Drake Spins a Tale
Day 4 (cont)
Smitty wasn't sure how long he'd been staring at the lunch menu, just as he had no idea what was on it. He stepped forward and growled, "Just give me something." I won't taste it, anyway, so it hardly matters. With his tray of food in hand, he turned and headed for the captain's table.
"How is the work progressing?" Jane asked as he approached.
"Terrible," he returned, falling into his chair. "MacDowell hasn't done more than one panel this morning." Neither have I. If my question scared her, that first day, my behavior last night has petrified her. If I get within 10 feet, she stares at me like ... like a trapped animal or something. All the right curves, and plenty of them. Just having her in the same room is ... intoxicating. Space, I need a drink. That'll have to wait.
"Jane, I was hoping I hadn't missed you." MacGregor sat down.
"I hope you're more talkative than Smitty today," she returned. "He just sits there scowling at his food. I thought he liked fish and chips."
"What?" Smitty looked up at the mention of his name. "Sorry, captain, I was ... thinking." He forced himself to eat.
"Thinking?" MacGregor repeated, studying the engineer's face as he stirred his coffee. "Or sleeping? You look terrible."
"I didn't sleep very well," he admitted.
"Work isn't progressing very well with the new girl." Burke picked up her cup, studied the chief medical officer. "You look tired yourself, Duck."
"I spent the night ... researching a case."
"I wasn't aware we had anybody in sick bay." Jane frowned.
"We don't," MacGregor stated. "The ... patient ... doesn't realize she has a problem. Or won't admit it. I can't tell which, right now."
"How does someone not know they're sick?" Smitty asked. I don't normally ask about his work, but anything to get her off my mind.
"In this case, it's stress-related," MacGregor returned. "The stress has been accumulating for years, from what I found. She's just done her best to cope. But it the stress isn't bled off, neutralized ... well, it won't be pretty, if she goes over the edge."
He isn't making sense. That's why I don't ask about his work, I guess. I need an engineer to talk to, someone to-- His wandering eyes fell on the redhead and Bugalu, sitting several tables away. She doesn't look happy, even with her lover right there.
She seemed completely uninterested in food. Bugalu cajoled her into each bite. When she picked up her iced tea, her hand shook so badly, Bugalu took it away from her. She leaned toward him. Kissing in the messhall! Hardly an appropriate place--! But she only put her lips next to his ear and whispered. Bugalu frowned. She persisted. He reluctantly agreed. She continued talking, then he got up and moved off. Looking happier, she made an effort to eat while he was gone. When the negro returned, he handed her an iced tea, which she promptly drank.
She already had an iced tea! A tall glass of cold brown liquid hit his shoulder as he entered the small recroom. He had a sudden urge for something much stronger than coffee. That wasn't iced tea! It must have been whiskey! An entire months' ration, I would think! And again with lunch? Not acceptable!
"He's probably dreaming of undressing a new girl," MacGregor stated.
Smitty rounded on the doctor indignantly. "I am not!" Creamy white skin, firm large breasts, all the right curves and plenty of them. "I would never do such a thing!"
MacGregor looked confused, a fork of shepherd's pie halfway to his mouth. "Isn't that what it's called when you get a new crystal and peel off the layers of packing material? Undressing the crystal?"
"I heard it was a favorite activity for you," Burke muttered.
"Oh." He felt his face flush, and lowered it to his food. "Yes, it is."
"What did you think I meant?"
"Don't bicker," Jane admonished. "Smitty, she's your subordinate. How do you think she should be handled?"
Thoroughly. Repeatedly. With great relish and pleasure. I shouldn't be thinking like that! "Who?"
Burke sighed. "Lt MacDowell. Please try to pay attention, Smitty, Duck was just saying that she needs a vacation."
"She just got here!"
"True," Jane agreed patiently. "But apparently, she wound up on Captain Nash's bad side on her last assignment, and she didn't get the shore leave she should have gotten. Hence Duck's concern."
"He's concerned, is he?" Trying to make brownie points, more likely.
"She's a powder key waiting to explode," the doctor stated. "She shouldn't be working, if you ask me. But without any outlet to help her relax, I'm not sure off-shifts would do much good."
"Your professional opinion is that she should be in bed?" His bed.
