] Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.299
Arrived at Starbase-4973 with the Dakota
and our crew. Turned over information to the local Starfleet representative as well as SUDS data for the other ship's crews. Spoke to Commodore Dunsten of Starfleet who requested a template for what changes the Dakota
has undergone. Was counseled that my point totals will not count toward any ladder rankings due to 'extreme non-canon changes' to the Dakota
as well as my crew personal armaments and shuttle modifications.
In shocking news, the Battlestar Fleet and the Cylon Collection have arrived. Talk about the big guns. Those guys carry the big Creation Engines that can pump out a Viper or Cylon fighters in roughly 10 seconds with only a 30 second cooldown/slushdown feature.
Met with the Space Force representative and turned over my battle logs. He, in particular, wanted the in-depth scans we performed on the various Precursor ships. Our practice of boarding the ships is, at this time, the most common strategy.
We discussed the fact that Space Force considers forcing the Precursor vessels out of the system to by a phyrric victory and that the system will require a heavy metal posting. Was also informed that the fact that the Precursor fleet retreated from the planets and then from the system was a 'statistical oddity' and he wanted more scans. He also inquired as to whether or not I ran an in-depth scan on the gas giants, which is where the Goliaths were spawning from. I regret I had not, merely a scan for a Goliath.
He appears quite concerned with the actions undertaken but did congratulate me on defending the system.
Transphasic Photon Torpedoes are considered standard armaments for all Starfleet vessels from here on out. There is talk of smaller planet-crackers being put in use among the crew, but planet crackers rely on the mantle to core interaction. Quantum torpedoes are nothing option that I am seriously considering. Phased plasma torpedoes are largely considered in the OP-Class of weaponry but I am seriously considering just loading everything up and going for broke. Tricobalt missiles might be another option but the last time anyone used that was during the Fifth Dominion War. The Dakota
is so far out of specifications that mounting such weapons is not as far fetched as it may have sounded a month ago.
It isn't like anything we're going to do is going to count for the leaderboads.
On a personal note, some of the crew members have reported headaches from their SUDS interfaces. McCoy is working on it, but he also warned that the transporter may have to be reconfigured after the discovery that the Precursors can hijack the signal and capture crew members that way.
Starfleet transporters are much more carefully aligned than the earlier 'mat-trans' and 'teleporter' systems used by the 40K LARPers. Safety interlocks prevent our transporters from being used in many cases that a teleporter could be used, require more power, and have a triple-feedback redunancy check.
An amusing point: Teleporter systems seem to go straight through the shields. McCoy and Spock both believe that lengthened amount of time for buffer checking allows the Precursor shielding to be adjusted for the algorythm used by Starfleet vessels.
Another amusing point: During my LFG call, the Wesleys were lined up around the station core. Nobody is taking them on these, despite the class advantages because, outside of structured missions for Starfleet Games, nobody is going to suddenly have Wesley Weaknesses just because.
On a personal note: My Riker has grown out his beard and has been socializing with his Space Force peers in order to get us more information on this threat.'
--Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.304
One thing they don't mention in the sheer amount of time you spend moving from place to place. Warp drive is highly efficient and safe compared to stringdrive, slipstream, gates, and jumpspace. Unlike hyperspace, AI's are able to remain conscious in warp. Still, I feel the urge to yell "GO FASTER" at the warp nacelles.
My Spock took me to the side and warned me that Starfleet vessels may be making a serious mistake. Often, the Precursors take damage and flee the system, using Hellspace to jump out. He has noticed that after roughly 8% of their structure is damaged they then flee. He also had checked Starfleet records.
I'm the only vessel, at this time, running transphasic photon torpedoes.
He has suggested an experiment. Utilize transphasic torpedoes, phased plasma torpedoes, but leave one out of every barrage of 10, with the phased plasma torpedoes, with a subspace beacon. In that manner, we can discover where they are running off to.
My Spock has put forward the theory, and my Scotty and LaForge, as well as my Riker, all agree.
They have refitting, repair, and construction bases somewhere.
Perhaps our plan to put a phased subspace beacon aboard one of the larger vessels will pan out.
I do feel concern about what my crew and I might find in a Precursor shipyward.
--Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.306
We have returned to the system that myself and the others had cleared. In particular, we are running long range sensor scans of the gas giants. My Chekov has suggested, and I concur, that getting in close and running more detailed but shorter range scans might put us too close.
I would really like to avoid a barrage of nCv shells.
Our Uhura (She's extremely qualified and did not object to me doublechecking her bonafides) is keeping a careful ear out for any Precursor transmissions.
