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Overwhelming Preponderance

Posted on Sun Jun 23rd, 2019 @ 6:10am by Commander Mrazak & Lieutenant Sophie Xiong & Ferrofax & Lieutenant Commander Garai Fenia PhD

Mission: S1E3: Barbarians at the Gates
Location: Deck 3 Forensic Labs, USS Phantom
Timeline: MD 2

The research team had done well, but they had hit a brick wall as far as theories went. They needed to get their hands dirty if they wanted to make any further progress. Fortunately, a noncom goldshirt arrived with a duffel in hand. It was dripping with a thick, viscous goop. "Commander Mrazak says he you need to take this apart."

Fenia frowned at the sight. "Just... put it on a worktable. Thank you." Looking to Sophie, she said, "Suppose this is our beacon?"

Sophie, who has been busily attempting to extract data from what was left of some biomimetic gel sacks, looked up with sudden interest. “I wouldn’t even know what I’m looking for,” she said, setting the pack on the console to which she had linked it and hurrying over to the table.

The noncom hurried out of the room, happy to be disposed of what he clearly found an unfavorable package. That was just as well. Assuming the contents of the duffel really were salvaged debris from a bio-ship, it was perhaps the most alien thing any of them had ever encountered.

"I'm going to be honest," Fenia said, assessing the duffel bag that was thankfully still and unmoving. She reached for a tricorder on reflex. "I'm not entirely certain of the best approach to this. Mechanical, biological, mineral, or what?"

“I have no idea,” admitted Sophie. This was all uncharted territory for her. “Maybe just generic scans to see what its make-up is and go from there?” she suggested.

Fenia finished doing just that. "Well, if nothing else, I've confirmed that whatever this is contains the same quantum resonance as the theta flux distortion near the edge of the Tien system." She beamed at Sophie. "Looks like we have our beacon. Now..." She went to the supply closet for protective gloves and eyewear. "... to dismantle it."

As she set her personal protective equipment into place, she said, "Computer, perform a full spectral scan of the contents of the bag and provide analysis."

"You could give a program time to settle back into ones less than familiar haunts. Janus went through all my settings..." Ferrofax grumbled. Over the contents a scan field flickered, blinking with detail here and there as chemical and spectrographic insights became available. "Biological material with a genetic complexity well past normal human form limits. Cross-referencing with Memory Alpha shard data suggests a 99.99% probability of it being Species 8472. There are also technological additions, including a powerful broadcast array. A very robust array if the current gauges are to be believed."

Though Sophie actually knew very little of what was going on here, her brain made the connections and she all but danced around the table. "That means it is capable of emitting radiation!" she exclaimed. "And I'll just bet it's Theta flux radiation at that!"

Fenia cringed at the AI's reprimand. Even after the weeks and months spent on the team, she still had not acclimated to speaking to the computer system as a sentient being. To conversing with it. Him. "The residual radiation is minimal," she said to Sophie, "which means the device is either dormant or it's a component to a larger system." She inclined her head in thought. "Which... it would have to be the latter. If Species 8472 were attacking on their own, there would be no need for the theta flux distortion. They could open a quantum singularity and be done with it. No, they're being signaled. But how? And, most importantly, by whom?"

"And why?" added Sophie. "I refuse to believe anybody would trust them as allies."

"Good point," Fenia said. "If I recall the mission brief dossiers correctly, when Voyager encountered Species 8472 in the Delta Quadrant, they exhibited a supremacist perspective regarding other lifeforms. What could the Cardassians, or anybody, possibly have to offer them?" She sighed at the conundrum. "I suppose we've delayed the inevitable long enough."

Using a utility laser cutter, she nimbly separated the nylon fabric of the duffel bag to reveal its contents. An organic membrane oozed with a sticky liquid that was not unlike hydraulic fluid, but the external electronic components were plain to see. If that wasn't enough, the chassis was clearly manufactured. "The chassis appears to be some sort of polyalloy. Can you dismantle the outer casing? If we can take a look at the inside, we might be able to narrow down who reverse-engineered this."

Instead of replying verbally, Sophie retrieved a pair of thin yet strong elbow-length gloves and pulled them on before beginning her work. She wasn’t entirely sure of what the oozing stuff was and she would rather avoid getting any on herself just in case. She looked all over for some sort of fastener to open the casing, but found nothing. So, with a shrug and a hope for the best, she simply inserted a small prybar into the seam and rocked it back and forth. With a slight cracking noise, it gave way. Sophie winced at first, but as nothing appeared to be broken when she continued to pry it apart, she shrugged again. “I guess that must be the correct way to open it,” she commented.

