PHD #068: Call and Response
Call and Response
Summary: A major breakthrough is made regarding the Cylon wireless transmitter.
Date: 5 May 2041 AE
Related Logs: Heavy Raider research logs; concurrent with Go
Oberlin Penelope Tillman Trask 
Repair Bay - Hangar Deck - Battlestar Cerberus
When engines need to be rebuilt or other heavy but short-term work needs to be done, this is where it happens. Large, red hand-mobile cranes are situated along the wall beside stacks of toolchests. Carts with various computers and electronics are dispersed around the area for quick access. A very conspicuous yellow locker at the rear holds a sizable amount of firefighting gear, as well. Sturdy metal stands are available to hold all sorts of parts from gun systems to the FTL drives of a Raptor. Big enough to accommodate quite a few Vipers and Raptors at once, this area sees extensive use and is usually attended by at least one crew at all hours of the day and night.
Post-Holocaust Day: #68

One day in the life of the Battlestar Cerberus. With all the malfunctions, catastrophies, firefights, and assorted horrors that get heaped upon the feet of this poor crew, people still diligently labor on. Maybe their efforts are borne of the vague hope that their actions will one day bear fruit. Will today be one of those days?

Lt Oberlin seems to be banking on this possibility. He stands over a booted-up laptop, affixing a sort of data cable to the side of the thing, hunched over in his Duty Greens as he stares at the screen's output. The end of the cable contains some manner of repurposed telemetry probe. The whole setup is laid out on a workbench, containing not one, but both of the Cylon transmitter device-thingies.

In comes Penelope, bearing a plastic container which itself bears a number of labels, classifying and cataloging its contents. Some are from the deck, some are from medical, but the most salient of these is a humble strip of masking tape upon which has been printed a single word: GOO. "Oi! Got the goop," she announces, making a beeline for Oberlin's set-up. She peers over the CIC officer's shoulder. "No problems setting up the adapter?"

Having exhausted the electrical engineering approach, Trask hasn't had much to do on the research front, which means that his role as Team Leader has been limited to supervising those who are in a position to still work some mojo. When he's not busy doing that and documenting the findings, he's been keeping occupied with avoinics repairs and all-around pitching-in where he might be needed on the Deck. For the nonce, he's at the test site, interested in watching Oberlin do his thing.

Furiously pounding away at the keyboard, Oberlin's eyes narrow ever-so-slightly, as he clicks his tongue at the output. His already pale face is illuminated in the laptop's warming glow, giving it an even more eerie cast. "So here's where we are." He begins an explanation, stopping to address Penny. "So far it hasn't caused an explosive short. Don't worry, when this thing goes on I'll probably be the first to die." Turning back over his shoulder, he gives a thin smirk as he eyes Trask. "So here's what we need to do. This telemetry probe should detect electronic signals within each device. We need to find a way to apply some kind of power feed to these things after we fill each reservoir with that — stuff." Stuff that any electrical engineer would know how to do. Provide a low-voltage charge via contact.

Penny rolls her eyes a bit at Oberlin. "Can I have your parking space?" she asks, pulling the lid off the container of goo. There's a soft, vacuum-sealed pop as she does so. She feels around on each of the transmitters for the tiny compartments, sliding each open, then dipping a sterile probe into the goo. "There'll be no dying for you today, Cal — if this adapter works (LESS than a week, thank you ever so!) you owe me big time. And I mean to collect." She drizzles nanite suspension goop into one reservoir, then the other, exquisitely careful with the stuff — as though it were explosive. "By the by — I appreciate the big frakking hurry we're in, but I have to ask… what's our contingency for a Basestar jumping in once these little buggers start broadcasting? Bend over and kiss our arses goodbye?"

"Provide power for 'stuff'. Got it." Indeed, Trask does, for the Colonial military did not waste its cubits in giving him an edjumacation. The set-up he's configured should do the trick, but one never knows when it comes to Cylon foo. "I call dibs on non-damaged vital organs, Henny Penny, so you better not be lookin' to collect those." As for the Basestar, it's glibly pointed out, "When have we ever had a contingency plan? It's not like they call ahead to let us know they'll be dropping by for a visit." To the Cal with a 'C', the one with a 'K' says, "Good to go when you are, unless the el-tee wants to pop over inside the Raider to bend over for other reasons." Cheeky as ever, he casts an impish I'm up for it if you are look at Penelope.

To all of this, Oberlin's head just nods a little and in time with what the other two have to say, with the occasional well-timed eyeroll. Both of them get a couple of these. "Contingency plan? Smash these things and get the /frak/ out." The Lieutenant states as he starts to affix little metal-tipped cables to the exposed insides of each disk.

