Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Heart's Desire
Month 1, Day 10
0647 Hrs

Entering Sick Bay, Smitty walked to the nurse's station. The blond leaned over the counter, giving him a view of her cleavage. "Hello, Honey," she breathed. She took his hand from the countertop. "Let's go take a bubble bath together."
"There's no bath aboard ship." He pulled his hand away. "I need to see MacGreg."
Temple was on the doctor's lap. When Smitty entered, she stood up and approached. "It's about time you looked me up." She opened her uniform to show him her lovely body.
A hand on Smitty's shoulder turned him around. Jane had a gentle smile on her lips. "Just the man I was looking for. I could use some R&R, Smitty."
"Mr Smythe?" He turned to see Abdulla in the dimness of the observation deck, the light of the stars shimmering through her negligee. "I thought you'd never notice me."
"He's mine!" Wilson started forward in a slinky evening gown.
"What in space has gotten into you women?" he wondered, but when they all started toward him, each looking determined, he ran. It seemed like every female aboard chased him. He turned a corner and ducked into a privacy room, tried to catch his breath as he leaned against the locked door. The only female he wanted was- "Colleen," he sighed.
"I'm kind of busy." His eyes popped open, and he saw her on the couch, making out with Bugalu. "Take a number, okay?" she suggested, and MacGreg gleefully showed him that he had the number 2.
Smitty opened his eyes, stared into the darkness. When his alarm went off, he groaned, realizing it was time to get up. Doesn't matter when I go to bed, I can't stop dreaming, so I don't get enough sleep. I've no doubt that one was brought on by what MacGreg said yesterday, that half the women aboard want to bed me. The unconscious does that with things you hear.
Tonight, I'll ask Dr Davis for something to help me sleep.

Morning Mess
Month 1, Day 10
0751 Hrs

Whistling, Bugalu entered the lift, headed for the bridge. Last night's date with Abdulla was enjoyable. It's so simple when I don't have to worry about Mac. It was such a relief to see her sleeping her drunk off. Cute pajamas, like a kid's. Not that she looked like a kid, but I knew she had to wear something in bed. Must have been in the laundry the other night.
Okay, I repaid Abdulla for her favor. I was a real pest to Della when I was looking for Mac; I'll have to see what she wants as apology. I need to make up with Beth and Alyce. Need to thank Capac for taking over with Alyce. Didn't realize he had it in him; he's always so quiet around women. There's someone else I couldn't concentrate on last week, too. Oh, yes, Stephanie. I'll-
The door opened, and he stepped off, headed for the communications console to say good morning to his sister. What's Chun doing here?
The relief communications officer was surprised at his approach. "Aren't you due at the helm?"
"He can wait," Bugalu returned, looking past the oriental at the redhead. She stared straight ahead, hands flat on the console. Her pink forehead and rigid face said she was working hard to control her temper. If Chun is here, why is she? And what's she upset about? Chun's boring, not irritating.
"You're both here?" Abdulla asked as she approached. "Who do I relieve?"
"Both of us, I assume," Chun replied.
"But why-"
"It appears I did not dazzle Mr Smythe last week," Mac forced out. "Mr Chun was told to see if I could function as a communications officer." She turned her head slowly toward the oriental. "I hope I was able to pass muster, Mr Chun?"
"You did ask a lot of questions," he returned. "But you didn't really need my help, and I didn't notice any mistakes."
"Good," declared Capt Burke from the doorway of the lift. "Abdulla, please relieve Lt Chun. Bugalu, you have 2 minutes before you need to release Lt Evans. You're excused, MacDowell."
Mac bolted from her chair and turned for the lift, then stopped short, her eyes focused behind Bugalu. "Mr Smythe," she greeted tensely.
"Got through the night okay, did you, MacDowell?"
"I think I performed satisfactorily," she answered stiffly.
"Fine," he responded shortly, and headed for the engineering console.
"Mac?" Bugalu asked.
He had her attention, but she remained tense. "I'm going to bed."
"Bed!" he exclaimed, and at least half the bridge crew glanced at them. "Now?"
She nodded. "I'll sleep days, Bugsy." There go my evenings. "Otherwise, we'd never see each other. Besides, remember what I said, about being drunk as a skunk, dead tired and in the company of... certain people?"
"I remember."
"The opposite is a horrible combination."
"I'm not following you."
"I'm sober, and just spent 8 hours in the company of a Baker."
"Space!" he breathed. No wonder she's ready to explode. I never gave a thought to who she'd work with.
"Right," she agreed. "I'm not fit company for a gerkat."
The captain cleared her throat. "Never mind. I'll see you tonight."
"What?" This is a nasty habit she's developed, telling me no.
Mac tossed a glance toward the captain, who was carefully ignoring them. "I've got so much to do! Weights with Ferguson, unpacking and... study. I have to study. And there's Tall Bear!" She took a quick breath. "Okay, supper. Wake me when you get off."
"I will," he promised, and moved to the helm. "You're relieved, Evans."
"You're late," Evans complained in a whisper as they went through the shift-change procedure. "Make dates on your own time."
"I was on my own time," Bugalu returned. "And she was on hers."
"Thanks to the captain. You seem to be well lubricated, even there."
"You have a sick mind," Bugalu told him. "And leave Mac alone."

