Location: Cyberspace - Nimitz Computer Core
Timeline: 1305 Hours, Day 1
The 'place' in which Nikki existed, if such a term could be used for somewhere with no spatial frame of reference, would have boggled the mind of most other beings. In the AI's world, streams of data, imaginary numbers and the ephemeral code bursts of malfunctioning sensors were as real and concrete as the bulkheads of the Nimitz were to her crew. The seat of Nikki's being was not unlike a fortress... or a prison. She was locked into the core with impenetrable walls of code and hardware that prevented her affecting ship systems in any way without command authorization from a short list of people. She could observe her world, but in large measure not touch it.
In this case it was as much a boon as a curse since the walls worked both ways. She may be unable to interface directly with the Nimitz systems, but they were similarly unable to interface directly with her which meant she had been unaffected by the virus now rampaging through core. Said virus had occupied most of her time for the last three days. She poured over data streaming from infected systems, matching them both against her memory and data from systems that were yet uncompromised, searching both for understanding as to the virus' basic functions and its purpose. It had lead to endless processor hours of what her Caitian friend - Nikki paused for a few megacycles to reflect that 'friend' was indeed the word she would choose to describe him - would probably term 'chasing her tail'. The virus was a masterpiece of coding, the work of true destructive virtuoso. Still, despite the devious nature of the now exponentially spreading malware and the fact that there were many things she still didn't understand about it, she had come to a few basic conclusions. And they weren't good.
To begin with, the virus was both recursive and fractal in nature, endlessly rewriting mathematically obscure variations of itself into the data banks, filling them to capacity and in some cases overwriting other code. The net effect cause the computer core to run so many processes to execute basic functions that legitimate bits of code were essentially drowned in 'white noise.' Under normal circumstances, a virus utilizing this methodology would be caught by the ships software security systems in nanoseconds and eradicated. To circumvent those prying electronic eyes, the virus had, like a biological retrovirus, hijacked legitimate ships functions to spread itself throughout the core before, in accordance with some code she had yet to divine or some signal she had yet to detect, beginning to multiply out of control. It was a clever methodology, but one that carried several disturbing implications. To begin with, the virus, which at present affected some 78.2% of the core in some manner, would have required a great deal of time to spread before going malignant. Her projections as to exactly when it had been inserted included a great deal of uncertainty, but it had almost certainly been more than four years ago. Furthermore any method of insertion would have required a great deal of familiarity with the Nimitz core, which was classified, and possibly direct access to the core itself. It was even possible that the code for the virus had some how been inserted into the design documents for the Nimitz core, and that the core had essentially been built with it already installed.
Then there was the matter of its function. It was certainly doing great job debilitating the Nimitz, but there was more to the program than simple sabotage. Of the processes Nikki had identified as possibly malicious, only 25% of them were involved in spreading the malware. The rest of them were doing things she couldn't quite figure out, making it distinctly possible that the virus' effects on the Nimitz ability to function was only a cover or a side effect of something much more directed.
As chilling as all of those considerations could be, though, they weren't the most disturbing ones she'd yet entertained. Just in the last few megacycles, she'd parsed a bit of code from one of the virus more inscrutable functions. She couldn't yet figure out what it was for, but it contained resource call methodologies used by only one known race in the galaxy: Cardassians.
A few weeks ago, Korvin had introduced Nikki to a philosophical tenant known as "Occam's Razor." Put succinctly, it stated that given a set of facts, the explanation with the fewest assumptions that fit those facts was likely to be correct. It was a pithy bit of logic that enshrined something that computers had known since they had been invented and given the capacity to think for themselves. Still, it had application here whatever one called it. So, the facts: The Nimitz was being crippled by a rapidly spreading virus of unknown function that bore the hallmarks of Cardassian design. Best fit hypotheses: The Nimitz had been compromised in some manner by the Cardassians. This was bad. Very bad. And it was not something she could keep to herself. Laying hold of the data stream for the ship's internal communications, Nikki sought out the Captain.