PHD #006: Chasing Ghosts
Chasing Ghosts
Summary: Tyr and Oberlin burn the midnight oil in the Hangar Bay, trying to figure out what made the Vipers and Raptors shut down. While they find wisps of tampering, they ultimately discover they're chasing ghosts in the code.
Date: 04 Mar 2041 AE
Related Logs: None
Bannik Oberlin 

[ Hangar Deck - Port ]---[ Midship - Battlestar Cerberus ]

The single largest rooms on the Cerberus are the hangar decks. Each flight pod consists of two stacked landing bays with adjoined decks and hangars, which along with computer-assisted landings results in a faster Viper recovery rate. Mirror images of each other, these two huge areas are located on the flight pods. The inboard sides of the deck, closest to the ship's main hull, are lined with parking and maintenance bays for Vipers and Raptors based aboard the battlestar. The outboard side of the deck contains the launch tubes used by the Vipers for standard deployment. Huge blast doors seal the deck into four sections, each one containing an elevator that leads up to the flight deck directly overhead. The fore-most section contains an elevator system that leads towards Aerospace Fabrication.

-=[ Condition Level: 2 - Danger Close ]=-------—-

Tromping up the deck with a series of heavy, thumping bootsteps that proceed him, the olive-drab-clad Lieutenant Oberlin pops through the hatch as he makes his way onto the deck, a large duffel bag slung over his shoulder, one day's stubble, and a whole lot of dark cicles under his eyes which probably stem from lack of sleep, general stress, and other horribly un-fun things. He sighs a heavy sigh and stares about, scanning the deck for personnel more than machinery, it would seem.

Bannik is one of those deck personnel. Tyr is in a small cluster of four Vipers; two of the Mark II's that worked and two of the Mark VII's that did not. He has a diagnostic computer hooked up to one of the VII's and is looking at the read-out on it with great interest. It's like one of those children's magazine games: What's different between these two pictures?

Indeed. One of these things is doing its own thing. Duck. Duck. Duck. There's a goose. Is it Bannik, or the project he's working on? In any case, he gives the more active sections of the deck a /wide/ berth as he scans his way to Bannik and makes his way over towards the other man's position, adjusting the duffel bag only once, letting out a single, random note in a whistle. "Looks like /somebody/ got a head start. That's a good thing, too. Probably going to be a long night." He clears his throat. "Sorry. I'm getting ahead of myself." He doesn't bother waiting for salutes or stiff protocol as he starts fumbling in the bag after unzipping it, with a bloodless smirk. "Chief Atreus gave me a couple names to look out for when I came down. ‘M Lieutenant Oberlin." He offers, in a friendly-enough fashion.

Bannik glances up when he sees an officer approaching, shifting to something like a more 'at attention' but given that he's in coveralls on the middle of the flight deck is a bird hooked up to his diagnostic computer, one might forgive the slightly less formal movement. "Yes, sir," confirms the crewman. "I figured that the best time to try to get things started is well - now." He then adds: "I'm Tyr Bannik. Pleased to be working with you. It's quite the puzzle we've got to figure out." He pushes his glasses up on his nose. "But we'll see if we can get to the bottom of it."

A quick glance to one of the diagnostic readouts and back to Bannik, as Oberlin squints, the rummaging produces a coffee thermos. Man's got priorities. He rather quickly sets it on a nearby shelf with a decisive move of his arm. "Crewman Tyr Bannik." He says, weighing the name in his head as if memorizing his name and face. "Well, welcome aboard. Good choice in specializations. Uh, I'm going to need to rely on you rather heavily because I'm not going to be able to recognize the output on flight computer function calls without a serious amount of reference. In other words? Hopefully we'll just be burning the midnight oil, instead of being here for days. I figured I'd prepare in advance." With that, he sets the bag down with a 'thump' and proceeds to produce a large file folder and two wrapped-up flight computer drives that were pulled from Raptors the night of the attack. "So, uh, how much did the Chief tell you about what we're going to be doing?"

"Well. I don't know how to do a whole lot yet," says Tyr, with a small smile touching at the edges of his lips. "But recognizing the codes on a flight computer output log is one of the few things they teach us at AIT. And." He pats the massive paperback tome sitting on the work bench next to the diagnostic computer. "For the stuff the two of us don't know off the top of the head, that's what they made the phrase 'RTFM' for." A beat, then: "Chief said we were going to take the Mark II's and the Mark VII's and put them right up next to one another, side-by-side, from an avionics perspective. Try to figure out what's different between them, even the smallest thing, that might possibly account for the shut-down."

"They didn't teach /me/ that." Oberlin says, with another one of those upwards twitches of his mouth. "Although I've torn through enough decrypted code that my frakking eyes are square. Or ocatagonal. So assume that I'm an FNG in your department." He says, wryly, although there's somethign strained in his enthusiasm. "Basically, you've got it. We're just looking at pulled flight computers at this point. I have two Raptors here, so, two of each Viper of your choosing can go. I don't know your birds like you do, so it's Dealer's Choice." He points at the other two drives. "Let me grab a bucket to sit on." And with that, the games should commence.