"Staking a claim? Maybe you should be worried about Ferguson and Bear. Or MacGregor." The change of helm completed, Evans turned and smiled. "Good night, Captain." Then he was gone, leaving Bugalu with plenty to think about during his day.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Friend in Need

A Friend in Need
Month 1, Day 10
Tall Bear
0402 Hrs

      "Hey, Bear, what do you know about the new redhead?"
     The AmerInd glanced back at Evans and Adams, behind him in the lunch line. "Redhead? You mean Mac? Short, strong, smart, stunning. And very close to Bugalu."
     "Every woman aboard is close to Bugalu," Adams muttered.
     "You forgot 'sizzling'," Evans added, and turned his attention to his friend. "Mike. I saw her at a corner table, alone. We can join her."
     I don't think she'd like that. Tall Bear picked up his lunch tray and walked off.
     She wasn't hard to find. Red uniforms were common, but her vivid hair stood out. She sat hunched, frowning at her sandwich and fries and growling at anybody who looked like they might sit down. Tall Bear put his tray down. "No," she told him.
     He pushed the table into the corner, so there wasn't room to sit in two chairs. He sat down in the remaining chair, and she scooted to the table with a black scowl. "I don't remember asking anything," he stated blandly.
     "No, I won't go out with you!" She glared at him.
     "Oh. Okay." He cut his meatloaf. She sure is prickly today. He shook his head and mumbled, "Thought I'd remember asking something as important as that."
     "Therefore," she hissed, "there's no reason for you to sit-"
     "Come on, Bear, pull the table out so we can sit down," Adams whined.
     "No," he answered. "I'm doing Bugalu a favor. Go away."
     "Doing yourself a favor," Evans growled. "I won't forget this, Bear. Come on, Mike."
     "Hot does not begin to describe her," Adams said as they moved away. "And you're with her all shift, while I'm stuck in engineering."
     After the two men moved off, Mac sat back in her chair as some of the tension left her body. "Thank you."
     "You're welcome," he returned without turning his attention from his meal.
     "Did Bugsy really ask you to do this?"
     "I think he forgot," he stated. "He probably would have, if he'd thought of it." He glanced at her briefly. "Having a rough first day?"
     "Definitely." She frowned. "Problem is, I can't imagine them getting better."
     "You'll settle in," he predicted.
     "But they won't stop asking." As his look of confusion, she added, "For a date."
     "It's because you're new."
     "Maybe. Or maybe it's because I'm the only female on midnight bridge." He went over the list of bridge personnel in his mind. She's right. She went on. "At least tonight I can tune it out by asking Chun a question."
     "Chun? He's relief communications. What's he doing there?"
     "Looks like 3 days of shore leave came with a price. We're both working tonight so that Chun can make sure I know my stuff."
     "Chun? I haven't heard that he's a great expert."
     "He knows what he's doing, but you wouldn't know it from talking to him." She smiled uncertainly. "When I can't take Evans' pestering any longer, I ask Chun a question. He takes forever to answer, but I've stopped listening. He nearly put me to sleep."
     "That's the kind of thing I've heard. That he's tolerable as relief, but nobody wants him permanently on their shift."
     "I believe it." She sighed. "Don't know how I'll handle it in the future, when he won't be there to drown Evans out."
