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Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Breeman - Journey's End


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((Science Lab - USS Columbia))

::He pored over the images and spectrometry results. Nothing jumped out at him showing that the planet's atmosphere had changed at all over the past three years. Instead the same uniform measurements with a bit of noise interspersed here and there showed up on all the scans. One thing struck him however. The star Hemix was orbiting was dimming and brightening at all the wrong intervals. Oh at first glance everything looked fine. But when Kevin sped up the measurement timeline and watched the wobble the anomaly appeared. Hemix' system was a strange one in that its sun had a close-orbiting gas giant, making it wobble much more frequently and more pronounced than a star like Sol would. But at the end of each single year for Hemix the sun did not wobble quite as much. He ran a simulation and the results were awkward to say the least. The only explanation was to posit another planetary body with a great deal of mass.

Gravitic sensor scans of the system hadn't turned up anything producing that much gravity so the mystery remained for now.

Something kept nagging him though. The wobble data, derived as they were from observations of light coming from the Hemix star, had all come to him pre-processed by something called K7 heuristic algorithm. He had to admit he wasn't as up on his computer science as he would have liked and a glance through the ship's wiki would take him away from his other duties. It seemed like a better idea to use this as an opportunity to get to know the others on the crew.

Breeman: =^= Breeman to Nuvia

Oori: =/\= ...Nuvia here. How can I help you? =/\=

Breeman: =/\= Are you familiar with an algorithm called K7? =/\=

Oori: =/\= Yes sir, I certainly am. The K7 heuristic algorithm is usually only used when trying to process a large amount of data very quickly, and even not then sometimes because of the way it handles it. It's a searching tool. Essentially what it does is takes in all the data, finds the first thing that will match the criteria for what you're looking for, returns that, and then dumps the rest. That's why it's named K7, I'm sure you know that explosive Tribble story. It's a very unreliable algorithm. =/\=

::If the algorithm was this notorious why wasn't he familiar with it? Had he been out of the field long enough for him to be getting ignorant of the latest... He was being too hard on himself. Of course he didn't know the latest technological jokes. University engineering jokes, like inflatable dartboards, tended to fall by the wayside once the students employing them had graduated and entered the working world. Kevin was no different.::

Breeman: =/\= Hm... Then that would explain a few things about why it's deciding that gravity is changing once a year in the Hemix system.

::Just because he was a working professional now didn't mean he couldn't banter still and maybe gain a few of the jokes. Math and science jokes were, after all, as much instruments for learning as they were of humour. In the distant past they'd served as a code that gave their users a sense of superiority over others. Of course that superiority soon waned when the jokester realized that after graduation she was surrounded by thousands of others from a multitude of other schools who'd told similar jokes while snickering at the arts majors. A few experiences and mistakes out in the office served as darts to deflate the humour and make the invention of esoterica in academia not something held by a select few but of which everyone was guilty.::

Breeman: =^= Okay so... Why the name? It sounded at first like something out of graph theory or something but that doesn't seem right.

Oori: =/\= You know, the first Enterprise, Captain Kirk. There was an explosive tribble amongst hundreds of others in one of Deep Space K7s grain holding containers. Some people inside the container found it somehow and got rid of it, and then when Kirk opened the container all the rest of the tribbles fell on top of him. I doubt it's a true story, probably just something that floats around the academy. Anyway, whoever created that algorithm knew it. =/\=

::Kevin thought about it. There had to be a grain of truth somewhere in this name. Something about the algorithm itself. It was too much like the leaky bucket algorithm or 'big-endian' representation. A concept named for an allusion.::

Breeman: =/\= Okay... Thank you I think that tells me a lot actually.

Oori: =/\= Glad I could help. If you don't mind my asking, where did K7 come up? =/\=

Breeman: =/\= Well...

::Kevin pored over the data again and then looked over the graphic on the IEEE magazine article he'd been linked to when looking up the algorithm. He watched as a few points of data were gathered from a set of millions. These points were then used as reference markers for looking for other similar patterns in the data. Soon several more points fitting the pattern were teased from the data until a veritable explosion of confirming evidence emerged.::

Breeman: oO So it's a computer's version of confirmation bias? Oo

Breeman: It's an algorithm that the data on the Hemix system was passed through before we got it. Looks like it takes a couple of points from the noise and uses them to extrapolate a pattern.

Oori: =/\= Yup, that's K7 alright. Like I said, very unreliable. Is that Romulan data though? =/\=

Breeman: =/\= No... That's the thing. It's data from the Federation Astronomical Survey.

Oori: =/\= Well, I'm just saying, whoever ran that algorithm might have done it for a reason. They should have known as well as I it's not very useful. =/\=

Breeman: =/\= Yes, you're right...

::Something was out of place now. Why would the FAS use a more or less academic exercise in confirmation bias to process their data on the Hemix star system? He tapped several commands into his console and opened up Buster, an automation software he'd written a few years back. He told the program to file a request with the FAS for the raw data used in observing the Hemix system.::

((Short Time Warp))

::As the days went by Kevin was surprised to find that no one had responded to his request for the raw data. At first he thought this might be on account of their travelling at best speed but that shouldn't have made a difference. Starships were often in contact with relatively stationary objects like starbases while travelling at high warp.

