Cloak and dagger – The stakes are raised
by HoD Ro' Matlh & Soghla' HIchop Matlh & Soghla' Jared

Previous EntryNext Entry
Post Details

Title   The stakes are raised
Mission   Cloak and dagger
Author(s)   HoD Ro' Matlh & Soghla' HIchop Matlh & Soghla' Jared
Posted   Tue Nov 19, 2013 @ 11:02pm
Location   Science lab
Timeline   Mission time +0.25 hrs
HIchop climbed the ladder to the unofficial Science lab where Jared was left to tinker. As he walked in, he saw that Jared had indeed been busy. There were bits and pieces of circuitry and machinery scattered all over his workbench. There seemed to be a number of new tools and bits of engineering kit which had been heavily modified, and looked suspiciously like Jared had been cannibalizing minor systems on the ship for parts.

The little man had an intense expression on his face. He was "in the zone". It didn't look like a fun part of the zone.

There were a number of... projects... on the bench. Most were in a fairly chaotic state, but two at least had a recognizable shape. One was orb-shaped and looked on the outside like it was a refit of one of May'Bel's hand grenades. But what HIchop could see of the internals looked more like a mini-replica of the warp core.

The other - which Jared was working on at the moment - seemed to be some sort of high-tech gauntlet or forearm device. The place where the hand went in wasn't hard to recognize. But as for the device mounted on the arm... if HIchop didn't know Jared as well as he did, he'd swear it had... barrels.

He didn't seem to have registered HIchop was there at all. Unusual, for Jared.

HIchop called Jared's attention, "TiQ!"

The little man looked up, looking confused.

"It's not active, it's just... oh... who... yes, right. HiChop. Uuuh... can I help?"

HIchop handed the data chip to Jared, "We were given this by the Corporates. Ro' believes it to be trapped, and wants you to check it."

"Oh... right. Yes. I can do that. Good to have a break. Let me see... Best thing is to run it on a sandbox, or virtual machine. Give it a fake computer system to play havoc with. I can use this thing..."

He took the rod and went over to a bundle of wires and computer parts that seemed to include parts of a broken Klingon tricorder. He found a data-rod socket at the end of a bunch of optic cabling and plugged the rod in. There was an old screen and a keypad attached to the bundle, and he started working on the keypad as the screen displayed a wash of garbled gibberish - HIchop saw both Klingon and Federation style characters display in amongst a blur of other confusing data.

"And... just running some OS modification sniffers to see exactly what it's doing... and... there. I think that read/write spike was the questionable program behaviour Ro' was expecting."

He was gesturing to a part of the screen that for all HIchop could tell might have been displaying sports scores in Borg. Jared got to work on the terminal again.

"So let's just see what that's doing... Ah. Right. Yes. Nothing particularly malicious here. Looks like some kind of spy-ware. Doesn't really interfere with the operation of the system. Just looks for important looking data and tags it. And there's a little bit of BIOS mechanics in there. Let's just see what that's... yes, I thought so."

"Basically, this is a digital peep-hole. It plants a tiny program on the system you put it into that looks at our data and occasionally taps into the comms system and leaks it to other vessels - presumably ones owned by these Corporates. They're basically just snooping through our filing cabinet."

"It's a clever little program, but not super complex to disable. Probably a little beyond the average Klingon engineer, who don't go in for that sort of subtlety. Federation types probably would have tracked it down in the end though - they're a little sneakier."

"I wonder if they didn't realise we had Tell aboard. Or maybe they just didn't think she was that bright."

HiChop considered, "Is it possible to get this to work to our advantage. A door, once opened, can be walked through in both directions."

Jared listened to HiChop's idea, and looked thoughtful, "Well... I guess if the other ship has one of these on it's system so HQ can keep track of things... in theory I should be able to reverse engineer the transmission code from this little program. Perhaps it could work."

He got to work, mumbling technobabble to himself as even more incomprehensible information flickered up on screen. After about five minutes, he transferred something onto a data chip, and then transferred it from his bits-and-pieces computer over to the main terminal.

"OK... so if I've got this right... that should be the handshake sequence to get their ship to send us some juicy data goodies. So lets just hide that in a letter home to mother - which I'm sure they'll listen into if they can - and see what that gets us..."

He hit the send key. They watched a good sixty seconds as nothing changed on the screen.

"Yeah. Maybe the handshake key is a little more complex than I expected. Or maybe it's ship specific. Or they've just got better screening security aboard their..."

