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Toss a Coin to Your Snitcher

Posted on Wed Dec 23rd, 2020 @ 8:24pm by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Captain Mrazak & Commander Arianna Frost & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Lieutenant Sophie Xiong & Ensign Khaiel D'hikatsi & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax & Chief Warrant Officer Maisy Amburton PhD
Edited on on Wed Dec 23rd, 2020 @ 8:40pm

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: USS Phantom | Strategic Operations Conference Room
Timeline: MD 3

Seated about the conference table in the Phantom's Strat Ops center were the senior members of Memory Theta's field team, Akiva and a young ensign who had been rescued along with him, and their erstwhile guest/host from Venus, Kara Madavi. As far as Ari was concerned, Kara had been fully read-in to the situation and was borderline conscripted. For the purposes of the current operation, she was a member of the team. Especially considering her familiarity with the landscape.

Yet introductions needed to be made.

"Good to see everyone," Akiva said sheepishly. Except for Storr who had secretly beamed him down to Earth on the ship's way to Venus, nobody had known about his little sidestep. "We've made some new friends, it seems. This is Khaiel, a new ensign who helped thwart a terrorist who leveraged current events to perform a heist from a hidden depot on Mars."

Ari nodded toward Kara. "And this is Lieutenant Madavi, Starfleet's terraforming specialist and liaison to the Venusian Surveying Office."

"Wait just a second," Mrazak said before letting anyone else speak. "Did you say Venusian? I was told Venereal was the correct adjective for Sol II." He cast an angry scowl at Ryland who had been the one to persuade him of the mistake. Ryland had the good grace to turn away and cover his face.

"That is... not correct," Akiva said, his face playing an incredulous half-smile. "You didn't use that term with anybody important, did you?"

Bao hid a small smile that quickly turned more melancholy. "Only everyone he interacted with," he said. "Though since the vast majority of those persons must now be presumed deceased, it likely is irrelevant."

Sophie kept her face carefully neutral, but inside, she was positively gleeful. Mrazak annoyed her, so any discomfort on his part was satisfying on hers.

"Thank you for coming," Arianna said at length, "but as we're past the time for pleasantries, allow me to get right to it. I haven't had time to compile the data into a holo-report, which means everyone needs to pay close attention."

She stared everyone down until she had their silence and full attention.

"The current crisis is a tense one with many facets. As reports have shown, the Sol system is under lockdown due to a multi-pronged failure of every major computer system. Spacedock One fell from orbit and broke up in atmosphere, leaving Earth in a state of disarray. The Federation Council is currently undergoing continuity of government protocols as we speak. Starfleet Security is air-gapping all systems in order to ensure the compromised systems don't affect others but to no avail. What I'm am revealing now will be patched through to them in short order."

Taking a moment to breathe, Ari continued.

"Despite the global devastation on Earth and the heist on Mars, it seems the epicenter for the activity is indeed Venus. Interrogating a captured terrorist has shed light onto the matter. The Kinship of Shangri-La has been a eco-minded activist group that took on religious overtones. There was a schism that formed over the discovery of the Abad'ashar, that is, the shapeshifting monolith. As per the vault findings," Ari paused to nod at Bao for providing it, "the Abad'ashar appears to be the original lifeforms native to Venus. They seem to be a superorganism endemic to the planetary crust, particularly the mantle. Mother Hrisi seemed to consider it some form of deity, but others disagreed. Upon interrogation, McGill confessed to conspiracy against the Federation and the Kinship itself with a splinter cell that formed around the discovery of an ancient artificial construct that took the name of the first technician who studied it -- a man called Gregg. It appears that Gregg was originally fashioned by ancient colonists from hundreds of millions of years ago to fight back against the Abad'ashar whose infrasonic pulses eventually took over their infrastructure. Old Gregg had lied dormant for eons until the Abad'ashar was awakened by drilling and geological activity. Now they have resumed their war with the Abad'ashar attempting to take over all nearby technological infrastructure and Old Gregg using said infrastructure to destroy the Abad'ashar. As such, Venus is probably the most dangerous place in the system. If not for the presence of Ferrofax, it's very likely the Phantom would have been incapacitated or even compromised by either the Abad'ashar or the Old Gregg construct."

Akiva was all too happy to get answers to his many questions. "What do you propose we do now?" he asked.

"My job is to observe and report," Arianna said. "I imagine we will receive orders from admiralty before long."

"No," Mrazak interjected. "We came here on a Q exile's advice, and we actually found a threat that he predicted. Memory Theta has a mission, lest you all forget, to quell threats and obtain rogue technology. If we can deduce any means to neutralize this Abad'ashar and Old Gregg, then we must do it without waiting for permission." He let off a small smirk as he added, "Besides... an ancient AI and a living transmitter are definitely items worthy of collection for the Deep Storage Archives."

