Technical Support

Posted on Wed Oct 17th, 2018 @ 2:03am by Master Warrant Officer Cipher

Mission: Light is Dark
Location: Stellar Cartography
Timeline: MD 5

Another day, another glitch in the system. Typically Cipher reserved himself only for software-related mishaps, but when there was absolutely nothing else to do, he would assist the engineers on their work orders. The only other alternative was to subject himself to Logarithm's incessant prattle.

Today, it seemed that the science department was having a bear of a time figuring out why the telemetry data from the sensor probes weren't rendering properly. There was an error somewhere the data being received and being propagated. Cipher figured it was worth investigating.

When he made his way to the lab, he found a Bolian in Science teal arguing with a small team of three engineers. Cipher joined the group of fellow yellow-shirts and listened to the tail end of the rant.

"As I said, I've already tried reconfiguring the primary power coupling. It didn't work. It's not a power distribution issue. Is that all you three are good for?"

When the engineers grit their teeth in frustration, Cipher took the opportunity to begin his verbal diagnostic.

"Are you Ensign Qirqun?" he asked the Bolian science officer.

"Yes!" the Bolian exclaimed, though his expression quickly softened. "Can you help me?"

"Perhaps. Perhaps not." Cipher maintained a neutral expression. "More data is required if I am to render an accurate estimate. What is the issue?"

Qirqun sighed at having to repeat himself yet again, but he nodded in ascent. "I have reason to believe that the structural internal hardware has blown a circuits."

"If that were the case, then a power relay diagnostic--"

"Is there an echo in here?" Qirqun clenched his fists as he interrupted the engineer. "It's not a power distribution issue!"

Cipher nodded in acknowledgment before continuing his line of questions. "Has anybody checked the biological circuits within the rest of the hardware structure?"

The trio of engineers collectively tightened across their shoulders as if they'd been caught with their pants down.

"I'd thought not," the Bynar said with a touch of smug superiority. Cipher turned to Logarithm. "Prepare a level one diagnostic."

It was more of a warning than a command. Like all Bynars, Cipher had the capability of syncing the synaptic processor, which replaced his parietal lobe at birth, with any computer system which had a compatible interface. Through it Cipher could manipulate the computer's runtime environment as a musician would an instrument.

"Diagnostic ready," Logarithm replied cheerfully, having deactivated stellar cartography's LCARS.

As Cipher's prosthetic "mate" in substitution for his deceased pair, Logarithm would receive the data that Cipher received from the computer system, and together they would cross-analyze the information with the computer serving as the third node in the triangulation diagnostic process.

Cipher readied the buffer at his hip to receive and transmit data. "Show me the bioneural circuitry."

"Allow me," Qirqun said, sparing a frustrated glare for the engineers. "They're right over here, below the primary console. Why nobody thought to check it first is beyond me."

Cipher nodded politely as he dismissed the chatter.

"Logarithm, connect to that console over there." The Bynar pointed to an auxiliary console, then continued to the exposed bio-neural gel pack series. One of the engineers, a WO, had rushed forward to remove the cover panel.

"Connection established," Logarithm called out. In a moment, Cipher would have known that for himself, but it was efficient to be made aware in real time.

"Preparing buffer," Cipher voiced aloud. It was a mnemonic safety measure to remind himself to disengage his implanted buffer device once he had finished his task. He used a hard-wire connector, favoring the old-fashioned connection versus the new wireless transmissions. And, besides, these gel packs were not unlike his brain. A physical connection seemed right. "Port linked. Mind-machine interface established. Beginning diagnostic."

Though his ears heard Logarithm repeat the words, "beginning diagnostic," from his location a couple meters away, the machine's voice ran through Cipher's mind. They were linked now through the proxy of the stellar cartography circuitry.

The diagnostic sent a test command through the system.

"Feedback is negative." Logarithm's voice echoed inside Cipher's mind.

It was more than that. The diagnostic command test had degraded the bio-neural circuitry by 0.9 percent. With multiple complex processes, that rate of deterioration would lead to catastrophic system failure very quickly.

