Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fiery Temper

Month 5, Day 20
1631 Hours
Capac looked up as the pair joined him at supper, but he wasn’t particularly pleased to see Bugalu and his shadow, Mac. Her temper has been... unpredictable this past week, from what I’ve heard. And seen. One day when we got to the bridge, she was happy as could be. Other days, mad enough to chew through the bulkhead. And right now, it looks like they’ve argued again. I’ve seen that look on Mac’s face many mornings these past few months, after she’s had to put up with Evans and Adams all night. Usually, all it takes is a touch from Bugalu, or an understanding grimace aimed her way, to smooth some of the anger away, but when it’s him she’s mad at, who’s going to calm her down? Capac leaned toward Bugalu and whispered, “Why did you argue this time?”
Bugalu shot him a sharp look, then glanced at the steaming redhead. “I didn’t argue with her. I don’t know what she’s upset about. She won’t tell me.”
Capac shook his head. “You must really be in the dog house.”
“Or,” Bugalu offered, “maybe she’s mad at somebody else.”
“She would tell you about that, wouldn’t she?”
The helmsman shrugged. “Eventually.”
“Shut up!” Mac gave them both a murderous look, and slammed her fork down onto the table. “Mac called me in for a physical today!”
“What for?” Capac asked, and winced at the withering glare she sent his way. Bugalu seemed abruptly, intensely intrigued by his tray of food.
Mac picked her fork back up and began energetically mixing her mashed potatoes and gravy. “Said he was worried about my sleeping habits,” she growled, and cut off a corner of her hot beef sandwich, then tossed a glare at Bugalu. “Wonder why he suddenly thinks he needs to worry about that?” she muttered as she raised the food to her mouth.
Meaning she thinks Bugalu told the doctor something that got him worried. But how would Bugalu know about her sleeping habits? Unless the rumors about them are true.
“Yes, I told him,” Bugalu confessed. “After having my eyes opened, and talking to Della, the problem is obviously worse than I thought. What we’ve been doing this past week isn’t enough. You need actual sleep, Mac, daily. Two days out of eight is not enough, and your mood these last few days has proved it. I’m worried about you.”
“I’m sick to death of being told what to do!”
“You’re in the Fleet,” he reminded her calmly.
“Doesn’t mean I have to like it!” she declared angrily.
“It can get irritating,” Capac agreed meekly.
“You’re the one who kept telling me you weren’t sleeping,” Bugalu stated. “But you always said it so... matter-of-factly, it seemed like no big deal. Now I know better. Look, everybody knows you know your field-“
Smit doesn’t,” she snarled.
Bugalu hesitated for half a second. “Okay. I guess not. But everybody else does, and—”
He’s the only one that matters!” she pointed out forcefully, poking the air between them with her fork. “If I don’t pass his test, I don’t pass! Period!”
“She’s right,” Capac agreed, earning a glare from Bugalu.
“Mac, all I’m saying is that maybe you need to take some time to relax, to lower the stress levels in your body. Just do something fun once in a while. After supper, we could play Atakke, or see a movie. Or if you’d rather, we could—”
She exploded. “Stop telling me what to do!”
“Okay,” he agreed, holding up his hands to try and calm her. “I’m don’t mean to tell you what to do. But I’d like for you to relax, for a change. That’s all.”
“Well, I will!” she declared.
“But I’ll do it the way I want to do it!”
“That’s fine,” he agreed. “What do you want to do?”
She glared at the negro for a long moment, then gave a deep sigh and shook her head. “I have no idea. Maybe I’ll... play solitaire. Or something.”
She used to play a lot of solitaire, she said once. “If you want to play cards, I’m hosting a game tonight.”
Bugalu scowled. “Not a good idea.”
“Who says it’s not?” Mac demanded. “Maybe a card game’s just what I need!”
“Mac, it’s poker, and not just—”
“I know how to play poker!” she declared, jumping to her feet. “When, Capac?”
“1900,” he answered. “My place.
“I’ll be there,” she stated, picked up her barely-touched meal and stomped off.
“I never dreamed I’d ever get Mac to one of my poker games,” Capac muttered, still not sure he believed she would show up.
“You are such an idiot!” Bugalu told him angrily.
“It was her choice. She’s right, you boss her around too much. She has a right to play poker if she wants to.”
“You should have at least told her—”
“Mac’s playing tonight?” Ryan asked from two tables away. “I’m in, Capac!”
“Yeah, me, too!” came another male voice.
“And me!” came another.
“Oh, great!” Bugalu spat. With a final glare at the Peruvian, he got up and left.

Capac was alone again, and somehow, he had earned Bugalu’s anger. I did nothing wrong! She wanted to play cards. As for telling her, surely she knows, right? There’s never been any big secret about my games.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Truth of the Matter

