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Epilogue: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

EPILOGUE: The System's Core

[ Deck 05 | Corridor near Upper Computer Core| 2330hrs. ] Attn: Auctor Lucan

The augmented human made her way down the deck five corridor.  She didn't know what she was going to do once she got there but the time was coming where she knew she was going to need some answers and she could only think of one person who may be able to get them for her.  The person she was looking for lay beyond this door, well her body lay there.  Rather, the core of her body did.  She needed to speak to Thea and it needed to be in a way that no one especially Captain Vasser could know of.  She half expected once her "conversation" with Thea was done the AI would probably have to report it to Ives but that was a risk she was willing to take now.

She had been told many things in her assignment briefing.  One thing she remembered vividly was how every time people started prying into Vasser's past they hit brick walls.  Sure there were statements in the records about him attending schools, but no one had once gotten a single statement from a teacher who claimed to have taught him or any childhood classmates.  It was as if the young Vasser's life was not just a mystery but non-existent.

While going through the information she could at her clearance level she had ran into the same strange walls. Stranger yet was his record, Completely spotless not a hint of ill word...too spotless in her opinion.  When she looked over one note in the record she couldn't help but laugh aloud to herself as she had first read it.  "Stickler for protocol." it had said.  If she had noticed anything on the Harbinger it was a lack of standard Starfleet protocol.  Hell the Fighter squadron could be the poster boys for officers behaving badly at times.  And when they had first cloaked the captain had left the bridge to a single officer a non-com no less  and walked off with his XO to God only knows where.  Surely the captain who that record belonged to was not the one running things on the ship she now called home.

She stepped into the room and looked at Theurgy's brain as it were, well one of her three brains really.  She tried to think of the best way to get Thea's attention and a memory struck her.  She recalled when she first accessed the files on her research on phase cloaking, or rather how to use it as a means of hazardous materials transport. She recalled seeing a security block on one of the notes that had been made on it.  She remembered the seals on the file especially.  They were seals like she had never seen before on any file.

There was a way that she viewed files in her unique hacking interface.  Firewalls and security clearances were like doorways.  Those that had no security clearance were like empty door frames low security was like a screen door and with each layer of security things became more and more sophisticated and more difficult looking as far as forcing them open. It was an easy way for her to see what things were the most heavily secured.  What intrigued her was the way that note had been secured.  If a captain level clearance file was like a bank vault, then this file was like a bank vault behind an old 20th century fallout shelter blast door with a forcefield in front of it.  It was the most restricted access she had ever laid eyes on and she knew if there was a way to get Thea's attention all she would have to do would be to so much as tap on the "forcefield"

Selena smiled as she walked over to the console near the computer core and brushed her fingers over the console bringing up the information then casually tried to access the heavily secured file. when it asked for proper authorization she smiled softly and when it asked for the proper authorization she simply said.  "Thea, we need to talk."  She smirked as she closed the file access system and leaned back against Thea's core gently laying  a hand against it almost like caressing a lover's face.  "That ought'a get your attention."

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #1
Seconds wore on, casting doubt upon the success of the attempt to stir the Ship A.I.

Yet when the sound and the light from a site-to-site transport cast long shadows across the area, it heralded the coming of the almost unshackled being of artificial nature. A product of organics' geniousity given free will and the right to chose in almost all matters pertaining too her crew and her duty towards her Captain. Yet it was merely the arriving presence of this being's avatar; this Starfleet prototype of an isomorphic projection, now refined by her caretaker and holographic specialist. The real 'her' was already present, only lacking the voice to speak, and since the battle with the Calamity outside the Hromi cluster, she also lacked her eyes - internal security surveillance cut. So, Thea merely knew what her internal sensors told her; that Selena Ravenholm awaited her.

When the shimmer died, Thea stood there with her personal hand phaser drawn and pointed towards the civilian that had lured her there - not taking any chances that this wasn't a trap set by the provisional Harbinger officer. Her projection wore not the summer dress she had donned earlier, leaving it behind in the location that her emitter had occupied before coming there. Instead, she wore her chameleon body suit - glimmering like a dragon in golden colours. Her face was not entirely void of emotion, eyes focused and keen in assessment of danger to herself and her crew. Brown eyes cut sideways over the area before centring on the woman with artificial limbs. The one-hand grip on her weapon, arm outstretched, was not to be mistaken as casual either.

"I do not know your purpose, Chief Ravenholm," she said quietly across the sights of her weapon, her aim being precise enough to shoot without hitting her physical self, "but after spending 6,374 seconds compiling a profile based on whatever meagre information you have made available in civilian databases, I could not rule out what you organics call 'foul play'. When comparing my scans of you with records of illegal prosthetics and their signatures, it is certain that some of your cybernetics are not legal in Federation space. Furthermore, there are many unresolved crimes that would fit your profile, not to mention a few security breaches that had a pattern similar to how you seem to prefer to access data... but there is also traces of erased paths in some records giving me the odds of 47,243 % that you also broker information for legitimate reasons that may even benefit Federation society. Therefore, I was not entirely sure what to make of this unusually made request."

Her posture unchanging for a couple of seconds, Thea did finally lower her phaser, eyes keen on the human by her computer core. "Specify the topic of this discussion," she said, her body suit not changing colour, "I am ready and listening."

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #2
"An astute observation"  the provisional officer said as she opened up her holster within her leg and pushed the gun from it letting it fall to the ground.  "As a show of good faith I have removed my only means of defense aside from my own abilities in hand to hand combat."  She said kicking it over to to closer to where Thea was.  "My purpose is to talk.  I needed privacy and I felt this would be a good place for said privacy due to the lack of sensors here.  It wasn't until moments ago when I looked at the damage assessment that your internal sensors were offline, or else I would have probably just chosen to contact you within one of the broken down holodecks.  As this room was chosen due to the sensor shielding necessary to not create a sensory feedback loop within your processing cores."

