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What's the Tea (Part II)

Posted on Monday, 27 June 2022 - 3:46pm by Captain Pippa Whitley & Ensign T'Nile Xera & Lieutenant JG Hayashi Hamura

Mission: Operation: My Unfair Lady
Location: USS Standing Bear | Deck 01 | Briefing Room

(PART 2 of 2)

Hamura just sat back with their arms crossed watching the playout. Their estimation of the Captain just leapt even more. A small smile tugged their lips now.

T'Nile again sat silently for a few minutes before standing up straight at attention, though with the arms at a mild angle to keep the tools in her sleeves from falling again. "Captain, Lieutenant, I have drawn two conclusions. First is that not only do you have a potential assassin, you also have a potential saboteur aboard. The Replicator network aboard the ship has been compromised, not just the Doctor's. It is not a leap of faith to draw a further conclusion that other sections of the LCARS operating system have also been compromised."

Taking in a deep breath, her attention stance focusing her eyeline on the far wall, she continued. "You have both failed to observe a tall glass of chartreuse liquid near my left elbow which is undergoing thermodynamic changes as it adjusts to room temperature. During your initial question, Captain, I used the movement to the Replicator as a stalling tactic to define my answer. Both of you saw fit to summarily dismiss my concerns seriously nor made any efforts to clarify and confirm them. Indeed, Captain, you completely ignored my actions in this room. I can only draw my second conclusion that my position aboard the Standing Bear is untenable, since I do not have the confidence of my Department Head or my Commanding Officer."

Straightening up slightly, T'Nile lifted her chin a little. "I apologize for my disrespect earlier, just then, and request transfer effective at the next available opportunity, Captain, Lieutenant."

Captain Whitley shook their head and looked directly at T'Nile. "Ensign, I have a catatonic Chief Medical Officer, a saboteur and a potential assassin that may or may not be aboard this starship still. I accept your apology, but you can take that request transfer and toss it out the nearest airlock as it has no place appearing on my desk" Pippa replied sternly. "You are needed here and you do have my confidence, and I am sure that Lieutenant Hamura is in agreement."

Pippa then looked at Hayashi. "However, this does bring me to another matter of importance. I need a Chief Operations Officer immediately, and Commander Soral and I have been on the same page about this. Lieutenant Hamura, you will be moving over from Engineering to Operations to replace Lieutenant Kalani. For the time being, I am still leaving Engineering within your scope, all engineers will ultimately report to you until a new Chief Engineer is located" explained Captain Whitley. Though I suspect I may have one to watch Pippa thought privately.

The ensign's little outburst was forgotten. Ops? They understood it as a temporary approach until a new Chief Ops was found but until a new Chief Engineer was found? They were replacing them and Soral thought this was a good idea? then an image surfaced from the deep recesses of the mind. A mirror image of himself and Soral. A new assignment. The conversation and decision that they had no control over flew thorough their mind. Perhaps the right idea in that world but not this one.

Hamura's fists clenched. Their outburst would have made the ensign's look tame but Hamura had promised Soral to maintain a certain decorum. A thought came through their mind. Perhaps their time on the Bear was over. The one thing that kept them going was being taken from them. "Perhaps, Captain, it.." They began trying to control their anger. "It is prudent for me to take both in the short term but you meant until an Ops head is found?"

Pippa looked at Hamura. "I said what I said," Captain Whitley confirmed. "You have done an excellent job as Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Hamura, but I need you as Chief Operations. It is a matter of having someone with technical prowess that I can trust with sensitive systems, some of which we have offline at the moment. What the Commanding Officer was referring to was the cloaking device that came with the starship when it was taken from the mirror universe. "I know you do not want to hear that I am pulling you from engineering, but we can discuss this further later, in private."

Hamura bit the inside of their cheek. A wave of anger and hopelessness washed over them. They gave a curt nod but said nothing not trusting themselves. Images of the previous universe a similar conversation rolled through their mind almost steeling their breath.

T'Nile sat down without further comment. Some would have blushed or had some sort of reaction, but she felt... Empty. Seeing that further discussion on the topic would not be productive, she almost shrugged. It was relatively easy to tune out the conversation since cataloged it in her mind, but anything not directed at her would be stored as information until someone got her attention again. The fingers of her left hand once again took to tapping against the right hand. Mind suitably engaged, she started murmuring softly. "Depends on whether our quarry is a spy or an agent in their mind. A spy is the type from popular culture and while not using brute force as the first response as such, is typically cold and calculating, able to adapt plans on the fly. They typically have a romanticized worldview of their role and while they do live dangerously, do not take unnecessary risks, though this depends on their mission profile. An agent is typically not one associated with frontline fieldwork, preferring to use their skills and wit, having endless decision trees and meticulous preparation. The philosophical difference is a spy is ready to die if the cause is just, an agent expects to die in bed."

Rubbing the bridges of her Bajoran nose, she continued murmuring. "A spy would move rapidly, almost ninja-like. Personnel quarters are not sealed for the most extent biometrically, though it is possible to disengage the door mechanisms from the external corridor access. This may lead to possible discovery, they would need to be wearing a gold uniform in order to potentially pass as an Engineer at a glance performing maintenance work. Direct access to personal Replicator would be relatively easy, but brute force, most likely kludged code supplied specifically from this purpose, which would run on command, then likely include go to loop and remove itself from evidence. Likely to carry any equipment on self so as to not arouse suspicion, multivariable tools. Exfiltration would use either transporter, but the ship would need to decloak. If shuttlecraft, would be short range and low warp, possibly as temporary transit, as big angry Starship would immediately pursue."