I have left orders that at the faintest whisper of Precursor code the Dakota
is to move to red alert.
The system looks empty, but there is something that makes me think that there are only four lights.
ADDENDUM: There is apparently no structures or other masses in the gas giant at the depths our long range passive scanners can reach. Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.307
Our Uhura spotted it first. Subspace whispers. Complex and shifting binary, barely audible. While others suggested we move in, trying to get a lock in on what was whispering across subspace in such a manner I ordered the ship to immediately go to silent running, no emissions.
We observed a Goliath exit Hellspace near the larger gas giant, streaming vapor and metal, its attendant vessels exiting with it. As we watched it allowed the attendant vessels to board through the massive docking ports.
Sidenote: Some of those docking bays are the size of the real San Francisco Ultraplex.
The 'whispers' picked up and the massive Goliath sank into the gas giant.
My crew's estimation that the three initially engaged Goliaths of our last action had repaired themselves was confirmation bias.
For a bare moment the whisper got louder and the Goliath that had sunk into the gas giant was in plain view on our passive long range scanners then it simply vanished.
The belief of my Spock and Scotty is that the Precursors have some kind of shielded refit structure inside the gas giant beyond the scanner horizon. LaForge has stated that the pressures at such depth would make any construction or repairs inordinately difficult.
My Riker reminded LaForge that the Precursors were engaged in a war when they vanished and these bases are not only war-time bases, but that there are no living crews to worry about.
I ordered my crew to remain on silent running. There is enough debris on that planet to cover a probe approach. My LaForge has suggested putting a probe data relay in the Oort Cloud to give the signals a few 'bounces' and to use only phased tachyon streams with reversed polarity.
Sometimes I wish we didn't have all our own names for technology. Why could he have just said paired quark communications?
--Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.309
The probe was moved into place carefully, following a piece of debris from the previous battle. During this time our Uhura caught another scrap of what she has come to call "Precursor Whispers" from the other gas giant.
My Spock reminded me that the intense pressures inside a massive gas giant could make foundry work easier, allowing the creation of hyperalloys that we need massive foundries for to utilize the inherent pressures of a massive gas giant to create 'alloy farms' inside the gas giant.
A disturbing thought indeed.
Another ship type has arrived, which I have labeled the Enki class Precursor, has arrived and taken to carefully going over the debris fields of the Starfleet battle.
Thankfully the Klingon and Romulan officers routinely utilize anti-matter charges to clear any debris from the destruction of our ships.
It moved to the wreckage of the mining ship and has been spending time there. It is at extreme range and I am becoming nervous about what it is doing.
The Precursor attitudes within this star system are concerning.
Have you ever looked at an inanimate machine, with no living characterization like a Data possesses, and thought to yourself "What are you up to?" as you watched it?
I have that unique experience.
They are up to something.
--Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.310
The probe provided us with valuable information that is critical to disseminate.
We are now, to use my Riker's phrase: running like a bat out of hell.
Passive scans can only penetrate to a certain depth within a gas giant. Starfleet has been largely worried about planetary scans as well as deep space and intrasystem scans. Combine it with the fact we use a lot of gamification in our systems, gas giants were largely used as "spawn points" for crafts. This meant that, naturally, our scanners largely could not penetrate deeply into gas giants.
My Scotty and LaForge re-calibrated the sensor arrays to get a good look inside the gas giant.
My Spock was right. The Precursor was 'growing' large alloy fields down there. There was a repair and manufacturing base the size a continent down inside the gas giant with massive 'alloy farms' around it. Before the scale would have shocked me until my Spock pointed out that the Great Eye of Jupiter is twice the size of Terra itself. Nearly two dozen Precursor vessels were 'docked' at the facility.
Discussions on how to 'deal with' this massive repair and refit base were discussed at a closed meeting of my command crew. It ranged from using a Genesis Device on the gas giant (Not recommended. My LaForge stated that the Precursor ships we are facing here are more adept at 'learning' than previously encountered Precursor types and the last thing we should do is provide them with planet killers that create more resources) to attempting to use a modified planet cracker on the gas giant (Again, tabled due to concerns the Precursors would imitate it).
We settled on phasic trans-phasic photon torpedoes mixed with tricobat missiles.
Out attack was dual: Destroy the debris field of the Romulus
class mining vessel, which was being thoroughly combed over by Enki class Precursor vessels, damage or perhaps even destroy the facility and the 'alloy farms' inside the gas giants.
