She realized something was up the moment she had stepped out of the turbolift and onto deck thirteen, very nearly colliding with two crewmen transporting a couple of rather bulky containers on an obviously undersized anti-grav sled.
A potential cargo spill all over the floor was avoided at the last moment by Tazla’s quick reflexes and helping the two surprised crewmen by grabbing hold of the bulkier of the two crates before it could slip off the sled.
After a brief reminder of standard cargo transport procedures, Tazla continued towards her destination all the while noticing the much heavier than usual foot traffic, most of which seemingly concerned with moving equipment from one place to another.
This seemed odd to her.
As the ship’s first officer she prided herself in knowing exactly what was happening at any given time on Eagle, certainly any undertakings requiring this much personnel and hardware, and yet she was not aware of the exact purpose of what she had encountered. More importantly, she had certainly not signed off on it.
It didn’t seem to be limited to one specific department either. Among the busy crewmembers she encountered on her way down the corridor, she could spot medical and science personnel as well as engineers and quite a few faces belonging to people she knew worked in Nora’s security team.
She reached cargo bay two and found the heavy doors leading inside already wide open to accommodate the constant traffic of people coming and going, very few of whom were empty-handed.
Cargo bay two was Eagle’ssingle largest storage space, with perhaps the only exception being the main shuttle bay and the hangar deck directly below it, and remembering the last cargo manifest coming across her desk, she knew that it currently contained a wide range of equipment and other payloads which starships like Eagleoften carried to assist the crew in their varied mission objectives.
However, it now appeared as if the entire bay had been completely reorganized with much of the regular cargo having been removed in favor of what seemed to be crates upon crates of medical supplies and instruments many of which already unpacked from their storage containers.
Everything seemed very orderly arranged within designated areas inside the bay, from essential medication and drugs in one corner, to spare tricorders and other tools in another, stretchers, blankets and bandages, all the way to large and bulky items like bio beds, pre-fab parts for a field hospital and even a couple of industrial replicators for medical use.
A plethora of personnel, primarily blue-collared medical specialists and science officers were moving back and forth across the bay with noticeable purpose, working on adding to, sorting and organizing the equipment.
Tazla had seen all this before. In fact, in an earlier life, she had helped to write the book on this exact type of medical preparedness procedure.
She quickly found the brain behind this particular operation when she spotted Elijah Katanga speaking with Xylion near the center of the cargo bay, efficiently giving the Vulcan instructions. She made a beeline for the two men.
“I want to set up a forward containment area in shuttle bay two with a capacity for at least fifty patients as soon as possible. Liaise with Doctor Nelson regarding containment procedures required to ensure a level four facility. That means both force fields and physical containment sections. Let’s also be ready to have a contingency isolation ward in the main shuttle bay. It’s better to have it and not need it than not having it once we get overwhelmed with patients.”
The Vulcan was studiously making notes onto his padd as he was listening to the veteran physician’s instructions.
“Gentlemen? Somebody like to clue me into what we’re doing here?” she said as she stepped up to the two senior officers.
Xylion stopped working on the padd and looked up at her with what could only be considered a puzzled expression. He raised an eyebrow with apparent surprise before he glanced over at his colleague. “Doctor, I was under the impression that you had obtained approval for this course of action before commencing it.”
But Katanga ignored the Vulcan, focusing on Tazla instead. “I would think of all people you would recognize this. Or did that also get lost when your symbiont moved hosts?”
She frowned and swallowed the urge to bite back with a sarcastic reply. She had a good idea what he thought may have been lost in the transition from Dezwin Star to Tazla. He was, of course, wrong on both accounts. She took a moment to let her eyes wander across the bay. “Looks like a standard MAAP preparatory operation. Category three?”
“Four,” he corrected her.
She nodded. “Which is interesting since I do not recall seeing a request coming my way to approve any of this.”
“I am the chief medical officer on this ship. It is within my authority to initiate medical operations as I see fit.”
“Maybe,” she countered. “But not on this scale. And certainly not involving other ship departments. Looks to me you’ve involved half the crew in this exercise without so much as giving me a heads-up.”
“That’s why I asked you to come down here now,” he said, doing little to hide his annoyance with the way this conversation was going. “So you may rest assured that we know what we’re doing and authorize additional resources.”
“Commander,” she said to Xylion. “Could you give us a moment, please?”
He dipped his head slightly and then stepped away, appearing almost grateful to be excused.
“What are you doing, Eli?”
