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Lt Zola & LtJG Barnes - "In Labyrinths of Coral Caves"

Posted on 2016-12-24 21:52 by Lieutenant Zola & Lieutenant JG Catalina Barnes

Mission: Goodnight Moon

Zola set aside the laser scalpel she'd retrofitted into a microwelder and turned the petri dish under the microscope to inspect her work. She hadn't dared pull the transmitter out of either drone, any stray nanoprobe being reactivated could cause all sorts of havoc. Instead she'd chosen to recreate the unit with things found within the lab while giving Catalina the time to figure out how to get into the signal once the device was working.

"How's it coming?" Zola looked to Catalina as she asked.

"I feel like a chicken trying to program a probe," Catalina muttered as she worked her way past layer after layer of encryption. "They have so many redundancies that some make previous ones redundant. I'm limited by a serious lack of speed here, Z."

"I saw something while scavenging for parts..." Zola started to dig through the tools, parts, and devices laid out on the work space she'd taken over. She retrieved a head band and held it out triumphantly to Catalina. "Our new holographic specialist apparently brought this with him from a previous post where it was prototyped. The readme in the PADD it was sitting on said its a neutral interface for LCARS."

"A neural interface?" Catalina asked as she took it and examined it. "Has it been tested or is my name changing to guinea pig?"

"I didn't do more than skim the readme long enough to know that it wasn't useful to my project, but I think it's the third or fourth version and it's been synced to the science lab computers, so I think Fleegman has used it." Zola held out the PADD to Catalina.

Catalina set the headband down carefully and took the PADD to read it. "Hmm. This does look promising," she mused as she read over the data on it. "According to this, it interfaces directly between the user's brain and the computer so the user can get faster results." She paused and looked up at Zola. "There's one problem, though. I'll use it, but if something goes wrong....will you be able to disconnect me fast enough?"

"I'll monitor you closely, be right here."

The young cryptographer read a bit more until she was sure she had the basics of it, then put the neural interface headband on. "If my brain fries, I'll never get to finish the Aperture Science holodeck game that me and the Commander started," she said before she took a breath and activated it after connecting it to the terminal. Her mind was instantly filled with the work she had been doing and flashed through screen after screen before she fixed one in her mind. "," she breathed. "I'm going in."

"Have your vitals and a feed of what you're seeing up on my screen. I'll record as you go, in case something does go wrong, hopefully it'll help sickbay if so. Though you and I both would prefer it not be needed." Zola laid a hand on Catalina's shoulder. "Good luck."

A window opened on Zola's screen as Catalina searched and found what she was looking for. "Man...they have some serious encryption on here...but now I have the speed." She took a calming breath and imagined what she would be doing with her hands. The screen in front of her changed to the Borg algorithm and screen after screen flashed by, some laid out in red which turned to green and new screens popped up, filled and closed again. She shuddered in her seat as she disabled a trap that nearly wiped everything and continued going through more screens.

"Take your time where needed," Zola said softly, trying to follow what was happening on the screen. She understood the concept of encryption, and knew the basics that every intel agent was taught, but this was moving too fast for her to keep up. It mostly appeared to be going okay though, the one close call aside. "Is that the frequency?"

"Yes," Catalina muttered as more windows opened and closed, then she slumped forward and barely caught herself on the edge of the console. "Wha..." she started to say before the code on the screen flashed and started to mutate.

"Getting you out." Zola tapped at her screen, and frowned. "Uh, Catalina, can you terminate the connection? It won't let me."

The young Lieutenant JG shuddered and reached up to try to take the neural headband off, but her hands were shaking too much. "Z-z...ola...." She managed as her hands fell to her sides again. On the screen, the algorithms changed again and the screen began to flicker past at speeds that even a human mind wouldn't be able to calculate before Catalina pitched forward and banged her head on the console.

Zola moved right to her side, and held her up. "Catalina." Zola reached for the interface's headband as she spoke her roommate's name.

"No!" her voice screamed, but it didn't come from her mouth. The numbers on the screen began to blur and coalesce into a face on the screen and resolved into a digitized version of Catalina's. "Zola...don't take it off!"

Zola pulled her hand away quickly, looking from the computer terminal to Catalina and back again. "Are you okay?" The little Ferengi picked up her tricorder and scanned the interface and the computer terminal.

"I...I feel like my mind is now part of the LCARS," the digital version of Catalina said. The terminal scan revealed it was operating normally, but the interface appeared to be working overtime. "I...I can't sense my body or make it move, Z."

"It looks like the interface got... stuck? For a lack of a better term." Zola frowned, poking at the Tricorder. "As far as I can tell, something involving the Borg system interacted with it. Your body seems to be safe as it is though, all autonomic functions are as normal, which means that we're not racing that clock. Are you limited to the science lab computer, or can you reach other systems on the ship?"

"Stuck?" Catalina's avatar echoed. "What do you mean, stuck? I can't feel my body, Zola." She hesitated and the screen flickered. "I seem to have access to the entire LCARS. Should I do anything while I'm in here?"

"Can you see if the borg left any other surprises while I figure out how to best get your body mobile until we can fix this?" Zola grabbed a PADD, and accessed the developer tools for the interface. "I'll go slow and be careful, let me know if anything feels weird... Weirder than being the computer feels, that is."

"Everything appears to be isolated," Cat said a moment later from the terminal. "This feels really weird, Z. The simulation is still running and there doesn't seem to be a way to turn it off from where I am. I'm going to go back to the encryption as long as I have full access to the code. Just let me know as soon as you have anything on your side of things."