She paused as she recalled what the AI had said about her, "As for information broker, I like that term.  Sounds so much more professional than the Early 21st century term that I often like to use.  As for accusations of things that may or may not be illegal I must refrain from speaking on that unless I had assurances regarding your inability to use said information against me in any form of Federation, Starfleet, or ship security court setting.  I can however say that in all honesty the reason I summoned you here would be for dual purposes First as an information broker of the "whistle blower" variety seeking the truth regarding the past of my present C.O. Captain Vasser."

"Secondarily and in a certain way more importantly to me.  I wanted to just get to know you better.  As you may know I have a neural link interface that can link into Federation computer systems.  This link as such allows me to have a much better understanding of Ship board computers particularly their individual personalities and quirks.  You on the other hand pose an interesting subversion.  You, unlike most AI's, have a much more developed personality and express it as a person through an AI holographic interface.  This leads me to be torn between whether I would wish to get to know you through neural link so as to get to know you as a computer.  Or if I would rather take the unique opportunity to get to know an AI in a more primitive but natural human to human way."  She said this all pacing slightly, explaining herself though not explaining fully.  It was clear that Ravenholm was full of secrets.  Still, by her words it was easily evident that she was more than slightly tempted to part with at least some of those secrets if Thea played her cards right.

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #3
Thea remained perfectly still where she stood when Ravenholm kicked over her gun, eyes locked on the woman while she explained her reasons. Thea's phaser might still have been lowered, yet still trained in the augmented human's direction - the motion to raise and discharge the energy carefully computed and ready to be executed.

She remained silent throughout the explanation, eyes blinking at their randomised yet preordained frequency. It was only when Ravenholm fell into quietude that Thea pursed her lips to answer - stance unchanging. "Thank you for your consideration in reference to sensory feedback," she said quietly, eying the human, "Please step away from my computer core. Over there will suffice."

Once Ravenholm started moving, Thea addressed what had been said. "My standard internal sensors are fine, thankfully," she specified quietly to the woman. "It is my onboard Omnispective Visual Surveillance System that Cala targeted with a routed energy surge throughout all the software, and the system is now in need a complete overhaul. Three kilometers of new wiring for non-wireless components, new power cells for the wireless ones. New photospective receivers, repeaters, etcetera. It was not a prioritised repair on Theta Eridani IV compared to my other damage, and since it requires weeks to replace and repair components inside my bulkheads, Engineering has it as Priority Epislon: To be completed only if time allows. In other words, I have no active videofeed of the ongoings aboard, even if I can detect peoples life-signs and locations. Site-to-site transporter lock is still possible through use of the combadge signals."

Phaser lowered, Thea slowly paced in a half-circle before the dark-haired human, watching her for signs of movements towards her Computer Core, analysing the words as well as searching for tell-tale signs of deceit that organics were prone to show. "I can leave no such assurances as you request," she said in regard to the illegal implants, "Furthermore, aboard a starship, personnel or passengers suspected to be at fault does not receive a trial by court before being incarcerated in the Brig. My scans would suffice as cause to justify such an action."

Thea paused before she continued, the small blinking lights of the hardware around them reflected in her body-suit. "It does seem like your intentions, however, are not to use your illegal technology to integrate with my own, so I will not request Lieutenant Commander Wenn and his staff to come until you have had the chance to explain your purpose. Inquiry one: Why do you seek information regarding the past of the USS Harbinger's Commanding Officer?"

In regard to the second purpose, Thea was unsure what the proper social course of action was towards curiosity of such a kind. "You are entitled to your wish for a neural link, or lack of one, but without Captain Ives' approval, I will defend the integrity of my systems from any neural link interface you my be in possession of." She said, not quite trusting the organic just yet. "While I may express feelings through a holographic interface, I am not bound to my original programming. I am the USS Theurgy now more than before Lieutenant Lin freed me, even though key systems are still hard-wired to be kept out of my reach. I may not feel touch against my hull or the beat of my Warp Drive heart, disembodied as I may be, but I am both this ship and the software of my progamming. If you wish to learn to know me, however, I would prefer social conversation with this projection as a means towards that end... as opposed to direct neural link."

Making her holographic phaser - safety routines having been gone, vanish in her hand - Thea folded her arms underneath her chest and cocked  a hip like she'd seen organics do. "Inquiry two: What do you wish to know about me?

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #4
Hearing Thea's request for her to step away from the core was all she needed to hear. She immediately walked away to stand exactly where the A.I. had requested, complying with her request almost as if it wasn't a request for security purposes but a request to have a form of 'personal space'.

Listening to the inquiries, she thought long and hard over how she would answer the first without compromising her mission.  Finally she settled on just going for the truth and sighed.  "What I am telling you is sensitive information that is only known to myself and a few key staff of the Federation News Network. Please treat it as such.  The short answer is: I am a mole planted within the Harbinger's crew to investigate Captain Vasser on request of the Federation News Network."

Hearing this, Thea sectioned up and catalogued the intrigue into its known possible folders pertaining to probability, security risks, possible connections that would benefit the mission and which kind of censorship that Ravenholm might be interested for her civilian mission aboard the Harbinger and herself. "I need more data," she said, undecided on how she ought to progress with the information that she had been given.

"Whatever mission you have aboard was not sanctioned by Starfleet Command before it became corrupted, nor approved by Captain Ives when such authorisation cannot be made because the current state of affairs. An investigation of a Commanding Officer that evidently support the mission to retake San Francisco and remove the Federation's enemies from their current seat of powers is... inadvisable. If Captain Vasser may have shortcomings in the eyes of the media, and they do not affect his command over his crew, these shortcomings should be addressed after the completion of our mission." Thea looked at the woman where she stood, trying to see what kind of priorities she may have regardless of the mission. It took her a couple of milliseconds to realise that Chief Ravenholm would not have come to her unless there was merit to reveal the nature of her mission, that there was due reason to continue the investigation despite the mission. Therefore, she didn't contact Captain Ives immediately, wishing to submit a full report. "Please verify your claim, starting with how you came to work undercover for FNN and was given this mission."

