Witchhunt
Witchhunt
Summary: In the wake of the shootings in Sickbay, the hunt is still on for the virus wreaking havoc on the Kharon.
Date: PHD012 (29 July 2009)
Related Logs: Ghost in the Machine logs
Players:
Praxis..Persy..Roubani..

Kharon - Engineering

Engineering is still chaotic these days, teams going in and out of the batcave on repair calls and diagnostic runs. Roubani is sitting at the group of clean computer terminals that houses their precious data about the electronic plague, fingers moving over the keys of one keyboard with soft clicks and taps.

Praxis doesn't really come down here often, but that particular trend has come to a stop as circumstances don't really allow for him to focus on being up in the CIC for his whole shift. Moving down the hallways and dodging crew as they do their thang. Hands are folded tightly behind his back and he makes it to the terminals, a rather large intake of breath and a subsequent sigh. "Any news?" he asks, hoping there's something good goin' on.

Roubani's dark eyes shift up from the screen and then back down. He rests his elbows on the console edge, rubbing his upper lip with the back of his curled fingers. "Running comparison algorithms between them." His voice is quiet and reserved as he nods Praxis to one of the other two chairs at the consoles. "Have a seat, sir."

Praxis takes the invitation without complaint or much of a word, the tactical officer bending at the knees to settle down onto the chair where he can look at the screen and converse with Roubani simultaneously. "Will it stop execution immediately when it finds an inequality or is it going to spit out all the output when the whole thing is finished?" he asks, wondering how long it is before they have to wait for a result.

Persy comes jogging in, still toweling her hair. "Sorry I'm late! Lost track of the stupid time. And believe me, time is /stupid/. I mean, what good is it, anyways…?" she trails off with a sigh, dropping into a chair. "Hi," she offers, belatedly and with a tired smile.

She leans forward, elbows on her knees. "Comparing one of the clean machines to an infected system?"

"We will not have to wait," Roubani taps a key or two, sending a flood of information onto the monitor in front of Praxis. "If you see here, sir. The activation code of the old…and this is what is finding of the new." It's not done yet, still hashing data and showing them complicated discrepancy and similarity strings. "And the other is running the exploitation capabilities of the old versus the new." He gently scratches at the back of his head, a manuever made much that much easier by the fact that his thick curls are all but gone, cropped and shorn off in slightly uneven patches. His eyes flick up again at the sound of Persy's voice.

When Persy arrives, Praxis takes a look at his chronometer and then back at his ECM officer, relinquishing the console closest to Roubani so that the programmer can settle in. He is much more confident in her analyzing the data closely than in himself, although that is not to say he will not be either. "Understood, Ensign." he mentions. "Can we say with any relative confidence that we know precisely everything the more advanced virus can exploit? We did study it for some time."

"Okay. So what do we know…?" Persy muses, scanning the terminal. "We believe the Kharon was infected prior to launch. The planes were networked to the mainframe, so that's a possible point of entry. Since the planes were isolated and rolled back, no more plane problems — right?" She rakes her hands back through her hair. "So it's either been dormant in the mainframe, or was eradicated and reintroduced somehow. Possibly manually by Ensign McSketchy. And we still have no idea what they were able to interrogate out of him."

"As far as we can tell," Persy goes on, "it seems like the virus exploits bugs in the system to gain a foothold, then multiplies. Mutates to exploits other bugs. So on. It's infested every system, now."

Conveniently breaking pose order, there is a page suddenly booming over the intercom, paging Praxis back to the CIC. "Well, it appears that my attention is being called for." Demitros mentions, not even bothering to settle down at another station. "Tanner, keep me apprised. Make sure I get whatever information you two are able to glean from your work here." Without really waiting around for a reply, he walks foreward throughout the escort carrier.

"It was infected prior to launch with the old version." Roubani's voice is quieter today than it usually is, some of its usual intonation gone. His eyes stay on the screen rather than them, even as Praxis gets up and departs. "We have gotten no reports of the vipers showing signs of the new infections. Given the timing it is highly probable that this Ensign of yours reintroduced something into the system, though I take it from your words that is unconfirmed."

"Yeah. We still know next to nothing about Brighton," Persy nods. "Which I'll get on ASAP. And I'll wager the planes are clean for the same reason your machines are clean down here—they're not networked."