"Actually, I think she should enjoy herself with friends, rather than be forced into inactivity. She's not the kind to sit still."
"She's new aboard. She doesn't have friends, yet, I assume," Burke stated. "Any friends she might have made are on their regular duty schedule. So opportunities for relaxation on ship are limited. Again, any suggestions?"
A peal of laughter reminded Smitty of the tickling session the night before, and he glanced at the couple. Bugalu wasn't tickling, merely grinning. Her mood seems marvelously improved. Mine would improve, too, if I chugged that much alcohol. She's drunk, no doubt. "She can't have a vacation," he growled. "We're in the middle of space. If we put her off on the nearest planet for a week, we wouldn't be anywhere near to pick her up. Shore Leave's coming. Surely that's soon enough!"
"It has to be, I agree," Jane stated. "She'll have to make the best of shore leave."
MacGregor frowned thoughtfully. "What shift did you assign her to, Smitty? Maybe I can make some arrangements."
Arrangements for the two of them. "She might have her own plans for shore leave, doctor. Perhaps Bugalu-"
"Bugalu, yes." The doctor nodded. "I'll have to get him involved, too."
He's planning a threesome! How does he know she's willing?
"Willing for what?" Jane asked, looking confused. "Did I miss something?"
"Willing?" MacGregor asked. "I never thought she might refuse Bugalu. You're right. She should do what she wants, not what someone else thinks is good. I still need to talk to Bugalu. What shift did you say she's scheduled for?"
"I didn't." Both of the other officers stared at him. "I ... haven't decided yet."
"Well, I'm early shift," MacGregor stated, and frowned. "Ideally, she'd spend her leave with Bugalu, doing whatever they did at the Academy to have fun. On the other hand, I don't think a split leave would be a good idea. Not this time."
"What do you think, Smitty?"
"I haven't given it any thought," he returned shortly, and took a bite.
Jane watched him thoughtfully, her dessert forgotten. "Duck, you said it wouldn't be pretty, if she reached her limit. Smitty's working with her and has a perfect opportunity to watch for symptoms. Maybe you should give him an idea what to look for."
"I'm not a doctor!" Smitty protested.
"But you are there," Jane pointed out. "In a position to observe. Duck?"
"There's lots of possibilities. Stress produces different reactions in different people. Some of the worst, I suppose, includes memory loss."
Can he mean all those times her work has slowed to a crawl as she works out what she's doing?
All those times she called me 'dear!'
She actually wanted to punch Jones.
"And wild mood swings."
Last night in the turbo lift, when she threw herself at me, than opted for Bugalu.
"That's the kind of thing you need to watch for, Smitty. We don't want our new communications officer to have an emotional breakdown just days after arriving, do we? It wouldn't look good on our record. Or hers."
He gave up eating, pushed his tray away. "If I notice any symptoms, what should I do, MacGreg? Send her to you?"
"She needs to relax," MacGreg repeated. "Being sent to a doctor seldom has that effect. So, given the constraints we've already listed, you might ... I don't know, break for coffee? Crack a joke?" He hesitated, added, "Authorize a 3-day shore leave?"
So he can have an entire day with her without Bugalu. That's what this is about. I never thought he'd pull something like this. But she's enough woman to make a man do things he wouldn't normally do.
"I'll keep my eye on her," he agreed sourly.
"That's settled, then," Burke stated brightly. "Now, what shall we do this evening? Tae kwondo?"
Smitty groaned. "I'm not up for that," he stated firmly.
"We haven't been swimming for a while," MacGregor stated.
Jane considered the idea. "Not my favorite activity aboard, but I can handle it. Smitty?"
I'd rather go to bed early. But I'm not sure I'd get any sleep. "All right." He glanced at the clock and prepared to leave. "About 1900?"
"I can help," Bugalu stated as he followed the redhead past their table.
"You have a date tonight," she reminded him. "I ruined Blossom's fun last night. I'm not going to do the same to ... whoever you're seeing tonight."
"But last night-"
"Bugs, you took care of it. I'm fine. Go have fun."
I need an ice cold shower.
"See what I mean?" MacGregor asked softly. "She doesn't realize what stress is doing to her. Keep a close eye on her, Smitty. I'm counting on you."
He doesn't know what he's asking. "Smitty sighed. "I have to get to work."