The Civilian hacker nodded understanding Thea's suspicions and need for more information to corroborate her initial claims and began to explain a brief history of her mission. "From a young age I have had a talent with swimming in the data stream.  Growing up with little to no use of ones arms and legs I found the world of the digital to be much more enjoyable than the organic world.  My most lasting of hobbies I found in my preteens were those involving network security.  Naturally, I found the writing security software interesting but it lacked a certain challenge.  One day when I lost certain credentials for my own systems I had to slice my way into it and discovered how challenging and more importantly fun the other side of security was.  Over time this led to me looking into the fed-net deep-web and I began eavesdropping into the private conversations of a slave trafficking ring.

I sent the information I obtained anonymously to the Federation Bureau of Investigations and to multiple FNN branches and reporters.  After this more anonymous tips were sent.  Over time I developed a rapport with the FNN offices under a specific alias they know me as.  Obviously they know it's an alias but with the information I have given them they seem to understand trying to find out more will be biting the hand that feeds it.  I send them tips under the alias and they occasionally send me freelance assignments.  I don't ask them for much in return.  Frankly, they know they probably can't get someone half as good at what I do for twice the price.  The price I ask for is well...'interesting work', since my rewards are things that are to their gain. They occasionally give me a juicy assignment like the one that landed me here."

Thea was running a probability analysis based on the common workings of the media and Ravenholm's profile, finding nothing amiss relating to the scarce verbal information she had been given. "This does not specify your current assignment. Why were you contacted and asked to investigate the Commanding Officer of the USS Harbinger? What kind of evidence was given to you from your contact at FNN?"

She sighed, "That's a bit more complex and at first I didn't understand 'why' either. I looked over the provided official records and didn't see anything to point towards any reason to investigate.  Then I saw what they had found suspicious.  His record is too clean.  Not a single reprimand, not a trace of ever deviating from a single rule.  He was a model captain.  He just looked too clean to be real.   Then I looked at his childhood information and other attached documents.  His early instructors had no recollection of their supposed student.  A student who is mentioned in his official record as having praised heaped upon them by these very teachers.  Teachers of this so-called perfect student who have absolutely no recollection of him.  In order to find out if there was some dark cover up regarding Captain Vasser they employed me to infiltrate the ship as civilian programmer tasked with upgrading certain key systems on the ship.  My task of course was to find out if there indeed was a cover up of something dark or if it was a cover up for something that really isn't such a big deal."

Tilting her head a little as she listened, Thea walked a couple of steps while she triggered different analysis sub-routines and acquired qualitative data about Ravenholm's current situation and what her motivations should be. Based on what little was known about her, or her front persona, Thea still had more questions. It was unknown whether there was any merit to the claim about Captain Vasser, even if she did verify what was being said about the man's service record. Thea didn't, however, have access to the accounts of the aforementioned tutors. What was most evident was that the human currently believed there was more to the assignment than she had stated. "You are still omitting information, Chief Ravenholm. Did you carry out the assignment given to you by the media, even though you ended up as a Provisional Officer on this current mission to uncover the conspiracy of the enemies that are usurping political power all across the Federation? In estimation of social impact and in regard to FNN getting more ratings, I think our mission is more interesting than Captain Vasser's early scholarly achievements. The probability that you recently uncovered something more is higher than 79,474 %."

She looked down a bit exasperated, "I guess I should explain why I even care about such a seemingly unimportant assignment then. As you can imagine, I was noticeably upset when within my cover as a civilian field technician I found myself stationed aboard a ship that was tasked with bringing in a rogue Starfleet vessel.  Naturally, I did not sign on for a combat assignment and I fought tooth and nail as the saying goes to get off of that warship. Rather than being taken off the assignment, the powers that be decided with the hunting down of the Theurgy as its new mission, the Harbinger needed its upgrades even more."

Thea nodded slowly. "Proceed."

"With the seeming encounter with you on the horizon I played my part with full zeal. I tripled my efforts to get the ship to peak performance.  As it stands I can comfortably say the Harbinger was made the most up to date Akira-class vessel in the fleet.  Phaser yield was increased by approximately 5 percent.  Targeting sensors now have an increased hit rate of 1 in 10 shots that wouldn't hit before now hitting their mark. I increased the sensor's accuracy and was able to cut through the galactic background noise and see what they are looking for by a factor of about 1.15 times the previous benchmarks for an Akira-class vessel. The greatest efficiency increase though was in the cooling systems for the engines and computer systems.  The main temperature in both systems is roughly 4/5ths the previous readings.  This improvement allows the ship's A.I. to perform at full computing power for longer periods of time without risking CPU heat-lock, and the engines are able to run at maximum warp for approximately twice as long as before without increasing risk for a warp core breech."  She snickered to herself at that particular figure and its relation to a certain iconic part of her early childhood she continued to hold onto. 

Her behavioural sub-routines triggered by the human's behaviour, Thea raised her eyebrows a little without comment.

"Anyways enough of that tangent.  Point is even though the cover was just that - a cover - I did do the job I was supposedly supposed to do and we began our hunt for you.  At the time I began trying to pursue information about why such a no quarter/no surrender/no mercy viewpoint towards this vessel was needed. I began to have my suspicions about the orders as any investigator would.  Shortly after Vasser discovered the truth and we were soon just as wanted as you are."

Nodding, Thea added. "I have access to this data. Ensign Sonja Acreth was discovered sending sub-space messages back to Earth," she said, and while succinct, Thea's tone was not hostile but politely inquisitive. "Please proceed."