Month 5 Day 11
1546 Hours

“I did not lie,” Bugalu reiterated, but Della was not inclined to believe him any more this time than last. “Look, I talked her into taking a nap this morning after we had breakfast. Well, my breakfast, her dinner. But we made plans to meet for lunch, since she’s been sleeping so poorly. She never forgets our plans, so I simply waited. I didn’t realize how late it was until I heard Tall Bear get up to start his day. So I came to see if she was still here. Yes, you heard me say her name. I’m surprised you heard it, because I didn’t want to wake her, but I was relieved to find her - not only here, but still asleep.”
“Not wake her? That’s a laugh! I heard you two-“
“You heard Mac,” he interrupted. “She’s been telling me she has bad dreams and eventually falls out of bed, and today, I saw it. She was thrashing around, moaning in fear, until she landed on the floor, all twisted up in her blanket.”
That seemed to give Della pause. “You didn’t believe her? Before you saw it.”
“People don’t normally have nightmares every time they fall asleep, not even Mac. Some nightmares, yeah, I could accept that, especially given the stress she’s been under since she got here. And I’ve seen her wake up suddenly, wild-eyed and panicky, in the messhall, the rec room, where-ever she dozed off. But to continually have such bad dreams, she falls out of bed? I thought she might be... exaggerating. Like Matt sometimes did.”
Della sniffed. “Well, you don’t live with her. Actually, I don’t see her in bed often. But every time I do, she starts fussing after 15 or 20 minutes. If I don’t wake her up, she lands on the floor in short order.”
Bugalu frowned as he re-evaluated his adopted sister’s comments over the past weeks. Months. “This could be a lot more serious than I thought.”
“Yeah. Rather than exaggerating, I think she might have down-played it because she didn’t want-“ Her gaze moved to something behind him, and her back stiffened. “Did you decide what to do with the computer, Mr Smythe?”
Bugalu turned to find the officer standing outside the ‘front’ door of the Harris/MacDowell quarters, doing his best not to actively scowl.
Smythe sighed. “Take the computer to maintenance. Then take the tool belt back to engineering, and then, you’ll be off duty.”
“Yes, sir.” Harris stepped around the men to get the computer in question.
Bugalu waited for the officer to leave. If Della mistook Mac’s bad dream for... Well, it’s possible Smythe has the same idea. I can’t address it if he doesn’t bring it up. I’m not sure how to convince him, anyway. But I need to get in there and convince Mac to take this problem to Doc. He waited with gathering impatience for the officer to go away. Meanwhile, he met the man’s gaze without flinching, knowing that he had done nothing wrong.
“Lieutenant, I told Co- MacDowell to go to- to get some sleep.”
“She needs it,” Bugalu agreed, wondering if the other man would actually mention what he’d ‘heard’.
Smythe cleared his throat. “This isn’t the first time - today - that I’ve given her those instructions.”
“I’m not surprised,” Bugalu replied. “She’s been having trouble sleeping.”
Smythe’s lips made a thin line for a moment, then he finally barked, “I would appreciate it if you would forget whatever other plans you had for her for today, and let her rest.”
There it is. What he thinks he heard us doing is alluded to, but not actually mentioned. So I can’t say anything to explain. I somehow doubt he’d be as easy to convince as Della, anyway. Nothing to do but- “I understand, Mr Smythe.” He turned and walked down the hallway.
He walked steadily, but without haste. In due time, he had completely circumnavigated the ship, and was back at the Harris/MacDowell quarters. By now, Smythe was gone. Nobody was in sight, so he quickly stepped inside. Mac’s computer base was gone, taken to maintenance by Della. He cast a glance at the monitor sitting haphazardly in Mac’s desk chair, and made his way to the bedroom.
Mac sat up in her bed when he walked in, and blinked. “Oh! You’re back.”
He tried to keep his gaze above her neck. “Thought I should check on you. That was some dream you had earlier.”
“Yeah, it was rough.” She flopped back down on her mattress. “If I wasn’t under orders to sleep, I’d be ready for lunch.”
“By now, it would be supper,” he returned. “Have you been asleep all day?”
“I wish I had! You saw what happens when I sleep, didn’t you?” He nodded. “Sometimes I’m just so tired that when I do fall out of bed, I spend a few minutes distracting my brain, and then try to sleep again.”
“Good idea.”
“It would be if it worked.”
“So you just have another nightmare?”
“Every time. Pretty much the same nightmare. Other times, the distraction works so well, I forget to go back to bed. Or I wind up sleeping at my desk, like today.”
“Sleeping at your desk? Doesn’t sound very comfortable.”
“It’s not. I often wake up with a crick in my neck. Or a back spasm. But actually, I sleep longer, when I fall asleep at my desk. If I don’t get woke up.”
I didn’t wake her. She was already here, in the bedroom, when I came in. And Della was on duty. “Who woke you up?”
She looked at him in frustration, as if to say, ‘Brothers never listen!’ “I told you, Smit did.”
He froze for a second, remembering what he’d seen of her... nightwear when she had cast off her blanket and stumbled to the closet for a robe to answer the officer’s bellow. “That reminds me. Which lady talked you into buying that green lace thingee?”
She frowned and looked at the lace sleeve. “I don’t remember buying it at all.”
“Then... where did you get it?”
She made a face and rolled over, tried to get comfortable. “I have no idea.”
“Hope I’m not interrupting,” Della said, walking in from the living room. She stared at Mac. “Um, that doesn’t look like the pajamas you usually wear to bed, Mac.”
The redhead sighed. “I don’t know where it came from, Del. I was so tired, I just pulled out the next set of pajamas. What I thought was the next set of pajamas. Didn’t even notice until-“ Her face went bright red and she didn’t finish.
Della sighed in relief. “I’ve been looking for it for weeks! Laundry must have folded it up and put it in with a batch of your pajamas to send it up. You probably figured it was all your pajamas, and shoved the whole thing in your drawer.”
“Probably.” Mac tried to stifle a yawn. Her eyes closed, and she hugged her pillow close.
Bugalu grabbed hold and shook her toes where they pushed up the blanket. “Don’t fall asleep yet.”
She struggled to sit up, still holding her pillow against her chest like a life preserver. “Bugs, I know we had plans for the day, but you are the one who’s been after me for years to get some sleep. One of the ones. Months?” She paused, looking confused. “Did that make sense? I can’t tell. Honestly, I don’t know how I function anymore.” She plopped back down on the mattress.
“Plans have changed,” he said. “You just said you sleep better sitting up.”
“I don’t want to wake up stiff and achy!” she complained.
“She also sleeps better when you lie down with her,” Della stated mischievously.
Mac’s eyes opened wide and she stared at the ceiling. “When did we sleep together, Bugs?” Her voice was strangled with... fear?
You slept. I read,” he answered. “You had just started to have a nightmare. Weeks ago. I put a hand on your arm, wondering if I should wake you. You grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go.”
“I... don’t remember it.”
“Told you, you were sleeping. And I was reading. That’s what we’re going to do now, on the couch.” A thought occurred to him, and he turned to Della. “Did you have plans for tonight?”
“Yes, I’m going out. No need to worry about me. And now that I’m finally off duty, I’d like to change my clothes.”
“Right. Mac, get up, put on a pair of your own pajamas so Della can have her lace back, and then meet me in your living room. Bring your pillow, if you like.” He hesitated, for she hadn’t moved, or even acknowledged his instructions. “Can you manage all of that on your own?”
“Working on it,” she said, and slid one leg off the mattress, to hang toward the floor. “Gimme a minute.”
Della shook her head and opened one of Mac’s drawers to pull out a set of one-piece pajamas. “I’ll help her, Bugalu. I hope she manages to wake up enough to work tonight.”
“Always do,” Mac muttered, and rolled toward the edge of the bed.
“Don’t fall out,” Bugalu told her. “You’ll bruise yourself.”
“I’ve been bruised for weeks. Months?”
Bugalu swallowed and turned to Della to whisper, “She’s heavier than she looks, Della. If you have any trouble, tell me, and I’ll come help.” He sincerely hoped it wouldn’t come to that, that Mac would manage to wake up enough, long enough to change and join him in the other room.
Della gave him a hard look. “When she’s in nothing but my green lace negligee? I don’t think so. Even you have a breaking point.”

