Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ivy's Perspective

Ivy's Perspective
Month 1, Day 30
Ivy Wilson
2103 Hours

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."
"Usual bet?"
"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."
"Not his."
"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?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bad News / Pruning the Bud

Bad News
Month 1, Day 30
Beth Temple
2039 Hours

Beth grabbed Bugalu's hand as it started up her thigh. "I actually want to see the movie," she whispered. "You don't mind, do you?"

"Whatever makes you happy," he replied. "Plenty of time." He pulled her closer, and she settled her head on his shoulder.
Sometime later, "Bugalu!" came a feminine whisper as someone sat down on his other side.
"Double dating, Bugalu?" Beth teased.
"No," he answered, and craned his head around to see the newcomer. "Abdulla? I thought-"
"She flunked," Abdulla stated. "Thought you should know." She started to get up.
"Blast!" he swore softly, and grabbed the dusky woman's arm. "Where is she?"
"I don't know. I stayed behind, trying to convince Mr Smythe she has potential."
"She still has 5 months."
"Exactly what he said! Except he said 'only'!"
"Let me guess, you need to go look for her," Beth suggested.
Bugalu hesitated for a long moment. "No," he decided. "It's her uncle's turn. Anyway, she knows where I am, if she needs me. Thanks, Abdulla." He turned back, wrapped his arms around Beth. But it wasn't the same. His body's here, but not his mind. All the sexual tension is missing. There's no teasing caresses. She hasn't meant to, but Mac's messed up another date.
If it was anybody else, I'd be well on my way to hating her.

Pruning the Bud
Month 1, Day 30
Anna Humara
2058 Hours

Lt Cmdr Anna Humara, Head Chef, studied her reflection in the mirror as she brushed her wet black hair. She briefly considered the menus for the next few days, then dismissed thoughts of work. I'm more than a cook. It's time to remember that.

Her doorbell rang, and she frowned slightly at her reflection. After that hot shower, I was going to read and go to bed. Who'd be coming here, anyway?
Slipping the matching lounger over her nightgown, she answered the door, to find Lt Cmdr Smythe waiting in the hallway. "Anna," he greeted her.
Despite his smile, he was tense. He's as bad now as he was an hour ago. She glanced at the clock. Okay, slightly more than an hour ago. He might even be worse now. "We need to talk," she stated, gesturing for him to enter. He stepped forward, raising his arms to embrace her, but she moved away quickly, settled in an easy chair. "I said talk."
"I just wanted-"
"You want sex," she stated. "Which we've already had today. You've never wanted seconds before. Not even when we were young and wild, before Michael."
Troubled and thoughtful, Smitty sat on the sofa, stared at the floor. "I'm sorry. I've been-"
"Using me," she finished, and he blanched. "I suspected it last week when you called me by another name. You did it again, earlier this evening."
"Oh, Black Space," he swore.
"Don't get me wrong," she told him gently. "We've been friends a long time, and I don't mind helping. From time to time. But I don't want to be a sex toy - again - so asking for that favor twice in one day is too much. How did you deal with it before?"
"Cold showers and... self manipulation," he admitted.
"Hmm. Bummers. Still, if I hadn't come out of hiding, those would still be your means of coping, so be thankful I'm offering any relief at all."
He shook his head, but seemed unable to look at her. "No, Anna. It's not right. I never should have asked it of you, and certainly can't expect you to continue."
"Smitty, we aren't kids any more. We know better than to confuse lust and romance. You wouldn't have gotten any last week if I hadn't put the idea in your head. And you still give as good as you get."
He thought about her words for a few minutes. "Then how often-"
She chuckled. "Let's not get tied down by some arcane timetable for sex. I'm not ready to clip my wings again. I expect freedom to date others, and you should, too."
He sighed. "There's not many of our rank aboard for us to choose from."
"True, so why deliberately narrow our options by looking only at each other?" she asked. "We weren't right - as a couple - years ago, and we still aren't." Our rank isn't completely hopeless, and there's some slightly junior men who look pretty good, as long as I'm careful.
Smitty nodded. "I suppose you're right. I am sorry, Anna."
She smiled. "At least I'm considered a better choice than a cold shower."
"That's a ridiculous comparison, and you know it." He stood up. "Perhaps, another time, then."
"Some other time," she agreed, but didn't stand up. No sense giving him any ideas, like kissing me.
He took a step toward the door, then stopped. "I called you by her name?"
That has him worried. "You did, but you weren't very articulate." Sounded like he wanted Colleen. "Weren't sure what you said, except that it wasn't Anna." Don't recall any Colleens aboard ship, but it's a big ship, and I've been out of touch.
"You haven't asked me who she is."
He wouldn't tell me if I did. "None of my business, Smitty," she answered softly.
He gave her a quick look of thanks and left.