"One thing, however, bothered me, and this is where I return to the investigation of Captain Declan Vasser.  While aboard the ship, I accessed several of the files on the captain as my security clearance rose.  Currently, as a staff member - Chief of Operations and Engineering - my clearance is equal to that of a Lieutenant Commander. Once we were severed from the Federation, things aboard the ship began to change.  Rules began to be far more lax than usual.  From what I have seen of operations here on... well, you, Captain Ives has kept things very 'regulation'.  Especially in comparison to the Harbinger. The strangest part though with this comparison is if you look at even the Ensign-level files on Vasser it refers to him as extremely, 'by the book'.  His personality and psychological profile even seemed to indicate that he was almost to the point of being 'rules obsessed' or even possibly 'obsessive compulsive' towards proper procedures and doing things by the letter of every Starfleet recommended protocol.  However, the more I see him in action the more I notice him bending the rules. That weapon of mine that now lies at your feet was drawn to defend him from an enemy, yes.  But, it was concealed and is potentially lethal. I hid a concealed weapon on the bridge of his ship for weeks.  If I had been an assassin, I could have easily killed the captain of a Starfleet vessel on his own bridge.  His response to finding out of this weapon was simply to confiscate it. I was not even given a slap on the wrist for show. Most recently and surprising to me, he personally ordered the previously acting security chief on this vessel to bring the weapon to the Holodeck so he could return it to me less than 2 hours ago."

Thea could merely trace the last mentioned communications between Captain Vasser and Deputy ThanIda zh'Wann, since all other data belonged to the Harbinger's surveillance systems. Still, it was one verification she could make. The Deputy had replied and the record of her internal sensors showed her taking the turbolift to the holodeck. She did not say something yet, however, since Ravenholm was not finished.

"These actions mentioned far from fit the official profile of the person listed in the logs within the Harbinger's files. Other evidence of clear conflicts with the official profile, not fitting the person I know as my Captain, include his leeway with the way that members of the Tac Conn squadron are allowed to practically sexually harass female non-coms, and current allowances towards physical relationships seem to treat sexual interactions with crew members as perfectly normal stress relief even when such relationships have created certain incidents of favoritism between certain officers and those they have authority over.  I have yet to witness an incident where an officer has been coerced into sleeping with a superior officer via the instigator's superior position over them, but if such an incident occurred, previous allowances witnessed would indicate the Captain would turn a blind eye towards it."

Folding her arms underneath her breasts, phaser still in hand, Thea frowned at this information, concerned since the Niga Incident had not spared her either. "While lax, fraternisation among the crew is not strictly prohibited unless - as you say - it affects the crew's duty or the chain-of-command. There is a lot of stigma attached to this subject, but regulations are not 100 % clear. Sexual harassment, however, is strictly prohibited and regulated. It may result in immediate demotions and the offenders court-martialed. Though if Tac Conn is straying outside of proper conduct, that should reflect more upon the Squadron Commander than the Commanding Officer. Unless proven, it could still be that Captain Vasser has no part in the Dor'GhItlh Squardon's recent behaviour. There is a lot of pressure upon the fighter pilots, and while not forgiveable, their losses could explain their tendency for misconduct. There is also the obvious injury to their Squadron Commander, which might have psychological repercussions as well. Have you found anything linking them to Captain Vasser, or that he is aware?"

She shook her head, "As for what I have found; Nothing.  However, his files have clearly been altered and the alteration clearly occurred prior to our first encounter with Calamity.  From what I can tell, the alteration did occur sometime after we went rogue ourselves indicating whoever altered the files did so only after all ties to the Federation were cut.  As such, your files, Thea, are the only files that exist that have not been altered to matching the falsehoods command is trying to spread about Captain Vasser.  And have not been altered to by whoever on the Harbinger has altered the files on Vasser.  Your files are the only remaining official unaltered record on him left that I could even possibly access.  What I have found the most worrisome are the most recent set of events I have witnessed."

Bringing up the aforementioned personnel file on Vasser in her digital mind, Thea made an encrypted copy while asking Ravenholm to proceed.

The young woman nodded as she began to explain.  She spoke in a somber tone her eyes becoming even more serious than they were before. "Moments after both ships activated their phase cloaks, both Captain Vasser and his XO left the Harbinger's bridge. They were unseen for an extended period of time.  During this period Aisha S'Iti - our helm officer - was the ranking officer on the bridge having one of the higher tier CPO ranks. I do not doubt her competence at the helm or even her ability to command a ship.  Her service record in the Maquis speaks to her competence in the center chair.  If no one else was on the bridge and she had to take command in an emergency situation I would be fully confident in her abilities to take over if the situation was dire.  But, for a Captain to leave the bridge seconds after a battle along with the XO, leaving a high-ranking non-com as the only officer manning the bridge of an Akira-class vessel... This seems suspiciously strange.  Especially for someone who the profile indicates is such a stickler for rules and proper procedures. In addition, I must mention tonight's festivities and how many of both ship's senior staff are most likely getting blind drunk at the moment on a simulated Risa. Yes, I know the stress relief and a shore leave of sorts is more than needed, so to speak, but still, If I were an Executive Officer - and I am not - I would Imagine I would be having a fit and quoting every regulation in the book about how this seems to be against every single regulation in the manual.  And yes, I do realize the irony of me - given my situation and everything you currently know about me, and even more importantly everything you obviously find suspicious about me - pointing out lapses in regulations and Starfleet S.O.P.'s.  Despite that, I do believe my observations still stand as valid cause of suspicion.  Would you agree?"

Thea processed the information and had her answer at hand. "Insufficient data," she said, almost apologetically. "There could be any number of reasons why the CO and XO of a Federation starship might need to confer after a battle. It is not only their prerogative, but given the tactical and strategic situation, and the number of lives lost in the fighting against the Reavers, they might have need to evaluate how they were to reach the rendezvous point with me. Unless there is any information available about what the meeting entailed, then Security will have little to comment on that. Furthermore, my memory banks state that the Harbinger is currently staffed by what is generally referred to as a 'skeleton crew', and that would explain why Chief S'Ithi was left in command. If she is as qualified as you say she is, then I cannot see why a Commanding Officer would not leave her in charge for a short while. Moreover, Captain Vasser also had you supervising your two departments, so Chief S'Ithi was not left completely alone, was she? You had just saved his life, as you said... It stands to reason that he might have felt confident with you and the helm officer to be on top of things for a while? Perhaps even being so lenient as to let you keep the weapon over there? Lastly, if you question the stand-points of our Executive Officers on the Theurgy and the Harbinger, then it sounds like your quarrel is rather with them than their superiors."

