2236-12-15 - Keep It Simple

Tamlin and Walsh dig into the mysterious Raptor failures.

Date: 2236-12-15

Location: Hangar Deck

Related Scenes: None

Plot: None

Scene Number: 922

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Rabbit and Echo's Raptor has been grounded since Isolde flew it back from the surface. Despite running a bunch of diagnostic tests, they haven't been able to figure out why the autopilot got stuck on. With a steady stream of combat repairs, there hasn't been a lot of spare time to troubleshoot gremlins, but today Walsh is making time. Her shift technically ended a few hours ago, but she's still here on the deck, a heavy-duty diagnostic tablet in her hand as she sits on the wing of the recalcitrant bird, frowning at the results.

Tamlin's head peeks up over the edge of the wing Walsh is sitting on, as she's been working on systematically taking apart and putting back together all of the raptor's mechanical systems. "Shall I hit it with the wrench again, Chief?" Tamlin knows the look on Walsh's face. She also knows there really isn't much she can do to help her diagnose what's ailing the raptor. She has only a beginner's understanding of what her boss is working on. Parts she can usually manage, but she's no engineer. Walsh is.

"May as well, we've tried every other godsdamn thing," Walsh complains with a snort. "Still haven't found anything in the electrical system?" She presumes Tamlin would've mentioned if she had, but, well, one can always hope.

Tamlin does not hesitate in giving the edge of the raptor's wing a resounding whack with her wrench. It's not as if it can't be polished out, right? "I have been over every inch of this bird, pulled every connection, checked every solder point, run every inch of insulation. I can't find a single fault in the electrical system." She scoots up, enough that she can sit with her elbows on the wing, while still sitting on the floor. "I know the raptors aren't networked, but is it possible that they could have introduced some sort of malicious program into the raptor's system during one of its flyovers? I mean, I don't know that that would be possible, I'm not really sure how those sorts of things even work, aside from, "Never open an email attachment from someone you don't know."

Walsh chuckles at the thunk. She hadn't meant it literally, but doesn't object to it being taken as such. She shakes her head to the suggestion. "Not unless the Toasters have figured out a way to hack a hardwired system, in which case we're all frakked right in the ass." It's an unpleasant thought. "OK. So. We've both been over the mechanical systems -" And Tamlin has gone a step further by taking them apart, "You've checked electrical, I've run all the diagnostics three times - not a frakking thing on any of it. Aegis -" That would be the defense contractor that did the majority of work on the software system. "- claims it can't possibly be their software, but I don't see anything else it could be, do you?"

Tamlin does give it some serious thought, her wrench rapping out a quiet, sedate rhythm, "The first lesson I learned in C-school, was KISS, 'keep it simple, stupid'. When you have a problem, keep picking it apart until you get to the most basic, the most innocuous elements." She pauses in her rapping, "So what if we're thinking about this too high brow. It's not the design, it's not the electronics, it's not the programming...what if it's a simple mechanical fault, some part or another that wasn't perfectly or properly machined? One tiny piece of filing that wasn't polished off that snagged something? Some part that is just a hair too large or small?"

"It would have to have been a cascading problem. There isn't a single component on the ship that could cause that sort of failure. Except the software," Walsh reasons. "Can you think of a chain reaction that could cause it?" Her work boots thunk lightly on the wing as she sits there, legs dangling over the edge of the wing.

Tamlin considers, leaning forward to rest her chin on the raptor's wing, "I remember reading a case in school, about a time when they were shifting over on one of the colonies from their own unit of measure to a new standard measurement for their heating and cooling systems. They adjusted all of the parts except the thermometers on the oxygen tanks. They ran tests on the systems on the ground, and unbeknown to them, they fused the regulators on the tanks, so that when they finally ran the tanks in operation, they overheated and exploded. Or there was one case when a ship was underfueled, because they measured the fuel in the wrong scale. What if the fact that we've got people from twelve different colonies all working on these ships is coming back to bite us?"

