Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Unexpected Question / Plea for Help / Smythe Gets His Answer

Unexpected Question
Day 2 (cont)
1124 Hours
Smitty closed the Auxiliary Bridge Engineering E29 access panel and glanced at the chronometer. This is going slow. Maybe it seems slow because I have no idea how she’s doing. He looked across the room to see her standing at communications, head and hands inside the open C32 panel. Is that the same place she started this morning? I can’t remember. Surely not.
He moved to the E13 panel. Coppery hands kneaded white shoulders, worked down the pale back- A clatter and hissed word brought him back to the here and now. MacDowell had dropped her spanner. As she bent to retrieve it, he got a good view of a rounded rear tightly encased in red uniform shorts. “Everything okay?” he asked.
She glanced up from adjusting her spanner, her face red, and turned back to her work. “Yes, dear.”
What did she say? He approached her as she closed the access panel.
She glanced his way nervously. “Yes, sir. Everything’s fine.”
I swear she called me—No, of course not. The acoustics must be bad. He reached her as she opened the next panel. “How are you doing?”
“How long since this was last done?” she asked, rubbing her sleeve along her jaw. “It’s very dusty in there.”
There was a smear along her jaw, and a wisp of red curl had come free from her chignon. Emerald eyes watched him from a milky white face, a dust of pale freckles on either cheek. “Too long,” he answered. Too long since the last shore leave. Too long’ til the next one.
She grimaced. “Well, I really should be clinging as I do you now.” She turned and reached into the panel.
He blinked. “What?”
She refused to look at him. “I said, I really should be cleaning as I go, you know.” She rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. “I would have been in deep sh- trouble if I had let any of my panels get half this dusty on the Bartholomew.” Smitty winced, though the name didn’t refer to him.
“Probably a good idea,” he agreed. “But not right now. Dust what you need to in order to make sure everything’s working properly.”
“To see how good I am, I know the routine,” she stated.
How good she is? She’d be damned good in bed, I’m thinking. Well, don’t think it! She’s here for a reason, so get to it, man! He cleared his throat and found himself reaching for the smudge on her jaw. He pulled his hand away, snatched a question out of the air and asked it.
She looks absolutely frozen, staring into nothingness. Obviously, she doesn’t know. How long is she going to stand there before she admits it? “Well?”
She turned to face him, her lower lip trembling and fear in her eyes. “I don’t know,” she whispered.
That figures. “Well, you’d better go find the answer,” he told her. “Don’t dawdle; bring it to me right away.”
“Yes, sir,” she breathed, and was gone. Lilacs. She wears lilac perfume. He frowned, trying to remember their conversation. What in space did I ask her?

Plea for Help
Day 2 (cont)
1149 Hours
Abdulla was nearly bowled over by the red figure that raced out of the ship’s library and headed down the corridor. Then the other woman slid to a halt, and came running back. “Abdulla!”
“Mac, why aren’t you-?”
“You’ve got to help me! I expected to be grilled, but the very first question has me stumped, and all I found in the library was this complicated equation, of all things! I can’t get kicked off now, I’ve worked too hard to get here! Please, Abdulla, give me the answer!”
“No, I won’t give you the answer,” Abdullah stated. Stumped on the first question? That’s bad. Mr Smythe always starts with general questions and keeps getting harder, to see where the knowledge starts to falter. And if she’s stumped on the first question- She’s so desperate. How can I not help? Not that it will do any good. She sighed. “What’s the question?
Mac took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and recited a question. That can’t be the first question he asked! More like the final one. Unless she misunderstood? “Show me the equation you found.”
They entered the library, where Mac’s fingers flew over a keyboard, bringing up a technical manual. “There,” she said, pointing to a very long equation on the screen. “I’m not real good at math,” she stated.
There has got to be a mistake, this can’t be the question he asked. “Are you sure he said quasar?”
Mac’s eyes rolled. “Abdulla, believe me, that question is seared into my memory.”
She sighed. I hope she’s got it right. “Okay, you’re looking for a range, so we don’t have to be exact in working this equation. Now, this first symbol here-“
“That’s the speed of light.”
“Right. Times nine, so round the speed of light down and multiply by ten.”
“That’s pretty simple.” And so it went, through the entire equation, until they arrived at an answer that — hopefully — would satisfy Mr Smythe.

Smythe Gets His Answer
Day 2 (cont)
1203 Hours
Burke looked up when Smitty put his tray down at her table and sat down with a sigh. “Hard morning?”
“You could say that,” he mumbled, adding cream to his tea. “Where’s MacGreg?”
“Didn’t feel like joining me.” She moved her fork to indicate a table further along. “I think he wanted to ogle one of the new girls.”
The engineer scowled. “MacDowell.”
“I don’t think so. I haven’t seen her since you took her down to the auxiliary.”
“Oh. Right.” He bit his sandwich, so she returned to her own meal.
A shapely red uniform strode up to their table, and the redhead in question saluted. “Sir, the answer to your question is 157 to 163 megahertz.”
Smitty took another bite and chewed it thoughtfully. Leaving the girl standing there with an unreturned salute. He is not happy with her. She glanced at the tight red uniform. Wouldn’t blame Duck for ogling this one. She glanced at the doctor’s direction. But he seems totally absorbed by the AmerInd yeoman. Also a good choice.
“Lieutenant, refresh my memory,” Smitty requested.
“What was the question?” Smitty asked.
He must be mad, to toy with her like this. What did she do to get him so upset in half a day?
“Sir, your question was-“ what followed was a slew of words that, individually, Jane understood, but in their current string, made no sense to her. He looks aghast, horrified. Did she mistake the question, bring him the wrong answer?
Smitty took a drink, his eyes on the tabletop, but the cup rattled when he put it down. “Yes, that’s an acceptable answer to that question. Thank you, Lieutenant.”
And still he leaves her with an un-answered salute! Does he expect her to stand there all day? Well, I don’t. Burke tossed a salute at the redhead. “Dismissed, MacDowell. Get some lunch. Report back to the auxiliary bridge in 30 minutes.”
MacDowell hesitantly lowered her arm. “Yes, sir. Thank you, captain.”
The girl left, and Jane looked at her engineer. “Something wrong, Smitty?”
He stared at his food. Scowling at it, actually. What’s she done? It’s almost like he’s taking it personally.
“That can’t be the question I asked,” he finally muttered.
Can’t be? “Then she brought you the wrong answer. What did you ask her?” I’d like to think I could keep up on a technician level, at least, but that question sounded miles over my head.
He glanced up at last, his face ruddy. “I don’t remember.”
What in black space-? “Then why can’t it be that one?”
He looked up in horror. “I wouldn’t expect Abdulla to know the answer to that one! Not without looking up the equation first!”
“Not a question you would expect a tug communications officer to know. Well, if you were nearing the end of your questioning-“
“That’s just it!” he hissed. “That was the first question! I just ... blurted it out. And once it was asked, I couldn’t take it back!”
“But you don’t remember if that’s what you asked.”
“No, I-“ He lowered a completely red face to his food again. “I’ll be blasted happy when shore leave gets here.”
“We all will,” she returned. Never known Smitty to lose track of his thoughts while working. Maybe I should talk him into taking all 3 days of shore leave. Ha! Like I could!

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