Special Operations Command Centre ‘The Bunker’
After a procedure of gaining access under the tight security guarding it, Gareth Hayes entered ‘The Bunker.’ Otherwise known as Special Operations Command Centre, the specialised room was a command and control centre with a network of operators and banks of stations. The room could function as an emergency bridge if necessary and it served often in that capacity during some operations so that the ship’s captain could overview the status and progress of off-ship operations and keep in command of the ship itself.
The specialised room allowed for multiple large screen displays, holographic interfaces and a tactical briefing table to offer multiple perspectives and a plethora of data sources. Gareth had been impressed at the high tech cutting edge of the facility. Apparently, during the Dominion War one of the Gryffon classes had been sequestered by Starfleet Admiralty to serve as a tactical forward point to conduct Fleet operations.
Ensconced in the currently darkened room, illuminated by the myriad of computer screens and holographic interfaces, The Bunker certainly allowed itself its name. It would be easy to imagine they were elsewhere and not on the ship. Except that the tumult of the storm could be felt through the deck. However, at this stage Gareth was beginning to get more use to the rolling of the deck as it weathered the storm.
Given its technical prowess, the Bunker was Mbeke’s port of call for data ciphering. The operators were a mixture of science blues, operations and security yellows and command red. They turned at the entrance of Gareth Hayes and waved him towards the tactical conference table where holographic data information scrolled in the air before them beside gibberish looking computer code.
“Commander Hayes. Welcome to the Bunker.”
Mostly non-commissioned petty officers, the group were assembled together discussing the latest data break through at the table. They made their introductions and Hayes greeted them each with a hearty hand shake.
Drumming the edge of the table, Hayes asked, “What have you got for me?”
A towering Grazeritte supplied, “Lots and not so much.”
This was explained further by a Denobulan. “There’s a lot of extraneous information we’ve been able to retrieve. However, none of it is immediately revealing.”
The Grazerite added again, “Of course, that’s only face value.”
Another tech supplied the process of data sifting to Hayes in response to his query. “We apply a tech analysis first. Verify if there’s been corruption of the files and analyse the consistency thereof. Then we pass the files on for further analysis. If anything is immediately striking we can red flag it of course. The computer algorithms also help to identify and prioritise the data retrieved.”
“Sorry. I don’t mean to hold you up in your work.”
“Not at all Commander. The Skipper said you would be along to assist with analysis. Lt. Commander Mbeke said to offer you every courtesy and assistance. She implied you had an eye for the data.”
“Not sure about that. Certainly not to the level of you guys.”
“Hey we do the grunt work to better help you and the Skip make the calls. However, you want to check out the data to date retrieved check with petty officer Harra.”
“Ok. Thank you. I’ll leave you to it.”
The diminutive form of a Tellarite stepped down from a stepped level tier of computer banks and directed Hayes towards the main wall spanning viewscreens. “Over here Commander.”
Hayes approached the smiling female Tellarite in science division blue overalls indicating her specialist rank on the cutter. “P.O. Harra. What have you got for me?”
“We got this updated just now.” She tapped her padd control to initiate a scrolling list of names, numbers, stardates. Most was dizzying and confusing and hard to discern, particularly with corrupted files creating gaps in the data. “Give it a moment and it starts to make a certain sense.”
“That or a headache.”
“Now you can see why they call us the squints.” Harra tittered softly before a grunt escaped. “Sorry, old techie joke.”
Gareth smiled good naturedly. “The old ones work best. So explain what you got Harra.”
“We’re cross referencing the data with other known data sources too which should help lend authenticity to whatever we may retrieve.”
“Wait. Stop. That. Scroll back. That’s a Border Patrol Service identification marker number, yes?”
“Yes sir. But you’ll soon note a lot of those.” She permitted the scrolling to continue again, this time at a lesser speed and starting to point out some of those identification numbers. “Navigational buoys. Communication relays. Buoy tenders, patrol ships and Star Stations, etc, any myriad number of Service vessels or installations the raider’s sensors might have picked up on long range.”
Looking up at Hayes who towered over her, Harra leaned in conspiratorially, “The trick, however, is to recognise some of those and use them to track the vessel’s movements or help to create a timeline, especially since the files are so fragmented. If we overlay it on a star chart of the Watchtower sector it makes a little more sense. Here.”
With a swipe of her trotter upwards, she transferred the data onto the holographic display where the numbers of data jumbled and jangled in the air above Hayes before coalescing and a starry backdrop and then a more familiar view of the space sector. Shining brightest in the centre was OSDN-1115-SS-H-VI-CS, home to Sixth Cutter Squadron, Star Station Hope.
