The rate at which the crew was regaining consciousness following their unexpected journey through the spatial anomaly made Eli, who had himself only awoken a few hours earlier, optimistic that the entire crew would be back on their feet within the next six hours.
For the moment, however, this left Eagle severely short-staffed and Tazla wasn’t able to assemble an entire task force to chase down the errant energy readings they had detected as she would have done if personnel had been available.
Instead, she had gone on the hunt herself, for now only accompanied by DeMara Deen and with support from Alendra on the bridge.
“I’m definitely registering a trace energy signature within the cargo bay,” said Deen while she used her tricorder and after the two of them had entered the large, cavernous room filled with crates and containers, most of which still littering the deck following ship-wide system failures.
“Can you pinpoint it?”
She tapped a couple of controls on the compact device and then began to move deeper into the room with Tazla following closely.
She studied the younger woman for a moment while she remained intently focused on her tricorder. “I don’t believe I’ve heard your take yet on the prevailing theory that we have found ourselves in an alternate universe.”
She glanced up only briefly. “My take?”
“You’re not usually shy about offering theories,” said Tazla. “You didn’t have much to say at the staff meeting earlier.”
Deen shrugged her shoulders. “There isn’t much to say until sensors and the main computer have been restored.”
“I understand that. But you must have thoughts on the matter. Some sort of professional insight.”
“It’s possible, I suppose. We do know that other quantum realities exist.”
Tazla nodded as she continued to follow Deen across the cargo bay. For a moment neither of them spoke and Tazla couldn’t help but start to feel somewhat awkward. She and Deen had never been particularly close, of course, nowhere as much as Deen and the captain but the Tenarian had always been more than eager to strike up a conversation and had treated her with the same enthusiastic spirit she seemed to afforded all people in her life. She hadn’t missed the fact that she had been much less like her buoyant self for some time now, ever since the end of the war. And while she had expected her spirits to lift as they had done for most of the rest of the crew, particularly after their extended R&R period on Earth, shore leave had done absolutely nothing for her. If anything it had only dampened her mood further.
Of course, it had also not escaped her notice that her changed attitude had also led to Owens confiding into her much more willingly then he had done previously. She had to believe that if Deen had been more like herself over the last few weeks, the captain would never have brought her into his confidence as he had done recently.
Tazla couldn’t deny that she liked this development, convinced that it was only right for a starship captain to be able to have absolute trust in his first officer and right-hand woman, but she wasn’t so jaded that she didn’t care about how she had been elevated into his circle of confidence.
“I know that you and the captain haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye as of late.”
Deen stopped what she was doing and looked up at her with a puzzled expression on her face. “What gave you that idea?”
“Come on, Dee, it’s obvious to see for anybody who knows how close the two of you have been.”
“Forgive me for saying so, Commander, but I don’t see how this would be any of your concern.”
Tazla was taken aback a little bit by her cold tone which was not something she had expected from her usually radiantly warm personality.
Apparently, Deen had noticed it too. “It has nothing to do with Michael.”
She nodded even if she wasn’t entirely convinced of this. “I just want you to know, that whatever it is, you can always talk to me. I care for you, Dee, for anyone under my command. If there is anything I can do, you just need to ask. My door is always open.”
She simply stared back at her and for a moment and Tazla wondered if she was seriously considering the offer.
“We’ve all suffered over the last few years,” Tazla continued. “There is no shame in admitting that it has affected all of us in some form or another.”
A warning tone from her tricorder interrupted the moment and Deen quickly glanced back down at its small display. “I think I’ve got something,” she said and headed straight for one of the bulkheads. “It appears to be originating from an EPS junction.”
Tazla followed her to the bulkhead and when Deen pointed at an access panel, she didn’t hesitate to remove it. Behind it, they found a standard EPS manifold tap which linked into Eagle’s vast electro-plasma network which delivered power from the warp core to all parts of the ship.
The signaling tone from the tricorder had noticeably increased. “The energy reading is coming from this tap.”
Star looked over the small, circular-shaped access port but could see nothing out of the ordinary with the naked eye. “Do you register anything else that appears out of place?”
She shook her head.
“Star to Alendra.”
“Alendra here,” the Bolian quickly responded.
“Lieutenant, we’ve traced the rouge energy signature to an EPS manifold in the cargo bay. Tap number four nine six eight baker nine. Anything you can tell from your end?”
“Internal sensors in that part of the ship are still down,” she said from the bridge. “But I may be able to learn more if I look at the EPS distribution levels for that specific manifold.”
