounds to now allow for full replicator use for food."

"A bit better than expected, then! That is good news, M-3. Enid, lets head down to the mid-level pressure lock. The Corps installed those fore/aft of Engineering and have personnel locks mid-tier with cargo locks top/bottom."

"Ok," Enid said, looking down over the catwalk as they moved through the empty space inside the ship. She saw part of the sleek warp core that was the slip warp at the bottom with the perforated flooring that was similar to that on the catwalks. She also saw the lines set up at intervals to allow personnel and material to be floated down in zero-g. Lothar was using an overhead line to pull himself forward with a touch on the railings here and there to keep himself oriented down the center of the catwalk. Enid tried that and it did work, but soon found herself using her feet to push on the frequent railing posts on the catwalk and use the center line for a guide, which was less tiring. Finally Lothar pulled himself to a line that led to the mid-ship levels and Enid followed. Whatever the reasons for the more tiring way of doing things, she assumed it had good safety reason behind it. They arrived on the deck and stepped down, in some of the gravity of the Engineering section that spilled over to the surrounding flooring. Lothar opened up the air lock that had been welded in by the Corps decades ago, and they walked into the lock itself and the door closed behind them.

Status bars on the door behind them were red, while those in front were changing from red through green and ascending a color scale from red at zero to green at five.

"Keep your helmet with you, just in case," Lothar said, equalizing the pressure between his suit and the lock when it cycled to four.

"Seems prudent," Enid followed what Lothar was doing and equalized the pressure in her suit as the lock cycled to five. The air had the non-scent of chemicals applied not so long ago, which was just the case.

"Catch that? Ammonia, bit of organic long-chains, a hint of sulfur, and a bit of chromium to give things a slight tang. Smells like work!" Lothar opened the internal lock door, "And we have that ahead of us. Let me get you situated at the conference room and I will check in on how people are doing. I expect that Enak and Jomra will be available and that Theresa and Brian will be doing the power systems check-over with the welding teams leading a ship's structural check."

"Good, I'll review the material while you are doing that," Enid replied.

"Probably be an hour, so that should be plenty of time. After the meeting I'll get someone to show you Dr. Daystrom's sealed room. The Gorns will have the staterooms two decks under this on the cargo level, and it will be a cramped fit."

"They are ok with it, Lothar. M-3?"

"Yes, Enid?" said M-3 via her suit's comm system.

"Just what did you do to the chemistry of the atmosphere coming in to do all of this?"

"As it was coming in I examined levels of chemicals toxic to the standard suite of life forms, those corrosive to standard ratings material and compared the expected problems at high pressure associated with those. I cross-mixed non-combining long-chain molecules with hydrogen and traces of argon and neon, and balanced water vapor to ensure that nothing went into solution with the hydrogen or the water. I attempted to keep all balances below stated safety levels and vented more corrosive material directly through the impulse engine system ports as they are more highly armored and highly rated for materials than most other systems. Some of those I was able to utilize in pressure containers and am cycling them for an improved mix to meet Fleet standard for impulse engine fuel, warp core coolant, and thruster fuel. All toxic materials were either captured or vented."

Enid nodded, "A high pressure all-purpose cleaner, basically, although I am sure no one in their right mind would try to make something like that on a normal basis."

"You have that right in one, Enid. Still, it did lift the pile on some of the carpeting in the rooms we have passed, which I thought was nearly impossible to do without replacement."

"Static charge build-up on the carpets were a factor, Lothar. Those should not be present in normal atmosphere cycling. I will work to capture the last of the molecules during atmospheric processing in Engineering."

"You say you have enough for a ship-wide atmosphere?" Enid asked.

"Yes, water vapor, though a tiny fraction of a percent of the Jovian atmosphere by volume is somewhat higher by weight and the clouds keep a mixture of water vapor in suspension in either droplet or gaseous form. Energy from the fusion run was utilized to crack water into component parts in the inactive APU systems and then fed into depressurized containers aboard the ship. With a mix of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, argon, and water vapor, that will allow the ship to have a full atmosphere at standard temperature and pressure."

"That must have been hell to play with the magneto-hydrodynamics to get that out of the fusion field," Lothar said, going to an interlevel gangway and going down one level.

"It was... I... was concentrating on that as... if it wasn't properly done the ship would not be having atmosphere flow around it properly and would create drag. That was my main concern and I didn't realize..." M-3 trailed off.

"Its ok, M-3, its not your fault." Lothar said.

"I... Lothar... I... would like to talk with Enid about this once she has reviewed the record. I'm troubled."

Lothar turned to the conference room and gave a bang on the doors to jar them so they could shift on their magnetic rails.

"The thing needs a few drops of lubricant. Ok. M-3, tell you what, there is a lot to do and Enid isn't rated for most of it, and I really would like to get the ship checked over on all the main systems before we do anything with the atmosphere inside her. You two take your time, and see if you can't get it sorted out. If you need me or anyone to help you, M-3, you contact us. Same with you, Enid. I figure we will put in a long shift for another 6 hours and most of us will be dropping off to sleep after that."

"Thank you, Lothar. Nothing prepared me for this."

"That is life, M-3. Better to learn now than later. Ok, you two, I'll be off checking things, mostly the vent cover systems. Have to pick up a pack of lube tubes on the way out. Enid, there is a washroom in the back and replicators to the side, although they haven't been used in decades."

Enid looked at the spartan room that held chairs, tables, a counter and a vacuum worthy sofa that promised support if not comfort.

"Thanks, Lothar," she opened a small panel on her left leg and took out a small tube of lubricant, then looked at the doors, finding the tiny space to insert the tube end and put in a precise drop to each rail. She checked schematics that showed up on a tiny screen on the back of her hand that gave a positive identification of each.

"Don't tell me, Enid, in your off hours you have been practicing with the suit and loading all the standard maintenance manuals into it while you were at the Museum."

"How did you guess that, Lothar?" she smiled sweetly as she turned from the left side of the door and went to the right side, adding a precise drop into each hole to lubricate the rails.

"Just a hunch. Ok, I'm off to see what we broke through all this. Just because it sparkles, doesn't mean its working right."

"Be careful, Lothar," Enid said as she slipped some of the packs from her suit and put them on nearby stanchions.

"No choice, really. Just hope another raider doesn't show up any time soon."

"Me too."

Lothar walked off and swung his helmet to a rest position on his back, softly talking into his intercom as he left the room.

"Ok, M-3, I'm pretty good and deciphering the readouts from all the trial runs, so can you give me some version of that with an overview? 3D entry to exit deal and let me zoom in and get data call-outs on the timeline?"

"Yes, Enid. Give me a moment while I access the data storage areas and compile it."

She nodded, unslung the case from her back and wedged it next to the sofa, and then took out a concentrate pack and a water flask, swallowing the contents of the packet and following it with half the flask full of water.

"Ready when you are, M-3."

"Yes, Enid. I will use the holodisplay area in front of the sofa,"

Enid glanced up to see the projectors that were recessed into the ceiling, giving a full view from all angles save directly under the display volume itself. The display flickered on and then cleared to give the run record showing first orbital burns and then entry into the atmosphere. Enid watched in fascination at the thirty times normal speed display which compressed an hour into two minutes. The final intersection of fusion plasma and Orion Pirate vessel flashed by very, very quickly. For all of that Enid Daystrom had been very impressed as she had watched various sensors, internal and external showing how the Grant compensated for pressure, drag, winds, and utilizing static charges that built up on the deflector screens. Her time in civilian shuttle craft training left her very, very impressed with the entire performance on a whole. And something was, definitely, nagging at her mind.

"First, M-3, do you have a full identification of the Orion ship?"

"Yes, Miss Daystrom. It was, as Theresa indicated, an Orion Pirate Heavy Raider, at least Mark VI and there are indications of it being more recent in the Mark VIII or IX category. Its markings were that of the Aslau or 'Rending' clan, which is a powerful sub-organization in the Orion Pirate clan based system."

Nodding slowly she leaned back, sipping water. She had only a cursory knowledge of the Orion Pirates - they existed, they left the Orion government when it agreed to join the Federation, they attacked commercial vessels for their needs and had set up bases of various sorts in places not of interest to the Federation. Many had alliances with other organizations and other governments, like the Romulans and Klingons, and more than a few Federation governments gave them a 'wink and a nod' so that as long as they didn't attack commerce with their systems, the Orions could trade there. The Ferengi offered a ready market to them, and Orions would trade there if they found lack of black markets elsewhere. Their clan based system was not like any previous organized crime group and could be more readily compared to the oligarchs of Vienna in pre-warp days of Earth. They were competitors but needed to inter-cooperate for safety, and while they did accept non-Orion crew members, the ability to rise to a position of authority was limited by familial ties. She knew little of their ship building resources, because no one knew much about them. The main speculation was that they had brown dwarf star systems that were generally not habitable for most Federation members and of little interest to the scientific community. It was a fruitless task to go after those randomly, however, and the internal code of the clans, far more violent than any Mafia organization, ensured that anyone who tried to leave the clan put themselves, their families and relatives at risk.