We came in from above the stellar plane, at a high velocity angle. When facing Precursor vessels your speed and maneuverability are key to staying alive. We fired probes while still 25 million miles above the stellar plane. We came in with only debris shields at full power.
The probes reported back that while there were life signs on the planets in the Green and Amber zones the Precursor vessels around those planets and upon the surface were not engaged in wholesale slaughter or destruction. We practically turned the sensors inside out getting deep scans of everything.
Once in range (Starfleet weaponry is somewhat, to use my Riker's term: short legged compared to Space Force line weaponry) I ordered a full scan at maximum power and resolution. Normally this is avoided to prevent damage to sentient beings and xeno-species but the Precursors aren't a foe that one should concern themselves with scanner-burn.
Percursor vessels were not rising from the gas giants. While some immediately launched or moved to engage us from various points in the system, sheer distance and geometry prevented any attacks. At 30 million miles even nCv weapons or phaser beams move too slowly to engage a ship the size of the Dakota.
We launched weapons and immediately began accelerating to be able to put enough distance between any Precursor vehicles and our own vessel.
We got our scan data back and immediately realized that engaging the Precursor vessels was now a secondary, if not tertiary, mission.
All four of the gas giants contained refit facilities of a size that is best described as 'geological'.
That was not the key data.
Our Uhura was able to isolate the 'Precursor Whisper' and while unable to decode it, was able to confirm what it is.
Their battle, strategic, and tactical network.
The planets, while full of life and possessing several species known to be "Unified Civilized Races", were all at Stone Age technology. Precursor vessels were moving to protect
the planets and their inhabitants for an unknown reason.
This information is vital to Starfleet, Space Force, and all other Confederacy organizations.
--Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.311
has now had its very own AbramsKhan moment.
We were fired on in warp drive.
The Precursor vessel mounted one of the Galaxy
class Starfleet vessel's engines and pursued us. With a lighter frame, higher energy output, and not having to concern itself with warp drive effects upon living beings, it was not only able to catch up to us, but fire upon us.
My Riker has stated that anyone who mocks up for having such thick armor after this will be starting a brawl.
We are alive only because of my insistence on heavy armor, structural integrity fields running the same type of shield frequency algorithms as our main deflector shields, with dual structural fields layered between armor and structural layers.
Immediately upon being fired upon we dropped out of warp drive to engage the small Precursor vessel. Chekov stated it would be between stellar bodies and it should have been a bare battlefield with not even gas wisps.
Instead, we dropped into a half dozen Jotun class vessels waiting for us.
We are currently undergoing evasive warp maneuvering as estimated by my Spock and my LaForge.
--Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.313
They're attempting to "drive" us deeper into the Dead Zone.
This gives us a fairly unusual opportunity. We can see what they are attempting to push us into or we can attempt to escape.
Spock and Scotty believe that it is imperative we discover what it is that the Precursors believe can take us out compared to the Jotuns following us.
Riker and LaForge maintain our goal should be reaching Federation/Confederate Space.
I believe I have a better idea.
--Picard 8873 Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.315
Rather than allow us to be pushed further into the Dead Zone I ordered the ship to move at a right angle to the galactic plane at full warp 9.3. While this can interfere with SUDS uploads and storage I have decided that the risk is necessary. Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.317
The Precursor machines are still in close pursuit. They are arranging for attempted ambushes. LaForge has theorized that the one following us, which is a warp capable photon-torpedo launcher welded to the the Galaxy
class engine and wrapped in neutronium armor, sends out a "whisper" as soon as it sees the 'warp flare' from our engines. That enables the Precursor vessels to Helljump to where we will be exiting.
Scotty has a plan.
Luckily, I did not dump my old class data, so I have a Kirk knowledge database.
Spock is overriding the interlocks to allow me to access that knowledge.
It is risky, but acceptable. Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.317 - Supplmental
By utilizing the holodeck, a blank SUDS, and carefully aligned emitters, Spock believes I will be able to load the data from the Kirk character class into my memories despite being a Picard. He will attempt to use his Mind Meld ability to keep me from collapsing under a dual class.
The Precursor Pursuer will be in range inside of 30 minutes.
I have no choice. Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.317.7
The melding was somewhat successful. I have conflicting emotions and desires regarding many subjects but thankfully both my knowledge and personality templates are Starfleet officers. By use of the Mind Meld my Spock was able to use an older exploit involving class rank and player knowledge.
Contrary to popular opinion, Kirk classes are not womanizing hot-heads (Despite AbramsEra semi-canon) but rather highly innovative early Starfleet officers. It is just that the mission files force Kirk to use half-experimental technology in innovative ways in order to overcome unknown experiences and foes. One of the things often overlooked is Kirk made the rank of Admiral and was quite cautious in many ways.
