<USS Banshee> "Beating Around the Bush"

  • From: "Brad Ruder" <GroundZero@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: ussbanshee@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 1 Nov 2002 20:07:46 -0800

"Beating Around the Bush?
by Ensign Kaiden tol?Cemmen
& Lieutenant Joshua Asper

The corridors seemed a little more dark and gloomy since the Cardassians first came on board. Their presence, though confined for the moment to the bridge, still drifted throughout the decks. Josh crinkled his nose as he moved down the hallway towards Engineering.

The Captain had gone missing and he had set Kaiden tol'Cemmen on decoding the encrypted warp signature. He hoped that she had fared better than he had when he tried to find the Peregrine in the first place. Striding into Engineering the hum of the warp core echoed in his ears. He looked around for the obvious Engineer, but couldn't find her. He waited, and caught glancing stares from other Engineers.

Kaiden was in front of a console and staring at a screen, so intent she didn't even notice Lieutenant Asper enter the room at first. She glanced up to stretch and saw him and waved him over. "As I said, decoding is not my forte," she said with a wry smile. "It's somewhat intelligible... but this looks more like it's from a Sovereign-class vessel and that is definitely not right." Kaiden laughed, but her tail was twitching in annoyance.

After looking at the console and finding it to be just as jumbled as his initial search, Josh tapped the console and ran through the same subroutines that he had used at first. "There has to be a pattern, or connection within this mess." Josh stretched his neck and it popped rather obnoxiously. "Got any coffee? This may take a while."

"Not yet, but I will in a moment. Check that," she said, pointing. "It's very slight, and I'm not even sure if it is a pattern. But it could be." Kaiden walked off and replicated two cups of coffee, returning a few minutes later.

Rubbing his eyes and staring into the never-ending abyss of numbers and alphabetical sequences, Josh moaned in protest. "Why do they do this? Why couldn't they be stupid and not encrypt this crap. I mean, it would make life a whole lot easier. And it would make them more considerate." Josh smiled and returned to his work, taking the offered glass from the engineer.

"Ah, but where would the fun be in that? Gotta love a challenge." She grinned as she sipped carefully at her coffee. Then she too once more turned back. She was lucky in one sense...Kaiden was short enough she didn't have to bend nearly as far as the taller crewmen, thus sparing her back somewhat.

A chair was easily pulled from another station as Josh sat down. He tapped the console, his fingers dancing nimbly across its surface. "Wait a minute. Isn't there some sort of registry for every craft in the quadrant?" Thoughts ran through his mind as he recalled the moment on the viewer as the phaser was fired and the ensuing transport. "She said Freedom to Falcon. Freedom. What could that mean, and what about Falcon??

"A peregrine is a falcon, I think. Isn't it? I saw one once while on earth. It could be the name of the ship. But freedom... Hmm. Probably a code name of some sort. Sounds like something some idealist patriot would say. An underground resistance? Or...well?hmm... I don't know. Who would need to be?liberated?"

Josh casually stroked his chin and continued his visual lock on the screen. "Well, the Maquis hated the Cardassians and the Federation. The rebellion, though, was put down almost four years ago. It wouldn't make sense." Standing and stretching, Josh looked down at the shorter engineer. "Then again, it seems the most logical suspect. That delayed transport must have been important, maybe a switch. My guess is the real Captain never stepped on Cardassia at all."

Kaiden nodded, thinking. "I agree. Of course... Why would the Maquis attack now? I know they don't like either of us... but what would they gain from a war? Unless you see something I don't... something is missing. Of course, I still don't completely understand everything that went on. Ryoda only recently joined the warp community, you know. Then again?you shouldn't leave out the ones who lost the war who could be trying to start all over again."

?That's just it, I have no idea why they would want to. Something just isn't adding up, I can't put my finger on exactly what it is." Josh walked around in circles in Engineering. "No luck on the warp signature. If we could find out where they were going - for crying out loud even if we found the damn direction we'd have something to go on. I ran all the Maquis encryption sequences, but got nothing. Any other ideas??

"Yeah." Kaiden leaned back against a wall. "Try the ones the Dominion used." She shrugged. "If it's not one, it might be the other."

"Isn't that like saying that it could be any sequences? It could be Cardassians, or Federation - hell Ferengi for that matter. There are too many to be sure." Josh ran his hands through his hair. "Too many."