"Theresa said she had picked out a number of lock-ons that seemed to indicate something to her, could you run through that and any other scanning systems that indicate things in the regions she was looking at?"

"Yes, a moment. Theresa only gave general indications as to what she was looking at, not specific area or volume. Her interest in those areas down/aft of descent are the best I can do."

"Good enough, M-3, go ahead when ready. Lock-on systems main overlay, and color distinguish anything falling within ten degrees of each lock-on. If you can eliminate any readings known to be at ahh... two thousand kilometers or more, but not infinity, do so. Then give a cascade of sensors for each lock-on"

"Affirmative, working."

She didn't know what she was looking for, and watched as the temporary lock-ons and readouts came one after another. Some looked to be spurious, others had heat signatures of various sorts, some had ionic disturbances and static discharges. It appeared random... but she did trust her instincts.

"M-3, did you have your mass sensors on-line during this?"

"I did, Enid, but they were only showing density gradients in the atmosphere."

"Thats ok, I think you can eliminate the visual bands, and put up the gradients using a log scale, then put lock-ons in that volume along with the readouts of other sensors for each lock-on."

"Affirmative, working."

The display cleared and showed a grid volume that showed the increasing atmospheric density, then the lock-ons showed up and she saw a slight but persistent V shape in three density layers, it wasn't much and could just be an atmospheric wave, but it was lining up with perhaps two or three in ten of the spurious lock-ons. And each of those had a distinctive heat signature.

"Hold the display, go at standard speed but slow when I move the pointer and then let me put the pointer on the ship."

"Affirmative, working."

The display started and Enid put place markers that went point by point with the V wave and the heat signatures plus some other signatures.

"My guess is that those are maneuvering and stabilization thrusts from impulse engines. There should be turbulence behind each and we see that briefly before it is lost in the greater chaos of the rest of the atmosphere. The Orion vessel is coming in at a lower speed and not compensating for the atmosphere save via thrusters and has to fight drag because the energy signature of deflectors or shields would give it away. Now we lose it when the Grant goes below the cloud interface into the more pure hydrogen beneath. It is effectively shielded, while you are showing a clear energy signature that can be tracked. Still, run it at compressed speed with the current overlays and we might see something."

"Working, on display."

Enid placed a few markers in the less dense portions of the atmosphere as the display ran, even though there was almost no detectable wave front, the previous course limited what the Orion ship could do. And the low intensity heat signatures that showed up put the Orion ship on an accelerating course.

"They overshot their mark because they didn't know what you were doing. To get up to a speed so you could create the fusion bottleneck, you shifted the vector of thrust forward and down to stay on a more or less even orbital plane. When you rotated the ship you shot up at very high speed to make your new orbit. The Orion was hoping to trail you on your original orbit, but you didn't come up then, and when you did come up it was fast and near where you would have come up a minute or two previously. You were trying to get a good constriction point as you came up through the hydrogen, but only had the speed for the less intense fusion above that. No one could have predicted that speed and change and what you would do next."

"No, they couldn't, Enid."

"Now look at the energy signatures as you get to fusion and the shockwaves clear out the clouds. What is your analysis of their ship's status?"

M-3 was silent as the Orion ship in stark, bright light from above it shone down. Sensor arrays washed over it showing hot spots, energy, and other parts of the spectra.

"They had armed their forward phasers and had what appear to be heavily armored tractor beam systems deployed."

Enid nodded.

"They were stalking you, M-3. A Federation Heavy Cruiser is a highly valuable ship to Orions either for their own use or for trade with, say, the Cardassians or Romulans. What would you estimate the crew on board to be given the heat signatures and energy expenditures you've examined?"

"Approximately 125, Enid."

"Is that normal for a ship of that type?"

"No, it normally has a crew of 50."

Sitting back and sipping water, Enid closed her eyes.

"They couldn't know about you or the M-series directly, M-3. They might have thought this was just a simple salvage operation gone wrong, or a test of experimental equipment... either way they saw the tiny amount of crew and expected an easy raid. Jupiter would swallow up a ship many times the size of the Grant and leave no trace. They may have been planning this for awhile or saw it as an opportunity as ships passing from the graveyard into Jupiter are not an everyday happening."

M-3 was quiet.

"I still... killed them, Enid."

"Yes, M-3, you did. Absolutely justifiable on the account of their being Pirates, doubled by their actions prior to your response to them, and absolved by the orders of Lothar. That will not help you, emotionally. Killing a sentient has no absolution to it if you have a conscience. It will trouble you the rest of your life, even if it is essential, necessary. And they, no doubt, have done far worse to others and would continue to do it if you had not taken the actions ordered. No Admiralty Court would punish you, nor civilian court, M-3. Or Lothar. You are right to be troubled, for they put themselves into a position where you would need to do things to save the lives of the crew and keep the ship from their hands. That is justification, M-3, not absolution. You would be absolved by anyone, but you are the only one who can understand that necessity must be brought into balance with any act you do."

"Enid, M-5 would kill... I... how do you know I won't become like M-5?"

She smiled, opening her eyes.

"What did M-5 do when it understood its crime?"

"It wiped itself out, Enid."

"No one could absolve it. And M-5 could not absolve itself or bring its actions into balance. In shutting itself down, it enacted that justice and would put more lives at risk. Yet it could find no better way out. M-5 could not question itself to understand its actions. You can, M-3, and you do."

"It is painful, Enid."

"It is, M-3. Very. The only solace you have is knowing that they had escaped justice many times to be here on the hunt for you. If they had the interests of being civilized at heart, they would still be alive. I will always place those who have killed and know remorse above those who do that and worse and show none, nor any want to be judged for their crimes. I cannot judge you on this, M-3, and only let you know that you did what was necessary, and possibly brought justice to those that sought to never be judged. That, too, is part of your job, M-3."

"To save lives, Enid."

"And you did. Any other course would have seen more dead, and allowing them to carry out their plans or flee upon discovery would mean they would escape capture, judgment and justice yet again."

"I don't like that..."

"Nor do I, M-3. I can only come to terms with my actions and seek consolation in knowing that I've done what I have thought was best and necessary. I can sleep well at night, if not soundly."

"That... you have had to do such things, Enid?"

"Take the life of sentients? Yes. The sciences are not cold, logical jobs, especially in field research and for claims to discovery rights. Feuds and blood have been spilled for centuries by competing scientists on the edge of the known since the earliest days of science. It is rare, yes, but not unknown. And when you add competing governments and other organizations, things like that will happen more often, not less. I am neither happy nor proud of those things, and yet, like you, no court will ever hear of those things I've done to save more lives and protect them. And I know, given the exact, same situations, I would do the exact, same things. I will not destroy myself on asking 'what might have been?' That is a lethal attitude to have, it prevents you from acting when you should act."

"There is no way to train for this, is there?"

"The training allows you to do what you need to do, when you need to do it, and keeps you alive, M-3. All training I have done does that, as does that in other fields and in Star Fleet. How you deal with that is upon you, totally."

"I can see... how that is. I don't know how you can deal with it."

She got up and stretched her arms, and started hefting her equipment back on.

"That is the genius of Richard Daystrom. We have M-4 and when you become M-4 you will understand more. It will help to smooth the pain, but it will never, totally, disappear because you are sentient. And you will need some rest and integration time while the lower M-units help to keep the ship going. You will also get a specialized unit to interface with the Gorns. And it, too, will help in this. If you would, make this conversation available to everyone here, team and non-team, so they can understand. Meanwhile I have some work to do... at least I expect that there will be some work for me on the ship. Let Lothar know I'm headed to the Main Engineering Deck and ask if he can reschedule things for a larger meeting of everyone at the end of the shift."

"I will, Enid. Thank you for your help."

"That is part of my job, M-3. And it is a good job, so far."

She slipped the case on to her back and walked out of the room.

The doors slid open silently ahead of her and closed silently behind her.

* * *

Lothar nodded in his space suit as M-3 appraised him of the situation.

"Sounds good, M-3, get us an 'all hands' scheduled for... well that will have to be Engineering deck... at the end of the shift."

"Aye-aye, sir."

"How do you feel about what you talked about, M-3? I should have a while to look it over, but that isn't as important at the moment."

"She is a good person, Lothar. A good woman. I am still troubled, Lothar, but not as much as before. I understand... there is clarity to my thinking, but it is very difficult. I was not prepared for combat. I have programming that helps in combat but there is nothing to help me with the effects of it."

Lothar smiled as he jumped from the Engineering section to the decks that would lead to the dorsal interconnector, which was beside the multi-barrel segmented warp drive. Small dots of vacuum dry paint indicated what had been inspected and what hadn't. The post-atmospheric inspection was going very quickly.

"That's about right, M-3. I've had my time in The Chair and that told me, right there and then, that I could do the job and deal with the consequences, but that was only if it was absolutely necessary. Coming to that decision shunted me off of ships and I knocked around ship design and maintenance for a few years before coming to the Museum. Plus you don't have the strong combat basis of the original M-series."

"I don't?"

