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Part of USS Ulysses: Season 1 Episode 5: M.A.R.S. Revisited

Gremlins, Trojans, & Saboteurs

USS Thesis, Location Unconfirmed
February 5th, 2400
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With much of the Thesis still offline, the three senior officers working on their suspicions were now working in the relative luxury of the undamaged operations hub. Engineering was a hub of activity on a ‘normal’ day, but with so many people over from the Santa Fe assisting with repairs, the place was heaving, which prevented them from working as freely as they could, so somewhere quieter and undamaged was required.

After linking the computers from both vessels, they had input their commands and had the computer begin its search. The computer had taken longer than expected to comb through the information, and the process would have been quicker if the main computer aboard Thesis could have been trusted to provide an objective conclusion. The independent computers in Ops were scaled down versions of the main computer and the only ones likely to be unaffected by sabotage, unless of course, the saboteur was in the Operations Department. The idea was unthinkable. All three of the officers tried to establish suspects and motives whilst they worked but found the whole idea unconscionable.

Prida had taken over a computer console in the corner of the room, and she tasked it with analyzing all the information she could, whilst the gentlemen in the room did the same. Moderately paranoid about the whole situation, she guarded that specific computer by locking its access so it could only be unlocked with her personal access code and voice pattern match.

”Prida, alpha, zero-three-four, charlie, bravo, nine,” the computer instantly unlocked and granted access to the sensitive material inside. Immediately, she encrypted the file with the same voice authorization and transferred the information to her personal PADD.

She spun in her chair; eyes glued to the results. The results were initially comforting. 90% of all information on the cloned image were consistent with authorized Starfleet updates, software, and programming. The remaining 10% contained legitimate sources of code: manual work by technicians, departmental specific data files, and sloppy maintenance by distracted techs. Infuriating, but good to know. There was, however, one source that was of specific concern. One coding that repeated in various identifications, clear to the human eyes, but easily overlooked by a computer. These files were replicated and duplicated in systems across the main computer. In several instances, the main computer had combined the code lines as attempted fixes to erroneous problems across the ship. Crucially, the files were present within the main operating systems they were checking.

‘Guys, you’re going to want to see this,” she spoke, her voice heavy, low, and burdened.

Mora and Udal turned in their chairs and looked towards the Cardassian, rolling over to her on their chairs, the three of them sat in a huddle. Prida’s face was flushed, as flushed as her grey, mottled skin would let it be. “Brace yourselves,” she instructed, her voice heavy, a profound sigh following her words and passed the data PADD over to Mora. Udal leant over to have a read of its contents. 

“The good news,” she began to speak, rubbing her temples with great concern, “is that we have essentially isolated the problem. Our hiccups were the result of intrusive software replicating itself and gaining access to operating systems and functions. We were right,” her tone was flat, lips pursed in disapproval. She wished they had been wrong.

”Well, at least we found it. Too much coincidence for it to be something other than that. With all this cloak and dagger stuff going on, I’m surprised it didn’t show up sooner,” Mora said, looking through the PADD. “What’s the other side?”

”The bad news,” Prida stated, shaking her head with another sigh, “there is not much we are able to do. The program has essentially integrated itself with fundamental programming, and re-written fail-safe mechanisms to support the objectives of whoever built this Trojan.”

Udal read the PADD as she explained. It was all there in text. Subtle differences in code, but it functioned correctly and stayed dormant until the trigger happened. The trigger, the testing of the MARS system. It was hidden deep in code that could have gone undetected for a decade if they had not activated the MARS system itself.

Lieutenant Mora let out the mother of all sighs. “We need to get to the captain right away. Let’s go,” he said and stood up. “Regardless of how this turns out, I owe you both a drink,” He would have never found this out without his colleagues from the Santa Fe., and that was a source of great embarrassment for him.

[Ready Room, Deck One]

Walking hurriedly from the turbolift and crossing the bridge in quick fashion behind tactical, the three officers made a beeline straight for the commanding officer’s ready room. Their presence caused more than a few curious glances from officers working on the bridge. Mora looked over at Prida as he pressed the chime button. “Ready?” he asked with all sincerity.

“As ready as one is with this kind of information,” she replied with an affirmative nod. She liked to keep things light even when in crisis, or at least tried to.

There was silence for a minute, until two figures appeared behind the visitors to the ready room. One had her hands on her hips, whilst the other looked somewhat confused. “I can’t even play truant with the good Captain without being needed,” Captain Ruas smirked, looking at Captain sh’Elas briefly, then back at the trio. “What can I do for the three of you?” she asked, nudging her way past the younger officers, and entering her private office, Captain sh’Elas in tow. She took up position behind her desk and waved them over to stand before her.

sh’Elas knew her officers and knew by the looks on their faces that this was not going to be a pleasant conversation.

Mora made sure that they were alone in the room, doors sealed behind them before he started talking. He contemplated asking the captain to have the computer secure the room, but that may have triggered even more concerns. “I’m afraid it’s bad news ma’am,” Mora told as he slid the PADD across the desk to the two command officer’s. “My colleagues from the Santa Fe and I believe we have discovered evidence of sabotage on the Thesis. What began as issues with gravity failures, problems with the waste disposal system and other life support issues have steadily progressed into something much larger,” the Bolian revealed, with both the Trill and her Andorian counterpart looking more than a little anxious as he spoke. “We found the cause though,” he finished and looked to the Cardassian Chief of Operations and nodded to her.