"Initiating secondary command interface," Cipher said. Through use of his buffer, he rerouted the command from Logarithm's console around the gel packs, through Cipher's buffer, and back into computer system.

"Diagnostic program detects new interface," Logarithm confirmed.

"Punch it." Cipher had once heard that idiom from a lively cadet on Earth. Once he understood the metaphor, he came to adore it.

Logarithm complied, sending the familiar cascade of lines and dashes through Cipher's mind via the buffer attached to his hip.

"Feedback is positive," Logarithm reported.

Cipher smiled. The problem was indeed the bio-neural gel packs. The command had bypassed them entirely and, despite slight throttling as it rerouted through his buffer, the rest of the computer system suffered no runtime errors.

"Disengaging from command module," Cipher said. He disengaged his port connector from the isolinear computer manifold and stuck it directly into the nearest gelatinous blue blob. "Initiate diagnostic."

"Sent." Logarithm's voice continued to bounce around inside Cipher's skull, though this time it felt distorted. Cipher also noted deterioration increased by another 0.8 percent.

"Alert: the system feedback indicates bio-neural deterioration."

Cipher bit back his sigh of annoyance. "Yes, Logarithm, I detected it, too." He ran his fingers across his buffer in efforts to collate the data-mining that streamed through his brain. "Compare these readings with records of viruses known to affect bio-neural circuitry."


While Logarithm processed, Cipher continued his analysis. Most viruses affected the fluid content, using it for incubation and replication. When that happened, however, it affected software rather than hardware. This seemed different.

"No matches found."

Cipher shrugged. It was worth a shot, and viruses needed to be ruled out anyway.

"The deterioration is most prominent in the third pack in the series," Cipher reported. "Logarithm, prepare another test command while I isolate it from the other gel packs in the series."

"Standing by."

Cipher hard-wire an auxiliary data stream to circumvent the most damaged gel pack, then signaled for Logarithm to send a test. This time, he did not hear Logarithm's voice; it rumbled through him like a cross between an electroshock and a rumbling bass tone. Cipher disconnected.

"Deterioration increased by 0.15 percent," Logarithm said. His voice stilled echoed inside Cipher's head, but at least it was intelligible.

"Looks like we isolated the problem," Cipher said, "but we still need to understand it."

He began disconnecting the entire gel pack from its fixture inside the panel, then connected the end opposite his hard-wire port into the auxiliary jack beneath his buffer. The buffer sent the smallest data packet that it was capable of generating while still being able to receive it through the feedback loop.

The data packet stung him like an insect bite.

"Something must be wrong with the fibers themselves," Cipher said. He reached into his tool kit and retrieved an electromagnetic transducer to which he coupled the hard-wire running between his buffer and the gel pack. The spectral analysis gave off an acoustical drumbeat in his mind, but it told him what he needed to know.

Quickly, Cipher repeated the test on the other gel packs in the series, and they did not repeat the same result. He returned his tools to his bag and stood up to face Qirqun.

"Your bio-neural circuitry are not processing the telemetry feed properly because the third gel pack in this series contains malignant fibers that have begun merging together into a ganglion rather than their branching design." Cipher kept his voice monotone, as he began uploading data into a PADD as he spoke. "The other gel packs have modified their fibers to adjust and compensate, but they may be salvageable once the third gel pack is replaced."

Turning to the engineering team, he continued. "I suggest you should a spectral analysis of every gel pack series on the ship and replace anything whose biofeedback frequency is within 2 gigahertz of this." He handed the PADD to the team lead which contained the entirety of his diagnostic report. "Will there be anything else?"

Qirqun clapped his hands with excitement. "If that truly fixes the problem, then we may be back in business!"

Cipher nodded in acceptance of the obvious. "Come, Logarithm."

The diminutive mechanical assistant followed Cipher. "Your trouble-shooting time was very impressive for a single technician," he said in his cheerful robotic voice.

All Cipher could do in response was sigh.

"Forgive me, Master Cipher. I did not anticipate that compliment would remind you of your deceased mate."