"Well, none of the Raptors did well, so that's not going to help us as much as the Mark II-Mark VII side-by-side comparison," explains Tyr, gesturing at his diagnostic computer. "So what we'll do first is compare the Vipers, and then maybe we can find some commonality in the Mark VII compared to the Raptors." He gestures at the drives in Oberlin's hand. "So what we'll need to do first is get a baseline from the Mark II. We know they worked. Then we'll overlay on that the Mark VII, since we know they broke …" He trails off, explaining the procedure even as he fires up the diagnostics. "And sir? /I'm/ the FNG in my department, so it shouldn't be too hard."

"It's extra data." Oberlin says, shrugging his shoulders in sort of a hapless manner. "The Raptors, that is. I probably would have gotten to them last, but the pilots pulled them. In any case, they were affected ships." Carefully placing those drives on the maintenance shelf, he meanders away long enough to grab a large, empty bucket to squat on and carefully stows his duffel bag, after pulling out a microtool kit. "Oh, have at it." He points to the coffee thermos. He smirks again at the FNG comment, but doesn't reply to it directly. "So, we start with the old-school." With that, he sidles up to the whole setup, unfolding the tool kit. Just in case it's needed. Probably a needless gesture.

Some time passes while Tyr moves between the diagnostic computer and the two Viper Mark II's, downloading the material off of their avionics systems and into the machine. Finally, then, he gestures at the screen. "All right. So this is our baseline. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of differences between the II's and the VII's. I mean, the VII's are basically all computers. The II's are a lot more hydraulics and analogs. We're talking millions of lines of more code in the VII's than the II's. But hopefully." He disconnects the cables and moves towards the two other Vipers here. "We can isolate some areas of key difference."

As time passes, Oberlin whips out the lowest-tech recording device possible. A pen and paper. After jotting down a few very basic notes after looking at the very basic output in the Mark II's, which is, well, hardly code at all, he squints at the screen until his eyes probably change shape. Just like he joked about. "So, we can just search through these basic strings and do a an aggregate count. Everything looks normal to you, eh?" He turns to Bannik. In this time, he's busted into the coffee thermos and has a habit of standing up and sitting down in rapid succession, even pacing a little. "On to the comparisons."

Once Bannik has the two sets of code side by side, he sits down in front of the computer, trying to compare the two. But after an hour or so of staring at the lines of code, he shakes his head in frustration, standing up in a sudden sort of motion, shaking out his concentration. "A comparison isn't going to do us any good," he grumbles. "I mean — it's like I said. The Mark VII has /literally/ millions line of code more than the Mark II's. I could never try to isolate any particular area that's different. They're /all/ different. It's like a horse and carriage next to a jeep." That's FNG language to help the Lieutenant, it seems.

The bridge of Oberlin's nose wrinkles in some form of vague displeasure. "All different?" He asks, in response to Bannik's outburst. It's not really personally directed displeasure. In fact, his voice is more curious than anything else, even though it's got a sort of weary cast to it. Drawing in a deep breath, he flips through his notes. "I expected there to actually be an electronic base to the Mark VII's. Fly-by-wire." He says, reaching for the console. "I prepared an automated script that might help with this though. What we can determine here is this - the Mark II's look, well, normal to you. Right?" He doesn't really wait for an answer just yet before continuing. "I don't know if there's even anything there. But looking at the VII's here. - Can we assume these calls are standard? We can just do an aggregate count. It's — something. At least."

"Yeah. They look normal. At least in the avionics package. But it's not much of an avionics package for me to be analyzing." Tyr sighs and gestures at the screen, trying to shake off his displeasure at the first bump of the night. "Yeah. Anyhow. We should move on to the VII's, I guess, try to analyze their logs line by line. Just — stare at them for a while. See if we can get anything."

"Y'know, I probably look like a fool even for /trying/ to scrutinize the Mark IIs. But they were affected. Affected /less/, but, y'know, affected." Oberlin says, after taking in a long, deep sigh. "But that's a hint, isn't it? It's not exactly a secret that the newer the ship, the bigger the impact, fleet-wide." He says this without much inflection, either way. "Except for our Battlegroup. Which is a question itself. Anyway, let's continue." He agrees, moving on to the newer Vipers while following the Crewman's lead. "Let's take a look and then I'll unput the script."

Bannik takes a deep breath and drops himself onto his make-shift chair near the diagnostic computer, taking the logs from the Viper and a pencil. Well. This is going to be a long process. But perhaps it's the sweat of the brow that may pay off in these circumstances.

Time passes…Good thing that coffee's there, by the way. Oberlin helps himself to more of it as the review process goes by, occasionally scribbling down bits of code as he breaks it up, statement-by-statement. "See anything out of the ordinary? These blocks should pretty much be identical computer-to-computer in the power management routines." He says, banishing a bit of weariness from his voice as he again stands and stretches.