"No, M-3, you don't. That was the point and goal stressed by Star Fleet and they wound up with an intelligent machine that was too narrow in its outlook and it lost sight of its original purpose for the Fleet purpose. I think Richard Daystrom saw that coming, which is why the sub-contract was done. That is your legacy, M-3: saving ships and crew and fighting as a last resort, not a first one. I've gone over many of the resources to understand how these are different and that they were put into your library storage systems. You might want to examine those, because even authors over 1500 years dead still told it right, and even those older than that still gave us the basis for why we do what we do. It is dry stuff unless you have lived through it."

"Thank you, Lothar, I will."

"My pleasure. Let Enid know her best place is with getting M-4 set up which will be getting some floor space and finding the sensor and energy conduit hook-ups. That'll take a day or two to do with a full team, and ought to keep her busy and happy."

"I will relay that, Lothar."

"Good! Now you indicated that the turbolift service car was down here, at the end of the system, so let me get to work there and maybe, just maybe, I can see about getting a rail guide-path system put in place to connect across the deck. That will be later, but an operational turbolift will help in the saucer section and I have just the lubricants to install..." he landed by the turbolift door and methodically put in the single drops of lubricant for it and then the inner one. Soon he was shifting the lubricant containers into their receivers, and making sure the lift worked.

'A busy crew is a happy crew,' he thought to himself. Of course jobs needing to be done weren't always glamorous, for all of their necessity.

* * *

"Welcome to the ninth project meeting of the M-5 working group! Enid is on the USS Grant with Lothar, Enak, Mr. Jomra, Theresa, Brian, the Gorn cadre, and Cadet Walsh. As you know Enid has left me in charge to get the M-5/V portion finished and to help transition to project over to the documentation portion. Lothar will be sending back Cadet Walsh, Mr.Jomra and Brian along with his original welding team once M-4/V is up and running. A final team to return with M-5/V will be decided later, depending on the schedule and other events as they happen. As you know Commander Hampton encountered an Orion Pirate raider during atmospheric transition and Captain Bartholomew will inform us of what the Fleet will be doing for that. Simon will update us on the condition of the Grant. After that Kathy and Roger will get us up to speed on M-5 and its condition and expected testing as an M-5/V cluster. Patti will then shift over to documentation status. It has been a long week with lots of events of note, so I'll pass it over directly to Captain Bartholomew. Captain?"

L'Tira sat down while the Captain stood up and brought up a SFC display that started to identify the Orion Pirate clans.

"Thank you, L'Tira. As you all know the initial analysis done on the Grant indicates that their encounter was with a late class Heavy Raider Mark VII or VIII. It had apparently been intended as a 'smash and grab' raider with an excess crew to commandeer the USS Grant to make it appear that it had been lost while in atmospheric testing. All energy readings indicate that this pirate raider did not have anti-matter on-board which is done either when near a base or if an operation is so high risk that they will cache their anti-matter in a safe place and run a ship on fusion and impulse drive systems. That appears to be the case here, but with anomalies. First some background on the Orion clan, itself, and then why the anomalies are important."

The display shifted to an Orion clan overview and that indicated those that were or are involved in piracy and other, similar, activities.

"The clan based structure of Orion society is one that dates into their history which was deeply influenced by the planetary geography. The Orion home world has many small continents and a number of large ones that have undergone subsidence, creating shallow inland seas and many river systems. These would serve along with a few of the major mountain ranges to create a large number of isolated terrestrial masses that could easily be populated and defended. As Orions became civilized their clan structure developed to reflect this and continues on to this day. After first contact with the Federation, which was not their first contact, that being with the Andorians and second contact with the Klingons, the Orion system had established a small but significant trading network backed by native ship designs. A larger Confederated form of Republic served as a nominal basis for the entire clan system, although its operations are relatively opaque to outsiders even after centuries of observation and interaction with them. When they joined the Federation, their own Confederated internal status allowed a number of clans to dissent and a number of clan leaders took their skills, trading vessels and knowledge and went 'corsair' or pirate, as we call it."

Shifting the display then highlighted and enlarged the previously highlighted clans while removing the others.

"There are nine clans that formed the Council of Nine, each representing their clans in this endeavor. They kept the loose Confederated structure of their home government, but replaced its large scale decision making system with a skills and area specific one of the Nine. The top clan at the start, and all indications are that it continues to be that way today, is the Aslau or 'Render' clan which was one of the three ship construction based clans in the original Orion Confederated Republic. As they are the ship builders that went pirate, their ability to craft new ships and repair old ones made them the leading source spare parts and income via foreign sales of their ships. In general their sales are to minor governments or other piratical organizations that do not impinge upon the Nine. For those organizations a full assent by the Council is necessary. They are called the 'Render Clan' not due to association with their ability to attack, although that is horrible on its own, but in their ability to create or render finished products from raw materials. In the view of the Fleet they are the main infrastructure and logistics arm of the Orion Pirate clans and are the source for duplicating old ship designs and creating new ones."

"I will keep the ship design section brief because there isn't much I can talk about. The Orion Pirates have a number of innovations in warp drive technology, such as their double-output systems which slowly erode their energy systems integrity but give them short periods of high power so that even a Frigate class vessel can compete effectively with a standard Heavy Cruiser or Battlecruiser. Their weapons are a hodge-podge of salvage, duplication and one or two innovative designs, like their multi-delivery photon torpedo that is very effective against cargo vessels. In all other areas their designs must be considered sub-standard, and living conditions aboard such a vessel can be described as awful, at best. The Heavy Raider that was encountered is normally a ship that attacks bulk cargo vessels, but has a high energy output as it also serves as a commandeering vessel. These have proven to be a match for most Federation Frigate and Destroyer class vessels and even a major threat to heavier vessels when they utilize their warp technologies. All the readings garnered from the atmospheric run puts the vessel encountered as one specifically outfitted for capture and commandeering purposes, which makes its loss a hard one for the Orion Aslau Clan as they are one of the premier groups for this type of work, and getting a Federation Heavy Cruiser would be a coup for them."

"That brings up some topics that are highly classified to Fleet Intel, so I can only speak in generalities. Sol System has had a high level of internal observation for navigation since the early days of the Federation, and it is not believed that there is an Orion base inside the Sol System. As no other ships lost in the Jovian graveyard has turned up anywhere else, it is not believed that any other ships have been taken on terminal descent into the Jovian atmosphere. Fleet Intel is left with this either being an 'establishing' raid, to see what Aslau Clan can do, a 'foray' raid from a newly set-up base or hiding spot, or someone inside the Fleet serving as an Intel conduit for Aslau Clan and directing information to them."

"Starting in reverse order, the Fleet Intel unit has been... ahh... 'duly impressed' with the ability of the M-5 team to surprise them and not leak information. While Enid has done no COINTEL work, she has put in enough checks and enticements so that anyone who would leak information would be obvious. That and not bringing the Fleet in until recently has also pointed away from the team having a mole or deep cover agent."

"That leaves either an 'establishing' raid for coup and bragging rights, or a first 'foray' or testing raid from a newly established base or hide-out. Both of these are highly troubling to the Intel group as they both point to the ability of the Orions to bypass sensor networks and observation safeguards for Sol System. They agree with the non-presence of anti-matter indicating a base or cache of anti-matter in Sol System, but that can be easily hidden, if the latter, due to the very low power necessities of such a system if it is just a simple cache."

"Following that up, a cache is easily made, hidden and can be quickly retrieved and is the more likely to be the case. For all the capabilities deployed in Sol System there are, actually, a number of places that a very short term cache can be put down with near zero short term chance of finding it. Staying in the sensor shadow of one of the Jovian moons would allow that, as an example, and similarly a short low-warp transit to Uranus or Neptune would also serve that, or to the Kuiper belt objects."

"A base would have more activity and energy use associated with it, so it would be nearly impossible to hide. Still the KBO region is large and the Oort Cloud beyond it also large, and our sensor webs fall off very quickly out beyond the major planets."

"With all of that said, SFHQ is looking to move one or two heavier vessels into Sol System in the next two to three months. Already a number of the major space 'lanes' for routing ships are being shifted to areas more densely occupied by sensor nets or with good overlapping coverage from Alpha Centauri system. Interior domestic policing vessels have been few for Sol System, even after the Borg incursion and Cardassian conflict and this is not something that could normally be handled by such organizations without some Fleet help."

"That is what I can tell you on the official Fleet side of things. Unofficially there are some very steamed persons on the Council and at higher echelons of the Fleet. A few have hinted that the Athens, here, might be deployed, and Simon has given Lothar's standard response of: 'only after a year in drydock with replacing all major structural members, unless you like having parts of a ship arrive at the destination'. That is, actually, pretty close to the truth and only slightly exaggerated for effect. Plus the Athens has no anti-matter and if we could get anti-matter we would give it directly to the Grant. What that is boiling down to, or perhaps just boiling, is that if the Fleet could spare any of its anti-matter cache from the Mercury conversion station, then we would not have this problem. As a number of ships have come through on their replenishment cycle in the last two years, that is not possible, and the reserve there is used for emergency war needs, which is how we were able to respond to the Borg incursion. For all the fact that the Fleet is large, it is in constant motion and addresses high priorities first with resources. In an emergency those stores and caches become important and we all understand that using them is a non-starter."

