Part of USS Hathaway: Episode 5: M.A.R.S. Revisited and USS Hathaway: Season 1: The Santa Fe Chronicles

What else could possibly go wrong?

Engineering Bay, USS Thesis
February 5th, 2400
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Lieutenant Udal arrived in the Thesis’ engineering bay, looking more than a little worse for wear, but more than happy to be helping his counterparts. Most of the entire operations division was currently aboard the Thesis, joining their department heads, to assist with the mammoth task of completing the internal repairs. There was nothing they could do for the external damage, that would be taken care of at Starbase Two-One-One, but of they could take care of as much of the internal workings as possible, perhaps the Thesis crew would not be laid over as long as everyone predicted. 

Engineering, like a lot of the ship, was in shambles. Lieutenant Prida had done a great job getting the teams focused on their task, but now that the ship’s own Chief of Operations was on the scene, the engineering teams were now under his jurisdiction. Whilst the teams worked, Udal, Prida and the man they had learnt was Lieutenant Mora, stood around the pool table, looking at a raft of data.

“So, before this incident occurred, we’d been studying all of the data regarding the MARS system and we had a few ideas on how we could improve stability and boost the efficiency of the MARS system,” Udal told his new acquaintance, “We ascertained that the power draw is just too great, even with your incredible warp core,” Udal looked across at the inactive core, realizing the irony of his statement, but if the mechanical feat of engineering had been looked after properly, it really would have been incredible. Inquiry-class starships, especially the Block-II vessels like Thesis, were top of the line. Pocket battleships they had been called, and to power such a vessel they needed a hell of a power generation unit. Although the class 9 warp drive was over thirty years old, the constant fine tuning meant each new core felt like a new generation. And it was certainly a massive step up from the class 6 warp drive of the Santa Fe. When it was functioning of course.

Lieutenant Prida took over the briefing from this point, tapping away at the controls on the table. “In the words of our illustrious XO, ‘It’s a stealth mode, but we’ve still got people replicating coffee and breakfast’. When this system runs, pretty much everything else needs to be shut down,” the Cardassian Operations chief told, showing a diagram on the pool table which demonstrated carefully, and clearly what she was talking about.

“It was suggested by a member of our team that, in order for it to run successfully, the ship needs to function in a blue alert model where everything running either contributes to the usage of the MARS system, the safety of the ship or the safety of the crew,” Udal added, watching the Bolian’s face as he tried to keep up with the information from their counterparts.

“Ok,” Linn Mora eventually spoke up, “I get what you are saying, but if this is the case, we’re going to extremely limited as to how fast we can travel while using the system,” he told, looking over the display.

“You’re going to be limited to impulse speeds at best,” Prida nodded along, “anything faster uses too much power and causes fluctuations in the system. We think that is what went wrong here,” she mused, looking uncomfortable as she drew the attention of the Bolian to her specifically.

“How is it that you’ve had this information for literally two days and you seem to have a better grasp of it than the engineering team of this testbed?” the Thesis Operations chief queried, his bald head reflecting the lights of the engineering bay as they talked. He was not looking happy.

“I’m sorry, Lieutenant. I didn’t mean to offend you,” the Cardassian apologised, shaking her head slowly until Mora raised his hands.

“You didn’t,” he frowned, “I’m offended by our own stupidity. How the hell did we miss such a thing? I promise you, we are capable officers,” he remarked, looking more than a little sheepish as he gazed down at the console before them.

“No one is to blame here,” Udal lowered his deep voice to try and sound as sincere as he could, “and there is no point beating yourself up for it either. What we need to do now is have a solid basis for our explanations ready for the inquest when we get back to the starbase.”

“Agreed,” the Bolian nodded, smiling apologetically to the two officers. “I’m thankful you are both here,” he added as they bent over the display and commenced their discussions. Together, the two crews would ensure the ship was ready in time for their return to the starbase, and that meant the leaders could focus on getting their facts straight.

The question on all their lips now was, would all this be worth it in the end? Would such a system actually give Starfleet any type of advantage, especially if it could, apparently, only be used at impulse speeds?

[Three Hours Later…]

After close to two hours of work, the team were getting ready to stop for a much needed break. One thing the computer had picked up was a bit of an anomaly, but an anomaly which was slowly turning into a phenomenon of sorts given the fact it had seemingly occurred each time the tests of the MARS system had failed. An issue in the waste disposal system. Each time the MARS system had been active, the system overheated and shorted out. There had also been issues with gravity plating and replicators during the time shut downs.