"Oh, and Lieutenant? No hanky panky in top secret military assets." He waggles a finger smugly and turns back to the laptop and punches in a couple of keystrokes. 'CAPTURE SESSION COMMENCING.' The readout states. So far, nothing.

"That's a bit like shutting the barn doors after the horses've run…" Penny shakes her head at Oberlin's failsafe, looking wry but resigned. Flicking a glance at Trask, she responds mildly, "I presently have more productive ways to spend what would doubtless be a most amusing two minutes, Lieutenant Trask. Ask again later." Because while the answer seems to be consistently 'no,' Kal-with-a-K is unfailingly entertaining in the asking. She braces an arm on the workspace, leaning in to look at the screen. Beat. Beat. Beat. A frown begins to appear between her brows. "Frak me sideways… It should be working. There's no sodding reason it shouldn't work…" Her eyes shift restlessly, worried, to the homely collection of contacts and wires connecting the transmitters to the computer.

"Just because she keeps her knickers on does not classify her assets as top secret," Trask does not miss a beat in answering one el-tee and then the other, "Two minutes? That's all it takes to get clearance? Damn. As soon as we get that paperwork sorted out, I'll be happy to oblige. Bent-over. Sideways. I'm flexible." A point emphasized with a sidelong glance. "Figuratively and literally." Har har. Snark, however, is not forgotten. "Might have somethin' to do with it being, yanno, Cylon technology." Fancy that it might not be working because of that.

"You know," Oberlin begins, "You are both lucky I'm running pretty much every joke I can cough up through an internal filter. And doing a damn good job applying it at the present time." He says, with that same painfully jaded tone that he so commonly uses. Unfortunately, he's concentrating enough on the task that he's letting his actual amusement slip out, smirking a little as he continues to stop and restart the capture process. 'Feed engaged. Capture commencing.' pops up, and he says, "Ah well, if we have to bail, we have to bail. Space here's boring /anyway/. Now why the frak aren't you doing anything?" He looks over at the transmitters and just blinks his eyes flatly. "That's odd. Very odd."

<FS3> Oberlin rolls Alertness: Success.
<FS3> Oberlin rolls Repair: Failure.

<FS3> Penelope rolls Alertness: Success.
<FS3> Penelope rolls Repair: Good Success.

<FS3> Trask rolls Alertness: Success.
<FS3> Trask rolls Repair: Success.

What's caught Oberlin's eye is simple. This thing is powered now. At least in some capacity. It's got /power/ but it's not particularly doing anything. The internals are displaying a shimmering purplish-blue glow. It's almost hypnotic-looking, and under different circumstances, the effect could be considered wondrous and beautiful. It is, if one forgets its origins. And then there's the goop in the reservoir. It's STIRRING. But according to the monitor, it's not doing anything.

<FS3> Trask rolls Electrical Engineering: Good Success.

Penny forgets all about the banter, now that things have begun to glow and stir… she stares at the hypnotic light, entranced, then with fascination at the swirling goo. "Well. We've gone and done SOMETHING, haven't we?" she murmurs. "But not enough." She blinks slowly, twice. Then her eyes snap to Trask. "Kal. Can we plug the power into the goo?"

"Really?" the ECO retorts to Oberlin, "'cuz, by my estimation, you're both lucky that I'm so awesome at being awesome." It's not an arrogant statement; the man simply is an incorrigible smart ass. Even so, he's not incorrect in his assessment. Brown eyes survey the Intel officer's configuration and then electrical engineer hands make the necessary adjustments. "We can," add power to goo, "but it'll be moot until the equipment is properly hooked-up to take the readings." Making the last of what he deems to be the necessary changes, Trask quips, "Quick shags are never a good idea. If you're gonna go through the effort of frakkin' someone else, it has to exceed the fun of a solo flight. An' if you're ready to land shortly after take-off, you're doing it wrong."

"I feel like — I feel like I've had this conversation before. In some capacity." Oberlin says, with another one of his patented eyerolls(tm). "Except last time, the conversation somehow became all about my mom five minutes in." A little pained look to Trask and he adds, "History has no need to repeat itself." A few more keystrokes thrown down and he then leans over to eye Penny. "Oh, come on, there are /no/ bad ideas. Only bad people." Some time in the middle of this conversation? The discs, both of them, just start to glow. Brighter. At least the innards. The light doesn't seem to permeate the white shell. "I think the telemetry is hooked up properly, and for wh -" Suddenly, there is activity on the laptop's screen. That divided window reads 'capture enabled' and SUDDENLY there is flickering. A stream of numbers, an impossibly long stream of numbers clogs the window, both for each disc's input. And suddenly…

<SYSTEM ERROR, ABORT> The familiar 'This machine has crashed' screen pops up. The laptop just BSOD'D. "Shit. Just. Just pretend that didn't happen." Oberlin states as he starts jamming on the keys to start manually killing processes and recover. "I'm an idiot."

