Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished
Month 1, Day 10
Tall Bear
2329 Hours

Tall Bear glanced at the clock for the third time in the past minute. It's getting late. Where is she? If she changed her mind, she could have said so in the gym. Or she could have- The doorbell rang, and he grinned, then removed the sign of pleasure from his face.

It was typical aboard ship to just tell the door to open and let the visitor in. But in this case, that might be too close to inviting her in, which I promised not to do. He walked over to stand in front of the door as it opened. "Hello, Mac." I remember that exercise suit, but- What's she doing? Invited or not, she skittered past him, to stand in the middle of his living room.
"Is he still watching?" she whispered.
"Who?" He stepped out to glance both ways. Seeing no one, he went back inside, but stayed near the door. She sure looks spooked. How has she gotten her outfit so smudged? Woops, she's blushing. My eyes have wandered too much. He stepped to the desk and took a seat. "I didn't see anybody. Did someone follow you?"
"No," she answered. "He caught me coming out of a jeffries tube."
That explains the smudges. "What were you doing-?"
"Trying to get here without being seen!" she explained.
"Didn't work, then, did it?"
"Not entirely," she agreed sourly. She glanced around nervously, pulled her eyes back to him. "He seemed to think you... might not be alone."
Who would tell her a thing like that? I don't go for quickies right before work. "We are totally alone," he answered. And suddenly she is vibrating with tension. "I didn't think you'd want anybody to see you here, even for this."
"Right," she agreed, and glanced around again. What's she looking for? Her glance landed on the doorway to his bedroom, and stayed there. The bedroom? I thought she- She just took a step away from it. No mistaking that message.
"You haven't got much time before duty," he commented gently.
Her eyes glanced at the clock. "Enough time," she stated. She walked stiffly towards his desk, just close enough to set the bottle down. "I thank you for the loan, even though Bugalu didn't really give you a chance to object. I hope this brand is okay."
He kept his eyes on her face, but leaned back in his chair, putting just a little more distance between them. Like making friends with a wild animal. "Brand doesn't much matter. I only keep it around in case my dates want some."
She looked startled. "You don't drink?"
"Hardly any."
"That's... hard to fathom," she remarked.
He shrugged. "Too many ancestors were lost to white man's fire water."
"Oh. That's too bad." She glanced at the clock again. "I'd better go."
As she moved for the door, he stood, picked up the bottle and started for the liquor cabinet. "Hey, Mac," he called.
He heard her stop just inside the doorway. "What?"
"I've been thinking. Evans will try anything to get you cornered at lunch. We should talk about ways to keep that from happening. In the meantime, there's no telling when he'll let you go to lunch - it's his whim, as the officer in charge. So when he does, beep me. You don't have to say anything, and he doesn't need to know you're doing it. Just send 2 short beeps to the brig, and I'll know it's time to join you. Okay?"
She stared at him uncertainly. "I still won't date you, Bear."
"Not talking about dates. We're talking self-defense, keeping you out of the brig."
"Oh." Her face fell. "You know about me.
"Your file came marked as potential trouble because of previous visits to the brig. I took a hard look at it, and I'd be surprised if they had the right person confined."
She grimaced, but didn't answer his unspoken question. "I promised myself a new start."
"Then let's keep you out of the brig," he suggested, closing his liquor cabinet.
"Why do you care? What do you get out of it?"
He held up a hand to count the items on his fingers. "Bugalu's a good friend, I'm fairly certain he'd appreciate the help. Yellow Dog is a friend to you, and I won't mind making brownie points with her. Not to mention the chance to irk Adams and Evans." He grinned at that last thought. "That's reason enough, right there."
She frowned at the floor. "Two short beeps," she agreed, then turned and left.

He smiled. I won't mind making brownie points with you, either, Beautiful. But I'll have to keep in mind that she is just like a scared, wild animal.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fair Play / Explorer Caught

Fair Play
Month 1, Day 10
Beth Temple
1950 Hrs

A shiver went through Beth's body as Bugalu's hand inched up her thigh. It's a good thing I didn't really want to see this movie. It's getting hard to breathe. His hand paused, then retreated. He's going to drive me crazy. Maybe that's what he wants, to pay me back for last week. She felt his breath on her neck as his lips approached her ear lobe. "Bugalu," she whispered.

