PHD 234: Smokescreen
Summary: Matto, Legacy, Willem, and Roubani spent another night hunting for the origin of the transmitter…and find paydirt.
Date: PHD 234 (9 Dec 2009)
Related Logs: Film Appreciation

Kharon - Ready Room

The ready room is dimmed, projection screen scrolled down. The overhead unit is whirring softly, bluish light streaming from the front of it to the white. Late-night picture show. Roubani's in the second row, in the seat that's become his preferred one over these last long days of tedious vidwatching. His laptop's open, glowing softly, wires snaking from it down to the floor and to the wall. Remote in hand, he's letting it play at normal speed as the starboard side of the Kharon drifts idly by. Stupid starboard.

Thea's curled up in a seat to the left and behind Roubani's, settled back with her knees propped against the seat in front of her. She's got a cup of tea resting on her stomach as she studies the screen in front of her.

Matto has got his legs curled under him, boots off on the floor and keeping his feet warm underneath him, leaning half-against Nadiv to keep an eye on the laptop with him at the proper moments, cross-referencing the images on the small screen and the large screen. Now, as the nine-tenths of the CAP cycle of no interest drifts by, he lets his head droop a little.

This is how life has been in here, mostly. Things cycle past. Huzzah. Roubani does a remarkable job of keeping any hint of tedium off his face, though, eyes just on the screen as it goes. "Think this one might be headed around port…" That twinge of hope that comes when something runs the small chance of breaking the monotony.

Thea leans forward slightly as Nadiv mentions something on the screen, hands curling around her cup. "Hopefully it's heading -somewhere-," she says quietly. "If not, we've got some paint that we can watch dry."

Matto's head snaps upward again as Nadiv says something. "Hng," he makes some sort of noise of acknowledgement, clearing his throat and straightening his back to get ready for the pass.

"Did you see that?" Roubani's thumb quckly clicks the pause button on the remote, a second after something blinks past. "Are we looking at the right area?"

"A blink," Thea says, nearly dropping her cup. "I saw a blink." Her head tilts to the side slightly. "I think so. It looks to be the right area. Can you rewind?"

Matto looks down to the laptop after the blink, eyes flickering back and forth between the two screens a few times in rapid succession before he reaches over into the Poet's lap to tap a few coordinates into the program, "Yah, look… there's our angle… it's the right area, at least. Grab a still of it to make sure?"

The frame in question is black and white, grainy, and extremely low resolution. If not for the location, that blink could be any bit of random hull fragment refracting stray light from an afterburner.

"Mmmhmm. Let me back up…" Roubani glances at the screen as Matto indicates. Then, finding the rewind button with his thumb he gently taps on it, backing the footage up frame by painfully slow frame until they're back in that elusive moment. "Should be right…there."

Thea's now leaning on the seat in front of her, eyes glued to that spot on the screen. Glued and, well, a bit squinty.

"It… well, it's right there," Kissy admits. "Maybe it's just another flare? Can you pull up those other flare shots we took?" he asks.

Roubani mutters, pensively, "If that /is/ it, then we'll know it was there at this date. And already blinking like that. Which, if one assumes that blinking means it was actively transmitting something…then whatever triggered the start of the attacks wasn't the activation itself. Of course, I could be wrong. What we'd need is to know the first time before this that it is definitely /not/ there, which would give us a timeframe." He glances at Legacy as though asking for her thoughts, and then nods to Matto, gesturing to the laptop. "They're all in the same folder as the last time we looked."

"You're right," Thea tells Roubani with a dip of her head. "Let's go back one week, do you have those tapes? We'll see if we can get a bead on that specific spot on the ship. We'll go back in one week increments until it's not there, then narrow it down."

Matto steals the laptop so he won't have to keep crawling on top of Nadiv to type (not that he minds, it's just more convenient this way). He pulls up a couple of the other photos and tabs through them, lifting his other hand to scrfatch at the back of his head as he does. "It doesn't have quite the same light spread when you look at the flares close-up," he murmurs. "And it's definitely right in place," he lifts both brows. "Seems like we might have a winner. A week before the attacks…" he muses on it briefly, "Whose CAP is this? We might have better luck getting the same angle if we go with the same pilot." Kissy, at least, is a creature of habit when it comes to his daily routines.