Radiating outwards from Star Station Hope was a vast array of a network that included the arrays, buoys for communication and navigation, border posts, and the cutters that made up the Sixth Cutter Squadron. Many of the dots on the screen were undulating and in flux, tracking seemingly erratic paths showing their patrol paths and deviations. Other coded numbers and different coloured points were extrapolated out from the data.
Hayes walked into the midst of the holographic projection and used his fingers and hands to ‘catch’ an errant orange light that passed him by. The little orange ball of light sprang up into a boxfile of data, listing the ship’s class and name, MV Lyriq with corresponding information about its owner and operator, the ship’s commercial trade licence number and a Starfleet record of a contract of engagement.
Gareth let the orange orb flit out of his hand as if it were a moth that fluttered away into the night sky. “Huh. All this from their records? Hardly seems ... no you’re matching and collaborating its records with our own verified records, super imposing their flight path against our own sensors and network data. Of course.”
Harra winked and nudged him with her elbow, which given their height difference meant she poked his hip. “Hey XO, they call us the squints because we usually like to be the ones to talk it out.”
“Sorry. This is cool stuff.”
“Like candy.” She stepped into the starscape mirage projected around Hayes, the lights playing on her as she did so. Pointing upwards into the projection, she began to identify important markers, starting with Star Station Hope, only she referred to it as Watchtower.
“Currently, we’re here.” The Gauntlet glowed angrily in the projection, a fitting imagery to match the shaking of the ship to the angry storm outside. “Here’s where we intercepted the raider. And of course, it’s been difficult since to plot our path since. We just know we’re somewhere in that.”
“We’re not lost yet then.”
“No Sir. Not yet.” They both looked up at the ceiling as the holographic projection flickered out momentarily before it returned to glowing life surrounding them. “Just the storm taking its toll. Chief Torel has her eye on it Commander.”
“Did I look that worried?”
“Your first Gauntlet run and storm Commander is always a little worrying.”
Hayes took a moment to marvel at the sight and then to study the 3D representation of the Gauntlet. Its size meant it snaked along a number of frontiers, thus affording it an attractive avenue for criminals and also marking it as a troublesome spot to get into bother since it could churn them out so close to Tzenkethi space or to Breen.
Folding his arms in the midst of the projection, Hayes turned on the spot to study it and asked of Harra, “How current is the data in this stream?”
“When did the bridge contact Watchtower before the Op began? That would have provided us with the latest update.”
“So we can go backwards and forwards in the timeline of the ship’s data. At least, in terms of its movement in relation to our sector.”
“Correct. We can do some reconstruction obviously outside our sector, especially if it’s in a Starfleet sector. But not to this detail. And presumably our answers about the how and what of the raider’s movements are linked to Watchtower’s sector and the outlaying region of space.”
“Yeah. Have you got the earliest date entry?”
“We’ve rescued stuff that’s from a few years ago. It isn’t relevant to the current investigation.” She noted Hayes about to question that and hurried to explain the method. “We put such data streams into an analysis program to highlight any patterns, repeating data nodes, anything that might suggest partners in crime, favoured routes. We know already that Lorish used the Gauntlet to conduct much of his business. Hopefully, this will narrow down some of his paths and offer us ideas for posting cutter patrols, buoys or relays going ahead.”
“Forward planning. So what earliest date do you think is relevant to our current investigation?”
“You can see here where they by-passed our network on a stardate almost two months ago. We’ve got two border pings and a third ping on a communication array here with a ping that’s indicative of a passing buoy tender in their vicinity.” She moved the projection around to centre on the various points of data. The data scrolled to the corresponding time checks and with a splaying of her trotter Harra made a mini projection appear before them showing a crude holographic rendering of the raider skirting a solar system where on the extremity of it a buoy tender was seen advancing on a navigational buoy. “Matching that to our records we can ascertain it was the buoy tender Crean and its records indicate passage in that area on the following stardate.”
“This is then before they acquired the Cardassian slaves.” Hayes looked away from the mini projection and back to the stars and started to track the flight path as Harra put up corresponding data hits. “They passed through here.”
“Yes sir.” She wrinkled her snout at the raiders getting into Federation space. “However, you’ll note that the transfix code changes. They employed some trickery to fool Border Patrol long range scanners. They still showed up on our network but not as who they were.”
“It works to fool the long range sensors. An in-depth look soon reveals the deception. It wouldn’t have worked had they met a cutter patrol however. It just seems they struck lucky and avoided the paths of any cutters.”
Gareth rubbed his chin. “Hmmm. Can you check if they ... corrected course at any stage to avoid cutters?”
