Monday, February 25, 2013

Relic - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

"And this is where the thermobaric round impacted, be careful of the edges of decking and other components drifting where this part of the hull used to be." Enid was drifting at the end of a deck inside the forward hull of the Shrike, and everyone else was in adjacent corridors around the large section of hull missing due to the attack.

"Its like someone took a bite out of the ship," Raul said looking at a major superstructural member that was bent, twisted and then ended in a jagged shear. Pieces of flecking metal adhered to it along with a small amount of carbon that had been deposited on it.

Moreth estimated the amount of damage, the overall shape of the blasted out ship section and then projected the round's trajectory in the space nearby his suit. He carefully moved to the edge of the deck he was on and looked at the one below it facing into the ship.

"The piercing cap had run out of material to deposit, but it continued inwards. You can see the hole it made heading towards the interior of the ship."

Minestra was on one of the upper decks and looked down to the others then up at another hole that indicated an impactor.

"Hey, one of the fiddlesticks went through here," she used a small hand unit to shine a light down the hole, "gets smaller until it hits something, but can't make it out."

"An atmospheric regulator unit," Reyard said as he carefully drifted out into the large space that once held hull and decking. He pulled up the entire array of damage done to this section of the ship.

"A solid slug hit just behind in the last of the damage, it left a larger hole than the fiddlestick sub-munitions or the end cap. Just a nice, neat hole, going all the way to the bridge on the level below. Then continues further back to that first point you showed us."

Miyak Koletsu nodded surveying a similar enhanced overlay from his position amidships and inwards.

"Oblique shots but well placed, Enid. Especially that first one you showed us coming into the hull from the rear. As that entered while this was happening you could not be sure it would not be deflected by what was happening."

Enid turned to look back and down at Koletsu.

"True. I knew that the solid fuel would not be exhausted and the dead reckoning routine would hopefully correct for exhaust gasses and turbulence. It was a very lucky hit as I was just hoping to get to the bridge and that energy regulation area between it and the connector to the rear hull. I never expected to see it go beyond that into the connector."

Den Blacks looked at the damage and shook his head.

"Ok, this is second to last resort round. This one and the two you sent into the rear hull, the one in the shuttle/cargo area and upper nacelle make that clear. There is a good chance that with a Light Raider you might just take out half the ship with this sort of damage."

"Sister, I had always wondered about the danger you put yourself into, but this does take the cake," Eileen said coming in near the lowest section of the hull, "you need a bodyguard."

Enid laughed.

"Just someone else to worry about, Eileen. Besides, you've seen the Ara. Imagine that with a larger warp core. I never did get a proper reading on their coolant so I had to dissuade this vessel with enough damage to make it stop threatening us."

Col. Davis was taking his time, doing a slow shift from deck to deck across the entire blast area, and examining other nearby sections of the hull.

"Miss Daystrom, you left this ship in a condition that no Captain or Commander could ever deal with. I've seen badly damaged ships, Federation and a few others, but all of the damage done to those vessels was with energy weapons of one sort or another, and I count nuclear devices in that category. When Tananda sent that first long range image of the Ara I knew that I had to see what had happened, luckily I thought some form of energy weapon and brought my radiation engineer's suit. Poking around where most of you couldn't go has given me a much greater respect for my maxim of never demolish a ship with an atmosphere present. I had forgotten just how potent such oxidation reactions are outside of demolitions. The very thing that makes space flight comfortable, indeed even enjoyable, is a normal clothes working environment. Now I see that this is one of the greatest weaknesses of our ships and that oversight is deadly."

Raul had worked his way back into the hull and was examining a greenish splotchy stain across one of the walls.

"Orion blood, some skin tissue, piece of fabric... thermobaric is useless without an atmosphere, just another lightweight slug round. The rest of them, though... uh-huh, they hit the ship more than the crew."

"The only other place left to look at is the Main Bridge, top of the forward hull. It basically got a fiddlesticks round and a few penetrators which was enough to make Captain Ruzar move from it. I made sure the next set of those hit across the entire forward hull. But you've seen the typical damage of a few of those and the single solid, plus penetrating thermobaric and electronics rounds which should be enough. That is it for tody. Tomorrow we meet up at the main shuttle bay after breakfast to take a trip out to the test zone, near Deimos. Between then and now you are on your own, and I'll be at the commisary for awhile to get a meal and relax. The Fleet has given us another hour and a half amongst the Shrike and Ara, so you can spend that as you wish here and the warning timers are set to five minutes to let you know to get out. That should do it for me," Enid said.

Den Blacks nodded.

"Notes and annotations from everyone through me," he said, "remember to check any consumables in your suits for tomorrow, even if they are the efficient re-breathers as they aren't perfect. I will be in my quarters reviewing my notes and making them available. Remember, even the smallest insight may help us when we are in the field. These are the first modern Orion ships that the Fleet has gotten its hands on in over a century, so make the best of what we have."

Enid smiled and turned to look back as she drifted out into the void area where a ship once was.

"See you all tomorrow."


Enid Daystrom had removed her suit and left it in her quarters for the equipment there to give it a cleaning, an airing out, check out its systems and update its consumables. She dressed in one of her favorite outfits from when the project was on-going: a 23rd century Yeoman's outfit in dark gold with dark gold jacket, black pants and soft black boots. She had taken a basic meal pack from one of the open containers at the front of the Level 3 commisary, and as this was the staff commisary it had booths that could be adjusted for privacy and yet have comms access which she was using to check over some updates on designs from Karl and the first meetings of L'Tira with people in Cascadia.

Actually she had a lot of notes from L'Tira, but those were arranged in an interlinked category system so that Enid could get a fast gist of what was going on and delve into details for any of them. She appreciated L'Tira not just for being a top predator, not just for being outgoing and not just for being so informative. It was a hard combination to beat, but when you added organized and flexible to that, to Enid, it was a winning combination and really did make up for some of her own personal distance and lack of communication that were her hallmarks.

