Day 4 (cont)
Jane was disappointed to see MacGregor exiting the mess hall as she entered. "Duck. I was hoping you wouldn't be done yet."
"Sorry." He glanced back inside. "I don't know if Smitty's eaten yet."
She grimaced. "I just chewed him out. I don't think supper together would work tonight."
"I won't ask; that's between you and him."
She sighed, and looked around. "Tell me you didn't want three days of leave for that redhead just so you could have time with her."
"What? Absolutely not! I've got the proof-"
She waved him to silence. "You're not the only one who suggested it, so I didn't really think- So good, you don't have a date with her." That's a guilty look if ever I saw one. Blast, another one that needs chewing out? "Let's step in here," she suggested, pointing to the privacy room.
When they stepped into the tiny room, she was relieved to see it didn't have a sofa. Don't think I could stand that. Duck's a good-looking man, and it's hard to ignore that tonight. Just like it was hard to ignore Smitty's ... attributes. Keep it together, Jane. Tomorrow is shore leave. You can wait that long. "Okay, so you have made a date with the redhead."
"Not a date. Don't let her hear you say that; she'd cancel in a heartbeat."
"Cancel what, if you don't have a date?"
"Okay, you might call it a date, but not a ... sexual date. Mac- MacDowell thinks all dates are sexual. So, yes, we're getting together, but it's not a date."
"So, you're tricking her-"
"No!" He sat at the table. "Mac is not your typical woman."
"That's for sure," she muttered, sitting down opposite him. His glance was meaningful, but he didn't comment.
"Ludwig would have a field day with her inhibitions, but she functions fairly well, so I'm not going to turn him loose on her. According to her upbringing, anything remotely sexual is forbidden. I worked hard to get her to agree to be friends. Once I saw what she'd been through, I convinced her to adopt me as an uncle. As her uncle, I am taking her fishing, to see that she actually gets some relaxation on shore leave. So, yes, we're getting together. No, it's not a date."
"Are we talking about the same woman? Hangs out with Lt Bugalu? Yet everything sexual is forbidden? That doesn't make sense."
"I didn't think so either. But she hangs out with Bugalu because he's like a brother to her. Incredible, but they both say it."
I couldn't think of Bugalu as a brother. Or that redhead as a sister. Life doesn't always make sense. Jane stood up. "Okay. For now." She frowned. "It isn't like Smitty to try to deflect my anger by casting aspersions on others. He must need shore leave as much as ... anyone."
Duck smiled. "Maybe you should authorize three days for him, too."
"Like he'd take it!" she laughed, and started for the door. "Good night, Duck."
Drake the Detective
Day 4 (cont)
Drake tossed his book down on the sofa and sighed. Pre-shore leave impatience. That's what I've got. The whole ship has it. Wonder why Jane chewed Smitty out. No, none of my business. Wonder who's caught Mac's attention. Can't imagine who she thinks might charm his way into her bed. Pretty sure it's a man. Has to be someone she met that first day. First couple of hours, in fact.
Does Bugalu know who it is? Is this guy good enough for her?
He glanced at the mystery he had just tossed aside. Well, I wouldn't be a good uncle if I didn't try to find out, would I? She won't tell me, so why not play detective? It'd give me something to do, anyway. Let's see, when she came aboard, she would have been greeted by the captain, maybe one of the higher officers, and a superior. Did Smitty greet her himself, or leave it for Abdulla? Who worked the controls for the pods? Smitty would have the answer to those last 2 questions, so I'll start there.
It only took him a moment to reach his neighbor's door, which opened to admit him, so the engineer was accepting visitors. From the looks of him, he should have opted for limited admittance. Drake glanced at the bottle sitting on the table next to Smitty's elbow. That explains it. Jane's right; he's stressed. We all are. A stiff drink would taste good right now. "Care if I come in?"
"You are in," the engineer growled.
"So I am. You drinking alone tonight?"
"I have been." The engineer sighed. "You know where the glasses are."
"Thanks." Drake got a glass and joined Smitty on the sofa, helped himself to a portion of the clear liquid. He grimaced slightly as the first swallow flowed down his throat. "Do you ever drink anything besides gin?"
"Yes." Smitty nodded, and his knuckles went white on his glass.
He's tipsy. Must not be his first bottle. "All I'm saying is that a scotch or Irish-" Wait a minute. Mac does drink; she had a whiskey the other night in the officer's lounge. She must not be ready to trust me in the 'privacy' of a public park.