Shifting slightly, T'Nile continued murmuring. "An agent would have to blend in. While logically being a member of Engineering, Operations or Sciences would suffice, being around the members of the crew most likely to spot any outsiders or activities not related to the course of normal duties would arouse suspicions. Such a hypothetical agent would have skills on par with a graduate of Starfleet Academy, as LCARS can be modified at the interface level, but the insertion of code that operates within the confines of the Operating System kernel takes skill, in order for DISM repair to recognize checksums and not to flag and rewrite corrupted code from protected backups. With knowledge, would have hiding places and store equipment in plain sight, such as crawlways not typically used except in maintenance. Perhaps even near the computer cores within the FTL field which makes deep scanning impossible. Exfiltration may not even be a factor if they believe they will never be caught due to their ingenuity."

Captain Whitley nodded with that assessment of the situation. "I concur with that ensign, I do. We also have to weigh all possibilities. That also means that an engineer, technician, what have you may turn up deceased somewhere aboard the ship or the station, that someone has assumed their face and identity."

Leaning back, she stared up at the ceiling. "Infiltration of a Federation Starship requires much preparation work, as transfer orders are automatically logged within Starfleet central database on personnel movements, with multiple authentication layers and encryption of data. When considering resources and Modus Operandi, likely to be genuine Starfleet Officer who has been co-opted by a power not on friendly terms with the United Federation of Planets. Such a person would either be under duress or disgruntled with certain actions undertaken and have a sense of injustice, to balance out a wrong. Need to bring into confidence staff from other departments with more specialist skills to assist... Eventually." T'Nile trailed off, still staring at the ceiling and marveling at the shadows cast by the light fixtures.

"That is why we need to proceed with this investigation carefully and calmly, but thoroughly. Admiralty is aware and all the heads of the department are aware of what happened, and all security personnel. Outside of that, we have constructed a fabricated story that Doctor Selin has suffered from a neurological incident during deep meditation. I would prefer to keep it that way to keep from the crew being on edge" explained Pippa.

The Captain looked at the ensign. "You are being read into this, ensign, because your expertise will be crucial in the analysis of that replicator unit and subsequent systems. I need answers, and I trust you two to find them."

T'Nile stared briefly at Hamura, then the Captain, but looked away. "The Chief is more than capable of running the investigation, with some support from myself. My concern is whether or not we have tipped our hands. By shutting down the Replicator network, we may have already signaled that we are actively on the lookout. This person, depending on their skill level, may go to ground and blend in, or even attempt exfiltration and evade capture. The investigation, however, is reactive. Counter espionage may allow us to flush this person out. Using comm chatter to announce the miraculous recovery of the Doctor, even using a holographic generator to pass off a simulacrum. We may actively be setting out a trap which we can spring on our terms or force them to move on to their next phase earlier. However, it depends on this person's M-O. This is beyond the technical scope however and I will be supporting the Chief in our piece of the investigation." She raised an eyebrow.

"Thank you ensign," Pippa replied and nodded. "There are a lot of factors and variables at work. The individual responsible may still be aboard, but they also may not. We have yet to disembark from the station. That leaves them time to slink away. Wherever this investigation leads, we will share evidence with the station. Ensign, if you would excuse Lieutenant Hamura and I, we have some business to attend to."

Pippa knew that having some privacy to discuss the Chief Operations Officer position with Lieutenant Hamura was necessary. The Captain had been cautioned that they wouldn't be too accepting of being pulled from Engineering.

Hamura sat back not really thinking. Their mind was going in several directions. They waited for the room to clear. The captain obviously wanted to speak about it yet Hamura didn't trust themselves to talk much. Somehow, they knew Soral had urged for this, that, they may not be able to forgive.

T'Nile stood slowly, debating with herself whether to congratulate Hamura, but decided against it. Her direct superior seemed to be brooding. Deciding that discretion was the better part of small talk, she drew herself up. "Aye, Captain. Lieutenant." Making sure the contents of her sleeves were secured, she exited in her usual rapid, mincing gait.

Captain Whitley was impressed with the ensign and looked at Hamura. "So, what do you think of the ensign?"

"Smart, not book smart, although she is that, but intelligent too. Well rounded, think she will grow quickly, perhaps a bit too....high strung but she'll do." Hamura's voice was flat and almost on autopilot.

Pippa nodded. "So, you like her a lot," the Captain said. "That was all high praise from you. That much I know. Now, this Engineering and Operations matter. I know you are pissed about being pulled from Engineering eventually, though you aren't about to throw fists over it. I just wanted to explain this a bit more in detail with you. Commander Soral and I are in agreement that we want you to have more bridge time and experience on away missions, but more than either of that, I need someone who has experience with starships inside and out to be Chief Operations Officer. You are the person for the job."

"I'm also in charge of the poop shoots," They said dryly.

"Well, yes technically though you were already in charge of their physical maintenance. Now, you'll be in charge of the systems, the software to it. I am sure Leopold Eberhardt would be happy to see someone in waste reclamation."

Hamura kept their head down. For them this was...a hard blow; one that Soral and the Captain had worked on. They would be removed from their beloved engineering and all for the benefit of more bridge time and away missions. Soral had probably talked to the CO about making this more interesting but whereas Hamura, the mirror image, had always been ambitious this one was not. But what could they say, they were a member of Starfleet. Perhaps a resignation was in order, but eve as they said it they knew that this thing with Oriana would keep them here. “It has been decided by yourself and Commander Soral. There is no point in discussing it, whoever said Starfleet was a democracy.” Hamura sighed. "Am I dismissed then, Sir?"

Pippa sighed heavily. "Yes, you are, and remember that even democracies have structure, laws, rules, and procedures, less they no longer exist as a democracy." The Captain was not getting into the trenches over the decision.


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