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All's Fair In Love And Espionage

Posted on Jul 06, 2017 @ 4:37am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Jul 06, 2017 @ 4:39am

Mission: The Romulan Way


= All’s Fair In Love And Espionage =
(cont’d from “Idle Chit Chat and Witless Prattle”)

LOCATION: USS PHOENIX

SCENE: Bridge

STARDATE: [2.17] 0705.1932

Jake Crichton was seated in the CO’s chair, staring at the image of Romulus frozen on the main viewscreen. In his hand, he was clutching a small rubber ball. The ball fit nicely in his palm for when he wanted something to squeeze, but mostly he’d been bouncing the ball slowly, rhythmically, down to the floor then back up to his hand. It made a pleasing sound when the rubber bounced off the floor and smacked back into Jake’s waiting hand. At least, it was pleasing to Jake; he supposed some of the other bridge officers might be annoyed by the sound, but so far none of them had said anything. Privileges of command and all that.

The PHOENIX was not docked at the Romulan space station, but instead was floating in high orbit above the planet itself. Jake had wanted to dock with the station, both as a show of good faith to their Romulan hosts, and because when you were alone in enemy territory and probably surrounded by invisible guns, the safest place to park was usually next to something expensive. Jake thought the Romulans would be a lot less likely to launch any surprise attacks as long as the PHOENIX was docked next to their station. Captain Kane had reminded Jake that part of his duty included scuttling the PHOENIX rather than allowing her to be captured, and it had also occurred to Jake how much damage they could do to the Raptor’s Nest with the PHOENIX’s self-destruct sequence… if it came to that.

But the crew had disagreed, and Kane had taken their advice over Jake’s. That kind of thing happened - what’s the point of having advisors if you’re not going to listen to them? - but with Jake still fresh in the role of First Officer, the decision stung him. He hadn’t been sure about this promotion before he’d accepted, and since he’d taken the job he’d felt at loose ends with himself, like he was never sure where he was supposed to stand or what he should be doing with his hands. He thought it was the emotional shock of his divorce from Xana, and that was probably partially true, but deep down Jake knew it was the job. He wasn’t cut out for administrative work, the endless reading and writing of reports, and glad-handing around at diplomatic functions. He missed the engine room, the steady heartbeat of the warp core, the feel of a toolbelt slung around his shoulders.

Kane had left Jake in command of the PHOENIX, which Jake knew represented a lot of faith in his abilities, but right now his responsibilities seemed to be limited to waiting for the captain to contact them and hoping they didn’t get shot down in a sudden volley of Romulan torpedos. Jake bounced his ball and idly wondered what he’d do if a battle should suddenly break out. He was pretty good at thinking on the fly, but he hadn’t had much training in starship tactics beyond what was required at the academy, and he had nowhere near the first-hand experience that Kane did. With Kane on the bridge, the PHOENIX would make an impressive last stand, but even he wouldn’t be able to shoot his way through an entire Romulan fleet. With Jake in command, he figured their odds were even worse if it should come down to a shooting match.

Now Jake tossed the ball forward. It bounced off the floor at an angle, smacked against the bulkhead behind the holographic main viewscreen display, then dropped smoothly back into Jake’s outstretched hand. The blue ball hadn’t done any damage, but Lt. Byte at Operations turned to look at Jake.

{{Excuse me sir, but I believe you may be violating protocol,}} the android said neutrally.

“Oh?” Jake asked, as he repeated the throw. Once again, the ball bounced up off the floor, smacked against the bulkhead, and dropped into his waiting hand.

{{If that device should go out of your control, it could hit someone, interrupting their work or even causing injury.}}

“Helps me cogitate,” Jake said, as he tossed the ball again. “Better I do that, the more effective I am at giving orders. On balance, the safest thing for everyone is to let me keep it.”

{{An interesting hypothesis,}} Byte said. {{However, current Starfleet regulations on the matter seem clear. Nothing that creates an undue hazard or distraction may be permitted in working areas while on duty.}}

“Spoil sport,” Jake muttered. He gave the ball one last toss, caught it, then rose up from the CO’s chair. He paced around in front of it for a moment, tossing the ball gently back and forth between his hands, then sighed and looked at Byte.

“Report?”

{{Situation remains unchanged,}} Byte said. {{We are in standard orbit around 128 Trianguli II, colloquially known as Romulus. Directly below us is the Apnex Sea, as well as the capital city of-}}

“Thank you, lieutenant,” Jake sighed again. “I wonder what they’re doing on the surface now.”

{{It is likely they are currently dining with representatives of the Romulan Senate,}} Byte said.

“First Starfleet officers on Romulus in forever, and we’re stuck up here.”

{{We could not leave the ship empty,}} Byte observed. {{With no one here to repel them, the Romulans would certainly take control of the PHOENIX.}}

“I didn’t mean *everyone*,” said Jake. “You’re seriously not jealous?”

{{I do not believe so,}} Byte said. {{Jealousy would require an emotional context which I am incapable of experiencing.}}

“Now I’m jealous of *you* too,” Jake muttered.

{{If I may, you do seem distracted,}} the android continued. {{Perhaps a session with counseling department may help you to isolate whatever is bothering you. I can schedule one for you through my terminal if you’d like-}}

“Not necessary,” Jake said quickly. “I just feel like a fifth wheel up here, you know?”

