Previous Next


Posted on Friday November 11th, 2016 @ 8:37pm by Captain Peter Gardner & Commander Magnus Sterling & Lieutenant Commander Nomi Bernard

Mission: Enemies Closer
Location: Conference Lounge, USS Excelsior
Timeline: MD 3, 0600 Hours

Sterling sat at the conference table, a large PADD laid out in front of him. Currently he was working on an updated duty roster reflecting the most recent last-minute additions to the crew. As new reports were filed by department heads with the computer, his PADD notified him of the update, as well as security issues, incident reports, and most recently a communique from Curator Marquess regarding some agitation among the Ministry of Antiquities. He pushed all those aside, however, as the time ship's clock counted 0600. The topic for today's early morning meeting was computer systems' security, who had breached it, how badly it was compromised, and how to defend against that in the future.

The commander was carefully sipping from a warm tea cup as the doors opened and the captain along with an intelligence officer and the chief engineer arrived in the room. Sterling tabbed his PADD to display the progress report from engineering regarding the computer breach last night. "Good morning," he said and set his tea cup on an awaiting saucer.

"Good Morning." Peter replied. He was tired. He hadn't got much sleep last night. He had spent much of the night in an informal conference with the Captain's and Sector Admiralty. The Raktajino in his hard was double strong. He needed it to be able to survive the morning briefing.

“Good morning Commander.” Maddox had not slept since learning of the data theft so it did not feel exactly like morning. Of course he hadn’t slept much at all since becoming the Chief Engineering Officer of the ship, but it would be a long while before this became an issue. Since even before Starfleet Academy, he had learned to function even with little sleep.

"Morning," Ensign Mirrena Ral stated and took a seat at the table in her proper pecking order. She omitted the "good" because she sensed this morning was anything but, the exhaustion was quite evident from the captain and commander, the engineer on the other hand was a harder read for the betazoid, the impressions she received of his thoughts were structured very differently from most races she's encountered.

"Commander t'Rllaillieu was called to the station by sector intelligence command and regrets should couldn't make this appointment. However, I am prepared to speak for her."

Sterling offered an acknowledging smile to the ensign and began, "I think we've all had eventful evenings, so let's just jump right into it. Last night we detected a computer breach. Mr. Maddox, what have your teams uncovered in their investigations?"

“Analysis of the event has revealed the following facts.” Maddox began, “Originating from a Starfleet subspace relay, an unpatched DSR-D600 series, or more likely a retro-graded unit, the intrusion occurred at approximately 2215 hours yesterday. The event lasted six minutes, which turned out to be a very valuable piece of information.” Maddox wanted to give the data first, then the conclusions.

“No new programs, malicious or otherwise, were left behind. No data was erased. However at this point we are still unable to determine with any amount of certainty what they did take. Given the connection and time, Starfleet’s capacity to transmit data for six minutes on this network means what they copied could be any number of files. We have narrowed it down to a short list of likely targets. It was either the ship’s computer schematics, navigational data, personnel files, or a collection of random files.” Maddox left out that these consisted of romantic style holodeck programs and recipes. “If that last one proves true, then this was a probing attack, to check our defenses before going after what they really want.”

“Personally I think they got what they wanted, and while they have shown us some holes in our data management, the precision of this attack, the obvious knowledge of the infiltrator and the sophistication to me indicate this is not someone looking for the thrill of hacking a robust system, but of someone intimately associated with Starfleet, and operating at a high level efficiency.”

Peter frowned. This was troubling. And he concurred with the assessment made by the Chief Engineer, although he would go as far to say as it was someone in Starfleet. That could be the only explanation. "Do we know which relay it was?"

Maddox had considered this and expected his recommendation would be requested. “With a little more time, we can track down the exact location of the subspace relay. If it still exists, and I suspect it will, if we go there, we will be able to learn much more. Although I do recommend caution. This would be an excellent way to bait a trap for the Excelsior. Alternatively we could focus more manpower onto finding out exactly what data was taken. We have precious few personnel spread thin right now, but we will do what is necessary.”

Peter looked to his First Officer. "I don't like having to make that choice. I want answers to both of them. Thoughts?" He asked his Executive Officer. At this precise moment, Peter was keen to know the answers to both questions. He didn't like the ultimatum of having to do one or the other.