Penny grimaces at the blue screen, putting her hands over her face and peeking at the crashed system through her fingers. "Oi. That's no good…" She shakes her head and braces her palms on the workbench, watching Oberlin work. "How many years of schooling an' experience do we have at this table? We're all fumblin' in the dark, Cal. Take it easy," she soothes. "What's the damage?"

That error? That /so/ was not the other Kal's doing. It's like the 'K' is for 'Kickass' and the 'C' is for 'Craptastic'. "Only until it's convenient to remember," Trask smirks. For now, Oberlin's FAIL does not exist.

"Oh, I'm fine. I just /know/ better. That, ladies and gentlemen, was what my grandmother would call 'Ten pounds of shit in a five pound sack.' I had the filters dialed up way too high," Oberlin states, with an uncharacteristic air of abashment. "It's fine, too. I think. We just got — well, I'm making a leap here, but I think we got these things /working./" He starts punching away as the machine comes back on line and opens up the data capture window. "Let's start with something simple. I'm turning on /one/ data capture at a time." And with this — The first half of the window, Capture 1 starts scrolling. "Notice this time, my dumb ass aggressively turns up the filter."

And what happens next is interesting. Numbers, large scrolling streams of zeroes and ones go pouring across the screen, modulating. They're moving /fast/ . So fast that it's impossible to make out a variance. It's just a rhythm of data. He gestures at the probe leads which, like the power couplings, are plugged directly into the goo. "You know what this means? That stuff isn't just power. It's —" He doesn't finish, staring at the screen, and the goo, and the discs, mesmerized. And then he starts to bring up the second half of the window, representing the other disk. He never did finish his question.

<FS3> Oberlin rolls Alertness: Success.
<FS3> Trask rolls Alertness: Success.
<FS3> Penelope rolls Alertness: Success.

"It's… not just conducting power, it's conducting information?" Penny ventures, watching the transmitters function, pulsing and shimmering. Her eyes dart back and forth between the discs and the computer screen, fascinated.

For once, Trask has no quips or quibbles. Just a quiet, involuntary, "Whoa." He, too, is fascinated. "Is it binary, or hex, or… something else?" Now would be a good time for Laskaris to be about. For a long moment, he remains silent, mind racing with ideas. "If we could somehow rewrite the data…"

It isn't Trask and Penelope alone who are fascinated. Oberlin's jaw drops. That doesn't happen every day. In fact? It appears that his little world was just shattered by the awesome power of this revelation. "We're just taking it as crude electrical impulses and trying to figure out what it's sending. But it's coming out as binary. But the encryption — this has to be layer upon /layer/ of encryption." He holds in a breath as he speaks some more, queueing up the second capture. "Lieutenant Paris. You are correct. Holy shit. They made an organic processor. That /has/ to be what this stuff is functioning as. I'll have to send Specialist Mercer a birthday card. The rest of you, for that matter. This is — Frak. To think of it. They were able to do this in forty years? /No Wonder/." And the second capture window initializes and starts to display its own dialed-down stream of data. Something should be clear to the entire team here.

"To think, they could do this. And they wasted their time nuking us. That's some /sad/ shit." The spook shakes his head and then the new pattern catches him. As the second window starts up, the data rhythm of the first starts to change. And then, although the numbers modulate faster than one can really keep track of. There's a change in rhythm. Call-and-response, from one transmitter to the other. "Can you get a confirmation that this wireless thing is broadcasting? Just some kind of signal?"

Penny nods. "Sure we can. We just — " She turns her head, blinking at the phone and rolling her eyes. "Frak all of the frakking timing! I'll be right back." She grabs the phone.

[Into the Wireless] Penelope says, "Repair Bay — you frak it, we fix it."

"Yeah, well, it's not like we humans have a better track record," is Kal's caustic comment. "Odds are that some jagoff would've used this to develop yet another device to compensate for a lack of balls. An' considering some jagoff invented the Cylons…" No, he's not surprised about the nukes. All the same, Trask is disappointed to have his cynicism reinforced. Regarding the telemeter, he confirms, "They're both a bunch o' Chatty Cathys. When you're done there, el-tee, we should start testing their broadcasting radiuses."

