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A Second Encounter

Posted on Thu Nov 18th, 2021 @ 10:30pm by Lieutenant Commander Felicie Rivero & Commander Titus Livius Drusus PhD

Mission: The Archan Job
Location: Xenolinguistics

The last place Felicie wanted to be was in the Science labs, especially given her last interaction with the Chief Science Officer, which was largely why she found herself silently hoping and praying to any listening deity that he would be elsewhere and she'd be lucky enough to be dealing with some junior officer.

As she stepped through the doors into the xenolinguistics lab, her gaze immediately fell on the imposing form of Commander Drusus. "Figures..." she muttered darkly before exhaling slowly. "I take it you're the only one here?" she asked as she looked up at him.

Drusus had been looking for Lieutenant G'horan and was disappointed to find that the Efrosian xenolinguistics officer was nowhere to be found. Very disappointed. Performance management was the part of his job he disliked the most, but he especially disliked it when people weren't where they were supposed to be.

He heard the door open behind him and turned, expecting to see G'horan. Seeing, instead, the red headed Chief of Security entering the lab stoked a very different kind of disappointment in his mind. This one flavoured with the lingering unpleasantness of their last encounter, and the regret that Titus felt about how he handled himself. Nevertheless, her appearance triggered a defensive instinct and his back straightened ever so slightly as she spoke.

"So it would seem," he said, an agitated edge to his voice that was directed more at the absent Efrosian than Rivero. "Were you looking for Lieutenant G'horan?"

Felicie remained silent for a moment before shaking her head. "Not specifically," she finally said before holding up a PaDD. "I just need someone to decipher some messages, not sure if they're in another language or if they're encrypted. It's all good, I can come back, I'm sure you're busy."

Drusus glanced at the PADD and nodded slowly, his eyes narrowing just a fraction. This was an opportunity, he realised; a chance to make amends for the dishonour he felt. "No, no," he said, shaking his head and holding out his hand. "I can take a look at it. I'm not half the xenolinguist that G'horan is - when he's paying attention - but I should be able to at least tell you if its encryption or language."

Felicie handed the PaDD to him. "We're seeing the same kind of messages come through at semi regular intervals. The content varies a little, but the language or encryption or what ever it is is always the same. If it's an alien language, I'd want to know why the universal translator isn't translating it, I would have expected that it would have seen enough of these messages that it should at least be translating some of it by now..." she paused, taking a breath. "That's what makes me think it's some kind of encryption..."

Gazing at the PADD, Drusus immediately felt a spark of recognition. "I think your instinct is correct," he said, taking the PADD over to a workbench and activating one of the terminals there. "The sophistication of the universal translator is unimpeachable. It's not clunky like it was a century ago. Give it just a handful of samples of any language, verbal or otherwise, and it will at least start to show you patterns. If it's not giving you anything, the most likely scenario is that you've got an encryption. And ..." he trailed off as he tapped at the console, pulling up some of the programs on his personal server. "I think I have something that may help."

"Well, I welcome any help I can get," Felicie replied quietly.

"Here we go," Drusus continued, his entire attention focused on the task in front of him. "Computer, run algorithm MD-zero-four-zero over the message displayed on this PADD."

The computer made a chirp and a moment later said. "Confirmed."

Drusus turned to Felcie with a smile. "There you have it," he said, triumphantly. "It's an encrypted message. I've seen some of the more seditious factions on Magna Roma use methods like this. They add on an extra layer of encryption they call Autolycus, which is designed to deceive encryption detection scans into thinking they're looking at language. Then, when you try to run it through the universal translator it, quite rightly, tells you it isn't language."

"Right," Felicie said, watching the screen of the computer in front of them. "So, if this is an encryption, how do I break it without letting anyone know I've broken it? Instinct tells me that if I try and brute force it, it's going to either self erase or report back to someone. I don't want to twig anyone else that I know what's what."

The science officer shrugged and splayed his hands. "You'll need a cryptographer for that, I'm afraid," he said. "The Autolycus is rather basic and is only the top layer of encryption. It's meant as a feint in the hope of delaying anyone who intercepts the message. Once you get past it, you still have to get through whatever layers of encryption they've put on this. You'll need a better trained mind than mine to peel those back."

Felicie sighed, her momentary jubilation plagued by new found defeat. "Anyone you can recommend talking to?" She asked hopefully.

"I know some people in Starfleet Intelligence," Drusus replied, before quickly adding, "but I'm sure you have your own contacts there. I'd see what they can do; they have pretty good cryptographers."

"Thanks, I appreciate it. I'll see if I can come up with a computer algorithm to break it. I'm not sure I want to be broadcasting what I'm doing across communications channels right now." She paused for a moment. "I know you're busy, but thanks for taking the time," she added.

Drusus nodded amicably. "You're welcome, Commander," he said before hesitating a moment. "Listen, before you go. I want to apologise for my behaviour on the promenade earlier," he said, a genuine hint of remorse cracking through his usually even tone. "My captain was in trouble and I unfairly directed my ... anger about that onto you. You were in a difficult position and having me come at you like I did could not have been helpful. I hold myself to a high standard and, in that moment, I failed to meet that standard. I am sorry."

Felicie held up a hand, "No," she said firmly. "Your loyalty is to your Commanding Officer, you behaved exactly as I would have expected a loyal crew member to act if they perceive their Commanding Officer to be threatened. You should never apologize for holding yourself to your standards," she said quietly. "I would have been disappointed if you hadn't."

"You're gracious to say so," Drusus replied, nodding. He held out is hand in friendship. "Why don't we put that behind us and focus on moving forward?"

Taking his hand, Felicie offered a smile. "No point looking back, just stops you seeing what's coming," she said warmly. "How about we call this a new beginning instead. I'm Felicie."

Drusus returned the smile and shook her hand. "Nice to meet you. I'm Titus."


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