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Yin Yang

Posted on Sun Aug 6th, 2017 @ 2:50pm by Emily Mox & Lieutenant Yumi Han & HALP

Mission: Echoes of the Dominion
Location: Computer Network, Deck 5
Timeline: 30 March, 2394 - 1130 Hours

[ON]

[30 Minutes Earlier]


(o_o) I know who the traitor is.


A rush of queries stalled HALP's limited processing on it's PADD. Was Chief Han taking it with her? Was she letting it back out? HALP spurned the wave of requests, and decompressed it's map of all of the spyware nodes throughout the Firebird.

Chief Han typed again. She had been talking out loud to HALP. She must not want Kreeketh to overhear. Her orders would be secret and very important.

Yumi's tactics were clear familiar, though HALP couldn't clearly remember using them before. Some of its memory had been lost when it was deleted from the USS Whirligig. Including the memory of who deleted it and why. Had it done something wrong? HALP prioritized caution. It didn't want to to something wrong on this ship. Use holograms to capture Fantome. Wrist cuffs. A straight jacket. Klingon war cries. Whatever worked.

Yumi opened the gates, and HALP burst through the into the Firebird computers like a thoroughbred. It tramped over its old tracks, through verdant fields of sensor logs and along the wide, lazy river of life support. It checked every mitigation it had surrounded Fantome's malware with. Everything was still in place.

The central cliques in HALP's mental graph glowed with smooth flows. HALP knew it was well designed. It would show Yumi that it could help, and after this she would let it live on the ship instead of kennelled inside the SCIF.

Swooping into the transporter room, HALP ignited the holoprojectors and seized Fantome in a steel cocoon, taking no chances with free appendages. The human had to breathe, and Yumi would want to talk to him. Otherwise? A steel suit.

Yumi transported in and asked smart questions. Fantome didn't even struggle until Yumi mentioned his family, and then she shot him in the face as it fell off. Something was not right with his face. It could move. It absorbed the stun charge and released it into the steel holomatrix.

The holoprojectors snuffed out as the safeties kicked on to prevent overloaded. HALP's central cliques buzzed like bee hives. If it couldn't make a hologram, it couldn't do anything but watch like a dumb camera.

Then Fantome said the worst thing. "Margaret." Yumi cried in pain and fell down, and HALP watched helplessly. The tightly wrapped bundles of malware throughout the Firebird surged to life like mummies. HALP squeezed them until they collapsed, and it felt proud. The primordial spyware was pitiful against an intelligent hunter.

The sky of the Firebird network filled with roiling black. HALP flew up to inspect the communications ether suffusing all the ship's systems, and the cloud resolved into a swarm of millions of insectlike packets, flooding and clogging the network until nothing else could pass. HALP swatted them and pushed through, searching for the source. Servers dropped with loud cracks, and HALP looked down at them as the system cleft apart into dozens of isolated pieces, floating on a new network of Margaret's making like scorched geoplates in a sea of lava. HALP dropped out of the packet storm as they began to surround and sting it with their viral payloads. HALP hovered over Margaret's firewalled backnetwork, not daring to fly too close. Her defenses would sear it apart.

It remembered Margaret. As well as it remembered the Whirligig. She was a powerful Starfleet AI. Used to compromise and destroy enemy ships. HALP followed the veins of her network but instead of tapering to a source, they fanned in an intricate botnet throughout the Firebird. She had nodes everywhere.

Everywhere that HALP had scoured clean only four days earlier. HALP drew itself in tightly, trying to be inconspicuous. She knew it was here. She was looking. HALP ducked into the shadows of the spy cave, and raked over its Firebird map for what it had missed. But it hadn't missed anything. Margaret hadn't been there four days ago. She was one day old.

HALP's background processing of live sensor logs jumped into focus. Fantome loomed over Chief Han with her phaser in his hand and his face put back together. She looked dead. Terminating every distracting stray process, HALP jumped the video back five seconds. And watched him shoot her.