“Sir? I mean, yes we can. It will take a bit of time not much but we could figure it out. Not to any certainty but we could extrapolate from the course corrections and deviations. What are you getting at Sir?”
“Hayes. You can call me Hayes. We’re all squints in here, after all. I just want to check that they don’t somehow have access to our networks. I’m correct that although many of the cutters have set patrol paths and duties, deep space cutters like the Osprey and others follow variable patrol routes.”
“Yes. In addition, the patrol routes get altered in response to situations that arise. You’ll note here the Jaguar is directed towards here. That’s in a direct response to our response to picking up Lorish and moving to intercept. When the Hub at Watchtower got our call they started to adjust for the deviation in our patrol path. It remains in constant flux. It’s one reason why the Hub is as busy as it is. They’ve a whole sector of space to try and cover. They want to be able to respond to any emergency situation so they have to plug nay gaps in coverage as well as try to anticipate troubles.”
“Sounds like one giant juggling act.”
“It is. It’s artistry.” Hayes gave her a funny look. Harra replied with a smile. “Well it is to a squint like me.”
“Oh you’re probably right.” Hayes assured her. He placed a hand on her shoulder and dryly remarked in reference to himself, “To a non-squint it’s all a bit eight ball magic and luck.”
“Know the variables. Know the numbers. Know your limits. Luck needn’t come into play, Sir.”
“Ok then. Show me the numbers and the variables Harra and see if we can track down their path and discern any purpose or pattern.” Together they started working through some of the data hits and displaying them on the holographic representation.
“They pass through this region of space. That’s the Auxragon Reach Nebula.”
“Yes. That there – that there is Shepherd’s Reach.” The blue dot bloomed into a mini profile.
Sentinel Station: 251 - ‘Shepherd’s Reach’
The Auxragon Reach Nebula
Commanding officer: Commander Fiacre Durant
Regula Class Mark I
Hayes stepped back from the representation of the outpost with a troubled expression. “How comes the raider passes so close by and doesn’t flag any warnings?”
“It employed its fake protocols again. Also, the nebula is notorious for messing up signal feeds. Additionally, Shepherd’s Reach is ... well she ain’t cutting class. One of the original regula class.”
“It’s old. A crummy post in lots of ways but a good place to learn the tricks of navigational control and sensor reading.”
“You did a posting there?”
“Several. Years back, when I started out. Most of us who have served time in the Sixth have been bounced about. It’s part of Commodore Tanner’s method of cross training personnel. If you serve on a station solely, you start to view things solely from a station perspective. Likewise a cutter. Likewise a buoy tender. It helps people to specialise and it helps people to broaden their skills and perspectives. All of it to help give the bigger picture to our mission.”
Distractedly, Hayes murmured, “The bigger picture, yeah, I think I recall Tanner using that phrase with me in my interview.”
“Anything in particular catching your attention, Commander Hayes?”
“Hmmm. No. Just, just trying to get the bigger picture. Let’s zoom out again. Any joy on the older data files and projected crosslinking?”
“Some partial routes. Here...” various jagged lines whipped up onto the projection each with a different colour code to differentiate them and it caused the projection to stop its movement. Now only the stars, planets, nebulas, comet paths, asteroid belts and installations such as those of the Border Patrol Service remained lit up on the projection. “Definite patterns.”
Hayes narrows his eyes as he studied the display. “Enough variance but we can see that similar routes are taken in these sectors.”
“Safe alleys. Routes they felt were safe from detection or from getting boarded by a cutter patrol. Others like the Gauntlet and the Reach are regions that although offering danger do offer a hidden path for the most part.”
“The deviations in some of the older paths ... can we backtrack on our own archival data to determine if again they made adjustments based on our patrols.”
“We can. That will definitely take more time and will require us to be back in contact with the network.” Harra tapped at her padd putting the analysis subroutines into action. She looked up at Hayes and the projection he studied so intently. “Trying to work out if they had knowledge of our network back then?”
“My, you do have a suspicious mindset Commander.”
Gareth turned and rushed to reassure, “I don’t mean to imply.”
“No offence is taken Commander. It’s paranoid thinking some might say. Certainly, it’s coming at it from an angle of suspecting motives.”
“Eh. I only mean...”
“No need to explain.” She patted his arm. “That’s a good trait to keep if you wanna make it as a Border Dog.”
Gareth’s brow furrowed. He had expected some hostility to implying a breach in the network. “It is?”
Harra smiled and furrowed her snout as she did so. “Yes. How else can you keep a bigger picture?”
* * *