"Isn't there an old Earth saying about breaking a few eggs?" Fenia teased as she set her tricorder to scan the device. "Based on these readings, I'd say this fluid is very much biological in nature. See the chromosome markers?" She held the tricorder aside for Sophie to take note. "There aren't many species known to utilize bio-tech to this degree. Let's see if we can't identify some of these electronic and mechanical components."

Sophie glanced at the tricorder long enough to see what Fenia was talking about, but not really take it in the whole sequence. She didn't need to know it anyway. "Yeah," she said, working to free what looked like some sort of power cell. "This for instance," she said. "Could be a power source. It's different, though. Old, I think."

"Old by Federation standards, maybe," Fenia suggested. "I've seen my share of antiques, and this isn't one. Older model power supplies tend to be larger, for instance. Run it through the database and see if..."

It was rude to stop talking mid-sentence, but Fenia found her words cut off by a realization. An isolinear contact lead that ran from the power cell in Sophie's gloved hand was anchored to a capacitor. A base model that looked distinctly familiar. "This part right here," she said, tapping her finger. "This is a Cardassian capacitor. I'm certain of it. It's reinforced from standard, but the design is the same. I imagine newer ships of the line contain hundreds of them."

She looked at Sophie. "We may want to continue studying the object, but I feel confident enough confirming a Cardassian connection to it."

"The inner lining of the casing has mild radioactive decay, a decay associated with particle bombardment from a class G star. There is a Cardassian Union owned metal work on Hester Minor which orbits a class G star. There is also a partially scrubbed serial number with a 3rd Order ident chit stamped onto each molecule," Ferrofax said with a sniff from where he resided in the ceiling. "But you made a very good, and accurate guess."

Fenia favored him with a smirk. "You might have offered that at the outset... Ferrofax." She was careful not to call him 'Computer' again. Mrazak's warnings from her early days in Memory Theta rang loud in her ears: 'Computer' was a pejorative that was not twice forgiven. "Still, it will fit nicely into our report."

“I’ll see if I can’t get it out,” replied Sophie. “It would be nice to have evidence on file to which we can refer.” She found that hard evidence was better than three people’s words, even if one of them was a computer.

"While you do that, I'll update the Commander." Fenia tapped her combadge. "Garai to Mrazak. I believe we found something."

=/\="Please be more specific."=/\= Mrazak did not sound as pleased as could be.

Fenia cleared her throat. "Well... we have potentially three identifying markers that the 8472 salvage was modified with Cardassian technology."

There was a gasp on the other end. =/\="I'm on my way! Mrazak out."=/\=

"How's it coming?" Fenia asked Sophie.

"Slowly, but you're only flesh and blood so I'll not hold that against you," Ferrofax muttered from his perch somewhere in a holocam. "For instance, you are assuming it is salvage, there is the possibility of cooperation of a sort. It would be remiss of me not to point out the folly of not assuming the worst case scenario, a cooperative pact between the 8472 and the Cardassian Union."

Sophie shot Ferrofax an annoyed look. "This is my job and I'll thank you not to critique from the cheap seats," she muttered, finally freeing the piece in question. "There we are."

Though she was a scientist who was not supposed to be predisposed to jumping to conclusions, Fenia couldn't quite suppress a shudder that Ferrofax may be right. He did parse millions of petabytes of data in presenting the political morass that surrounded the mission. Tensions were high and nerves were raw. She suddenly felt the burden of how the next few moments may inform the admiralty, who may use this very report to let slip the dogs of war.

"Can you confirm Ferrofax's scans?" Fenia asked. "Metallurgical sample or some such?"

For a reply, Sophie tapped the piece against the metal table and it clanged satisfactorily. "Definitely metal," she said.

A dull, hollow clapping sound began to fill the air, and then stopped.

“Oh don’t mind me. Just making sure the slow clap generator is still working after my short absence,” Ferrofax mused. “Please, don’t let it distract you from any more blinding insights into to your ‘metal’. Is it rock shaped? Does it make fire when you clap it against another rock? What mysteries of the universe shall we find today one is set to wonder?”

"Listen, you!" replied Sophie irritably, pointing one gloved finger at Ferrofax. "I was asked to confirm your scans and that is what I did. If you don't like it, you can shove it up your holographic ass!"

Mrazak walked in at that moment and abruptly halted in his tracks. "I beg your pardon, but absolutely not. I saw enough holographic ass-play in the bathhouse to last a lifetime. Now, I was told the salvage was identifiably Cardassian. Somebody explain!"

"Ahem, yes," Fenia said awkwardly, unsure of how to respond to Mrazak's remark and so opted against it. "At first I identified a capacitor of Cardassian designed connected to the power cell." She indicated the worktable near them. "And Lieutenant Song, with the help of Ferrofax, was able to confirm the origin of the interior metal casing inside the primary chassis." Nodding to Sophie, she then handed off the report.