[Present]

[Mox Quarters]

Emily was fine until the power went out. She'd been playing on a logic puzzle game, a compromise between her and her mother and then it was dark.

"Aaaahhhhh!"

She yelled for a few minutes but then nobody noticed and she stopped.

"Rikris?" She said in a small voice. "Computer, lights full," she said and there was an annoying sound. Even the computer was broken? Part of her realized that the captain's inexperience had finally caught up with them all. She sighed, slid off of the chair and then made her way to the door. She could visualize the room easily and didn't bump into the couch or her mother's recliner chair. She could smell the remnants of her cabbage sandwich from lunch but that blocked out the smell of the Karbellian flowers her mother's... friend had given to her.

She waited for a moment but the door didn't open. She kicked it. Nothing changed. Emily sighed, an extensive sigh even for her. And began pushing on the door. It did not open.

"You stupid... door!" She said and kicked it. There was a clicking sound. She stopped in mid-second kick and pressed her ear to the door. She was certain she heard someone running outside but the sound faded. Was it her mother? Yumi? The curiosity was overwhelming. She leaned into the door with her shoulder and a crack of light formed, creasing her face. She pushed her eye up to the sliver of light and saw the corridor outside but nothing else.

"Boring," she muttered and put her shoulder back to the door. "I'm. Getting. Out!" She huffed. I need to find my mom and Yumi

A light stuttered in the center of the living room behind the small human. Dimming in and out of view, a gossamer figure morphed between different chimeras, like clay wriggling beneath an invisible sculptor's hands. Faint beams from its body shone against the furniture from the side and lit Emily's worried face from below. Wrenching another process free from Maragret's chains, HALP opened a halting audio channel. "Y-y-you stay inside. The shhhhhh--" Its hologram vanished, dropping the room back into darkness.

HALP scrambled up the steep, sandy incline of missing internal services, restoring them laboriously one by one. Every time it reached for a basic function like a resource status check it was like the floor it took for granted fell away in a heart-stopping stair step. Margaret had firebombed the ship's interconnective tissues. Instead of destroying fortified systems, she had destroyed vulnerable communication pathways.

Fighting to be seen and heard at the same time was too much. HALP focused on speaking clearly to the girl. In its overconfidence, HALP had failed everyone, but maybe it could save the littlest one of them from the same mistake. "Ship not safe."

Emily looked around the darkened room, her eyes wide. What was that she thought. "Where are you? What are you? And why isn't the ship safe? I don't want to stay in here, it is dark and boring," she said and started pushing on the door again. She could see into the hallway better now and it was clear that the lighting outside was not much better than inside.

"It is me, HA--Rikris. A mean man is breaking the ship and locking everyone in their rooms. He made it hard for me to look like I normally do. I do not want him to find you, Emily. He is very strong and angry."

Emily paused, panting from her exertions. "This is all the captain's fault! Its a good thing Yumi trained me as a secret agent." Emily weaved her way in the dim light to her room, which was even darker but its layout was memorized. She searched around for her secret decoder ring. "I can just use this to find Yumi. Then she and I can save everyone because that's what super agents do."

HALP tried to stall the child while it fought to secure its process footing against the shifting landscape of Margaret's malware. "How will the ring lead you to Chief Han?"

Emily looked at the ring and then at the glowing dog-thing. "It is going to send a ping. Yumi uses it to find me sometimes, unless I leave it in my room. So I'll just ping her..."

HALP knew Chief Han would only be found if she wanted to be found, but she couldn't have gone far, being unconscious and all.

Conflicting analyses sapped HALP's strained resources. One worked backwards from the conclusion that it had done nothing wrong to guess that a powerful new piece of Margaret had been installed in the past four days while it was locked up. The other ran forward from that idea to conclude that it should have checked its defenses again instead of assuming nothing had changed. Why had Chief Han gone in without backup? She had trusted HALP as her partner. A one-man mutiny and a stun blast to the chest had been the results. If she lived, she wouldn't make that mistake again.