     "Is Evans the only one?"
     "The most persistent. Six times he asked, in only four hours. Bringing the grand total for the first half-day to eleven." No wonder she's prickly. Frowning, she selected a fry for her next bite. "I don't like being the only woman on the bridge. I'm already looking forward to days off, when Evans won't be breathing down my neck."
     "Relief helmsman is a woman," Tall Bear stated. "And since Helm and Communications aren't on the same relief schedule, there's another two nights out of eight when you won't have him around."
     "Only four nights out of eight that I have to put up with him!" She smiled at the thought. "That's the best news I've had all day."
     Poor kid. Kid? When did I start thinking of her as a kid? He moved to another subject. "About this evening-"
     "I told you, no dates!" she declared.
     "Will you be working out?" he asked. "Will you need a spotter? And if so, do you remember whose turn it is? Ferguson will say it's his."
     "Oh." She seemed flustered by such an innocuous questions. "I should work out. Evening? Not today?"
     He shook his head. "Ferguson's days, so we each sleep while the other works, in order to work out together. I just assumed you'd sleep days, too." Didn't she think this out? "If you don't sleep days, the only time you'd see Bugalu would be days off." And that realization hit her right between the eyes.
     But she accepted it without a second thought. "Okay. I've had worse schedules. Yes, I'll work out this evening. And it is Ferg's turn."
     "Okay. I'll spot for Yellow Dog."
     Mac glanced at the clock, and toyed with her last few fries. "What time do you leave your quarters to go to work?" she asked.
     "Depends," he answered. "Getting kind of personal, aren't you, Mac?"
     She flushed, kept her voice low. "Just before shore leave, Bugsy borrowed whiskey from you."
     "That was Bugalu? I found the IOU, but it wasn't signed. Wondered if I should make it a security issue." His attempted joke fell flat. "Did you change subjects, or these questions related, somehow?"
     "He borrowed it for me," she answered. "I promised him I would pay you back."
     This is getting interesting. "Go on."
     "Once I unpack from shore leave this evening, I'll have your bottle for you." Her eyes flicked at him nervously. "I'd rather not have everybody know I'm giving you whiskey."
     "You are aware of the rumors," he stated in surprise.
     "I'm not stupid," she returned. "I am always the subject of rumors, and anybody I talk to is- Just the fact that you and Ferg spot for me has linked us in people's minds. Us eating together will confirm it for a lot of people."
     "So... you want to come to my place?" he teased.
     Her eyes sparked angrily. "I want to fulfill my obligation without more rumors!"
     Too soon. Not ready for the flirtatious tease. "Okay. I'll be in my room tonight between 2300 and 2330. How does that sound?"
     Another glance at the clock had her gathering her items together. She blushed. "Will you be dressed?"
     Doesn't stop her from walking in on Bugalu, from what I've seen. "I will be fully dressed, and I promise to behave. Won't even ask you in. If it's that big a deal for you, why not have Bugalu give it to me?"
     "Because it's my debt, and I clean up my own messes," she answered, preparing to stand. "Good bye, Tall."
     "Shall we do this again tomorrow?" he asked.
     She froze. "I don't date."
     "We both have to eat."
     "True." She glanced at Evans and Adams. "Better you than him."