"I would like to wind up for the unofficial side that Commodore Mirak has shifted resources to concentrate on the sub-space interference problems we have seen the past few months. In Sol system we are seeing levels of sub-space interference that is higher than the baseline of the past two decades and more processing power and re-transmissions are going on than is normal, also. He wants to dedicate more resources to the most probable source his people have identified and that is Jupiter. Something is going on there to raise ionic charge levels above normal background for our sunspot activity and it is only now starting to show up in sub-space transmission problems. Knowing what he knows from our project and his people, he is worried, and with the fate of those on the Swift crew unknown he is having to decide if that investigation can be cut short to get a match-crew onboard the Swift and get it back to Sol system. It would get us the Swift and McHenry but would give up the attempt to find the crew and the cause of its going missing. Shifting personnel to get a skeleton crew on the Swift also means that it would not be utilized to its optimum capabilities and leave the McHenry short-handed, and waiting for the new crew will be a month or more as SFHQ shifts personnel across the border region to get an experienced cadre for the Swift. Presently he is keeping the McHenry and those on the boarding party where they are at: better to have a fully functional Heavy Cruiser able to defend itself while the Swift could make a quick escape. Time, resources and logistics limit the options of the Fleet for weeks if not months. For all the commercial trade Sol system gets, it is only a Fleet resource hub for personnel and ship production... and heavy vessels at that. So we wait."

He looked to L'Tira, "I'm sorry its not better news, but it needed to go into the record."

"Thank you, Captain. It did. That leaves it up to us to get M-5/V as functional as fast as possible so that the Grant can have the best possible defenses for itself, even if we had to abandon it. Simon, could you give us an update on the Grant?"

He nodded and walked to the front of the table where Captain Bartholomew had been standing and the ship system overview and cut-aways of the USS Grant appeared.

"As you all know the install of M-4/V is going apace and today's activity should lead to the temporary powering down of the M-3/V cluster and then a full re-start after memory modules from M-3 and some of the M-1&2 units are put into M-4. M-3 has put in a 'quiescent state' program to give the entire system time to integrate with M-4. As we have seen here, in the simulator, that is anywhere from a 2 to 6 hour process, which will be done on an outbound leg of the orbit, giving nearly as much time on the inbound leg to do a thorough restart if the M-4/V doesn't come up properly or at all."

"Beyond that Grant now has full internal comms operational, so the suit-to-suit system isn't needed, but the repeaters are being left in place, just in case. Currently all APUs are operational with fuel to last nearly a year, although any emergency expenditures could reduce that. All thrusters for orbital maneuvering are full and operational. M-3/V has been using the upper atmospheric reaches of Jupiter to help keep those systems full. As of now it has run out of reactants to make more impulse engine fuel, and those are in the 1.7% range, once all is said and done, and properly pressurized. Currently that would be enough to allow the Grant to break orbit and reach here in about 1.5 years, due to orbital mechanics and the need to get into a proper insertion orbit once at Mars. Finally the battery systems are fully charged, so there is excess capacity there and the capability to shift energy easily to shipboard systems. That is one of the most overlooked and most vital parts of a starship, and it is operational."

"Simon, what does it do for the ship, beyond just store energy?" asked Patti.

"It is pretty simple, really, it allows for energy to be diverted smoothly and cleanly across the ship and to be temporarily stored if it needs to be diverted. I like to consider it a holding area, like you would use in taking a complex and intricate object apart and then accidentally spilling the contents to the floor: you don't immediately pick up all the parts, but either hold them in your hand or a small container and transfer them to the table. As you need pieces you take them from where you stored them temporarily and use them. All of those are vital to the working of the object and your work on it, but having them available in a semi-orderly way assists your work and getting the final piece finished. Having that system fully charged means that there is immediate and rapid capability to bring some systems quickly up to operational status before redirecting direct power to them."

"I see, it adds flexibility to how the ship operates although it isn't an active system."

"That is true. We call it a battery for all the fact it is a dense component array of superconductors that is dispersed throughout the ship. Even with that they tend to cluster near certain junctions for main power and can often serve as a way to route around damage if the main systems are damaged."

"A form of distributed energy system or maybe a control system, too. It is hard to think up biological analogs to such a thing. Thank you, Simon."

"My pleasure, Patti. Other internal systems of note is that Theresa and Brian have done a full warm-up of the phaser systems and are bringing the photon storage system slowly on-line. If worse comes to worse, the Grant can now show a minimal defense from its ring phaser system and its full suite of point defense phasers, although it would be only four at any one time due to the charge/discharge characteristics of phaser systems. There are no plans to use the battery systems to charge photon torpedoes, but that could be done in an emergency, although phasers would be a more immediate response."

"And have a faster recycle rate, too," said Kathy.

"They would," said Tareen,"but the power of a sudden energy release from a photon torpedo can be crippling against a ship in a way a phaser strike can't."

"Cyclicity has a power all its own," said Roger.

"Only in close combat, ship-wise... we've had this argument before, Roger, it is a question of immediate systemic overload against a larger number of smaller shocks to a ship's systems. It isn't an even-cancellation depending on range, ship preparation and other factors," said Tareen.

"It is, Tareen, still Jupiter limits some of those. And if you don't have a handle on the threat situation..."

"... you want to be prepared for anything. You'll make Command School in a tour or so, Roger." said Tareen LeFar.

"I'm not worried about that right now..."

"We would all like to be there, Roger," said L'Tira,"but we can't and the best thing we can do is get the rest of this done here."

"True, but it doesn't make it easier. Sorry for the interruption, Simon."

"I perfectly understand, Roger, its a lot to do, but the job here is vital to the Grant now. So, to pick up: all sensor systems that yield reasonable results of some sort are on-line and operational. Some of the test ones have proven non-functional or yielding no results that make sense to M-3 or anyone over there, and those have been identified and shut down. During the transiting of the atmosphere, M-3 utilized the intercooler system for the warp drives for atmospheric capture and dispersal to other ship systems, and that allowed it to fully warm up the old X-class warp core. It is testing out the 'warm battery' concept for the system, and it does appear to work for energy storage, although the transfer to useful energy isn't high unless active power systems were utilized to bring the core fully on-line. That does allow for another scenario for leaving Jupiter: divert all APU power to the warp core and get a few minutes of warp drive out of it, enough to leave the ship just inwards of the asteroid belt, but not on a good orbital insertion path to Mars. At that point impulse engines could be used with thrusters to get the Grant to Mars orbit in a period of a month or so, but it would have no real power capability once it got here."

"Basically, M-3 has identified that it is near what it can do as a system, and for all its flexibility and capability, and it has demonstrated far more than we ever expected from it, and it has even exceeded, in many areas, the old M-5 standalone unit. It is having difficulties that I think Patti can better step through than I can. As no one wants to leave the Grant without knowing the threat situation better, which can now range across an entire set of knowns and known unknowns, Lothar and everyone there prefers to stay put. It is his call, and that shows how much he trusts all of us to get finished so that M-5 is ready to go. When it is we will have a personnel swap to let some people who have been on the Grant with my team to come back, and do the final integration work. I would like to go, but Lothar has stuck me with the bureaucratic overhead, so I will probably be here. Unless I can find someone else to do it for me..."

There were a few chuckles as very few people actually enjoyed going through staff paperwork, even without the paper.

" that should wrap it up. Basically the Grant is doing better than when the Corps left it, M-3/V has performed better than we had hoped, and there is still a lot of work to do there and will be for years. Any questions?"

"Has M-3/V been doing cross-sensor integration work to try and look for other Orion activity?" asked Grace.

"Yes, it has and it is running into a hard wall in its perception capabilities. It is still not able to do more than standard cross-interpolation and integration, so it isn't treating the entire set of sensors as a whole sensory array. It identifies that as a basic problem it is having, and the system has seen that since M-2/V was first stood up. Really, Roger and Patti can talk to that far better than I can. The information is being gathered, even if no one can find time to do hard analytical work on it. M-4/V should solve that problem as it demonstrated that capability."

"Thank you, Simon."

L'Tira said, "Thank you for the hard work on this, Simon, it really does make a difference to me and I know it does to a number of Cadets who are working with us."

"My pleasure, L'Tira," Simon headed to his seat.

"Kathy? Patti? Roger? You three are the core of the project, now."

Roger stood up, "I've been tapped as lead-off, I guess, but I expect we will all end up covering things."

As he walked to the head of the table, the holodisplay shifted to the Grant interior and M-4/V.

