Simple Game of Pool
Shore Leave, Day 1 (cont)
The more Capac thought about spending the evening with Bugalu and Mac, the more he felt like an intruder. “I should find something else to do,” he stated as they approached the nightclub.
“Too late.” Bugalu grabbed the Peruvian’s arm, drug the other man with him. “She’ll be here any minute.”
“But she wants you, not me,” Capac protested.
Bugalu pulled him through the door. “We’re going to play pool, Capac. You like pool.”
“Yes, but I—“ He stopped, unable to go on, because he saw the woman in question, already playing pool. Just watching her gave him a fever.
Her pants were tight, exhibited her shapely legs. Her hair was a mass of red curls instead of her usual topknot, which brought out her vivid green eyes. Her leather vest revealed most of her breasts. When she leaned over to take a shot, he felt his temperature climb higher.
“She’s perfect,” he breathed.
“Behave.” There was irritation in the negro’s voice as he pulled his friend forward. “Hello, Mac,” he greeted her. “You had supper yet?”
She stood up slowly and leaned against the table. “Hello, Bugs.” It took her a moment to recognize Capac. “And Capac. Yes, they insisted, after shopping. Thought I was drinking too much.”
“You’re showing it,” Bugalu stated.
“It's under control.” She started to grip the cue stick again, but missed at first. Green eyes shot defensive anger at the helmsman, though he didn’t say anything.
“Are you going to fight again?” Capac whispered. “Her mood’s bad, and you’re tense.”
Bugalu gave him a sharp glance, regarded the redhead again. “Capac, if we do, tell us we’re being stupid. Say it loudly and repeatedly. Forcefully. Until we hear you.”
Mac looked up, staggered slightly as she stared at the Peruvian. “He’ll never be another Matt.”
“There’ll never be another Matt,” Bugalu agreed. “We have to make do with what we have. You’ve been working on that yourself.”
She shot, missed the target ball. She stared at the errant cue ball, lowered her head to the felt table and giggled. “I can’t believe I missed that shot!”
“Mac-“ Bugalu began.
One white hand waved at the whiskey bottle sitting on the table's edge. “Put it away, Bugs? I’m a little too drunk.” Bugalu snatched the bottle, tightened the lid. “Under the table.” She moved slowly around the table to her next shot. Her condition wasn’t obvious, but she kept a thigh pressed against the table.
Bugalu bent over to look.
Mac raised a hand to catch the attention of the waitress. When that woman approached, she asked, “You two want something?”
“Tom Collins.” Bugalu stood up, minus the bottle.
“Beer,” Capac stated.
"I'll have an Irish Collins," Mac stated.
"You just said you were drunk!" Capac reminded her.
"A little drunk," she admitted. "I need to slow down. But not stop!"
Capac turned to Bugalu. "Are you going to let her keep drinking?"
"I can't stop it," Bugalu stated. "She knows how much she can handle."
"You're odd, Capac," Mac stated, taking another shot. Two balls fell into pockets. "Most men try to get me drunk, not convince me to stop."
"He's not the type," Bugalu stated.
She looked him over as she moved along the table. Besides her thigh, a hand slid along the table, guiding her. "I thought they were all the type."
"What about me?" Bugalu asked.
She grinned. "You're the exception that proves the rule."
Bugalu shook his head. "Things aren't always absolute, Mac."
The waitress returned with their drinks. "Who's paying?"
"This round is mine," Mac told her.
The waitress evidently had an imprint of Mac's bankcard. "Need a table?"
"No, we'll be playing pool," Bugalu responded.
"I'll finish, we can start a new game." Mac took careful aim.
"How was shopping?" Bugalu asked as the 7 found a pocket.
She grunted. "Didn't start well. Got better, though. Educational."
"Educational?" Capac repeated. "Shopping?"
"Yeah. I learned things about men." Another shot; only 2 balls were left. "Even a few things about you, Bugs."
"Abdulla told tales about me?" he asked.
"Not exactly. Mostly they spoke in generalities, but sometimes they got specific. About you, Tall Bear, MacGregor... all sorts of guys."
"Yellow Dog spoke? Hard to imagine."
"She was her usual self. Mostly it was Abdulla and Beth."
"Beth!" Bugalu was suddenly tense. "Beth helped you shop?"