     Yes! Progress! "See ya, Shorty."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Double Duty

Double Duty
Month 1, Day 9
2354 Hours

     Smitty stifled a yawn as he stepped off the lift onto the bridge. I'm usually asleep by now. I like a solid 8 hours. But somebody's got to make introductions.
     He glanced around. Nearly half the midnight crew had arrived to relieve their evening shift counterparts. Evans isn't here yet. Cutting it close, I would think, but he's not my subordinate. And she isn't here yet, either. Hope she's not-
     A man slipped around him from the turbo-lift, headed for the helm. "You're relieved, Qaboos," he told the helmsman.
     "Here already, Evans?" Qaboos asked, standing up. "What's the occa-" He broke off as he turned and saw the senior officer. "Good evening, Mr Smythe."
     Evans whirled, a greasy smile on his lips. The midnight helmsman abandoned the helm to approach the senior officer. "Good evening, Mr Smythe. How can I help you?"
     Smitty refrained from grunting. "You're getting a new communications officer."
     "I assumed Lt Chun would be assigned to midnights. It is good of you to personally see that the transition goes smoothly."
     Smitty folded his arms. "It's not Chun. It's-" The turbo lift opened behind him, and the smell of lilacs drove all other thoughts from his mind. But he didn't need the perfume to tell him who had arrived, because every set of eyes on the bridge was staring at the newcomer. Most seemed unable to tear their gaze away.
     A vision of red loveliness passed in his peripheral view, skipped lightly over to the helm and saluted Qaboos, who was still waiting to be relieved. "Lt Colleen MacDowell reporting for duty," she told him as he automatically returned her salute. "I've been assigned to midnight communications."
     Qaboos' gaze started to wander down her form, then quickly pulled back up, his face red. "I'm not midnights, I'm evening. You need to report to Lt Evans."
     "My apologies. Where might I find Lt Evans?"
     "He's over there," he stated, pointing toward the lift. "With Mr Smythe. But you-"
     She whirled, and her emerald eyes ignored Evans, found him right away. She threw another salute. "Sir! Lt MacDowell reporting for duty!"
     Smitty's focus landed on the green bandage on the saluting hand. "Now what have you done to your hand?" he demanded, stepping around Evans to approach her.
     Her eyes flicked to the bandage, although they were the only part of her that moved. "Umm... it's the same bruise, sir."
     Realizing she was still saluting, he gave a quick salute, mumbled, "At ease," then caught hold of her hand as she lowered it. "That's not a thermal bandage," he stated.
     "No, sir, I appear to be past that stage. This is more of a... an immobilizing bandage," she admitted.
     He raised his head to stare at her angrily, his mind working on how to rearrange schedules to cover for her. "You told me it would not interfere with your work!"
     "Yes, sir. I didn't think it would," she returned, her eyes on his chest instead of his face. "I still don't. The bandage won't keep me from using the hand. It just-" She paused and looked around him to the communications console. "Look, I'm late. Can I at least relieve Lt... uh... whatever-his-name-is?"
     "You're not relieving anybody until I know you're capable of doing the job!"
     She looked stunned, her face white. "I thought I had 6 months to prove that," she whispered.
     Oh, no. They only ask when they need all 6 months. And sometimes, that's not enough. What did I expect, coming from a tug? "I meant because of your hand. I need to know that - despite your injury - you can still function."
     Her eyebrows pulled together, and she licked her lips. "How would you like for me to prove to you that I can handle it?"
     By dexterously and cunningly using it to handle me- Stop it, Smitty! "I want you to manipulate the controls. I'll watch while you go through the shift-change checks."
     She looked at him thoughtfully - like she's considering some hidden meaning in my words - and then headed for communications. "You're the boss."