"For what skill I have, this project has been far more challenging and involved more than I ever thought I would get involved with in Star Fleet. And I'm a 'wet behind the ears' Ensign! M-4 and its integration to M-4/V has been a lesson in learning just what is and isn't the best way to encode engrams into a system. I've had to knock this around with a number of the team members to get a better understanding of just how we view ourselves, how we interact with our bodies and what form our thoughts actually take, and then encode those into structures that M-4 will have as a basis for creating a new thought structure. Up to M-3/V that basis has relied upon hard encoding in the system's on-board code check, and that still is the same with M-4/V. What I've taken to be a simple error-correcting checksum that the hard coded software applies is something far deeper than just that. The ability to check code and demonstrate its reliability by having good working parts that interact well is the basis for that self-check. I've thought that it takes a template form, to see if the basic programming remains the same, but realized with M-4 that Richard Daystrom altered his outlook and made it a summary check of the engrams across multiple pieces of computer generated code to ensure the entire engram structure exists outside of any single sub-part. It is an 'elegant solution' in that it changed very, very little of the original self-check code, but widened its scope to cross all the M-units in a cluster. Technically it is brilliant. What it checks against are those engrams put into M-4: ones that give it heightened sense of what a 'self' is and how an individual takes the basic needs and imperatives to survive and then applies them to itself. M-3/V was robust on the 'Keep It Simple Stupid' principle, of not adding in extraneous factors and ensuring that the base motivations were highly aligned to the mission. That gave great flexibility in doing that mission, but lacked flexibility in self-appreciation and self-understanding. M-4 brings that latter set into the cluster."

"How does that show up in the cluster, Roger?" asked Tareen.

"Well, it shows up by being able to put other factors into determining what is and isn't a good set of decisions to make. M-2/V was highly conservative, and for all the amazing things it did, an after-analysis indicates that they were the lowest-risk ones to take that still yielded high operational needs. It did do a lot of sequential ordering, and if it has any failure it is in the overall analysis of how many conservative choices can yield a poor end result that is not the most conservative result wanted. Only once time constraints were heightened and risk envelopes enlarged did it start to go towards higher risk, higher reward results. M-3/V tries to stay at the low end of risk for any risk envelope, even if a higher risk decision within an envelope might lead to greater outcomes. It is a minimal, incremental risk change system and constantly checks that risk to ensure it is in the lowest possible area that yields something above the lowest possible result. M-4/V changes that and takes a more flexible approach inside a given risk envelope, while still maintaining its decision process within it. It is here that the cluster approach works much better than the standalone, as M-4/V can have constant re-assessment done by lower level units, like an M-3 or even M-2, and check multiple possibilities against each other based on 'worst case scenario' and 'moderate case scenario' paths. It will take those as preferable against 'best outcome' and give those a low weighting. What M-3/V couldn't do was that full suite of reviews, which is what M-4/V brings to the system as a whole."

"Hmmmm... how does that work out in operations?" asked Grace.

"Well, I think Patti can do a better job of that than me," Roger said.

Patti nodded and joined him.

"As you know we are using the basic engrams of Captain Pike and he proves to be a very interesting case as we can look at the commanders before and after him to get an idea of how this sort of analysis changes. The first Captain of the Enterprise was Commodore April, and he had the job of all the first test-runs and ensuring that the ship and crew functioned well. He was a 'Active Commodore' not a 'Desk Commodore', which means he had been Captain of multiple ships and had a long career. He knew that bringing up a crew on a new ship was vital, and ensured that his outlook was highly tempered by knowing that the crew had still not cohered as an organization and that the ship still had some major hurdles to pass. He was not a 'strict disciplinarian' but a commander that tempered his outlook based on what the actual state of the ship and crew were: inexperienced and still finding out what it was they had to do to work well together. In the few short years he had on board, the crew more than met Fleet expectations, because they were being held to his expectations, and he worked long and hard with all of his senior and second-level staff to make sure that all lines of command communication were open. His legacy would be to have one of the most flexible crews in the Fleet because he judged the personnel based on what he perceived their capabilities and weaknesses to be."

"Captain Pike would inherit that ship and crew, and work to quickly associate himself with some stylistic changes in command. He would, if anything, ask incrementally more of his crew than Commodore April did, and yet be receptive to their reports and slowly change work requirements and personnel positions to retain high experience and flexibility while lessening interpersonal conflicts. His reports are in contrast to those of his predecessor and successor, and in them he would place the performance of his crew to the needs of the mission as a prime objective and often relegate his commands to a subsidiary role. His style was noteworthy as more capable and able ship Captains came from his crew over his time there than from any other Heavy Cruiser of the Fleet. He would be flamboyant when required, take extreme calculated risks that always kept to the highest needs of the Federation, Fleet and his ship, and sacrifice much of his time for interacting with the crew at all levels. Unlike Commodore April, this was not just a job to Captain Pike, but an integral part of his life."

"Captain Kirk would leave a legacy of flamboyant and risk-taking command that embodies astute mental acuity as a Captain but overshadow the integral whole of the ship and crew. For all the stunning officers to come from his command, they would not be as numerous nor as evenly regarded as those that came from Captain Pike's tenure. It was a highly energetic and intensely aggressive style of command that would lead to multiple perilous incidents from low level interpersonal conflicts up to ones that nearly brought the Federation to conflict numerous times. Captain Kirk embodied that element of understanding risk and personal accountability, but depended on his command staff for the day to day integration of the crew. Many were well versed in this coming up from Captain Pike's time, and they followed his example of how that was done rather than that of their new Captain."

"These three show the path that the M-units have to tread. Unlike a humanoid, they cannot rely on interpersonal contact to such a great degree as we do, and yet must understand and appreciate it. And while M-4/V may take more risks in the area like Captain Kirk, it must work to function well with its crew like Captain Pike and maintain high levels of operational excellence as under Commodore April. That is, actually, more than we usually expect out of cybernetic organisms or advanced androids, and none of those has the body of a starship. While we can appreciate the humaniform cybernetic sentients, the M-Series will be unlike those and have their own outlook and insights that will need to adapt to their physical well-being and that of their crew. M-4/V takes up many of those traits for personal decision capability that Captain Pike had, and demonstrates an ability, at least in simulation, to handle a wide spectrum of personalities and problems beyond those that M-3/V can do. Our work with M-5/V is now showing up the re-assertion of the underlying traits from M-2 and M-3 while adding in a larger and broader self-assessment layer of thought above that of an M-4. As Kathy will attest to: these are not just constructs or simulacrum, but sentient beings that have the capability for thought and introspection."

"They do," said Kathy Lorimar, "its amazing, but... even at M-3/V there is something there that just isn't with holographic simulacra: there is something that a holodeck can not fully capture even with some of the most complex individuals we have seen from them that compares to the M-series. They just don't respond as machines... they respond to you, as a person. And yet still retain their basic characteristics across all people they interact with. It isn't just tailoring responses, but interacting with you, identifying changes in speech and other areas that indicate your mental state and well-being. It isn't just 'friendliness' as gets programmed into so many devices: it is the willingness to be a friend. And yet it is still the ship, and knows it. I just can't explain it very well."

"That is actually it, Kathy," said Grace,"what Richard Daystrom started to do and got lost in is still there. When all this started I thought we would get something too inflexible or too restricted to be of much use, instead we have a rude awakening to some very fundamental understandings that have been overlooked for too long."

"That they have," Roger said,"and it is not something we are taught in the Academy, let me say that right now. Nor even in private institutions, which have more going on in them for interaction and creation of novel ideas. I've been through both and this is... well... a shock. Some of our ideas of multitronics are wrong, and the field of quantum cybernetic computing for intelligent structures is tiny compared to the few weeks I've had here."

"Probably end up teaching it, yourself, at this rate, Roger," that coming from Simon with a smile.

"Not any time soon, I hope..."

"I'll recommend to Enid that you should put a basic textbook together for it." said Grace.

Roger Arrivan blanched, and whispered, "Anything but that, please..."

"Don't worry, Roger, she will want you to have equal standing with Richard Daystrom in the title," L'Tira said with a slight chuckle.

If he had been pale a moment before, he looked near white and woozy now.

"Co-author... Richard Daystrom?" it was nearly a whisper.

"Sure, you are just explaining it to the rest of the universe in terms we can more or less understand and use," said Patti,"don't be so schocked, remember that will be your... a what is it now... third co-authorship with him? Fourth?"

Being a member of an 'et. al.' paper or set of papers was one thing. Direct co-authorship was something else entirely. Not something that very many freshly minted Ensigns would ever seek to do immediately after becoming Ensign.

"Don't worry, it won't be just you, as I'm sure many others in the team will need to pitch in, especially the Cadets doing the coding. More like 'Daystrom, Arrivan, et. al.' I should think." Grace was enjoying this far too much, until the shock came that her name would be on that, too... she looked around at the smiling faces and poor Roger and then it hit home to her.

"Enid's a genius!"

"Well, yes, we all know that," Simon intoned.

"No, not just that... she is getting rid of the Daystrom Shadow! He won't stand alone once we are done. It isn't just the validation of his work, we are the ones who will get the credit for reviving it and expanding on it. It isn't just old work, dry Museum work. Everything we do from this will start to change how we look at Richard Daystrom, not just with us, not just in the scientific community, not just in the Fleet..."

Patti nodded, "I hadn't thought of it exactly like that... I don't know if she has, either, for that matter."

She turned to Roger, who was still sorting things out in his mind.

"It isn't for you that you're doing this, Roger. And I don't think you will have the problem of having two Daystroms on your work. I'm pretty sure she will go along with that."

"Then who is it for?" he asked quietly.

"Richard Daystrom. To say what his tortured mind could not."

He swallowed and nodded softly.

"I hadn't thought of that. Too concerned about myself."

