Canopus Station
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...And We Don't Care WHO Knows!

Posted on Tue Dec 1st, 2020 @ 2:21am by The Narrator & Lieutenant Commander Mara Ricci & Lu'kat & Stephen Spires

Mission: S2:2: Best Laid Plans
Location: Canopus Station, AgriDome
Timeline: MD1 2100

"The trick," said Mara as she and L'ukot headed towards the Agri-done, "is going to be creating the pathway in such a way that once we have the wirewolves contained, I can easily cut them off from the rest of the station. We may have to figure out how to distract them for several minutes. Not ideal, but I don't know if we can avoid it." She grinned. "I can always manually pull the plug, I suppose," she added, holding up her excellent prosthetic.

Lu'kat kept a close eye on his surroundings, who knows where the Wire Wolves had spread to by now. Keeping an eye out was one thing, figuring out what to do if they actually came across one before they were ready was another question. First things first, though, as Mara put forward an additional issue, that required answering. "While there is still time let us think of alternative ways to deal with our issue at hand. I am always keen to keep the option of brute force only as a last resort. As to the distraction, I have several million zettabytes of Cardassian opera stored in my personal database. The a-rythmic meter and complex melodic strophes ought to keep them ...engaged... for a little while."

Mara grinned, her brain automatically picturing the stereotypical snake charmer of earth, playing a pungi while the snake danced in front of him. The image morphed into Lu'kat singing Cardassian opera, which she had no idea what it sounded like, so it sort of turned into 'Gia'il Sole dal Gange' in her head and her grin widened. "We might be able to sell tickets to that," she commented.

Lu'kat took note of Mara's cheerful demeanour. But because the attempted humour went completely over his head, Lu'kat replied in the earnest way possible: "I'd be happy to send you a selection of some of my favourites, no tickets needed, Lieutenant Commander." They arrived at the Agri-Dome. He observed the seemingly endless rows of vegetation and other kinds of flora that abounded. This was nothing like anything he had seen on Cardassian space stations, that was, if there even was one. Cardassian space stations for primarily for military use, and they had little to no need for gardening.

An engineering servitor, it's rubber tracks grinding to a halt on the deck plate, came to a halt in front of the two of them and Duke, one of Mara's engineers, hopped off the machine to let it trundle on its way.

"Ma'am," the tall dark-skinned man said, and then looked Lu'kat. "Sir...we've got the lightning rod buried two meters into the soil at the centre of the dome. Problem is the more Wire Wolves spread out, the harder it is to find an uncorrupted replicator to make enough conductive silver cable. We're running into a manufacturing bottleneck."

"Have we got any ships hanging around that aren't hooked up to station power?" she asked. "We could ask to borrow their industrial replicators. I mean, if it gets to that point."

Lu'kat accessed a workstation. "I'll begin setting up the Lure right away. Just give me a few minutes to calibrate it properly. The sooner it's up the lesser they spread. Of course, when it's up the Dome has to be evacuated of all personnel."

"Commodore Grissom has pulled the Task Force ships out of orbit to one of the in-system Lagrange points. There were concerns the data parasites might jump from the station to one of the Task Force ships. Both construction vessels have already moved out to the Oort Cloud along with the refinery ships," Duke said with a grumble. "We've got the replicator left standing air-gapped as good as we can get, but that takes time and we can't turn on the others ones until we know they are safe. It's a bitch of a problem boss."

"I'll say," agreed Mara, scratching her head. "Well, how much do we have so far? Maybe it'll be enough."

"We have enough wire to secure the Engineering module and half of the hab units. But we're running short when it comes to getting up into the dock and command levels. Maybe if security mined the remaining replicators in the upper levels?" Duke pondered.

"Get them up there quick before those levels are corrupted," she instructed. Once this was all over, she was going to work out how to completely separate each section from the others- power and all. "It just occured to me," she added. "We can totally let Haztor know about this, too. Show him we can take care of the wire wolves and separate him from his avatar." She grinned at the thought. She had no idea if Haztor underestimated them or if this was a test, or what. But, whatever it was, she was going to take care of it.

