Friday, 9 November 2012

Part two: fixed


Brook should be officially on duty now, but with the most pressing of the jobs successfully under way by her drones – the fact that none of which were reporting jammed hatches was a pleasant surprise - she found herself drawn back to the out of bound corridors from earlier that day. They covered a fare amount of floorspace considering how small the crew section was compared to the size of the overall ship. 
She went back to the junction where she'd seen the spyder flash past, but this time went in the direction it had come from. This meant she was headed towards the edge of the crew quarters, the final corridor before the ship gave way to the vacuum of the main-bay and engines. Around here were mainly store rooms with various bits of tech, equipment or supplies  that didn't respond well to be stored in the cold of the main-bay. The machine shop was a little further down the corridor, but outside of where the exclusion had been in force. Nevertheless, Brook wondered if maybe the Sergeant had seen anything given that cantankerous old bag could often be found pottering in the machine shop. 
Brook was absent mindedly brushing her hand along the wall of the corridor while the Trax carried her slowly by. Something wasn't right. She stopped the Trax and disconnected it while she looked around. There weren't any busted open hatches or scorch marks that would obviously indicate a spyder at work, but still something was nagging at her. She drifted back past the wall and closed hatches she'd been running her hand across. Nothing obvious. She put her hand back on a hatch, then another, then another. It was warm. Brook lent in close, sniffed. Fresh polymer. The door was new, Brook scratched a nail along a small section of it and was able to leave a slight indentation. So it had maybe been fabricated an hour or two ago. What was it the door to? Brook called up the ship plan once again.

