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You brought a what onboard?

Posted on 23 Jan 2020 @ 1:06pm by Ensign Trixia Sh'rhovek & Lieutenant Astrid Jurgen

Mission: Gremlins

[ Engineering ]

Astrid stared at the small mound of furry balls on the console in front of her, her eyes narrowing.

"Is there a reason you've just dumped a pile of dead tribbles on my console?" she asked, "I'm aware I'm not really considered an animal person but this is a rather bizarre way to make friends."

Trixia's antennae twitched as she glanced between the pile of tribbles and Astrid.  "No, no," she said at last, picking one of them up.  "It's not a tribble... well, it is, but..."  Then, before Astrid could protest, she proceeded to skin the thing, revealing the plasteel interior.

"Yeah." Astrid coughed, "Well, this has been fun and all - definitely not at all creepy that's for sure. Was there anything else? It's just I'm kinda busy at the moment ..."

"So am I," Trixia frowned.  She still had a list of repairs as long as her arm, and she really didn't have time to fool around with mechanical animals.  "Just... I only brought the one onboard, and now they seem to be multiplying.  And I think that has to do with..." she waved her arm vaguely encompassing the room, "everything."

There was a pause while Astrid digested the information.

"Ah crap." She picked up the plasteel ball, turning it round in her hands before opening a small access port. She looked up at Trixia. "Where exactly did you get it, how accurate was the programming?" she asked, prodding the insides of the ball with a small probe.

Trixia fidgeted with her fingers while Astrid prodded at it.  "On the station.  The Ferengi who sold it to me insisted that it wasn't capable of reproduction.  I looked it over and it seemed to be well constructed..." she paused and looked away, a little embarrassed, "But I'm not a cyberneticist."

"Mmm, neither am I." Astrid replied, frowning. "I'm just wondering how accurate they have tried to be. A real tribble would eat food and duplicate relentlessly. An incredibly accurate electronic copy ..." she paused, putting down the naked tribble and tapping the probe against her chin.

Suddenly Astrid grabbed an armful of the tribbles and looked at Trixia. "We need to get these to a lab, somewhere we can isolate them from the main computer and power grid, we need to understand how these things work ... " she frowned, " ... and reproduce."

The Andorian's antennae pitched forward as she thought of their options.  "There's a lab on Deck 4 that has a containment field rated up to Level 10.  I'm sure it can be isolated from ship systems; those labs are designed for some serious sciencing."

"That'll do." Astrid replied, moving towards the Turbolifts with her arms full of small furry orbs. "Grab anything you need and I'll meet you there."

She paused mid stride, another frown on her face. "Oh. I suppose we better let someone on the bridge know too." She turned back to Trixia, a smile on her face. "I think I'll let you do that. See you in the lab!"

"Of cou-  What?" Trixia rocked on her heels at the order, her antennae standing straight upwards.  She watched Astrid retreat and quietly panicked.  She liked Captain Rhodes; she had been pleasant to work with during the ferry flight.  But this was something else entirely.  How was she to tell the Captain that she was, effectlvely, the source of all the problems of late?

Steeling herself with a deep breath, Trixia tapped the comms on an Engineering display.  "Ensign Sh'rhovek to the Bridge,"

"Captian Rhodes here, go ahead, Ensign?"  The voice on the other end seemed curious, and not at all worried.

"We, uh, that is, Lieutennat Jurgen and I, we think we have found our problem."

"Out with it, Ensign.  Be concise."

"It's tribbles, ma'am.  Well, TribbleMatics, to be precise."

"Trib- what?"

"TribbleMatics.  We think they're using bits of the Miller for raw maerials to reproduce.  We are about to investigate further and figure out a solution."

The comms went dead, and Trixia wasn't entirely sure if it was something she said, or the Captain being short on patience due to the issues with the ship.  Either way, she didn't really have time to ponder it.  Her antennae relaxed as she wiped her brow.  Federation starships were typically quite warm to Andorians, but the last thirty seconds seemed to be much warmer.  But at least she did her duty.  Now, to fix it.  She grabbed a tool tote and began shoving a variety of microtools and hyperspanners into it, a tricorder, and a couple more TribbleMatics for good measure.  then the little Andorian jogged after Astrid.

[Science Bay 05]

Trixia rushed in without even noticing whether Astrid was there yet or not.  She roughly tossed the bag of tools on a table, the contents spilling about.  She moved the TribbleMatics to a secure work area and then began setting up the Level 10 containment fields and complete network isolation.  She didn't even hear the footsteps coming up behind her.

"Are we good to go?" Astrid asked, lifting a large case onto the table and undoing the latches. "If we can get one, and I stress only one, of these things going in a controlled environment - we can see how it reacts when we feed it." Astrid lifted a random object out of the case and stared at it.

"Think it'll like one of these ... ", she tilted the case lid and squinted at the label, " ... self-sealing stem bolts?"

Trixia nearly jumped at Astrid's unannouced approach, but the flinch was still visible.  "Oh! Um, yes, we are all set here.  Level 10 field is up and stable."  Her antennae twitched and bent forward in curiosity at the presentation of the self-sealing stem bolt.  "I... have no idea?  They aren't supposed to be eating at all... of course, they're not supposed to be reproducing either."

