Day 1 (cont)
Burke had a good view of the table where her helmsman and navigator sat with the new redhead. Before long, half a dozen men joined them. Bugalu always seems to get the first date, though it never takes the others long to move in. For a second, it looked like a fight would break out, but the redhead stopped Bugalu's lunge over the table. Burke shook her head. "Fighting over a new girl already."
Smythe glanced that way, then returned to his roast beef and potatoes. "She's a trouble-maker," he muttered.
"Who?" Dr MacGregor glanced at the other table for some time. "I told her every man aboard would chase her."
"Including you two?" Jane asked.
Smitty seemed aghast. "Certainly not!"
"What about you, Duck?"
MacGregor watched as the redhead pleaded with the leaving Bugalu, then got up and left also. He turned back to his own meal. "I'm too old to be chasing. Even great packages like that one."
"You're hardly in your dotage."
He shrugged, glanced again at the table where the left-behind men were breaking apart. "Maybe I feel old when I see what the competition is."
Smitty nodded. "Lt Bugalu's got her already. You'd have to get in line for that one."
"I'd like to think the lady decides who she dates," Jane muttered. "You make it sound like only men have any say in it."
Smitty stopped eating. Trying to think what to say that won't get him any further into trouble. I really shouldn't tease him, but sometimes his thinking gets stuck in a rut.
MacGregor stirred his coffee. "Actually, she doesn't date."
"Preposterous!" Smitty declared. "Who told you that wild tale?"
MacGregor gave him a sharp look. "What makes you think it's a wild tale?"
"Because of how she acts!" Smitty shoved some beef into his mouth.
"How does she act? What’s she done that makes you say that?" Jane asked. Stare at him in the transport bay? Pull her own duffel bag out instead of asking demurely for help? What has she done?
Smitty carefully chewed and swallowed his bite before responding. "She wasn't on the bridge five minutes before she had a supper date with Bugalu. And he didn't initiate it! I saw it myself."
"Right in front of her superior officer?" Not the kind of crewmember I want on my ship, maybe. And I've been trying not to judge her too harshly.
The engineer hesitated, his face coloring. "I don’t think she realized I was there. And when he saw her, Bugalu completely forgot himself."
"I can believe that," MacGregor stated softly, his brow wrinkled. "But she said she doesn't date."
How do I say this delicately? Men and their fragile egos! "Duck, perhaps she just doesn't want to date you."
"No, she doesn't," he returned at once. "But actually, she made that comment to Temple."
"Nurse Temple asked MacDowell for a date?"
"No, she was -" He grinned. I can almost hear him shifting gears. I wonder what's really going on? "She was trying to determine how much competition Mac will be. Mac said she wasn't competition, because she doesn't date."
"Obviously, she dates old boy friends," Smitty stated sourly.
"What old boy friend?"
Smitty pushed his empty plate away. "They've known each other before, Bugalu and Colleen."
Colleen! Since when has he started calling subordinates by their given name? She turned to her chief physician. "Did she mention that to you, Duck?"
"Nope." He drank the last of his coffee. "But not everything she said made sense.
"I don’t like the sounds of that. A communications officer who doesn't make sense."
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Day 1 (cont)
Space, Ryan beat me here! Bugalu paused as he stepped off the turbo lift to watch the Irishman flirt with the redhead. She has her arms crossed tightly, and her head lowered, and Ryan's reading that as coy interest, instead of a mounting temper.
"If you're from Gaelund, then we have plenty in common," the navigation engineer told her. "We might even be related."
She raised her head, suddenly uncertain. "Related?"
"Sure! Cousins!" Ryan agreed eagerly. "Kissing cousins!"
Her face went hard. "No."
Bugalu tried not to laugh as he stepped forward and pushed the other man aside. "Not this one, Ryan. Forget about her."
Ryan looked surprised. "Warning me off, Bugalu? That's not like you. You don't usually mind sharing."
Bugalu shook his head. "Just telling you for your own good - leave her alone."
"Maybe she doesn't feel that way," Ryan suggested.
Bugs was surprised when she threw herself against him, forcing his own arms to encircle her. "Whatever Bugsy says."