“If you will,” she began, reaching over and tapping a button on the PADD to draw their attention to a particular data file. “We have identified a Trojan-software insertion into the main computer of the Thesis. Unfortunately, the nature of this type of malware is that it remains undetected by the computer and routine maintenance; allowing access to whoever inserted the software into the computer. Whoever did, knew what they were doing, and were probably looking for something specific,” Prida looked at Mora and then Udal, taking a deep breath. “We think the MARS system may have been the focal point of interest as that was the last adjustment made before significant systems began to go haywire.”

“Hang on a minute…” Italia Ruas struggled to take in all that she was being told, and slumped into her desk chair whilst she rubbed her temples. “Okay,” she nodded when she felt she had a better grasp of what they were saying. “How the hell did you find this thing if the computer couldn’t? How did you know where to look?” she queried of the group, eager for greater understanding.

“If I may?” the Orion Engineer from the Santa Fe started out. “We began with searching the database for any correlating events, anything that happened at the same time,” he advised, “and we started to spot a pattern emerging. Incident that occured all happened at the same time as the MARS system was running in some capacity, and only after the system went functional the first time.”

“All of the problems were connected to life support. That gave us a starting location. The timing of the events were too coincidental,” Mora jumped in, “we then did a diagnostic on base code and any adjustments and changes to the coding in the system, and we located the problem,” he finished.

Prida nodded in confirmation, “There are two problems here, Captains. First, we can’t provide any information on who or what placed this program into the main computer,” she shook her head in disgust as she spoke, “second, we can’t reverse the damage that has been done. MARS is going to have to be ripped out and an entirely new installation put in place. You’re also going to need to conduct a complete purging of the computer system and start from scratch there too,” the Cardassian advised.

“It isn’t going to be a short layover at Starbase Two-One-One ma’am,” the Bolian sighed, collapsing into a chair opposite the woman, “it’s going to mean a complete overhaul.”

Tharia glared at the woman sitting next to her, and then across at the three gold-shirted heroes opposite for a few seconds before silently folding her arms across her chest. Once Ruas gave her permission to go ahead, the Andorian gestured to the sofa on the nearby bulkhead wall and watched as the operations division officers took the offered seat. Perching on the edge of her desk, she folded her arms across her chest. “What I am about to tell you is known only to the people in here, and a handful of people beyond the bulkheads of the ship,” she advised. “You will keep the discussions private until we reach Starbase Two-One-One and you are given permission to discuss the matter. Is that clear?” her antennae were bowed, almost pointing at the gold-clad officers.

Exchanging glances among each other, the three Lieutenant’s nodded in agreement to her orders.

Thankful for their acceptance, and the ability to finally share their updates with someone other than Captain Ruas, the Andorian looked far more comfortable. “Starfleet Intelligence have suspected for a while now that foreign agents have been working in the Sathea research and development laboratories. We think those agents were involved in the project’s installation on Thesis and were responsible for betraying the ship’s location during the recent incident we became embroiled in,” the Andorian revealed to a sea of open mouths from the Lieutenants. “Now we have evidence that sabotage has taken place, we will continue to investigate, and do our best to determine the perpetrators.”

“Captain sh’Elas and I have come to an agreement,” Italia jumped in, sitting forward in her chair. “Udal, Prida, you will stay on Thesis and assist with securing any and all evidence pertaining to this sabotage, whilst Mora, you will ensure the repairs are complete, and the repair of the MARS system,” Ruas instructed, not giving the officers much choice.

Mora looked at Prida, then Udal, then back at the Captain. “I’ll run a full diagnostic on all key systems as soon as they are online. It did not appear to have spread beyond life support, but then again we were not looking for it to spread. At least we know what we’re looking for now,” Mora advised. Engineering was not in any real state to be a functioning facility yet, but would be soon and would have to be cleared of any risk.

Ruas nodded. “The Santa Fe will be on station throughout any upcoming missions. Starfleet Intelligence will ensure that our missions will be in close proximity until we have apprehended any suspect,” the Captain revealed, “start your diagnostic and report to either XO when you have anything. We’ll bring them both into the loop. I cannot stress the importance of your staff keeping this to themselves for now. I don’t want panic spreading through the ship so soon after the last crisis,” she ordered sternly.

“Affirmative Captain,” the three nodded in response.

“Okay, you’re all dismissed,” the commander of the Thesis ordered before quickly adding, “do what you can for our girl…”

Mora stood up. “Aye Ma’am.” He looked at Prida and Udal then back to the Captain. “Don’t worry ma’am. Between the three of us, we’ll make sure this ship gets home safe.”

Watching the three younger officers depart the office, the captain waited until she was alone with sh’Elas before she slammed the lid of her computer console and stormed over to the window.

Standing, staring.

Silence.

Sabotage.

How had it all come to this?