     Does she have to constantly remind me what she expects from a boss? He followed her to the communications console.
     "Excuse me, lieutenant, I'm being given a pop quiz," she said quietly to Chun, who obligingly vacated his seat. Smitty was pleased she did not sit, since she was not officially relieving him. Nor did she don the earpiece/mike combo. Instead, she turned on the external speaker. She glanced at Smitty, paled, took a deep breath and then went through the sequence, pausing after each switch or knob to hear the 'okay' tone from the internal diagnostics. She wasn't fast, her hand roamed aimlessly above the controls as she frequently paused to think about what came next, but she did - eventually - finish. She turned off the speaker and faced him.
     She took her sweet time, but she got it done. And never used her injured hand. Was I mistaken? I thought- She bent down to retrieve her dropped spanner, and he got a very good view of a rounded rear tightly encased in red uniform shorts- Not that I paid much attention to which hand she used. "Are you left-handed, then?" he asked testily. "You might have just said so."
     She seemed genuinely surprised, looked down at her hands and blushed. "No, I'm not." She gave a deep sigh. It was all he could do to keep his eyes on her face. "It's just that... this isn't the first time I've... had a bruised hand."
     He grunted. "You think you could use it, if you had to."
     She didn't answer verbally right away, just held the bandaged hand up and slowly balled it into a fist. Her face went white, but there was no other sign of discomfit. "Yes," she stated, and straightened it out again.
     "But you were told not to use it, if you could avoid it," he guessed.
     She hesitated. "Not those exact words, but that's the impression I got."
     "I'll check with MacGregor in the morning, so if you're spinning a tale-"
     "Oh, not him!" she exclaimed at once.
     Thought so. "I assume you don't want me to check with him because you have been spinning a tale?"
     "Check if you want, I assume it'll wind up in my medical file, but I haven't seen him since-" She stopped, confused, muttered, "When did he-?" She shrugged the question away. "This bandage is from Doc Davis, who saw me about an hour ago."
     When did MacGreg do what? None of my business, as long as she's capable of working. How long have I been here, making a big deal of a bruise? It's up to the doctors to decide if she's not medically capable of doing her job. All I've done is make a scene. Made a fool of myself. "Alright, you're approved for duty," he told her gruffly. He turned to the man who had made room for her. "You're relieved, Chun."
     "But... I just relieved Clines!" Next to Chun stood the evening communications officer, Clines. Oh, blast, this is a day off for midnight communications! How could I have forgotten? And I never told Colleen, either! I'm an idiot! "Evans!"
     "Yes, sir."
     Why in space is he standing at my elbow? He should be at his post- He hasn't relieved Qaboos! Why are all these extra people still here? Watching me make a fool of myself. That'll be all over the ship by morning. "Lt Evans, you're late reporting for duty."
     "You're right, Mr Smythe. I didn't know introductions would take so long, or I would have relieved Qaboos before we got... distracted."
     Distracted. Watching a fool engineer interacting with a subordinate like a... like an infatuated school boy! "This is Lt MacDowell, your new communications officer. MacDowell, this normally would be a day off for you, but you just had 3 days off, so you're working tonight, under the tutelage of Lt Chun."
     "Me?" the man blurted.
     Smitty gave him a sharp look, then turned for the lift. "Get to work," he told the bridge crew in general. I can't let her get to me. It's good she's assigned to midnights so I'll hardly see her. Especially considering how poorly I control myself when she's around. Right now, I'd better get to bed; it's going to be a short night.