Clap.
Clap.
Clap.


"Oh good, it's still working," Ferrofax commented dryly. "

Sophie ignored the mispronunciation of her last name; she was used to it. Xiong wasn't an easy name to pronounce exactly correctly and so many people called her Song, so had stopped correcting them. She did, however, shoot Ferrofax a withering look. She held up the capacitor, which was still covered in goo. "This bit right here," she said. "This is the part that is definitely Cardassian. Although, as I pointed out before, I don't think 8472 would knowingly cooperate with anybody. It's possible they're being... coerced. Perhaps without their knowledge."

"Save the speculation for the strategists," Mrazak barked. "We're just here to find and deliver the facts. Of course, this little treat may make a fine entry into our Archives. Tell me, have you determined how it works yet? Perhaps a field test..." Mrazak winced at his own lapse of focus. "No, wait. Plenty of time for play later. Are there any other identifying signs?" His eyes alighted with a mischievous glint. "Could we perhaps track down the creators?"

"We were about to perform a more thorough and detailed analysis of the device, I believe Miss Xiong was commenting on the metallurgy of the item, whose inner case was manufactured by the Grafturk Metal Works on Hester V. It is unlikely the device was made there, as it is a well-known manufacturing site of the 3rd Order and is thus under watch by traditional SFI assets," Ferrofax mused. "Though...if you can provide access to a subspace transmitter array, I could...communicate my intent for information retrieval to one of the SFI Sentinel Programs monitoring the data sphere. I'd be very discrete. It would just be a slight pinch, a little sting. They'd never feel it."

"I swear to Fusion good help is hard to find," Mrazak said with a manic chuckle. "So glad to have you back, Ferrofax. Make it so."

"Oh it is good to home, or at least in a place where I am appreciated for more than the sum of my parts," the murderous AI preened.

"Yes, yes," Mrazak agreed dismissively. "Now see if your counterparts in Starfleet Intelligence have pilfered anything of use to us."

"A moment..."

There was a sudden lightness to the air, as though some vast presence had shifted out of the rafters of the room to stalk prey elsewhere. It spoke to the part of the mammal mind that remembered the gaze of hunger carnivores looking up from the base of trees. But no sooner had it vanished than it settled once more into a comfortable roost.

"I have a few files. SFI has been their usual efficient self and the majority of files on what they imaginatively call Project Red Route are little more than theory and guesswork. They do not take the threat of a Cardassian 8472 alliance seriously, given the 8472's usual motive for crossing into our dimensional space. But their theory is more focused on their use as a weapons system, thus the code name of Red Route. There are a few worlds highlighted as likely centres of interest, and all but one of them can be dismissed."

A holographic orb appeared in the air above the table, depicting a world labelled Soukara.

Mrazak arched his prominent Vulcan eyebrows. "And just why did our SFI assets fail to include this in our mission packet?" He stepped toward the table and ran his finger along the holographic orb. The haptic sensors triggered a drop-down data entry on the world. Eyes moving to and fro, following each line to the end, Mrazak kept his peace until the end.

"I see. Starfleet attempted a failed operation on the world during the Dominion War. The Romulans ran a swift campaign in retaliation for the presumed assassination of one of their senators who visited here." He chuckled wryly. "More Cardassian interference, there."

He tapped his combadge. "Mrazak to bridge. Set course for Soukara. Warp 9 and mask our signature."

Ryland's voice came back. =/\="So, we're not going to the Valoris Nebula?"=/\=

"Why the blazes would we go there?!" Mrazak blurted.

=/\="Commander Chow said we should."=/\=

Mrazak sighed. "Fine. Set a course to Soukara by way of the Valoris Nebula. Engage Quantum Slipstream though. I don't want to lose any time. Can I assume the lieutenant commander is on the bridge presently?"

=/\="That's an affirmative."=/\=

"I'm on my way. Mrazak out." Cutting the channel with a prejudicial slap to his combadge, Mrazak looked to the others. "Good work here. I want this device diagrammed and ready for archiving by the time we get back to Overwatch."

"I can have it ready for Archiving within the house, longer if I have help," Ferrorax said curtly.

Sophie rolled her eyes and wordlessly went back to the biomimetic gel packs on which she had been working before Fenia called her over the inspect the pack. How was she going to work this AI? She already had a headache. With a sigh, she tried to put it out of her mind for the moment.

Noting the interaction but ultimately not caring, Mrazak turned to Fenia. "Keep me posted on your progress, Commander." And then he left, sparing only a parting look of indifference.

 

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