Willem arrives from the Hallway - Hangar Deck.
Willem has arrived.

"Mmm…yes, sir, we do." Roubani looks a bit happier now. Well, not happier, but at least more focused than he was five minutes ago. "Let's see, this would've been…" He picks up the sheet of tapes, rattling off the callsign of the pilot in question. "Their CAP. You're right, we ought to start with a tape of theirs, shouldn't we. Let me just find it, hold on a moment." The three of them are sitting in the middle of the second and third rows of seats, watching CAP footage. A laptop's open in front of Matto. On the screen, there's a paused frame of the port side of the Kharon's hull - showing the blinky monster.

Edging through the hatch as it swings open with his unkempt hair slightly damp from the shower, Willem pads in in his duty greens, swivelling his head towards one side and catching the small gathering of pilots. "Perfect timing." He states, dryly as he strolls towards the row of seats.

The three little pilots, all in a…well, not quite a row. They're all three kind of clustered together, looking a bit more lively than they had been during this showing of Outside Kharon Theater. Thea grins at both Matto and Roubani, dipping her head once. "Good idea, Kiss. I feel oddly excited about this."

Matto is certainly awake now, which could barely have been said about him a few minutes ago. "Willem," he calls, "come here and look at this still we caught." Yeah, there's a little edge of excitement there. "Evidently the thing was already up there and flashing a week before the attacks began."

"Now to track down when it appeared…and who bloody put it there." Roubani talks between his teeth. His fingers push buttons on the remote, the frozen picture staying up on the screen and earmarked while he consults the side menu for the other discs. "Ah, here we go. One week prior….same pilot. Let's see what we've got." He lifts a hand to wave to Willem's voice behind him. "Evening, Price."

"Like an Aquarian barnacle." Willem says immediately in response to Matto's statement, squinting a bit and furrowing his brows in a dramatic wave of wrinkles. "I can't imagine we could have picked it up in a debris field. Who had access to the hull? Unless it got affixed in one of the boarding operations." He falls silent as he belately adds a response to Roubani's greeting, sinking into an open seat on the edge and leaning over, peering at the screen. "Evening."

Thea remains leaning forward and smiles up at Willem. "Evening, Rebound," she says, then snaps back to the screen. "I think we're all going to be staring at that one spot," the Captain comments with a wry little smile.

Matto draws the machine back down into his lap after Willem's gotten a good look at the shot. "If that area had been damaged by a collision during an encounter, someone would have found the device during repairs," he remarks. "And unless an entire engineering team was in on this, it seems unlikely it could have been planted during repairs." He looks up again, then, as Nadiv cues up the next tape.

"I don't know," Roubani says, in reponse to Matto. "Not everyone on a repair team can see everyone else clearly at all times. That is what the tow lines are for, making sure people don't get lost. It seems more feasible that someone did this on an approved hullwalk rather than an unapproved one. But given the rest of everything that's happened, at this point who knows." He clicks the remote, starting the tape going. Scrolling at 2x through the dull parts where the pilot's just staring at stars are or unrelated parts of the ship, and slowing when it seems they might have a chance of getting in range.

"Staring at that one spot?" Willem quips to Black Cat with sidelong glance before staring back at the screen. "This is going to be like when we got a copy of that 'Chrome Dawn' video when I was a kid and there was that Hypatia Phillips beach scene…" He trails off, awkwardly masking this train of thought with a well-placed cough. "Aaanyway." He does focus on said spot and starts narrowing his eyes. "I defer to the man with expertise in repair processes on that one." Obviously indicating Roubani as he notes the man's exchange with Matto. "Starting with something basic - when was the last time we knew for a fact the device wasn't there?"

"You liked that one too," Thea asks Willem with a grin, not looking at him. "I think I must have watched that five or six hundred times." Yes, she's serious. "That's what we're looking for, Rebound. We've gone back a week from when we first spotted it."

It takes a little while for the viper to strafe by the location in question; ten, nearly fifteen minutes of staring at the screen as the grainy black and white landscape of space, stars, and battered carrier roll by. But now that the quartet know where to look, there is a brief but distinct blip near that damned engine mounting. It's there and gone in a heartbeat, due to the speed at which the fighter is traveling.