Astrid shrugged. "Only one way to find out." She put the stem bolt into a small airlock, closing the hatch and allowing the chamber to cycle.

Both Astrid and Trixia leant forward, staring at the tribblematic inside the containment field. At first, nothing seemed to happen., it just sat there trilling. Suddenly it shot across the work area and stopped alongside the stem bolt. Something akin to a cutting beam flashed, and part of the stem bolt vanished. Astrids eyes widened as the tribblematic grew in size at the same time. The process was repeated multiple times until the stem bolt was gone - and the tribblematic was almost twice the size it started at.

Suddenly an alarm sounded, moving back to the controls Astrid waved Trixia back from the forcefield. "Massive energy buildup!" Astrid stated, "The computer estimates the field will be able to contain it, but ..."

She was cut off as a bright flash caused both women to shield their eyes. The alarms stopped, and as their vision came back the two tribblematics inside the field told them what they needed to know.

Trixia blinked as color came back to her senses.  "Well," she commented dryly, "I'm not sure what i expected, but it certainly wasn't... that."

"Well. That confirms that they do reproduce themselves, and that they are quite happy to pull apart federation technology to do so." Astrid looked over at Trixia, worry showing on her face. "Effectively we're flying into a super dangerous space phenomina inside a giant robo-tribble snack."

Astrid tapped away on the console nearest her, and her face drained of colour. "I never thought of that ..." She looked up at Trixia again, "... the tribblematics will duplicate relentlessly, and so the ship will be gradually pulled apart. Except, given the duplication, this process is not going to take long - it'll be very much exponential."

If Trixia's blue face could flush, it would have.  "That's... not good," she managed in the greatest expression of understatement.  "We have to stop them.  How do we stop them?"  She started tapping away at a console, scanning the tribble-matic. Though, she had no real idea what she was looking for.

"There has to be a kill switch ..." Astrid winced, "Sorry, not the best choice of words." She continued staring at the console, willing herself to see something - any hint or clue as to how they could deal with the ships strange infection. Suddenly, she gave a start, looking round at Trixia.

"Infection!" she practically shouted. "These tribbles are like an infection in the ship, so maybe we need an infection of our own!"

"I- what?" Trixia blinked and stopped typing.  She was momentarily confused, until she remembered the Tribble-Matics were networked.  That's why they had to isolate this one in the first place.  "Oh!  You mean a virus!  Like how Voyager got away from the Borg that time."  She remembered the lecture at the Academy.  Her Advanced Computer Tactics course had the occasional guest speaker, this time it was Admiral Janeway herself.  "Or how Hugh infected a whole cube with individualism."  She began to babble a bit even as she started writing the basic elements of the program they needed.  "Once this guy re-interfaces with his buddies he'll give them this little package.  Just need to see the base code to get the details right."

Astrid walked round and stood behind her, watching as Trixia pulled up the code stored on the isolated Tribblematic. As the wall of text scrolled past, she frowned. "I understand some of this, I hope more of it is making sense to you?"

Trixia bit her lip and glanced for a moment back to Astrid.  "Some?" she said in reply.  "I mean, we covered a little of this in my Cybernetics course, but this is just so much..." she waved a hand vaguely, "more."  She scrolled through the code, looking for specific subroutines.  "Most of this we can ignore.  I just need to find where it calls the replication function, and the nework interface subroutines." 

The Tribble-matics didn't have positronic nets, so their error-checking function was limited.  She suspected just tossing a stray character in the replication subroutine would negate the entire block of code, but she wasn't going to take that chance.  She wasn't savvy enough to write a whole new block of code, but she knew enough to comment out a bunch of it, and just have the subroutine return 'true'.  Her fingers did the walking as she made the necessary changes.  "Right, so, it'll try to replicate, but nothing will occur, except the code will indicate a success."  She turned back to Astrid, "I'm just not sure what it'll do then.  If it'll continue to consume resources, or if it'll enter an endless loop of non-replication."

Astrid frowned. "Can we see if it does a check to see if it has the necessary resources before invoking the replication process? If it does, my guess is we'll trap them all in a loop of non-replication. If it's full, it won't need to eat as it were."

They scrolled up slightly, finding the main process that controlled the little sabateurs. "There!" Astrid pointed, "It only attempts replication if it has the necessary resources, and it only steals matter if it doesn't have the necessary resources. With your change it'll never replicate, and also never consume ... I hope ..."

Trixia bit her lip and looked over their work.  She nodded to herself, "Well, I suppose we'll find out soon if it works.  Just have to invoke the update."  She blinked and paused a moment.  "Wait, we're networked to this thing now to do these changes.  We could just send out a mass update to the rest of them.  Just a one-way ping and system update."

Trixia proceeded to make the changes and sent out the network update.  "I guess we will see if this crazy plan works or not."


Lieutenant Astrid Jurgen
Chief Engineer
USS Mark Miller

Ensign Trixia Sh'rhovek
Operations Officer
USS Mark Miller


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