She pinches the bridge of her nose. "Which still leaves the question of how the other not-networked systems got infected. The virus should have been isolated."

"It doesn't make any sense," Roubani tells his keyboard under his breath. He sets his fingers to the keys and starts typing, sifting through the data scrolling across their screens. Then he pauses, changing screens with a couple taps and then settling his elbow on the console edge, rubbing his fingertips over his eyebrows. "Then we need two pieces of information. Number one, the main loopholes that the new infection is able to exploit. Number two, timestamps of the errors in each system it affected. If they began malfunctioning simultaneously versus in domino effect."

Persy snaps her fingers and taps her feet to a rhythm only she, apparently, can hear. Jazzy. "Nanovirus," she throws out there. "Say it's a nanovirus. It's in the air. It's undetectable. It would affect multiple systems at once." She rubs her temples. "But then it'd be in your clean machine. So. Defenestrate that idea."

Roubani is definitely not in the mood for jazzy. The snapping and tapping draws a flash of irritation in his dark eyes, which he brings under control by folding his arms and keeping his eyes on the screen as it scrolls, lips thinned. "There is nothing organic in our systems, Lieutenant. Instead of guessing, let's find what loophole it's exploiting."

Persy blinks at Roubani. Huh. "Right. See, a computer virus isn't, in fact, a virus. Ensign. It's code. Ergo, a nanovirus isn't necessarily organic. Often, it's a teeny, tiny machine. Inorganic."

She pauses, then sits back. "And I further humbly submit that examining theories is all we're going to be able to do until we have more information. Which we don't until that diagnostic you're running completes itself."

Her sarcasm gets no reponse. Roubani's eyes remain on the screen, largely unreadable. The only sound he makes is a soft exhale through his nose.

Deep breath. Persy shuts her eyes a moment, then leans her arms on the workspace. "Nadiv. We're both frustrated. Okay? I apologize if taking stabs in the dark annoys you—but seriously. Theories are still all we've got right now. I'll keep them to myself from now on, until I have something to back 'em up. Okay?"

Roubani's expression says nothing. He's just kind of shut off except for his eyes making small flickers across the screen. Sometimes it looks like code. Sometimes it looks like Vendas' bullet-ridden body. "I am not annoyed, sir. And I will not dictate to a superior officer what should and should not be said." That said, he goes on in the same formal tone. "I do not like disorganisation. I would feel better if we prioritised what we needed to know, and kept separate track of theories and how they do or do not support findings."

"How it was introduced to the system. What bugs it's exploiting, precisely. Why it appeared to shut down, then escaped containment," Persy ticks off on her fingers. "What am I missing?"

Roubani scratches his fingers through the side of his hacked-off hair. "Its activation trigger, if there is one. Personally, I might suggest that how it was introduced is of lower priority than what it is exploiting. Bugs, trigger, introduction." His fingers rove from his hair to his eyebrow again, pressing into the ridge. "What is the exact timeline of what happened, from the start of the second outbreak? Beginning from the incident before that triad game."

"Okay," Persy says. "The first incident we noted was — and we should confirm with Praxis — a brief power outage, 20 minutes post-jump, during the Scorpia mission. Shortly after power came back online, the planes stopped reading as Colonials. DRADIS bug. That was day 91. We can assume, then, the virus was introduced — or triggered — around or on that date. System logs should confirm that. We should start seeing the infection at work."

Roubani picks up a pen as she starts to talk. His professed dislike of disorganisation was definitely no joke; he draws a very neat chart with several divides and begins filling it in. Date, time, incident as she details them. A slight nod indicates for her to go on once he's got that down.

"Confirmed." Praxis says as he enters back into the area, having apparently taken care of whatever it was that he took care of. Before he decides to contribute any more to this effort, Demitros figures he should listen in to precisely what the two are doing before he gives his input. However, it looks like they're just running an organized timeline or something. The LT has a seat wherever available.

"Okay. That same shift, I was asked if I'd seen anything weird, and that brought to mind Ensign Brighton. He was just acting… jumpy. But I chalked it up to the pressure we'd all been under." Persy shrugs. "That might not mean anything. By day 94, we'd contained — or believed we'd contained — the virus across all systems. Shortly after containment, the virus appeared to go dormant. Then, on day 99, we discovered the virus had 'escaped.' Slipped containment, as it were. That's when shit hit the fan, shipwide."