Enid was situated to check out who was coming into the commisary so as to keep track of anyone who wanted to see her personally or for business purposes. Her comms unit flashed that Mr. Edrera would like to see her on a potential business topic, and she acknowledged and gave her location while her personal unit pulled up information on Raul Edrera. She knew the basics, of course, but the number of notes from L'Tira and even a few sporadic ones from Kathy, Eileen, Tananda and even Ushanda allowed her to get some insight into the man in the few minutes between original message and when he arrived she was prepared. The technical notes from Blacks, Karl, Reyard, Moreth and the rest of the organization were what she expected, but the personal nature of the notes from the women on the staff let her understand the tone to be taken.

He entered the commisary wearing a utilitarian set of engineering overalls with a DI dark orange jacket over it, and headed towards the open crates to pick out a suitable meal pack for himself. As Raul walked over to her booth she shut down the notes she had up and put up some staff meeting schedules, which were an ongoing headache that had to be kept track of for both the courts martial and the contract administration that was part of the M-5 project wind-down. She stood up as she put in the adaptable parameters for what other members of the team were allowed to access from her system, which wasn't very much until you got to the family level.

"Hello, Mr. Edrera, how have you found the job to be, so far?"

She shook his hand and waved to the other side of the booth as Raul put a food pack down on the table and took a sip of some warm Andorian beverage that smelled of spices and something that was relatively sweet.

"Thank you, Miss Daystrom, and I'm fine with Raul," he said smiling as he sat down.

"And I'm Enid, Raul," she said taking up her cup of coffee.

"Its been very different than any other job I've had, Enid. Its not like my home system's defense forces, not like the Fleet, not I/CI and not like any of the cover jobs I've had. I wasn't used to helping install a new fusion system much of anywhere, and had to do that in Indiana. And work with some of the local government board members on getting sanitation mains in. Karl, Ushanda, Kembe, Charles and Tananda all worked me pretty hard. I never knew something so simple could be so complex."

Enid nodded, biting into her sandwich that was a bit dry when bitten into but soon became a full textured mouthfull with just a sip of coffee.

"That is why I have Karl heading up the major expansions and the industrial side of things. He hates to see idle hands and it was a windfall to get just a couple of very good family members who were known for their skills."

She took another sip of her coffee then sat back, while he was eating what appeared to be a simple meal of crackers and some Andorian-specific protein cubes. For all the fact they looked like grey brittle sponges, she knew that was just part of the processing of the material to make them quickly rehydrate and yet leave some crunch to them with a second bite.

"They are that, Enid. And a very close knit family, too. That reminds me of home and it can be hard to find family like that these days."

Enid was trying to determine if this was a lead-in to a smooth talking non-business proposition and decided against that and for an actual expression of his feelings. Of course that could also be a smooth-talking proposition of another kind, but she doubted that as he had undoubtedly read her background and could start to figure out her determinations of personal and business relationships based on her career.

"That is the way the Daystrom family has been as far as I have been able to search it into the past, Raul. Even distant cousins find themselves right at home for a visit or even if they want to stay and migrate back to Earth. It does get a bit frayed out at the colonies, of course, but there are a few extended family members in most of the major Federation systems that allows for a family help system that really is hard to duplicate."

Raul raised an eyebrow and looked at her.

"Does the name Cornelius Morgan ring a bell?" he asked.

Enid shook her head in the negative.

"He was married to Nuala Daystrom-Williams when he settled on a colony world Andoria opened for human colonists. As their son's family, M'Baka Morgan rescued my great-great-great grandfather, N'Ateth Edrera our two families have been linked by relationships thereafter. My back-up operators name is Sopeth Morgan in honor of the Morgan-Edrera clan relationship. In a way I'm a multi-collateral cousin, so many times removed it can't be counted."

Enid chuckled and extended her hand across the table.

"Welcome home, cousin! I hear you have some business for me?"

Raul smiled and relaxed as he had been surprised to find the extended family relationship that dated back to era of the founding of the Federation and within a generation of Earth's First Contact. It was a tenuous relationship, yes, but it was still there and his family kept very good records, as did the Morgans.

"Yes, I do, but it isn't in any of the areas you have laid out, but seems to be related. Plus what you asked for in the main meeting today, makes me think that there may be an opportunity. Not a great one, no, nor easy to do, a long-shot but an opportunity."

"What I said...? Which part? I did say a lot today."

Enid was intrigued and smiling, and leaned forward to finish off the half of the sandwich she had unwrapped.

"Uh... well, the part about ships. In a general way, Enid."

She nodded while chewing and then sipped some coffee, gesturing with her hand to continue.

"There are ships available, you know? After the collapse of the Klingon Empire there were a number of ships that went missing and not just to breakaway systems, either. After tallying up the known and partially built ships at the beginning of the war, going through a system by system tally via many channels, and doing a cross-check on those that had been known to have been destroyed, at least 150 ships come up as just not on anyone's list and a few dozen more disappeared out of shipyards in partially completed states. Every so often someone runs across one which had a multi-factional mutiny on board that ended up with everyone dead at each other's hands and no one wanting to destroy the ship. Even if you estimate 80% of those did meet a bad end, that still leaves between 30 and 50 ships, roughly, that would just be out in space adrift and unpowered."

Enid swallowed hard.

"Thirty to fifty..." she whispered.

Raul nodded.

"That doesn't include such things as Romulan inter-House battles leaving salvageable derelicts that slowly cross the Neutral Zone, Orion Clan vessels that fought each other to a standstill, some Andorian vessels never recovered after a few skirmishes with the Klingon Empire back before the Federation, old Terran colony ships gone missing... there are starships out there, Enid. The problem is finding them. And ones inside the Federation, which limits the number of ships still further."