"Yes?" The arm around her shoulder tightened, pulling her closer.
This is what I expected last week. Better late than never. Sure hope nothing interrupts- "Do you know where your sister is?"
There was a puff of breath in her ear as he snorted with laughter. "Yes, I do."
"You're sure?"
His warm lips touched her ear delicately. "She was going to pump iron with Ferguson and Tall Bear, run a race with Yellow Dog, unload from shore leave... and then study." His hand started back up her thigh. "I'm all yours, Beth."
Feels more like I'm all his. This is maddening. Turn-about is fair play. She caught his mouth with hers while her hand touched his thigh. His breathing speeded up noticeably, and the darkened room became hot. His hand didn't stop its upward movement this time.
Music came from the speakers, and they broke apart, remembering where they were. "Ready?" Bugalu asked in a hoarse whisper.
"Thought you'd never ask," she returned, her breathing jagged. It seemed to take forever to get to his room.

Explorer Caught
Month 1, Day 10
2312 Hours

Smitty exited the lift and started for his quarters. I haven't been that nervous about installing something in years. I bet I didn't make any sense to Wilson at all. And it wasn't the chore that made me nervous! It was having her there, in that skimpy uniform, knowing what rumors I've managed to start about us today!

I never should have gone to the movie with MacGreg. The movie was fine, but in the next row- I thought they'd have sex right then and there! Made me wish I- And then to see it was Bugalu! Not sure who the woman was, but it wasn't her. I saw him with Abdulla last night. Obviously, having Colleen aboard hasn't slowed him down. She must not mean that much to him, and that's something I'll never-
As he approached his quarters, he heard the sound of a Jeffries tube being unlatched, so he looked around, wondering what was going on. Wilson's right, I don't see much of the evening crew. I should at least be on speaking terms with them. So let's see who's working this section and what they're doing, say hello before I go to bed. It's not like I have any reason to get up tomorrow. Sleep in as late as I want, try to catch up on some of that sleep I've been missing.
The ceiling hatch ten feet away opened, and bright red curls tumbled down as a head lowered into view, facing away from him. Oh no!
"They all look the same!" she complained to herself. "All the decks with living quarters, anyway. So, where am I? Maybe deck 6? Aft?"
"Deck 5," he rumbled. "Port. Forward. Officers' quarters. Come out of there!"
She tried to twist around to see him, but couldn't. She wriggled through the opening, held the edge with one hand and unfolded her body facing him. "Evening, Smit," she greeted with a tiny smile.
She still wore her orange exercise suit. Without ballast in the waist, it really shows off her curves, especially since they're now emphasized by smudges. Her feet dangled a foot from the deck. Without thinking, he stepped forward, slipped his arms around her, and lowered her to the floor. "Don't hurt yourself," he instructed.
"You mean, again?" she asked, letting her arm rest atop his. Her eyes are just as bright as I remember. Freckles so pale you can hardly see them, unless you're this close. I never realized how sweet lilacs smell. I never realized a woman could feel this good. All the right curves and plenty of them. Except for the hard curve of her right rib cage. Wait, that's not- "Don't bruise me," she requested.
Startled, - What am I doing? - he let go of her so abruptly she staggered to remain on her feet. He saw then what she had tucked under her arm - a bottle of whiskey. "What are you doing in the Jeffries tube?" he demanded. "And what are you doing with that? You have duty in less than an hour!"
She looked stunned for a moment, then blushed and glanced down at the bottle. Frowning in thought, she responded with, "I was trying to get there without being seen. This is a... gift for... someone. And that leaves me plenty of time to shower." She cocked her head to one side. "I think that answers all your questions and concerns."
A glimpse of ample curves through the steamed glass of a shower. She's taking whiskey to Bugalu and hoping for a quickie before she goes on duty. She'll be devastated to find another woman already there. "He may not... be alone, Colleen," Smitty said softly.
Her brow furrowed in confusion. "He knows I'm coming." She shook her head and sighed. "Well, I hope if he does have someone else there, they're discrete. He knows I didn't want the whole ship to know about this!" She turned and walked away.

Smitty's heart sank for her. I tried to warn her. Space, what a body! Just holding her was- He turned abruptly and entered his quarters. A cold shower. Cold as I can get it. It'll leave me wide awake, but I've got no reason to get up in the morning.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Feeding the Gossip Mill

