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Concordia Discors

Posted on Sun Jun 14th, 2020 @ 1:41pm by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Chief Warrant Officer Maisy Amburton PhD & Simon Covington , Esq.

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: Concordia | Venus
Timeline: MD 2

Civilian Research Module


Mrazak stood with his arms crossed over his chest as he drove a sullen evil eye through the plasteel observation window. The makeshift facility was set up with four modules, three installed in a circular pattern with the clean module in the center. While Simon P. Covington, scion of the Covington Foundation, allowed Bao, Maisy, and Grace access after some savvy negotiation, Mrazak was forced to wait in the dorm module. The Vulcan Without Logic suffered such indignation only because he intended to eavesdrop through his combadge. That brilliant plan was hindered by present company.

"Any word from your ship yet?"

The administrator's assistant, Adele Dazeem, had accompanied them from the Phantom and had been left behind along with its crew. She had been instrumental in organizing and securing access to Covinginton's lab after the man's team had laughed at Bao and Maisy. Mrazak loathed being in her debt.

"No," he said flatly.

Adele looked at him expectantly as if he would say more. When he didn't, she followed his sight line to observe the researchers through the plasteel window.

Within the clean room on the other side was a computer database and assorted work stations complete with electron microscopes, quantum processor, and other assorted scientific equipment. Simon stood out with a heavy white lab coat and lilac spectacles meant to filter out harmful radiation but also succeeded in making him look insane.

"You found active automata inside the vault?" he gasped. "And you collected samples no less!"

Bao raked his eyes over the scientist, the blue glow back in them. He needed to talk to Sunny about what had happened, but he did not want to do it in front of the civilian researcher. Call him paranoid, but he did not entirely trust them. True, he would not antagonize them like the idiot Vulcan, but this was still a sensitive matter. He mentally tasked Sunny with infiltrating the researcher's computer systems and making sure every record even tangentially related to the Theta team was scrubbed entirely clean the instant they left the clean room. He turned to the doctor. "Yes, Dr. Covington," he said blandly. "And while I appreciate your assistance, and putting Captain Mrazak down a few pegs, the conditions still stand. If one word of what you learn here is published, you will be found, disappeared to a black site, and never leave it again. Captain Mrazak is quite adept at that tactic. Are we clear on this matter? "

Simon P. Covington Esquire sneered at him. "You don't scare me, you Fremen wannabe! I can make ultimatum threats, too, and while you possibly have more guns at your back than I do, I promise that you do not have more lawyers, and ultimately this is my lab. If anyone is going to issue threats here, it is me!" With that settled, Dr. Covington's disposition softened back into his previous curiosity. "Now tell me more of your findings!"

"Doctor Amburton, would you like to start with your samples? Perhaps dating the ruins might give us some insight into the makers, or tell us if we are looking at something entirely new."

"Well, there's all the typical stuff in there, you know, carbon, nitrogen, all the elements you would expect," answered Maisy. "But, the most unusual thing I found is iron sulfate. That's what's left over when sulfuric acid reacts with iron. Well, that and oxide sulfur and some water, but they've probably dissipated over the years."

"Yes, yes," Covington said excitedly, his breath coming in short wisps. "So... so... perhaps these Makers were anaerobic sulphur-based lifeforms, which would explain their attraction to Venus versus Earth and its oxygen-rich ecology." He dug through the pile of tools and instruments on a distant work table and held up a cylindrical device of four small shafts in a tight bundle. "Run it through my quadrupole mass spectrometer. Let's see what we see!"

Maisy giggled giddily as she retrieved a sample from the nearby table and began the process. "Wouldn't that be something?" she said. "Sulphur-based! That would explain why they came to Venus instead of Earth or Mars or something."

"Indeed?!" The discovery made Covington perk up like a kid in a candy store. "That would preclude humanoid lifeforms, much less mammalian as seems to be dominant in this quadrant. Perhaps arthropod? Oh, this is exciting!"

"Can you imagine?" agreed Maisy. "We'll have to write a paper. We'll be famous! Ooo!" she added as the mass spectrometer beeped.

The eccentric professor's goggled eyes darted toward Bao. "Perhaps..."

"No papers," said the Lagashi. "Well, actually, no papers yet. As far as I am concerned, if they are benign and can be peaceably accommodated, we can discuss the necessary redactions. If their anger is not limited to attempting to murder Vulcan heretics....Well," the Lagashi trailed off significantly as results came in. "Chief, less fraternizing with those lacking security clearance, and more telling me the implications of your machine claiming that dust predates the evolution of multi-cellular life in this solar system."

Covington gasped at the mass spectrometer readings. "Mother of pearl! You're right! This could be our window to... to prehistory!"

"He takes all the fun out of it, doesn't he?" Maisy said to Covington about Bao.

While the geologist continued processing her samples, Bao turned his attention to making sure their traces were covered. Sunny had probed the network well while they were talking. The system was state of the art, for general circulation civilian use. Brute force would be entirely too noticeable, but sophisticated AIs, and military grade software would help. Apparently, his erstwhile AI had been picking up trick from somewhere. "Sunny," he thought to his AI, "Where did you learn to do that?" The Lagashi was pretty sure that ability was nowhere in the skill packs he had downloaded for her.

The avatar representation of the AI blushed slightly. "Just a few things picked up here and there. I was in the system on Bynaus when Biynah merged with it, and there is some delightfully evil code available all over the place on Overwatch you know. The computer science specialists have been really lax about compartmentalizing," was the response scrolled across his entopic displays. "Oh, would you look at that. Dr. Covington's personal files..."