"Irish!" Smitty snarled. "I've had enough Irish! I'll stick to gin, if you don't mind."
"I don't mind," Drake responded. The previous bottle must have been whiskey. I'll have to remember to bring my own, next time. "I'm playing detective tonight, to keep my mind busy, you might say."
"You waste your time reading mysteries," Smitty stated. "Technical manuals, that's more like it. For you, medical journals, I suppose."
"I read those, too." But not exclusively, like he does with his journals. "Anyway, I have some questions, about the day the new crewmembers came aboard."
Smitty shuddered, tossed the liquid in his glass down his throat. "What about it?"
"I've been wondering who was there to greet them? Who operated the pod controls?"
"Kagan," he answered shortly and refilled his glass.
Tall, thin, dark hair. Hasn't been aboard that long himself. That's one possibility, probably not the only one. "Afterwards--"
"He did fine." Smitty's voice was thick. "I was hardly needed."
"So, you were there? You showed Mac to her quarters and the bridge?" This is great. He knows exactly who she met, then.
"I sent for Abdulla," the engineer admitted, his face red.
"Oh." I'll have to check with her, then. Drake remembered the 'come hither' wink Abdullah had given him the other night, and his mood brightened. That could have its own pleasures. Wonder what she's doing tonight?
"They must have dropped off her duffel at her room before coming to the bridge. They get along well. Hope Abdulla remembers she's a superior officer to her."
It took MacGregor a moment to straighten out what the other man had meant. "Abdulla will remember, if she needs to."
The engineer sighed and refilled his glass. "I used to be able to."
If Smitty was there when she got to the bridge- Whoa, what did he say? This could be more than just pre-shore leave impatience. Or it could be a really bad case of pre-shore leave lust. "What's changed?" he asked softly, his possible romantic mystery set aside at the prospect of a biological mystery.
"Space if I know." Smitty sighed, and drank half the glass down. "I have no control over my thoughts, my dreams, my body."
"That sounds serious."
"I need a woman!"
Never heard him sound so desperate.
"I need -" He stopped and glanced at Drake.
Like he's just remembered I'm here.
"I need a vacation," he ended weakly.
"As it happens, I suggested to Jane earlier that you take all three days off."
"Did you?" the other man asked suspiciously. "Why would you do that?"
MacGregor shrugged. "You seem to be under some stress."
Smitty frowned. "That's putting it mildly."
"Well, do you want all three days?" MacGregor asked. "It's not too late."
"I have work to finish tomorrow. She- I- It's not done yet."
He can't stop working. I don't like the sounds of that. Never have, but that's his way. "That's right, you said Mac needed to bone up. Sorry to hear she hasn't been more help for you, but she's been on the verge of a breakdown."
"Pushing me to a breakdown of my own," Smitty mumbled, and shook off the thought. "Well, it's over. Shore leave, then she's , and I never need to see her again. Can't be too soon."
He's really taken a dislike to her. Because Jane made him give her all three days off? Doesn't sound like him, but- What's she done to get on his bad side? He can't control his body? Did he lose his temper, or-? "Smitty, you need some fun. What have you got planned for shore leave?"
"Haven't thought about it."
"You've got reservations, haven't you? Or will you sleep on the ship?"
"I've got reservations," Smythe replied. "At the Golden Star, Star of Gold, something like that. Further than that, I don't know. Hire a woman. Or six. Drink. Probably. Who knows?" He turned glazed eyes to Drake. "What are you doing?"
There are few activities we both enjoy, and he knows it. We've been friends a long time, but we seldom share shore leave. "Well, if you've seen one station museum, you've pretty much seen them all, so not that. Like you, I'll probably hire a woman." One with bright red hair. No, maybe that wouldn't be a good idea. "I thought I'd go fishing. Not likely to catch anything, but it's something to do. Basket of corned beef sandwiches, cheese and apples, whatever."
"Sounds good," Smitty interrupted. "But roast beef, not corned. And last time, you brought white wine; I prefer gin."
Last time was nearly ten years ago, just after we met. That's an idea, get the two of them together for a couple hours, let them see each other in a different light. But I can't surprise them with it. He cleared his throat. "I'm flattered you remember our last fishing trip with enough pleasure to be willing to repeat it. But, I've already invited someone, and you might not- You're welcome to come, if you like, but-"
"I'm afraid to ask," Smitty whispered, sitting very still.
"I've invited Mac," MacGregor stated softly.
"I knew it!" he snapped, closing his eyes.