Penelope goes sheet white, mouthing, FRAK. She clears her throat.

[Into the Wireless] Penelope says, "Yes, sir, Major Tillman. We've just successfully got power to the Cylon transmitters recovered from the Raider and the Eidolon, sir. We're recovering data from them now."

Penelope places her hand over the mouthpiece of the receiver, muttering to Oberlin and Trask, "I think we can assume that the broadcast radius is VERY. Frakking. Wide."

"Buzzkill." Oberlin says, briefly clenching his jaw at Trask, even as he watches Penny pull the phone off its hook. "Yeah, well, this is why we can't spend a tremendous amount of time together in an enclosed space." He points at the man and then back at himself. "We'll create some sort of singularity out of our collective negativity and dissolve the universe. Divide by zero. Game over." He snorts slightly as he then turns to fully acknowledge Penelope's reaction. "I take it you're not talking to Biffo the Robot? If you are, tell him we're coming for him." His eyes widen a little, but still, he manages this one-off before turning back to the readout. "This is /amazing/. It's modulating encryption faster than we can record it. It's like — we're monkeys, watching Vipers flying overhead."

Penelope hangs up the phone. "Next time, you answer it," she tells Oberlin, looking harried. "That was the Major. He wanted to know why the DRADIS was picking up Cylons in the repair bay." She rolls her eyes. "Just checking whether he needed to put the ship into condition one. We are in such trouble."

"An' here I thought it'd be an explosion due to an overload of awesome," Trask tells Oberlin. Oh, but then Paris returns and, at what she's said, he looks like a kid in a candy store, expressive brown eyes wide and alight. In short order, his mouth creeps into a beaming grin of smug delight. "We already were, Henny Penny." In trouble. "The whole Holocaust was kind of a dead giveaway. This, though? This right here," the devices are pointedly indicated, "This is how we are gonna manage to not get immediately killed during our next suicide mission." Then, suddenly, an idea occurs, thus prompting the question, "Did the XO say if they pinged as Heavy Raiders or as something else?"

"Too much awesome to contain in one repair bay." Oberlin says, returning to his more usual calm, still staring at the numeric scroll. "I'll analyze the captures for future reference. The problem is, I don't know /how/ long we want these things broadcasting. And besides, I think this level of encryption would require a /lot/ to crack. I don't want to use 'impossible' so we'll say 'implausible." He starts to edge back towards the discs and then glances back at his compatriots. And suddenly, inexplicably laughs. "I missed out on a chance to make Major Tillman jump. Which is probably for the best. Good though you got the phone." He winks at Penelope and adds, "I admire your restraint. Thanks. Actually, thank you /all./" He continues, answering Trask's question, "Indeed, we /are/ going to get these things online and hopefully they'll get us through the Cylon blockade. You hear that, Biffo the Robot? I'm coming for that ass!"

Oberlin amends, a little more soberly, "By the way. Admiral Abbot decided I opened my big fat mouth one too many times and is sending me on one of the ground teams. Oh frak me."

"He didn't say," Penny wrinkles her nose at Kal's smug grin. She thumbs back over her shoulder, "But if you want to ring back up and ask him, do be my guest, eh?" Sighing and rubbing the back of her neck, she frowns at the chatting transmitters, pondering a moment. "I wonder if they're trying to establish a network…" She blinks a few times at Oberlin. "Sending you? You mean, you didn't volunteer?"

No amount of nose wrinkling is gonna deflate Bootstrap's smile. He does cheekily tell Oberlin, "Maybe they'll put us aboard the same Raptor an' we'll take out every frakkin' thing in the singularity that we create." With that, he actually then moseys to the phone, a slight sprightliness to his step.

[Into the Wireless] Trask says, "Major Tillman. Lieutenant Trask. A quick question for you, sir. The DRADIS readings… did they ping as Heavy Raiders or something else?"

[WIRELESS] Tillman says, "Something else, Lieutenant. They just showed as enemy targets. Unknown size or configuration."

"Er. Half-and-half. I guess." Oberlin says helplessly towards Penelope as the numbers keep rolling along. "So, what I'm thinking, if our singularity manages not to blow this shit to Hell and back," he winks, cheekily, "Is that these things need a consistent external power supply to function. Whatever the Cylons used, we don't have. But we know how to generate this. We can jury-rig for as long as we need them." He sighs, heavily.