Still, the dissonance between a Picard and a Kirk class is quite intense.
I am suffering nosebleeds. McCoy says it is from intercranial pressure as my brain attempts to sort through the information.
I have not informed him of the fact I have a severe SUDS hangover.
--Picark 8873 Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.318
After examining old scans of the Galaxy
class ship that was defeated I was able to ascertain its hull number. Using that number, and knowledge possessed by an Admiral Level Kirk Class, when the Precursor Pursuer came close enough to fire I was able to drop its warp-shields. The Precursor Pursuer was exposed to raw warp energy at that time, inhibiting its ability to see the Dakota,
specifically causing us to appear much further ahead in the warp conduit.
The Precursor Pursuer fell back and I ordered the Dakota
to move to Emergency Warp Speed.
9.998 Okuda Scale
The Precursor Pursuer immediately went to maximum speed of the Galaxy
class engine attached to little more than armor, bare shields, and a torpedo launcher.
Without Transwarp shielding or any other technology, the Precursor Pursuer achieved infinite velocity and infinite mass.
The explosion damaged the Dakota
and left us drifting in normal space.
Scotty and LaForce estimate repair times of 3 weeks.
--Picark 8873 Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.325
We are again underway after our successful destruction of the Precursor Pursuit vessel.
Maximum warp is limited to Warp 5.4.
Estimated time of arrival at Starbase 4973 is 11 days.
--Picark 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.332
My SUDS has been scrambled and bad. I'm no longer Jeffery van Leedle, born on Rigel, but instead and curious combination of the character neural templates and my old personality.
Scotty, McCoy, and LaForge are examining me. Not in any hopes of untwining the personalities, but rather to forward the information to SoulNet in hopes that it can be prevented for occurring to others, no matter how unusual the circumstances.
The 'Gamed' memories no longer have the distinguishable overlay that Starfleet uses for safety measures. Instead, all of my memories feel the same.
Which is... confusing.
I remember racing a motorcycle in the wheat fields of Oklahoma, outside of Paris, under a Rigellian red sky.
My gestalt personality agrees that it is worth it for the information we have and to save my ship and my crew.
--Jeff Picark 8873 Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.334
Pro-term Acting Captain Riker-2173 commanding. Previous Captain suffering the effects of the SUDS/Template merger needed to access information to allow the destruction of the Precursor Pursuer.
Captain Jeff Picark was relieved of command, with acceptance and willingly, two hours ago.
Bridge and Command Officers are in agreement with this action.
We are two days out of Starbase 4973.
--Riker 2173 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.335
Would I have done it, knowing what I do now?
My SUDS cannot update. The neural template recordings fragment and unravel.
I am no longer immortal.
But there is no such thing as only human. Humans, without the SUDS, accomplished incredible feats with just grit and determination.
However, I can no longer participate in active combat Starfleet games. Two hundred years of LARP down the tubes.
I made a good choice with my Riker. The hardest thing to do is relieve your Captain for cause.
He had good cause.
--Jeff Picark 8873 Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.336
I have docked the Dakota
and am granting shore leave to crew. Captain Picark was taken to the Space Force infirmary via stretcher with McCoy in attendance.
Our mission is complete. Space Force has our data in their possession.
For some reason, the Precursors keep entire worlds of roughly half the xeno-sapients of the Unified Civilized Races.
Gas Giants must now be treated as Precursor base risks.
I am hoping "Jeff" recovers. The fact that he remembered an ancient piece of lore from OldTrekKhan is, honestly, impressive. Undergoing an in-mission partial respec was risky.
Will report to Starfleet and see what happens.
STARFLEET GAMING CENTRAL NOTICE
Jeffery van Leedle, player number 7c345a7e1-8873, is hereby promoted to Starfleet Admiral and is hereby recalled to Earth-42 to Starfleet Headquarters in New-SanFran.
In accordance to his wishes the Dakota
a non-canon America
class ship, is hereby given to Riker 56a817c38f2-2173, including all templates and player rewards.
SPACE FORCE MEMO
Initial estimations of 30-50 Goliath class total forces in is error.
New ship types encountered, new facilities discovered (See Attached File).
Mantid, any idea what this is about?
MANTID FREE WORLDS
Beyond "cattle worlds" we cannot estimate why Precursors, of all things, would have the older races, reduced to primitive, on worlds just being observed.
Experimentation, idiots. That Balor Hellship should have made you think of that.
They're trying to figure out a way to counter us.