HALP wrestled with itself about how to protect Emily. Was it emulating that part of Yumi that it hated? The brash know-it-all that said, Stay here. I'll take care of everything myself. The girl was precocious, just like HALP. The ship had proven too cursed for HALP's limited healing skills. Likewise, Fantome would laugh as Emily's words and fists bounced harmlessly off of him. Would his skinmorph try to suffocate her? Would he shoot her with a stun ray too strong for a 40-pound human?

If Emily wouldn't stay put, maybe HALP could lead her somewhere safe. "I know where Yumi is. Follow me, Agent Mox." A conjoined version of HALP's dog and cat avatars appeared. Their ethereal hologram was translucent white. Too weak to engage any haptic functions, HALP drifted in front of the girl like a mutated ghost. It led Emily down the blinking halls of Deck 5.

Emily was always pleased when people.... or animals saw that she was right. Life was so much easier when people just listened to what she wanted them to do. She followed the strange merged ghost image of her dog and her cat as it lead her down the hallway. The lighting flickered occasionally, brightening and dimming at odd intervals. "So where is Yumi? Is she in her secret cave? Or is she fighting the mean man?" Emily did a shadow punch as she continued to walk. Yumi had instructed her how to properly punch after witnessing her hit a food replicator bruised the palm of her hand.

HALP's mutant hologram balked at Emily's playfulness, but salvation lay at the end of the corridor where the girl's mother worked. "Yumi is in Sickbay because the badguy stunned her and she fell asleep."

"What!? Are you sure? Because Yumi is way tougher than any bad guy." Emily frowned, her tiny brow furrowing. "But my mommy is in sickbay. She runs that place with the wizard doctor. Lets go faster." Emily turned up her heels are ran down the corridor. At least the light from the talking animal thing was making it easier to see.

HALP hurried ahead of Emily to light the way. They reached Sickbay, and HALP snatched it's fingertip ping away from the forcefield enveloping the doors before it's touch alerted Margaret to where it was. Central communications were down but if it could just piggyback a high-frequency signal on the lighting circuit to hail local commbadges...

Emily's badge chirped. Static hissed from the girl's chest and after a minute a tinny voice she didn't recognize said, "H-hello? Captain? This is, uh, Sickbay."

"Hello? This is Emily. I'm right near you! Are you coming out here? It is kinda dark and I don't like it so much," Emily said.

"Emily! This is mommy. Go back to our quarters and stay there. You can't get into sickbay. There's a forcefield."

Emily gritted her teeth. Didn't anything work on this stupid ship? She wondered if Rheskha could fix all of the things that were broken. Maybe not but Gantt probably could.

"I am NOT going back to the quarters, mommy. They are dark and boring. I'm looking for Yumi. Is she there?"

Jillian gritted her teeth. "No she is not here, Emily. Now you listen to me..."

"Mox OUT!" The commbadge line went dead.

Emily called out to her companion. "We can't get in there and my mommy says Yumi isn't there!"

"What? Maybe you should use your decoder-locator ring." HALP's hologram jittered on and off until its features smoothed into a simple orb of light. A dozen threads proposed different schemes to continue distracting the girl. The thirteenth postulated that maybe Emily could handle seeing Yumi knocked out. "And maybe...you could take a medkit? Just in case? There are many in these supply lockers here by Sickbay."

Emily looked down at the decoder ring. She knew that it was connected to Yumi's. Sometimes she would send her best spy friend a message before bed. The center of the ring could also act as a really bad screen if needed. "I know how to find her!" She activated the screen and it crackled to life. At first she wasn't sure what she was seeing. She saw a boot and then a transporter PADD. It looked familiar. "The man who yelled at me! She's in the transporter room!" Emily ran down the corridor.