He gave one short nod and retreated to the living room. He made a quick call to the kitchen, to make a request to the shift supervisor that someone bring sandwiches to Mac’s quarters. It was shift break, and they were busy with day shifters having supper, so it wouldn’t be right away. Bugalu agreed to that condition. Breakfast had been a long, long time ago.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Another Talking To

Month 5, Day 11
1534 Hours

The door to her quarters opened, and Smitty reluctantly followed Harris into her living room. I do not want to be here. Again. But considering Colleen’s... attire, and that she’s sleeping, I didn’t dare send one of the men. He managed to pull his thoughts off the sleeping beauty without even glancing toward the bedroom and walked over to the second desk, where Harris was starting to remove the monitor from the base.
Impatient, he took the tool from her hand and in only a moment, the monitor was detached and resting in the chair. He then began to separate the computer base from the desk.
Although he kept his mind firmly on his work, a back corner of his mind heard someone exhale, “Mac,” at a distance. Harris handed him another tool, which he took automatically before he looked at it and then at her.
“Isn’t that what you need next?” Harris asked uncertainly, almost breathlessly. He nodded and returned to work, shelving his surprise that a staff member usually considered ‘adequate’ had correctly anticipated his needs.
By the time he had disengaged the computer base from the desk, he became aware of a series of moans audible from the bedroom, and he looked up, aghast. Harris stared in that direction, her eyes round and face white. She opened her mouth to say something to her roommate.
“Don’t you dare!” Smitty hissed.
She turned her face to him, startled. “They don’t know we’re here!” she whispered.
“They don’t need to,” he returned as quietly, his stomach tied in knots at the idea of what was happening in the next room. “Don’t... embarrass them. Just do what we’re here to do.”
She swallowed and turned back to the computer as he silently slid the base aside. There was no sheen of dampness on the desktop, not even when he squatted to look from a different angle. Mouth compressed in irritation, he stood and moved the computer completely away from where it normally sat.
The sounds from the bedroom were louder and more frequent. Harris glanced in that direction. “He told me-“
“Mind on your work!” Smitty hissed. “Did you clean up this desk?”
“I told you, I didn’t find anything to clean up,” Harris whispered, sounding peeved. “Not on the desk, not inside the computer. And all the components tested fine!”
I told her not to- And she never did acknowledge it, did she? Best to make sure before I accuse her. He pulled another tool from the belt Harris wore and began to remove the computer’s cover.
With one final outcry and a thump, the bedroom went silent for half a minute. Then a voice - which he now recognized as Lt Bugalu - stated, “You really did it.”
Colleen sounded out of breath when she asked, “Bugs? When did you come?”
“Just a little bit ago.”
“You see?” Harris’ demand was barely audible, but when it caught his attention, he lost track of the bedroom conversation. “No liquid inside, either.” She pulled the tester from her belt, and several tests came up normal. “Are you absolutely sure-“
“Is there a squiggle in the power display anymore?” Smitty asked.
“Ahhh, no,” she admitted. “Not since you ordered this computer taken off line.”
“Right,” he acknowledged. She cleans up her own messes.
“-Smit found me sleeping and read me the riot act,” Colleen said in the bedroom.
A bit of one, but not for-
“For sleeping?” Bugalu asked. “He’s got to have some idea how exhausted you are.”
“So, how do we tell if it’s safe to turn this computer back on?” Harris asked.
Smitty clamped his lips together tightly. It was exactly this situation he’d been trying to avoid when he had ordered Colleen- “MacDowell!” he bellowed.
“Oh, now what have I done?” she wondered, and he heard a couple uncertain steps.
No doubt she has to get dressed, after- “Step outside, Harris,” he told his underling.
“But the computer-“
“Later!” he growled.
“Yes, sir,” she acknowledged, and headed for the door.
The redhead appeared in the bedroom doorway, a touch of green lace peeking from the cleavage of her white robe. Even the thick robe could not hide her figure. “Lt Bugalu, you’re excused,” Smitty called out. Colleen raised her eyebrows and glanced behind her.
“Yes, sir,” came in response, and he heard the bedroom door open and close.
She is so beautiful. We’re alone. It’s been so long, and I’d probably only need a minute or two. The first time.
“Smit, what happened to my computer?”
The words were like a dash of cold water in his face, and reminded him that he was angry with her, as well as why. Why has got nothing to do with her entertaining Lt Bugalu instead of sleeping! “You disobeyed an order!” he snapped.
She studied him warily. “Which one?”
For a second, he was dumbfounded, wondering how many she had disobeyed, besides the two he knew about. “I told you, more than once, not to muck with this computer!”
“I haven’t ‘mucked’ with it,” she responded.
“You cleaned out the whiskey!”
“Well, of course,” she answered. “I made the mess; I cleaned it up.”
“I told you not to!”
“I don’t... remember that being an order,” she stated carefully.
“You know full well that’s how I meant it!”
She cocked her head to one side. “Sir, I don’t remember it being specifically stated as an order. And I’m not telepathic. I can’t be expected to know what you mean if you don’t say it.”
Another game. I don’t often lose this one, either. “Didn’t you stop to consider the extra work you were making for someone else?”
Her brows drew together in confusion. “What extra work?”
“Now that they can no longer see where the liquid was, they’ll have to dismantle the entire thing, clean every bit, and then put it back together. What should have been a 10-minute chore has become an all-day undertaking.”
“But I cleaned it.”
“So you say. But you aren’t certified in computer maintenance, are you? It’s not in your file, if you are.” Her mouth opened, but no sound came out, and eventually she closed it. My point. “I don’t know when I can spare a technician to spend that much time on it.” Her eyes widened in horror. My game. “Go back to bed, Colleen. And this time, get some sleep.” Embarrassed he had let that slip out, he turned for the door.
“But... I need my computer! I need to study!”
He stopped where he was, but didn’t look at her as he considered this new play. Her game. Because I could assign a technician right now. And if I don’t, it’ll seem like I’m doing it to keep her from passing. Which would put me in even worse trouble with Abdulla, Wilson, probably even the captain. But if I give in, and assign a technician right away, she’ll think she’s got me wrapped around her little finger. She very nearly does, but I can’t let her know that. He sighed in defeat. “When do you study?”
“Um, well, pretty much every waking moment. Except on duty, of course.”
Which gave him an unexpected - unorthodox - method of... not winning, but at least not losing. “Fine. You can study while you’re on duty. As long as it doesn’t interfere with your work!”
She was right behind him, and he hastily moved away as he whirled to face her. “What more do you want?” I need some R&R. I don’t dare! “I’ve given you all I can give! Am I supposed to completely forget you’re on probation? Probation isn’t supposed to be easy! It’s an opportunity for you to get your act together, get organized. I’ve bent the rules as much - and more - than I’ve done for anyone else!” He swallowed a sudden lump in his throat. “Perhaps you aren’t meant to be here.”