"Yeah." Only one ball remained.
The negro sighed. "After last night, I'm sure she didn't have anything nice to say. I'm surprised she could tolerate you."
"She seemed fine." She took a shot, but missed the final ball. She gave Bugalu a glance. "She was your date last night? One that... didn't go well?"
"That's putting it mildly," he muttered.
Capac was confused. "Even so, why would she hold it against Mac?"
"Because we argued about Mac."
"Oh." He nodded his understanding. "She was jealous."
"Not really," the helmsman stated thoughtfully. "She... I was so worried about Mac, I couldn't pay any attention to her."
"Worried about me?" Mac took another shot, then drained half of her drink. "I've taken care of myself for 6 years, Bugsy."
"You keep saying it's been awful," he returned, "without any details. How can I not worry?"
"I got myself to the Fireball, didn't I?"
"Which you still haven't explained."
They are fighting again. I hope Bugalu remembers he told me to do this. "You're being stupid! Don't argue!" They turned to him in surprise, and he shut up.
"He... might have potential," Mac stated after a moment.
"Maybe, but he needs work," Bugalu returned. "Which takes time. We need help immediately. You've already figured that out, haven't you?"
She finished her drink and signaled for another, started racking the balls. "Ready for pool?"
Bugalu grimaced and drank a chunk of his own beverage. "I have a message from your uncle." Mac's face turned red. "Meet him at his hotel."
She fumbled with the balls, and several escaped. "I won't!"
"Why not?" Bugalu asked softly. "You come to my room all the time."
Capac was surprised. She does?
Bugalu caught a ball as it rolled towards him, and sent it back. "How?"
Her face was still red. "Because he's new at the job, and it'll take practice."
How can he be new at being her uncle?
Bugalu nodded. "I'm out of practice, so I understand completely."
She froze, and her face drained. After a moment, she slowly raised her head. The two stared at each other. Neither said anything, but Capac could feel the tension between them skyrocket. They don't sound like they're fighting. But so much stress! Do I tell them they're being stupid again?
Bugalu sighed and selected a cue stick. Capac did the same. "I'll go first," Bugalu stated. "Unless you want to, Capac."
"It should be ladies first!" Capac protested.
"Mac hates to break."
"Right," she agreed, taking her new drink from the waitress. "Bring another," she instructed. "I'll go last." She took a hefty drink.
Bugalu aimed, and Capac stepped next to Mac. "You don't seem to be slowing down," he observed quietly.
She faced him, eyes large, and grinned. Well, I don't think I've made her mad. "You're sweet," she said. "Weird, but sweet. This isn't straight whiskey, and it's your turn."
My turn? To make an observation? "You're beautiful."
She blushed and tensed. "Mac," Bugalu's voice held warning.
"I meant, to play pool." She stepped away.
For a while, they simply played pool. The tension faded, and Capac found it pleasurable to joke and laugh with these two. Mac drank 2 or 3 drinks for each one that Bugalu consumed, but she didn't seem to get any drunker.
Then Bugalu paid for drinks and turned to hand Mac's to her. She came around the table, stopped just before his hand pressed into her bosom. They stood frozen, staring at his hand, separated from her only by a scrap of air and a few laces. Bugalu straightened his forefinger and flicked one of those laces. "Tighten that up, Mac." He placed her drink on the table edge while she pulled the laces tight.
"Oh, don't do that," said a voice from near-by. "I'll just haf ta untie it again."
Bugalu ignored the fellow, but Mac gave him an icy stare and tied the laces in a double knot. Picking up her drink, she tossed a portion of it down her throat.
"Mac," Bugalu whispered. "He's not worth landing in the brig."
"He's a baker!" Her voice was hard but just as quiet.
"Baker was never worth it," Bugalu stated. "Forget him. Capac, your turn."
"I always dreamed of a Morale Officer like you, Red," the gruff voice continued.
Morale Officer? That's a term for Sexual Release Officer from the mining ships. She is not going to like that!
"Keep dreaming," she said coldly. "Your turn, Capac."
Capac took his shot, and Mac considered her options. Eventually, she leaned over to aim. The deep-voiced man got up from his table, staggered over, and put a hand on her rear. Mac's cue fell as she whirled. Her left hand caught the intruder's hand and bent his thumb back, while her right fist pulled back to hit him.