The Lagashi shifted uncomfortably. "What can we do?" he asked. "Ideally, we would put both entities back to sleep, but we have no idea how that was done in the first instance. If we had time to decipher the language and script at the vault perhaps it would tell us something, but even on a good day, I would need days if not weeks to get a proper grasp of their script and language, and we do not have that kind of time. The Gregg machine indicated that Ferrofax's bombardment slowed the thing down. Are we desperate enough yet to consider the mass orbital bombardment of Venus?"

"Ferrofax already tried that," Ryland reminded them. "Leveled the mountain and punched a hole through the crust with everything we had. If that didn't dust the thing, I don't know what would."

"We could always go to New Far Florence. I'm sure an active Clockmaker Spore can be found travelling out of the system on the photon wave of the local supernova we caused. Drop that on Old Greg's head and problem solved. We move everyone out of Sol, and do unto Gregg what we did to the Clockmakers. This just buys us time," Ferrofax mused. "I've run simulations. A Clockmaker infestation of Sol II would take roughly twenty years, give or take Gregg's various responses to the attack. Throughout this period a full evacuation of the Sol System can be achieved with minimal loss of life."

"What the fuck?" Ryland exclaimed. "Y'all actually did that to a star system? On purpose? And you wanna' do it again?"

Though she hated to admit it, Sophie agreed with Ryland. "That is... less than ideal," she started, then shook her head abruptly. "No, that's worse than that. That's like the worst case scenario. People are not going to leave earth. We have to be able to come up with a way to contain the two entities."

"I uh..." Khaiel cleared his throat, feeling nervous to speak, and feeling even worse to admit he had no idea what was going on. "What are Clockmaker Spores?" he asked. "And the Vault? And what is Memory Theta? And who is Gregg?"

Ari sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. "We met a maintenance tech on a failing Venusian aerial platform called Old Gregg by his supervisor. That technician had his identity adopted by a fragmented AI that evidently caused an extinction-level event in Venus' ancient past and brought it to the devastated condition familiar to us today. The ancient AI, and by extension the automatons from the excavated vault under its control, destroyed Venus in attempts to kill the godlike Abad'ashar lifeforms within the planet's mantle. Now that the Abad'ashar has awakened, the AI has returned as well, but had to reconstruct its identity due to fragmented programming. Between the two opposing forces, the Federation capital is at risk. If either influence spreads beyond this system, infrastructure throughout the Federation could be compromised and corrupted to serve their ancient war. The Abad'ashar likely views us as little more than microbes, and Old Gregg will destroy civilization in order to fulfil its final protocol."

"Perhaps Ferrofax has a point after all..." Mrazak conceded. "Perhaps the Sol system is truly lost."

"Why don't we shut down this Old Gregg AI?" Khaiel asked.

Mrazak scoffed at the suggestion. "Assuming we went to Llorona Station, where we presume he has uploaded himself and launched his DDOS attacks against local computer networks, and did just that, what would stop the Abad'ashar from assuming full control of the uncontested networks? We have to take them out at the same time, or neutralizing one could hand the other total victory. What we need is a big picture final solution."

"Couldn't we just corrupt the networks on our way out?" Khaiel asked. "By overloading them to a specific point with mundane data, we could try to trigger a feedback loop on the network positronic carrier wave. Pumping the network full of data packets so large that they begin to implode, and then we rip them open as we extract this AI program. We'd be essentially killing the entity while damaging the networks beyond repair."

"That could work," Akiva said, rubbing his chin. "At least for the AI side of it. But what do we know about this Abad'ashar? It's alive and embedded into the planetary mantle, but what is it made of? Does it have vulnerabilities? Is it a gestalt? A colony? A megalithic lifeform?"

Kara had been quiet up to this point, feeling out of her element amidst all the talk. Were all black ops officers this cavalier? Perhaps they must be as part of their duty. However, though she possessed no knowledge about system defense or tactical warfare, she was Starfleet's terraforming specialist and therefore the resident expert on Venus and its colonial infrastructure.

"Well, if you need intel on Llorona Station, I can provide that," Kara said, piping in for the first time. "It's positioned at the L1 Lagrange point for a reason. It hosts a solar diffuser array that redirects solar radiation out and around the planet similar to a windbreak. The solar diffuser is powered directly by the sun and is an essential piece of orbital infrastructure. Without the diffuser array on Llorona Station, which is home to well over two million people, the entire planet would still be a raging inferno. If an AI has taken it over, then we have to save the people still on board."

"The surface of Venus is silica," Maisy pointed out. "It's a cinch to infer that this Abad'ashar is made of the same stuff. Or at least based in it."

"Hot nitric acid will destroy silica," added Sophie. "Or at least will do enough damage to kill anything made of it. But, first, Madavi is correct. We need to get the rest of the people off the planet before we do anything else."