He was tempted to file the request again but thought better of it. So he spent a while trying to work out the original data based on the algorithm. Unfortunately this turned out to be impossible, as the

K7 function was like a one-way hash, spitting out a data set that couldn't be used to derive the original input data.::


((Breeman's Office – Science))

::He paused one day and looked over his surroundings. His arriving here was at the tail end of an interesting and winding path. The counselling at Starbase 118 had led to his being sent to Earth for eleven months. There he'd been sent to what had been dubbed a mental health home. When he'd heard the term he'd envisioned some kind of nasty place like an institution.

Soon however several things became apparent. First he'd be left to live there alone for two weeks. Second the place would be a large house on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean along the coast of British Columbia, rather than a stuffy building somewhere near San Francisco or Toronto.::

::The first two days had been awkward. He'd stood in the doorway of the house for almost an hour after being dropped off there by a pair of officers. Soon he'd found himself settling into a routine of sorts.::


((Flashback – 11 Months Earlier))

::The table before him was empty, its glossy wood reflecting the morning light outside. Meanwhile through the window he could hear the distant sounds of waves crashing against the shore tens of feet below the cliff.::

::Kevin had to admit that this felt a little like a guilty pleasure now. The day after he'd arrived he'd had the replicator produce a book for him and he'd taken to sitting inside and writing in it whatever came to mind. At first he'd tried to do the therapeutic thing and write about Sarah Novak. He'd written descriptions of her lying there dying, and then about Cyrus and how he'd taken care of the dog for a while. But something had felt artificial about what he'd been doing, and soon Sarah and the dragons and the Columbia would recede, refusing to be inspected with the pen. Everything faded into a distant fog like the one he'd seen out the window of the runabout just outside Odyssey Station when he'd looked back at the dim clouds which turned out to be the Milky Way Galaxy seen from somewhere inside the Large Magellanic Cloud, and he'd just written. He'd tried a few poems before settling on writing a collection of little poems that expressed revulsion at the existential angst he'd felt in his youth by portraying it in the form of an angsty teenaged girl whose angst wasn't reflected in the universe but rather ignored. He'd been unsuccessful though in conveying that this signified that he'd reached a new level of human agency in which his own power to act was conferred precisely by the apathy the universe held toward him. Whether his teenaged girl had learned the lesson was unclear.::

::On other occasions Sarah did return.


((Flashback – Three Nights Ago))

::He opened his eyes to the sight of the morning sunlight entering the window of the room upstairs in the house. Soon he was aware of someone else in the room with him. He looked down toward the chair at the foot of the bed only to see Sarah Novak seated there.

::Kevin sat up. Sarah continued to stare at him and as he blinked the image disappeared. He looked about him and saw only the empty room again, a still rocking chair at the foot of the bed. He stood and placed a hand on it, not sure what he hoped to find. The wood was cold, its only warmth coming from the sun outside.::

::So she really had died. It hadn't all been a nightmare. He shook his head. This had to end somehow. Other people lost crew and survived. Why couldn't he? Why hadn't he been able to concentrate after that mission? Why had Captain Nicholotti decided to keep him on the Excallibur rather than send him on the away mission? Why had he seen strange lights and then blacked out? Why was he going backwards, falling from being an accomplished chief engineer and scientist into this wreckage, constantly doubting himself, worrying about what people would think of him, whether they'd ever want to serve with him again. Why was he the only one?::

::He found himself dressing and walking out of the house, book in hand. He marched determinedly until he stood at edge of the cliff, looking down at the surf below. The sand and the rocks seemed happy there, ignorant of his presence and certainly of the horrifying thoughts that rushed through his mind. It would be so easy. He just had to take one step and it would all be over. He clenched his jaw between his fingers and opened the book to his first attempt at exorcising her. The writing was artificial and Sarah receded again until she was just another collection of words, shapes on the page. He wanted to throw her depiction instead at least. That would at least remove one artefact – Not that his mind couldn't produce others whether he wanted it to or not. He turned to another page and then another, all the while feeling his feet beneath him tracing their way backward until when he looked down expecting to see surf again all he saw was the tall grass, rustling in the gentle morning wind, the sound of the water below providing a calming accompaniment.::

((Present – Science Office – USS Columbia))

::And that had been how his recovery had begun. He'd felt like hell, wanted to commit suicide, but refused to do it. And then the training had begun again. It had felt like he was going through school again. At first he'd felt guilty for this. Hadn't school come and gone a decade earlier? “One is never too old to be a student,” doctor Chen had said. “Ever heard of changing careers? How do you think those people do it?”::

::He'd been right. And this had been easier. He'd just had to re-learn to be an officer again, and to accept that everyone (not just him) who donned the uniform accepted the risk.

His combadge chirped, bringing him back to the present.::

Lt. Cdr. Kevin Breeman
Science Officer
USS Columbia

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