"Hm," Kissy replies to Nadiv with a short nod as he reconsiders his earlier opinion— but then the recording's slowing again and his eyes and all his attentions are pinned to the screen, looking for— "Was that it again?" he wonders aloud.

"I-…" Roubani's finger snaps quickly on the pause button. Second verse, same as the first, and he backs it up frame by frame until the blinking thing is in view again. "Well, well. That does seem to be it. Alright, well we know it was there two weeks before the attack, then. Should we keep going week by week?"

"Call it a side effect of youth." Willem says, flippantly, covering his mouth as he lets out another light cough and gazes on at the screen. "Well, there it is, at least." He begins as he leans in to study the tiny spot on the film footage. "Might as well. Then we can narrow it down from there."

"No sense in shaking things up now," Kissy replies in agreement, as though something about this pattern of investigation were ritualistically pulling results out of thin air.

Castor arrives from the Hallway - Hangar Deck.
Castor has arrived.

The next tape shows the same deal as the previous one, and the one before that. The same blip, the same location; the only thing that changes slightly is how battered the Kharon's hull looks.

In fact, it's another stack of tapes and another hour later before any change from the status quo is spotted at all. This is about the point where most people would be throwing in the towel and giving it a rest for the night. There's only so long you can stare at grainy as shit footage, searching for a solitary blink in a sea of grey smudges seen in rapid transit from the gun camera of a viper.

But there, on a tape marked 'PHD 98 08:00 CAP 1' is something glorious: no blip at all. It should be there, but it isn't. That, or everyone's finally going blind from hours of scrutiny.

The phrase 'throwing in the towel' has never been part of Roubani's vocabulary. Unfortunately for those around him. He, Willem, Legacy, and Matto are sitting in the dimmed ready room, watching some extremely tedious footage on the projector screen. CAP footage, one can see if one watches closely. Now getting down into the double-digits of date, Roubani's body suddenly tenses, hand and remote snapping up. Pause. "There! Did you-…?"

"Muh?" Kissy wonders, eyes weary, the laptop long handed back over to Nadiv. "I didn't see anything," he answers. Though he doesn't sound particularly surprised; his eyelids are about to go on strike.

Time passes. MOAR COFFEE is accquired, as at one point Willem ducked out and ducked back in again. Bathroom break, etc. And that damn device is -still there-. Until that one tape from PHD 98 hits and suddenly it is not. "That's the point. There's nothing to see. So we know when it was -not- there." he responds.

Thea's like Roubani. Giving up? Stubborn is her middle name. Hell no, she won't go. Of course, she's rubbing her eyes as well. "There's nothing there," Thea says quietly. "Alright, so sometime between this tape and the last one is when it showed up. Do you have PHD 99, Poet?"

"Exactly." Roubani's elbow bumps into poor Matto's arm as he sits up straighter, and he hardly notices. "Ninety-eight…ninety-eight…that's." His fingers slide into his hair and scratch there, almost pulling at it. "That's right before the virus hit." He scrubs at his cheek and his right eye, nodding to Legacy. "We should have 99. Let me skip ahead…" Remote. Buttons. Push. The tape fast forwards…and…he blinks as the next date that shows on the screen marks this as PHD 100. "Um."

The doors to the ready room open and Castor enters to find people watching a movie. He is preparing for CAP since it is late at night and someone has to do the Vampire Shift. He blinks as he makes his way over to grab a clipboard and once he has that in hand he lowers his head and produces a pencil stuck at the top of the clipboard but it is a bit to dark to make everything out. So, he turns and looks at what all the hub bub is about.

"We did have widespread systems failures when the virus tagged us," Kissy offers mildly, as the date in question seems missing from files. "It's not too strange to think we should have some data loss," he points out. "Let's see what we've got at 100?"

Thea's brow furrows slightly. She glances over at Castor, briefly, but what's on the screen - or not on the screen, as the case may be - has her attention. "It was on there for well over a hundred days," she murmurs quietly, shaking her head.