     Assuming I can get any sleep, after this.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

First Impression

First Impression
Month 1, Day 9
Dr Margaret Davis
2310 Hrs

     Peg was standing at the supply cabinet in the nurse's station, trying to figure out the organizational system, when a redhead in a red uniform bounced into Sick Bay. "Is the Doc in?"
Great. She assumes I'm a nurse. That's irritating when the men do it, but when another woman does it, it's ten times worse. "Yes," she answered, giving up on finding what she'd wanted. "And you are?"
     "Lt Colleen MacDowell," was the prompt reply. "Mac wanted me to get this looked at before I report for duty." she pulled her right hand from her pocket and gingerly placed it on the counter.
     Peg stared at the blue appendage for a moment, then turned to pull up her file on the computer. Bruised. Looks worse than a bruise to me, but MacGregor's scanned it twice. Drake's thorough; he's not likely to make a mistake about it, and especially not twice. "Has it been bothering you?"
     "It aches a little," MacDowell stated. "Seems kinda stiff this evening." She placed her other hand next to it. "I think it might be starting to swell again."
     "What have you been doing today?"
     "Sleeping. For almost fourteen hours. I was pretty drunk from shore leave."
     Pretty drunk? She should be dead, based on these readouts from when she returned. Three doses of de-tox, then three hours later, another double-dose, plus vitamins and organ supporters. Peg glanced at the redhead, who was still comparing her hands. She seems fine. "How do you feel?"
     The redhead grinned. "You mean, for being as drunk as I was after shore leave? Decent."
     "Only decent?"
     MacDowell shrugged one shoulder. "My head hurts. My stomach is queasy. I expected far worse, so this is decent."
     "You weren't going to mention those, were you?"
     "Should I? I expected--"
     "Far worse, yes," Peg stated. "Okay, then, your hand. You've been sleeping. Are you a tosser and turner, or do you tend to stay in one position?"
     "Restless," was the immediate answer. "Is that important?"
     "It means you don't rest as well as others. That's why it's called 'rest less'."
     "Ooo, that's sneaky, putting meaning into words like that," the redhead stated, her green eyes wide.
     Peg chuckled. "Hung over and still a sense of humor? How do you do it?"
     "It just feels so good to be here."
     Was that sarcasm? Sounded like she meant it. Peg picked up a med scanner and ran it over the discolored hand. "Well, it is swollen, but just a little. I suspect you've aggravated it in your restlessness. I'll put a supportive bandage on it. That could make it more difficult to do your work. A bandage won't let you bend the hand as much."
     "No problem; I still have this one." The redhead wriggled the fingers of her left hand.
     "You still have some alcohol in you," Peg stated, and reached for an inoculation gun.
     "I do?" MacDowell frowned. "Can't be much, between sleeping and Mac's de-tox..."
     "Not much," Peg admitted. "But now that shore leave's over, I can't knowingly let you report to work with any alcohol in your system." She set the controls for a quarter dose of de-tox and shot the girl. Eyes closed, MacDowell clung to the counter for a moment. "Make you dizzy?" Peg asked.
     "Does me, too," she admitted. "Now, let's see if I can find a bandage for that hand."
     "Why don't you ask a nurse?"
     Peg stared at her in surprise. "I thought I was a nurse."
     "Naw. You grimaced when I asked; said the doc was here, but made no move to get anyone, then treated me yourself. And you aren't sure where the bandages are. You must be the doc. The question you have to ask yourself is, 'If I were a bandage, where would the nurses hide me?' Well, that's what I'd be asking, anyway."
     Observant. Intelligent. Sense of humor. "You're going to be popular, MacDowell."
     "Maybe. I really don't care, as long as I've got Bugsy. And Mac."
     "Who are they?" Peg found the bandages in the last place she would have put them, and began putting one on the injured hand.
     "Bugsy is Lt Bugalu. He was my brother's roommate at the Academy, and has adopted me as his little sister. Mac is Dr MacGregor, who has also adopted me."
     Adopted? "As a little sister?"
     "That's... interesting." It's an ancient ruse. I didn't think Drake would stoop to it.
     "Hopefully, the two of them can keep me out of trouble."
     "Do you tend to wind up in trouble?"
     The redhead held up the now-bandaged hand. "Constantly."
     "I don't see any indication in your file of how this happened," Peg stated. No official explanation, just a note of hearsay.
     "I punched a pool table." MacDowell sighed.
     Peg blinked. "On purpose?"
     "I wanted to punch a space miner, but Bugsy wouldn't let me."
     "He was keeping you out of trouble."
     "Well, trying to." She frowned at her injured hand for a time. "Smit asked if I was going to be able to work. I told him it wasn't that bad."
     "The bandage won't keep you from using your hand, if you have to. It might make you pause and think first; maybe you'll opt to use the other hand, and let this one recuperate."
     The redhead sighed in relief. "Good. I didn't want to tell him I was wrong."
     "Who's Smit?"
     "Lt Cmdr Smythe."

