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Peer Pressure

Posted on Tue Aug 7th, 2018 @ 10:13pm by Lieutenant Benjamin Ingram Dr

Mission: Preflight
Location: Executive Officers Office
Timeline: MD 60 17.45

Benjamin was ensconced in his office, the door was locked, and he contemplated his next actions very carefully. He reached into the desk draw, and pulled out the little black plastic cube that fit into the palm of his hand. It didn’t look like very much, but in terms of net worth two of these cubes equalled the resources and time needed to build a Vesta class starship. Within their cases were liquid crystal data arrays that supported the carefully constrained intellects of very specialised AI’s. Not the talking kind any kids PaDD came with, but the sort of carefully focused intellect that solved quantum encryption algorithms with ease.

To say such devices were illegal outside of very specialised government sanctioned organizations went without saying.

Placing the cube on the desk, he tapped the sides in a coded sequence that awoke the caged monster within. Within seconds his desk monitor had turned to static, and his combadge was humming a steady ‘loss of signal’ tone as very outgoing data stream was cut off. The Privacy Cube than accessed the desk terminal, replacing the functional LCAR’s layout with a more organic and streamlined interface.

The Ingram family data net was nothing if not state of the art, and now had a remote terminal on board a distant starship. The data connection was routed a dozen ways to its destination, hiding in among less obvious data packets. It wouldn’t do to use it for too long, least someone catch on, but for now it was an ideal private link.

He thumbed through his personal contacts, the family directory hosting a fast array of information on anyone who could be of use to them. There were Federation Council members on that list, admirals for Starfleet, notable peer’s in the business world and a few world leaders. There were also listings for less than reputable souls, and even a few names and organisations that would get the family listed as Traitors Of The Federation were they known.

Fortunately Benjamin only needed one name, from one place that was almost perfectly innocent for a scientist to contact.

“Welcome to the Daystrom Institute For Advanced Studies, how might I direct you?” was the soft spoken request from the DIAS central computer. For an advanced learning facility where the bleeding edge of science was translated into terms the little people could understand, the dumb AI running the front desk was a little bit of a let down.

“Connect me to Administrator Verim, tell him Benjamin Ingram wishes to talk to him.” Benjie said as he steepled his fingers.

“One moment please,” the dumb AI replied, and after a moment the screen changed to reveal a pleasantly academic looking fellow. Thinning hair, a rounded face worn smooth by an overabundance of smiling, and dark eyes hidden behind glasses he wore as an affectation. Samuel Verim looked the role of academic, the same way Ingram looked the role of congenial scientist: social camouflage. In reality Verim was a shark able to cut scientists from the packs they ran with, and add them to his harem of intellectual excellence on Rigel III. It was often said, among those in the know, that if Verim visited a university you’d best lock up your grad students.

“Benjamin!” Verim said in a booming, bombastic voice. “Why as I live and breath, you don’t look half bad in that Starfleet uniform! Fit’s you, as they say. To what do I owe the pleasure of a call from on of DIAS’s most notable donors?”

“Flattery, as always Verim, is appreciated. But I am not my sister Sabatha, nor my cousin Sebastian so lets leave off the familiarity,” Benjie said with a smile. “How is the new wing doing?”

“You mean the one with your families name over it?” The Ingram Institute Of Artificial Mentation was less of a wing and more of its own campus, but it was a place where Ingram Nanoscale Systems more public works in artificial intelligence could be accomplished. “It’s doing some pretty cutting edge research at the moment. I’ve CC’d the reports to your families accounts, so I can’t see why you’d need to call me about them when they are at your fingertips. What can I do for you?”

“I need you to draft up a professorship for someone. Full tenure, full lab space, funding, the works,” Benjie rolled into the pitch. “Don’t worry about specialising the space, the person I want given the role is something of a dab hand at finding interesting things to accomplish all by herself.”

“I...see,” Verim said after a moment, stroking his wide chin. “You are aware that the current applicant list for teaching and research spots at DIAS is extensive. To jump someone to the front of the queue, when they have not even been in that queue, will cause quite a stir. It will ruffle a lot of feathers for me.”

“I’m not hearing an ‘it’s impossible’,” Benjie countered.

“Oh far from it. Some of them I would sideline just for spite, others...huum. I would require compensation for the trouble I would be inviting into my home, you understand,” the academic said smoothly and leaned towards the camera. “The ruins of the Laaroon cloud cities are said to be fascinating.”

Fascinating and utterly forbidden to be studied by the Tholian Assembly. The Laaroon had been a species who had occupied a handful of worlds that existed in what was now the Assembly. Their cities had floated in the clouds, specs of green seen from orbit that cast long shadows on the ground far below. The Laaroon had died out centuries before mankind had even learned how to fly, leaving behind ruined cities that floated in the air to this day. All their secrets, including their power generation that continued to work to this day, left out in the open but forbidden to be studied by outsiders.

“I’ve heard rumours that a team from Ingram Nanoscale Systems was able to somehow pass through the Assemblies borders and take detailed sensor readings. I’m sure a place could be found for your....associate in exchange for them,” Verim concluded.

“Huum.” Benjie said, sitting back in his chair. Someone in the family’s company had spoken a little to freely. “An interesting offer. It will take some time to doctor the results in such a way to remove any hint they were obtained by INS. I could have them curiored to you by the end of next week?”

“That would be most agreeable,” Vermin smiled. “I’ll have a letter of invitation sent to your applicant by the end of the day. All the bells and whistles I can attach to it.”

“Excellent,” Benjie said. “I’ll send you her personnel file. Dr Viroden, Rizena Viroden. Consider her a person of interest to the Ingram family.”

He then leaned into the camera.

“Which means keep your hands to yourself. If I hear even the rumour you’ve tried to pull your usual trick of ‘ingratiating’ yourself into her company, I will be…annoyed. You remember what happened to the last Administrator before you? I hear he’s doing very well running a community college on Hazor V. A lot of good work to be done there among the rice farms and insects.”

Verim held up his hands.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about-” he began to say.

“I’m sure you do. The letter, by the end of the day. I’ll have my families courier contact you in the usual manner for delivery. Goodbye Verim,” Benjie said and tapped the top surface of the Privacy Cube. With a blink the screen cut off, replaced by a clunky LCAR’s menu a monkey could navigate. He leaned back in his chair, and looked down to his left hand.

He rolled up the sleeve of his uniform, and rubbed the bed of his thumb over the rough swirls and eddies resting just under the skin that glowed softly in the dark light.

“I’m sorry to see you go Viroden,” he said quietly to himself. “But I have greater need of the work you are performing than you could possibly know.”


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