Lu'kat furiously tapped away at the workstation. It was one thing to create a treasure trove of information. Creating one that would appeal to a creature such as a Wire Wolf was a little bit more complex. They wouldn't just go for random information. It was the same as if Lu'kat were to visit a library. The wealth of knowledge within the library would be nearly infinite, yet Lu'kat would only find a minute section of it interesting for his own purposes. Additionally, what amount of information would be needed? How fast did Wire Wolves take to process new data before moving on to the next source? These were all unknowns. He had a thought and looked up from his screen. "Lt. Commander Ricci, how well-versed are you in the knowledge of mathematical paradoxes?"

Mara grinned. "I'm an engineer," she said. "It's practically a requirement to be obsessed with mathematical paradoxes or else you don't get your nerd badge. Why, what have you got?"

"The Interesting Number Paradox", Lu'kat stated, not taking his eyes from the screen as he kept on working. "It's a paradox arising from the attempt to classify every natural number as either 'interesting' or 'uninteresting'. It states that every natural number is interesting. The proof is by contradiction: if there exists a non-empty set of uninteresting natural numbers, there would be a smallest uninteresting number, but the smallest uninteresting number is itself interesting because it is the smallest uninteresting number, thus producing a contradiction.

If we can translate that concept to interesting and uninteresting data instead, we'd have devised ourselves a Wire Wolves Trap in which they ensnare themselves, indefinitely."

Of course Mara was familiar with the paradox, but she didn't see how it would help them until Lu'kot made the connection for her. "So we have to get them interested in finding the least interesting bit of information," she replied, lips quirking up in a sly smile. "I like it. But, how do we get them interested in finding that?"

"History is our teacher. The Ferengi Rom and your Starfleet colleagues Senior Chief Petty Officer Miles O'Brien and Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax aboard DS9, once created the self-replicating mines to block access through the Bajoran wormhole. Each time a mine was destroyed, another would be replicated in its place. Without it, the Dominion would have had an unchecked supply chain to their home territory, and we'd all be living under the tyranny of the Dominion now, as I once did..."

He was trailing from the point. Quickly Lu'kat continued: "I have created a key consisting of multi-layered computational algorithms designed to continuously generate additional keys when the overlying key is decrypted, in essence creating a maze of keys which give access to 'interesting data', with the promise of more interesting data the closer you move to the centre. Even if the Wire Wolves manage to break through to the centre, another maze presents itself, forcing them to repeat the process indefinitely. The question now remains: what data qualifies as interesting enough for Wire Wolves adversaries?"

"Secrecy," said a new voice walking up. Stephen Spires, who had been creeping around the Ag Dome in hopes of picking up leads, decided to drop his two cents. Besides, Mara was bound to get good and riled up, which guaranteed angry makeup sex later. "Speaking as someone with a nose for news, I can attest that the allure of any data is directly proportionate to the number of people who possess it. Common knowledge may be intrinsically valuable, but it's not interesting. Secrecy increases the value of even worthless data. My suggestion, since you two asked--" He paused long enough to taunt them with a wink. "--is to give the bastards an unresolvable set of variables. Like any investigator, they won't be able to pull themselves out of the rabbit hole once they tumble down it. The lure of hard answers won't allow it."

He made a quick note on his personal padd. "Thank you, though, for 'Wire Wolves.' That name is a positively fucking golden headline."

“Spires,” Mara said warningly, before turning to Lu’kat. “Ignore him,” she advised. “Well, not entirely. He’s actually right that anything buried under infinite layers of security would be alluring for anybody looking for information. But ignore his attitude.” She shot Spires an annoyed glance.

"Name's Stephen Spires." The journalist thrust his hand out toward the Cardassian. "After all this ruckus is through, maybe we should a proper tête-à-tête and discuss Cardassian interests out here on the raggedy edge."