Her face was absolutely white as he turned and left her quarters.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Where’s Mac?

Month 5, Day 11
1522 Hours

Bugalu finished the letter to his younger sister, Makena, and told his computer it was ready to be sent so it could be transmitted out by the night shift communications officer - Mac. He grinned at the irony, and wished she were here so he could share the joke with her.
Only I wouldn’t dare. Why did I ever let my family know she’d been reassigned here? In fact, when did I- He frowned in sudden understanding. That’s right. I made that brief remark to Dayo that I didn’t get to date Ivy that weekend because she was helping Mac study. He sighed and shook his head. Dayo probably read that a few dozen times and then let everybody know that Mac was back in my life. Now they’re all fishing for information. I should have just written one letter and sent it to all of them. Next, they’ll be trying to get the 2 of us married. It was bad enough at the Academy. As soon as I mentioned Matt’s little sister had arrived as a cadet, Mom was hinting that Mac might make a good daughter-in-law. And then Dayo started. At least, back then, Makena and Ssanyu didn’t make insinuations, but they’ve joined in now. He uttered a long, sad sigh. How do I get through to them that I’m not likely to ever get married?
Or for that matter, Mac isn’t likely to ever marry, either. Not after the brainwashing her father did on her.
His stomach growled quite audibly in the silent room, and he frowned down at it. Pipe down, you. Mac isn’t here yet, but will be any minute. Then we can go have lunch and get started on her studies. Or, with luck, help her take another nap.
Bugalu moved over to the sofa and picked up his book. You watch. As soon as I get immersed in this book, she’ll come in. He opened it anyway, and turned his eyes to the words. But instead of being interrupted by the redhead bouncing into his quarters, he thought he heard someone in the bathroom, which he listened to for several minutes. Is Tall Bear... taking a shower? What time is it?
His chronometer said it was nearly 3:30 pm, now that he finally consulted it. He tossed the book aside and stood, suddenly worried and uncertain what to do. Where is she? She promised to meet me here so we could have lunch. Probably earlier than that, she said, because she gets so frustrated trying to sleep, but that’s what she was going to do this morning. Try to sleep.
Maybe she actually managed it today.
Why today? Why would she manage it today, and not some other day? Well, that’s circular thinking. Even Della says Mac is a horribly restless sleeper, waking up about every half hour, and seldom staying in bed more than 2 hours at a time, if that. So, if today is a normal day, she would have given up and climbed out of that bed around 1030, 2 hours after breakfast. She’s never forgotten our arrangements before, so where is she?
Take it easy, Bugs. Now she’s got me calling myself that! He shrugged. He’d grown accustomed to the nickname long ago, and only continued to complain for fear she’d find something even worse to call him.
She couldn’t have left the ship. Doc didn’t call to say she was in sick bay. Okay. Let’s start looking for her.
He sat down at the desk and tried to call Mac’s computer. Out of service?. I guess she used it so much to study these past weeks, she drove it over the edge.
He turned to the intercom and dialed the Harris/McDowell quarters. There was no answer. Okay. She’s not there. So where? Maybe Tall Bear has some ideas.
When he knocked on his bathroom door, the shower stopped. “You in a hurry, Bugs?” Bear asked through the intercom.
“No, I just need to ask if you’ve seen Mac.”
No sound came from the bathroom for a long moment, then the lock clicked and Bear stood in the open doorway, a towel wrapped around his hips and another draped over his head. “I do not believe you just asked me that.”
“Because I just climbed out of bed. And if I answer you truthfully, then yes, I have. But, she wasn’t actually there.”
The AmerInd was covered in goose bumps. “You took a cold shower, “Bugalu guessed. “Good dream?”
Bear rubbed his hair with the towel with one hand. “Relax, Mac wasn’t my... partner.”
“You just said she was there.”
“She kept interrupting us.”
Bugalu grinned at the mental image. Yeah, that sounds like Mac. Didn’t realize Bear was that astute. “I thought Doc was going to talk to her about sex,” he muttered to himself. Bear froze in the middle of towel-drying his hair, his eyes showing a mixture of confusion and shock. “She’s been so protected by her family, she has no idea what it involves or how it’s done,” Bugalu explained.
Bear let out a breath and continued drying himself. “What’s that got to do with my dream?”
“She keeps telling me that the easiest way for her to learn about it is to watch me. With someone else.”
“There’s a mental image I didn’t need,” Bear told him. “Anyway, she wasn’t watching. She kept falling. Like, out of the sky, off a cliff or balcony. I’d have to catch her. And even though her falls kept interrupting me and my date, I was always fully clothed when I caught her. And so was she.”
“After you caught her, did she deck you?”
Bear stared at him for half a minute. “Bugs, we are talking about a dream. So, why are you asking me, who just got up, where Mac is? It’s your day off, didn’t you spend it with her?”
“She fell asleep 3 times walking to the mess hall, so it didn’t take much to convince her to take a nap. But she’s been sleeping so poorly, we were positive it wouldn’t last past noon. She was supposed to come get me for lunch, but she hasn’t. Her computer is off-line, and she doesn’t answer the intercom. I don’t know where to look for her.”
“Bugs, has it occurred to you that if - IF - she is actually getting some sleep, she wouldn’t be awake to answer the intercom? Make sure she isn’t there, sound asleep, before you go running around the ship hunting for her.”
Bugalu smiled sheepishly. “You’re right. Sorry to interrupt.”
“That’s okay. It’s been... educational.”

