How Do You Say 'Tech Support' in Aenar?
Echoes and Effigies
Location: Archaeology and Eartth Sciences Laboratory
Timeline: Mission Day 2 at 1500
[Archaeology/Earth Science Lab]
[Day 2; 1500 Hours]
"What am I doing wrong?"
Mei slouched in her chair and resisted the urge to run her hands through her hair to keep herself from actually trying to pull said hair. That would do even less to help than reading through the tutorial a sixth time-- a measure she didn't want to take but was willing to do, though she doubted the instructions would have changed at all from the first five times she'd read them.
Her task-- to integrate her personal library of artifact scans into Sojourner's system-- should have been simple. All she needed to do was upload her research from the past few years, along with the various scans she'd taken while studying on Andor. For reasons she couldn't figure out, though, her PADD didn't want to talk to the computer. Or her data didn't want to talk to the computer. Or the computer didn't want to deal with her at all, which was unlikely but not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
But . . . "Computer?" she asked sheepishly. "What's the name of this ship?"
"The ship's designation is Sojourner ". The reply was abrupt, and if Mei didn't know better, she'd have said it sounded annoyed with her for asking.
"Right. Now I know the computer's not just ignoring me," she muttered, glancing around to see if anyone was staring at her for being ridiculous. They weren't. The other two were too engrossed in their work to notice her asking questions with obvious answers. Good. So. What now? Going back through the tutorial yet another time was unlikely to help. The next step, then, was to ask someone else. Sighing, Mei opened a maintenance request, specified the problem, and marked it as 'low-priority'. The integration of her data with the computer's wasn't a requirement for her current duties, and she could keep working on it regardless. Right now, it was just an inconvenience.
The main door chirped almost merrily compared to the doubt frump of the computer's response. And then the slate blue door whisked open with a hush. And in stepped the tall and skinny Midshipman that Chief Prel had sent down to Deck Four. He'd felt a low-priority call would sneak under Lieutenant Margarar's targeted campaign.
Noah smiled a quick, nibbled at smile. "A-afternoon?" He said to the woman in the officer alcove. The room smelled of age, and rocks, and something ozonously petrichor-like. Noah had an engineering kit slung over his shoulder and chest to rest on his hip. It was shaped differently than the boxy bulk of a typical Engineer. And he held a large engineering PADD in front of his waist. "I'm uh," he pointed at his yellow shouldering. "From the Core. Chief Prel said you had a um, a problem?"
"Well, yeah. Just a few minutes ago. You got here a lot faster than I thought you would. I figured it would be, I don't know. Hours at least? Or a day or two." Mei drew in a deep breath and tapped her forefinger against her thumb twice. "I'm having a problem with my PADD not uploading my past research to Sojourner's database, but it's not a big deal if you have something bigger to deal with."
The cadet smiled widely and gently shook his head, his eyes squinting at the idea being amusing. "We-we ironed out most of the ship's bugs before we came through the wormhole." He attested. "They could spare me. I-I deployed my patches earlier. I was doing work on a side project for my studies." His brown eyes swept the data on the walls behind Mei. "Your-your PADD?" It was unusual for a PADD not to interface, but it wasn't the first time he'd seen it. "May I see?" He requested. Her motion of tapping her thumb on her finger reminded him of when he'd plex when he was stressed.
"Sure. Just don't, you know, erase the whole thing," Mei said, smiling to show she didn't think he would wipe her PADD completely. She unlocked it and handed it over. "Any idea what might be wrong? I haven't had any problems with it before. Granted, I haven't tried to synch it with any ship or station systems since I left Andor, and that was weeks ago." She fell silent then, watching him as he flicked from one setting to another. If he had questions, she was sure he'd ask. Continuing to chatter about inconsequentials would just be distracting.
Noah's mouth bowed again to smile, this time with teeth, and he held back a soft laugh. "I-I won't." With soft and chirpy chimes, his fingers went into motion against the PADD. Behind his beakish nose, his eyes narrowed in concentration. His mouth fell slack in his deep concentration. Finally, he made a pinch-up motion over the panel. And the PADD display elevated into an amber holographic. He flicked with his finger and it rose to a near perpendicular.
"Oh!" His eyebrows lifted immediately. "That's why." He said. His fingers went into motion. The hologram collapsed, he set it on Mei's desk and then tapped a few keys into it. The desk flashed a dashed blue circle around the PADD. "Because we're cut off from the um, Alpha Quadrant. Starfleet Security insisted we install a few extra safeguards. Since we can't send regular data packets back to the Alpha Quadrant. But..." He trailed off and frowned. "Usually it doesn't bother science data..." Noah twisted his mouth. "These look like holographic files?"