"Sir," Roubani murmurs as Praxis comes back. He's still writing, on a nice big chart that everyone can see. Brighton's name is written in the margin with a question mark at the right time spot. Right at the end, his pen comes to a slow stop. Pause. Petit mal seizure? No, his face is moving, lines suddenly deepening between his brows. "During the Scorpia mission. When, exactly…during the first engagement when we crashed? Or the rescue ops?"

Praxis lets his eyes drift over the big chart for a moment, folding his hands in his lap. He locks onto Roubani, chewing his lip before answering. "The anomaly was experienced during the Scorpia rescue ops. More specifically, when we were acquiring the Tylium and returning the civilians back to the surface." he explains.

Persy laces her fingers behind her head and leans back a bit, eyes flickering from the chart to Roubani.

"Day 91." Roubani's talking to himself mostly with that. Looking at his face is like watching a car engine trying repeatedly to turn over. "And between day 91 and day…" He glances at the chart. "…94. How many incidents of errors or such did you note?"

Praxis answers decisively. "At my station on day 91, I noted one discrepancy at my station; the brief power outage." he mentions. "That was the ONLY discrepancy that -I- encountered. The others, such as the malfunctioning DRADIS, were reported by the others belatedly during my report to Commander Sheridan."

Persy shakes her head. "Just the power fluctuation and the DRADIS prior to the major malfunctions."

Roubani nods slightly, looking at the chart. "When the system reboots after a power outage," he murmurs to both, "What is the sequence of bootup? Is there a window between the time the power comes on and when our firewalls and security come back up?"

Praxis glances to Persi and then to Roubani as he poses the question. "Generally our computers are non-networked so they do not require a firewall to protect those particular entry points because they don't exist normally. I suppose the console would already have to be infected to hard boot in that particular fashion."

Persy shakes her head. "No firewalls—there's no network. Hardware security's always in places, and software security requires a logon and password, but it's not something that 'comes on.' Pretty much, a rebooting shouldn't leave the system any more vulnerable than it would be otherwise." She nods at Praxis.

"Mmm." Scratch one idea. Roubani presses the end of the pen into his eyebrow, pushing the end of it upwards. "Are there any linking circumstances at all that you might note between the night of the Tylium op, day 94, and day 99?"

"All systems appear to be affected now, but the most prevalent symptom of this virus is the ability to create a quick power surge, disabling everything for a moment before the system restarts itself. Only once has it been able to disable power completely on the ship." Praxis explains. "That is the only pattern I have been able to oberve thus far."

"Once we had it contained, it seemed to slow down and eventually stop replicating. That was the behavior we expected — it'd run out of room to grow, essentially. Now, theoretically, if the containment had a flaw or a weakpoint, the virus could have busted through. But that's not what we observed. It just… vanished." Persy makes a little 'splodey motion with her hands. "Poof! Leaving the containment intact. Super weird."

She shakes her head. "That was sort of… the progression of things. Not really linking, maybe. But."

Roubani makes a few more notes as they both talk, organising them on the chart. He might just be writing for the sake of forcing his own mind to focus, hard to tell. "Why would it be able to jump non-networked systems but not infect these…" His eyes flicker to the machines in front of them.

Praxis scratches his chin. "Perhaps each station was infected in turn individually one by one. It was several days before we even saw the major symptoms." Demitros reasons. "Another possibility is that someone set up perhaps a temporary network of their own and then broke it once the program was distributed." The tactical officer offers one last crazy suggestion. "Nanites in the air?" Creepy.

Persy sits up straight in her chair, looking vindicated and pointing at Praxis. "SEE?" she asks the Ensign. "I'm not SO out there." She rubs the back of her neck. "The virus was uploaded manually or remotely to all systems during an upgrade. Kharon's had several, most recently to the CIC. It's a mutated version of the first virus, replicated from trace amounts that weren't properly cleaned or were overlooked."

Roubani's startle reflex is still set to ultrahigh after last night, Persy's sudden noise — and especially that particular aggressive movement — causing him to flinch painfully. He clears his throat quietly, taking a breath to calm. "Yes…we said it's a mutation." He gently chews his lip, looking at the machines in front of them. "I wonder. These consoles." He taps the edge of the monitor gently. "Perhaps they're safe precisely because they do nothing. They aren't important enough to hit." A slight frown. "Is there a way to…perhaps 'mask' the function of a system? For example, a way perhaps to make the affected systems appear to malicious code like one of these." A tap on the clean machine again. "Even temporarily, to buy a little time."