Lu'kat knew of the journalist Stephen Spires. He'd read some of his work in the tabloid that was currently employing him. Take away the hyperbole and ego flattering drizzle oozing out between the lines, Mr. Spires was not the worst amongst reporters, he had a sharp eye, and was quite an enthusiastic writer, but, more importantly, he was a thorn in Captain Ingram's side. In short, a potential way for the Cardassian to generate some leverage over the Station's commander.

Lu'kat shook hands with the man in the human fashion (the fact that it stemmed from the ancient custom to show neither person was carrying a weapon, always served as a reminder to Lu'kat about the violent instincts this species had overcome, or suppressed, even, but let's not get carried away). "Lu'kat", the Cardassian introduced himself. "I thank you for your sound suggestion and, ofcourse, as the formal representative of the Cardassian Union I am at your service to provide what insights I can give on my government for the good of the public."

"I'll contact your people and get something on the books." Spires frowned for a second, though not hard enough to smother his cocksure grin. "You do have people, yeah? If not then I'll just pay you a visit later on. For now, I'll just observe and report your tireless heroism."

Oh, great, thought Mara with a roll of her eyes. They're getting along. "Whatever you do," she advised Lu'kot, "don't tell him the truth unless you're extremely proud of it and it's good for everyone. And there's no way to twist it." She shot Spires an annoyed look.

"Now, chere," Stephen chided, "you don't like it when the men tell you how to do your job."

“That’s because you don’t know how to do my job,” she retorted with another roll of her eyes.

Stephen winked at her. "Same goes, chere, but when's that ever stopped you from chiming in?"

"I was talking to him, not you," she pointed out.

As he continued to work on his algorithms, Lu'kat observed the exchange between the male and the female, the human expression Get a room, came to mind, a phrase he had picked up back in the old days during his exile on Star Base 42. In all his years of his interactions with the people of Earth he had never quite gotten a good handle on their ways of courtship and finding a suitable mate. There appeared to be multiple disciplines and attitudes towards it on that planet. Clearly, these two were of the more uninhibited persuasion. Very unlike Lu'kat himself, who therefore quickly interjected politely: "Be frugal with your flattery, Mr. Spires, I am merely performing my duties", then he looked at Lieutenant Commander Ricci, "as do we all." Turning back to the console, he stated: "I've calibrated the Lure in such a way to project the expectation of near infinite treasure troves of information hiding behind a series of self-replicating keys and protection layers, now we need a carrier to broadcast it throughout the station."

“Simplest solution is an energy beacon,” offered Mara, rummaging briefly in her tool kit and producing a small rectangular device. “They’re usually only used on small outposts or communications relays, but it’ll do the job. It will also broadcast much farther than the station, so a lot of other people might come along, looking for the promised secrets. So there’s a downside.”

Lu'kat inspected the device thoroughly, turning it over in his hands. His eyes lit up for the slightest of an excited microsecond before his Cardassian conditioning replaced it with his usual mask of professional and detached observation. "Yes, this will do nicely". He began connecting the beacon to the console. "One crisis at a time. There won't be a station to harbour secrets in if we delay much longer."

"True story," agreed Mara. "And if we attract a little more trouble, well, it would have come eventually anyway. May as well keep ourselves on our toes."

"Everything is set", Lu'kat announced. "How are we coming with the other preparations? It would not do to activate the Lure too soon, or too late."

As if called to the words of the Cardassian envoy, there was a howl of raging static as the sound of distant impacts as the security team beyond the dome fought back one of the energised parasites.

Guards near the large double doors to the agri dome picked up their own slug throwers, loaded with the pure silver darts that had so far proven effective against one or two wire wolves. But what was now filling the corridor outside was...not one or two.

Or, more precisely, it was one.