"Some of them are, yes. My thesis advisor, Professor Athroti, had me scan a few Aenar artifacts she thought were both generally culturally relevant and significant to my research. I didn't see anything like them in the ship's memory, so I figured I'd upload them. You never know what information might be relevant to something in the future." Mei leaned toward her PADD, her brow furrowing in concentration as she watched it go about its technical business. "Scientific breakthroughs rarely travel down straight paths, after all."
"Sometimes ship's systems behave that way too," Noah attested. "Sometimes you think it'll be one path but it's something peripheral." He frowned when the blue dashed circle returned with a double flash of a red circle. "That's... odd." He squatted down into a kneel and eyed the PADD. Noah picked it up and looked at it. He did a visual inspection of the PADD's back, his eyebrows knitting at his aquiline nose. He shouldered off his toolkit by lifting it from around his neck and head. And he settled it on the table specimen table on the divider wall. With a click opened it.
He found a small domed device and fit it to the back of the PADD. "Interfaced," a voice said mutely.
"Index," Noah said. And as he did, an androgynously bald figure in white clothing appeared. He looked at Mei. "Ma'am with your permission I'm going to have Index reformat the interface." He nibbled his lip. "Just the interface, your files won't be affected."
"That's fine. What's wrong with it? I hadn't noticed any problems." Mei's furrowed brow turned to a mild scowl that she directed at the PADD like she was about to scold it for misbehaving. "Maybe something to do with systems on Andor? I was there for about two years, and I've had this thing since I graduated from the Academy. I try to keep it up to date, but graduate school can be . . . a lot."
The cadet blinked slowly. "Tha-that's a real possibility. I-I've never seen Aenar programming but I understand it has some haptic technology to, um, sort of parallel-" He was cut off as Index returned.
"Reformat complete...a" the androgyne hologram stated. "Files 8585, 75476, 84271, 84299 could not be re-indexed."
Noah blinked. "Hmm." He picked up his engineering PADD- it was a large, clear PADD with frosted LCARS. When he touched at it, it went aglow in blue holography and beveling. "I'm looking at those files..." He reported to Ensign Ratthi. He glanced up at her. "But I think you're right. N-normally Andorian and Starfleet technology talk to each other pretty easily." His fingers swept fast as he manipulated strings of packet data.
"Ah ha..." he said to himself as a line of blue code started to flash red. "I just need a little bit to make a bridge protocol." He said. "And I can follow up with testing in the Holo-Lab. Just to make sure there's no integrity loss. If that's OK."
"Sure," Mei said, nodding like she perfectly understood what he was saying. She was sure she'd be able to sort out what he'd said on reflection; she did understand the individual words, after all. "Are you going to need to take it with you, and if so, will you need it for long? I mean, I don't need it for my work right now, and it's not like I don't have a back-up . . . in the Alpha Quadrant, I guess. There's nothing wrong with it, is there?"
Noah shook his head, "No I don't think so," he reported. "I'll just port them to the Holo-Lab and back down." His fingers were flying again at his PADD. He looked up, paused, and drummed his fingers on the back of his PADD. "Ummm..." He knotted his lips in consideration, that it wasn't vital. "Still like you said... you never know when, um, these kinds of things are helpful."
Noah approached the androgynous Index figure Then he made a broadening, opening pinch gesture in front. before Index was a holographic display. "I should be able to download the Aenar interface patches from the ship's archives and then b-build a bridge patch with the Sojourner's operating systems. It won't take very..." And he brightened. "There's what we need."
The Andorian symbol flashed icy blue and then indigo and Noah made a pinching motion, then a flinging motion at Ratthi's PADD. It chirped. "So... what got you um, into archaeology?" He asked with a side glance while he set to work on the patch.
"Anthropology," Mei corrected gently. "It's a bit different from archaeology. But what got me into it? I don't know. There was no one thing, really. It's the study of people-- of groups of people, and I think people of all sorts of are interesting. My specialty is sociocultural anthropology. It examines how people affect their culture and how their culture affects them, and then how all those effects build on each other through history. You'd be amazed at how a relatively small change can affect a huge number of people. It's so interesting. And it's made me completely rethink how I approach people in general. Makes me keep an open mind." She laughed a little and ducked her head at the end of her little speech. Her curls fell around her headband to hide her face for a moment. "Sorry for the lecture. I can get carried away."