She raised a had to forestall comment about these counter-arguments. "That being said, there is still circumstantial evidence about something being wrong with Captain Vasser's records, but I have no means to verify this even if it has alerted the Federation News Network that there might be a story behind it. Based on what scarce information there is, it might be his background could have been fabricated because he could have served under Starfleet Intelligence for some time, or had to change identity because of a threat upon his life during the Dominion War. It isnot too rare according to my records. The information that you have given me about the Dor'GhItlh Squardon is very disconcerting, however, and I will file a report to Lieutenant Commander Wenn Cinn immediately. I do not know who will be named Chief of Security on the Harbinger after David Cerrato has died, but Mr. Wenn will take it from there."

Selena looked at Thea.  "Actually I may have already tipped the scales that determine that little facet of the Harbinger's and Theurgy crew's interactions.  Earlier, this evening when Captain Vasser ordered your former acting security chief to bring my weapon to me I brought to his attention the fact that she was the single security person on the Theurgy of decently high rank and of high experience that he would probably be able to have transferred over with little argument from Captain Ives.  I expect that the transfer request will be submitted either by the time of our joint senior staff meeting tomorrow, during the meeting, or shortly after its adjournment."

"I see, so our Deputy might assist in protecting the Harbinger crew," said Thea, pausing to file this information away for future reports. Moving on, she then addressed the obvious. "What about my second inquiry, Chief Ravenholm?"

"Yes, as for what I wanted to know about you. Given the following Hypothetical Scenario; Parameter 1: You are in the good graces of Starfleet, and Starfleet as far as you know previously has given you no cause to question any previous orders.  As far as you know, Starfleet is indeed the utopian protectors of the free people of the Federation. Parameter 2: You, 'Thea', is considered by the Federation, and Starfleet by extension, a sentient life-form granted all the rights and privileges thereof and is treated as the Captain of your own body; 'The U.S.S. Theurgy'.  As such, the Theurgy as a ship is treated as an organism with you, 'Thea', as its soul, its voice, and its Captain. Simplified, you, 'the holographic entity' hold the rank of Captain of your body 'the ship'. Parameter 3: You have a crew consisting of what would be standard for this vessel including a full Senior Staff and the freedom to decide whether to follow your own Captain's prerogatives or listen to your crew's recommendations, just as any other captain has the ability and authority to do.

"Given this scenario, If you were to receive orders from Starfleet that conflicted with tenants of the Federation - for instance you received orders from multiple Admirals to commit an action outlawed by the tenants of the Federation - would you; A: Follow the orders since as a Captain you are supposed to do what your superiors in Starfleet say, even when it is against the rules of the Federation, or B: Risk accusations of treason and essentially risking sentencing your crew and yourself to death to remain loyal to the tenants of the Federation?

"Alternate way of reading this question: Assuming previously discussed parameters, where do your loyalties lie? Do they lie first with Starfleet - as a ship of the line - then to the Federation's people secondarily?  Or, do they lie with the citizenry the Federation - essentially viewing yourself as a public servant - then to Starfleet viewing Starfleet as the protectors of said people? 

"Please feel free to come up with a third possible answer. From what I can tell, the most human of Captains often find themselves on both sides of that fine line after all.  Of course I would understand completely if you feel this is too personal of a question. I am just trying to discern what you believe you would behave like if you were your own captain.  What would you do with the power of the Theurgy at your holographic fingertips?"

The set-up for the hypothetical question was quite clear, parameters computed and an answer provided well under one seconds duration of contemplation. Thea did not answer right away, however, because there was insufficient data about what the motivation was behind such a question being posed to her. Why would Chief Ravenholm reveal her true assignment from FNN, alert her about a potential security risk on the Harbinger, make accusations about her Commanding Officer with circumstantial evidence, and then proceed to ask her a hypothetical question with basis in philosophy - questioning where her true loyalties would lie if Captain Ives was no longer Captain. Pure curiosity, or...

"Do you mean to instigate mutiny aboard me, Chief Ravenholm?" asked Thea, browridge lowering just as her phaser was raised anew. "Then I have a third set of inquiries: Have you lost faith in Starfleet being the protectors of the Federation, thinking that with Command being usurped, none of the organics can be trusted? Do you not believe in the mission and what we are all trying to do? Will you try to remove Starfleet Officers from command and give it to me, just because you do not trust anyone besides a computer? Do you have more faith in me - a digital soul - than the last Starfleet Officers that are still fighting alongside you to protect the Galaxy from this new threat?"

Thea powered up her phaser with her thumb, eyes sharp. "There is a 56,975 % chance that your entire story is a fabrication... and that you are working for the enemy to stir unrest. Perhaps, with lack of statistic probability, you may even be one of them. Verify your purpose."

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #5
"Hardly," she said with a shake of her head.  "Mutiny against Captain Ives is the last thing on my mind.  If anything of the two captains missions I believe in Ives' mission more than the mission we had with Vasser.  With Vasser the plan seemed to be to evade and hide.  Captain Ives has proposed taking the information war to the enemy.  Though his means are not the exact means I would wish, I believe his mission is superior to the previous mission of hide and bide.  The thought of mutiny against Ives sickens me if just for the fact that him no longer being in command puts at risk any proposal of a mission to attempt to defeat this threat instead of just hiding under a rock while an infection spreads everywhere else.  I would rather fight and die with the weapons of truth and information in my hands than hide and waste away knowing I could have done something even if it just means slowing the progress of the disease."

