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Ride the Lightning

Posted on Tue Jan 16th, 2018 @ 5:28pm by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Ferrofax

Mission: S1E1: Bynars Be Bygones
Location: USS Phantom - Bridge/Vault
Timeline: MD 5

Viewed through the long range sensor readout in the Strategic Operations Conference Room, the Beta Magellan system flickered like a red alert klaxon. Its remaining binary dwarf star was barely bright enough to heat the Bynar homeworld, much less push back the darkness of space. The Dyson swarm, a segmented ring of power converters which form a halo around the dwarf star, would stave off the dwarf star's eventual supernova for an untold period of time, while the Dyson bubble--a series of swarm halos--surrounding the collapsed star's singularity prevented the expansion of the accretion disk. All in all, it made for a spatial spectacle that defied terrestrial constructs of stellar norms. Like the Bynars themselves, their stars had been technologically augmented to survive and thrive under the harshest circumstances.

The feat of astrophysics pulled off between the two celestial bodies was nothing short of wondrous. Aside from the miraculous self-sustaining power supply, it also made for a labyrinth of gravitational anomalies and unpredictable solar winds to navigate -- and that is if the Bynars did not worsen the situation from their chain of Dyson devices. At a moment's notice, they could put their entire system on lock down and effectively destroy anything within their stars' heliosphere with opposing tidal forces. Mrazak had spent the better part of the day gazing into the holographic display while numerical values and quadratic equations danced across the top and bottom of the image. It was time to put his new Lagashi recruit to use.

"Bridge to Commander Mrazak. We are on final approach to the Beta Magellan system."

Mrazak tapped his commbadge to redirect the communication to his person. He hated the feeling of a voice abstractly shouting at him from the ceiling.

"Acknowledged. Bring us out of warp and proceed at full impulse."

"Roger wilco."

That helmsman... Mrazak shook his head with a chuckle mixed with a sneer. What an anachronism. Good thing he had an upgrade available.

"Janus, please have Lieutenant Qiao report to the bridge. He should be down in the Vault sorting his effects. And, Janus? Be kind. He's had a hard day."

"Affirmative!" Janus beamed, before sullenly shifting colour. "I cannot make a promise I have no intention of keeping."

-- Deck 4 Vault --

Bao was, in fact, in the vault, although he wasn't doing much in the way of sorting. There didn't seem much point since he doubted anything would stay on the Defiant class ship anyway. Instead he was kneeling in a seiza position, eyes seemingly closed as he "read" about Bynaus and its language, as well as brushing up on his basic computer skills. Fortunately, the system the Bynars used was harshly limited by its architecture. Doing everything in binary code meant their systems, while exponentially more powerful and complicated, were still, architecturally, virtually identical to the machines used by humans in the 20th and 21st centuries. There were plenty of things to exploit with such a limited view. And it made security laughable. Or rather, it would be except no one except the Bynars had used binary for a very long time. It didn't matter anyway. The point was the Bynars were the easy part. Navigating through space, even with access to their systems was going to be a royal bitch regardless.

Noticing a new presence in the room, he spoke while keeping his eyes closed. "It is time?"

"It is indeed time! Please report to the bridge!" Janus informed, before addingly slyly. "Or we could play hookie and go play with the photon torpedes..."

"Let's save that for when Mr. Pointy Bi-Polar has a manic episode, yeah?"

Mrazak returned to the bridge. The V'tosh Ka'tur in him felt mild impatience at beating his new Xenoscience Specialist to the bridge, but the vestiges of Logic gently chided the unreasonable expectation.

"Report." Mrazak assumed the command chair and called up the short range sensor sweep log for himself.

"We are proceeding at an inbound vector of 800 milicochranes to the edge of the system," the helmsman replied. "We should breach the perimeter of the circumstellar disc into the heliosphere momentarily."

Not quite warp 1, but it would do. "Keep it up, Lieutenant Wilco. Stand by for a new heading."

The helmsman flinched at the wrong name, even took pause. "Um, sir, my name is--"

"Lieutenant Roger Wilco," Mrazak interrupted. "Yes, I am aware. Stand by for new heading."

"No, sir, it's--"

"I said stand by for new heading," Mrazak repeated, making no attempt to veil his contempt for the upstart conn officer who seemed to always second guess him.

"Aye, aye... Commander."

A few moments later, Bao entered the bridge, eyes glowing perhaps a bit more brightly than usual. A quick look around told him that the bridge of a Defiant class vessel was less than ideal for this. Ideally there'd be a console next to the helmsman, but seeing as there wasn't, they'd just have to get cozy. Eyeing the helm officer, there were worse things that could happen. He looked to Mrazak. "Shall I?" he asked, voice a touch more flat than it had been in his quarters. Running Sunny at such a high level and trying to coordinate closely required a lot more concentration.

"You may use the Science console for your purposes," Mrazak instructed, guiding the Lagashi man with an outstretched finger. "Relay the data through your familiar Sunny to Janus, who in turn will collate it into bearing changes for the conn." He shot the helmsman a stern look. "We only get one shot at this, Lieutenant Wilco. Do not tilau it up."