A clawed limb as large as the corridor reached out through the doors and scrabbed for purchase. Energy danced from it as it dug up the deck plating, and more of it flowed out of the corridor. It did so reforming into a massive Wire Wolf, easily as large as a Runabout. Security officers fired into it, the silver stakes pinning a paw for a moment before a back handed swipe sent charred corpses flying.

The color drained from Mara's face. "Shit," she said almost dispassionately. "Spires, take cover! Is that all of them? Turn on the beacon, just in case. I'll have the agridome ready to shut down in... ten seconds!" And without waiting for a response from either man, she turned back to the console on which she had been working and began frantically inputting code. It was easy to separate the dome- most of the work had already been done- but it took time.

Lu'kat watched the carnage taking place on the other side of the Dome. The customised slug throwers were no match against something that size. Yet the Starfleet Officers held their ground, buying them those precious extra seconds of time. The Cardassian respected their resolve and their sacrifice. He made a mental note to learn the names of these brave people and honour them in the memorial services after this crisis had been averted.

As long as there was power, the Cardassian decided to make use of it. He sent a data burst into a computer console on the opposite side of the Agri-Dome that began spewing a mathematical formulaic conversion of one of Cardassia's highly esteemed classic operas: "The Lusty Cardassian Maid". As the canine electrical beast made its way there to feast upon its contents, Lu'kat's finger hovered over the activation button, waiting for Lieutenant Commander Ricci to finish. Even though those few seconds felt like a lifetime, the Wire Wolf had consumed the data burst in mere picoseconds. He sent another data burst, this time a rendition of "A Dubious Card Game at the Passiflora", and still another. But the Wire Wolf went through them faster than Lu'kat could sent them through. There was no more time, so Lu'kat activated the Lure, hoping Ricci would follow suit with the shutdown.

A deep, reverberating thumping sound droned through the Agri-Dome and the rest of the station. Standing right at the source, it was almost deafening to the ears. At the other side of the Dome, the Wire Wolf set its sights on them...

And then parts of the Wire Wolf began to flicker away. Forks of energy danced from it, tickling the sod and exploding the soil to reveal the buried grounding wire. A thick stream of plasma leapt from the Wire Wolf to the grounding rod...and then it exploded. Like a thunderclap in a teacup, the air slapped everyone. The photonic assault blinded them all.

But when the light faded, and sight returned, the Wire Wolf was gone. What was left was a melted spiked mass of metal, embedded in a ragged dish of fused glass a dozen meters wide.

Mara had barely managed to cut the power about two miliseconds after the explosion. The silence that followed was deafening. "Well, that's one way to get a monument," she muttered. Then, "Spires!" She turned, looking for him a bit frantically. "Spires?"

Pulling himself out of a bramble of briars several meters away from his last position, Stephen wobbled to his feet and gave Mara a dazed grin. "I'm here, chere." He checked his camera probes and saw they were fried. "Even if my footage ain't..."

"I'm okay too, you know," Duke said as he picked himself up off the floor.

"Good," replied Mara to Drake. "But I'm not dating you. Don't worry about the footage," she advised Spires. "You can have exclusive interviews with all the eye witnesses."

Spires blew raspberries and gave a thumb's down. "As if Ingram will let any of you go on record."

“This would make the station look good,” she replied. “We were able to isolate and destroy an unknown threat in less than two hours. Also, Lu’kot isn’t exactly under Ingram’s jurisdiction.”

"Who is this Lu'kot you speak of?" Lu'kat stated as he dusted himself off. Surveying the destruction in the dark pit that was formerly the Agri-Dome, he said: "I suggest the survivors and us move off this deck. With the power down in this section it is impossible to tell what is happening on the rest of the station and we need to make sure no trace of the Wire Wolves remains."

"Good call," agreed Mara with a nod as she turned and headed towards the open door through which light spilled. "I really hope we got them all; I don't know if that will work twice."

While Lu'kat supported a wounded officer who had her leg twisted in an odd angle, he said: "Indeed, Lieutenant Commander, indeed. Let's get going."


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