"Your loss," Ryan muttered and left.
Bugalu held her a pace away to take a good look at her. Wow! The uniform really looks good on her, even better than a cadet's. "I can't believe you're here." He pulled her close again for a hug.
"I'm here." Her voice was muffled by her chin being buried in his shoulder. "I didn't think I'd ever get here, but I'm here."
A throat cleared as someone went past. "A little public for that, lieutenants."
He pulled apart from her, found her blushing as Lt Cmdr Smythe walked down the corridor. "Forget him," Bugalu told her. "It's not every day you and I get back together. And how did you get this stripe?"
She gave a nervous laugh. Oh, there's a story there for sure. "That's a long story." She slipped her arm through his so they could walk. "Are you sure you want to hear it now? Because it starts a long, long time ago."
Meaning, she isn't ready to tell it yet. "Okay, we can save it for another day. But if we're going to have supper together, we'd better hurry, because I've got a date."
Her face fell. "Oh."
"You didn't tell me you were coming," he reminded her. "What did you expect?"
"Well, I wanted to be a surprise," she muttered, and sighed as they neared the cafeteria. "What do you suppose is on the menu tonight?"
He glanced at her sideways. "You've been where, on a tug?" That’s right. "Things are different on a starship. Two dozen stand-by items, just in case none of the six main menu selections fits your fancy. Except you’ll be midnights."
"What happens on midnights?"
"You're lucky if anything's left over from yesterday, and chances are they haven't exactly got today's menu pulled together." They walked into the mess hall and took their place in line. After a glance at the menu, he grimaced. "Looks like they went Russian today. Pick something from the stand-by menu."
"What's wrong with Russian?"
"Wouldn't be anything wrong, if they got it right," he answered. "But they don't. They do a decent tuna sandwich, though."
She shook her head. "No, not tuna. Potato soup." That figures. She gave her order, and he gave his, then they took a few steps along the line to collect their food. When they turned to look for a table, none were empty. "Now what?"
"Over there." He pointed to a brown man sitting alone. "We can sit with Capac." He led the way, surprising the young man by their arrival. "Capac, this is Colleen MacDowell, communications. Call her Mac."
"Mac?" the boy repeated as he stared at her. "Too masculine a name for someone that beautiful."
Bugalu reconsidered his choice of seating. Didn't know Capac had that in him. Going to have to warn him, I guess.
"Thank you, Capac," she replied quietly. "But I like being called Mac. What are you having for supper?"
Somehow, the Peruvian tore his eyes off the redhead to look down at his meal. "Borst. It's good."
Why's she grinning? "He's from Peru, what's he know about Russian food?"
"Well, what would a Nubian know about Russian food?" she asked.
"I'm not-" Her eyes say she's teasing. "Maybe it's an acquired taste," he allowed.
Six others suddenly invaded the table, which was meant for four. "Bugs!" Mac called as the new arrivals tussled to sit next to her. She grabbed the back of Capac's chair and slid him closer to her, so only one of the newcomers could insinuate himself on her other side.
Bugalu glanced at the newcomers and frowned. Not a single one trustworthy, except Capac. "Gentlemen, this is Colleen MacDowell, communications. Call her Mac. But if you don't want to get decked, keep your hands off her."
There was a moment of confusion among the newcomers. "You're warning us off, Bugalu?" Kagan asked.
He frowned. "Just consider her untouchable."
"Hey!" Mac jumped sideways, her fist raised to threaten Jones beside her. Bugalu jumped up, grabbed her fist. He couldn’t physically to stop her, but she obeyed him. "Hands off!" she hissed at the engineering ensign.
"Not your first day, Mac," Bugalu told her. "He’s not worth it. Not ever." She still stared at the ensign, though her fist remained motionless. "Jones, leave. Mac's a heavy worlder; she'll break your jaw if I let her."
Jones made no move to leave, but a hand pulled him from the seat, and Ferguson took his place, looked around the table. "Okay, let her go," Ferguson said, his hands on the tabletop. In plain sight. Good. "If I'm not strong enough to keep my hands to myself, I deserve a broken jaw." He grinned. "Might be worth it, at that."