"Of course," she said taking up one of the crackers from her meal pack, "and interstellar space is a pretty hard vacuum but even then there is dust and even a few larger objects to take into consideration. Still, it must be hard to find them, right? Star Fleet must have some interest in trying to find such ships."

Raul nodded and sipped his drink.

"Some have been found both by Star Fleet, member systems and private concerns. Mostly it is pure luck of getting a sensor reading close enough to one to identify it as something other than a small, wandering Oort Cloud body lost from some system to deep space. That estimate is after all of the ones that have been found were crossed off the master lists floating around Star Fleet, I/CI and some commercial organizations. Even the best organizations haven't found the majority of ships gone missing over the centuries."

After munching down her cracker and taking a peanut butter cube with it, she sipped her coffee and looked at Raul.

"This isn't something I had thought about. I had thought that most fleets would keep track of such things as starships, but what you say makes sense. There are and have been many problems between starfaring groups, even within societies that are relatively well defined, that can lead to small or large scale conflicts and ships going missing. Add in destruction of records..." Raul nodded, "and I'm surprised that there are so few ships missing given how long starfaring peoples have been active."

Raul nodded and set his cup down, taking up a brittle set of greenish plant material that he crunched down in one gulp.

"Well, the further back in time you go, the less chance of finding something due to the relative motion of the galaxy and last motion of a ship, plus perturbations due to any closer encounters with large masses, say a star system. It is thought that anything over a million or so years either gets nudged outwards or into a trajectory above or below the plane of the galaxy heading into inter-galactic space. That is why, for example, no Slaver ships have ever been found beyond their civil war. Their ships were either spun out, up or down or even spiraled inwards depending on long-term direction. There are some relatively permanent spots in the gravity structures forming the arms, but initial velocity determines longevity of ships in those regions."

Enid put her cup into the recharge slot of the wall and got her coffee topped off, then sipped it as she finished the filmy whisps of material that claimed to be some sort of Terran-based dessert, but only came across as a slightly sticky strawberry liquid when it was in her mouth.

"So, its a real shot in the dark, then," she started, "you don't know if something will be in any given place and finding older vessels is more a matter of luck than skill. That means you must have some idea where more modern vessels might be and even a clue on their original path, right?"

Raul smiled.

"Ah, yes. I can't say that its exacting, but a few good ideas, yes. I would need some help on it, because tracking down where a ship might have gotten to from its original course isn't my specialty..."

Enid nodded, "Nor mine."

"... so it may not be what can be done with Daystrom Industries, but I thought it worth mentioning."

She looked at him and nodded.

"And how would you get a ship back if you did find it?"

Raul pressed his lips together as he smiled.

"Its obvious!" he said in a mischevious tone.

"Really?" she asked, puzzled.

He chuckled.

"Ship Emergency Rescue System. SERS. Plug-and-play and adaptable to many ships. Find ship, plug SERS in and see if it can be Emergency Rescued. If so, send ship home. If not we have a detailed record of repairs necessary. Plus someone to keep claim jumpers away."

Enid was floored.

"I... you're right it is obvious, Raul. Tell you what, I'll put you in contact with someone to help see if there is a likely prospect and if you can get that, then you get to go on a treasure hunt."

Raul smiled, his eyes glistening.

"That sounds good. Who can help me on that?"

Enid was getting her personal unit to set up a comms link.

"Kathy Lorimar, and the M-5/V here. If anyone can do it, they can."

Some but not all of Raul's enthusiasm waned as he nodded.

Enid paid attention to the comms space above her personal system and then looked sideways at Raul.

"Keep it business only, Raul," she said in a low tone, "you're actually much more attractive that way. Trust me on that. Don't piss Kathy off."

He turned a darker shade of blue then nodded.

"And I mean it, Raul, ok? You're a good man and an excellent Andorian when you let the best of both shine through."

"Have I been that offensive, Enid?"

Enid smiled.

"No, Raul, you haven't. If you had, you might be missing an eye, hearing appendages, not have a full hide, and your genitalia be in a pretty nasty situation given the biology of L'Tira. That would be if you got what you wanted and she wanted to play with you...luckily she isn't that mean or persuadable. Still, keep it straight and business oriented and you will find you do better with Daystrom Industries and the personal affairs of its upper echelons. I can't speak for the hired crews, but I can for the top. I chose them for a reason."

"Understood, cousin," Raul said softly.

"Don't take it too hard, Raul. It has probably gotten you very far in your prior work and life in general, and that ability is still needed when in the field. But running with the worst characteristics of Humans and Andorians, especially the stereotypes, isn't going to earn you friends."

Raul nodded.

"You sound like my grandmother."

"Human or Andorian?"

"Two of each, godmothers on the human side. They all sounded alike on that..."

Enid softly laughed and turned to him, placing her left hand over his right.

"You should have listened to them, Raul. Frankly, I would have loved to meet them..."

He nodded.

"Two of them are still alive."

She smiled deeply.

"... and maybe we can still arrange that. Sounds like a fun part of the family. Now let me contact Kathy. She is a valuable person to me, personally, beyond her skills which are some of the best in understanding the M-Series mentalities as they develop. Plus she has sensor ratings both as a prospector and Science Officer, and if any two people can help you out, it is her and the M-5/V we have here at the Museum."

She squeezed his hand and he shifted his lightly to squeeze back. Then she moved hers to open up the comms channels.

As she talked Raul reflected that she was a damned attractive woman. Then the images of what he had seen on the Ara and Shrike came to mind and he shivered. Then that 1 meter close-up of what the inside of a Canthris' mouth looked like just before it was shot by an expert hunter to save the man taking the images flashed through his consciousness. The gouges on the side of the shuttle she had taken off Exmar-2 showed what those teeth were capable of, and the patches to the hull proved it wasn't good to see a Canthris mouth up close like that while it still lived. What she did, now, made great sense to Raul.

It wasn't advice, per se. Just recommendations on how to lead a long life around her and those in Daystrom Industries.