Bao did not miss the attempt at changing the subject, but he decided to let it go for the time being as he looked at what had been unearthed. Most of it was boringly mundane, though the man seemed to be a hypochondriac. The pornography collection was...interesting to say the least. A side thought had that streamed to the recreation room/mess, along with a clear label of its source. Petty, but the man was almost as annoying as the Vulcan. However, the communication logs that were flagged were easily the most interesting. "Sunny," he thought, "Send those comm logs to Captain Mrazak. Perhaps graphically wrapped in something appropriately juvenile."

An alarm sounded, which triggered flashing lights. Covington snapped to attention. "Another network intrusion?! But were there precursors..."

The Lagashi's head snapped to the screen. He knew his AI hadn't done it, since he was making a point to monitor exactly what she was doing. He flashed back to what happened outside the obelisk. He spoke out loud, for the benefit of Covington. "Sunny, pattern math to presumed hostile network at the obelisk. If it matches, institute iron dome protocol."

Covington rushed to his seismograph display. "That is unexpected. Numerous network intrusion attempts have been precipitated by tectonic activity and other assorted geological activity, yet nothing as such!" He rubbed his chin at the mystery, then abruptly snapped his fingers in the air. "But if this ancient vault was unearthed, then perhaps whatever forced it above the surface has also breached the surface as well..."

The eccentric professor ran to his adjacent meteorological display. "Yes! See here? Infrasonic frequencies are bouncing around the turbulent pressure systems above us! The network intrusion attempt did have a precursor after all! It just changed mediums from planetary crust to atmosphere! But... at this rate... it may actually penetrate the thick Venusian atmosphere into Sol space. What could that mean?"

Mrazak pounded on the plasteel window. His voice was all but completely muffled by the plasteel. "What's going on in there?!"

Before Bao could respond, Sunny's finished her analysis. Bao read it for the benefit of the others including Mrazak. "The prior encounter with the Obelisk's network systems resulted in a defensive action that overloaded my cybernetic enhancements. The current attempt is considerably more offensive hacking attempt, using the Venusian planetary material as a computing substrate."

Unable to contain herself, Maisy blurted out her whole report in a single sentence. "My analysis on the dust indicates a sulpher-based organism that predates life on Earth by..." she did some quick mental math, "nearly two million years."

"I knew it!" Mrazak cheered from outside the clean room. He looked at Adele. "I told them there was something here and now there is! One might tire of always being right, but, no, I find that I do not." He burst into the clean room with a swift drop kick to the door. The smile on his face could not have been smugger.

The Lagashi began taking action. "Mr. Covington, whether you like it or not, I am commandeering your installation for national defense. You may lodge a formal complaint with Captain Mrazak if you object. I require full access to your system mainframe, immediately. I think it safe to say we should take all available steps to prevent an intrusion from extending past Venus. Sunny, override the security controls and open that door for Captain Mrazak. While you're at it, I do not care how, but see if you can find the Phantom and/or get me through to Sergeant Kos and/or Captain Ben-Avram. It appears we owe the captain an apology for deriding his reasons for coming here."

"Apology accepted." Mrazak's head bobbled on his neck with supreme arrogance. "We may recall the Phantom, but nobody else just yet. This is our discovery. We will be the ones to document and catalog it before calling in the rank and file at the Starfleet Science Corps."

The outer modules echoed with the stampeding of boots. Soon, a crush of bodies swelled into the clean room, all garbed in dark oiled leathers from boot to face. Their helmets featured round goggles embedded in their masks, not unlike a primitive gas mask. Most notably, they were all armed with shock blades.

"What are you smelly apes doing in here?!" Covington protested. "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times: stay out of my lab!"

Adele Dazeem stepped forward. "Starfleet forced their hand, Dr. Covington. I'm afraid the Kinship has declared eminent domain."

"But this was not part of the contract!" Covington shouted. "I demand to speak with Christiana!"

"Mother Hrisi is indisposed at the moment," Adele said. "But she has requested for the outlanders to be brought to the Sanctuary. You may come along if you desire."

Covington shook his head and looked as if he intended to protest. But a quick calculation of the circumstances made him reconsider. "No. I will stay here. Much work remains to be done. And someone needs to make sure the children don't play with things they ought not!" He slapped the hand of a Kinship blackguard who stepped too close to his equipment.

"I hate civilians," Mrazak groused. "You Venereal lunatics must understand that this planet is visible in the sky from Starfleet Command. Do not do anything that cannot be undone. Let us go now or I personally guarantee a strike force will--"

One of the Kinship blackguards prodded him with the flat of his shock-blade. Mrazak's body shook with spasms all the way to the ground.

"Why was he talking about venereal lunacy?" Covington asked. "Syphilis has been cured for centuries!"

Bao cursed inwardly, as he schooled his features to impassivity. He silently signaled his AI to stay inside the research lab's systems and call for help by any means possible and necessary. He looked at Adele. It did not appear there was much choice in the matter. Another bloody cult. He sighed. "Shall we?" he asked in a plainly long suffering, but bored tone. "I find conversing with cultists, especially ones so boorish to be unendingly tiresome, so if it is all the same to you, can we get on with it?" With luck, the AI would be able to find some way to get word to Ben Avram about what was going on.

"I beg your pardon for any inconvenience," Adele said. "Mother Hrisi was quite urgent. And, well, I suppose you will understand once you hear what she has to say."

Something incomprehensible came from Mrazak's mouth, as he was still recovering from the shock-blade and was unable to speak coherently. Two of the blackguards hauled him up under the arms and dragged him out of the research module.

 

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