"When the investigation update last night suggested the breach was caused remotely via the subspace relay network, I tasked our Intelligence department with investigating the subspace network itself. Much of Intelligence gathering involves intercepting and analyzing communication signals, so while Maddox's team focused on the data, t'Rllaillieu's team focused on the signal. We should hear her report as well." Sterling turned towards Ensign Ral.

Peter held his hand up to the Intelligence Officer. "Before you give your report I'd like to invite Commander Bernard to join us." He tapped his badge."=/\= Gardner to Bernard. Report to the Conference Lounge."

Nomi had been going through some duty reports on the Bridge as she sipped her spiced coffee. It was earlier than normal for her to be on shift this early, but she hadn't slept well the night before as she had been called to the Bridge late enough to analyze the data breach that occurred the night before. She knew the Captain and Commander were already aware of it as most of those that were involved had been working on it. She wanted to wait before bringing what she had to the table to ensure she had it right - that took time. In the meantime, she had just started work on the new duty assignments when the call for her to come to the Conference Lounge came through. She tapped her badge as she swiveled off the stool, "on my way," she called out as the door slid open from the Bridge as she made a beeline for the lounge door; she had a feeling she knew what this meeting is about. The door whooshed open as she walked through, holding the PADD behind her back. She stood at attention when she saw everyone present. "Sirs," she said.

"Please have a seat," Sterling gestured to the next available chair. "We were just discussing the data breach of our computer system. Ensign Ral, please go on."

"Yes, sir," Ral said and leaned forward. "We began our analysis of all communication signals to and from Excelsior at and around the time the breach was detected. There were 47 on-going communications, as well as standard fleet status update packet transmissions at the time. The data packets Mr. Maddox's team discovered, did indeed carry routing information from a deep space relay booster. There are scores of them out there that Starfleet set up as we pushed further into the Round Table, as a signal gets bounced from relay to relay the routing information within the data packets are rewritten to follow the most direct path to the recipient, which makes identifying the origin very difficult. However unless the systems intruder uploaded a worm - which is highly unlikely given how the intruder circumvented our defenses - there must have been two way communication. We could therefore track the return signal to its destination."

Mirenna paused for breath and sensed she might be presenting too much information. She was reasonably sure the commander understood what she was saying, and probably the engineer too, but also sensed an end to their patience. "Ahem, well, analyzing the routing logs we were able to identify the signal and it's next jump along the network. We managed to trace it back to a specific relay at the edge of the network." She stood and crossed to the wall monitor and input a command into the panel. "Deep Space Relay DSR-D647." A star chart appeared and highlighted the location of the relay, an inset window showed a file image of the relay and statistics on the model. "The final routing destination of the signal was a standard omni-directional broadcast. Meaning the recipient was in close-communication range of the relay."

She clasped her hands behind her back, a small amount of pride, she spent nearly four hours personally analyzing the logs of each of these relays. "From that I was able to locate the originating signal itself, while it used Starfleet transmission control protocols to interface with the relay and used priority-level encryption, the actual carrier wave signal used was not Federations standard." An image of the waveform appeared on the screen at a touch of a button, it undulated in curious shapes across several spectra. "While everyone uses some variation of subspace radio, the precise bands, frequencies, and amplitudes vary based on the technology used. This particular carrier signal is unlike any we've encountered before."

Sterling sighed heavily. "In other words, we still have no idea who committed the breach?"

Mirenna's pride sunk as she realized the commander's disappointment. While she did reveal more information, it wasn't as nearly useful to explaining who or why. "I, uh, sir, it's more appropriate to say we have no idea who built the subspace radio used to interface with the relay, sir."

Peter could see the disappoint on his First Officer's first. Peter, however, was impressed with the work that the young Intelligence Officer had completed. "Well done, Ensign." He praised the young woman. He fully intended to keep an eye on this young woman. "It tells us enough for now, XO." Peter stated directly to to his First Officer. "Do we have the Vaadwaur's subspace radio frequency on record?" He asked. "And is this on the way to our current destination? Or how far does it take us off course?" He asked.

Mirenna nodded, and pulled up a structural analysis of another subspace radio signal on the screen for side-by-side comparison, and the highlighted characteristics were notably distinct from each other. "Voyager's crew originally intended to cooperate with the Vaadwaur, so their subspace communication signals and protocols from that time are on file. As you can readily see, these signals are quite different. However, this doesn't rule the Vaadwaur out. Since their original hardware was physically aged by several centuries, it's likely they would have attempted to acquire newer systems, perhaps with different signatures."