Despite the final comment, Mac relaxed, and Bugalu let go to take his seat again. Something doesn’t look right. She obviously doesn't realize-- "Mac, scoot toward Ferguson about 2 inches."
"I'm Ferguson," the newcomer provided helpfully.
Mac looked to Bugalu in confusion. "Why?"
Here it gets tricky. "You're practically in Capac's lap."
She jerked over hurriedly, and Capac closed his eyes, expecting a punch. "Sorry, Capac," Mac muttered.
The Peruvian opened his eyes. "No problem! My pleasure! Any time!" The other men laughed.
At least Ferguson is here. Anyway, she's been on her own several years, she must have learned something. Bugalu swallowed his last bite of sandwich and washed it down with tea. "Gotta go." He stood up, his tray in hand.
"Now?" Mac demanded.
"I told you, I've got a date."
"I know, but we need to talk."
"We can catch up--"
"Not to catch up!" she declared, and glanced around at the other men. "Bugs, I need you!"
He hesitated. She's serious. "How badly?" She's got several levels; important, really important, utterly important--
"Urgent!" He stared, stunned by a level she'd never used before. She sighed and sat back, resigned. "When?"
Is that why she's here? Did she manage her entire transfer? And yet, she isn't asking me to break a date. "0700," he told her. "My place." He heard the men gasp, but ignored them. "Unless--?"
"No, I can hold out," she decided sourly. As he hesitated another second, she looked around the table, and then stood up. "Come to think of it, I need to unpack. Bye, guys."
Good. I'm not sure even Ferguson could keep things from exploding.
Monday, January 14, 2013
Day 1 (cont)
Dr Drake MacGregor
Drake watched the AmerInd yeoman leave Sick Bay. At the door, she raised her hand, and a gorgeous redhead slapped it as she bounced into the room. "Okay, I've officially entered my rutting season," he muttered.
Nurse Temple didn't look up from the computer terminal. "You're on duty."
"Think my hormones care? Three gorgeous women, back to back. To back."
"Hello?" the redhead called from the lobby. "I'm here for my medical."
"In here," MacGregor instructed from the exam room. She entered, her eyes flicking toward Temple. She had her hands behind her, which thrust her chest forward. Looking down at her smile afforded him a wonderful view of her cleavage. Keep a grip, man.
"Where do you want me?" she asked.
Open invitation. He grinned. "My bed." Instantly, her smile was gone, and a chasm opened between them, symbolized by the two steps back she took. Okay, she's not interested. He gestured toward the examination table and pretended she had misunderstood. "My medical bed."
She frowned at the table, stepped forward. She was so much shorter than the AmerInd, she'd have difficulty getting onto it, so he reached out for her arm, "Let me help--"
She retreated to the entrance before he could blink in surprise. "I don't need help!" she hissed.
He stared at her in confusion. She looks ready for a fight. What did I do? He raised his hands, palms toward her. "I think we got off on the wrong foot."
She glared. "We've gotten off on the usual foot."
"It's not one I like," he returned. "I thought the table might be too tall." He adjusted the height. "It was still set for the young lady before you."
"YD's tall," she agreed. "But I could get on it. No problem."
There was an uneasy silence until the table reached its new height. "Let's start over," he suggested, and offered his hand. "I'm Dr Drake MacGregor, Chief Medical Officer."
Instantly, her face held eager friendliness. "A fellow Mac! Great!" She stepped forward for a brief grab of his hand before she rolled onto the table in one fluid movement. "I'm Colleen MacDowell, communications ens - lieutenant."
New promotion. She hasn't gotten used to it yet. "This is Beth Temple, Head Nurse," he added. "Let’s see her record, Temple?" His eyes studied the readout panel, and landed on something odd. "You're ... heavier than you look, lieutenant."
Surprisingly, she wasn't insulted, nodded. "Yep. I'm firmly packed."
His eyes involuntarily traveled down her, noting every delicious curve. "Absolutely," he agreed. She's frowning again. Did that insult her? Most would accept it as a compliment. This one is strange.