The bathroom door closed and Bugalu walked out of his quarters, headed for Mac’s.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Month 5, Day 11
1459 Hours

By the time Smitty returned to Engineering, he was angry; angry at himself for letting any woman distract him so badly, angry at the Fleet for having such idiotic rules, angry at the universe for putting him in such a situation. The first person he saw when he entered was Ensign Jones, who had Harris involved in conversation, probably a highly suggestive one, knowing Jones, and despite the difference in their rank. But the name he barked out as he headed for his office was, “Harris!”
By the time he entered his office, she was only a step behind him. “Did you need me, sir?”
Need her! Is she asking- No, of course not. She knows better than that. She just isn’t sure why I bellowed for her. And I did bellow, let my anger show. But I’m on duty, and - like alcohol - getting rid of my anger will have to wait. He turned to face her, mentally shoving his ire to the back of his mind. He took a deep breath, let it out, and asked, “Was Ensign Jones bothering you with some unwanted attention?”
The question startled her. “What?” A twinkle in her eyes revealed amusement. “I know how to handle Jones. I do a lot of dating, but I don’t make arrangements for them when I’m on duty.”
He tried hard not to show his surprise. Over the years, he had seen her in the company of many different men off-shift. If she dates every night - or nearly so - and she doesn’t make arrangements for them during her shift, then when does she? Never mind, I don’t need to know. “It’s my duty to be aware of any harassment that might... happen,” he explained lamely.
“I know that, sir. And I appreciate the... concern. I admit, it took a while to get that message through to Jones, but he eventually understood. Men are all alike.”
A touch of anger escaped confinement, followed by the realization that all these years, that must be the way she thought of him. He turned to sit at his desk, realized the tool belt was in his way, and stood back up to remove it.
“Is that all you needed, sir?”
“No!” He blushed, realizing he’d barked again, lay the tool belt on his desk and sat down. “I understand Ensign Jones can make a pest of himself with the ladies,” he said, and remembered a particular incident. “When she first came aboard, I had to stop Co- Lt MacDowell from hitting Jones. So instead of talking to him about harassing females, I had to talk to her about being violent.”
“I heard about that. And I’ve seen her pumping iron in the gym. She could have done some real damage, if you hadn’t stopped her. Nobody realized that at the time, of course. And most men still don’t, because all they see is the shape and the face.” She went quiet for a moment, and then softly offered, “Well, not you, sir.”
What is she saying? That I can’t appreciate a fantastic body and a beautiful face? I can! And I do! He raised his head to snap at her, but stopped before the words left his mouth. She waited uncomfortably throughout the silence, while he stumbled through his mind for something to say. “If you know how to handle Jones, perhaps you should explain it to your roommate,” he finally mumbled.
“I hardly ever see her,” Harris stated. “And when I do, at least one of us is already busy. Opposing shifts.”
“Yes, well...” For some reason, the contents of their liquor cabinet kept coming to his mind. “Tell me, have you seen any indication that your roommate might be... alcoholic?”
Harris’ jaw dropped in shock. “Mac? I’ve never seen her take a drink! Sir.”
“But you hardly ever see her,” he reminded her.
“Yes, that’s true,” she admitted. “But after shore leave, she put 3 bottles of whiskey in the cabinet, and they’ve been there ever since. Unopened.”
Have I misjudged Colleen? I hardly ever do, but these days... “Not any more. Your roommate was-“
The office door opened to admit Peron. “Excuse me, Mr Smythe. I assume you fixed the computer and it can be turned back on?”
“What-“ Smitty suddenly remembered why he had gone to Colleen’s quarters in the first place. “No,” he grumbled. “Leave it off. For now.”
“I... don’t understand.”
Smitty sighed, picked his words carefully. “Lt MacDowell was asleep. It was hard to work around her when she was asleep at the desk. Despite my efforts not to disturb her, she woke up. I tried to explain that her glass had fallen over when she fell asleep, and the liquid had seeped into the computer station, but the conversation went... sideways.”
“That’s fairly common with that girl,” Peron stated.
“What?” Smitty demanded. Has he been seeing her behind my back, too?
Peron suddenly seemed uncertain of himself. “Uh, Wilson has been helping her study, and says that has to be on her guard every minute, or before she knows it, they’ll be deep in conversation about Kordalis receivers, Purvis units, and other things.”
“She’s in communications. She needs to know about K-receivers and P-units.”
“Not Borisky K-receivers or Schomberg P-units,” Peron returned. “She needs to pass communications before she tackles engineering.”
“True,” Smitty agreed quietly.
Peron relaxed. “Well, I’ll send somebody to fix the computer.”
“No!” Both of his underlings looked at him in surprise. Just the memory of the woman’s green lace lingerie made him sweat. “She was quite... shocked to find me - to find a man - in her room when she woke up. And quite right, too. I was just getting ready to send Harris to take care of it.” He picked up the tool belt and handed it to her.
She took it reluctantly. “Me, sir?”
That’s right, Harris isn’t the best with computers. But a short is a short, when it comes down to it.
“She can’t be alarmed to see her own roommate, if she should wake up,” Peron stated.
“Just clean the liquid out of the body, and test the connections for any lingering shorts,” Smitty instructed. “Now, unless there’s something else, I need to get back to this paperwork.” As the others started to leave, he added, “Harris, report to me when you’re done.”