He fell silent as the terminal suddenly bleeped an incoming transmission. Jared tapped a key, and the screen exploded in to life - a blur of information flickering up it. All of it looked like total and utter nonsense.

"Whoa! OK. So the handshake works. I guess they're just confident that no-one's going to break their encryption. Which is... possibly a fair call, actually."

He worked some more at the terminal.

"This has almost no recognisable structures or mathematical sequence tags whatsoever. It's like a book full of white noise. There's no way federation types would be able to break through this. Although... actually... it does remind me a little of..."

He worked a little more. The gibberish on screen seemed to be multiplying into even more gibberish.

"Yes... of course. Bynar compression algorithms to shrink-wrap the information for sending. It's still encrypted under that. But... there's something just a little bit familiar about the pattern here..."

He frowned at it, "I swear this looks like Irken fractal trace encryption. I think our Corporates have been doing some research into Archeotech."

He looked thoughtful, and smiled, "I wonder. Would you be cheeky enough to just use corporate-noble?"

He worked for another half minute or so. As he tapped a final key, the screen exploded into life - the gibberish resolving into text, pie-charts, images, and snippets of video. Jared clapped his hands.

"Our friends have been doing homework into very ancient security technology. But they haven't counted on coming across someone who might be familiar with it. It's the equivalent of making your access code 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 because you're working with cave-men who don't know how to use a keypad."

"If you're wondering about our corporate friends, I think we've hit the jackpot. We've got... ship telemetry codes... current trade negotiations... locations of corporate agents... what do you want to know?"

HIchop response was immediate, "Tactical data. Weapons, shield modulations, crew numbers...:

Jared was suddenly not listening any more. Something on the screen had caught his attention, "Hang on... is that..."

His eyes widened a little, "That's... VPN access."

He glanced over at HIchop , who was staring at him blankly.

"Virtual Private Network."

HIchop 's look didn't change.

"It means if there's anything on the corporates that we don't have in these files... I might just be able to patch through their ship and get access to their main corporate database back at their HQ."

HiChop looked thoughtful, "Give me the tactical information. Combat capability. Starting with the ship we were on."

Jared worked for a few moments, "It's not a warship. Not even close. Luxury cruiser, set up for diplomatic duty. There's a few tactical goodies hidden aboard, but it's no match for a Klingon warship. It's fast and comfortable. Some of the engine technology is classified - as in the specs aren't even on the ship - I can probably dive the main database for that if you need it."

"They're light on for warships, actually. They seem to depend more on mercenary contracts than on standing forces. A few stealth cruisers with some decent weapons, but no battleships that I can see."

"They trade a heck of a lot of military hardware, but they don't tend to USE any of it themselves. A little bit of state-of-the-art agent equipment, but not much in the way of standard firepower."

"What mercenaries?" HIchop asked with a frown.

"Various. Everything from Naussican thugs through to ex-military Cardassian operatives. They have a few on retainer, but a lot are just employed locally at need."

"What are these insect creatures?" HIchop queried, changing topic. "The fleet we were hiding from. What are they?"

Jared worked away, "They're... called Ichthoids, on the system. The Corporates seem to have a few... arrangements with them. Not an alliance, by any means. But enough to give them... channels of communication. Looks like their language is rather hard to translate, and not many other races have had much luck communicating with them."

"The fleet is... on it's way to Iapetus, apparently. Some kind of war brewing. Nothing to do with the Triangle council - they're probably just in the way. The corporates are getting the hell out of the way of that one. They're pulling all interests out of the way and giving the Ichthoids a wide berth. The expected conflict is listed as a bit of a black hole when it comes to trade opportunities."

"Tell me about this agent," HIchop said bluntly. "What's she on our ship for?"

Jared tapped away again, "Looks like she's on her way to Maego space, trying to open up trade opportunities around the Maego/Kapular war. Secondary objective is to try and make connections with the FHew crew and open up opportunities for later. But it looks like it's just a side objective."

"Who is she? Personnel file? Is she a willing operative, or do they have something on her? History of insubordination?"

Jared frowned a little at the screen, "Name's... Eve. Don't recognize the species. There's not much on the local database, but that shouldn't be hard to get off the corporate system..."

There was a sudden shudder in the image and new data began to flow across the screens.

Jared's face went a little white, "Oh... no you can't... You aren't... "

Other connected monitors turned on automatically with more data scrolling over screens in a lightning move Jared reached over and yanked the power supplies form the consoles. The computers all went dead.

"I think that may be all we are able to get for the moment."