The main shuttlebay looked as if it had been thrown into utter and total chaos and more closely resembled a junkyard than an orderly flight deck on a ship of the line.
The entire length and width of the massive space seemed to be occupied by escape pods in various state of disrepair, along with tons of other debris which had once belonged to the other starship Eagle. Mixed in with all of that were hull pieces and starship fragments from the Krellonian vessels which had suffered the same fate.
Clearly, in a rush to recover as many viable escape pods as possible, Deen and the transporter operators had thrown a wide net, beaming anything and everything that could possibly have contained life signs right into the shuttle bay to be sorted out later.
It had been an expedient tactic, probably the only one that ensured they could save as many souls as possible but it had left a junk heap of twisted and burned metal to be sifted through by the crew.
Nora Laas didn’t care as she joined an army of crewmembers trying to find survivors.
Since Eagle was still at red alert status, everybody who was not crucial to the defense of the ship had been drafted to the shuttlebay to help out. Mostly led by blue-collared medical personnel, members of the science, operations, and engineering divisions, as well as SMTs and even civilians had come together to pick through the rubble and to try and locate crewmembers of the doomed Eagle, either alive or dead.
Laas was leading the majority of her security team doing the same. This was hardly their first time performing this oftentimes grim task and she thought that over the years they had perfected a pretty good system of doing this, splitting up in groups, using tricorders and other tools to go through the rubble, starting with any lifeboats which seemed more likely to have kept people alive and going from there.
She had to admit, however, that this was one of the messiest operations of this kind she had ever been party to and braced herself that much of this was going to be more recovery work than actual search and rescue.
She also had a more personal stake in trying to locate survivors-one which on the surface didn’t make much sense, not even to her, and yet she felt her heart pounding in her chest as she rushed from one escape pod to the next, trying to find one specific survivor.
She kept asking the shell-shocked crewmembers she helped out of the lifeboats, many of which had to be carried, the same question over and over again, and the answers remained the same.
She thought she heard her name being called in the middle of interrogating a couple of young crewmen who had already sadly shaken their heads to her inquires and as she turned around, she half expected to see the man she had been looking for.
It was Elijah Katanga who had called out for her. “He’s not here, Lieutenant.”
She shook her head, pointing at several pods that had not yet been seen to in the far corner of the bay. “We don’t know that. We haven’t checked them all,” she said and turned towards them.
She ignored him initially, determined to check all the pods as quickly as possible. He may have been in one of those that had taken significant damage, badly injured, and waiting to be rescued.
“I’ve had word from the bridge.”
She froze then, not immediately turning to face the doctor.
“He stayed on board until the very end,” Katanga said, for once displaying a softer bedside manner that usually eluded him when dealing with his patients. “He’s gone.”
Laas wasn’t sure how she was supposed to feel about this. He hadn’t been her Gene Edison, she knew that on an intellectual level, of course. He had been so very different from the man she had loved and lost. But then again, he had been so similar as well. She did not doubt that, given time, he could have become like her Gene. He certainly had aspired to be.
She felt Katanga’s hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
She shook her head and turned around. “I hardly knew that man.”
He nodded sympathetically as if he understood that there had been much more than that.
Laas took a deep breath and resolved that she wouldn’t mourn Captain Edison the way she had Gene. She wouldn’t allow herself to go through all that again. They were both gone now but she was still around. Things had to carry on.
Her inner monologue was interrupted by a banging sound that started faintly but quickly gained intensity.
Both she and Katanga turned to look at a nearby pod which was singed so badly, it was nearly pitch black with half its hull plates already having shed away, it didn’t look capable of sustaining life.
Katanga quickly referred to his medical tricorder. “There is a lot of interference from various exposed energy sources but there might be somebody alive in there.”
Laas quickly made it to the pod and began to clear the debris which was preventing access to the hatch, disposing of it haphazardly in an attempt to get to it as quickly as possible.
Katanga, belying his age, promptly joined her and together they managed to create a path to the hatch.
The small viewport was shattered and made it impossible to look inside. Laas grabbed the main handle but it wouldn’t budge even as she put her entire strength to it.
It wasn’t until the octogenarian physician began to help out that the hatch was beginning to give way.
A sudden rush of adrenaline augmented her strengths and effort just enough for the door to finally give up its resistance and it flew open so suddenly, both Laas and Katanga were very nearly flung to the ground.
She helped steady the doctor first and helped him sit down on a piece of debris after he had noticeably exhausted himself and then quickly made it back to the now open hatch, using her wrist beacon to illuminate the dark interior.
The pod appeared empty.
Then she felt it.
A sensation she had perceived before. It guided her to a far corner of the pod where she spotted the body. And it was moving.
She reached out into the pod. “Take my hand.”
The man did and once she had a firm grip she began to pull him out until the light revealed his face.
She recognized him immediately.
He was a Vulcan and she tried hard not to let her disappointment show on her face.
“Jarik,” she said, almost spitting the name.
He looked pretty awful, his usually meticulously kept hair was in total disarray, his face dirty and streaked with greenish blood.
“Are you injured?” she asked as she continued to pull him out.
He began to fight her. “Stop. Stop it.”
He was so insistent she had no choice but to cease her efforts. She guessed he was in shock which was not uncommon after surviving the destruction of a starship. “You are all right now. You are safe,” she said.
But he didn’t seem to listen, instead, he freed himself of her grasp and dove back into the pod.
She was just about to climb in after him when he reappeared, this time holding a case she had also seen before. The sensation she had felt earlier was undoubtedly emanating from within. She had a good idea what it contained.
Clutching it closely as if his very life depended on it, he finally reached out for her again and this time allowed her to pull him out of the pod. “Are you all right?” she asked again.
He nodded. “I am fine,” he said as he climbed out with her help.
“Anyone else in there with you?”
“Where are we?” he said once he had set foot onto the flight deck. “Where are we going?”
Laas exchanged a quick look with Katanga who was pulling himself back up now that he had another apparent patient. She was wondering if Jarik had suffered a concussion which again would not have been unusual in this situation.
“We’re on Eagle. The one from our universe. The other one was destroyed. Last I heard we’re heading back towards the Ring,” she said.
“Good,” he said. “I need to speak to the captain right away,” he added and then began to make his way towards the exit even if he was moving with some difficulties, noticeably wobbling and needing to steady himself.
Katanga shook his head. “I think I need to look you over first.”
“I don’t have time for that,” he said without slowing down and quickly finding his balance again, allowing him to pick up the pace.
It was Katanga, it seemed, who was too tired to chase after him. “Heaven’s preserve me, will I ever find a cooperative patient on this ship?”
Laas indicated towards her deputy, José Carlos, who was standing nearby and then pointed at Jarik who was making a beeline for the exit. Carlos understood immediately and began to follow the half-Vulcan. After her last encounter with the SAI administrator where he had threatened Owens to take over command even by force if necessary, Laas was determined to have the man closely guarded while he was on his ship.
Once she was satisfied that Jarik was being watched she glanced back into the pod realizing that there had been another person inside after all. She was in the corner opposite from where she had found Jarik. It was a Bolian science officer judging by the blue-collar of her uniform. Her empty and lifeless eyes were staring right back at her.
Laas turned away and climbed off the pod. “I’m afraid you won’t find another patient in that one,” she said as she walked passed Katanga to find the team tasked with recovering dead bodies before she’d continue to search the remaining pods, already fully aware that the chances of finding any more survivors were slim to none.