     Oh, the head of her department. And a stickler for accuracy, from what I've heard. "No, I wouldn't want to have to tell him I'd been mistaken," Peg sympathized. "And I wouldn't suggest calling him that to his face. Or Dr MacGregor, either. Now, keep that bandage on tonight, maybe tomorrow night if you have similar difficulties. If it continues after that, I want another look at it."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

House Call

House Call
Month 1, Day 9
1039 Hrs

     Drake sat for some time, pensive about Smitty's parting comment. It's not what he thinks. But he's right in one respect. She may be Gaelund, but the fact she was passing out, unable to function, couldn't even stand without help - all indicates she was severely drunk. Drunk enough to deserve a lecture.
     Thinking back to when she returned aboard, he remembered the readouts from his medical scanner. Gaelund or not, those were dangerous readings. And I didn't de-tox her as much as I did Smitty. She may have been headed for bed, but her body still has to clean out that alcohol. I should have slapped her into sick bay, so I could keep an eye on her.
     He left his office, began collecting medicines and items that would be of use.
     "What are you doing?" Beth asked quietly.
      Nice demeanor. Not accusing, not demanding. I can almost hear her ask, how can I help? "I'm going to make a house call," he answered. "Mac still had alcohol in her system when she left the transport room. After seeing what Smitty was like, I think I'd better see how she's doing."
     "Good idea." She handed him a medical scanner. "What else might we need?"
     "We?" Doesn't she trust me? Alone with Mac. In her bedroom. When Mac sleeps in the nude.
     "It's traditional for a female nurse to be present when a male doctor examines a female patient," she returned smoothly. She lowered her voice. "If for no other reason than to keep the gossip to a minimum."
     Her perfume is intoxicating. Wonder if she's doing anything tonight? Space, if I spend too much time with her, we're going to get sloppy. I may not agree with Jane's ideas on fraternization, but I can't just blatantly oppose them. At the very least, I have to be discreet.
Put me with a naked Mac and Beth at my side, and my testosterone would skyrocket. I need someone to keep me sane, not aggravate my insanity. "It's not a chore for a head nurse," he stated, starting for the door. "Come on, Monroe."
     The newest nurse on his team caught up with him by the time he reached the turbo-lift. "Sir, I've been meaning to speak to you about the other morning? That red-headed companion you had-"
     "Nurse, there are some things you don't have the right to ask about," he returned briskly. "Who I date is one of them."
     "Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. Actually, that isn't what I was going to ask. I mean, I assumed she was a paid companion, and I wondered if you truly thought it safe to use a... common prostitute. The health risks-"
     "Paid companions are not common prostitutes. They undergo regular medical check-ups, and are guaranteed to be healthy. They couldn't be licensed, otherwise."
     "Yes, but medical testing is expensive. Who's to say they actually follow that rule?"
     Drake left the lift and started for Mac's quarters. "The governing body that licensed them. Look, Monroe, it's in everybody's interest to keep paid companions healthy. An agency with sick girls quickly finds itself shunned. A government that allows an agency to have ill companions soon sees tourism drop off, and their economy suffers. You should have gotten that in your Medical Ethics and Morals class."
     "I just wondered about your opinion on the subject," she returned demurely.
     It's not the kind of subject I would have picked for my first conversation with a new superior. He pressed his thumb against the scanpad outside Mac's bedroom. The door opened, and they walked in, let the door close behind them.
     "Lights at half," he whispered, and the dark room became semi-dim. He could see her red curls spread on her pillow. Hope she's decently covered. He stepped forward, handing everything but the scanner to the nurse.
     Mac was on her side, her blanket pushed down to her waist. She's not naked. Wonder when she got the blue pajamas? He noticed a paleness around her hand. Blast, I forgot about her hand. I'll check that, too. He reached out to her hand, trying to see the controls.