Commander Pell wore forlorn determination like a mask.
His strong face was sunken and sallow. He had not slept in earnest for two weeks. He had not been so tired for decades, not since his Ranger training.
It was not lost on Pell that the future of the human race now rested on his sleep-deprived shoulders. All that weight bore down upon him. Had the weight gotten heavier or were his shoulder's beginning to buckle beneath it? Both
, he imagined.
"Commander, NATO is green on their end. Land and sea." The corporal looked as bad or worse as Pell. A thick cloud of exhaustion hovered over the entire war-room. Every man and woman inhaled its vapors and floated on the edge of consciousness.
"And sir," the corporal added, locking his tired eyes with Pell's, "the Chinese are a go, sir."
Pell did not know he had any adrenaline left in his body, but the news from China drew out whatever remained. Pell's heavy eyes, rheumy with sleepfulness, widened.
"Understood corporal." Pell knew what he needed to do, but he was so tired that every act required careful volition. Pell lifted his arm - left arm
he reminded himself - and checked his watch. Five after five. Only three hours and twenty-five minutes remained. No time to waste.
Forcing his hoarse voice to command volume, Pell addressed the room.
"Ladies and gentlemen. 'Thunderclap' is green. Each of you knows your role." Pell paused, uncertain what to say. "I know it has been difficult, but for better or for worse, this will all be over soon. What we do today we do for the sake of the entire human race."
Pell turned toward the tactical screen without another word, filled with dissatisfaction over his speech.
With the slow, determined energy of a group of ground sloths, the room oozed to life. Each officer pressed on through a haze of weariness, but this was not all that slowed their pace. Beyond their fatigue, each was oppressed by the terrible responsibility of what they were about to be a part of.
For decades the concept of mutually assured destruction had kept the human race from starting a nuclear war. But the nature of the present upheaval pushed the precepts of M.A.D. past their breaking point. The binary possibilities of the current emergency - eternal Russian dominance or, ostensibly, a free world - raised questions beyond anyone's ability to answer or prognosticate. There were, even within the American military, certain factions who believed it best to simply allow the Russians to make contact, rather than risk nuclear annihilation.
Ultimately, the decision fell to the White House, and the White House's position had been unequivocal: Get an American to that landing sight. At all costs.
It was clear to everyone that there were no good options. The Russians knew that perfectly well. Their hyper-aggressive, multi-pronged invasion was just one part of a spider web of complex, overlapping tactical impossibilities.
It was apparent within the first few days of the conflict that no ground force could possibly beat the Russian army in time to make the meeting. Similarly, no air-based attack, no amount of conventional bombs and paratroopers, was going to be able to shortcut their way to the meeting point. Let alone hold that position long enough to complete the meeting safely.
Given enough time, of course, the Russian's stood no chance against the combined might of the rest of the world. Only there wasn't
enough time. There were only three hours and, now, twenty minutes before they arrived. No time at all. No choices left.
The plan was frightening in its stark, unfeeling simplicity. The Russian military would be bombarded, from all sides, by allied nuclear weapons - utterly destroyed in the course of an hour. This would include multiple payload strikes on the meeting area itself. Immediately after detonation, several aircraft, already in the air, would deposit a unit of 200 specially trained soldiers in the fresh, smoldering nuclear pit that would be the meeting site. These soldiers would be equipped with radiation protective suits - suits which would do almost nothing against such large amounts of radiation. Their mission would be to survive long enough to finish the meeting.
Of course, the Russians would reciprocate with a nuclear volley of their own. Major cities around the world had been unofficially evacuating for days already, uncertain of whether, or when, the nuclear seal would be broken. But even with half the world's population dispersed in fear, the results of the Russian counter-attack would be appalling. Hundreds of millions dead, and, perhaps, nuclear winter.
The Executive was presented with the full prospectus for Thunderclap. The terrible loss of life was deemed acceptable collateral damage. Anything to avoid Russian supremacy, which the President and his military advisors believed to be a death sentence in and of itself. The hope was that whatever knowledge the aliens imbued humanity with would be sufficient to repair the damage caused by the war. The subsequent ascendance of the human race would make the casualties well worthwhile.
For his part, Pell felt a certain relief. To be sure, the plan horrified him. He did not, on a personal level, agree with it. Better to allow the Russians to "win" - to the extent winning and losing were applicable to this situation.
However, Pell had become very good, in his decades of military service, at separating the personal from the professional. Standing there in that command center, there was
no Christopher Pell, son of Herman Pell, both born and raised in Nebraska.