"That was the night of a thousand horrors." Wil rattles off. "There was a physical vector for the Virus' introduction to the system, though, wasn't there? Uhh. I mean, the Kharon didn't get it from the toilet seat." He pauses and adds a comment, lamely, "This ship's data storage isn't networked I think? If that makes a difference?"

"I don't know," Roubani says, scratching the side of his head. "But none of the hard discs are here at all from '99. Not from anyone. And look-.." He pauses the 100 tape as it passes by port. "There it is. Regardless of what happened to the data, that is definitely a pinpoint. And considering the mess going on on the ship, it's no wonder someone would have managed to get it out there in all that commotion. The only good thing is it does rule out anyone who came aboard the Kharon after 100." He exhales in a tense breath, glancing at Legacy. "Long time." He hasn't noticed Castor yet, as the man hasn't spoken. And his focus is all on this screen.

"That is an awful long while," Kissy remarks, oh-so-helpfully, leaning back in his seat and lifting both arms above his head. "So either the birds' data encryption got totally fritzed and we lost the day's footage… or someone got rid of the disks after the fact."

Castor looks around at everyone in the room and he begins to put two and two together and he dips his head as he attempts to fill out his pre-flight paperwork in the dim light. He isn't trying to be noticed at the moment since he is here to get himself up in the air.

Thea finally leans back in her chair, mentally chewing over something. "We'll need to see if the tapes were signed in," she says after a moment. "But we need to be aware of the fact that it's likely that virus was a distraction so that the transmitter could get put on the hull."

Sparro walks in, nodding briefly to Castor as he heads up front. "Find anything interesting?" He asks, leaning against one of the chairs in the front row.

Roubani pauses the tape. The room is almost completely dark, a projector screen rolled down with footage now stopped on it, showing the Kharon's port side. "Well…that wasn't the first occurence of the virus. But I don't doubt it's connected." He taps the remote against the side of his neck, squinting dry eyes. "So. Who gets the report?" He asks his two superior officers, wryly. Then he falls silent, the appearance of another voice in the room startling him a little bit. "Hello?"

"There should also be some indication of who took the tapes out, if anyone, before us," Kissy notes, since they had to sign the things out from the CAG, after all. He then shoots a brief glance between the Poet and the Kittenfaced Captain before he swiftly puts his finger to the tip of his nose in the universal signal for 'not it.'

Thea manages a grin for Kissy as she sits back. "We're finishing up, Birdman," she calls over her shoulder. "Just send what we found on to Spider, Poet. This is your project and you're getting the credit for it. You, Kissy, Rebound and Thorn." She takes a sip of cold coffee and pulls a face.

Leda looks over at Sparro and he says, "I believe some tapes were stolen." He then goes back to filling in his report and he raises an eyebrow at something on the report and he erases something as eyes flicker over to Kissy and Matto and he smiles for a moment before his head lowers and he goes back to working on his preflight.

He always seems to miss the party, doesn't he? Sparro just nods. "Well, if there is credit to be had, then congratulations, you guys." He glances at the stilled image. "I hope you found something useful…"

"'Credit' is the last thing anyone is after at this point, I think, sir," Roubani murmurs quietly. He shoots Matto a slight face at the 'not it' gesture. Friggin' Lieutenants. And then he clears his throat quietly. "Stolen is a bit of jumping to conclusion, sir." But anymore detail he leaves to Legacy to release or not. He hits the remote button for the room lights (because surely by now they have the technology for that), and the projector screen starts to roll its lazy way upwards.

"Poet is right," Thea says with a look toward Leda, lips pursed slightly. "I think it's too early to be spreading rumors about a project people have only heard half conversations on." Oh, yes. There's a tart note to her voice. It's not quite censure, merely a small warning. "And I know you're not after credit, Poet, but the fact is that you took point on this project and have run with it. It's appreciated - and your hard work has been noticed." Even if it is just by Thea. She pushes to her feet, stretching. Things pop, audibly.

Matto never had to become a full LT to call not-it. He learned that trick back when he was five. He gives the Poet a grin at the face, though, before he looks back toward Thea and, past her, to Castor. "Yeah, last thing we need is to add fuel to the fire of any conspiracy theories that aare out there. You know how that kind of thing can drive a person right around the bend… well, it's even worse with a whole bunch of people. Until we know something for sure, talking about it will just cause a panic."