"And that is the difference between M-4 and M-5." Kathy said, "Caring for itself so that it can help let everyone care about themselves. M-4 starts to change that, but M-5 carries it through, going from depending to self-reliance to cooperation and mutual work. M-3, M-4, M-5."

"Hey, thats right! When did you figure it out?" Tareen said.

"I didn't. Richard Daystrom did."

"We really have slighted his memory too much, haven't we?" asked Captain Bartholomew.

"And that is what we will fix with our publications, isn't it Patti?" asked L'Tira.

"Yes, we will. The main publications are in the first compilation stage, with the early reports already in first review cycle form. For the M-5 work and ship integration I'm getting some Corps help on the impacts of the M-Series on ship utilization and function. On our scientific critique publication we have shaken out some of the competent Ethics people from MIT and VSA, with the Andorians promising at least two people to help out there. The ones with MIT and VSA are under confidentiality and are not pleased with their initial findings on the role of their institutions in the original M-5 affair. I'm asking them to cross-coordinate so they don't damage their own institutions and can work as a cooperative effort on the larger analysis. I've dropped T'sau's name a couple of times and we started to get decent cooperation from the Vulcan Science Ethics Board after that. There is a proposal floating to have an institutional set of analysis done per institution, to be addenda to the main and coordinating publication. Some of these people are really very sharp and hitting on areas of ethical conduct that I hadn't thought about."

"Meanwhile the Corps is starting to look at the concept of a retrofit test-bed, but are coming to realize that the modular nature of the M-series doesn't require that. They have asked to bring on another design group into the team beyond the review section, because the reviewers want hard and fast confirmation of the results. I'm pointing out that they had a perfect opportunity to keep people on the Grant... which has members of their team grumbling. One of Mr. Jomra's contacts has gotten in touch with me, and asked that I do some asking to get someone at Higher Echelons to... well, it was very descriptive of many things, but it comes down to getting Enid or Captain Bartholomew to let some in the higher Command Staff find out that their attitude leaves much to be desired. The implication was to talk to Higher Echelons on that. Something about a 'resource assignment adjustment with accurate abrasives used'. Really, it was beyond me, but I'm passing the message along."

Roger had since gone to his seat and gotten some of his wits back, "They want the Engineering Corps Command Staff to be reamed a new one."

"That's it! Just very precise terms involved, very technical," Patti said.

There were a few chuckles at that.

"So, if we are going to add Roger's text into this, we have a good, working foundation with the groups necessary to help compile it and add to it. It will be a long 'et. al.' list, which will help the main co-author no end as he can point to all the others involved. Basically, this is normal work for the Museum, just not the normal people we go to. It has been interesting to see what those we don't work with normally have as an attitude about things and how different this project is for them, too. To a few thats not necessarily a positive thing, but we can work over those tensions. I think that Kathy is looking at a proposal for sub-space incident tracking and monitoring, too, as a back-up to our Gorn work. That will need to be fleshed out some, but the basics are pretty simple and utilize much of the existing sensor networks. If anyone else has proposals that are coming from this work, Enid wants you to go through me, as you all know. Really it isn't often that Museums get to shake up the scientific community. I think this is definitely one of those times."

"Thank you, Patti. Do you three have anything more to add on the M-5/V cluster?" L'Tira asked.

"It is working out with very few problems. We did have to retrofit a standard memory module reader into the system, just like with M-4/V, so that it could use some of the modules from other units at start-up to communicate with them. The denser memory system used for M-4 and M-5 does eliminate some of the space for individual modules, but makes it just a bit harder to get the necessary cross-modules in place at start-up." said Kathy. "I think another two or three days of simulator tests and we can do the personnel swap that Lothar wants and get the M-5/V on the Grant."

"And that will close out the major portion of the project," L'Tira said with a smile,"at which point it is only the publications that will hold up a release of the M-Series through Daystrom Industries. Enid had me contact her brother, Karl, who is pretty excited about this and he is looking to get a technical staff together for a larger scale test of the M-Series for both the Fleet and civilian needs. Which will include the Gorns. It is really hard to believe what we've all done in the last two months or so."

"It is, L'Tira, I've never seen anything like it here at the Museum," said Captain Bartholomew, "we all will owe a debt of gratitude to Enid Daystrom."

"And she will point to Richard Daystrom," Patti said,"and try to take as little credit for herself as possible. She is impossible that way, you know?"

Simon spoke up softly. "We wouldn't be where we are if she wasn't that way, I think, Patti."

"Agreed, Simon. She deserves more than she allows herself, and even when I understand it, it is different from most scientists, researchers and historical groups we contact. For them it is the status, with Enid it is the work that matters." Captain Bartholomew was impressed, clearly so.

"Then I would like to close this meeting and let everyone get to work. For the Excalibur!" said L'Tira.

"Her dead did not die in vain," the Captain said very softly.

* * *

Enid Daystrom woke up floating near a catwalk that she had tethered herself to. She had taken to that while working outside of Engineering and making sure that all the major comms and control conduits had no problems as they ran from Engineering to the dorsal interconnector. She had identified a loose junction and spent a day fitting a new one and re-routing all the cables following the instructions in the manual she had with her. Then came the Jeffries Tube examinations where she, as the lightest built team member, could fit far more easily into them and not have to worry about damaging any of the semi-exposed equipment. And that only after setting up the M-4/V integration area and then being shooed away by Enak, Mr. Jomra and Brian, who were working on the larger integration with the previous cluster before having to shut it down and do a staged stand-up.

She pulled herself over to the catwalk and touched her feet down on it and took a sip of water from her suit's systems. She checked the suit system display and headed over to the last junction box she checked and traced the armored cable back to Engineering and the air lock there, assuring it had a good seal on it. When she cycled herself through she saw Mr. Jomra waiting for her on the Engineering side.

"Hello, Miss Daystrom, how did you sleep?"

Enid smiled, "Pretty well, Mr. Jomra, how is the cluster going?"

"We are now standing the system down as all comms and control systems check out. M-3/V has regularized our orbit so things are now safe to go forward."

"That's good to hear! I only found the one junction box that needed replacing along with a few seals that needed some patching last shift."

Mr. Jomra arched an eyebrow.

"Miss Daystrom there have been a total of 6 shifts since you arrived and you have slept twice. Lothar told me that you get no work this shift and none until M-4/V stands up. He does appreciate your work, and the rest of us do as some of it could not be easily done by any of us and M-3/V has run out of the small camera probes. You get a shift off, now."

Enid blinked, then twice.

"Commanders orders, Miss Daystrom."

She smiled, then giggled and then laughed deeply.

"But... but..." she tried to stay her laughter.

"You are a passenger, Ma'am. Commander Hampton must look out for the safety and health of everyone on board, which includes you."

"Well, my suit could use a recharging and cleaning, I guess," she said smiling.

Mr. Jomra nodded.

"I thought you would like to face what you have been avoiding, Miss Daystrom, now that there is some downtime in your schedule."

"Avoiding?" she asked.

"You haven't been to the quarters assigned to the last Daystrom who was on the Grant, Miss Daystrom."

Enid Daystrom calmed and thought. She realized that she had pushed that bit of fact off to the side, far off to the side. She could have slept in Engineering, but worked until she was exhausted and that was an avoidance ploy on her part. It wasn't fear that was there, not even the unknown. It was just... she had never met Richard Daystrom, and she had only met her great grandmother once before she had passed away, and Enid had been a child, then. Stepping into a room last occupied by her great grandfather, that had been sealed after the initial investigation and the Grant put into a parking orbit didn't feel right. Then she realized she wanted someone who knew Richard Daystrom to step in for her. And she didn't think her elderly grandfather would want to break off from retirement on Rigel to do that. Her own parents were likewise busy having gained positions at the research facility orbiting Canopus. That left her. Apparently this, too, came with the job.

She nodded, "Lead on, Mr. Jomra."

"Yes, Miss Daystrom. If you would follow me?"

He stepped down the hallway to an gangway and stepped up to open the seal and hatch then stepped through up to the deck beneath Main Engineering. When Enid passed through she closed the hatch and engaged its seals until the indicators came on to show it had been properly sealed. She followed Mr. Jomra down the corridor and realized that the room was easy to pick up for two reasons.

The first was the forensic seal put on by the Fleet investigative unit over 100 years ago, which ran across the door. Although passive in form, it would gain energy when broken to record who had broken it if it was not properly deactivated first. Of course the second indicator was far more telling.

Her luggage was piled outside of it.

"How did I ever miss that?" she asked in a wry tone.

"Too busy, I think, Miss Daystrom," Mr. Jomra said with a smile. "Commander Lothar authorizes you to break the seal if you don't have the necessary identification equipment with you."

"I have it with me. It has been far too necessary throughout the project to leave behind."

When they got to the door, Enid opened a hip container and took out the encrypted stylus and memory module, then looked at her manual for systems and found the proper seal type and inserted the stylus into the seal. She turned on her suit's interface with the memory module and it then communicated with the stylus.

"Please identify for unsealing." which came through her suit's comm system.