     Suddenly, Mac was sitting up, her back against the wall, her hands balled into fists. Green eyes blinked in anger, which changed to confusion. "Mac?" She glanced around the dimness and began to relax. "This is my room."
     "Yes, it is," he agreed.
     "I told you I wasn't going to your room," she stated. "What are you doing here?"
     "You were very drunk," he started.
     She slid down to her pillow again. "Let me sleep. I'm still drunk."
     "You were dangerously drunk," he tried again. "I want to make sure your body is dealing with that alcohol appropriately. I just gave some extra help to Smitty, and-"
     "Blasted R&R," she growled, rolling to face the wall. "Let me sleep."
     She regrets shore leave? She seemed happy enough to get it. "And I need to check that hand. Is it still set for cool?"
     She sighed and rolled onto her back to study her hand. It took her a long time. "After you returned to the ship, I... got it reset for heat, like you said. Then it started to swell, so Bugsy set it back to cold. You didn't give any instructions past that, so that's where it's at. Anyway, I was too drunk to worry about it."
     He frowned and gingerly lowered himself to the edge of her bed. Mac quickly scooted over to make plenty of room for him. "Let me see it," he instructed. When he got the bandage off, he was appalled at the deep blue color. "This is terrible," he muttered, using his scanner on it.
     Mac peered at it with half-open eyes. "No, that's about right for the age. A couple days, it'll turn yellow, then fade. You should know that, Mac."
     "I've never seen a bruise this bad that didn't need serious medical attention."
     "I'm Gaelund," she stated, closing her eyes.
     "You say that for everything," he pointed out.
     "When it fits," she returned. "Look at me." Been trying not to. "My pale skin bruises easily.          Being Gaelund, my muscles are dense, with plenty of blood vessels, which produces lots of bleeding when I'm hurt. My bones are dense, so they don't break easily. The result? Really bad bruises."
     I suppose that makes sense. "Does it hurt?" he asked, probing it gently.
     "Of course." She winced as he continued probing. "It's a bruise."
     "You're lucky it's only a bruise," he stated, wondered if he'd already told her that, when he'd first seen it. He scanned her body in general. "Well, your Gaelund body doesn't seem any better at getting rid of alcohol than anybody else's."
     "Takes time," she muttered, nearly asleep again.
     MacGregor instructed Monroe what to load into the inoculation gun, continued scanning until the gun was handed to him. He placed the tool in position, glanced at the readout, then gave the machine back to the nurse. "Try again."
     "I'm sorry?"
     "The amounts of vitamin C and triptobrakyne are reversed."
     "I'm sure that's what you asked for," she muttered, taking the gun back.
     "It didn't occur to you that those levels could cause damage to the liver and kidneys? That's simple biochemistry."
     "Well, yes, but you're the doctor," Monroe returned quietly, changing the settings. "And she is Gaelund. I just thought-"
     "She's human," MacGregor broke in. "For that matter, so am I. So I'm not above making mistakes. Part of your job is to question my instructions, if they don't make sense. For instance, if the amounts of medication you think I've ordered could cause damage. I'd appreciate it if you remember that."
     "Yes, Doctor." Monroe handed him the inoculator.
     Once again he set the nozzle in place, glanced at the readout, then gave the shot to the redhead. With a couple twists of the controls, he gave her another dose of de-tox.
     Mac's eyes flew open, then quickly closed. "That's very disori- disori- makes me dizzy."
     "You should have an easier time now." Drake stood up. "Still don't like that hand. So before you report for duty, check in at Sick Bay."
     "Okay." She stared at the clock and sighed. As Drake and Monroe turned for the door, Mac tossed her blanket aside and laboriously began to climb from bed.
     "What are you doing?" Drake asked.
     "Getting up. So I have time to go to sick bay."
     Drake glanced at the clock in confusion. "You should set that for 24 hours. You can sleep another 12 hours."
     "Good." She fell back onto her pillow. "Whatever you say," she muttered, and was asleep again. Grinning, Drake pulled the blanket over her. She immediately kicked it off. "Too hot, too many clothes," she breathed.

     Drake feared Mac might start removing her pajamas, but she merely rolled over and fell deeper asleep. With a sign to Monroe, Drake left, reassured that Mac would be okay.