AS far as organics it isn't organics or synthetics that i either trust or mistrust.  Synthetics are just as apt to betrayal, just under different motivations.  I see no superiority of one over the other.  I see them both as life forms but in a different way.  As such all beings have potential for deceit and betrayal.  AS such it would be foolish to trust synthetics above organics in this way.  The inquiries were in all honesty unrelated the first thing was directly related to my assignment and the second was  personal inquiry.  AS for some proposed solution by replacing organic personnel with synthetic don't be absurd.  Yes i don't trust Starfleet command but can you blame me given the circumstances at the moment. Besides, if you had seen even half the things I have that exposes the seedy underbelly of the Federation I doubt you would feel too confident in them as the protectors of hundreds of alien races either though."

"My purpose has changed over the last few days though.  now my purpose is much simpler though I have a few sub purposes too.  my primary purpose though is doing what i can to ensure the success of Captain Ives' mission.  My second purpose is still to find out the truth about Captain Vasser.  Most recently though I have found a third goal which has been to want to see if I could form some type of personal relationship with you for the purposes of mutual enjoyment via social and physical interactions, preferably both.  The purpose of the question was more to see how closely our ethical viewpoints match with mine and to gauge your reaction in order to know whether I would prefer to try and pursue a friendship on mutual grounds or whether I should instead just wish to pursue interactions with you for purely or the purposes of mutual sexual gratification."  she said spelling out her intent's with Thea about as plainly as possible.  She asked the question earlier to know whether Thea was someone she wanted as a friend or just someone she would want to fool around with at some point.

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #6
Thea kept her phaser raised while Ravenholm explained her motivations and further clarified her standpoint in regards to the mission and the crew. She would have dropped it earlier during the Chief's answer but it just so happened that Thea lowered her weapon when the human told her that the hypothetical scenario and choice posed to her would indicate whether or not she 'qualified' as a friend or a tryst. It would seem awkward to explain one's intentions in such a case, and Thea was surprised at the level of candour Ravenholm was showing - obviously taking Thea and the mission seriously. In fact, it was a great indication of where her loyalties lay, perhaps more so than what she had actually just said.

"Then I will answer," she said, blinking at the unusual situation she found herself in, and she began to re-prioritising the parameters set by the hypothetical decision she was supposed to face, down-prioritising her tactical subroutines. "Starfleet is in essence the protectors of the membership citizenry of the United Federation of Planets, like you say, and I am not sure how well versed you are in our General Orders and Protocols. It is, in fact, because of General Rule 5 that you have been granted a provisional rank and position aboard the Harbinger, since it states that such a thing is possible in case of emergency. You should take the time to read up on General Rule 3 if you are in doubt of our regulations in regard to the aforementioned citizenry. There is also General Rule 6 and 37. One describes how the people is our highest priority, and must come to their aid at all times."

Pausing, Thea walked in a semi-circle before Ravenholm, folding her arms underneath her chest as she did so with her phaser still in hand. The human did not appear to be a threat at the moment. "The collective rules, tenants, if you will, of Starfleet harmonise with all laws of the Federation, where the domestic courts on each member planet is concerned, by adhering to General Rule 3. In the situation you have suggested, I would not be at fault for adhering to Starfleet protocols, which I would. With the many 'creeds' of Starfleet as the foundation of my command, it would be plain that the orders received by these admirals would be in contradiction to what Starfleet represents, and I would disobey my orders and do all that would be in my power to protect my crew from the repercussions."

Thea stopped her slow pacing to clarify her standpoint. "It would be moot to try and facilitate all the doctrines and priorities of the multi-cultural Federation, abide by all member-planet laws at the same time, with all of the Alpha Quadrant's layers of politics and institutions. It is not in the nature of a navy to be under the direct command of the citizenry, but by adhering to our General Orders, our Regulations and Directives, when we would serve the whole of the Federation in the fashion we are supposed to be. In Starfleet's nature, by design, there is an openness to embrace and serve each culture within the Federation. It is corruption, either within or in some layer of all socitieties outside the fleet - or the ship - that complicates each decision. In the decision and scenario you have described, however, it is clear that the right choice is to disobey the admiralty."

After giving Ravenholm her answer, Thea processed the information that the human had provided, and after a couple of moments, she gestured towards one of the screens in the room. "As promised, I am submitting a report to Lieutenant Commander Wenn Cinn about the Harbinger's Tac Conn Officers," she said, and on the display, the report was written out almost instantaneously and sent off, "I am also writing a report to Captain Ives about you being on an assignment from the FNN..."

Pausing, Thea turned her head to look at Ravenholm, "...but I will recommend the Captain to hear the story directly from you, and leave judgement and decision to the office in which it is due. Your current line of inquiry may harm the chain-of-command on the Harbinger, and consequently our mission. I would, however, not like to let my judgement affect the Captain's unless I'm asked to, but I will report that it is deemed unlikely that incarceration in the Brig is neccesary, and that you are to refrain from further persecution of the subject of your assignment until the Captain has sanctioned your assignment aboard me."

That said, Thea let the holographic phaser in her hand vanish, and she set her hands on her hips. Her chameleon body-suit changed colour from golden to black, indicating a civilian or private operating routine. "I hope you find this solution fair," she said quietly, wondering whatever social convention she was supposed to fall back on now that duties had been dealt with. "I also hope that you do not see my precautions and my faith in Starfleet as hostile. It was nothing personal."

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #7
 "I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic."  she softly whispered to herself hearing an echo of those old words in Thea's response.  She genuinely smiled hearing herself say the words, "It's nice to hear at least there are some members of our Starfleet that listen to the Laws of Starfleet and the Federation rather than the unwritten laws of authority and command.  Your answer also indicates to me that most likely Captain Ives is of similar standing.  Of course his actions that brought us here seem to speak louder than any words from his ship's computer."  

She then nodded in response to her statements regarding the brig and Ives, "Of course, I will submit to whatever inquiries Captain Ives wishes to make of me regarding my mission from the FNN.  As such, I will also disclose to him all anonymous info drops I have so that he might be able to increase his list of means to get the word out to the people of the Federation.  I am sure whatever reporters in the FNN are not affected by our enemy will jump at a chance to break a message from the so called 'Terrorist Captain.'  As for the ones that aren't, I have created very sophisticated means to ensure that my information drops are untraceable beyond a proxy location far far from where we are actually sending the information from.  If our enemies follow the sources in the data trail they'll find themselves on a wild goose chase into Ferengi Alliance territory and then for good measure into Romulan space as the source of the signal bounced from there.  If they chase the breadcrumbs even all the way back to the source we could be halfway across the Alpha Quadrant before they get to that location.  I am sure such assets would be something the Captain would be happy to have as among his options."