"Could we weaponise Llorona Station? Turn the diffuser into some kind of focusing beam that we point at the Abad'ashar? Like burning ants with a magnifying glass," Rodi suggested after, almost interrupting Sophie with the thought.

The scowl on Mrazak's face slowly turned into a wolfish grin. "Could we? Perhaps we could..." His stare fell to Kara. "Sustained bombardment of laser formed by sufficiently focused solar radiation
with the right intensity could theoretically destroy anything. Tell me your diffuser array can be inverted to become the galaxy's biggest laser."

Quickly doing the math in her head, Kara shrugged. "Maybe? I suppose it's worth a shot." Whatever it took to save the innocent colonists on the station.

"Lieutenant Xiong, make this happen," Mrazak ordered. "Use whatever you need to work it out. We're going to Llorona Station, we're going to drive Old Gregg out of the computer network, and we're going to silence this screaming Abad'ashar for good."

"On it," replied Sophie, already making notes on her PADD. She didn't care how they got rid of these two entities as long as they got gone.

"That's more like it," Mrazak said with a nod of approval. "We'll need to take control of the main computer and the diffuser array. Now, if Old Gregg is in control of Llorona Station, then we might expect resistance in some way. I want a tactical plan in place for both objectives before we arrive."

Kara raised her hand. "Colonial Security Chief Donaldson would have put up a fight. We should attempt to contact him and see if he can help."

"The Ghost currently has sixteen marines, as well as Colonel Garlake and myself on board. We can deploy to the station and secure it, our phasers worked against those critters on the surface." Rodi added. "Maybe we can even drag some of the surviving security staff out."

Bao thought for a moment as his eyes flashed a few times with suggestions from his own pet AI. "I have an idea on how to keep Old Gregg busy, if Ferrofax will agree to help. When we encountered the automatons on the surface of Venus they were able to attack my systems. Since then the attack has been analyzed. I believe two AIs and myself and perhaps Ms. Sternwood if she can be returned to lucidity, launching similar attacks on the systems on the station using the Phantom's communications suite, it should, at a minimum, distract it from mounting an effective defence, and in a best-case might actually trip the system purge and reset threshold. If we wanted to be extra sure we could use the shuttles for extra power as well."

"Something happened to Grace... Lieutenant Sternwood?" Akiva asked, looking around only to realize just then that she was not present.

Bao gave Akiva a stare, not having the mental energy to waste on tact. "Insufficient mental fortitude, Captain. She appears to have suffered a mental break due to the strain of being assaulted by ancient automatons and abducted by deranged cultists. She has been speaking in gibberish since. Though it would be beneficial to have some sort of computer expert assisting any attempt we made."

"I can vouch for the young ensign's abilities," Akiva said, indicating Khaiel. "And I will assist however I may as well." He was no hacker, but he knew his way around a terminal. And, while he had not known Grace exceptionally well, she seemed like another bright star snuffed out too quickly. "Let us also be sure Lieutenant Sternwood receives treatment just as soon as is able."

Mrazak gave a nod of approval. It was always exciting for him to see a plan come together. "So it's settled." If he cared that Grace was suffering a mental breakdown, he gave no indication. "Our computer technicians will coordinate an attack against Old Gregg to allow our Marines and technical assets to board the station under its... hm, nose and allow us to access and reverse the diffuser array to silence the Abad'ashar for good."

"So... how many teams are we looking at?" Ari asked. "We gotta' flog Old Gregg from the Phantom in order to get our people on the station, but it doesn't seem like we can purge him remotely. Sounds like we've got at least two objectives here -- the first being the solar diffuser array controls and the second being the computer core. He might just undo our hard yakka otherwise."

"I will stay aboard the Phantom and direct the diverse teams, whomever they are," Mrazak said, casting an angry eye at Ryland. He would not soon forget being left behind at Concordia.

"I would like to take ten marines with me to the array. That should leave the minimum amount of security able to still repel boarders," Rodi added.

Mrazak shrugged. "Works for me," he said. Military strategy was not his forte. "Assuming the colonel has no objections, I suppose that leaves him to escort the technical team to the computer core with a fireteam of his choosing."

With a shrug and affirmative nod, Storr accepted the mission parameters. He'd assemble his team immediately after the briefing.

"In that case, my read on the mission goes like this," Ari said. "Sgt. Kos will escort me, Lt. Madavi, and Lt. Xiong to the diffuser array and Col. Garlake will do so with Capt. ben-Avram, Com. Qiao, and Ens. D'hikatsi to the computer core. Ferrofax runs support and Mrazak calls orders. Are we go?"

Nods all around.

"All right, then," Akiva said. "Let's get ready."

Mrazak cleared his throat in Akiva's direction. "Excuse you, but this is my mission." Looking around the table, Mrazak eyed each one of them. "You have your assignments. Get ready!"


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