You do not cross this woman. His grandmothers always told him there were women like this in the galaxy. And outside of them this was the first one he had ever met. He was very, very glad she liked him and would do his best to make sure she never, ever had reason to not like him. No, that would never do.

She turned to him and smiled.

"I've put you on Kathy's schedule. You should be able to meet up with her today to start work on this and I'll contact Karl to keep him updated."

He nodded.

"Thank you, Enid."

She looked past him to see Moreth walking in. She put her meal pod together and gestured him over. Raul turned and waved to Moreth, who took a small meal pod from the containers plus a water tube. After that he walked over to the booth, wearing a plain fleet engineering uniform from two generations previous to the modern.

"Welcome, Moreth! So how's the job going so far?"

Raul shifted to make space for Moreth who sat down and checked the security screening, and then nodded.

"It isn't what I expected Ms. Daystrom," he said.

"Enid, please, Moreth."

He nodded.

"And I expect to be hearing that a lot from people in the future," she said smiling at them both.


Kathy pushed herself away from the projection unit and looked at the five cloaked vessels on the display.

"I didn't know a Sovereign Class vessel could be so poorly maintained," she said, shaking her head from side to side.

"That is a bottom 20% class average simulation for the Sovereign vessels now in service," the voice of the M-5/V said into the simulation area. "It is not out of the norm due to the nature of this cycle of vessels still being worn-in and having inexperienced crews."

"Any sensor or engineering staff on a Scout vessel would have been discharged for negligence for such sloppy work. Even though there are more sensor types on a Sovereign, they are not well integrated and are meant for particular tasks, not for broad-range interpretation. The automated routines I expected to be able to use are crippled by that..." Kathy got up from the seat and walked towards the door to the cargo bay, "I pity the poor crews that have to deal with this."

"You did very well for the simulated environment, Kathy. From previous records analysis you should be getting a Sovereign Sensor Officer's Rating for that, and one of the few held outside of the Fleet. In fact you will now rank near or at the top of private individuals holding Fleet overall sensor ratings and within the top 10% of the Fleet if you were still in it. Any starship Captain would be glad to have you in their crew with such a rating."

Kathy shrugged as she stepped out into the cargo bay and hopped on top of a medium sized cargo container to sit down, sliding a water flask from a belt pouch that was attached to her technical uniform with DI patch on the upper left of her shirt.

"But how often does a Federation vessel get stuck in the middle of a Romulan-Klingon fight between cloaked ships, each side willing to trade medium to long range shots with a Sovereign Class vessel while they still go hammer and tongs to each other?"

"There have been three similar incidents for the Fleet with other Heavy Cruiser style ships in the past 5 years, Kathy. One involving Battlecruiser and Frigate class vessels on both sides and a Galaxy Class cruiser from the Federation. It would not be unusual for the patrol duties in the Contested Areas for such to happen."

"Hmmm... I haven't heard of any, but..." she looked into the main cargo chamber and saw a figure get out of the freight elevator.

"Here comes a troublesome anamoly," she said flatly.

"It is Mr. Edrera, Kathy. I believe Enid left a contact note for your system?"

"Oh, she did, M-5. He has a topic involving some sensor analysis of a sector of space and she tagged me for that. I don't have the wide area analyst rating, though, just ship ratings."

"You do have the multi-vessel integration rating, Kathy. That is similar."

She nodded.

"Well, lets see what happens when something wicked this way comes."

Raul was in his private suit, with a small DI patch on his shoulder. The mud-brown to black top was offset by a somewhat garish yellow gold set of pants and black boots. It was as if Mr. Edrera did not know how badly they matched his skin tones, but he seemed oblivious to how much the contrast struck the visual senses of others.

Actually, he enjoyed that contrast. He knew that anyone who saw him in such a get-up would immediately downgrade his intellect based on matters of taste, which was a cross-species bias system that went back centuries. In normal civilian interactions it was a winning combination of poor looks, some charm and appearing to be non-threatening that often won the day. The well meaning doofus never attracted much negative attention. He also realized, with a start, that he had slipped right back into that mode of thinking even after talking with Enid, and that the initial overtures he had made to Kathy Lorimar were not appreciated, minor though he thought they were, she obviously had a different view of things. So as he walked he straightened his posture, put a bit of crispness into his gait and lost the affected air of being semi-lost all the time. Being in DCB's group also meant learning to be professional and he was a professional.

A professional what... that was something that had to be determined at this point. He saw Kathy sitting on a packing crate in the cargo bay and she was talking with the M-5/V there. She got up off the crate as she saw him approach.

"Hello, Mr. Edrera," she said, "Enid let me know that you have a project that needs some sensor overview work for a sector of space."

He nodded.

"Yes, Miss Lorimar. I had talked with Enid about an idea I during our introductory discussion, and thought she might be interested. Are we secure in this bay?" He asked looking around.

"Yes, Mr. Edrera," came the tenor voice of the M-5/V, "this bay is secure against all normal espionage transmitters I know about, save for sub-space based ones which have their own tell-tale signal types and emissions. None are present or being used against this area."

Kathy smiled as Raul looked around.

"Thank you, M-5," Kathy said.

"Wow! It really is... uh... 'integrated'? With this area."

"Yes, Mr. Edrera," said M-5/V, "I have been given limited local physical systems use so as to establish a secure domain for work by Daystrom Industries. This and the bay directly below us used for cargo storage and weapons systems are directly under my supervision. This area is for semi-public interaction with base staff, while the lower bay is off-limits save to members of Daystrom Industries or normal inspection teams."

Kathy nodded.

"Limited isn't the word, really," she said, "but M-5 does get a taste of what a larger control system is like and has far more data comms than most of us can keep track of. Basically, everything in these two bays are controlled by the M-5/V system you see scattered around the bay," she said with a hand sweeping around to consoles, some only partially unpacked but connected to the Museum systems.