“Yes, sir.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Simple Task

Month 5, Day 11
1426 Hours

The lift door opened, and he walked down the corridor to enter Quarters 42. Wondering which station to start with, he glanced at both, then froze as the door closed behind him.
Coleen was home, and asleep, but not in bed. Her arms and head rested on the desk; her red curls scattered across the area. She fell asleep studying. Poor girl. If perseverance and effort were all it took, she’d be there by now. “I really want to stay here. Just tell me what it’ll take... So what’s next, sex in your bed?” Of course, if audacity was the key, she’d have gotten there long ago.
Stop thinking such things. I’m here to do a job. She may have left her computer on. He stepped closer until an odor reached his nose. Whiskey? Another look at the desk revealed a half-empty bottle, while a glass lay on its side between the keyboard and computer. No wonder she fell asleep.
I can’t work with her sleeping right there. I’d wake her. Now, that’s tempting. Stop it, you idiot. Get a hold of yourself. More to the point, she’d be in my way, and a constant distraction. I’ll take her to bed. As lust flowed through his body, he clamped his teeth together. Put her to bed, he corrected.
He took a breath and willed his body to be calm before he stepped around the desk. He was used to seeing her in a red uniform, so the dark green lace she wore was a surprise. The smooth cream of her back emphasized the green. He swallowed. There was no hint of any clothing under the green lace. I can’t carry her when she’s like that and not succumb.
Somehow, he managed to pull his gaze away and scurry to the bedroom, where he grabbed a blanket off a bed. Returning to the living room, he hurriedly draped the blanket over her. Granny used to wear a blanket around the house, especially in winter. She called it a shawl, but it was a blanket. But Granny didn’t wear green- That’s enough. Just remember Granny, and let the rest of it go. Now get her out of your way and get your work done.
Having given himself a stiff talking to, his hands barely trembled as he bent to pick her up. All the right curves, and plenty of them. Startled by the errant memory, his grip faltered, and she slipped away, tumbled to the floor.
He watched in regret as she not only didn’t wake up, but rolled to her side, pulling the blanket over her and up to her chin. “No school, ma,” she mumbled. “Let me sleep.”
Things are never easy when they involve her. He knelt to make another attempt to pick her up, but paused, trying to forget the half-seen body he would soon be holding. Space, I need a drink. His gaze went to the bottle on the desk, but at this angle, he saw something he hadn’t noticed before. A pool of pale liquid stretched from the over-turned glass to the computer base, where it had probably seeped inside.
Of all the blasted, idiotic things to let happen! “Colleen!” He shook her shoulder, no longer worried about her habitual lack of sleep. “Wake up! You’ve mucked up the computer!”
She sat up, but her open eyes were completely unfocused. “Not me, pa! I never touched it! Must have been one of the boys!” With a sigh of exhaustion, her eyes closed and she sank to the floor.
Pa? Ice slid down Smitty’s spine. She didn’t mean me. She was still asleep, dreaming of home. “Women can’t fix anything!” she exclaimed. Bugalu shrugged. “That’s how she was raised.” Is that her problem? A father’s cave-man mentality? He’s nowhere around, but if that’s how she was raised, I suppose some allowance has to be-
Her upper half was no longer hidden by the blanket, and he was off into a dream world of his own.
“Mr Smythe? Are you there yet?”
He almost snapped that he was busy, and the third party was not needed, but then he realized the voice had come over the intercom. All of engineering knows I came here. If I don’t answer, Peron might send someone to see what’s going on, and if that person saw her wearing... Oh, space. He raised an uncooperative arm to bring his wrist intercom toward his face. “Yes, I’m here.”
“Did you find the problem, sir? Do you need any help?”
Yes, definitely. Send somebody else, anybody else. Wait. And have that person find her practically naked? I don’t think so. “I’m... looking things over,” he managed to say, and refused to let his gaze return to the redhead. “I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, take the computers in this room off-line.”
He stayed where he was for another moment, trying to steel himself for embracing the woman long enough to get her to a bed. Even that no longer seemed like a good idea. Well, she’s not at the desk. If I can avoid stepping on her, and she stays covered, this might work. He fumbled blindly with the blanket edge, to pull it back over her top half. His hand brushed against smooth skin. Her nose? chin? something more intimate? He didn’t know, but he lurched to his feet, and searched his mind frantically for an opposing emotion as protection against her charms. He stared at the pool of liquid. “She’s made a mess of the computer,” he reminded himself.
“Not me, I-“ Her voice died away.
If she just stays asleep - and covered - then I might-
Suddenly, she was standing next to him, staring at him. “Oh, dear,” she breathed.
His head swiveled at the endearment, and his eyes started to lower for another peek of green lace. I don’t dare! He hurriedly bent to pluck the blanket from the floor, tossed it to her. “Cover yourself.” Grabbing the bottle from the desk, he started across the room, desperate to put some distance between them. I really need a drink!
“Smit?” came a tremulous query. “I... um...”
He stopped, the bottle halfway to his mouth. I’m on duty! How did I get into this mess? He recapped the bottle then slowly turned around. At least she’s covered. The blanket was pulled tightly around her. I can still see that she’s got a fantastic body.
“Um, why are you here?” she asked.
How long have I been staring at her? A simple task - a short in the computer -  and the fact that she’s here has me completely distracted. I should have been done long ago. What must Peron think? Everybody knows she sleeps days, if and when she sleeps. They must be wondering what’s taking so long. No, they aren’t. They’re sure they know. The rumors about me and Wilson were bad, but this will be 100 times worse. And not that far from the truth. If Peron hadn’t interrupted-
“Smit?” Her voice was so soft, he hardly heard her.
You’re a fool, Smitty. After this, the whole ship will know it. “There’s a short in your computer,” he stated. An idiot and a fool. Stop thinking with your hormones!
She looked confused. “Computer? No, it’s fine.”
