Canopus Station
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A Myriad Distractions

Posted on Mon Nov 2nd, 2020 @ 2:20pm by Captain Benjamin Ingram Dr & Lieutenant Commander Meilin Jiang

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

Ingram looked up at the ceiling of the turbolift as it ascended rapidly towards the Medina Level, the last reliable report of the Myriad's location. With Wire Wolves coming out of replicators on multiple decks, and Security only now beginning the task of combating them effectively, comm channels were becoming swamped by the electromagnetic backwash.

"A far cry from our days aboard the Palantine," Ingram commented to fill the silence.

"A quiet testbed vessel as compared to a Spacedock beyond the galactic barrier," Meilin reflected aloud. "Things were always going to be different."

"True enough. But I do miss the intellectual adventure of pure research. Now my days are administration and tedium. Relish these days where you can invest your time in progress," Ingram said ruefully. "After all, time is the one resource no one is making any more of."

"'Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished,'" Meilin said, quoting Lao Tzu.

The turbolift doors sighed open, revealing the Medina level. Red hazard lights set into the walls at floor level flashed in the direction of the turbolifts, and a quiet androgynous voice implored visitors to the Medina to seek shelter by following the illuminators. An open-air cafe, taking up the centre of one of the four plaza's that broke up the Medina level circular progression, was their destination. Haztor, Kar'koon and the Scholar Trivain held court among the empty chairs. The Shishimi noblewoman lazed atop two tables pulled together to form a faux chaise lounge. Trivain had lowered his central pass onto another table, curling his leg's up like a dead spider in a restful pose.

And Haztor sat, a beatific smile on his face as he slowly stirred a cup of coffee.

"Captain Ingram, Commander Jiang, a pleasure as always," Haztor said, his molten orange eyes alight with clever mischief. "Let me hazard a guess that you are not here to enjoy this delectable repast?"

"Of all the hazards currently facing the station, guesses are among the least of them," Meilin said. She held out her tricorder and directed its processor to direct a data burst directly toward Haztor -- or, rather, the proxy before them. "Do tell us how these things came to be aboard Canopus Station shortly after your arrival."

"The same way they always get about," Haztor said with only a moment's consideration of the data burst. "They came in tracked upon your finery by sneak thieves who took what was not paid for. Your two engineers, Ryan and Mara visited my ship and took scans of various items and facilities within. I did offer to make available those scans for a fee, but they chose instead to sate their curiosity."

Haztor smiled.

"Your kind has a saying: buyers remorse. We Myriad have a similar verse: the wares of thieves are remembered," the proxy said. "This fluid, coffee, is intriguing. I would gladly trade for its chemical composition."

Meilin's eyebrow twitched ever so slightly. "That is possible," she first conceded before turning the tables around on Haztor. "As a former Security specialist, however, allow me to tell you how Starfleet Command is liable to see it: the network intrusion which constituted your initial communication implanted malicious code within the station's infrastructure which took time to propagate. Coinciding neatly with the time of your arrival, the station's defenses are diminished and place us at a disadvantage for whatever your ulterior motive is." Her face and tone were cool and even, but there was an unmistakable severity to her overall disposition. "You have indubitably accessed more of our databanks than you have admitted, so I need not school on you what the Federation does to existential threats against its existence nor lecture you on our policy when dealing with terrorists."

"Your lackey banders threats and posits theories which are...unwise," Haztor said with a smirk, looking at Ingram.

"What I find unwise is getting into a debate with a Taoist. They practise the art of obfuscation and bafflement like an art form, ask me how I know." Ingram said dryly.

"Then I will speak plainly. The Wire Wolves infesting your station are cultivated in the data architecture of Myriad vessel for this purpose: they seek out those who delve too deeply. At first, they annoy and confound, and before you know they've torn you to piece. I would say we are in the first act. I do not control them, nor direct them. They are parasites, useful but nothing more than that," Haztor shrugged. "Messier 4 is not for the light of heart, nor those that take without asking."

