– VII –
“And you are absolutely certain about this?” asked Tazla Star while she paced Doctor Katanga’s office.
“No chance this could have been an accident or perhaps even a suicide?” she continued as she kept moving, clearly deep in thought while assimilating the information Katanga had given her on his findings after completing his post-mortem on Lieutenant Gedar.
“Well, there is of course always a chance but I’m fairly convinced that his injuries were sustained during a brief struggle, implying that he did not go down that shaft voluntarily or accidently.”
“Interesting. And you’re sure about time of death?”
“I put all this in my report to Lieutenant Nora, Taz, why are you quizzing me on this?”
She shot him a quick look. “Nora and I have a thing.”
“A thing? What does that mean? She’s your subordinate, isn’t she? You’re the first officer for Christ’s sake.”
“Look, it’s complicated, alright?”
He massaged his forehead in frustration. “I’m beginning to sense a lot of thing are rather complicated on this ship.”
She stopped and stepped up to his desk. “Don’t tell me you’re already regretting leaving your comfy old post on Earth for the rough and tumble world of a starship.”
“To be honest, I could’ve done without a murder on my first day,” he responded in a deadpan.
She nodded to that but her mind seemed to be going off again at warp speed as her gaze drifted towards empty space.
“I know I’m going to regret asking this,” he said, “but what’s on your mind?”
She didn’t respond right away but her eyes slowly found his again. “You remember my theory?”
“Ah yes, the spy,” he said. “Wait a minute, you think your mystery person is responsible for this?”
“Makes a certain amount of sense, don’t you think? Maybe Gedar found out about the spy’s identity or got to close to learning the truth.”
Katanga didn’t look convinced. “And he goes ahead and kills him in such a manner which kicks off a ship-wide hunt for a murderer?” he said. “Not a very good spy if you ask me.”
Star shrugged. “Maybe it wasn’t planned like that. Maybe something went wrong. Maybe he or she didn’t expect a fight.”
“A lot of maybes. But let’s assume you’re right. Don’t you think you should share your suspicions this with our security chief who is investigating the Gedar’s death?”
She gave him a look as if he had lost his mind.
“Right, I forgot, you two have a thing,” he said and uttered a heavy sigh.
Before the Trill could say anything further on this, the room shook suddenly and enough to cause pieces of equipment to fall onto the floor.
Katanga managed to snatch a tricorder before it dropped off his desk. “Something else I didn’t miss about starships,” he said. “What is it now? More turbulence caused by this nebula?”
But Star shook hear head right away. “No, this is something else.”
As if to be proven right, the red alert klaxons came to life just then, alerting the crew to imminent danger.
She tapped her combadge. “Star to bridge, what’s happening?”
Lieutenant Lance Stanmore responded. “We have detected a massive plasma overload in the starboard EPS manifold, Commander. It’s threatening to reach critical levels. If it does it could lead to sever hull damage and we might lose shields.”
“Have you been able to localize the source?”
“It’s coming from EPS sub-station three alpha on deck thirteen, section nine.”
Star had since memorized Eagle
’s deck layout so she immediately knew where the problem was coming from. “That’s right below us.”
Katanga’s eyes went wide.
“Lieutenant, I’ll be heading their now. Inform the captain and have Damage Control meet me there.”
“Star, this is Owens, I just got to the bridge,”
the captain said. “Let Damage Control handle this.”
Tazla Star looked frustrated and she bit her lip just before she shot back: “Understood, sir, Star out,” she said, closed the channel and turned towards the doors.
“Where are you going? Didn’t he just tell you to—¬“
“It’s right below us, Eli. I can get there before Damage Control. Unless you’d prefer to get your floor blown out from under your feet,” she said and was already out of the door by the time she had finished.
The doctor uttered another sigh. “’Join a starship, Eli,’ she said. ‘See the galaxy,’ she said. ‘Never a dull moment.’ Yeah, she got that one right,” he mumbled before he started to pick up the equipment strewn across the floor. “I’m getting too old for this.”