Penny nods. "Right. Of course. Kal and I can rig something up — something stable and contained, to keep them powered as we go in." She rakes her fingers back through the crazed locks escaping her bun. "And since it sounds like we're all going, you'll have one person 'experienced' with the set-up, per device. Ideal, really."

[Into the Wireless] Trask thoughtfully hmms, brow musingly folding into a furrow. Not that the Major can see. "Interesting," is what he finally says before fessing-up, "Glad I checked. I'd anticipated Heavy Raiders." Fair enough considering where the devices were found. "Good to know that's not the case. Definitely something to keep in consideration when recreating the signatures." Another soft, thoughtful hmm. "Right, then. Thank you, Major. Much appreciated. Trask out."

[WIRELESS] (from Tillman) The phone on the other end simply hangs up after Trask says 'Out'.

Oberlin's chest heaves a little as his shoulders roll back some. "We should probably get these things offline for now. Just to be safe. I've got likely all the modulated data capture I could want. /And/ I'll be sure to pass it around." His mouth flickers to one side as he goes to start turning the power offline. Tilting his head to Penny, he shrugs. "Oho, you're going too? All of us, then." He stops in his tracks as he listens to Trask's chatter. "Huh. So they're generic. That's interesting. At least to /our/ Dradis, though. Who knows?"

"They might signal differently depending on their environment. If one were hooked into a powered-up Raider, sharing goo and nanites — y'ken?" Penny theorizes, helping Oberlin shut the project down. "The nanites obviously play a role in transmitting the data, couldn't they just as easily modify what it says?" She shakes her head a bit. "I mean, otherwise, we wouldn't be able to tell a Raider from a Basestar on Dradis, on a normal day. No way to test that, though. We're going to have to operate on the idea a generic signal'll get us through."

Looks like the ECO survived being on the horn with the XO. When he gets back into conversational distance of his compatriots, he informs them, "So, they aren't pinging as Heavy Raiders. The Major says they simply show as enemy targets of unknown size and configuration. So… yeah." Seems like Oberlin and Penelope have already spotted the issue. "Encryption, interesting as it is, is not my bag. Stuff like that and rewriting data? I'll leave that to the professionals. I will, however, see if there's a difference if the transmitter is plugged back where it was found on the Raider. It's a long shot that it'll make a difference, but still worth attempting." So says Trask.

"It's all in the call and response. What I /think/ they're doing here," Oberlin states, now getting a slight bit more excited as he starts to finish pulling things off-line — and down the transmitters go. Poof. The signal is dead. He goes to work, saving the capture buffer of the transponder chatter even as he addresses both Penny and Trask simultaneously. "Is sending an authenticated challenge code and the other transponder is sending a response out of an immense array of generated possibilities." — A pause. "A million codes in less than a second are cycled through and matched. Colonial fleets had to do this manually." He shakes his head. "The sheer -scope- of it. And /that/ — is a brilliant concept. We don't know how the other ships interact with these things." He waves a finger at Penelope. "I think we can safely pass along this info and, with a few modifications, install these in the Eidolon."

Penny whistles. "Gods," she folds her arms, leaning against the workbench. "That's a risk, isn't it? I mean, actually installing them somewhere… what if it recognizes an alien environment? It could do anything. Fry the systems. Explode. Anything at all." She shrugs slightly at Trask. "Theoretically, I think you'd have to power up the Raider, too… but…"

"Ergo, it being a long shot," Trask drily replies to the snipe. "Still, there might be something in the casing that causes some kind of reaction. Dunno. Only way to find out is to test it out." Then, to Oberlin, "I'm not seeing why both need to be installed aboard the Eidolon. Unless…" The expression that suddenly overtakes him is that of someone who's had an epiphany and is searching through his memory with a fine-tooth comb to find support for the idea.

"Of /course/ it's a longshot." Oberlin states, plainly. "Thing is, these things were already online in an alien environment. Here. If they were going to blow, I think the invasive probing technology we just used after we put that data-goop inside these 'processing reservoirs' might have been enough to trigger any fail-safe. I can't guarantee their safety of course, but I can't really guarantee anything." He just finishes this statement, ruefully. "We'll ghetto-rig what we have to and I guess maybe some of the Gods aren't tired of us yet. Or something. I hope."

Penelope pushes off from her lean, suddenly looking rather tired. "All right, then. You blokes make plans — I should have been on shift ten minutes ago. There are still work orders backed up out my arse from the last thing that exploded." She lifts a hand in aimless farewell, rolling her shoulders back and heading out.

"We'll fill out that clearance paperwork later, El-tee," Trask cheerily calls out to the departing Penelope, and then it's right back to work.

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