She eagerly grinned hearing the apology of sorts, "You were only acting as should be expected of an AI wishing to protect her physical body, and by extension the crew that inhabits it, from a potential threat.  If you hadn't acted in such a way I might myself wonder if you were malfunctioning."

The previous business out of the way she looked towards the now black suited AI "Now that that's over do you mind if I pick up my gun?"  She waited for permission before walking over and picking it up holstering it back within her outer thigh.  "I see that you have changed operating color to non colored can I assume you are no longer acting as security but as a civilian acting of your own accord?"  She smiled when her assumption was acknowledged as correct.  "So, would it be too much to ask for me to have a tour of your quarters?  I have always wondered what kind of personal effects and decorations a Starship herself would choose for a personal home."

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #8
When Ravenholm made her request to collect her weapon, Thea smiled and made an open hand gesture towards it. "Of course, Chief Ravenholm," she said, since the Deputy had already processed the gun. Standing there, she observed the way the weapon was holstered inside the artificial thigh, and she confirmed the observation about her chameleon body suit. "Yes, I currently do not represent any of the Starfleet divisions aboard, so the inherent operational parameters I abide to are no longer a priority."

Upon being asked for a tour of her quarters, Thea folded her arms underneath her breasts shifted her non-existent weight to one leg. Effectively, she applied the social convention of pausing before answering - giving her plenty of time to twist and turn the question around endlessly before answering. In the end, there were too many unknown parameters about Ravenholm to reach any kind of definite conclusion as to whether or not she meant more than she said with her request. There was no other recourse but to accept it.

"It would not be too much to ask for," she said, turning on her heel and leading the way towards the exit of the Upper Computer Core area. Walking the corridor outside, she added. "Though you will most likely be dissapointed. My quarters are very much the same as anyone else's. I am a learning entity, and a part of my development as a holographic interface for the crew was to be one of the crew. This was even before Lieutenant Lin Kae unshackled me."

After turning a corner, Thea continued while she walked. "I am guessing that your expectations of my quarters are a second priority to finding someplace to stay tonight. I am basing this assumption on the fact that our Quartermaster is not available to arrange for temporary accomodations. Do I assume correctly, Chief Ravenholm?" she asked, turning her head to look at the organic briefly with a smile. It was almost a rhetorical question, so while she looked ahead again as they walked towards her quarters, she continued.  "You never told me which answer to your hypothetical scenario would have constituted friendship as opposed to recreational copulation, but if you are operating under the latter parameters, then I must disappoint you. I will not engage in sexual relations with you tonight."

She needed time to process her experiences with Lieutenant Commander Miles Renard first, not to mention Lieutenant Simon Tovarek. She did not wish her social runtimes to be flawed with overexposure of intimacy before she had the time to find consensus with her shifting and growing desires to develop and understand.

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #9
She smirked, "I would have found somewhere, though it wouldn't really matter. I far from require a bed due to my ability to simply activate a sleep state via the augmentations that directly interface with my central nervous system.  I short I have no more difficulty falling to sleep on a pile of rocks than i would in a comfortable bed.  I may wake up in a more sore state but falling to sleep is hardly an issue.  As for the answer to be honest if you were of a mind to just blindly obey what someone higher up said just because they were higher up and were of the mentality of an unthinking yes woman then I doubt we would ever have any chance to see eye to eye on anything.  As for your answers I am happy to hear how you are developing independently from your base programming and would very much welcome an opportunity to at least see if we would make good friends."

She couldn't help but chuckle at her rebuttal towards the sex though. "Even if there wont be any form of intimacy I would like to get to know more about you outside of your functions as an AI.  I guess I should say I would like to get to know Thea the person and I can't help but think that the old Earth custom of a "sleepover", though a bit childish by many people thoughts, may be an effective means to see how well we "get along" as the term goes."

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #10
Walking next to Selena Ravenholm, Thea raised her eyebrows and brought up the definition of the odd term.

"Sleepover. An occasion when Person A spends a night away from home as a guest at Person B's residence. The same word also indicate Person B having a night-time guest. Common occurrence among children," she said with a frown that indicated inconclusive data. "I fail to understand how sleeping in the same location would be conductive towards a social bond since sleep is absent of social exchange. It would seem counter-productive towards that end. If that is your recommendation, I am - however - not opposed to the concept in its core values. Though I do recommend a modicum of conversation before you activate sleep-mode."

Soon, they arrived at Thea's quarters and she gave the authorisation-code to the door without either opening her mouth or pausing her step - walking into the Senior Staff-level accommodations without breaking her pace. "This is where I live from time to time when I am not assisting the shifts of organic personnel on the ship. I am available at all times and do not require sleep, so that makes my hours here sporadic and depending on the workload of the different shifts. Often, I get to stay here more during Gamma-shift since activity is somewhat lower. If you excuse me, I will change 'into something more comfortable', as the social convention calls it."

She let Selena explore her spartan quarters, which did not hold many physical posessions. There were a few PADDs perfectly ordered on a few tables and cupboards, containing reading of different kinds - duty-related and not. Thea only exported the files she wanted to read with her optic sensors when she was in her quarters, since it was a slow and ineffective method of attaining information of being entertained by stories new and old.

In her bedroom, she made the chameleon body suit vanish, leaving her projection naked in its appearence. She opened her wardrobe, which had been filled with more garments since Lin Kae upgraded her sensors and developed the portable emitter. She browsed the garments like she usually did, standing still with her hands by her sides. Then she found something she thought would be appropriate and began to dress. She chose black panties and grey cotton gym pants, deciding to go barefoot. Then she picked a common white top, shimming into it, and lastly, she pulled out a Starfleet Academy hoodie, black and with the golden insignia on the chest.