There was only Commander
Pell of the Joint Strategic Armed Forces. For Commander Pell, as with all military leaders, nothing was more burdensome than uncertainty. The moment he heard the Chinese were on board, all uncertainty had been banished. There was a plan - it may entail awesome risk and unspeakable destruction - but it was, finally, a plan. And, as far as Pell could see, it was the only way "victory" could be achieved.
One by one word came back from the various officers sending out their global communications. One by one the nuclear submarines, airplanes, and silos pinpointed their individual targets and signalled their readiness to fire.
As the final, far-flung nuclear assets took their time in responding, the young, tired corporal ran up to Pell once again. This time he had a phone in his hand.
"Sir, someone's on the line using a call sign I don't recognize, " the corporal wobbled briefly in place, and steadied himself, "'Academia?'"
Pell looked up from his reverie and reached out for the phone. "I'll take it." The corporal handed the phone over and walked back to his station.
Pell hesitated a moment and put the phone up to his head.
"How is he?"
Merriman's trusted guard sounded strained. "He's conscious sir. Very
conscious." The soldier hesitated for a moment. "Sir, I apologize, the Professor insisted I make the call. He has something urgent to tell you." Something urgent?
Pell thought. More urgent than the impending nuclear holocaust?
Pell sighed. "Put him on."
The line went silent for a moment and then Professor Merriman's unequivocal voice came over the line.
"Pell, you need to end this war."
Pell blinked. "Professor," Pell responded by means of hello.
Merriman's voice was taut and urgent. He pressed on. "I mistranslated."
Pell's pupils dilated. "What?"
"I mistranslated the Book."
It felt to Pell as though a flaming stone had spontaneously appeared in his stomach. All around him the final officers awaited targeting confirmation. Pell turned away from them all and faced the far wall so as to hide his worry.
?" Pell growled into the receiver.
There was a moment of silence on the other side of the line. Then Merriman began.
"Originally the second and third phase of the Path appeared almost identical. I thought the differences were purely technological." Merriman spoke quickly now, at the frenetic pace of his fully rested genius. "Both phases utilized the same symbol in their title, which I translated as 'society' or 'culture.' But I didn't consider ordering - in certain written languages the location of a symbol in a given phrase can change its meaning entirely. It's similar to syllabic stress changing the meaning of a word - like con
test versus contest
for instance, where one means...."
Pell's interruption was abrupt. "Spare me the lecture, what does this mean?"
Merriman's throaty swallow could be heard over the phone. "The second phase is 'Society.' The third phase is 'Community.
' That's the word I got wrong - 'community.
Pell rubbed at his temple where a fierce headache was taking hold. "I don't understand. What's the difference?"
"Each step of the Path represents an evolutionary plateau. Awakening is the baseline of intelligence. Society is the baseline of technological and cultural development." Merriman took a breath, "Community
is the next logical step - not just a measure of one subgroup's power, but a measure of the species' power as a whole."
Pell was out of patience. He almost screamed into the receiver out of frustration but managed to keep his voice low, though his tone was severe. "Professor, I am about fifteen seconds away from irradiating a quarter of the planet. Get to the point."
Merriman blurted out the point. "Community means working together, Commander. We need to work together, as a species."
Pell tried to wrap his head around what Merriman was saying. As he did so he caught a glimpse of the corporal returning from the other side of the room. "What does that mean
"It means unless the human race meets these beings as a cohesive whole, we lose."
Pell stared at a spot on the wall. "We lose?"
"Eradication," Merriman said simply. "Those who stray from the Path face eradication." Merriman let that sit for half a second. "Pell, you need to reach out to the Russians. You need to stop this. I have no doubt they're operating under the same misconceptions I was."
Right then the corporal approached from behind Pell. "Sir," he said, causing Pell to twitch around anxiously.
His commander's sudden, nervous demeanor threw the Corporal for a loop. The young man's confidence visibly faded. "Sir," he said again, "all assets are green. We are ready to begin on your command."
Pell stood hunched over, the phone still held tight to his face. Instinct brought up his watch. Fifteen after five, three hours and 15 minutes left. No time at all.
"Pell! Pell, listen to me. Unless we meet them together, we're done. Do you understand? Pell?"
The hand in which Pell held the receiver slowly fell away from his head. As the phone lowered to Pell's side, Merriman's tinny voice could still be heard. "Call the Russians Pell. Stop the war! Pell! Pell?!"
The entire room turned to look at Pell. They all had their orders from on high. They all knew what the White House wanted them to do. But to a person, they also
knew where their true loyalties lay. If their Commander ordered them to kill tens or hundreds of millions of people, they would not hesitate. If their Commander told them to abort, they would abort.