Feeding the Gossip Mill
Month 1, Day 10
1909 Hours

"Mr Smythe?"
Smitty turned to the evening engineering supervisor. He blinked, and her hair lost its redness, went back to brown. "Wilson, " he acknowledged.
"Can I do something to help you?"
"I've come for some tools," he told her. "I have a project to do."
"Very good, sir." She glanced around and lowered her voice. "Still, you've been standing in front of the tool cabinet for 10 minutes. You seem preoccupied. I understand, but it's making my crew... nervous."
Her crew. Good. She's learned well. "Maybe they don't see enough of me."
"You don't visit often," she admitted. "And when you do, you don't - usually - stand in one place, staring at nothing."
He grunted. "Maybe I should." He began to select tools from the cabinet. "Get an MN27, would you?"
She was back before he finished selecting tools. "May I ask why you need a mini grav unit? The cargo handlers are working fine."
"Not cargo handlers. I'm going to rig a treadmill for variable gravity."
"You are?" He heard eagerness in her voice. "I've wondered how you give variable gravity to a limited space. Tried to figure it out. But since it isn't actually part of the ship-"
"I'd appreciate some help. Come along, and I'll explain the procedure."
She grinned. "Love to."
I love a woman who loves her work. As they left engineering, he realized they were the object of several curious and startled stares. They'd think nothing of it if we were the same gender. For years I avoid anything that might produce gossip, but the first time I leave with a female, they all think the worst.
What good has it done me, all these years of being careful? Maybe MacGreg's right. The past shore leave left me with lust I can't control. Oh, space, that sounds like Winthrop. I've no desire to be like him. Perhaps I'd better start dating. Not Wilson, of course, but Temple's not a subordinate.
"Wilson," he started, but couldn't look at her. "If one were to... date. Between shore leaves. What is there to do on the Fireball?"
Her shock reverberated off the life walls, like a dense gelatin surrounded them. She didn't answer for a time, during which he memorized the scuffmarks on the lift floor. "Well," she finally began, "some couples go straight for sex and don't bother with anything else." He flushed, found he couldn't breathe. "However, most women want more than that." She cleared her throat, and he sucked a welcome lungful of air. "Not to get personal, but if I knew who, I might have specific suggestions."
"No one!" he croaked, starting to panic. Why did I start this? "Never mind! I shouldn't have asked!" He glanced at her, found her studying him.
"Are you trying to ask me out, Mr Smythe?"
He staggered half a step away. "Certainly not! You're a subordinate!" That is not disappointment in her eyes. It's not!
She gave a curt nod. "There's the usual activities; dinner, a movie, table tennis, pool, or some other game in one of the recrooms. Once a month, there's a concert, play or sporting event. Occasionally, there's a dance. For privacy, try an observation deck, the arboretum or a... privacy room. Of course, for real privacy, you have your quarters." The door opened, revealing the short hall past the locker rooms to the gym. "The lady might have suggestions, also."
He started forward, feeling trapped. "I suppose," he agreed rashly. They fell into silence. A glance her way revealed she was watching him, but when he did not continue the subject, she let the conversation drop.
I brought her to do a job. "It's pretty simple, giving a specified area variable gravity."
"I haven't found it simple to figure out."
"You're probably trying to make it complicated," he returned as they entered the gym. "Most people do. But it's merely a matter of encasing-" He turned for the treadmills, and his attention was immediately caught by a shapely butt in an orange exercise suit as the owner bent over to fasten her shoe. There's the woman for me! Nice bottom! A hint thick around the waist, but we can't have everything. Who is she? Space, I hope she's not in engineering! "A beautiful body in orange," he breathed.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that."
He glanced at Wilson, but his eyes returned to the woman of his dreams, who... stood up, revealing bright red hair. MacDowell! I should have known, I should have known!
The redhead's gaze wandered over the half-dozen men standing around. "Instead of just watching, you could race with us." Smitty turned away as her gaze wandered their way. "Hi, Ivy!"
"Mac, racing YD again?"
"She gets grumpy if I don't." A throaty peal of laughter came from the AmerInd. "Come on, YD, let's do it. I have to study tonight."
Wilson turned to Smitty as he tried to pull air into lungs that had forgotten how to work. "Mr Smythe?"
"I can't do this. We... we need room to work; it's too crowded right now. I'll come later," he decided, and headed back the way they had come.
She followed him. "I'd still like to assist you."
"Of course. Glad to have you." The lift let 2 men off, and the engineers got on.
Wilson cleared her throat. "If you want to do it when M- the gym isn't crowded, you'll either have to do it tomorrow or later tonight. Near shift's end, I would guess."
"Tomorrow," he decided. She'll be asleep. I heard her tell Bugalu she'd sleep days. "About 1300."
"Oh." For such a simple word, it expressed a great deal of disappointment. "Perhaps you can explain the procedure another time." He looked at her in surprise, and she grimaced. "I'll be asleep at 1300," she stated. "I don't like to change my schedule during my week. It's hard enough to get my hours straightened out after my days off."
She's the best assistant I've got. She wants to learn. Most of 'em are happy knowing the basics. It's not fair for- "Alright, tonight, then." Can't make it too late, or I'll not get up myself. "Shouldn't take long. About 2230?"
"Sounds great!" She started pulling tools from his hands. "Why don't I bring all this stuff with me and meet you there?"
"You can't carry all that!" he protested. "I can come to engineering and get you."
She sighed. "May I be frank, Mr Smythe?"
"I'm not as successful as you at discouraging gossip. I try, but... they are human. I know they wonder who you... see. After we left together, there's bound to be some who- Anyway, the less often you fetch me, the easier it will be to scotch that rumor."
How dare they- Oh, space, she had the same thought, so how can I- He handed the tools to her, kept the MN27. "I'll meet you there," he agreed.
"Thank you, Mr Smythe. I knew you'd understand."