Byte only stared at him. Jake shook his head.

“There’s the chance we’re taking the first steps towards peace with the Romulans,” Jake said. “If they’re serious about restoring the treaty, people are going to look back at this mission as the place it all started. On the other hand, if they’re playing us, we’re probably completely surrounded by Warbirds. Either way, I think we got the short end of the stick.”

{{Someone had to stay with the ship, Commander.}}

“I know.” Jake bounced the ball a few times. “I’m just not feeling very useful today, Byte. Don’t worry about it.”

The android looked like it was about to respond, but a flashing light on the Operations console caught its attention. Byte turned and examined the display, while Jake stood behind him, bouncing the ball.

“Something to report?” Jake asked.

{{It appears that someone is attempting to remotely interface with the PHOENIX’s main computer,}} Byte said.

The ball bounced up into Jake’s hand. He caught it, and did not throw it again. “They’re doing *what*?”

{{Establishing a remote uplink with the ship’s computer could theoretically provide access to ship’s schematics, classified information-}}

Jake frowned. “Source of the signal?”

{{Unknown. Commander, shall I attempt to disrupt the connection?}}

Jake nodded. He’d expected some skullduggery from the Romulans, but nothing quite so brazen as this. Whoever it was in Romulan High Command that came up with this idea must have thought Starfleet was asleep at the switch.

“I’m actually a little insulted,” Jake said. “They didn’t think we’d see this coming?”

{{It is likely they anticipated we would dock at the station,}} said Byte. {{Such a connection could have been established and disguised by standard docking and decontamination protocols. Because we are in orbit, they had to employ a less reliable tactic.}}

“I guess I was wrong after all,” Jake said.

{{Commander, I have isolated the signal and can sever the connection on your order,}} Byte reported. {{However, I have not been able to trace the source. Once the connection is severed, we will lose their trail.}}

Jake bounced the ball. It wasn’t hard to guess who was behind this attempt to infiltrate the PHOENIX’s systems; the Tal’Shiar would certainly stoop to anything if it meant getting a copy of the PHOENIX’s schematics, and anyway, what’s a little polite espionage between friends? But just because it was expected didn’t mean they had to take it lying down.

“Lieutenant, do they know we’re aware of their connection?” Jake asked, bouncing the ball a few more times.

{{I could only speculate,}} Byte reported. {{It is possible they are simply waiting to see what we do.}}

“Don’t cut the connection,” Jake said. “Set up a partitioned database and fill it whatever junk you can find - holodeck programs, replicator recipes, anything nonsensitive. I want it to look like they’ve hit the motherlode, give them just enough incentive to keep digging around.”

Byte turned to look back at Jake. {{Of course, sir, but may I ask why?}}

“Because turnabout is fair play,” Jake winked. He slapped his comm-badge. “Ensigns Ryan, Schad, and Andersson to the conference room. I want to give something a try,”

=[/\]=

SCENE: Conference Room

“So you’re letting the Romulans loot our main computer?” Sofia Andersson asked, her eyes wide. “Does Captain Kane know about this?”

“The captain has his own fish to fry,” Jake said. “Lt. Byte has seen to it that whoever is in our system doesn’t have access to anything more dangerous than Iphie’s bolognese recipe.”

{{The Commander is correct,}} said Byte. {{I have isolated a section of the main computer to maintain this subterfuge, but they have no access to any sensitive material.}}

“They won’t be fooled forever,” Lynette Ryan said.

“Which is why we need to act fast if we’re going to take advantage of this situation,” Jake said. “I’ve talked it over with Byte, and I think it’s possible to backtrace their signal and do a little digging around in *their* system. Maybe we don’t find anything, but maybe we get a little more information about who’s doing this.”

“Are you sure about this, sir?” Lynette asked. “If we get caught-”

“The Romulans would have to admit they did it first,” Sofia said. “Otherwise, they have no evidence.”

“Beat them at their own game,” Jake grinned. “So what do we think?”

“Their system will be encrypted,” Ensign Arak Schad said. “You’d need to break the encryption before you could make sense of anything you found.”

“Could you do that?” Jake asked.

Arak looked around, then back at Jake. “Cryptography is not my specialization, but I could take a look.”

Jake nodded. “Good. And Lynette, you think you and Chaucer can set up this backtrace? It would need to be invisible, buried inside their own signal, otherwise the game is up.”

Lynette shrugged. “Beats calibrating the phase emitters all afternoon.”

“Good,” Jake said, rising from his seat. The other officers did likewise. “Let’s get to work, folks, we’ve got some spying to do.”

=[/\]=

NRPG: The people on the planet get to eat finger-sandwiches and sight-see, while everyone left on the ship has *work* to do. ;-)

Someone - probably, but not necessarily, the Romulans - is hacking the PHOENIX. They’re nothing to worry about for now, thanks to some quick thinking by our own Lt. Byte, but now there’s a chance to turn the tables and see what information we can dig up.

Don’t reveal the information we recover - Jerome and I have plans for that - but we still need to break their encryption and establish the connection with their system. Everyone should have something to do or help with, but if you feel lost, let me or Jerome know.

Shawn Putnam

A.k.a.

Jake Crichton

Executive Officer

USS PHOENIX

 

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