"If you don't want to wind up back on that same foot you said you didn't like, keep your mind on your work," she stated sourly.
Definitely not interested in me.
"An excellent suggestion," Temple agreed. "Doctor, she's a heavy-worlder. Dense bones. Dense muscles."
Information sprang onto the readout panel, including a flashing note added by the nurse: VIRGIN! "Hard to believe," he muttered.
The redhead looked at him quizzically. "That I'm dense?"
He stumbled, mentally lost. Is there always 2 meanings to what she says? Or am I over-dosing on hormones? "Dense muscles," he agreed softly. "You look-" He saw a sudden flash of warning in her green eyes. He turned back to the readout and shut off the flashing note. "You look healthy. Guess I expected more differences in a heavy-worlder."
"We're just people," she responded.
"Are you reasonably well rested?" he asked the redhead.
She hesitated. "I suppose. Why?"
"Because as soon as you leave here, every man aboard will be chasing you."
She sighed in tired resignation. "I know. I hope that phase doesn't last long."
"Phase?" Temple repeated. "You mean, while you decide whom to date?"
The redhead shuddered. "While I try not to kill anyone." Before Drake could ask what she meant, she rose to her elbows. "You done with me?"
"You in a hurry to leave?"
"No," she answered. "I've got nearly an hour before I meet my brother. But your bed is hard and uncomfortable."
"You're due for some shots."
She wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Can I ask for a big favor?"
He worked hard to keep his eyes on her face. "Do we know each other well enough to exchange big favors?"
"It's a biggie for me," she returned. "I doubt if it's anything for you."
"Now I’m curious. What is this big favor? I'd better hear it before I agree to it."
"Let Beth give me the shots?"
Why in space--? “I am a doctor. I know how to give shots."
She sighed and lay back. "All doctors say that. But men aren't any good at it. It's better when a woman does it." She sat up straight and looked him in the eye. "Once, the doctor missed my arm completely, and shot hit me in the-" She blushed furiously, and could no longer look at him. "That was a man, that doctor."
Missed her arm? "Sounds like a poor excuse for a doctor."
"Then he wanted to ... tend it. And he got upset when I wouldn't go out with him."
"I don't date doctors, either." Temple’s statement surprised him. "Or did you refuse because he's a man?" The redhead gave the nurse a thoughtful look, so the blond added, "Trying to ascertain the competition level."
The lieutenant's grin was dazzling. "None! I don't date!"
Drake cleared his throat. "At all?"
On guard again, she woodenly said, "Papa raised me to be a good girl."
"I'm sure he-" He checked the readout. A woman her age is concerned what her father thinks? Should I refer this one to Ludwig? "Your father isn't here."
"He's not here here," she agreed, and tapped her temple. "But he's here."
"So you've never dated. Ever."
She blushed. "I had dinner with a guy once. Matt wanted me to."
"A brother. I have 8. Matt's the only one who ever let me go out." She thought about it for a moment. "Or did he make me do it?"
She keeps twisting the conversation in new directions. Sometimes a doctor can be nosey. "Have you ever kissed?" She gave him a startled look. "Germs can be passed by kissing."
"Then I'm glad I've never done it."
"Then you've never had sex?" She jerked as if he'd pinched her. "Even worse germs," he stated blandly.
MacDowell blushed furiously. "No, I've never been sexy."
Wrong. She's been sexy since puberty, if not before. She means she is a virgin. "Got the shots ready, Temple?"
MacDowell started to push her sleeve up. Bare skin was preferable, but not necessary. "Does this mean we're nearly done?"
"We're getting there," he promised. "Roll over."
Her brow furrowed in confusion, then cleared with comprehension. She moved onto her stomach. "This is a waste," she stated. "I told you I don't ... do that." She wrapped her arms around her head and interlocked her fingers, her whole body tense.
He took a seat near her head. "Let me explain." She peeked out, unlaced her fingers and raised her head. Again with that spectacular cleavage. "Giving you this shot when you come aboard, is standard procedure. It's no reflection on you. Besides, somebody might ... change you mind about sex."