The door opened, and she left him alone in the lift. He watched her return to her post as the doors closed. Nice bottom. She bent down, and he got a very good view of a rounded rear in red uniform shorts. Not quite as nice as- Blast, I'm doing it again!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lunchtime Chew

Lunchtime Chew
Month 1, Day 10
1138 Hrs

Although his lunch choices seemed entirely too familiar, Drake didn't take long to choose. He glanced around before selecting a table. No, she's not here. Wonder where she is. I'm getting as bad as Bugalu. At least I haven't interrupted a superior's date looking for her. She's a big girl; she can take care of herself. I'm just... lonely. I always thought days off on a ship were a waste of time, but they wouldn't be bad if I had someone to do nothing with. Haircut, hot tub and I finished my book. What will I do this afternoon? And tomorrow?
"May we join you, Duck?" Jane put her tray on his table, followed by Takor and Smitty. Jane had a sweet smile pasted on her face. Uh oh. She's upset but determined to behave civilly and hear all sides before she pronounces sentence. Wonder what I've done.
"What is this?" Takor asked him.
Drake glanced at the Sciss' tray. "Meatloaf. Mostly meat. Shouldn't give you any problem." Don't know if it'll like meatloaf, but the Sciss are omnivores. He indicated the other items. "That's potatoes, mashed. You've had potatoes before. On top of the potatoes is gravy, a semi-solidified meat juice. The little green balls are-"
"Peas," Takor broke in. "Rich. Tasty. Must not eat too many."
"Yes," MacGregor agreed, remembering the first time the Scissan had eaten peas. "Don't land in Sick Bay again. The flat stuff is bread, spread your butter on it."
"What is butter?"
"It's that little slab of yellow stuff. It's solidified milk fat."
"Your species likes to solidify its food," Takor observed.
Drake smiled. "We do a lot of things to our food before we eat it." He took a final look at the other's tray. "Coffee again; I'd be a wreck if I drank half as much as you do. Be careful with that dessert."
"I scream," the alien stated.
"You might," Drake returned. Then he realized what the other had said. "Close. Ice cream. Cream is extra rich milk. To make that dessert, the cream is sweetened and then frozen. Between the sugar and the cold, it might not suit you."
"I'll be careful," Takor stated.
Jane continued smiling sweetly as she ate. Smitty seemed lost in thought. "Takor," the captain started, "this conversation may confuse you, but please save questions until later. Something has happened that has me so upset, I'm not sure I can behave. So I will deal with it here, in public, where I will be forced to behave as if I were calm."
"I am already confused," Takor admitted, and busied itself with eating.
"Smitty," Jane said.
Good. She's not after my skin. Wonder what he's done? And him not paying attention.
Drake kicked the engineer under the table, bringing him out of his trance. "What?" Smitty asked, looking up.
"Who was scheduled to work midnight communications today?" Jane asked.
Uh oh. What's Mac done? Forgot to report for duty? She should have been-
Smitty sighed. "Chun. Lt Chun was there for the 2nd day of relief for midnights."
Chun? But I know Mac was planning-
"Then why was Lt MacDowell present?" the captain asked. "If she forgot her schedule, Lt Chun should have reminded her."
"No," Smitty told his lunch. "She didn't forget." He raised his head again. "She was never told."
"Explain," Burke instructed.
Smitty shook his head, staring at his barely-touched meal, his face white. "Abdulla told her she'd be on midnights after shore leave. That's as far as she got. While I was working with her, I... forgot to specify."
"Forgot-?" Jane hissed.
Smitty glanced up at no one in particular in embarrassed panic.
"You know what Smitty's like when he's working, Captain," MacGregor stated.
"Normally, it's not a problem. But this time, he's done a disservice to a subordinate. I'm surprised to hear you speak on his behalf, Duck, since you were determined she needed to be treated with kid gloves."
Meaning if I make excuses for him, she'll take some of my hide, too. "Well, she had an enjoyable shore leave," he ventured.
"You would know," Smitty snarled.
"What do you-"
"Off subject," Jane interrupted. "When they both arrived for the same shift, Smitty, somebody should have called you to straighten it out!"