Noah's mouth soundlessly "Oh'ed" at Mei correcting her discipline. And he listened, apart from glancing down at his work to make sure the patch from the archives was loading. And then, also quietly, he began the process of making the bridge program to cope with Sojourner's cutting-edge systems. Noah had taken only a survey course of Mei's discipline at the Academy, and his childhood had had a decidedly technical lean. He blossomed his too-wide smile and shook his head. "no... it's-it's okay. I do the same thing about holography." His PADD chirped and he began a process of integration of the patch and the bridge.
"I remember seeing... "He narrowed an eye while he tried to remember. "I think it was called a Naiskos? In the Smithsonian. When we, um, went to tour the computers through history. Like... the Antikythera. And Babbage's difference engine?"
"Bridge complete," Index stated with dispassion.
"But..." Noah blinked and looked at the ceiling, choosing his words. "I-I thought the Naiskos had a pretty story. I mean," his eyes rounded and he smiled goofily, "I didn't understand it.... completely. But the idea that a person isn't a person but is made up of lots of tiny people in sort of a... a community within a person. I liked it." His eyes narrowed. "I kind of feel that way. I have a really, um, a-active internal monologue."
"Aren't most of us like that to one degree or another? We are vast. We contain multitudes." Mei pushed her hair back and tucked a particularly recalcitrant curl behind her ear. "Did you know there's a school of thought that posits that cities are a kind of macroorganism made up of the millions of people and animals and whatever else lives in it? It makes sense to me. Explains why different cities seem to have different personalities. And if you can have something like that on the macro scale, it makes sense that you could have it on a much smaller scale, too. I'll admit that I'm not familiar with the Naiskos, but the thought of it . . . " she trailed off, momentarily lost in thought. "It's kind of a lovely idea, isn't it?"
Noah had pondered that question but in his usual solitudes of thought rather than in groupthink. "Well... for-for a long time I just thought I was slightly schizophrenic." He grinned. Noah knew the battle of recalcitrant coils and noticed Ratthi's battle as well. His home colony certainly had its own personality. And its personality seemed very different than San Francisco. Or Ganymede Colony. He nodded in agreement. It was an interesting idea from millennia ago that maybe still applied.
"Integration complete," Index stated behind him.
Noah twisted to look a the hologram. Noah picked up Mei's PADD. He quickly spun the files that had been as stubborn about integration as coils of hair could be. With a quick pinch out he examined their code lines. "I-I think everything is in there now," Noah said. Though he said he thought so, he was quite sure. "Index. Display File 8585."
Index's hands parted and the androgyne appeared to be supporting a tetrahedral object of Aenar design.
Mei's face lit up with delight. "There it is! It's a, um . . . " Her brow furrowed as she searched for the right words. "It's a story stone, for lack of a better term. I've never been able to pronounce the Aenar word correctly. But anyway. Families will have these for centuries, with each successive generation adding their own stories or bits of wisdom to the record. Can you imagine being able to hear something your ancestor said six hundred years ago? Hearing their voices in the darkness giving you advice, or just telling you a funny story to get you through the day? I think it's amazing."
The psionic technology... was technology the right word, Noah wondered... of some Federation members was quite fascinating. "I've never seen one before." He admitted. It was a fascinating prospect. Voices were still preserved from some of Earth's earliest periods of electronics. But these, Noah imagined, went so much farther back. "Wuh-what's its storage capacity?" He asked, ever the engineer.
"You know, I never asked. It didn't occur to me to ask about the technical details. I'm sure I could send my old advisor a message the next time we can send messages back to the Alpha Quadrant. Assuming you're still interested by then." Mei gave him an impish smile, then pointedly looked back at her PADD. "Soo, is everything integrated and ready to go?"
Noah had begun to gather his PADD and re-pack his slimline kit. He nodded in curiosity. "I-I'd be curious. I'm sure it's not Starfleet compatible but...." He trailed off and glanced back at Index. "Everything should be good but I will look at the, um, the-the files when I get to the Holo-Lab. Just to make sure their matrix resolution matches Sojourner's." He snapped his case closed. "Close Index."
The androgyne image disappeared and Noah shouldered his equipment, "Will there be anything else Ma'am?"
"No, thank you. This was the only problem I had. With technology, anyway. I don't think you can do anything about my roommate's habit of cracking her knuckles," Mei said, smiling brightly. It seemed to be the only kind of smile she had-- without guile or falseness. "I'll make myself a reminder to contact my old professor about the technical details and send them along so you can see them if you're still interested in however many weeks. Otherwise, I'm set."
Noah nodded. "Well-well if anything changes just re-open the ticket and.... we'll, um... show up." Noah gave a friendly smile and a raised hand goodbye and then put himself through the doors. Their hushed whisper closed behind him.
A Post By:
Ensign Mei Ratthi
Midshipman Noah Balsam