She shook her head. "Nobody will. I-" She stopped and her eyes glazed, her cheeks developed a touch of color. The readout panel showed him that her respiration, heart rate, brain waves-everything was elevated. Somebody has caught her attention.
"Well, you never know," he stated softly. "Love strikes whenever and wherever it does. You done yet, Temple?"
"Two shots; contraceptive and vitamins."
"Good," he stated, and stood up.
The redhead reached to her derriere, where her tunic hem was rumpled. "I didn't even feel it!"
"Thank you," Temple purred. "It helps if you aren't tense, and Dr MacGregor saw to that."
"You’re the picture of health," he told the redhead. "Do you need help getting down?" He started to reach out, but her sharp look stopped him. "No, I suppose not. Thank you for visiting. I hope to see you again, in a non-professional capacity."
She hopped off the table. "I told you, I don't date."
"What about friends? We could decide to be friends."
She blinked. "Friends? With a guy?"
"It's not impossible," he said. "Some of my best -" He stopped. "Well, I've got friends who are female."
She still looked undecided. "I'll have to ask."
Ask? "Ask who?" That smile moves her out of stunning and into dazzling.
"My brother. Oh, I'd better go meet him. Thanks, Mac."
The sway of her hips as she walked out almost made him forget everything else. "The name's MacGregor!" he corrected.
"See ya, Mac." She laughed, and kept going.
"Wow." He sat down again, feeling drained.
"Well?" Temple asked quietly, again working on her files.
He sighed. "Not only virgin, but a babe in the woods."
"You'd bed her in a heartbeat," she continued.
"Abso-" He frowned, thinking about it. "No. Let someone else break her heart."
"Her brother will have his hands full, with her on board."
"Yeah," he agreed, and stared at the floor for a time. "Beth, I don't remember any other MacDowells on the Fireball."
"I've already checked," she replied efficiently. "There are no other MacDowells on board. No Gaelunders. No other heavy-worlders."
"That doesn't make sense," he returned.
"Better get used to it," she returned. "With that one, there's likely to be a lot that doesn't make sense."
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Day 1 (cont)
Lt Cmdr Smythe
As Smythe emerged from the lift, Ryan looked up from the navigation console. "Mr. Smythe." The engineer paused, having a pretty good idea what was on the younger man's mind. "The new crewmembers. What are they like?"
Smitty sighed. "You'll meet them soon enough, Ryan. Abdulla's showing one to her quarters, and then the bridge." The thought of that particular new crewmember made him uneasy, so he turned to the engineering ensign and the problem he had left for her to solve. "How are you doing, Andrews?"
Andrews withdrew her nose from the E17 access panel. "I thought I had it, Mr. Smythe. I was sure it was in this area. But I can't pinpoint it." She glanced back inside the equipment, then bit her lower lip, whether from frustration or embarrassment, he couldn't tell. "Could it be one of the minor reflux transistors?"
He beamed, happy she considered the possibility. It isn't, but it’s good she consider everything. "It’s not very likely. You keep working here, and I'll check the transistors."
"Thank you, Mr. Smythe," she smiled, and returned to her open access panel.
He went to the opposite end of the engineering console and knelt to remove access panel E21 from the lower section. He climbed into the opening, lay on his back and gave a cursory glance at the minor reflux transistors - all glowing cheerfully. He would spend several minutes in this position, pretending to check equipment that was operating perfectly. Andrews has made good progress. She's much more organized in her thinking and doesn't get nearly as frantic as she used to.
He could still see a portion of the bridge, by looking along his body through the access opening. Not that there's much to see, just Bugalu at the helm, and Ryan beyond him. Bugalu will make a fine captain some day. I doubt if Ryan will get far. He's too easily distracted by the thought of a pretty girl. Bugalu likes the girls, too - he dates a different one every night - but when he's on duty, he's on duty. He didn't ask what the new crewmembers are like.
He heard the lift doors open, and the laughter of two women entered the bridge. In his mind's eye, he could still see the new one; short, redheaded, very well rounded ... absolutely gorgeous. She'll be the most popular woman aboard. Could have her pick of any man. Have to beat them off, not that she will. Look how brazen she was with me! Even worse than that nurse, who at least shared her flirtations with Kagan. The redhead acted like no one else even existed. Every man wants to be the only man in a woman's life, so she acts like they are. It's a good trick, but it can only last so long. She won't find me so easy-- No, of course not. I'm her superior officer, and even if that means nothing to her, it does to me.