He pulled his gaze off her, focused on the computer. Can’t she see it flickering? Well, not when she’s asleep, I guess. And definitely not now that it’s off. “Might have been when you fell asleep. But your drink spilled, and seeped inside.”
Her face blanched, and she whirled to face the desk in horror. Muttering in a language he didn’t know, she started to wipe at the puddle with the blanket.
He hastily looked away as she let go with one hand to make more of the blanket available. “Stop that!”
“But you said-“
“I told you earlier to cover yourself! I expected you to keep covered!”
“What?” She was confused again, and stared at him for a moment before she reluctantly peeked under the blanket at herself. “Oh!” She whirled and headed for-
“Where are you going?” he demanded. Idiot! It’s obvious!
She stopped and slowly turned around. Her face was red, and the blanket - now damp and mussed - was pulled so tightly around her that it seemed it must give up and rip into shreds. “I’m... I’m not dressed for company,” she said in a tiny voice.
“I’m not company!” he declared.
“You could. I mean... if you wanted.”
What’s she saying? That she’d welcome me as a guest, a... lover? He banished the thought. “I came to do a chore.” He approached the computer.
“I’m sorry I’ve caused problems, but I’ll take care of it.”
Take care of it! He stared at her in disbelief. She hasn’t even passed her communications test, let alone computers or engineering! Such a lovely face. Space, it’s hot in here. Got nothing to do with actual temperature, I bet. “Why are you here, Colleen?” he heard himself croak.
Her eyebrows pulled together in confusion yet again. “This is where I live.”
“I know that!” he declared. “I meant, why do you exist?”
Her face flushed as she struggled to say, “My parents love each other.”
A red-haired couple in the throes of sex- “No!” He thrust the mental vision away.
Her jaw tightened in anger. “You don’t know anything about them! I’m pretty sure Ma loves Pa, at least!”
“I didn’t mean that, either! Why are you on the Fireball?”
Her anger drained away, confusion was back. “I was transferred here,” she answered. Her eyes slid away from him in embarrassment. “Not that it was easy.”
Does that mean- “You requested the Fireball?”
“Umm...” She licked her delectable lips as she considered that question, and he had to pull his thoughts back to the here and now. “ ‘Demand’ might be a better word,” she admitted.
He was shocked. “You came here specifically to drive me crazy!”
That startled her. “What?”
Why can’t I keep my mouth shut! She didn’t know I existed before she arrived. She’s been driving me crazy, true. Now that she knows it, she’ll try harder. As if she needs to try!
“Bugs was here,” she stated simply.
His entire body turned to ice. Bugalu. That’s who she came to be with. If she flirts with me, it’s to soften me, get past probation. It’s nothing personal. She’s got no... feelings... for me. Having been pushed far beyond the point that any man should have to endure, he took a drink from the bottle in his hand. I should use a glass, or I’ll drink the entire bottle. He started for the liquor cabinet. No feelings for me at all.
“That’s the only brand I have, Smit,” she said.
“What?” He turned around, surprised she was still there.
“Of whiskey,” she stated. “That’s the only brand I have. If you want something else, Della has some, but I only have whiskey, and only that brand.”
Whiskey? He looked at the bottle. Oh, space. You’re on duty, Smitty. No time to get drunk. “I’m fine.” He recapped it. Better put this away; she sure doesn’t need any more. He opened the liquor cabinet. “I’ll have somebody-“ Wait a minute. On one side of the cabinet were single bottles of vodka, rum, and gin, with various levels of liquid. Those must be Harris’. On the other side were 2 unopened whiskeys. Of the same brand as I’m holding. That’s 3 bottles, all anyone’s allowed on ship. But I’m sure I found an empty of this brand outside these quarters that night she got drunk. That would have been 4. Too soon for her to get any from supplies, plus they don’t have this brand. “You must have laid in a supply on shore leave.”
“Of course.”
He placed the half-bottle beside its siblings. “How much?”
“I don’t remember the price I paid.”
How many have tried to play a game of innocence with me? Space, how many times did I play it with my superior, back when- “How many bottles did you get?”
“I’m only allowed 3 bottles of liquor at a time.”
So far, it’s a game. He closed the cabinet. “How many bottles did you buy?”
“Not as much as I’d wanted.”
She’s stubborn. “I see 2 and a half bottles in there now,” he stated.
“I’ve tried to be frugal.”
“Except when you fail probationals?” All the color drained from her face, and she leaned heavily against the desk. Why did I have to say that? It obviously distresses her. Or... is this more of the game? “MacGregor admitted you were drunk when you couldn’t report for duty. I already suspected it, because I’d found an empty bottle outside your door.”
She swallowed and barely uttered, “I have 2 and a half bottles.”
“The empty bottle I found was your brand.”
She took a deep breath and regained some composure. “Interesting. But I have 2 1/2 bottles.”
“Plus, you gave a bottle to Bugalu, just after shore leave.”
She gazed at him with a masterful look of confusion. “No, I didn’t.”
I know that’s a lie. “I caught you coming out of a jeffries tube with the bottle under your arm. You were on your way-“
“Oh, that. It wasn’t for Bugsy.”
Someone else? MacGreg? She wasn’t headed in the right direction. None of my business. Well, yes, it is, if it means- “Then you did bring more than 3 bottles on board.”
She studied him for a moment. “You said yourself, I have 2 1/2 bottles.”
She’s going to stick to that assertion. Knows better than to admit to anything I can’t prove. And I can’t prove it, because right now, she’s got less than 3 bottles. I can’t even prove there ever was a 4th bottle, because I don’t know who she gave it to. Without knowing that, I can’t prove she left the empty outside her quarters; it could have been... the other person. I don’t lose this game often.
“Go to bed,” he told her in resignation.
She stood up slowly, her face full of uncertainty. “Bed?”
How does she put so much invitation into 1 word? He cleared his throat and started for the door. “Get some rest. I’ll send... someone for the computer.”
“No need. I can-“
“You won’t!” he exclaimed, stopping short. “Go to- Get some rest! I’ll send a tech.” Green eyes blinked at him a couple times, and he turned to face her squarely across the room. I clean up my own messes. She didn’t acknowledge my instructions, so later she can claim she didn’t understand them. Sly little vixen, isn’t she? “Maybe you think you can wriggle around me, Colleen, but I’m watching you.”
She blinked again, then her face suddenly lit up. “You are? Good!”