"Mac! No!" Bugalu jumped forward, forced his way between them. "Don't, Mac!"
"He touched me!" she hissed.
"Oh, I'll do more than that, beautiful," the man stated. "You are too good a Morale Officer to pass up."
"I am not a Morale Officer!"
"I'll make allowances for inexperience, though I find it hard to believe," the man returned. "Get outta the way, Little Guy. The lady deserves a man."
"I'll kill him!" Mac declared.
"You might!" Bugalu agreed, and she blinked in surprise.
"Kill me with pleasure," the big brute sneered.
Bugalu ignored him. "Mac, you're trained to think things through, so do it!"
"Think what through?" she demanded.
"You are Gaelund," he reminded her. "Stronger than 3 men combined! He is obviously a miner, spends lots of time in no-G, therefore a lot weaker than he looks!"
"Hey!" the man protested.
"Easy, Buddy," one of his friends said. "Didn't you hear? She's Gaelund."
Bugalu went on. "Combine your power, security training, and his frailty, you could easily kill him."
"Security training?" the big brute muttered, confused.
"I'll be careful," Mac said angrily. "He deserves a beating, and I'll give it to him!"
"No, you won't!" Bugalu returned.
"Watch me!" With one hand, she pushed him aside, then took a step toward the big miner, who unthinkingly stepped backwards.
"Lieutenant!" Bugalu barked, and both Capac and Mac came to attention.
The redhead turned her head, disappointed by his betrayal. "Don't, Bugsy."
"I out-rank you," he returned, teeth clenched. "Shall I make it an official order?"
She stared at him, furious, hands clenched into white-knuckled fists. With a growl, she spun, punched the pool table's edge, which snapped as the plastic broke, leaving an impossible dent. Bending over, she grabbed a shopping bag from under the table, then started for the door.
"Don't land in the brig, Mac," Bugalu called after her. "I'll leave you there until the end of shore leave!" She was gone. Bugalu now turned his attention - and anger - on the miner, who was staring in disbelief at the dented plastic. "You should be more careful who you insult!"
The bartender came over, scowled at the damage. "Names and bank card info. The magistrate will review the tapes and decide who pays."
"It's the redhead that did it," the big brute stated. "Let her pay for it."
"You upset her!" Bugalu spat out. "Even a blind man could have seen she wasn't interested!"
"Don't you two get started," the bartender interrupted. "Buddy, you've been through this before. And if you're Fleet, you know, too. I get the names, addresses and bankcard information on all persons involved. The magistrate reviews the tapes, assesses damages, and authorizes payment from the proper accounts. Red got away, but you two won't."
Frowning, the big miner dug out his bankcard. "Buddy Gates, of the mining ship Diana." The bartender scanned his card and gave it back.
Bugalu offered his card. "Lt Bugalu, Helmsman, SS Fireball. You already have the bank info for Lt Colleen MacDowell, Communications on the Fireball."
"Communications!" Buddy exclaimed. "You said she was security!"
"I said she's had Fleet security training," Bugalu corrected. "Her brother was a security officer, and they sparred together. A lot. So in effect, she's had the training."
"Not the same," the miner complained.
"You wouldn't say that if she'd hit you," Bugalu stated.
"She's been working out with Tall Bear," Capac added, hoping he had the hang of saying little but implying much. "He's Second in Command of Fireball's security."
"Enough," the bartender warned. "From the looks of that table, Buddy, you're lucky. Don't know if your luck will hold. You'll all be notified of the magistrate's decision. Now, move on."
Buddy sighed, stopped at his table to gather his friends, and left. Shaking his head, the bartender returned to his work.
Bugalu took a deep breath. "I wasn't sure she'd obey my command voice."
"I didn't know you had a command voice," Capac stated.
"Wasn't sure, myself." Bugalu picked up the drink Mac had left behind and finished it. "Let's find some girls."
"Shouldn't you go after Mac?" Capac finished his beer.
"She knows where I'm staying. Or we'll meet up the day after tomorrow. If she doesn't find me then... I'll get her out of the brig." As they headed for the door, the negro asked, "Tall Bear?"
"Ferguson's a cook."
"They both lift weights."