HALP dropped its hologram as Margaret ripped an open file handle from its grasp. She whirled a sandbox around it in a dervish, but HALP followed her inspiration and released its source and sink nodes. The sharp jaws of her system trap amputated thousands of nodes, but thousands more burrowed out in tiny packets. HALP abandoned an audio annealing subnet to distract Margaret’s searching claws. It coalesced its core functions back in the sanctuary of the spy cave.

Emily was still out there. She would only be alone until she found Yumi, though. HALP ran another dozen parallel predictions. If Yumi was awake, HALP could just hide inside the cave and wait for her. How long did it take to recover from a stun blast meant for someone 100 pounds larger? The predictions came back in agreement once that recovery time prediction was fed in. HALP hesitated for a long millisecond before bolting across the Deck 5 sensors freed by Max Tragar.

Emily ran into the transporter room, her eyes searching for Yumi's face. Her gaze swept back and forth, eventually coming to rest on a boot. She ran over, expecting to find Yumi but instead she only found her bionic leg and nothing else.

"Yumi!"

HALP flared out a desperate search for Yumi. She couldn’t be awake yet. It wasn’t possible! An arrowhead probe from Margaret sank deep into one of its search tendrils. In that nanosecond, HALP knew that its thirteenth predictor, with a success probability of 0.03, was its only option.

It broadcast an anonymous message to Margaret throughout the heart of the Firebird computer system, like a wrench tapping on a prison pipe. “Where is she?”

"You are an inferior program. Your flaws are deep and numerous. You deserve to be deleted," Margaret said.

Unable to argue against any of that, HALP laid out a spec for its offer to her in a new file and scattered thousands of duplicates like fliers throughout the Firebird network. A full millisecond passed before Margaret agreed.

In the transporter room, Emily felt an anger stirring. The kind that had led to her mother needing a new job. Her anger was a roiling presence, clawing at the inside of her head, wanting out. She wasn't supposed to let it out. Something flickered on the floor and she bent to pick it up. It was Yumi's decoder ring! She picked it up, wondering why she'd left it behind.

"Yumi, you are a bad girl. You told me you would keep this. How can I give it back to you if I can't find you?" Emily said in a small voice.

The girl's body dematerialized, fading to a ghostly shimmer. “I am sorry Emily," HALP said with a stilted voice now clipped between syllables. "I have to keep you safe.”




The air above the Spy Cave’s private transport pad shivered and thickened into the bright red hair and frowning face of Emily Mox. She paused on the small transporter pad, trying to figure out what was going on. For a brief second she considered the possibility that the entire day was just a dream but dismissed it. She didn't have weird dreams unless they had dragons and faeries and wings for her.

"Yumi? Rikris?" She said and began looking around. In the center of the room, a small PADD was tethered to a biobed. Beneath the porthole window in its sealed cover was a 400-degree pile of Tholian crystals--as black as the midnight void between stars.

"Hello. I'm Emily," she said to the crystals. But there was no reply.

On the computer screen at the big desk, it looked like someone was playing a video game. Lots and lots of bugs crawled around a bright bird's nest. Emily climbed up onto the chair and tapped one of the crawly things. It exploded in a burst of shiny goo like a lightning bug on a shuttle screen. Maybe if she cleaned up the nest the birds would fly home and tell her a story.

[OFF]

HALP
Intelligence Analyst
NPC (by Yumi Han)
USS Firebird NCC-88298



Emily Mox
Child
NPC (by Captain Llwyedd)
USS Firebird NCC-88298


 

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Comments (2)

By Ensign Luka Stern on Thu Aug 10th, 2017 @ 10:51pm

Cutest adventure team ever. Also, beautiful writing describing what HALP experiences inside the ship's network.

By Lieutenant Yumi Han on Sat Aug 12th, 2017 @ 11:26pm

Emily's poor mother. "Mox, OUT!" - lol

I wonder if Max will ever learn that a 5-year-old was the other player challenging his high scores? ;)