Look at Ryan, practically drooling over her milky skin, bright hair, and that fantastic body poured into a too-short, too-tight, too-low-cut uniform! A man can't think straight with a uniform like that next to him! What idiot designed them? A tunic and pants - or coveralls, like the techs wear - would be far more functional!
Abdulla caught her breath. "I think you made that up!"
"No, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it." Bugalu straightened in his seat, turned around to stare in shock.
"You sound like you know how to have fun, Colleen," Abdulla stated.
"Mac," came a gentle correction.
"You actually let people call you that?"
"I insist on it. Think of it as a family heirloom, if you like."
"Your family must have some unusual traditions."
"You have no idea," came the soft answer.
Abdulla returned to business. "Here's the bridge. Bigger than a tug, but similar."
"Similar, yes. In fact, there's a face that's familiar." Smitty heard her footsteps, saw her walk over to lean against the helm console. "Hello, Bugs."
The black man still stared at her. "What are you doing here?"
She grinned. "I've been assigned here."
He looked confused. "I didn't think we were getting a new tech." He glanced at her uniform. "How in space did you manage a stripe?" he demanded.
She frowned. "You make it sound impossible."
"Improbable," he returned. "I know you, and-" He grabbed the navigator's hand just before it touched the redhead's knee. "Don't try it, Ryan."
"I wanted to see if she was real." Ryan pulled his hand free.
The redhead had watched the exchange without emotion. "You haven't lost your touch, Bugs."
"It's been years, I'm rusty," he returned. Someone cleared their throat, and the helmsman glanced around, stared at Smythe's legs. "Sixteen hundred," he told the girl. "Deck 7. We'll have supper."
Her smile was a mixture of joy, rapture and satisfaction. "Anything you want, Bugs." She whirled and started back for the communications console. "Being the newest aboard, I assume I'm D shift, so when do I report for duty?"
The question forced Smitty to make a decision, and he climbed to his feet.
"No, not D,' Abdulla answered. "It turns out Chang likes working relief, and I was happy to oblige him. And Hamilton won't leave the ship for 4 days, so you'll be--"
"Reporting to me," Smythe interrupted.
The redhead turned, and her face lit up in joy and animal-- "I'll be directly under you?"
How brazen! "0800 hours," he told her. "Right here. We'll be re-wiring the auxiliary bridge." Such a beautiful face. I wonder what it means when it goes all stiff and pale like that? "It will give me a chance to see what you're made of. Understood?" First she's white, then red, then white again. That can't be healthy. It's a good thing she'll get her medical next.
"Oh, no," she muttered, and her gaze veered, momentarily, toward the helm. "I mean, yes. Understood. I'll ... see you then." She bolted from the bridge.
She didn't wait to be dismissed! His wounded sensibilities were somewhat mollified by the realization that nobody had noticed. Or at least, they're going to pretend they didn't. Except Bugalu, who's staring at me like I've got four heads.
"Umm, Mr. Smythe?" Andrews! Gratefully, he turned back to training an underling.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Captain Jane Burke and her Scissan Science Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Takor, entered the transpod room to welcome the SS Fireball's new crewmembers. Lt. Cmdr. Smythe was - as usual in these instances - behind the controls, and seemed a bit flushed as he fussed with the equipment. His assistant, Kagan, looked dazed. A glance at the open transport pods explained Kagan's reaction, as all the new crewmembers were beautiful and female. But that wouldn't cause Smitty to blush. He doesn't notice female crewmembers. Not as women, anyway.
"Mr. Smythe," Jane greeted.
The engineer jerked, stammered and finally got out, "Captain."
What a strange reaction. I don't have time to investigate just now. Perhaps he'll tell me what's bothering him over dinner, if I can keep MacGregor from pestering him. "Are the arrivals ready?"
The man's brown eyes veered toward the pods, then suddenly returned to the controls, which seemed inordinately fascinating today. But there’s nothing for him to do with them, until time to send the pods back to the station.