Meilin nodded. "I agree that your story makes sense, but unfortunately our superiors are unlikely to see it that way. If you truly desire peaceful collaboration with the Federation as you say, then perhaps a goodwill gesture on your part." She canted her head at an angle, regarding Haztor as she would a sunrise or a waterfall. "You say you do not control these Wire Wolves, but that does not mean you are unable to neutralize them. Perhaps a few of our people wandered where they should not have, but then was it not you who made the first trespass with your network intrusion?"

Holding her hands out in a conciliatory gesture, Meilin concluded, "Your neutralizing the Wire Wolves here and now will go a long way toward convincing our superiors of your goodwill and good faith, and perhaps prevent future unpleasantries. If we are forced to neutralize them ourselves, then rest assured that future relations between our peoples will be strained. Neither of us want that." At least, it was true on Meilin's part, and her face showed as much. War was a heinous waste of life and resources. "Our response to the Wire Wolves may be rudimentary as compared to your own. We could not ensure the safety of any Unbound lifeforms who are within the..." She looked to Ingram. "Would 'blast radius' be an appropriate term? It's not exactly ordnance, but the effect might be the same in local subspace."

"Oh I think we have time enough to warn Commodore Grissom and the Task Force, even if we have to use laser heliograph to signal the flagship. I don't think we have to worry overly about the local stellar neighbourhood," Ingram mused, pursing his lips. "Of course that would make local space a bother to navigating. Having to burn out on impulse to the heliopause just to make a faster than light transit will be quite tiresome, but Starfleet does like procedure. Especially repeatable procedure."

"Huuum...." Haztor smiled thinly. "You think you're playing a game, and you cannot even see the board. I do not have a means to neautralise the Wire Wolves, no more than your own plan to ground them out like the living lightning bolts they are. But more come to replace them, you're only treating the disease. Remove the infected data, wipe it clean, and you will have chance enough to repair what is broken."

"And wipe the data you say is stolen," Ingram countered.

"Says the being using the most vaunted Khitomer Accords as a taper for a fuse. I do so love this language of yours, it has...nuance and flexibility in every word by mere tonal variation. Delightful."

Meilin shook her head. "Every cybersecurity specialist knows that no data can be purged completely. Your solution would put the Wire Wolves into remission but not remove them. If we are required to install an entirely new computer core in order to be rid of all traces of your malicious code, that will be more than sufficient evidence for any warhawks on the Federation Council. Please understand that holding out on us in this moment might as well be an act of war."

"Who said anything about war?" Haztor purred. "I came here to foster peace and the understanding that the Myriad will guard what is ours quite jealously. Reign in your officer, Captain, before she wanders and gets lost."

"Meilin," Ingram said softly. He eyed the Myriad. "You are taken with the coffee? A trade. Remove the data corrupted by these parasites, and the Replicator Machine Readable files will be yours."

"Full gene sequence," Haztor grinned. "And I would consider it..."

Meilin shook her head again. "The value is disparate," she insisted to Ingram. "Data cannot be removed once it is uploaded, not completely. Even deleted data can be recovered by a sufficiently thorough recovery protocol. If the Wire Wolves are tied to the data, then their seed kernels could be permanently embedded within our computer core." Looking at Haztor, she continued. "The Myriad know this. Their data can never be completely deleted by us, and so we may never be rid of the Wire Wolves, which means the Myriad could trigger a future internal attack at their leisure, all the while enjoying full decryption to strategically important data. Do not agree to this, Captain Ingram."

"I am not agreeing to anything, I am merely placing options before us," Ingram retorted. "As it stands physics is on our side in regards to our plan. But the fact alone that Haztor has a means by which to remove the Wolves is telling. It means we are not the first, but the fact he is willing to trade at all means he has a low opinion of us. And you know as well as anyone how I feel about being underestimated."

"It's hardly an underestimation if one's assumptions of another are already proven true," Haztor purred. "Your station falls apart whilst an offer of trade remains open and viable to you. But, if you wish to prolong this I see no reason to not let you. The price will go up though."

The Myriad stood up, as did Kar'koon and the Scholar Trivain.

"I'll retire to my shuttle, so you may know where to find me," Haztor said before departing.


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