While his officers looked to him for an answer, and Merriman's distant voice yelled through the receiver, Pell's mind turned inward for a moment that felt like an eternity.
Time dilated and a moment that felt like an eternity. For the first time in forty years, Pell found himself wishing he could turn to his father for advice. Standing there in his wrinkled uniform, Pell felt once again like a lost child - in over his head. If only his dad was there, adult and certain, infallible.
Except he was not. Herman Pell was a decrepit invalid, lost inside his own home. Herman's mind was as empty now as the 30 foot deep pit in his front yard. In the last two years of chaos, Pell had not seen his father more than a handful of times. The last time was six months ago, and the old man didn't even recognize Pell's face.
No, if Pell's father ever
had the answers, like Herman himself, they were well and truly gone. How am I supposed to choose?
Pell thought. How is anyone supposed to choose?
"Sir?" The Corporal stood by, confused and worried. "What is your order?"
Pell's grip on the receiver tightened until the blood blanched from his knuckles and they turned white.
Commander Christopher Pell ordered himself to make a decision. Choose,
he commanded himself.
And then he did.
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Another crazy week in the Cyberz. This is my recap of the last week worth of fun (and not) related to the world of cyber. To get updates more often, subscribe to my blog or follow me on twitter.
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I'll be down by Ft. Lauderdale Thursday and Friday while speaking at the South Florida ISSA Conference
. If you are around and want to meet up for a cold one, let me know. I'm just going to start with Vault 7
I mean, really, how could I not? On Tuesday WikiLeaks dropped a bomb
on the infosec world (perhaps the world in general) when they published roughly eleventy-trillion pages of data related to CIA offensive cyber capabilities. It's full of 0-days and different vulnerabilities/hack with fun little names like "SnowyOwl" and "Weeping Angel". For example, Weeping Angel can use Samsung Smart TVs to covertly record audio conversations. If/when it's confirmed that this is really a legit CIA info dump (which it appears to be), it won't be pleasant. As it is, a lot of people int he US Government are probably creating new grey hair and ulcers at this very moment. I am not going to try to analyze the whole dump, but I will say that some of this stuff is a bit spooky. Just remember, Don't Blink! Over 1 Biiiiiiiiilion email addresses exposed by spammers misconfigured backups
Karma is a bitch. River City Media screwed up their Rsync configs
and accidentally backed up their data to an internet-facing server, exposing all of the data where it was discovered by Chris Vickery
, a security researcher for MacKeeper. He contacted the authorities and relevant orgs to help shut down the infrastructure. Hopefully that 1.3 billion records, some containing home addresses and IP's, don't drop in to the hands of other spamming orgs. Time will tell TorrentLocker (aka Cryptolocker) is back and farming credentials as well.
After taking some time off, Cryptolocker appears to be back
in a very aggressive campaign, and it has some new 'features'. It's sent via Word docs with a PowerShell script, infects and spreads via shared files, and it's also grabbing credentials as well. Right now it appears to be targeting Europe, especially Italy, but we need to keep our eyes open regardless of where we live. 16 Senators and Staff In Pennsylvania Locked Out Of Their Systems By Ransomware
This happened to the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus
on Friday and the website is still down
as of the time of this post on Wednesday evening. This can't be a fun day over there. As of Friday, Pennsylvania Democrats spokeswoman Stacey Witalec said, “At this point we are working with Microsoft to see where we’re at.”
Odds are, it was a phishing email some poor unsuspecting staffer clicked on. This is a good time to take them from unsuspecting, to a healthy level of paranoia by training them about the threat. Dot ransomware - Coming soon to a network near you
I've mentioned Raas (Ransomware as a Service) before, but it's really starting to show some growth potential. The "Dot" RaaS strain
is currently being advertised on the dark web, so we can expect to see it hitting pretty soon. This one is a zero money down, profit-sharing strain with a 50/50 split. Expect more of this sort of thing to start rolling out in the near future. If it remains profitable, it will continue to grow. Eyes Open Aussies - ASIC phishing email is spreading Cryptolocker It looks like it's hitting folks this morning
(Monday), so keep an eye open for it. Cryptolocker attacks have been on the rise lately
and are wreaking some havoc with new "features". Stay sharp out there! Shamoon 2 May Get a Ransomware Feature and StoneDrill Hides in Memory
This is a good read from DarkReading
. In summary, Shamoon was Sha-sleep for quite Shum time (You see what I did there, right?) but returned last year to harass some folks in the Middle East. It is typically deployed as data wiping malware, but it seems as if the developer realized that there can be money in adding a ransomware feature in version 2. While it's not in the wild yet, it's a lesson that malware devs are starting to see the value in coding a ransomware option in to what they are already distributing.