"Where's Dr. MacGregor?" Jane asked.
"I believe he's sending Nurse Temple," the engineer stated hoarsely.
Is Smitty sick? Space, I hope not. I can already hear him and Drake arguing over his reading technical magazines while in Sick Bay. "Fine. Let's get started." She stepped in front of the first open pod. "Welcome to the SS Fireball."
The shapely blond nurse stepped out of the capsule and saluted smartly, her blue eyes veering toward the control console. "Request permission to come aboard, sir," she purred, every movement of her body a sexual invitation. "I mean ... ma'am?"
It's always amusing when newcomers forget what to call me. "'Sir' will be fine." Jane glanced at the electronic file the blond handed over. "Elizabeth Monroe, Medic I. Nurse Temple will arrive shortly to collect you."
"Thank you, sir," Monroe purred, but her gaze was aimed at the console. Accepting the return of her electronic orders, Monroe slunk over to flirt with the two men. Smitty ignored her. Kagan nearly melted where he stood.
Burke moved to the next pod. This woman looked AmerInd, long-legged and tall, with softly chiseled features and gold skin. "Welcome to the Fireball."
She stepped outside the pod to salute. "Permission?" she asked softly and offered her file.
Capt. Burke gave her a quick look, wondered if she was surly, a troublemaker or what, for that was not the standard phrase. Perhaps the woman had anticipated that her unorthodox phrase would cause concern, for she stood at stiff attention, to all appearances conforming to the regulations in every other way. Burke turned her attention to the file. "Yeoman Tabi-- Tabin--"
"Tabinistanu Yellow Dog," Takor pronounced.
Burke glanced at the lizard-like officer, but was pleased that it had pronounced the impossible name. With any luck, I need never use her first name again. What a mouthful! "You'll be assigned to Cmdr. Takor, Yeoman," she told the dark-haired woman, with a hand wave in the Scisson's direction. "He has a strong interest in NonLifeSciences, so I hope your Physics and Chemistry are up to the challenge."
Stone-faced, the yeoman nodded and stepped aside. The blond was still flirting with Kagan. Burke moved to the last pod. "Welcome to the Fireball."
The redhead remained standing inside the pod, staring at the men at the console. Jane calculated the aim of the girl's gaze, and decided she was staring at Smitty. No wonder he's embarrassed, if she's been doing that since her arrival. Well, any infatuation she might have won't last long. Smitty’s her superior. Even if he wasn’t, he’d manage to ignore her a little too long, and she'll move on to more eager men. Regrettable, but that's life. In the meantime, she needs to be reminded of her station. "Lieutenant?"
Still no response. Burke shifted her position, placed herself directly between the redhead and the Chief Engineer. The redhead shifted also, just enough to peer over the captain's shoulder to continue staring. Her pale face clearly shows her emotions. Fascinating mixture, mostly panic and interest. Strange. Burke turned to glance at Smitty, who was even ruddier by now. "Mr. Smythe, what's her name?"
Smitty turned a shade darker. "Lt Colleen MacDowell," he answered without looking up.
"Yes?" the girl breathed, though the engineer hadn't spoken to her.
Smitty looked up angrily. "The Captain's talking to you!"
The redhead jerked her head to look at Burke, her white face flushing a deep red. "Well, I blew that first impression," she muttered to herself, then stepped out of the pod and saluted. "Request permission to come aboard, sir." She fumbled a bit as she handed over her file.
The hazards of being young. Burke smiled as she lowered her head to read the information, and whispered back, "Relax, Lieutenant. It happens to everyone once." Actually, she doesn't seem overly upset by her lapse. Is she used to this happening? "You don't make a habit of lusting superiors, do you?"
"Definitely not!" She looked aghast. Then she swallowed and lowered her voice again. "It's just that he ... I ... Well, we are traditionally enemies."
Enemies? Do they know each other? No, I bet this is it. Her file says she's from Gaelund, colonized by the Irish generations ago. I can't have them continuing that ancient conflict here. "Because he's?" How could she know that?