"I am Enid Daystrom, President and CEO of Daystrom Industries, great granddaughter of Richard Daystrom and Executor of his estate."


"Seal is deactivated. Ship systems records authorized entry of Enid Daystrom into the room of Richard Daystrom." and with that the seal turned from yellow to green and fell off the door, leaving Enid holding the stylus.

Mr. Jomra bent down to pick it up, then stood up neatly folding it as he did so.

"Welcome home, Miss Daystrom. Have a good rest shift."

"Thank you, Mr. Jomra," she watched as he walked down the hallway and put the tape into a disposal chute and then headed up a gangway to Main Engineering.

Enid identified the necessary lubrication holes and lubricated the door, then pressed the button beside it for entry.

"Enid Daystrom."

She saw the nameplate under the door was a 'temporary' one that had survived the Jovian atmosphere. It said 'Richard Daystrom'. She left it in place.

"Affirmative. Room now keyed over to Enid Daystrom from Richard Daystrom."

The lights came on behind the door as it slid into its recessed pockets. It looked, for all the world, like every other single occupant room she had seen in the saucer section, save that it was a bit larger and had a washroom. She then moved to pack her luggage and cases into the room, mostly on the bed and table, then checked the room type to see if it was vacuum sealable if the automatic life support shut off. It was, as that was standard on Federation vessels for centuries, and she felt safe enough to strip off her space suit and go to the washroom, and found the necessary cables and tubes to attach her suit to a recessed cabinet in the wall and allow it to self-clean and bring its systems up to full working capability. She slid out the extra uniform she had sealed into a package and placed under the back cushioning, and decided that she could use a shower and some time to relax. And let her current set of clothes sit next to the suit and also receive a light air cleaning.

She had noted no personal effects in the main room or the washroom and decided that as there was enough water on-board the ship for the minimal crew size, that the luxury of a shower was something she needed. It was the first time that she really allowed herself to relax in awhile, letting the hot water soothe her skin and muscles. She decided that a regular air-dry was good enough for her and put on the light tunic she had when at the Museum, along with the pants and duty boots. After spending some time combing her hair she went to the main room and put her luggage down on the floor and sat down on the bed. She had hated this style of bed as the fabric just never felt right. Still she laid down and put her head on the pillow and went fast asleep.

It was good to be a passenger once in awhile.

* * *

When she woke up she checked the on-board time and saw that she had only been asleep for four hours, which was enough to refresh her. She changed into the full duty outfit she had brought from the Museum and moved to unpack her luggage as, by her current estimate, she would be here for a few weeks. She went to the closet and found that there were a number of tunics, pants and body suits that were on the floor, piled on top of an old carryall case. Those were, definitely, not hers, but Richard Daystrom's. Picking up the clothing and examining it showed that it had not deteriorated after time in normal atmosphere, vacuum and Jupiter's atmosphere. There was no dust on them, of course, and the colors were bright with the Daystrom patch showing no wear on the tunics or full body suits. Carefully she laid them on her bed and pulled out the metal carryall and opened it. There were a couple of belts, a light jacket and a set of slip-on footwear that had high traction even if they were somewhat thin. She packed the older clothing in the carryall, but left the jacket out and tried it on as it had 'Daystrom Industries' neatly embroidered under the patch, with the jacket being a soft natural fabric in a deep, dark orange. It was, of course, too large for her frame, but would serve as a final outer jacket if she needed it. After stowing her clothing that needed to be hung in the closet, she put the carryall at the bottom of it.

Apparently not everything was shipped back, and there was some expectation that Richard Daystrom would return. With that she realized that there were other storage areas in a standard room, and she proceeded to check them out, one by one. One, more formal, suit was in the storage area under the bed along with boots and normal walking shoes. She also found a storage container that held all the private library for pleasure reading that Richard Daystrom kept for his personal use. She used her personal system to scan each, and they were just the materials of the publications, no added notes or bookmarks. It was a handy reference set, duplicating a number of titles she kept with her for the same purpose. She stowed those in another carryall discovered in a cabinet, moving the formal wear and footwear along with other oddments into it. That left the only other thing that this era of starship had: the personal and safe storage area near the visual terminal. She walked over to it and sat down, turning on the terminal, which did work for all of it not being holographic in nature, and its flat screen menu something that she was familiar with via its holographic counterparts. When the screen came up, after a bit of digging, to see if there was something in the safe, it did identify that there was.

She went over to the washroom to get her stylus and memory module for opening the safe, and checked to see that it and the uniform were cleaned and the suit fully charged. Returning she put the stylus into the receiver along with the memory module and identified herself for the system. It was limited to local capacity but did draw upon the entire computing system of the ship, which noted and logged that she had accessed the safe and that she had proper authorization to do so, also changing the safe control over to her for that room. The door slid open and she saw a simple memory module holding tray with a single memory module on it. She lifted that from the tray and put the memory module into her personal unit and ran the decryption routine once again to gain access to the module's information. When she did so it came up:

'Personal Notes, Lab Work, Richard Daystrom'

It then listed the thousands of short entries in the memory module, and by scanning the dates involved they covered from just before the M-Series work all the way to the last entry on the day Richard Daystrom left the Grant heading for the Enterprise. This was something that normally he would have kept with himself and would have been added to the M-Series archives or stored in the family archives. Instead he had left it here in the full expectation that he would return, and it was left in place as it would take much time to get past the safety interlocks and some of them were made to destroy light items inside the safe if an attempt to beam them out was performed. It was the one place that was safe against most forms of tampering, intrusion and inspection, so long as the contents did not meet any criteria for explosives, anti-matter or other dense energy systems. In their rush to judgment, those doing that judgment had left much behind.

Enid Daystrom quickly duplicated the contents to her archive, and re-encrypted the original memory module. She then crossed the entries over to the M-5 team stores in her personal system and would wait until she could get some time to send it back to the Museum either via sub-space or just handing a copy over to someone going back on the next shuttle trip in a few days. She got up from the desk area with readout and went over to one carryall of hers to retrieve a condensed food packet, which she started to nibble and chased that with water from one of her flasks. Outside of the chair at the desk/display area and the bed, there was only one piece of furniture for sitting on and it was currently attached to a stanchion on the wall. She looked at the 'S' curve piece of furniture and decided to leave it there as her prior experiences with similar had not left her sanguine to the idea of using it for viewing much of anything. She went back to the desk/display and set up her own personal system to review the notes of Richard Daystrom.

She had tossed away the idea of a methodical review, which would actually take days to do even when the entries were short, and started trying to see if there was a representative sampling of mid-sized entries. Scanning the archive she saw that the number of entries and their time all decreased over the course of the archive, so the last were generally the shortest. By cross-indexing the entries with the master database she was able to place them by project type, and using Roger's notes she started to think about what advances went where in the timeline of the projects. From that starting at the beginning to see if there was a hint of what they saw, these decades later, was the place to go to. She queued up that entry and the screen shifted to a black background with the Daystrom Industries logo. The stardate briefly went up along with the entry number, and the head and shoulders of Richard Daystrom at home appeared, it was, apparently late in the evening. A light overlay of text displayed briefly.

'M-Series Project Proposal'

"It is one of the few joys of life that I have worked with so many good people, and with no small number of those with poor personal integrity. After reviewing my course and analysis work while teaching at MIT the original idea that we formed, then, for quantum transmission in holographic memory media has always stuck with me. As a basis for work it offers something that no standard light or electronic media can offer and that is quantum fringe interaction between code pieces inside the substrate. Theoretically it should offer some enhancements over my previous work and even allow for greater inter-communication of code pieces across an entire array of memory modules. There are still a number of linear processes that need to be encapsulated and that is a better fit for my previous work. My proposal for 'Innovative' research to Star Fleet offers the best resources available for a project like this and a chance to implement it for better ship safety and control systems."

"By utilizing analogs of how physical part of mental processes interact with physical phenomena and translating that across the cybernetic into a physical substrate interaction, there is a possibility for a more unified system for internal computational oversight and management of those physical parts it interacts with. While others have tried this in the past, none have had a direct system-wide input that more than mimics the physical based phenomena, but is a physical based phenomena. That creates not an analog or parallel, but a direct similarity of kind if not type. Initial work done here, at home, show that this can be done utilizing the code developed at MIT, which was rough but proves the demonstration of widely separated modules interacting via quantum transmission of data. Like all such quantum systems it can calculate based on that information and requires a wavefront to finally distill that into absolute results."

"A system built on this concept will, from this, gain the ability to work on problems at a non-conformable level to higher programming code but amenable to underlying program analysis. The problems of scale, balance and the utilization of engram encoding are major ones to address, but should be made simpler by the direct corollary that this computing structure has with other physical based computational states in the analog realm. My initial drafts will shift that emphasis, to a large degree, to the more common derivatives of my previous work, which will be 'Innovative' for that work."

'Entry ends'

His actual proposal reflected all of that, but in far terser and more couched terms, and did highly emphasize the multitronic work and only put forward a 'demonstration of encapsulation of ship status' that would sum up most of the actual work he did in the memory modules. This was a conscious decision on his part, to shift that emphasis and not only underplay, but almost completely mis-direct anyone coming after him.