Zola nodded, and turned her attention to the PADD. She started by inspecting the fail safes that were supposed to have allowed Catalina to pull out when something went wrong, and that's where she found it: the borg code had infected the fail safes and mutated the code. Instead of giving Catalina a clean break when she needed it, they were modifying the wavelengths the headset communicated with Catalina's brain each time they found the connection weakening. It didn't appear to be causing any physical harm, yet, but it was going to require some creativity to trick the new borg influenced algorithms into believing that Catalina wasn't disconnecting when she actually was.

Catalina decided to interface with the code instead of trying to fight it and found herself in an ever mutating algorithm that didn't appear to make sense to her. "This is going in circles," her avatar muttered before she reached for a line and separated it from the others with a bit of force. "Hmm. This is interesting." She examined it a bit more closely before she heard Zola and looked up.

"So, good news and bad," Zola looked up at the computer terminal where Catalina's avatar had manifested. "I should be able to rig up some subroutines for you to regain control of your body, and we should be able to route your computer access through a PADD to allow you to still function outside of the computer for now. How to detangle you from the fail safes that drew you into the computer instead of releasing you like they were supposed to... that's going to take some delicate programming and I'll probably need help."

"Take a look at this, Z," she said as she presented the code in a form that Zola would see from her point of view. "If we're right and that's what it's doing, all we should have to do is reverse engineer this bit of code and it'll break the loop that's keeping me here. Of course, if we get it wrong, then odds are good that I'll either be stuck here forever or my physical body will die."

"Well, if we get it wrong, we can probably build you a pretty nice android body or modify the Torchwood project to house your consciousness... but let's see if we can keep you human, and only fall back on those options if necessary." Zola copied the code Catalina offered into a sandbox on the PADD and started to examine it. "I don't like how this code keeps modifying itself in real time. The borg must have put a low level AI into whatever it is that got into the neural interface."

"If it's all the same to you, I'd rather keep my real body," Cat's avatar said as she began to multitask numerous simulations within the LCARS. "On a positive note, I can do a lot more from here. On a negative note, I'm running simulations and none of them are showing much in the way of anything positive. I just had to ask for something to make me faster. Torchwood...I remember that. What if you bring it online as a distraction and introduce it to the code?"

"We don't have any of the Torchwood beings in the crew, and it would take a while to generate a new one. And that's not even taking into account that we'd have to find somewhere for them to be assigned after this was over... assuming the borg didn't figure out how to assimilate them." Zola sighed. "Let's focus on short term here. Let's make you algorithms to control your body from within the computer and get you mobile, then we'll get some outside help to figure out how to get you back through the... what is it the blond hew-mon child goes through in that story? Waterhouse mentioned it once, there was a white rabbit and flamingos and playing cards."

"Alice in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll, English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon, and photographer. Born: January twenty-seventh eighteen hundred and thirty-two in, Daresbury, United Kingdom. Died: January fourteenth, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight," Catalina rattled off almost absently. "Sorry. I have access to so much information that it presented itself to your reference as if it were a request. I never knew how much the computer anticipates possible requests and gets the information ready. How is an algorithm going to control my body if my mind is in here? It's not an android."

"Mathematician... must be why Waterhouse likes his writing." Zola flicked at her PADD, trying to pull up any information on remote control of humanoid bodies, then she laughed to herself. "You can probably get the answer faster than I can. Search the Starfleet database for it?"

"Just a moment," Catalina's avatar said as it went out of focus and began to sort through teraquads of data at lightning speed. "Ambassador Spock once had his brain stolen and they created a remote control for his body. Current research and indicates that if one uses a Multitronic engrammatic interpreter with a motor assist band combined with the neural interface, I may be able to get control of my body back that way. Of course, that's all experimental and has never been tried on a conscious patient."

"We should be able to replicate the motor assist using the science lab replicator, as long as I tie it into the science lab computers. The pattern should be in there. Can you handle the programming while I build the multitronic engrammatic interpreter? And have you had any luck with getting into the Borg communications?"

As soon as Zola made the request, the schematics for the multitronic engrammatic interpreter appeared on the screen as well as those for the motor assist. "I'm still chasing it in circles. As soon as I crack one aspect of it, another version of it comes into being and makes my previous work null," her avatar said. "I need higher level data access of the computer. I may be in here, but it still only recognizes me as a Lieutenant Junior Grade. The programming should" That appeared on Zola's PADD a second later.

"The Borg are circumventing our security systems somehow, can't you just follow them in however they're going?"

"They're doing more than that, Z," Catalina's avatar said and sounded distracted. "They're going through every system and leaving chaos in their wake. I'm doing damage control, rerouting subsystems, putting up firewalls, building encryption algorithms, talking to you, fighting the code and wondering why the replicators have a subroutine to make prune juice with every sixteen hundredth request."

"If they're causing that much damage, we should coordinate with Oswin and Ikko to restore the computer, so let's focus on getting you mobile. The less we need to say on the comms, the better." Zola rummaged through the pile of parts from the transmitter project to find if she had what was needed for the multitronic engrammatic interpreter.

"I can access internal sensors a bit," Catalina said on screen, then she frowned and diverted her focus. Zola's tricorder beeped and showed sensor data of two Borg drones walking down the corridor appeared on it. "It looks like Medical is about to have visitors. Let me see if I can divert them or slow them down." Meanwhile, she kept a part of her mind working on the Borg algorithm and began to slowly gain ground on the mutating code. With another part, she accessed the Security protocols and began to bring up modulating forcefields in the path of the drones in between sections of the corridor.

"Zola to Dragomirov." Zola tapped her combadge. "Sickbay has company."

=/\= End Log =/\=

Lieutenant Zola
R&D Specialist
USS Joshua Norton

Lieutenant JG Catalina Barnes
USS Joshua Norton


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