Also, StoneDrill is injecting itself into the memory process of the user's browser and doing a good job of ducking under sandbox radars. It appears to share code with NewsBeef and/or Charming Kitten APTs which are generally affiliated with Iranian State-Sanctioned options. Currently these are still focused on the Middle East, but it appears at least one European org has been infected with it. Mystery Shopper Email Scams - Yeah, They Still Happen
It's important that we help educate others that these scams do still happen. Lower income, unemployed and retired people are especially prone to this sort of scam. It sounds like easy money, and even appeals to the undercover 007 type in most of us, but it can do a number on your bank account.
Key thing to remember is, if someone sends you a check and asks you to send the change, it's a scam. This doesn't matter if it's a car purchase on ebay or craigslist, or anything else, don't do it. Checks can take a long time to clear, or be found to be fake, and you are held holding the bag.
Mystery shopping is the SCAM OF THE WEEK
here at KnowBe4, and there is some good info on what to look for, and something you can copy/paste for friends and family. Check it out. W2 Scams are off the charts right now
This week was just stupid, so I'm going to just group them together Yet Another W2 Breach - 2,400 at Autoneum North America Inc.
Sadly the Swiss company disclosed about 2,400 employees W2's
to scammers. The employees were in Jeffersonville, Indiana; Oregon, Ohio; Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania; and Aiken, South Carolina; and at its North American headquarters in Farmington Hills, Michigan. At least 1 employee already found their taxes having been filed by the scammers. Daytona State College W2 Breach
Hundreds of current and former employees could be affected by the breach
, although they are being very vague on how it happened. Gee, I wonder, could it possibly be a W2 phishing scam? Go figure. Yukon Public Schools Hit With Data Breach
And again I find myself reporting on a W2 scam. This time, It's Yukon Public Schools
that fell for a phishing scam and emailed W2's to scammers. Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said the email looked like it was sent from him, then later in the story it was mentioned that it was spoofed from an AOL email address. Really? AOL in this day and age? This is twice today I have heard of people using AOL email. I really thought it was dead.
Kids, today's lesson is, if you are handling sensitive information or transferring money, you might want to pick up the phone BEFORE you hit send. Just sayin. Groton Public Schools - Yet Another W2 Scam Victim
This is really getting stupid. School after school are sending the teacher's W2 to scammers. Groton Public Schools
in Connecticut is the focus of this post. You know, because teachers don't have enough to deal with, what with miniature humans eating the all of the paste and creating mayhem by the truckload. Glastonbury, CT Public Schools Hit By W2 Scam
Another day, another district reporting a breach
. This time it was Glastonbury Public Schools who did it. It was everyone but the food service personnel (the district appears to know enough NOT to mess with the folks that handle their food). How does anyone in the school systems not know about this scam already? Sheesh! Tyler Independent School District Falls For W2 Scam
From Tyler, TX. They found out about it on Wednesday
. I like that they are taking steps though, as the district said they will "continue and improve upon our information security awareness and training programs for all employees." Good, comprehensive awareness training IS how you combat this 1 Bitcoin is worth more than an ounce of gold
Pretty crazy that this unregulated vapor-currency is worth more than gold isn't it? AWESOME PICTURE Gas Pump Tamper Alarm May Have Foiled Skimmer Install
I am glad to see the new pumps have tamper alarms and that they may actually work. This one was an issue pretty close to home in Ocala, FL
The tamper alarm went off and the clerk checked it out, possibly spooking a few guys that were acting weird. We need more of this sort of thing happening. #MHN, #kippo and #Dionaea still cooking along. Now to capture binaries...
So, I've been playing with Kippo and Dionaea using the Modern Honey Network (MHN) tool and having some fun with it. At this point, I'm going to reload my Kippo box at home and deploy it with Dionaea as well rather than WordPot. I like being able to see the different types of attacks on FTP and HTTP, but I'm having some trouble with the config.
Currently, FTP will make a connection, but fails to send a directory listing. Likewise, I am not capturing any binaries right now. I tried making the folder wide open (777 & nobody:nogroup) but still no luck. If you have any ideas, let me know please. I want to start playing with captures. In the meantime, my pew pew map is about done collecting sources now. Few of the attacks come from a new place now. Pew pew map Attacks on various services
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