Part of USS Auckland: Three Days Grace (The Supply Depot) and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Chapter 7 – Never Too Late

USS Auckland / Yadev II Supply Depot
Mar 2401
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Day two had broken in the Yadev System, leaving the already overwhelmed teams with 48 hours before the Dominion made their presence felt. Nora was still on the Depot taking care of some overdue medical needs. He would receive her report later. Joci was due to rotate through the Depot to begin the testing on the automation routines she had been completing with Damien.

“Liuetenant T’Keterk to Captain Suin.” The comm channel crackled to life.

“Go ahead, Lieutenant.” Aris replied.

“Repair and reactivation work is going ahead on schedule. We have designated a Freedom class vessel, the USS Oreti as our test bed. Automation testing is ready as soon as the routines are implemented.” T’Keterk responded.

“Good to hear Lieutenant.” Aris replied. “What else do you have for me?”

“The next 48 hours are devoted to bringing the remaining Centaur and Miranda classes online. Work is slow due to the age of the ships, but we anticipate no changes to our timeline.”

Aris almost smiled. They weren’t out of the woods yet, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel. “That is good news indeed. Thank you Lieutenant. Keep me posted if the situation changes.”

“Acknowledged, Captain.” T’Keterk closed the channel.


In the Science labs, Joci and Damien had been diligently working on integrating her automation programs into a test environment. Having the crew on the Depot working through the night, progress was coming along nicely. The only speed bump so far was determining the best method of implementation. Holographic crew or entirely remote command. They were so close to collectively banging their heads against the desk before Damien spoke up.

“Have we considered a hybrid approach?” Damien spoke out loud.

“Explain.” Joci replied as she felt the beginnings of a headache forming.

Bringing up some test results, he slid the padd across the desk. “I think a combination of holographic bridge crew to assist with ship functions that require personnel, coupled with a major overhaul of the underlying code and the presence of at least two real people to ensure everything is operating correctly.”

Joci’s brow furrowed as she absorbed the information. “Can we risk the lives of our personnel on what is essentially a drone ship?”

“In a perfect world?” Damien replied. “No, but this situation is far from perfect, and if something goes wrong or the holographic crew are tampered with, we need to be able to deal with the situation promptly and resolve it before the enemy gains an upper-hand.”

“I can’t fault your logic there.” Joci conceded. As she reviewed the final tests from the Depot. “But it looks like T’Keterk is ready for the full-scale testing to begin.”

“Best not to keep the good Lieutenant waiting.” Damien replied with a smile. “I wish I could be there to see it all come online, but unfortunately although I do have officer privileges, my security clearance does not allow me on the Depot, so I will wait here for updated information.”

“Thank you, Damien.” Joci said as she got to her feet and retrieved her padd. “I’ll let you know how it goes.”


Making her way through Taylor’s checkpoints, Joci was escorted to the Operations level to oversee the initial tests. Although the ships they were using were well beyond their use-by date she couldn’t help the excitement she was feeling.

“Ensign Malra, to Lieutenant T’Keterk.” she tapped her badge.

“Go ahead, Ensign.” T’Keterk replied.

“Beta versions are ready for integration into the Oreti’s systems. ”Joci replied. “Transferring data now.”

It was an agonising few minutes of waiting, until T’Keterk confirmed successful transmission and integration into their test vessel.


On the bridge of the USS Oreti, T’Keterk took a deep breath. It was now or never.

“Computer, restore main power and initiate power up analysis.” 

The terminals around the bridge flickered to life as Main Power took over from the generators that had been supplying the ship with minimal power to ensure life support remained operational.

“Attention all hands.” T’Keterk activated the ship wide comm channels. “Prepare for initial automation testing on my mark.”

Looking at the progress bar on the terminal in front of him, he knew he had to time this right. “Activate automation routine.”

Reports from across the ship were looking promising as the Oreti departed from dry-dock and began a scaled-back shakedown. The hopes for successful completion of this mission were riding on the back of these decade old ships and the work that was being completed between the Auckland and Yadev Depot and he did not want to be the one to make the Captain break his promise.