"Early on we had to remind it not to compromise the entire Museum."

Raul blinked looking at Kathy.

"Compromise? You mean... take over?"

"No, run it all. Still the M-2/V back then understood that it was a test unit for function only in simulation, which is why we have that old data core sitting in the corner," she gestured to one of the larger crates, "otherwise we would not have had the ability to actually test out the system. Even with that it took just a bit of reminding to the M-2/V not to follow its natural choices."

Raul Edrera could think, as a concept, what a cybernetically controlled ship was like and what it meant. That was the easy part. When confronted with the actual thing, itself, and what it could do, he mentally started to re-adjust.

"Could it have done that?" he asked softly.

"You can ask that yourself, Mr. Edrera. M-5, this is Raul Edrera of the DI Defense Unit, at some point you will probably want to do an abbreviated skills and assessment session with him. Raul, this is the longest turned-on M-5/V around. The most switched on and off one, too, that has shown its ability to handle that without being disoriented."

Kathy smiled.

"Uh, hello M-5," Raul said speaking as he looked around.

"Hello, Mr. Edrera. It is a pleasure to meet you. I hope we can get some time to talk while you are at the Museum."

"I... so do I," he paused, "Uh... could you have really... I mean really... run this base?"

"Yes, Mr. Edrera, although that would only be an extreme emergency option that would have to be confirmed by the Base Commander or equivalent in case of emergency and survival. My M-2/V components do understand what 'test mode' and 'limited operation mode' mean. There is a governing 'emergency mode test' set of engrams, however, to ensure that there is no compromise of M-Series systems and whatever they are attached to. I am granted limited sensor and comms from the Museum which give me a better understanding of how my ship based counterpart experiences things. Still there is no suitable counterpart for full integration."

Kathy nodded.

"That was a pain to work with, and somehow a fully functional M-Series array at 2/V can determine if it is in a real ship environment or test facility. It assumed an emergency start-up but then got its bearings and defaulted to test mode.... we just hadn't closed off all the direct interfaces to the base. The old codes to over-ride that are circumvented by the higher order array which I think was intentional by Richard Daystrom to prove each part of the array fully functional, and then give it the capability to not be abused or misused when collected into the full suite of equipment. There is no way to simulate reality to an M-V array, which is why the individual components could go so wrong. Once M-2/V realized it was to be utilizing simulations and we closed off its access to base resources, things went very well."

Raul had felt some trepidation in even stepping into an area controlled by the M-5/V, and yet it clearly understood where it was, what it was doing and why. The same could not be said of its M-5 ancestor. While much of the basis for the programming was the same, as that was the basis for the M-Series, when it is arranged properly you didn't get a simple logic-based program utilizing engrams, but an engram based system utilizing logic. That flip from one processing system to another was extremely subtle, and yet it made all the difference in the M-Series.

"I guess I need to study the meeting and project records a bit more," Raul said, "I'm not used to anything like this. It isn't a holodeck persona or simulation. I'm sorry if I seem to be stumbling a bit, but this isn't what I'm used to."

"Of course, Mr. Edrera," said the warm tones of M-5/V's voice, "it is something that I am made to do and yet cannot adequately describe. I know what is 'real' around me and what is mere 'simulated environment' given by the additional ship's system I utilize. Yet every M-5/V can adjust itself to its surroundings, just as I am sure you have had to do with secured environments, where not every door is open to you and yet you can get simple overviews of what goes on. So it is with me and some parts of the real universe I experience directly and other parts are once-removed or even more distant."

Again Raul was startled, but then remembered this was a part of Daystrom Industries and his entire background was available to this system. It could also garner more information about him from other systems, which it had done by describing some of his past working environment. But then there were some equivalents at the Museum. M-5/V was drawing parallels between Raul's life and experience and doing its best to give its experience in his terms. This was far beyond the adaptable programming of personal units or even what simulated holo-environments could manage: this was an individual actually knowing about itself, its limitations, understanding his life and his work and then shifting one experience system to another and trying to adapt its expressions to him.

"Wow," he said softly.

Kathy smiled.

"If you have questions on the M-5/V, the project or much of what is going on with DI, you can ask M-5/V. And for any limitations on what an M-Series array can do..." she looked around the bay, "... you have the expert right here."

"I would enjoy getting to know you better, Mr. Edrera," said the M-5/V.

He looked around at the bay. This was all M-5/V. He was within it and yet it was nowhere in particular and everywhere at once within itself. How strange a body that must be.

"And me, you, M-5/V. Not that I expect to be here for long..."

"That is why you came here to see me. Getting to the next phase of your job. Enid let me know that you have some need for a wide volume analysis and that pings me as the one who knows how to make sensor arrays give up their real meanings and integrate new data with known data, and make sense of the resulting mess. I haven't done much large-scale work, Mr. Edrera, more ship-based work and some base station work, but I'm game for whatever you have. I think its best if we go to the main work room. M-5/V can you prep it for a general Alpha Quadrant overview, modern data and get me the historical datasets as needed?"

"I can get the basic current overview open, Kathy. Done and ready for use. Historical datasets will be a matter of knowledge of their existence, whereabouts, and availability depending on timeframe windows and sources."

Kathy nodded leading Mr. Edrera into the room she had just used for the ship simulations she had been doing. Now she moved some portable desk units and seats to the side of the room to clear out its center so as to remove obstacles from the display that M-5/V had floating above them.

"Ok, bring the projection down to, oh, waist level for the plane of the ecliptic and I don't think we have to worry much about above or below it. Declutter and concentrate on the general plane of the ecliptic, Alpha Quadrant inclusive of known surrounding territories. General current overlay."

As Raul helped Kathy move one larger desk unit the room darkened some and the galactic spiral of the Alpha Quadrant moved down and the galaxy lost some outlying star systems, but gained a color-coded system with indicators above the spatial regions for each known starfaring civilization. Kathy sat on the desk and Raul took one of the chairs by the wall and sat down.