The turbolift was down the corridor so the better option was the Jeffries tube access panel just opposite from sickbay. She took a knee, unceremoniously removed the cover and slipped inside.
She could feel he heat immediately and understood this to be a bad sign. Starship bulkheads were made out of a duranium polymer which was near indestructible. If she could feel the heat through a number of layers of duranium, there had to be a fire already.
The ladder to reach the deck below was just a short crawl away and upon reaching it she quickly slid down. She crawled a few more meters and then blew out another access cover with her boots.
She got out onto corridor right next to the EPS sub-station. A clearly dazed crewmember was sitting up against the bulkhead, her face and hair dirty from soot and burn marks.
“Lieutenant Smith,” Star said as he approached, recognizing the engineering officer. “What happened?”
The woman looked up but appeared as if she hadn’t understood the question.
Star pointed at the closed doors of the sub-station. Everything looked normal from the outside, but judging from Smith’s appearance and the red alert strobes in the corridor, things were bad inside.
“I … I’m not sure.”
“Anyone else still in there?”
She shook her head slightly.
It was a frustratingly slow response considering the circumstances. She quickly decided that the woman wouldn’t be of much assistance. She looked down the corridor and when she could found nobody from the Damage Control team, she decided to have a look herself.
Kate Smith decided to speak up then. “You … you can’t go in there,” she said. “We … we have to evacuate … evacuate the deck. The overload is building up … catastrophic levels.”
Star looked back at her. “Go ahead and evacuate,” she said and turned back towards the doors which of course didn’t open, the computer having them sealed shut after detecting the emergency. Star found the manual release hidden within the bulkhead beside it. But the doors still didn’t budge, not until she removed a manual override tool, slapping it onto the door and began to pull the panels apart.
She got it open just wide enough to slip through.
Inside she found an inferno in the making.
Hot, green flames had engulfed much of the exposed EPS conduit which transported ultra-hot plasma from the warp core to various other systems across the ship. Something had happened to interrupt that flow which had caused the overload and the resulting fire. Star knew enough about engineering to realize that if something wasn’t done quickly, the entire conduit would blow and with hit, destroy a huge chunk of Eagle
along with it. Not to mention her and dozens of other crewmembers.
And perhaps even worse yet, according to Stanmore, this particular station regulated power flow to the main shields. And if they went down they’d be completely exposed to the fatal radiation of the nebula.
The heat was unbearable and her skin had almost instantly broken out in a heavy sweat and in a futile effort to cool it.
She quickly stripped out of her jacket and red shirt and then brought up an arm to cover her mouth and nose to try and keep from breathing in too many of those noxious fumes saturated in the rapidly thinning air.
Her eyes already stung and tears were streaming down her face but there was little she could do about that. Instead she stepped further into the room, desperately trying to remember the exact layout for the controls to tackle such an emergency.
She quickly came to the conclusion that she had two options. Find the fire suppression system which for whatever reason had failed and contain the plasma fires or find the emergency EPS shut-down to deal with the overload.
The fires were bad, the overload was potentially far worse.
After she found the first two consoles she looked at completely destroyed or partially melted, she came across a third station which thankfully was still functional.
She nearly burned her fingers when she tried to touch the control surfaces.
Of course he had no other choice and hit those panels as quickly as she could. The next ten seconds felt like minutes, with the heat bearing down on her and robbing her of air and strength. Then the panels finally turned from bright red to soothing green and when she looked up, through blurry eyes, she could see that the plasma within the conduit was receding.
Too bad the fire still had enough fuel to burn her alive.
She was determined not to stick around for that, turned towards the exit and high-tailed it out of there.
Out in the corridor she dropped on her hands and knees when her strength had finally given out, coughing hard and eagerly sucking up non-toxic air.
The Damage Control team came sprinting down the corridor with their firefighting equipment just as she got back on her feet. Kate Smith was nowhere to be seen.
Star pointed a thumb over her shoulder. “I’ve left you with the clean up,” she said and turned away from the surprised members of the Damage Control team. She couldn’t keep a large smirk in check as she walked off. Yes, she had come close to be burnt to a crisp but then what was life without a little challenge now and then?