Praxis nods his head slightly, thinking perhaps Roubani could be onto something, however it's his job to play Devil's Advocate. "One might argue the water heater isn't important enough to hit." he mentions. "However, at least that particular system has /a/ function. These computers do not." He rubs at his chin. "I hope we know for certain these terminals are clean. It might be slightly hard to notice because how do you hinder something that is doing nothing?" Demitros frowns at himself. That again may prove the Ensign correct. Of course, as to masking functions, that would be Persy's expertise.

Persy stands and rubs her eyes. "It's possible. Maybe. But with the virus already there… I don't think it'd be fooled by a 'mask'. It's already beyond 'skin deep', y'know?" She stretches. "Let me mull this over. Thanks for giving the meeting some structure, Ensign. It was helpful."

"Perhaps the water heater malfunctions are just a byproduct of a more essential, broader system," Roubani murmurs. He watches the screen a few moments. "It must be using some manner of algorithm to determine what to attack, as it's not indiscriminate. If we could fool that even for a little while." He rubs his ring finger between his brows, eyes half-focused on the screen. "And keep working."

Praxis narrows his eyes. "That algorithm must be extremely complex. I mean on the level of artificial intelligence complex. I'll bet you anything it's either learning or it just knows what kinds of things to look for." Demitros pauses for a moment. "Do you think that if we replicated one of the systems…maybe using one of these terminals; we can test for the existance of the virus by masking all of our real systems and having the faux-system in place and wait for it to spread to it?"

Roubani lowers his head, attention still on the screen as his fingers slide through his hair, scissoring around one uneven patch. "I'm not sure, sir. But finding whether we can or not is a goal we can reach." His mouth thins into a slight frown. "What concerns me is the trigger. The old one was activated by /something/…I think I told you. Some kind of outside signal. This one has traces of similar code, but I could not tell you what exactly sets it off. It's a big variable in this equation."

"Absolutely." Praxis agrees to the first, but the mention about the trigger does make Demitros ponder. "Yes, the trigger. You had speculated it came from the Raider before?" he asks. "Well what I am going to do is talk to my communications officer and see if we can review the dish and sensor logs to see what kind of signals hit the Kharon and when. I am also going to have Persy examine an instance of the virus's source code. Finding the main function/entry point may betray exactly what kind of signal would trigger it from a dormant state. Every program and program-like thing has a trigger, whether it be running an executable or sending a radio signal or otherwise. Any other suggestions?"

"It was broadly speculated as such, sir, as we had noted a circumstance pattern," Roubani says quietly, his mouth still in that tense frown he's been wearing for quite a while now. "There is definitely code set to detect an outside trigger, though. The best we could reason is that it was a signal comparable to…to morse, almost. I am relatively sure it is not a standard 'opening an .exe' as one might expect." A slight pause. "I confess I can't think of anything else right now. I will keep running through what we have here." His eyes flick over the screens.

"I have majored in both communications and cryptopgraphy in my education history. I am confident my men and I will produce what it was that set off the malicious code and /hopefully/ the point of origin." The tactical officer regards the chart for a moment, scanning over before eyes fall upon and analyze Roubani's expression, or lack thereof. "No, I am forced to agree with you about the .exe there. I was not expecting that; that might have been -too- easy, all they'd have to do would have a traitor double click on it." Mirth twinkles in the TO's eyes. "I will start on my plan right away, and keep you apprised."

There's no mirth returned. Roubani's profile is to Praxis, and there's no twitch of lip or corner of eye to indicate he might've been tempted to smile. There's just nothing at all tonight. "Understood, sir." He sits up further to the console, tapping a key to wake the screen back up. "I will be in contact tomorrow on progress here."

Praxis is able to understand that he cannot be jovial. Then again, he doesn't know jack about the snipe anyway, maybe he doesn't laugh at all. It doesn't matter, now. They are here to a do a job so that no one else dies. The TACCO can get to know the snipe later…if that opportunity ever arises. Knight stands from his perch. "Thank you, Ensign." is all he says before Demitros turns on his heel and marches out of there.

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