Star nodded even if she couldn’t see it. “Good idea, Lieutenant.”
It didn’t take her long to bring up the data she had searched for. “I’ve got something. The energy drain originated from that exact location. And sir, looking at the full distribution pattern for the EPS network that manifold serves, I am detecting another energy drain.”
“Can you localize it?” Star asked.
“Unfortunately not. But I can give you an estimated location. Same deck, section thirty-two lima.”
“Just like following bread crumbs. Thanks, Lieutenant, Star out,” she said and then pointed the way towards the main doors of the cargo bay.
Deen understood the invitation and set out.
She stopped and turned back around.
“Regarding what I’ve said.”
She quickly shook her head. “There really is nothing to worry about, Commander. However, I do appreciate the offer.”
Tazla nodded and then followed her out of the cargo bay.
It wasn’t a very long walk to the section Alendra had identified and Deen was able to pick up something on her tricorder as soon as they had entered the location. Apparently, this energy signature was originating somewhere within the deck thirteen mess hall.
They both stepped inside and found the room relatively quiet with just a small handful of crewmembers occupying the half dozen or so tables. The mess hall on this deck was nowhere as large as the Nest, the main ship lounge located three decks above and spread out over two levels. But with a standard complement of nearly nine-hundred, Eagle required much more space to feed and entertain its crew than just that one single lounge and so several other, similar facilities were located throughout the ship and close to crew quarters.
Eagle had not been close to its full crew capacity for years now, and this along with the fact that it was currently the middle of beta shift, and a large portion of personnel were still unconscious or recovering from their recent ordeal, all accounted for the low number of people currently occupying the mess.
Deen, following the signals her tricorder gave her, steered Tazla towards another bulkhead where they found yet another access hatch.
She hesitated for a moment before opening the hatch, taking a few seconds to take in her surroundings to look for anything that didn’t belong. The few crewmembers at the tables had turned curious looks towards the two senior officers who had entered the room but now quickly returned to their meals or conversations. Unlike the Nest, this crew lounge didn’t feature a staffed bar but instead had a row of four replicators along the far wall to allow for self-service. Two windows offered a view out of Eagle’s starboard side. For now, Tazla could see nothing out there but the sight of the Amargosa Diaspora which looked pretty much exactly the same as the one they had seemingly left behind before entering the anomaly.
Once she was satisfied that there was nothing else to find here, she opened the hatch to reveal another manifold tab just like the one in cargo bay three. “Star to Alendra. We’ve traced the reading to the deck thirteen mess. Tap number four four one seven baker nine.”
“Understood, Commander. Just one minute.”
“What do these two locations have in common?” Tazla asked Deen while they were waiting.
She shrugged her shoulders. “Other than being on the same deck I don’t see a connection.”
“Neither do I.”
“Commander, I’ve located another energy drain with that particular signature. This one is on deck twenty-five.”
Tazla and Deen exchanged surprised looks. Twelve full decks below them.
“We’ll better check it out. Star out.”
A short walk and a turbolift ride later they both stepped onto deck twenty-five and not long after Deen had once again picked up a trace which took them right into transporter room four which was being manned by an on-duty transporter tech. He quickly confirmed that he was not aware of anything out of the ordinary having transpired and checking his log didn’t reveal anything odd either.
They did locate an access hatch for an EPS tap.
“Got another one. This is definitely coming from the main shuttle bay,” said Alendra once Tazla had given her the latest tap number.
“That’s deck five,” said Deen.
So they got back in the turbolift, this time to take them all the way up through the ship again. It took a little longer to locate the source this time since the main shuttle bay was large enough to take up almost the entirety of deck five all by itself. After a search lasting a few minutes, Deen located the energy tap in question.
“Don’t tell me,” said Tazla. “You’ve got another reading pointing us somewhere else.”
“I’m afraid so,” said Alendra. “Deck twelve. Possibly sickbay or somewhere else within the medical section.”
Tazla nodded. “Of course.”
Deen was already making her way out of the shuttle bay but stopped when she noticed that Tazla wasn’t following her. “Commander?”
“I know what this is,” she said with a little amused chuckle, realizing that she recognized the pattern. Recognized it because she had done something very similar on a few occasions before she had become Eagle’s first officer.
Deen just offered a puzzled look in response.
“This is what they like to call a snipe hunt.”
“What does it mean?”
“It means that somebody is trying very hard to keep us distracted.”
“Distracted from what?”
Star smiled as she couldn’t entirely deny the feeling of being in her element. “Now that is the real question here.”