Month 1, Day 30
Lt Ivy Wilson was not averse to getting her hands dirty, or she wouldn't have gone into engineering. She also believed in leading by example, so it wasn't unusual for her to make repairs, like now. She climbed the vertical jeffries tube, reached up and put the spare G47 into the horizontal connecting tube.
"Ouch." It was hardly even a whisper.
Who's that? Did weapons beat me here? I may have to pay this time. She climbed 2 more steps until she could see into the cross-tube. But it wasn't Weapons Lt Vanderveer. A familiar redhead was folded into an almost-fetal position in the cramped area, her hand restraining the G47 so it didn't roll away. "I suppose you're going to chase me out of here," Mac stated quietly.
Ivy finished climbing, sat on the opposite edge of the connection. "What are you doing here?" There's no communications equipment here. Anyway, she's not on duty.
"Sitting. Thinking. Hiding. Crying. Drinking." Mac held up a bottle, but it looked virtually untouched. "Well, not much drinking. I have duty tonight."
From the look of her face, she has definitely been crying. Did she fight with Bugalu again? I ought to box his ears. "I can see that you're sitting. You do look thoughtful. Who - or what - are you hiding from?"
Mac blushed, opened the bottle and took a quick swig. "I flunked my test, Ivy."
Has it been a month already? "So?" Space, that sounded cold. "What I mean is, I flunked twice, and I was in the top 5% of my class at the Academy."
Mac wasn't comforted. She crumpled in on herself even more, her eyes closed. "Then obviously, I will never pass."
"Thinking like that won't help," Ivy told her. "Look, you've passed probation before."
"On tugs. That was different."
"Because I wasn't as nervous," Mac answered quietly. "I didn't... care so much."
Not exactly what I expected. I thought she'd say Smythe intimidates her, like he does every newbie. Seems she's more concerned with staying with Bugalu than anything else. Well, close enough, I suppose. "Hey, when I was sent here, I was thrilled. Even after 4 years of high praise from my Academy teachers, I was stunned to think of actually working with The Smythe. I was determined to wow him. Studied non-stop, so I could say something brilliant when he greeted me. Except he didn't give me a chance to be brilliant, just turned me over to my immediate supervisor. I didn't see him again until my first test." She pulled a tool from her work belt to test the old G47, though experience told her it was about to fail. "I was so tongue-tied at being in the same room as him, I don't think I said a single thing right. That's probably what happened to you."
"Maybe," Mac agreed softly. "Tell me, for your first test, did he show up late, with a lipstick smear and mused hair?"
Startled, Ivy almost dropped her tool. "I have never seen him like that!" The redhead frowned at her bottle. Why would she ask that? Unless he- No, I won't speculate, that leads to gossip. She hasn't denied it. Hasn't confirmed it. She could have been referring to a previous supervisor. Never mind. Where was I?
The old G47 was, as the equipment in Engineering had displayed, showing a glitch, so she began to remove it. "I did better on the 2nd test, but not much. I was depressed. Imagine my shock, a few days later, when he asked me to join him for coffee." Mac's head swiveled, her attention firmly locked on Ivy as she continued. "He said he'd seen my record, and had expected better from me. Said my supervisor thought highly of me, and he wasn't sure why I didn't do better on my tests. I still couldn't talk. After a moment, he asked about a repair I'd made that morning. It wasn't anything a first year cadet couldn't have handled, but he seemed enthralled, compared it to another type of repair, and then another. Before I knew it, we'd been talking engineering for over two hours. Then he finished his coffee - must have been ice cold by then - and told me I'd just passed probation." She smiled at the memory, began connecting the new G47.
"So you... dated him, and he-"
Ivy exclaimed, "It was not a date! Where do you get these ideas?"
"Various places," Mac muttered. "He took you off to be alone. Isn't that a date?"
"We were in the messhall; hardly alone. There was absolutely no romance involved, so it was most definitely not a date! Smythe does not date subordinate!"