“Exactly what I said. What you can see with your own two eyes,” he said and then, apparently tiring of the conversation, moved on to inspect a row of medical tricorders and giving instructions to the crewmembers preparing the equipment.
Tazla followed him closely. “We still have no idea what it is we’re dealing with. We have been given no indication whatsoever of the nature of the epidemic or what kind of assistance the Krellonians even want from us. All that hardly justifies mobilizing on this scale.”
He stopped and turned to look at her. "We have been in orbit around this planet for over twelve hours now. What do you expect me to do in that time? Twiddle my thumbs and carry out theoretical analyses? We need to prepare for whatever we may find down there. This is how we prepare, in case you had forgotten."
She crossed her arms in front of her chest. “I have forgotten nothing.”
“Could have fooled me,” he said and moved on to look over the emergency medkits which had been neatly arranged in rows on a number temporary tables.
She uttered an exasperated sigh. “Alright, fine, you do your preparations and anything else you need to do, I’ll sign off on whatever other resources you need. But this thing between us has to stop. You want to be mad at me, be mad at me, but that doesn’t give you the right to do an end-around and pretend I am not your commanding officer. This isn’t MAAP and you’re not the director anymore. Something like this needs to be approved through the proper channels.”
With his back turned towards her, he kept his attention on inspecting the medkits.
“Yes, I heard you, Commander. You are in charge and I didn’t follow the rules. Consider me chastised,” he mumbled without ever turning around.
She continued to stare daggers into his back to no apparent end. Then she turned around and made to leave.
She stopped and turned around. “What else?”
“Twelve hours. That is not acceptable and you know it. Not when dealing with an epidemic,” he said.
“We don’t even know what it is.”
He nodded. “Exactly my point. Enough time has already been lost for us to just sit up here and wait for things to happen. We need to take action.”
She shook her head. “It’s out of our hands. We may have been asked here but we are still guests. If they don’t want us to help, there is nothing we can do.” She wasn’t entirely able to hide her own frustration over the way things had gone so far. Bad enough that it had very nearly come to blows with the Krellonian agents at the border. After finally arriving at Piqus VII, they had been advised to hold position in orbit and given no further instructions or information. In the meantime, the planet was clearly under a strict quarantine which seemed to include a total communications blackout, since no further hails to the surface had been answered.
“This is Merian V all over again,” he said. “You remember Merian V?”
“The Levodian flu outbreak, of course, I remember.”
“And the regional government was adamant that we did not get involved, believing that all they needed to fight the disease was faith in their gods. They were adamant that allowing us ‘heretics’ to set foot in their province would only make matters worse. Thousands of people lost their lives which we could have saved if we had been allowed access to the most affected areas sooner.”
She recalled that incident quite vividly, it had been one of the first true tests of the newly created Medical Assistance and Advisory Program which Eli and Dezwin had helped create. Back when they had both still worked as frontline doctors, right there in the middle of any hotspot planet which had requested Starfleet Medical’s help with a crisis. She also recalled his impressive persistence which had eventually worn down any objections from those government representatives who had fought tooth and nail against Starfleet involvement.
“This is a much more delicate situation than Merian V, Eli. We cannot afford to apply this kind of pressure here."
“See? That right there is the politician speaking. This new Star I hardly recognize. The one who thinks more about keeping her superiors content than caring about the suffering of people in need. I’ve never been that person. And I don’t want to be. My job is to save lives and I will do whatever it takes to make sure I get my job done.”
She glared at him, not appreciating his tone, or in fact, any of the words he had chosen.
“If you are not willing to do it, rest assured, I will. I’ll take this up with the captain and I’ll go right to those leaders on the planet. You know I will. And if that doesn’t help, I’ll track down whoever invited us here and harass the Krellonian head of state until they either kick us out or let us help.”
The staring contest between them lasted what seemed like minutes but thankfully it was cut short after just a few seconds by an incoming hail from the bridge. “Owens to Star.”
It took her another moment to answer while she kept her green eyes laser-focused on those of the man she had once called her closest friend. Then she broke contact to take the call. "Star here. Go ahead, sir."
“I think we might be finally getting somewhere. We’ve just received word that a government official is due to arrive in the system and willing to meet with us. He should be here within the hour.”
“Excellent news, sir.”
“Let’s hope so. I suggest you find Doctor Katanga and ask him to join us once he gets here.”
Her eyes found Elijah’s again. “I’m sure he will be delighted to hear that.”
Without uttering another word, Tazla Star turned on her heel and left the cargo bay.