He was shocked by her reaction. What does that mean? He turned and hurried from the room.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Just Another Day

Month 5, Day 11
1328 Hours
Smitty gulped down the rest of his coffee without tasting it, then reluctantly returned his attention to the computer screen. Never used to have trouble getting these blasted reports done, though paperwork isn’t my favorite part of the job. Jane’ll have my head, I keep this up. Maybe I should explain- Oh, yeah. Sorry my paperwork’s late, Captain, but I can’t concentrate because my minds’ full of lust for one of my subordinates. Yeah, that would go over fine.
At least she didn’t ask about Colleen’s test. I’d just as soon not hand her the same test 2 months running. Maybe she didn’t ask because she knows we didn’t finish. Blasted dreams. By the time my sleep-deprived brain remembered to tell her about Takor’s strange behavior, she already knew about it.
Now, there’s a double-standard. Jane’s perfectly calm about him getting aroused at Colleen’s test, but she’d read me the riot act if she knew how I felt about the girl.
“Mr Smythe?”
He looked up to glare at the speaker grate mounted next to his office door, then scanned the screens that displayed various views of engineering. Why is everybody standing around the power net display? “What is it?” he growled.
The door opened, revealing Harris. “Sorry to bother you, Mr Smythe, but Mr Peron would like you to join us. He says he’s never seen anything like this before.”
Peron rarely feels inclined to ask for assistance. “What’s the problem?” The prospect of a break from paperwork to do some actual engineering softened his mood.
Harris bit her lip. “There’s a... squiggle... in the power net.”
There’s a fine engineering term for you; squiggle. Wonder what she means by it. Surprising, really. Harris may not be the brightest, but she usually knows what term to use. He climbed to his feet. “Let’s have a look.” He walked out with her. “How long has it been there? How bad is it?”
His simple questions increased her nervousness. “Um. Ah. It wasn’t there when I went to lunch. I noticed it after I got back. And it doesn’t seem bad, but maybe that’s because it’s intermittent.”
“I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had it fixed, but it cropped up again.”
No, she probably can’t. She doesn’t keep track of details. “Any thoughts on this, Peron?” he asked the Argentinean as they joined the group at the display.
“I think it’s a short,” Peron responded. “But it doesn’t act like one, doesn’t look like one, and appears so randomly, I can’t get it isolated.” He pointed to the display’s upper left corner, where 1 of the lines writhed in slow motion for a second, and then settled into its normal path.
“Definitely a squiggle,” Smitty muttered. There is no official term to describe that. I’ll ask Harris to write a description, and help her finish the paper with an explanation of what caused it and how we fixed it. Once we do. Harris may have coined a new engineering term.
“You know what it is, Mr Smythe?” Peron asked.
“Nope.” One should never be embarrassed by a lack of knowledge when confronting the unknown. “Like you, I think it’s some kind of short. How often does it occur?”
“It varies,” Peron answered. “Anywhere from 5 seconds to 100.”
Definitely intermittent, too. That’s 2 points for Harris. And since she discovered it, “Harris, inform the ship that we need to deal with a technical difficulty, and their power needs may be shifted to the backup system.”
“Yes, sir.”
Smitty continued to study the display for several moments, letting the announcement sink into people’s awareness. “Okay, Harris, now I want you to-
“Sick Bay to Engineering,” came over the intercom.
Should have seen that coming. He touched the controls of the nearest intercom unit. “Engineering. Smythe here.”
“Smitty, what do you mean you’re switching us to back-up power?”
“MacGreg, are you in the middle of an operation?” he asked.
“No, but-“
“Do you have any patients on life-support?”
“Uh, no.”
“Even in those cases, you wouldn’t notice anything, because I know how to do it smoothly. Now kindly allow me to do my job.” He turned off the intercom. “Harris, put weapons on the back-up grid.” He waited as she completed the chore, but the main power grid developed a short-lived squiggle at the display’s bottom. “Move fabrication,” he instructed. And so it went, moving the various power users to the back-up system one by one, and then waiting to see if it effected the mysterious squiggle. For quite a long time, the squiggle continued to appear in the display at irregular intervals, at irregular positions, and even at irregular strengths.
This is getting disturbing. “Computers next.” That’s a misnomer. Even with ‘computers’ switched over to the back-up, most of the computer stations are still connected to the main power net.
“Squiggle on the backup net,” Peron stated.
It’s in the computers. That means- Wait a minute. He stared at the squiggle that had just appeared on the main power net display. “Switch computers back,” he instructed. Harris almost questioned his instructions, but chose not to. Everyone seemed to hold their breath, waiting to see what happened.
“Squiggle on the main power net,” Smitty observed, and then his eye was caught by another squiggle on the display. “Correction. Two squiggles.” Do I continue with slow and steady, or follow the apparent lead? “Switch everything except computers and miscellaneous.” Again they waited, then he turned his gaze to Peron. “I’ve still got squiggles on the main net,” Smitty stated.
“Back-up has been steady since you took computers back,” Peron replied.
It is a computer, though I still haven’t seen anything like it before. “Harris, move everything in the aft half of the ship to back-up.”
“Yes.” She’s wondering about the main computer banks down there. We all probably are. There’s few computer stations on those decks. “I still have squiggles.”
“Back-up is steady,” Peron returned.
So they continued, switching entire decks to the back-up system, until the squiggle moved to back-up when deck 4 was moved over. Now we’re getting somewhere. “Give deck 4 back to me, and just to be sure, put decks 1-3 on back-up.” He grunted. “I’ve got squiggles.”
“Back-up looks steady,” Peron reported.
Smitty had Harris move blocks of rooms to the back-up, and they finally had it pinned down. “It’s in room 42.”
“That’s my room!” Harris exclaimed softly.
Jones snickered. “Leave your curling iron on this morning, Della?”
“No!” she answered, then hesitated. “If I had, Mac would have turned it off.”
“Call me Mac,” came the woman’s voice. Flaming red hair, green eyes, white face with luscious lips, all the right curves and plenty of them. “You’re Colleen’s roommate,” Smitty realized.
“Yeah,” she confirmed, confused by his mention of that fact.
“I just... hadn’t made the connection,” he muttered. Nothing like letting everybody know she’s always on my mind. He turned and pulled a tool belt from the supply locker. “I’ll check it out.”
“Mr Smythe, there’s no need for you to do it,” Peron told him. “I know you’re busy. I can have Jones check it out.”
Not Jones! Smitty forced a smile. “I need a break from paperwork,” he stated. “All work and no play makes Smythe a grouchy man. It’ll just take a moment. The rest of you, get back to work.” He turned without waiting for any further protests and strode out, headed for the lift.
What am I doing? She’ll be there! Probably. Maybe not. But if she is, she’ll be asleep, since she hasn’t noticed any short. Wait, if she’s asleep, she’s not using the computer, which appears to be where the problem is. And Harris is on duty, so neither computer would be on. That is a puzzle.
Jane’s going to kill me over those reports.

The lift door opened, and he walked down the corridor to enter Quarters 42. Wondering which station to start with, he glanced at both, then froze as the door closed behind him.