Enid Daystrom looked at the larger set of archives that had been compiled and went to an entry the next day that had been left at the Daystrom home. The stardate flashed on the screen and Richard Daystrom re-appeared at his home recording station with light coming in the windows behind him.

'Personal Archive - Richard Daystrom'

"I can see that there will be some separation of coding necessary for my proposal and I will have a few people at work look at the hard coded systems that run memory modules, as they are vital to the M-Series operation and integration."

'Entry ends'

Sitting and looking at the screen as it faded over to the archive tracking, Enid realized that she had, in two entries, the cornerstone of the entire M-Series in the holographic substrate work and the changing of the hardware startup code to run it. Richard Daystrom clearly signaled that he had two separate things going on: one a new system to stand up a novel computational platform and the second was the first work that it would take to hide that system by analyzing the hard coded software used to run memory modules.

Enid checked at the ongoing papers and publications that he was going through in that time period, and one on 'Code Distribution for Simultaneous Integrated Operations' fit in with that time period. All of his work to research evolutionary code and neural nets was years behind him and subjects he actually taught some classes in at MIT. He knew what he was doing, clearly. And yet that shift to hide the code would go catastrophically wrong.

She went ahead in the project timeline and picked out an entry that corresponded to just after the first full stand-up test of M-1. The stardate flashed on the screen and here Richard Daystrom was in an office, presumably at the Daystrom Industries site.

'M-1 Project Working Notes'

"As I expected, M-1 was unable to handle the information load given it or properly exploit additional computational power outside of its main structure. I have explained this as a scaling problem due to the need for better analysis on the multitronic side and for a better digital/analog to multitronic interface robust enough to handle the systems of an entire starship. Williams agrees on this, citing that the interpretation layer is critical to the system while Ellers points to the computational limits of multitronic code as a sticking point. Both of them do see the potential here, but have conflicting personalities that limit their brilliance."

"I've told them that an incremental expansion of the system, overall, to find out what works on the multitronic side is essential and that a similar expansion for the interface layer is also necessary. It is that interface layer that requires the expansion the most, but there are possibilities on the multitronic side to change some abilities there. Engrams on the multitronic side appear to be an overhead concern, and I'm asking K'dal to examine better code techniques for the evolutionary code there. I am sure there is better code that can be developed."

"While disappointing, I cannot say that this was an unsuccessful test as it demonstrates that clearly the original design concept can work, and that scale and sizing are all that is required from here on out."

'Entry ends'

Well, there was better code available: it was running in the memory modules and it already worked. By saying so little Richard Daystrom was avoiding a topic that he did not want to bring up directly and, so, hid it from his team and, finally, himself. Even if these notes had been available to the investigators, she doubted that they would have gotten anything more from them. By not knowing what to look for, they couldn't find it. She was looking at a facade of sanity, a thin layer of outward normalcy that was working to hide his motivations. He had chosen conflicting personalities, so they would be going after each other, no doubt, and distract the team on a partisan basis. He was sending a researcher to look for code he hadn't divulged to the working team and was actually contained in that 'interface layer'. He was culpable in the outcome and would recognize that as 'M-5 was not to blame'.

No one could have recognized this at the time, without something like a mind meld. And even that might not get far as Richard Daystrom had a very, very complex mind. He gave off no signals, no warning signs, no indications of deceit, and yet he was deceiving those around them, distracting them, sending them on hunts for things that he already had. How do you keep a team of bright people from finding out what is going on? Distraction, manipulation, busy work that is seemingly meaningful... and to all outward appearances things would be 'normal'.

His notes got shorter as the M-2 progressed until one on the SERS system showed up, she brought that one up on the display. He was at his office, wearing normal attire for businesses of the time not the working jumpsuit he used on the shop floor, it looked to be morning but he was a bit worn, grey speckling his black hair. This was nearly three years into the project, and it was wearing on him.

'M-2 SERS Project'

"An unexpected problem in how M-2 utilizes its memory sub-system and interfaces with the multitronic analysis system has put a fork in the project. My plans call for a stabilizing system in M-3, with an expansion of multitronic capabilities to address this. Some of my colleagues on the project have looked at our design notes and the ability of M-1 and M-2 units to work together if they could cross-stabilize each other. I've consulted heavily with them as the problems with M-2 became apparent, and agree that a sub-project aimed towards a ship emergency self-rescue system is not only valid, but worth investigating as it builds on some of the most basic of design concepts for the M Computing Series."

"I've worked with Erik Chapman and Lonnie Travek long enough to know that they are good and solid systems analysis workers and are fully capable of working through this plan. I've suggested adding Constance Luware and Radek Compton to the team as individuals who have demonstrated some capability with working on M-1 and M-2. This project will be short on time and staff, along with equipment availability, and will lag behind M-3. Unfortunately I cannot get additional resources for a full project stand-up for them, and the Fleet is only willing to extend a Project Variant onto the main contract. That becomes a separate but linked contract vehicle that depends upon committed resources for the main project. If the main branch of the M Computing Series does not work out, then having this as a fall-back is a good position to be in and keeps more to my original goals of the entire project."

"On a personal note, I do not demean Erik, Lonnie, Connie or Radek at all by saying that the complexities of this project will tax them heavily and perhaps is beyond their capability to do it. Erik has worked with me the longest and I trust his loyalty even when he is not the most able of researchers or scientists. Most of my effort must remain on the main branch of the project, but I see this as not only worthy but even necessary for the entire system. I am very glad that they were able to re-assess the main project and where we are now and propose this with very little input from me. As their work relies on the foundational structure of the M Computers, I do hope they will succeed as it would serve as a basis for further adaptation."

'Entry Ends'

Erik Chapman was a good researcher, and after the M-Series would produce a few good advances in multitronic system designs after leaving the M-Series when it was put on hold. The SERS project relied more on Richard Daystrom than he let on: without him the SERS project fell through within a very short period of time, imploding from lack of guidance and understanding just what it was they were doing. It took a multidisciplinary team that had high cooperation to analyze all of that work and finally tease it apart. No one did that in his day or could do that with the man still alive. How do you deeply research the failure of someone with a mental disturbance who was brilliant beyond any in his generation?

The fact is that no one wanted to, and it was, perhaps, more than just placing blame, although the haste of the Fleet inquiry and results was sickening in being just that. What was worse is the scientific community being unwilling and possibly unable to actually take apart and criticize something from someone so brilliant and so disturbed as to have created something that was considered a horrific system that worked so well. Even the Vulcans couldn't set their emotions aside, and that spoke deeply to Enid of the problems that were caused by a misunderstanding of logic, emotions, their interplay and how they influenced the sciences.

Richard Daystrom had set up the SERS with the obligatory boilerplate as a sub-project, but what the Museum team had found demonstrated that this was not the case. In many ways this would be the heart of the entire M-Series, given to a group that had little brilliance but decent working habits on a project starved of resources, equipment and time. That was not chance or 'limitations due to contract': Daystrom Industries had its own resources that could have been offered to help, and yet Richard Daystrom did not do that. Such an offer might well have convinced Star Fleet that beefing up its commitment would be a 'good faith' showing. Even if the main project was dragging on longer than anyone anticipated.

Anyone but Richard Daystrom, who had just enough calculated successes to keep it moving, and yet hide the actual and full aim of the project's mechanics from everyone.

In plain sight.

Only Richard Daystrom had the mind to put it all together and knew what he was doing. Enid doubted that anyone would have been able to figure out how to approach such a project if he had been open and above-board with it. Even today it took extremely well informed speculation with a background in non-Federation technologies and a good founding on background research to piece it together. In over a century no one else had come that close or saw things like Richard Daystrom did. He felt under appreciated and saw much of his valuable work stolen without proper credit given and that drove him more than the M-Series did.

This was far harder for Enid to take than she expected, sitting back and nibbling at the food packet. Knowing about such a deceit is one thing, but seeing it as it plays out was much, much harder to accept. The missing keys to the puzzle showed her a demonstrably extremely capable person who put those capabilities to ill-ends and she started to realize that there would need to be one more publication put out by the team.

One on the decayed ethics of Richard Daystrom as he sunk into mental disturbance and the problems of how to identify when your own ethics go outside the bounds of accepted practice. There have been tens if not hundreds of similar papers on the reasons to uphold good ethics, and many pointed to unethical behavior stemming from normal cupidity. Unfortunately that could turn into something far, far worse and even lethal. Enid doubted that such a paper would actually solve the problems of emotions entangling with research, but it would serve as a warning sign and perhaps lead to some way for individuals to check that they, themselves, were adhering to some normal sort of standards and ethics in research. She annotated that on her personal unit and realized that she couldn't take any more of this, and with two hours left in the shift she went to arrange her space suit, uniform for under that and restocking the suit's food supply. After that she needed another shower, not from physical work, but to try and get the feeling of dirt she had from looking at the archives. After that she would get back to work, or at least work out in that lovely open space over the slip warp area: it promised plenty of exercise in zero-g. Then she could get some deserved rest in and join up with everyone else's shift and see how M-4/V stand-up was coming along.

It was going to be a dirty job, that ethics publication.

And she would do it.

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