“This shouldn’t happen,” Mora said, reading lines from their data again. “All of these issues identified are related to life support or personnel services, but the computer is not supposed to allow any adjustments to anything impacting those systems without alerting myself, the XO or CO and yet here it is. A crew had already done maintenance on that unit and everything was clear,” the Bolian looked more than a little out of sorts as he looked over the data again. “These should also be isolated systems. Any idea how the waste disposal, gravity and replicator fit together?” he pondered in the direction of his teammates. 

Prida went silent, as she always did when thinking. “Well,” she began after several seconds of careful consideration, “we have found a common denominator: life support.” She paused once again, pressing closed palms, as if she was in prayer, to her lips. She bounced them there, hoping to jog some insight. “The fail-safe protocols have been bypassed, and lesser systems are impacted,” she spoke out loud, to no person in particular. Her hands dropped to her waist, as if she had suddenly had an epiphany of sorts. “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” she whispered, a startling revelation crossing her face as she looked up slowly. “Sabotage…” she whispered.

Udal and Mora looked at each other and then the Chief from Thesis waved his Santa Fe colleagues into the Engineering Office. What they were about to discuss was very dangerous.

When he was certain they were alone, the Bolian folded his arms across his chest. “You can’t be serious?” he enquired of the Cardassian, whilst Udal stood and watched in silence.

“We have been through everything in your data and ours,” the Cardassian began, “everything you have done, we would have done. Everything that has been done, should work. The only explanation is that something has been compromised purposefully,” the woman proposed to the two. “Imagine trojan-ware is inserted in a system that links with both primary and secondary systems,”  Prida remarked as she opened a thermos, pouring coffee into the lid. “To know the computer, it would appear like code inserted by one of us.” She cradled the cup in both hands taking a sip of steaming coffee, “The software then begins poking and prodding, investigating systems that don’t arise suspicion, essentially mapping out our priorities, and programming.” She looked at the Bolian and her engineering colleague with concern in her eyes. She was biting her lower right lip as anxiety flooded her system.

Udal thought for a long moment. That was a possibility, a strong possibility. Random issues that were affected only long enough to cause disruption but not long enough to cause an alert status. Assuming Prida was right, which he was confident she was because she was so methodical that she always knew what she was talking about, how could this possibly have been installed? He was about to say something then a thought crossed his mind.

”I’m pulling up the MARS system files. Is there a way you can run a scan on everything related to the MARS system for this Trojan but do it like a ghost so it wouldn’t know you’re looking for it?”

”Thankfully, it’s probably not looking for us,” the Cardassian replied. An inquisitive Vulcan-like brow arched above her left eye as she stroked her chin. “However, there is no way I can prevent it from sending feedback on our activities; so if someone’s watching…” she looked up at the ceiling, hoping that this thing or person had not yet tapped into any of the video systems. She tapped the console with her knuckles and focused her attention back to Udal and Mora. 

“Hang on a minute,” the Bolian from Thesis, “you are suggesting someone has accessed this ship, its systems and sabotaged a classified system. We’ve had no one on this ship but our personnel and yours,” he revealed, casting suspicion.

“What about the scientists from Sathea?” Udal proposed, casting the net of suspicion even further a field. “But if we can clone the current programming as a read only file, we can have our independent system compare the coding against dry-dock specs and official updates.”

Prida was excited, tamely bounding on the balls of her heels. She pointed both index fingers at Udal, directing the focus of her thoughts into a solidly conclusive action. “Our teams will then have to identify any coding, software, applications, and programs which were manually input into the computer, from the unidentified remnants.” She clasped her hands together, “but that should allow us to target the specific file and coding impacting ship systems.”

Lieutenant Mora thought a moment. “That sounds like a plan. Only small hang-up is that the teams will be ours. If this is a Trojan, that means it was planted or uploaded. With all the cloak and dagger stuff that has been going on, I’m afraid to bring anyone else onboard to help, especially if…” he trailed off and looked at the computer core and then back to Prida and Udal.

“Until we know the extent, for all we know, whoever uploaded it could be on the ship still. They would also have the capability and would logically be someone we would tap to get on our team. I would say, let’s be as quiet as a graveyard until we know what’s going on,” Udal let the words hang for a moment, then his expression changed.

“Then we have a lot of work to do, don’t we?” Mora suggested, pulling off his uniform jacket and rolling up the sleeves of his undershirt.

Udal and Prida exchanged glances, then looked across at Mora. With the Bolian finally on board, the two smiled and rolled up their own sleeves. If sabotage was a real possibility, they needed to get to the bottom of things as quickly as possible. There was much to do indeed.