Mutters about proper names floated up from the conn, but Mrazak ignored them. Bao on the other hand, gave the officer a polite grimace. "I'm sure you'll do fine, Lieutenant Straten," he said, having made it a point to at least learn the names of the people he would have to coordinate with. "For now, keep us outside their sensor range until a better angle can be calculated. As Sun Tzu said, surprise will lead to victory."

The helmsman scoffed at the quote, but softened afterward. "Sorry. This assignment is just not at all what I expected it to be. I'll be ready on your mark."

Without engaging further, BaoJun moved to the science console and sat down next to it. He silently directed Sunny to more firmly mesh herself with his thoughts while establishing a wireless connection to Janus and the science station. It would be faster, although having a 4 sided process going on inside one's head was both taxing disorienting. "Link established," he added, out loud, voice becoming more monotone. Idly he placed a firewall between himself/Sunny and the connection with Janus, just in case.

"Friends don't put up walls between themselves," Janus said in a hurt tone, shifting around the bridge like a bipolar Tinkerbell. "I wonder how flamible your firewall is?"

"You could try finding out," came the cool reply from Sunny. "Though it might be dangerous for you. After all, primitive cultures burn their garbage."

Satisfied, he began. The Bynars had created truly marvelous works of technology with their Dyson Swarm and Dyson Bubble. More impressive was the sheer scale of the achievement considering the age of the technology powering it. He smiled inwardly as he began to think of how to subvert it. Without a cloaking device, it would be difficult to be completely invisible to the sensors, but that didn't mean they couldn't be spoofed. A little known fact about binary encoding was that it could not, in fact, accurately represent rational numbers. Small scale it wasn't an issue, as even computers that were 3 centuries out of date could represent things well enough, at large distances, with large speeds, and extreme size differentials, and the distorting effects of a singularity and enough numbers were being thrown around that the errors could be exploited. Almost as quickly as he thought it, his internal computer went to work pushing equations out and making calculations, albeit slowly enough for him to at least glance at them. He'd have to use his own judgment about the tradeoffs in danger, detectability, and speed. "There," he said out loud, having been silent for almost two minutes, while also feeding the information along to Janus to relay precision to the helmsman. "An extreme angle of approach from above the orbital plane threading through 5th Lagrange point," he added, more for the benefit of anyone who wasn't getting a text readout, not realizing he'd been speaking a good third of everything going on the entire time.

Taking a moment to review the approach in detail, the helmsman nodded. "Good enough," he said with slight reluctance. "Setting new course now."

That settled, it was time for the second part, which was more blatantly messing with the security system. Once they stopped moving, they needed the system to ignore them. The easiest way to do that was to simply cause the system to crash. A little known fact was that ship transponder codes were still given in low bit forms. The Binar traffic control accepted 512-bit identifiers, which, with their base 2 system allowed for 1.34 * 10^184 combinations, more or less. In a base 6 system it allowed for 2.59 * 10^428 combinations. A sample space some 1.93 * 10^276 times larger. Most ships didn't use anything remotely like the entirety of the possible spectrum. Time for a simple logic bomb. Most Federation ships transmitted a base 6 id of 16 bits that the Bynar systems converted into a base 2. Usually that process was easy. Transmitting an id that used the full sample space should cause the Bynar systems to overload the memory buffer, as they wouldn't be designed for someone to do that, nor, Bao hoped, would the Bynars have thought to include a failsafe for it. Settled on the id, he forwarded it to the helmsman through the intermediaries. Speaking intentionally, again unaware of how much he'd been saying unintentionally, he said, "If my hack works, we should have an hour or two where their security systems are blind. Hopefully in that time we can arrange to simply hide the ship conventionally."

Mrazak had followed along with the Lagashi murmuring through the side-jacked interface in the command chair panel. Though only a summary of the full computations passed through his miniature display, he still followed along with his cursory understanding of astrophysical and cybersecurity processes.

"Well done," Mrazak said with a measure of pride. "Take a seat, Lieutenant Qiao."

His job accomplished, Bao closed out the connections and began putting space back between him and Sunny as he slumped into the chair.

"Proceed along the new course heading," Mrazak ordered. "When we arrive, bring us into low orbit in the dark side of the planet. Janus will spoof our transponder signal with something already friendly and registered. How long, Lieutenant Wilco?"

The helmsman grimaced, but managed to respond respectfully. "Approximately 90 minutes, well within the window provided by Lieutenant Qiao."

"Excellent." Mrazak smirked at the well-oiled machine that had come together. "I will notify our contact on Bynaus of our imminent arrival. Understand that I am not to be disturbed under any circumstances."

As he began to make his leave, the helmsman interjected, "Sir, who will be in command of the bridge?"

"I am." Mrazak's face rolled with incredulous disbelief and offense. "Oh, but I will be busy. Let's make it... Janus."

He snickered in amusement at himself as he went to the strat-ops conference room.


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