"He's dating somebody," came a softly accented rejoinder. Vanderveer stuck his head up from the vertical jeffries tube. "Saw him in the hall on my lunch hour and he had mussed hair and a lipstick smear."
Ivy stared coldly at the Dutchman. Beyond him, Mac sat stone-faced and non-committal. So he did- Hard to believe, but after that strange conversation with him last week- With Mac's weird beliefs, I hate to think what that did to her thinking processes. "That is gossip, Mr Vanderveer, and I would thank you not to spread it around."
"That is not gossip, Wilson, that is first-hand observation."
"Your conclusion is gossip."
"The conclusion is obvious," he insisted. "Space, maybe he's been dating all along, and he just got sloppy tonight."
"I refuse to speculate."
Vanderveer sighed. "You're a cold bitch when you're on duty, Wilson. And you are on duty, so he wasn't with you." Ivy glared at him, and he grinned. "Started hearing rumors about you and him last week.
She coldly told him, "We were giving variable gravity to one of the treadmills."
"One of the treadmills has variable gravity?" Mac asked in sudden enthusiasm.
Vanderveer turned his head. "Hello, beautiful. You're not on duty. Was he with you?"
The gall! I ought to report him!
Mac turned absolutely white. "Only long enough for me to flunk my probationary test."
"Ooh, that's a bummer," Vanderveer stated. "Need a shoulder to cry on?"
"No, she doesn't!" Ivy hissed. "Go away!"
He faced Ivy again. "You two go talk elsewhere. I'm here to check on-"
"The G47 unit?" she asked. "I just replaced it."
"Blast it, Ivy! The G units are weaponry! Stick to engineering!"
"Hans, the entire ship is engineering. Keep a closer eye on your part of it, or you'll never beat me to a problem!"
They glared at each other for a moment and then he grinned. "I will next time."
"Bet you don't."
"Okay. You'll get your winnings within 24 hours. See ya around, beautifuls."
Once he was gone, Mac softly said, "I do, I suppose."
"Need a shoulder to cry on."
"No," Mac agreed. "Bugalu's on a date, and I've already messed up one date with... this girl, so I can't go to him."
No name. Does she think I don't know he dates others, including Beth? Or did I impress her with my discouragement of gossip? "Surely you have other friends?"
"No one I could cry on the shoulder of."
What about MacGregor? They've been- Blast, I'm trapped by my own ethics, because I can't mention gossip, so I can't mention him. "No one at all?" Is she as strange with her women friends as she with guys? Would have thought Yellow Dog, at least- Ivy sighed in frustration. "It's too bad you aren't anybody else's pesky little puppy," she stated, thinking back to their first introduction.
Mac started to take another drink, then froze. "Ivy."
"There might be someone," Mac breathed. "Maybe. But I'm not sure he's ready for that kind of... complication."
"If he's a friend, Mac, a real friend, he's ready to help. That's what friends do."
"Yeah," Mac agreed slowly, putting the lid back on her bottle. "With me, that's all they ever do. I don't know how they put up with me, sometimes." She's got to be kidding! She's a lot of fun!
Mac adjusted her position, gently pulled several wire bundles and an M517 unit out of position, pushed her nearly-full bottle behind, into a hole Ivy would have sworn was too small to hold it, then smoothed the wires and equipment back into place. She turned and realized Ivy was watching her. "I don't want to be seen walking the halls with an open bottle in my hand."
"Nooo," Ivy reluctantly agreed. "I suppose not."
"It won't do any harm. It's a no-drip bottle." She swung her legs into the connecting hole. "Now, I guess I'll go see that... friend. Thanks, Ivy."
"Good luck, Mac. Try to relax next month." She watched the redhead leave, then gathered her tools and the defective G47. That's one piece of gossip I'll be eager to hear, whose shoulder she cries on tonight. And Smythe is dating? I could almost wish not to be in engineering. She swung her own legs into the hole, then paused to stare at the M517, wondered if it stuck out any further than it did without a bottle of booze hidden behind it. She couldn't be sure, but the one thought that came to mind - and sent ice down her spine - was, How long before Smythe finds that?