****misc sanitary supplementary equipment store b4*****
Why would someone want to rip a door off a cleaning product storeroom? Anyone with even the most basic clearance could enter the room, Brook included. Also, why would they then go to such an effort to replace it? Try to think like a detective Brook told herself. She then told herself to grow up and stop playing detectives. But she was also suffering from an annoying sense of dissatisfaction at not immediately knowing the answer. That's why she loved her job in engineering. It was a job were problems could be solved and 99 times out of 100 she could solved them without breaking a sweat (the other 1 required the crowbar and some sweat). Problem solving came naturally to her. So could she turn that into something that would help her here? 
She pinged the unlock request to the door and it opened with that familiar swish. She pulled herself gently into the store room, lights flicking on, illuminating two lines of shelves, a variety of products stowed for zero g transportation. This was the room the cleaning drones would come to restock in for those stains that just wouldn't shift. She imagined that this room was in frequent use when that creep Si requested a cabin clean. 
A message icon started blinking at the edge of her vision. With a flare of frustration she opened it; it had better not be another stuck engineering drone. It wasn't. Systems AI wanted to know why she'd entered the room she was currently standing in, to remind her that the room entry request was logged and that any supplies used had to be properly catalogued with the stock control AI. 
A smile worked its way onto Brook's face. She didn't have the level of authorisation needed to check out the room entry logs, but she was confident that they would show no entry requests during the time that the corridors were out of bounds. You don't need to make an entry request if you've got a freaking spyder. Those things don't need to knock. 
The smile quickly turned into another frown as Brook realised that this development just brought with it a fresh set of questions. If you can hack drone control and Trax management to the extent that you can steal a spyder, mark a quarter of the crew quarters out of bounds and then rip open a door, why couldn't you just hack the room entry request log if you want to get into somewhere without detection? And why the heck would you go to all that effort to enter a cleaning cupboard?! 
Brook drifted down between the shelves, looking for anything out of place. As if she would even know that something was out of place, having never been in this flipping room before. She came against the end wall of the room none the wiser. The smell of the fresh polymer had drifted down to meet her, almost as if to poke fun at her inability to solve the mystery. Brook grunted, pushed off the end wall and floated back to the hatchway. With one last confused look into the store room she let the door slide shut as she reconnected her Trax for the next leg of her investigations. 
The machine room was the largest of the spaces in the crew section of the ship. About twice as large as the canteen (and four or five larger than the moribund gym) it was roughly square with the heavy tools arranged around the perimeter and a few sparse workbenches in the central section. The walkways between the tools and benches were about two metres across to enable the larger engineering drones to manoeuvre around. At the far end of the room was the polymer synthesis facility. It looked a little bit like a large bath, albeit a bath filled with a molten greenish polymer; the occasional bubble gave it the feel of some sort of modern day witch's cauldron. A range of articulated drone arms hung above it, ready to pull out or manipulate whatever concoction the large computer terminal next to it had fed in as a design. 
Brook's intention was to investigate the computer terminal, see if she could work out when the new hatchway had been requested, and even better, who did the requesting. However, as with so many best laid plans, Sergeant Gumelar got in the way. Brook was considering turning round and abandoning her quest, but it was too late; the sergeant had spotted her. 
"And what brings the little grease weasel to my lair?" the Sergeant looked up from the workbench she had been bent over working, although her boots remained clamped into the zero g clips at its base. 
Although the Sergeant was an easy couple of decades older than Brook, the two had started service on this ship at the same time. Their mutual dislike was quickly established, Brook's stubbornness a deeply unsuitable stable-mate for the Sergeant's aggressively direct nature. Access to the machine room was an age-old battleground. Officially it was classified under engineering, but it was almost a second home for the Sergeant. 
"This is, er, my, er lair, just as much as it is yours" said Brook tentatively "I need to, er, run some diagnostics"
"Why not send a drone?" the Sergeant enquired, "like you usually do" the intimation was pointed
"Effective drone management is essential for efficiency" Brook could kick herself for sounding so much like the PR AI. Sergeant Gumelar just smiled. 
"I'm trying to weld a 3.0 gage aluminium rod to a nano-carbonite two ply composite. The SIG weld is hot enough, so why isn't it taking?"
The Sergeant's grin grew wider, Brook's now almost permanent frown hardened
"Did you de-ionise the rod? This close to the main engine we get heck of a lot of static"
The Sergeant's grin turned into a look of understanding; she slowly nodded. Her eyes flicked down and left, hand dancing
"Good point, and without accessing the central engineering repository. Maybe you aren't losing your edge after all" although this was praise by the Sergeant's standards, it was also designed to rankle Brook
"Why would I need the central repository for some quite so elementary" Brook retorted, the Sergeant had pushed just a little too far this time "And stop hacking my access files" 
"I'll hack what the bastard weasel I want to" the Sergeant snarled
Another retort half formed in Brook's mind, but then another thought promptly shouldered it out of the way. Someone capable of high level hacks, familiar with the machine shop for rebuilding doors, as well as knowing how to run a drone; I think we have a number one suspect. Brook smiled. This must have unsettled the Sergeant who unclipped herself and pushed off towards Brook. 
"You got a problem, girl?" the Sergeant enquired when just half a metre away. 
"Quite the opposite" responded Brook "I just can't help but seem to solve problems" the smile remained
"Well, the next problem you're going to have is what to do when you wake up vac-suitless in an airlock" the Sergeant drifted a little closer, coffee breath washing over Brook
"When are you going to understand that you can't intimidate me like you do your little chump marines" Brook leant towards the Sergeant and whispered "I'm on to you. I don't know what you're up to, but I will find out. So you can take your flipping spyder and stuff it right up your saggy old bum"
"What in the weasel fucking shit dolphin are you on about girl?" the Sergeant's look, while still angry now mixed in to puzzlement, but Brook didn't see it as she'd turned to head back out of the room. 
Brook had to fight the urge to do a celebratory dance at the hatchway, another mystery solved AND she was going to mess up the Sergeant's plans. She just had to figure out what those plans were now, but that was a minor issue. The point was that she'd got to Gumelar - the Sergeant only swore about dolphins when she was cataclysmicly angry.

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