After a dreadful night constantly tossing and turning, I headed to Starboard-7 in search of Karl. I found him too and he looked as bad as I did. Bleary-eyed, pale and drawn, he brought me a mug of builder's tea and sat down opposite, nursing an equally large mug of coffee.
"There's a senior staff meeting in thirty minutes," he murmured. "I think we should go."
"Has anything happened your end?" I asked, wondering if he had picked up on anything new but he shook his head.
"Not really. I've just got a bad feeling about this."
We sat in silence and drank our breakfast before making our way up to the conference room on the bridge deck. The door pirruped at our command and we were bid to enter.
Inside, Captain T'Roc, Jarrod, Lt Cmdr Jayson, Lt Brock and the doctor were seated.
"Good morning," said the captain somewhat amused by our arrival. "And to what do we owe this pleasure?" but our obvious discomfort soon shadowed her happy face.
"You had better sit down," she said, so we did and proceeded to tell her about our vague and insubstantial concerns, feeling more and more stupid as we progressed. The five of them sat in silence as we explained it, and I couldn't help but notice peculiar glances being cast between the Captain and XO. Whether it was ridicule or concern, I couldn't tell.
It was Lt Cmdr Jayson that spoke first.
"Sensors have detected nothing," he confirmed, shaking his head. "We're constantly monitoring everything in every way we can and have, literally, nothing."
A thoughtful silence fell. Jarrod began drumming her fingers on the table and the glances continued.
"Do you not find it odd that it is only you that can see this shadow?" asked the doctor.
I sighed heavily.
"I know it could just be me losing my marbles, but what if it's not?"
"That's not what Rosie is saying," assured the Captain. I smiled, amused that Rosie's old name seemed to have caught on, but the Captain mistook it for relief.
"Rosie is suggesting that perhaps ... there is a connection between you and the shadow—you and this phenomenon."
"Connection? What sort of connection?"
My voice trembled as fear rose in me. Eager to quell it, Rosie stepped in.
"Your DNA," he explained, "is off. Not wrong, not impossible, just odd and I think your ability to block Karl from reading you is down to that DNA. Like a Ferengi, he is oblivious to your emotions and that is because of their genetic makeup."
"What are you saying? That I'm not Human?"
I could feel my world being turned on its head.
"No, just that you've been ... tweaked."
"No, not exactly. There are no discernable markers to indicate genetic engineering, but something does appear to have been tinkered with."
"But why? What for?"
It was the commander that responded.
"Cadet, I've read your report—your investigation into the numerous disappearances in the Bermuda Zone. In it, you mention just three ships that have rematerialised ..."
I was annoyed that she was changing the subject and suspect my scowl told her so.
"Yes, the Earhart, the Chinkower and L'de Jagh."
"And those ships mean nothing to you?"
"Only the Earhart. Why? Should they?"
Jarrod shook her head slowly.
"Possibly not, but did you not investigate the Chinkower and L'de Jagh further?"
My mouth shrugged.
"There wasn't much to find. Both ships were found in a similar state to the Earhart: abandoned and with their databanks wiped clean."
"Hmm, but that's not entirely true. Not in the case of the Chinkower anyway. That particular ship was of an unknown origin and her name also unknown. She was christened Chinkower after the legendary maritime ship from Trados III that was found abandoned in the middle of the sea many eons ago, rather like Earth's Marie Celeste," and she scratched the bridge of her nose nervously.
"She was found over twenty years ago by a Starfleet vessel but not entirely abandoned. A young ensign found a single survivor ..." Jarrod paused to ensure I was following her. " ... a child—a baby."
She paused again waiting for my brain to make the connection, but it was paralysed, loath to make any connections.
"Jenny ... you were that child."