Day 2 (cont)
Once Yellow Dog left the mess hall, MacGregor noticed Mac standing at attention, hand raised in a salute, reporting to Smitty. There he goes, giving the girl a hard time. Why can’t he just assume that anyone assigned to us knows what they’re supposed to know, and wait for them to prove him wrong? Poor kid. And her probably sore this morning, too. That was not an easy workout she put herself through in the gym last night.
The captain dismissed the girl, and Drake dawdled over his pudding while she got her lunch. She received plenty of offers to share a table, but none she seemed inclined to accept. Looking for a familiar face? Maybe mine will do. “Mac,” he called as she walked past. Green eyes turned toward him, and he indicated the opposite chair. “You can sit here, if you like. I’m almost done.”
She took one more look around the mess hall. “Thanks, Mac,” she stated as she sat in the proffered chair.
“My name’s MacGregor. I’d appreciate it if you’d remember that.”
“I remember your name just fine, Dr Drake MacGregor,” she returned softly. “It’s just too long.” She cut her hot roast beef sandwich. “You have any idea how long it’s been since I’ve had anybody I could- or would- call Mac?”
That sounds interesting. Let it slide. “There’s no other MacDowells aboard the Fireball,” he stated.
“Not surprising. Is it significant?”
“You said you had a brother here,” he reminded her.
“And you tried to look him up? Why?” She took a bite and waited.
Because I’m old-fashioned enough to ask for permission to woo you? No, I’m certain how she’d react to that. Made a promise to myself, anyway. It’d be easier to ignore these openings if she didn’t provide so many. He shrugged. “You got a brother aboard or don’t you?”
He froze, a spoon of pudding half-way to his mouth. Bugalu! “Not biological.”
She grinned and drank some iced tea. “Of course not. Adopted.”
“Which one’s adopted?”
“Both,” she answered and stirred gravy and potatoes together before looking up. She sighed. “You look confused. I’ll start from the beginning.” She glanced at the chronometer and grimaced. “My brother Matt went to the Academy, and when I followed, Matt had to take care of me.” She rolled her eyes. “Not an easy job for 8 brothers, back home, so Matt alone was doomed. He drafted Bugalu to help. That seemed to work, so we adopted each other.”
He shook his head. “Hard to imagine, knowing Bugalu.”
She grinned. “A reversal of roles, you’re right.” She got another forkful of food ready. “But it works for us.”
He watched her eat for a minute, marveling at her revelations. “What about us? Are we going to be friends?”
She groaned. “I forgot to ask!” She glanced at the chronometer again and reached for her tea.
“Well, make up your mind, because if we’re not going to be friends, I might as well bed you.”
She dropped her glass, and tea flew everywhere. Face suddenly white, she started cleaning the spilled liquid with her napkin. “You said there were other options!”
“True,” he admitted, handing her his napkin. “But I can’t see myself ignoring you. You, uh, you got some on your uniform.”
“I can’t go back to duty like this! I’ll have to change!” Jumping to her feet, she grabbed her tray and hurried away.
He watched her leave. Bugalu’s definitely got his work cut out for him.
Smitty’s Welcome Speech
Day 2 (cont)
Smitty closed panel E19 and stepped to the next one, a bit closer to MacDowell. She glanced at him, reddened, and buried her face inside her open panel. I thought it was slow this morning, but it’s worse this afternoon. That’s only 3 panels for me, and how many for her? Two? Every time I move, she throws a scared look at me, turns red, and pretends to go back to work.
Afraid of me. Well, a little of that’s a good thing in a subordinate.
Afraid I’ll ask another killer question like the first one. I won’t. After that one, how can I go backwards to hailing frequencies and start again? I’ve really messed this one up.
He glanced at the time. So late. If I’m going to give my usual ‘welcome aboard’ speech, I’d better get to it. “Lieutenant.”
She whirled to face him, slamming her panel closed. “Sir!”
Her eyes are so green, so big. That’s the fear, I suppose. He pulled his gaze away and began pacing as she stood trembling in something that vaguely resembled standing at attention. This won’t be easy, with no idea where her trouble spots may be, no faulty answer for a reference. It’ll have to be generic. I haven’t given one of those in years.
He launched into his usual initial bawling out of a new subordinate, stumbling now and again, with no specifics to work with. It took longer than he expected; it was past the end of her shift when he finally reached the end of his speech. “There are a lot of things you may need to know on the Fireball that you had no cause to concern yourself with aboard the-“ No, not that name. “-aboard a tug. You should have studied these items already, before coming aboard. But regardless, Fleet regulations say you get six months to prove you’re capable of handling the job. If it was up to me, you’d only get sex days.” Did I really just say sex? Never mind, keeping going! “You’ll be tested on what you know once a month until you pass or your probation is over, whichever comes first. Believe me, if you don’t pass, you won’t be here past the half year. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” she stated, a slight quiver in her voice.
“Good. Report here at 0800. Dismissed.”
She turned and ran for the door, hesitated to take something Abdulla offered her.
“Abdulla,” Smythe greeted the Arabian communications officer. “You’re off duty.”
“Yes, but this seemed a good place to find Mac. I assumed you’d be giving her the usual greeting. When I got it, though, I remember it having more—“
“Details?” he wondered.
“Passion,” she finished, coming inside. “Were her answers not acceptable?”
He grunted and turned to put tools away, something MacDowell had neglected to do. “What did you give her?”
“I didn’t give her the answer!” the dusky woman bristled.
He looked up sharply. “She came to you for help with a question, didn’t she?”
“She did. Can you blame her? Nobody’s going to know the answer to that when they first come aboard. I was appalled you asked it at all, let alone as your first question!” Not as appalled as I was. “I didn’t give her the answer. I helped her work through the equation, which she had already found.”
I’m not used to being bawled out by one of my underlings. Even if I deserve it. “I meant this afternoon,” he told her. “When she left just now, you handed her something. What was it?”
“Oh. That was a review disk. Help with the complex equation was not the only help she asked for. Good night, Mr Smythe.”
The vixen was one step ahead of me all the time!