"Yes it could be anyone. But how many would have anything to do with Cardassians?" She smiled. "Be optimistic, or you'll go crazy. Relax and you might think better." She appeared tranquil except for clenched fists and a twitching tail. "Anyway, think of it this way: the Federation would not try to start a war it just won, and the Ferengi don't care about anything but money. Then, of course, there's the Founders." She was staring into space, thinking out loud. "What about them?" Kaiden asked, eyes coming back into focus.

"We're getting off track. I just can't think. The fact is that the warp signature is encoded, we can't decode it, so we're still at the same place we were five minutes ago." Josh rubbed his temples slowly. His eyes drifted to an approaching ensign, he didn't recognize the ensign right off, but it looked as if he was very insecure with himself.

"Ensign tol'Cemmen, I'm Ensign Pep. C. Col'a. I'm on an errand by Ensign Castillo to verify that the Engineering weapon lockers are full and ready. May I - I - I proceed?" He looked awkward - just awkward.

Josh glanced quickly at tol'Cemmen and sat down, returning to his work on the signature.

Kaiden looked puzzled at the Ensign's nervousness. "Yes, go ahead." She waved him on then turned back to console, sighing slightly. "I am going to be very dizzy by the time this is done," she muttered as she got back to work.

The Ensign scampered up the ladder to the upper deck of Engineering as Josh poured through subroutines and transmitter relays, sensor subsystems and deflector systems, everything that he didn't want to look at.

"This is impossible, there's got to be at least a hundred or more lines than there was in the initial masking. It took me a long time to get results when I was dealing with simple binary conversions, these are quadratic?"

Kaiden nodded. "I'm guessing that a lot of stuff was added just to confuse us. Which would be why there's very little pattern, cause if you're good you can make that almost random. This first part I managed to pick out the irrelevant parts... After saving the original. If I'm wrong I don't want to put it all back together again..."

"The pattern is minute, the loopholes and shortcuts are all but non-existent. The people who did this knew what they were doing - and that's a pain in my side." Josh looked up and towards the weapons locker about ten feet away. "Didn't that Ensign want to check the weapons locker?"

She blinked and looked up. "That's what he said... Where is he now?" Feline eyes started searching for the missing ensign.

Scampering to his feet he gazed up to the upper level. "I think I saw him climb the ladder into the upper section. There isn't a weapons locker up there, what else is there?"

"Nothing someone in security should be interested about." Kaiden started over to the ladder and began to scale it, looking around intently...she brought to mind the image of a hunting cat, alert and tense, yet somehow relaxed.

"Wait, isn't the Main Sub-Space Sensor Control up there?!" Josh leaped up the opposite ladder and scaled it quickly. He threw himself upon the deck plating and sprinted to a position where he could see. No one was around. Josh rubbed his head again and looked at Kaiden, newly setting foot on the second level. "What the hell? He was up here, I know he was. All these stations are locked out, maybe he went out."

Josh pointed to a door that led from the second level of Engineering. Josh laughed, "I'm just paranoid now. You're not a Cardassian spy, are you?"

She chuckled. "No I'm not. Cardassians are creepy." She sobered. "But you're not the only paranoid person around here. What was he doing up here?" Kaiden shook her head. "Oh well?" She turned back to the ladder and?jumped. She landed lightly on her toes and walked back over to the signature and turned to look at him, smiling at his startled _expression_.

A smile tugged at Josh's lips. He careful positioned himself on the ladder, feet on the outside of the ladder. He released and slid down the ladder's surface without going rung by rung. "We all have our talents."

"Actually I created my own. Rocky terrain, half of the holograms twice my height and strength, the other half almost as fast as I am. Rocky terrain, obstacles, random hand held weapons?et cetera et cetera. You should try it."

"Don't send me in alone! We could do a team thing. I'm always looking for a new way to exercise and workout. How long does it usually take you to complete something like that?" Josh knew it was off topic, but at this point he didn't care about anything except ventilating his brain from the task at hand.

She grinned. "What? I thought I'm the cat here. I normally go in alone because no one wants to join me. But as to how long... It just depends on how hard I want to work." She shrugged. "I re-arrange the program a lot." Kaiden smiled a bit, glad for the distraction.

Josh looked down and then back at the 'cat woman', "I've got to get going. Keep with the same decryption sequences, call me if you find or need anything." Quickly, Josh scampered from Engineering. He was bored of trying to decode the undecodable, and was hoping to end the day with a drink in the lounge.

Kaiden nodded and watched him leave. She rubbed the back of her neck for a few moments, then turned back to the signature, taking a long drink of tepid coffee before getting back to work.

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