PHD #128: Duty Before Displeasure, Pt. III
Duty Before Displeasure, Pt. III
Summary: Rime discusses the videotape, and ideas for dealing with it, with Haeleah.
Date: 4 Jul 2041 AE
Related Logs: Duty Before Displeasure, Pt. II, Duty Before Displeasure.
Haeleah Rime 

One of the secure rooms within Engineering has been set aside for the investigations into the Leonis videotape. The star of the show, the tape itself, is carried to and from wherever the MPs have secured it in a sealed envelope, signed out under their unsmiling scrutiny, then delivered back to them upon the end of the examination. Light gloves are provided - all the better to handle you with, my dear.

About an hour ago, Sergeant Constin escorted Lieutenant Rime down to the secured room, envelope-sealed tape in possession. Less than fifteen minutes later, the MP left, taking the resecured tape with him. The Lieutenant, however, has yet to re-emerge. The lights are still on in the room, the door left slightly ajar, a flurry of keystrokes, mouse-clicks, and page-turning coming from within.

Haeleah is one of those assigned to tape investigation duty, and it's taken up the lion's share of her duty time since its return from Leonis. So, naturally, activity in this particular room gets her attention. She has access to the room itself, though she still signs in. Signature and time-of-day carefully marked down. She clears her throat. So as not to startle the madly keystroking lieutenant overmuch. "Making progress, sir?"

"None." There is little lilt left to Rime's Virgan accent at the moment, frustration flattening it out. She doesn't look away from the screen at first, her fingers needing a few more keystrokes before they fall away to silence. Only then does she straighten, rub her eyes, and focus upon Haeleah. "I'm sorry. No, I'm not. I'm trying to clean up the video file. A copy of the video file," she clarifies. "The MPs have the original back in lockdown, of course." She gestures at the screen in frustration, pushing back a few inches as if it might grant a new perspective. "The radiation's damaged it. There are garbage bytes everywhere. I'm hoping if we can clean them out, we can examine the footage more clearly, but this is… /so/ not what I trained for."

"Working off a copy is even trickier than working off the original is," Haeleah says, moving over to screen-peek over Rime's shoulder. "Every copy you make, there's a little file degradation. It's even worse with something like this, that's already been frakked six ways from Colonial Day and back to begin with. We're still digging the garbage out of the original."

"And every single time we put that tape through the player it degrades the original, and it's not spared from radiation out /here/, and…" Rime nods along with Haeleah's assessment, spreading her hands out as if to suggest it will just keep snowballing from there. "At least working from a digital copy of the physical file, we're sparing the original." The monitor is covered in interface windows - one of them, near the back, looks to show a freeze-frame of the video. The ones in front are full of alphanumeric jibberish - the video file opened in a hex-editor, a short step removed from staring directly at 1s and 0s. "Here's where I am," she says, reaching for the mouse. "Maybe you're ahead of me already. The damage is worst at the beginning and end of the tape. This isn't surprising - it's where tapes wear out first, even in regular conditions. The static - the garbage bytes - you can see them here." She starts highlighting characters within the screen of punctuation soup. Accented letters in the middle of a string of numbers, or mathematical symbols wedged between gibberish letters. "It would take us months to pull them out manually. There has to be a better way."

"This thing isn't exactly low-priority, sir," Haeleah says mildly, leaning one hand on the table and nosing closer to the screen around Rime. "But you're right. It's a job and a half. In addition for cleaning it up, we've also got to keep a look-out for signs of video manipulation. See if our mess is even legit or not. I'm Lieutenant Parres, by the by. I've got some background in programming, though I'm no hacker when it comes to it. Wish I was, after staring at this thing for hours."

Rime blinks oddly at Haeleah for a moment, then rubs her eyes again. "I'm sorry," she repeats, and offers out her hand to the other woman. "Lieutenant Rime, CIC." After the handshake, she gestures at the screen again, shoulders slumping in their crisp duty blues. "I can't even believe I'm seeing what I'm seeing on this tape. Yet there it is. There has to be /something/… maybe once the static's cleaned out…" She clicks on one of the bottommost windows, bringing it to the forefront - the footage in question. She sets it to play, watching it for the umpteenth time as she continues to speak. "What about… what about some sort of pattern recognition program? I've found a bunch of the garbage bytes already. You're welcome to the information. Maybe you can figure out a way to pull the characters out, at speed."