Bannik doesn't drink coffee; he's from Aerilon. He drinks tea. It's just how these things work. So he simply goes without caffeine for the time being, occasionally taking off his glasses and shaking his head, as if trying to clear some fuzziness from it. He circles something on the piece of paper in front of him, glancing then up to the diagnostic computer as if to confirm it, and then circling something else. "Maybe …" he says.

Poor Oberlin didn't read the caffeine briefing. But it's the little things you discover as you deal with people. "Maybe. Maybe here, too." He says in agreement. The core code is effectively the same, but it looks like there was a modification here. But not here. There's a watermark on this one with /this/ date. But not this one. Did we start hand-coding Vipers in some cave on a mining colony somewhere when I wasn't looking?" He shakes his head slowly, from one side to the other and sighs, evidencing some frustration. "Not that this even matters. I don't really know what the changes /were./"

"Well, don't look at what they are for a moment," says Tyr, gesturing at the sheet. "Look at /when/ they are. Right here. Five days before the attacks. Line —" He gestures. "Uhm. One ten, two forty, three eighty —" He circles another line. "Right in the change log. Look at when they executed."

"Shit. Shit." Oberlin suddenly exclaims, his mouth hanging open. "You're right." Squinting, he paces forward to get a closer look at the diagnostic computer. If the thing were any larger, it would swallow him whole. "What /is/ this, though? Not to jump to conclusions, but this looks like some kind of smoking gun." His brow furrows. "Don't see a body, though." He adds, continuing the analogy. "Good find, Crewman." He says, glancing over at Bannik. "They all have the same timestamp."

"I don't know what it means." Bannik shakes his head, looking over at Oberlin. That, it seems, is the next mystery. He flips his page back and forth, looking at the snippets of code on the log. "I — don't know." He shakes his head again. "There's no rhyme or reason to what bits of code have the change."

Scribbling away like a madman, Oberlin starts jotting down line numbers of various changes as he steps forward and starts to punch a modified version of his canned aggregation command, using this date as a wildcard that pulls line numbers indexing the various code modifications and does so on multiple machines. "Let's try this for the raptors too." This will be done at some point in the evening. "That's what I don't get. These should be factory-identical. I'm not seeing any output showing useful strings on what code got changed." He looks down at Bannik. "I guess we're /both/ FNG's in this case, eh?" He continues on with the task, which will take some long, arduous time. "I had a prof that would drop bricks over this kind of notation."

"Well, sir, I'd say we all are when it comes to this sort of thing. Nothing like it has ever happened before; nothing like it ever will again." A beat from Bannik. "I hope." Putting aside the clipboard, he goes to hook up the Raptors to his computer and download /their/ change logs to see if the cycle repeats itself.

"I'm sure there must have been so—" Oberlin starts, his mouth maybe jumping ahead of his brain here and then he reins himself in, clinging to the statement. "Nah. It hasn't." More time passes as he assists with the Raptor analysis. As the two men go through the motions, curiously the Raptor data looks clean. Too clean. Of course, it takes a while to come to this conclusion. "Ghosts. We're chasing ghosts here."

Bannik lets out a heavy sigh. "Yeah," mutters the crewman. "Maybe if we have some wrecked Mark VII's, I could try to compare our Vipers that did survive to those that didn't. See if there's some difference I can isolate in them." He waves at the paper. "Otherwise, I don't have a clue of what happened. It's just ghosts and fragments."

"We can draw a line there. Some ships were affected more than others. Given the /variance/ of the changes, maybe there is some correlation. I mean, there'd /have/ to be." Oberlin says, through a veil of tired frustration. "There's no change to the calls themselves that I can see. But you're on to something. If we can get a tow Raptor on some of that wreckage at Virgon you guys might have some chop." He shrugs a helpless-looking shrug. "Anything else, though, and it looks like we'd have better luck punching holes in a brick wall."

"It's a start at least," Bannik sighs, taking off his glasses and rubbing at his eyes. "If it's all right with you, sir, I'm going to try to get some rack time. I'll let the Chief know in the morning what we found."

"Yeah. I'll pass it along. Maybe stare at these a little more before I put them down. I'll have your babies back to you with your permission. Now that I know what I'm looking for, I can at least see if I can come up with some kind of pattern to this changelog nonsense." Oberlin says, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. "Yeah. And? Before you go?" He wearily smirks. "Good work, Crewman. I'll be sure to tell the Boss that you and the Chief were beyond helpful. Even if we didn't find a lot."

Bannik allows a small, tired smile to touch at the edges of his lips. "Thanks, sir. I'm just trying to help out however I can. Once we get in some of the wreckage from some destroyed Mark VII's, we can take a go at it again and see what we can see." It only takes a little bit more to tidy up the bench and then — "Have a good night, sir."

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