Leda looks at Roubani and Matto for a moment and he shrugs, "Well, this is your baby now so good on you both. My mouth is shut on this thing so you can relax, Kissy." Check, check, and check the pencil marks on the sheet of paper on the clipboard.

"Sir." Roubani just nods slightly at Thea's praise, as mildly uncomfortable as he always is with such things. He shuts the laptop with a soft click, pulling cables out as he too stands to stretch. It's been hours in that damn chair. After a few moments "CAPs going out?" He asks the two recently-arrived men.

Sparro nods at Rou. "Just finished pre-flight. Oughta go get into flight gear," he says, glancing down at his sweats. "Just wanted to see what we were watching. Thought maybe Black Cat had found some Romantic Comedy she couldn't wait to see."

"Good hunting," Thea tells Sparro and Castor, both of them getting a warning look. "Leda? Is there a problem," she asks quietly. It's one of those sweetly mild questions that isn't.

Castor looks over at Thea and he shakes his head and he says, "No, sir. Everything is fine." He says this in honest tones he then he looks over at Sparro, "By the way, the best part of Vampire shift, you get breakfast for dinner." This seems to make him smiles a bit and then he looks back at Thea to nod his head again, problems Castor has none.

Matto gives a look aside to Nadiv at Castor's comment, but anything he might have been about to say (nothing, certainly, that would have been appreciated, to judge from that smile) stays unsaid as Legsy questions Castor further. He tries to unfold his legs from under him, finally getting them down on the floor to find that he can't feel them at present. Oh, he's going to have a fun pins and needles moment in a sec here.

Sparro laughs at Castor's comment as he heads for the door. "Yeah, eggs for dinner! Though it'd be better if they didn't so closely resemble the mashed potatoes…"

Roubani gives Sparro a fleeting smile. Gathering up the laptop and cords, he shakes out his legs. "Good hunting, sirs." To Legacy, "I'll be in Red for a few hours if you need me, sir." As he starts to shuffle out of the row, and then looks back at Matto. Can he walk? Will they have to get a wheelchair? Moment of truth.

Thea leans over slightly to slide her hand under Matto's arm to steady him. It's a simple, thoughtless move. "Alright, then. Get some rest, Poet. You too, Madman. I'm going to the office for a bit to work on some paperwork ahead of the move."

Matto lifts his arm and lets his Captain help him to his feet, wobbly as a newborn calf at the moment, but at least ambulatory. "Oh, I will," he assures the Legsykitten, giving her a vague snug. "My eyelids feel like they're made of sandpaper." The talk of the move, though, grabs his attention, "I don't guess you've got any more pertinent information for us on that count, eh, Kittenface?"

Since the big reveal(tm) of the missing footage(tm), Willem's gone kind of quiet-like and withdrawn. "Going to take a stroll down the ripped-up hangar deck. See if I can think of anything."

Castor looks over at Matto with a pained expression as he watches a fellow pilot wobble but movement is good right. He then looks over at Sparro, "Well, think of it as mashed potatos instead of eggs and you will be fine." With that Leda is out the door and on his way to CAP.

Roubani glances over at Willem and nods a little. "I'll see you later, Willem." Shifting the laptop in his arms, Matto's question to Legacy has him looking back that way, as he moves out of the way of the row to let the Raptor LT spill out of it.

"Nope," Thea says with a quiet sigh. "I wish I did, but I don't." She pats Kissy's arm. "Go to bed and rest. That's an order." While she glances over at Roubani, it's clear she's not ordering HIM. As if she could. Her arms tighten, briefly, around the kissypilot, and then she's nudging him on.

"Wonder who had access…" The wheels of conspiracy are grinding in Wil's mind. Steam could be pouring out of his ears. "Eh. Never mind that. See you, Nadiv. See you all." He juts his head forward in a little bit of a nodding gesture as he slips away towards the hatch.

Matto's lips pull to the side with a quiet exhalation of breath from flared nostrils in a 'what can you do?' sort of gesture. "Okay, Kittenbutt," he tells her, the most unmilitary acquiescense to an order humanly possible. What ever happened to 'aye, sir?' And he topples along after Nadiv into the aisle, following him home.

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