Haeleah shakes briskly with a firm, calloused hand, then returns her attention to the screen. "I'll take a look at it," she says. "Cool. Fun of working off a copy is you can frak with it a little bit. Though I'll try not to hit it too hard. Yeah, it's a trip, isn't it?" Low whistle let out as she eyes the screen. "I don't know what to think, personally. I never had a face-to-face meet with Rear Admiral Abbot. Can't say I ever got a read of the man. But a C-O is a C-O, y'know? I'm trying to avoid going into this with any preconceptions. Data is data. That's the beauty of numbers." A little gesture to the characters on the screen. "They just are what they are. You can try to manipulate them, but at their core you'll never beat the steadiness of mathematics. Once you understand the equation, that is."

"I studied the service jackets of all the senior staff for the war games," Rime says, a bit of the lilt creeping back into her voice. It has a cautious tone to it. "An old habit from Fleet HQ. You need to know what they've been through so you can find their unfamiliar territory. When the Admiral told Major Tillman to stand down and gave the XO's spot to Captain Gabrieli, I couldn't believe he refused that order. Could not believe." She straightens up a bit in her chair and finishes, more determinedly, "Better for everyone once this is figured out. /Whatever/ is figured out. And, like you said." She nods at the screen. "This mess we've got here is an easier sort of confusion to sort out."

"I wouldn't know about that, Lieutenant. I was on Leonis when that clusterfrak went down. Just…you go into something wanting to find anything in particular, you'll usually find a way to convince yourself you've spotted it. Or ignore what doesn't suit your fancy? Me? I am all about the chase with these programs. I don't care where they take me. It's the puzzle that's fun. Now. What'd you get?" Haeleah grins as if about to open a proverbial bag of goodies.

"Back from Leonis to a home sweet home that's anything but, right?" Rime shakes her head again. The corner of her mouth curls upward the slightest touch, mirroring a wry glimmer in her eyes. "You're right. An answer. The important part is an answer, /any/ answer, as long as it's the real one, and the fun…" Or intense frustration, in her case. "…is in getting there. Here." Shoulders re-squared, she sets back to work. A fresh file is started, into which she laborously copies all her spotted occurences of garbage bytes. "I tried pulling some out, manually, near the beginning," she says as she finishes, saving the work away. "I think it made a difference. Or I could have been cross-eyed and desperate for a sign my work was paying off. Maybe you'll have better luck. You'll keep me posted? I…" She pauses for a moment, moistening her bottom lip. "I realize I'm the last person most people want anywhere near this evidence. Maybe they'll consider this an act of good faith." Her mouth twitches. She doesn't look optimistic. "I just want answers, too."

Haeleah cants her head sideways at Rime. Shrugging. "You're on the access list, Lieutenant. Makes no nevermind to me whether you're Miss Popularity or not. We all want answers. I'll pick at it a little bit. See if this yields any better luck than the real thing. If nothing else, I won't have to be *quite* so paranoid about breaking it. Can't exactly promise I'll keep you posted. They're trying not to let the info we get leak much. But if you pop on by again, you can see what we've managed to dredge. And play some more, if you fancy."

"Definitely. I'll check in tomorrow after shift. I'll keep reading those horrible Audio/Video books for more clues, too. There has to be /something/…" Rime repeats, looking back to the screen for a moment. "Anyway. Thank you. Truly. I hope you'll have better luck than I did." She pushes the chair back a few inches before standing up. After tugging her jacket down and dusting off invisible lint, she gives Haeleah a nod and makes her way to the door.

"Later, Rime," Haeleah says, without really looking away from the screen. She slides into the chair, hunching over the keyboard. Fingers flexing. The click-click-clicking begins before Rime is properly out the door.

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