"Now what, exactly, is this needle we are supposed to find in this huge haystack?" she asked looking at him while swinging her arm out to the galaxy, which he dimly saw by the light of the galaxy.

"Uh... just after the destruction of the Klingon Empire's main dilithium processing source planet, the breakdown that followed had a Clan/Family/Class division at one of the prototype shipyards run by the M'Karb sub-clan of the Chutoth Family. Family Chutoth was not one that was heavily invested in the Imperial ruling structure, but generally seen as necessary and competent supporters of the Imperial system. The M'Karb clan was known for its technical excellence and ran many schools throughout the Empire, which allowed for Family Chutoth to prosper and gain positions of prominence, if below the Imperial Family level. They had been tasked with the post D-7 ship designs and many of the first enhancements to that old design came from the M'Karb clan, including the then new K'tinga Class design. A number of individuals from the M'Karb sub-clan were put in charge of the Wen'kal Shipyards which were prototype and upgrade yards near the old Federation periphery heading corewards. When the disaster struck one of the last ship designs from the clan was that of the Vor'cha Class cruiser still in use by the Klingon Empire to this day. M'Karb clan had been rumored to have more prototype designs near completion as the collapse started and the Vor'cha was the first of its kind, while the others were waiting for shipment of supplies, stores and final structural members for outfitting. A Federation probe fly-by just a few years prior had shown a number of ships under construction with the Vor'cha closest to completion, and the speculation was that these other vessels would have been at a complete stage. It was noted that the boom and interior skeletal superstructure for one bay indicated a far larger ship than the Vor'cha Class. Actually its outlines were pointing to something nearly as large as a Base Station. Possibly larger as the scans of the era were not exacting at the distances involved."

Kathy nodded looking at Raul.

"Larger than anything we have today, even," she said softly.

"It was thought that the other ships would be escorts for lesser threats and to allow for a test of multiple designs. No one knows what improvements were being done, and the actual records on the Klingon side were lost with the main part of the shipyards as two, separate, factions attempted to gain control over it as well as the Imperial Fleet. There were at least three major battles in and around the shipyards and the system it is in, and the first was by far the worse. After battle damage assessments from both Federation and Klingon sources show no evidence of the new vessels at the shipyard, and a number of refit vessels damaged or destroyed there, with a couple of the smallest gone missing."

"It was and still is a mess in the region," Kathy said as the M-5/V had highlighted the system involved which now showed the area to be under nominal Imperial control, but with inter-factional problems. Federation space had shifted laterally and thinly with the Federation taking over a number of duties from the Empire along its border including the Far Space and Deep Space stations that put the Federation in contact with the Ferengi, Cardassians and Dominion along those border regions the Federation could get to.

"Yeah, that's the truth. Now with the M'Karb clan there is the real possibility that they did a hasty finish-up and tried to take those ships directly home. Their homeworld was very close to the Klingo-Thol border," a star system far across the Empire was indicated, which was in a messy division between Imperial, Federation, Tholian, and non-aligned systems.

"That would be Federation designation Mekev-21156," said M-5/V.

"Just barely under Imperial control these days, it looks like," Kathy said as the historical indicators for the system showed a number of power changes over the last century.

Then the galaxy regressed by a number of decades which saw some relative stellar motion, but not much. A dull green line appeared for a direct path between the shipyards and the home star system.

"That... they wouldn't...."

The dull green line went through the KNZ, into Federation held space, then back to the KNZ after spanning a significant chord of the Federation and to the home system after crossing the KNZ and going towards an outer portion of the Klingo-Thol border.

"That's the rumor, Kathy. No one has found those ships. They might be lost, scrapped, self-destructed in a mutiny... they are just gone from history. No one has spotted them, seen them, heard rumors of them since the shipyard first went under when Family Chutoth first attempted to take it over. After that the records just dry up."

She arched an eyebrow looking at the path and then at Raul.

"All the records?"

He pressed his lips together and smiled.

"A few groups have gone looking for the ships, or even just one of them. On the Federation I/CI side I can say that one E-4 vessel was picked up on a KNZ Scout's sensors, but the E-4 avoided pursuit. The reason that is interesting is that it happend about two weeks after the fight at the shipyard started and the theory is that the E-4 was bringing in reinforcements to secure the vessels coming in as they would be on a skeleton crew status. To do that it requires a star, not even a large one, to mask its decloak and heat signature. Being an E-4 it has severe limits on cloak time and speed, which gives a probability sphere of what its ultimate destination would be. One of the stars is a small, unvisited brown dwarf, ETA GAMMA 7505."

An indicator popped up over that system, just slightly below the ecliptic.

"Ahhh..." Kathy said, "and with a slight deviation of course for the larger vessel of about 10 lights it can easily divert to there and have its heat signature masked."

Raul nodded.

"Uh-huh. Its been checked out all over and there is no indication of a Klingon ship or ships having been there. Now an E-4 would leave a tiny disturbance, but a large vessel of Vor'cha or higher class? Now I don't recall everything about who went there, but the Vulcans theorized that something may have caused the larger vessel to lose guidance control or otherwise get trapped in the system, but once the rest of the system came up nil they sent their Star Probe Group to investigate the brown dwarf host star. They got some real nice data, but nothing that indicated a matter/anti-matter explosion had happened there at any point in time. Mostly its been written off as lost for the last 20 or 30 years."

"Wait a moment... the VSPG actually probed the star, itself?"

"Yes they did, Kathy," said the M-5/V, "the analysis was one of the first done to give a complete stellar analysis from the surface to the core of a star. Their sensor data of that system was meticulous."

"Old but a good data point. You can count on the Vulcans to always, without fail, get the best sensor readings and analysis of anyone in the Galaxy. So if they couldn't find it, why do you think I can?"

Raul blinked for a moment.

"Because you know how to do this and I don't?" he said softly.