Walsh taps her hand on the edge of the tablet, pressing her lips together in consideration of the idea. "Not a frakking half bad idea, Genie. Go over the components one more time looking for failure points like that and see what you come up with. I'll pitch the idea to Aegis too. Now that still leaves us with Taxi's bus. Completely different failure mode." Total power failure versus autopilot issue.

Tamlin nods, "You got it, Chief." If there's one thing the caprican space mechanic likes, it's looking at all the smallest, tiniest, most minuscule bits and bobs of a ship. It's all very like putting together one of those 5000 piece jigsaw puzzles, "I'll get started at the top and work my way down to the bottom." As for the second, more perplexing problem, "I must have read that report about a half dozen times, and it still reads like science fiction. No one just pushes a big red button and instantaneously disables all the electrical systems in a raptor." She holds up a hand, "I mean, yes, that's sort of what they did with the Marks Is, but that was some sort of computer virus right? Taxi's raptor sounds like they just found a way to short certain every power generating system in the raptor."

Walsh touches her nose while pointing at Tamlin. "You said it, Genie. We've seen that before with the Toasters hacking the Mark I's, but these babies aren't on the network. How the frak could they have hacked it? If they could do it whenever the frak they felt like it, we'd be losing all our birds. There has to be something more to it. I've been tempted to ask the CAG to authorize a couple divers to go get the black box off the damn thing. See if that would tell us anything."

"Well, the Mark Is were what we were talking about before, some sort of virus that got into the code. But a hardwired system like the raptors are running needs a hard-wired system." Tamlin pauses, considering, "Chief, I had an idea. When the raptors are out, they can jam enemy planes to make things like targetting harder, right? How do those systems work?" Being able to fix a thing doesn't mean she knows how the things actually works.

"Right, the virus got onto the Mk I's over the network." Walsh agrees. "Jamming?" She shrugs, then explains, "Well the main thing it does is frak with the DRADIS. Broadcasts a bunch of static, essentially, onto the same frequencies that the DRADIS uses. Causes the frakkers to lose track of their targets if they can't maintain visual. If the ECO adjusts the frequencies they could also jam communications. Doesn't make it harder for an individual ship to target, but does frak with their teamwork."

Tamlin sits back up, interested in the breakdown of how the systems work, "You talked about a cascading failure with the other raptor. This wasn't that, but, the static is some sort of wave right? Now, they were flying over cylon territory. So we have no idea what sort of things they have planted around like booby traps. Could they have used something like the jammers to hit the raptor's electrical system? Or something that feeds into the electrical system...or even the electromagnetic systems of the FTL drives? Don't the raptors keep them spun up in combat operations?"

"Well the jamming doesn't go inside the Raiders. It just fraks with the signals that the Raider is sending out into space." Walsh gestures vaguely with her hands to illustrate the point. Or try to anyway - it probably in fact doesn't help much at all. "What you're talking about would mean a strong enough signal to get through the Raptor's shielding and disrupt the systems inside. An EMP weapon, essentially. We've never seen anything like that before. And it's weird because the marine radios still worked after. A normal EMP could've toasted them too." Walsh shakes her head, frowning. "It's frakking weird, it was it all isl"

Tamlin frowns, clearly at a loss. But it isn't like her to give up, even if she's having ideas that don't make any sense at all. Sometimes just imagining things can lead to something real. Or not, "We never saw machines building machines and trying to kill us either. And you have to imagine that they know these ships inside and out. We've hard-wired these things, but we haven't re-invented the wheel. If we had, we'd have both been out of a job." Tamlin gives the raptor another knock with the wrench for good measure, even if it hasn't done a thing wrong to her, "I think we have to start with the black box. See what the recorder says happened."

Walsh nods, "Yeah, hopefully the black box will tell us something useful." And then she gets called off to help with some issue on a damaged bird.


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