It has been relatively smooth sailing as the kinks were ironed out until they got within range of the Depot proper. The ship took itself into red alert and began powering up weapons. Something was very wrong.

“T’Keterk to USS Auckland and Yadev Depot. Shields up, the Oreti is powering up weapons and targeting any Federation asset in range.” T’Keterk called over any available channel.

“Shut it down, Lieutenant.” Aris’ measured voice replied back. “Initiate emergency shut down.”

“On it, Captain.” T’Keterk replied back. “Whatever is happening, something is trying to lock me out of the command controls.”

Before he could activate the emergency shutdown, the Oreti fired a single volley of torpedos at the station. T’Keterk hoped beyond hope the Depot was able to activate its defenses. Fingers flying over the terminal, T’Keterk watched on as the torpedo impacted the stations shielding before he could isolate the shutdown command.

Only breathing again once the ship was powered down. “Oreti has been shut down, Captain.” T’Keterk reported. “I will maintain my presence here pending further updates.”

“Acknowledged, Lieutenant.” Aris replied. “We will get to the bottom of this.”


Back on the Depot, Aris and Joci were seated in Avaya’s office with Taylor positioned near the door. “Would any of you care to explain what just happened.”

“I am unsure, Administrator.” Joci replied. “All testing was successful when we finished last night and no one should have been working on it overnight.”

Activating the holographic display on her terminal, Avaya bought up the changelog of the automation routines to see if anything had changed. Everything was looking normal, until a small bit of code jumped out at Joci. “Stop.” she requested as she looked closer at the scrolling data.

“What is it, Ensign?” Aris gently asked. 

“There has been an unauthorised change to some of the hostility handling functions.” Joci replied softly as she analysed what the newly injected code was meant to do.

“Someone has programmed a self-replicating virus into the routines which if activated on all vessels would have spread like wildfire. Our own vessels would have turned against us.” Joci continued. “Ensign Shan, I understand you completed a forensics module during your time at the academy?”

Hearing his voice, Taylor approached the gathered officers and looked over what he was seeing. “What can I help you with Ensign?”

Joci pointed out the discrepancy in the changelog. “Based on this data, are you able to determine when or who made this change?”

Taylor nodded as he retrieved his padd and accessed the security logs. Transferring the feed to the Administrator’s display, everyone watched closely as Taylor examined the frames of footage. “It doesn’t appear anyone forced their way into the lab, but the timestamps indicate our perpetrator should be arriving any moment.”

“Pause it.” Avaya suddenly cried out. The image froze on the face of an officer who had no business being anywhere near the operations labs. Committing the face to memory, she motioned for the feed to continue.

Frame by frame they watched as the officer injected his malicious code into the automation systems before leaving.

“Who was that?” Avaya asked. She made a point to know as many of the staff by face but this was drawing a blank. “Is he one of yours?”

“Negative, Administrator.” Aris sighed. “Definitely not one of ours.”

“You don’t think…?” Avaya began.

“Speculation will get us nowhere Administrator.” Aris cut in. “The real question is can the damage be reversed?”

“Yes, Sir.” Joci replied. “It won’t be easy but we can get it done and ready for a follow-up test in a few hours.” 

“See to it, Ensign.” Aris replied. “And Ensign Shan? I want you and your teams to keep an eye out for our mystery tinkerer. This testing has to work.”

Joci and Taylor both nodded to the Captain and Administrator before taking their leave.

“Please keep this under wraps for now Administrator.” Aris returned his attention back to Avaya. “If we let on about the attempted sabotage, this could make our mystery officer sloppy and jeopardize the rest of the mission.”

“Understood, Captain.” Avaya replied. “Is it too late to mount any form of defense?”

“It’s never too late, Administrator.” Aris replied in a comforting tone, but even now with less than 48 hours, he wasn’t even sure if that sounded sincere or not.

Comments

  • Wow what an interesting turn of events, I wonder who this person is that messed with the code and could have easily put everyone's lives in danger. Is it a Changeling that infiltrated the station? So many unanswered questions that I can't wait to read what happens next. I hope they are able to fix the problem and get things working as it needs to be. I am glad that they were able to shut the ship down before any real damage was done. Great work at portraying this story!

    June 17, 2023