She smirked and slid off the table and walked into the galaxy. She used her hands to outline a volume of space and then walked back towards the KNZ and Imperial territory.

"M-5? How many data blocks cover this volume, inclusive?"

There was a pause.

"Kathy, if all past data sets from all historical records are included, that is over 15,000 data blocks."

She nodded and looked at Raul.

"Those are mostly raw data recordings, Mr. Edrera, although I expect a number of analog and time/volume capture studies are included. Now considering that 1% of a single data block would record all of your memories, if we could figure out how to decode, decrypt and then catalog them properly, you begin to get the idea of just what there is to wade through."

He whistled, softly.

She smiled.

"M-5, how much of that is standard background before, oh, 100 years ago?"

"Summary work and exclusion, with compaction and overall modeling reduces the number to 9,243 data blocks, Kathy. The majority of work falls into the immediate era of the Klingon civil war and then a set of more recent surveys to solidify patrol zones and establish the extended New Space Stations."

The smile dropped from Kathy's face.

"That is a hell of a lot of data to plough through..." she puffed her cheeks as she expelled her breath. She then raised an eyebrow at Raul. "Ok. I can do the normal space stuff, even the science work, but I expect the private and commercial material and any Fleet material are going to take some sweet talking to get. Priority on those are the Scout's readings of the E-4 then any other commercial and private searches. I have exactly one Mem-Alpha query available to me this month, Mr. Edrera, and I prefer not to use it on this. But Enid has made it a priority, so I will. That means that I expect you to exhaust all the easy resources available in Sol System including here at the Museum, SFC, University resources especially Stanford and MIT, but not excluding Beijing or the Sorbonne. If any of that data is archived locally, you are to get it, Mr. Edrera. Keep me updated as I have a lot of stellar modeling and mapping to go through, plus ship wake studies..."

She shook her head.

"Say! Rope in Minestra! She has data analysis experience and could probably give you some pointers..."

A smile came to Raul's lips.

"She will help, no doubt about it..."

"Great! Keep me informed of what you're doing and we can do a coordinated search. Pass me any stellar records M-5 will queue up out of the 'its there, but can't be found easily' list, if you run across them. I'm unlikely to get to the material you need, but if I do its coming your way."

"Will do," Raul said getting out of the chair, "and thank you, Kathy."

The glow on her face from the galaxy below her was one that Raul found enchanting, even enticing. Her concentration on the volume of space she had outlined was intense.

"Thank you, Mr. Edrera. This is outside what I've done in the past, but was what I wanted to do with my career next."

There was a slight pause.


"Yes, M-5?"

"Mr. Koletsu is outside and hoping to talk with you."

She inhaled.

"Not another project..."

Raul laughed.

"I'll be scarce, now, but in contact. Bye-bye, Kathy."

"Take care, Raul."

The hopes that Raul had of a relatively easy time of things had vanished. Still, he had time and a good excuse to see Minestra was a recompense.


"Now you have all been familiarized with the device that I designed and that Karl improved. I know you've had gravity training sessions on strip cleaning it, ensuring its systems are operational and alternate modes of operation, plus the best repulsor disc simulations that could be put together. All of that is necessary, but today its the basics: load, aim, fire. For that we have the light test rounds Karl put together and they have the essentials of how a round works. The first series of test shots will be at drones that have been put into position with weak shield systems. Those are armored drones and should take a few shots before these light rounds finally disable them."

Enid was suited up in the back of the shuttle along with the rest of the Cadre who were on benches to either side of the cargo shuttle with similar containers and devices. She reached into the box and pulled out an empty magazine.

"Each of these boxes has fittings for four magazines and some 50 rounds. I would suggest going light on the DU based rounds, especially the full slugs, due to mass considerations, but a case will support 50 of those. This magazine takes 6 rounds as I thought that appropriate for mass and sizing."

The magazine was the size of a small metallic box, done in black. She then reached into the box to take out a metallic tube, this one had 'TEST' lightly stenciled in yellow on its side.

"The magazine is oriented with the slight open space towards you, and the lips flex open as you push the end of a round in at the back," she started to press the small rim at the back of the tube into the magazine and the two lips flexed open, "then you push the round past the lips which close and seat the round in the magazine. Notice that you get one red flash from an indicator inside the magazine. As you put more rounds in you get a set of flashes to indicate amount until a green indicator flashes for a full magazine. Now fill a magazine with test rounds. Reyard, check to make sure each of the magazines is properly loaded."

Inside his suit Reyard nodded.

"Of course, Enid," he said.

Enid quickly reached in and started to place the rounds from her case one by one into the magazine until she got to a 'TRAINER' round that had some differences from the normal rounds. Reyard moved from person to person to make sure each had loaded their magazine properly with the test rounds.

"Karl has spent way too much time on this stuff," she said to herself softly.

"Yeah, but it loads easily, Enid," Minestra said, "thats what counts."

She showed her loaded magazine to Reyard who then went on to the next person.

Miyak Koletsu closed his eyes and went through the loading procedure for a magazine.

"I would like to say that Karl has done an excellent job, Enid," he said, "if you rub your suits fingertips over the surface of different rounds you get a different feel to them. This is so with your hands, as well. If you reach blind into a box you can still tell what you are grabbing. The magazine is also biased and slightly wider at the top and placement end."

Moreth nodded.

"Clips for rounds would be handy for pre-loads. But this is an excellent start."

The back of the shuttle opened out into space, with Mars in full view, Deimos slightly to the right and a barely visible series of dots in the distance over Mars.

"I was talking about the Trainer's round. I thought he didn't have time to make one, but he obviously did. So lets hope it doesn't kill all of us..." she said placing the magazine into the slot in the bottom of the device.

Reyard had finished with the last check.

"All ready," he said.