"I was there," he blurted.
She stared at him, chewed and swallowed a bite of meatloaf. "Why?"
"To introduce Lt MacDowell to her shift," Smitty admitted, and sighed again. "I hadn't paid attention to the relief schedule. By the time I realized Chun was there, I'd already made a to-do about whether she could do the job with her hand bandaged."
"Bandaged!" MacGregor exclaimed. "Again?"
Smitty's glance was icy. "Apparently, Dr Davis treated it last night. Don't you read your overnight reports?"
"Not this morning." It's my day off.
"So," Jane broke in pleasantly. "Because you forgot to check the schedule, because you weren't sure she could perform her job - you felt it was okay to rob her of an off shift."
The engineer frowned. "I'll pull an ensign up to fill the chair for a night."
"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Drake offered.
"Who's side are you on?" Jane asked.
"I have an idea how her mind works," he stated. "Smitty, what reason did you give for both to work the same shift?"
"He told Chun to see that she knew her job," Jane stated. "Although he didn't ask Lt Chun anything this morning."
"I didn't?"
"She won't see anything wrong with that," the doctor stated. "She isn't sure of her abilities herself, so she won't be surprised if he isn't. But she has had difficulties with... superiors. If Smitty starts giving her days off - after her extra shore leave day - it might make her nervous about his intentions." Why did he suddenly go brilliant red? "If she needs it, I'll insist she get her off-shift. But it would make her too nervous, to get it right now."
"There must be some way he can make up for this," Jane insisted.
Inspiration came to him. "Maybe there is." Smitty looked up in suspicious distrust. "Remember your experiment where people can adjust the artificial gravity for weight station C?"
Smitty grunted. "After a few curious attempts, no one's used it for years."
"Until last week," Drake corrected. "Mac's a heavy-worlder. She loves it."
Smitty shifted uncomfortably. "So?"
"She also uses the treadmill. If you could make it possible to adjust the gravity of one of those, I think you'd make her very happy."
"I like it," Jane pronounced. "It shows consideration without getting personal. Can you do it, Smitty?"
He looked almost panicked. "I... suppose it's possible. I'd have to-"
"Good. That's settled. And lunch is over." She stood. "Ready, Duck?"
"No. This is my day off."
Jane blinked and turned to Smitty as he rose to his feet. "Smitty, you worked all last week. When's your next day off?"
"Well, I- Soon, I suppose."
"Have you forgotten your own schedule?" she asked sharply.
"Today." Drake grinned at the glowering engineer. "We're on the same schedule. Supposed to be, anyway."
"You did forget," Jane breathed. "Obviously, since your memory is so poor, you need the time off. So take it. Come on, Takor." She glanced at the alien's plate. "I guess you liked the meatloaf."
"Why do humans solidify so many foods, yet pre-digest others?" it asked as they turned away.
"It's not really pre-digesting," she answered as they moved off.
Drake grinned at the engineer, who was still glaring at him. "I've got a book you can read, if you need something to do."
"A mystery, no doubt."
Drake shrugged. "You got any suggestions? I'm at loose ends myself."
"Why do you think I don't bother with shipside days off?"
"We're grown men. We should be able to find a way to entertain ourselves."
Smitty snorted. "Like what?"
Drake mentally reviewed the ship's possibilities. "We could play table tennis, pool, or-" Pool. "Did you say Mac's hand was bandaged again?"
"It was last night," Smitty answered. "She claimed Dr Davis had done it, but if it wasn't in your overnight reports-"
"I didn't go to my office this morning," he pointed out. "I'm not surprised, though. If she weren't Gaelund, she would have broken it."
"Doing what?"
Drake almost answered, but remembered he didn't officially know, which made it gossip. If he had officially known, it was private information. "Well, I won't ask her to play pool."
"Don't be daft. She can't hold a cue stick all bandaged up." Smitty finished his coffee. "Well, care for a game of pool? I've got to while away time somehow. At least pool won't keep me from figuring out how to give a treadmill variable gravity."

"Why not? It's something to do."