Peter was again impressed. She was indeed a diligent officer and she so much reminded him of himself when he was her age. "As we get closer to the Vaadwaur, Ensign, I want you to keep an eye on their signals, constantly. We may be able to pick it up as we approach them and get our answer early."

Sterling tapped on a control and overrode the wall monitor and closed the signal schematics, revealing the starchart again. "As for being on-the-way, the relay is several sectors away from the Mordred Nebula, about a week's worth of hard travel. Investigating the relay first would severely delay our mission. Ensign Ral was able to track the signal to this relay by reviewing the comm logs of each relay along the signal's route." Sterling looked towards Maddox and Bernard. "What kinds of sensors do these relays have and can we remotely access those sensor logs as well?"

“Unless the relay has been altered, yes we can access the logs, as long as someone with high enough clearance authorizes the request.” Maddox confirmed. “As far as sensors, those units have some built in equipment to avoid space debris, and maintain a relative fixed position. However, their main function is data transmission, so it will be limited, in both scope and duration. Schematics indicate only a twelve to twenty hour retention before those logs are purged.”

Sterling studied the inset profile window on the wall monitor. "So if our intruder was in close range of the relay, we may not get any information from it unless the intruder tripped the relay's avoidance range threshold? It may not shed any additional light on the situation, but it shouldn't take too long to check into it. Ensign, please access the sensor logs in the time frame of the signal transmission. How long will that take?"

Mirenna was already working the wall monitor's control panel. "Not long at all," she said. "The relay is still close enough to enable real-time communication, we just need to query the relay's computer, authenticate our identity - routing through Diogara Station well help - and submit a routine maintenance data backup command..."

The wall monitor screen popped up a new display using abstract symbols headlined with scrolling numbers, radiating lines and concentric circles expanded from the center denoted by a starfleet emblem and the relay's designation number. A pulsing red dot sat beside the relay's icon.

"Is that our intruder?" Sterling asked.

Mirenna studiously regarded the information scrolling through inset windows. "This is the object that was in a holding pattern with the relay at the time of the signal transmissions."

"Lieutenant Commander Bernard, can you glean any tactical information from that limited sensor data and give us a profile of what kind of vessel that might be?"

Nomi wanted to reply the impossibilities of it, but she kept her tongue silent for the moment and pulled the data to her PADD to look at. As she was fishing through it, what seemed like minutes to her was only half a minute from the query being posed. It helped having the on board systems... "Looking through it right now, I am not sure exactly what it is. There is maybe..." she scrunched up her face as she looked at it, and rotated the screen, "maybe a five percent chance I can get something from it. At least I would be able to eliminate if it's a scout or a vessel the size of a Borg Cube. I will need time to analyze this data that the Ensign was able to uncover. Along with the data that I have been able to glean, I can at least say this much - even though it's not a standard Starfleet Vessel, I can tell you that the person or persons who infiltrated our computer is not only savvy enough to have navigated the relays and the Diogara station, but they were also savvy enough to bypass my security protocols. That tells me Intelligence training and Starfleet training."

For Sterling, this investigation wasn't leading to any firm answers. Though disappointing, he was accustom to more questions than answers. Often times in his excavations, all he had were questions without answers, and sometimes answers without questions. Sterling finished his tea before he spoke. "Good work, everyone. We may not have a conclusion, but we know much more than we did last night. Maddox, Bernard, please ensure we don't fall victim to a second intrusion. Ensign Ral, I want you to compile a list of current and former Starfleet officers in the Delta Quadrant with the requisite experience to orchestrate this intrusion, and verify their whereabouts."

Mirenna felt her face go cold. The request seemed reasonable enough except for one very big obstacle. "Commander, with all due respect, sir, most of those records were kept aboard Starbase 900. And even then, thousands of officers are MIA since the Borg attack."

"I didn't expect the task to be easy, ensign, but you've proven yourself today." Sterling offered a small encouraging smile.

Peter had remained silently, allowing his Officers to do the job. This was why they had been assigned to the Excelsior. He was very impressed with the Intelligence Officer. "Yes, you certainly have Ensign." Peter remarked to the young woman. "Bring any findings directly to Commander Sterling." He instructed the women."Thank you everyone. You're dismissed."


Previous Next