"Thank you, Reyard. Insertion is easy and has a positive catch and light blue rim to show function is available which then shuts off in two seconds. Now let me activate the device," she said pointing it down the center of the shuttle and towards the dots. "Before we go through the rest of the procedure, let me use the Trainer round to show you how a round basically functions. The Trainer is not a shield piercing round and is expended in use. Let me get a target," she adjusted her system and picked out a target in the center of the line. She fired and the round came out and stopped just a centimeter from the end of her device.

"At this point the motion is purely mechanical from the loading mechanism in the device. The Trainer is a very slow round that can be signaled to stop at any point in its maneuvers and I'm using it to show initial propulsion and separation. The solid fuel is also very low power, and the device has forward pointing motors on the front to allow it to stop. You didn't see it but it used up one for that already," she said indicating to a slightly darkened dot on the flat front of the round. She put up an info space over the round. "Even with that, don't get in front of this round and if you are behind it, either keep your device level with its original firing position or move to the side."

She stood up and moved to the side of the shuttle compartment.

"The round has had the coordinates of itself and its target given to it by the device when it was fired, a target image or other sensor readings, target speed relative to the shooter, and its own pre-stored routine for functioning are also on-board. The next function happens with most rounds," she indicated for the next procedure to happen, which was the discarding of the shell casing, which came off in four pieces and drifted towards the walls of the shuttle. "The Fiddlesticks don't do that, as an example, nor the solid slug."

She had it go to its next routine. A number of indicators changed above the round, but there appeared to be no activity from the round, itself.

"The round is self-assembling, or would be if it had more to do. The self-assembly is done with the quantum encryption routine that is combined by you and your device with the round, all having positive entanglement with the M-2/V array in Indianapolis. This is when a round becomes a fully capable device and yet fully tamper-proof due to the encryption system. Next is initial firing."

The round fired off a ring of solid propellants in the rear, went to the end of the compartment and fired a ring of forward facing propellants to stop itself.

"That gets an initial thermo-electric charge to the system as a reserve in case of any electromagnetic pulse weapons are used against it. It has an anti-EMP scramble system which is a benefit of the shield piercing system."

Blacks looked from where the round was now back to where it was fired from.

"What is the thrust on that?"

Enid smiled.

"On this round about 10% of a stable solid mix propellant used for single thrust adjustments in larger quantities for such things as asteroids being pushed in their orbit. Those use the dots as single fires down a tube for directed thrust, pulsing changes in motion and the tube adjusting for attitude adjustment. I just refit the full concentrates for directed thrust on the back of a round."

Col. Davis nodded.

"Stable, efficient, and you can vary percentage of the mix. Even layer the dots for repeated thrusts."

"That is why I used them," Enid said, "now it takes a quick sensor sweep, and makes any adjustments to course. If a vehicle cloaks, it uses dead-reckoning based on last position and motion. Unless there is high relative speed involved, however, a cloak doesn't help much. Now we can wave it good-bye as it heads on its mission."

She indicated for it to move to its next function and all of the remaining rear thrust dots fired and it sped off into space heading towards Mars. Within a minute there was a bright blue flash to indicated it had reached its target, which was the center drone.

"Now the device has additional features. One is a removal port that is used to move a round out of the firing position and out of the device. If you notice there is a small set of rails and groove under the main launch tube. As it is a simple wire grouping it is set with the cross-pieces at half-round intervals so that a tiny set of impellers can move the round forward down the device to allow more than one round to be removed from it. In fact you can unload the entire magazine into that catch system. Plus you can manually move a round forward to take it from the system, or take it from the end if you have a full unload from the device."

Enid demonstrated the catch on the side of the device which triggered an automatic shift of the round in the firing position out of the device.

"That's handy," Raul said, "and you could carry a full reload that way, too."

She moved her gloved finger by the side of the device and the impellers moved the round forward and she then plucked it from the catch system. She turned the device on end with the top visible to everyone.

"You can also put a round in from the top, after pressing a side catch to stop feeding into the launch position," she indicated the catch, "if you don't do that then opening this catch slide will put stop the feed of the next round and put the current one into the catch system."

She opened the top slide, and the catch for the feed had a low level amber indicator, and she turned the device to show the round that had been put into the catch system. She turned the device back, inserted the round in her hand into the device and the slide automatically shut.

"That is how you manually re-order your rounds. Each mechanical action ensures that the others take place, and there are small superconductive elements to ensure that there is some minimal power generated to assist the procedure. There is also a fully automatic re-ordering system that is device driven, that uses the back space behind the firing position to cycle the rounds of your magazine into. It can take five rounds, total, move the last round into the chamber and then put the rest back into the magazine. This can also function as an internal magazine for five rounds in case you need to do that, and a back catch," which she indicated then opened, "lets you place rounds in each of the numbered positions."

She took the round from the forward catch and placed it in the rear 3 spot.

"In total, you can carry 5 rounds in the internal re-ordering system, 6 rounds in the magazine and 6 more in the external catch. Add one into the firing position from the top and you have 18 total rounds but very limited selectivity. Actually none with that load. Still if you have to leave an area quickly and can't take everything with you, you can still take quite a lot of capability along. I know you have all had ground-based practice, but its good to go over the basics as a final refresher."

Minestra whistled.

"Karl did a great job, Enid. Still I'm glad I kept up with my PE since it is one massive thing to move around fully loaded."

"That it is, Minestra. Ok, each of you will head out behind he shuttle and show me or Reyard locking the magazine, getting positive load function and intial device activation. Then we will go through a point and shoot routine..." she said heading towards the rear of the shuttle and standing on the flat bay door that now jutted out into space.

"God, its training camp!" Raul said.

Eileen looked at him and nodded.

"Some of us haven't been to one, Raul. And this seems like a pretty nice one to be in."

"You have that on the beam, Eileen," Minestra said finding herself standing just behind Koletsu.

"Cut the chatter and concentrate, would you?" Enid said.

"Oh, yeah. Training camp. Again." Blacks said chuckling.

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