MacDowell looked confused. "Because he's a man."
Now, what does she mean by that? "The men outnumber the women on this ship 3 to 1. If that's a problem for you--"
"Oh, I'm not afraid of them," the redhead stated calmly, then nodded in Smythe's direction. "Now him--" She shivered. "I think he scares the pants off me."
Burke raised her eyebrows. Interesting way to put it. She glanced again at the engineer, who was still fully occupied by the controls. "He's a pussycat. He wouldn't hurt a fly." Hope he never hears I said that. Especially not to one of his subordinates!
MacDowell took a deep breath. "That makes it even worse."
She’s not making sense. And I shouldn't be conversing with her so ... intimately, nor tell her a superior officer is harmless! She cleared her throat. "Lieutenant, you'll find life on the Fireball considerably different than on a tug."
MacDowell threw another glance at the engineer and - a little too flippantly - responded with, "It's bound to be. Sir."
Burke handed back the file, turned and started for the doorway. "I leave her in your capable hands, Smitty."
His head jerked up, his eyes round and face suddenly white. "My hands?!"
Burke turned to face him, surprised by his reaction. "She's your new communications lieutenant."
He looked panicked, then managed to get himself under some semblance of control. "Oh. Yes. Communications." He flipped an intercom switch. "Lt Abdulla, report to Transport Room A." Looking relieved, he turned to address the redhead. Surprised by how close she was - now on the opposite side of the console - his comment died before it was uttered. His face flushed, and he returned his attention to the controls.
MacDowell, looking determined, leaned closer. "It isn't necessarily true, that your kind and mine don't get along."
Jane watched. Didn't she just dismiss that idea?
Smythe stopped pretending to be engrossed in his controls and regarded her for a long moment. "We don't tolerate bigotry aboard this ship, lieutenant."
MacDowell sighed - seemingly in relief - then shook her head and turned to the AmerInd yeoman to quietly complain, "Aboard only ten minutes, and I'm in trouble. Really bad trouble."
"Yes." The yeoman reached over the console and flipped the switch that opened the door of the luggage transport pod, which everybody else seemed to have forgotten. The AmerInd started across the deck toward the now-open pod.
MacDowell followed her. "I can see you're going to be just as much help as another brother!" The yeoman flashed her a smile. "You think it's funny? Wait until I cause you as much trouble as I cause them!"
"Doesn't she ever shut up?" the blond – Monroe - muttered. She leaned on the console and sweetly asked, "Cmdr. Smythe?"
"Lt. Cmdr.," he corrected.
She continued undaunted. "Could somebody please help me with my luggage? I - Be careful with that!" she shrieked.
All eyes turned to the luggage pod in time to see MacDowell catch a black case that had been tossed to her by Yellow Dog. MacDowell put the case down, glanced into the pod. "Come get your things, Blondie. Our stuff is under yours."
"I will get it," the nurse hissed, "when I'm good and ready!"
The short redhead and tall AmerInd looked at each other. MacDowell sighed. "I’ll do it. I'm used to this kind of thing." The yeoman obligingly yielded the pod opening. MacDowell leaned over to grab the lowest black piece of luggage be. With her hand flat under that case, she bent her elbow, then used her other hand to drag out two well-stuffed duffel bags. After lowering the pile of black bags to the pod floor, MacDowell shifted one duffel bag to her shoulder, turned and offered the other to the yeoman at arm's length. The AmerInd took her duffel, but obviously used more effort than her shorter friend. "See you around, YD," the redhead stated. "It's been fun. As much as it could be, I guess."
The hallway door opened. Nurse Temple and Lt. Abdulla entered together. Temple greeted the new nurse and they started for the luggage pod.
"I'm sorry, Mr Smythe," Abdulla stated. "I thought you said --"
"I changed my mind," he growled, and regained his fascination in the control board as the redhead approached.
Capt Burke left the Transpod Room. Why do I get unsettled whenever someone new comes on board? They usually settle in comfortably in a couple days. Hardly any of them are any trouble. But try as she might, she couldn't help feeling that the addition of three totally beautiful and totally different women meant that it would take a little more than a couple of days to become comfortable again.