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.

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