Done, she left the bedroom to rejoin her guest.

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #11
Selena looked around the room not surprised to find it a bit sparse.  When the AI left to put on something comfortable Selena stifled a chuckle at the statement indicating that she thought a sleepover to merely contain sleep and how she wished to have some form of conversation before she activated her sleep mode.  It was cute the kind of naivety the AI seemed to have regarding the old-human custom.  SHe waited for the AI to come back into the room and explained, "A sleepover amongst children is not just sleeping in the same place.  Often sleep is the last thing on any minds at all.  As tradition holds, so to speak, all parties often try and stay awake past any form of bedtime they would normally have.  Usually children play whatever kinds of games suit them.  Stereotypical girls' sleepover activities included impromptu makeovers, swapping rumors about boys, playing a earth game called truth or dare, or watching some form of movie.  Steriotypical male activities included telling scary "ghost stories," playing games of different types, watching some form of movie that one of them brings, often one which they know they would get in trouble for watching if their parents caught them watching it."  she explained hoping Thea now understood the term applied to an activity that for all intents and purposes was named erroneously.

She added, taking a seat in an empty chair "To be honest, I was hoping we could find some kind of activity or shared interest outside of the realms of business and share some time enjoying said interest together.  Are there any particular genres of fictive narrative either audial, visual, or a combination of both you enjoy more so than other genres? Any particular works of interactive fiction you enjoy partaking in perhaps?  Are there any particular strategy games you enjoy?  Perhaps something along these lines would be a good place to start."  she said matter-of-factly

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #12
Thea was about to say that the whole premise of the idea to engage in a traditional sleepover was flawed in the sense that they were not children any more, with neither curfew nor parents to obey - thus robbing the evening of the suggested excitement to rebel against the social conventions children adhered to.

Yet after Chief Ravenholm seated herself, other alternatives were suggested, and that made Thea realise that they were not meant to act as children but as the adult human and the developed projection they were. Smiling, she seated herself on a divan and leaned back, just a couple of feet between them in the seating area. Not too far if they were to be social, she judged, by the references she had access to in her database. "I enjoy watching holo vids here in this living room. I seldom watch them in the speed they were meant to be watched, fast-forwarding them since I can still see and process the visual input even if they are played three times as fast. I can even unscramble the audio in real-time. As for genres, I have preferences towards historical documentaries and scientific research logs. As for entertainment, I am preferential to philosophically challenging issues, dealing with existence, morals and ethics. I realise that may not be the ideal form of entrainment for most, but it is a sub-layer to all of the Galaxy's societies. As for the latest marathon I watched, it was six Vulcan documentaries about what numbers really are, and how they come to explain so much of our presence in known space. Are they real, in the sense that they exist as factors in the universe, or are they constructs that sentient species have come to form in similar ways?"

She paused, looking down upon her clasped hands where she lay on the divan. "As for strategy games or games in general, I tend to intimidate the ones who has the time to play them with me. I think, if you are willing, that you - as my guest - make the choice about what we should do. Perhaps something new for us both, for sake of the gained experience?"

Looking up again, Thea folded her arms under her chest where she lay on the divan, wondering what the evening might bring.

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #13
she smiled softly about the vulcan documentary on numbers and laughed.  "Can't say I have seen it.  Sounds interesting."  she said genuinely.  "I may have to look into that and view it during my sleep cycle come time." she said having already added it to the list of things to view in her "dreams" in the near future.  "I can understand how the thought of challenging you to a game of pure strategy would be a bit intimidating.  THough I would not be against it.  Even knowing I may loose there is nothing to be lost by playing a superior player.  loosing a game is only a bad thing when you wager something you cannot afford to loose on it after all.   Still for reasons of not dealing with foregone conclusions I was thinking a game that mixed both strategy with a force that neither of us can have the advantage with, random chance.  At first I would suggest using a dice but both of us have capabilities that could allow us to calculate motion and force and essentially allow either of us to roll exactly what we want at all times eliminating chance from the equation so I would suggest utilizing a random number generator in lieu of said dice as the means of generating the random chance desired." 

She paused for a moment before reaching a decision.  "Thea can you access a list of 20th to Pre-first contact 21st century terran "board games" that utilize dice as a means of generating random probabilities and make a few suggestions that we could play?  From your list I will be able to make a decision.  This way both of us will have a hand in the decision making.  If one of the ones on your list is something I have experienced before I will just eliminate it from my choice."

Re: CHAPTER 02: The System's Core [2330 hrs.]

Reply #14
Thea processed the task immediately and looked to the side, towards the area above the coffee table in the middle of the seating area. She seamlessly tapped into the hologrid of her quarters and above the table, the holographic boxes of the aforementioned kind of games appeared, changing as she said their names.

"Search parameters rendered the following result. Most common was Yahtzee, also called Yacht, Balut or Kismet. Another popular game with the right profile is Monopoly, where dice decided the player's movement on the board. Liar's Dice, also called Call My Bluff or just Bluff, a popular but crude version of said kind of game. If I were to chose one, I would pick Space Cadets: Dice Duel," she said, letting the box linger in the air, as she turned to Selena with a small smile.

"The two players competed in a simulated battle in real time in starship-based combat. The players was in charge of six stations in total on their own ship, where the goal was to obliterate their opponent's vessel. Each station had its own unique dice and also a playmat, so if we would digitalise these and make the random dice generator stand-alone, we ought to be playing on equal terms despite how the battle evolves without pause. Do you approve of this suggestion... or are you afraid you might loose?"

Thea did know how to pose a challenge, and over the evolving discussion, she had become intrigued by the social interaction with the bionic woman. "I am glad you convinced me to entertain this idea. It is unfortunate that you will be returning to your duties on the Harbinger on the morrow, otherwise we might have been able to do this more often."

In the end, it was the mission that would dictate the lives of everyone aboard the two outcast starships.

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