I wish I'd fallen in love with him, instead of Michael. Even now, I almost wish I was Coleen. I hope it's for real between the two of them, that she's good enough for him. He deserves happiness. She headed for her bedroom, unfastening her nightclothes. To space with staying in. Another form of hiding. I need to get out there and see what might be available.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Dreaded Test

The Dreaded Test
Month 1, Day 30
1959 Hours

Abdulla stopped in the briefing room doorway to consider the redhead, who was unconcernedly working with yarn and a crochet hook. If anybody was going to be early, I would have expected him, not her. Well, he never said he'd be here, he just said she'd be tested. Maybe he meant for me to do it. If so, I wish he'd told me. She stepped inside and headed for the computer terminal at the opposite end of the table as the door closed. "It's been a long time since I've seen anybody crochet. What are you making, Mac?"
The redhead glanced up. "A baby gown. A sister-in-law is in the family way."
Abdulla turned on the computer and sat down. "How long will that take? You can't send it by radio, so can it even get there in time? Wouldn't it make more sense-"
"Oh, this is a family tradition," Mac broke in with a wry smile. "Logic and sense have no say in it."
"A tradition?"
"Goes back to my very first sister-in-law. Every time a MacDowell woman makes that announcement, every other MacDowell woman gives her a baby gown. I've been making these since I was 5, and Pa has let me know, in no uncertain terms, that my being hundreds of light years away makes no difference."
"But if it's late-"
Mac nodded. "I get into trouble. I avoid that by having sent 2 extra gowns to my Ma, which she keeps hidden. But when she gives the mother-to-be the gown she's made, she also gives them one of mine. That way, I'm not late, as long as I keep Ma supplied. Of course, Pa wouldn't approve, if he knew I was cheating like this, so we don't tell him."
"He doesn't seem to approve of much you do," Abdulla muttered.
"No, he doesn't," Mac agreed. She paused to rub the middle of her forehead and glanced around the room. "Where's Mr Smythe?"
He didn't even tell her he wouldn't be here. Thought he would have learned, after that first duty shift fiasco. Abdullah slipped the test disk into the computer. "He's busy. But it's not necessary for him to be here. I can administer the test. So whenever you're ready, we can start."
Mac took another swipe at her forehead, her face showing a strange mixture of frowning and relief. "Okay." She set her crocheting on the chair next to her and turned her full attention to the darker woman. "I'm ready."
Abdullah asked the first question on the screen, and Mac answered it. Abdullah had prepared Mac's review tapes, and she liked Mac, but that didn't mean she would be easy on the redhead. The computer does all the scoring, based on what it hears Mac say, so it would take a lot of work to help her with her answers now. Which would bring me a lot of trouble I don't need. And she doesn't need me to be easy on her. I expected she'd be able to pass this test, but all her answers are thoughtful and complete. Not like somebody who struggled her first day aboard. I'm impressed. She smiled, thinking what an eye opener the results of this test would be for Mr Smythe, who - for some reason - had taken a dislike to the redhead.
Even Mac could tell she was doing well, without seeing the score the computer gave her. As she gained confidence, she relaxed. Slouching in her chair, she propped a knee in the neighboring chair and rocked back and forth. Even taking a test, she can't sit still. Where does she get her energy?
"Sorry I'm late."
Abdulla's gaze flashed to the doorway. What in- A crash pulled her attention back to the redhead, who was on the floor between two tipped-over chairs. "Mac!"
Before Abdulla could do more than stand, Mr Smythe was beside the youngest officer, pulling her to her feet. "Are you alright?" he asked sharply, his hands still gripping her upper arms.
"Ouch. Sir, you're-" Mac stopped and stared up at his face. He stared down at her, apparently having forgotten everything else. Mac raised a hand, as if to touch the red smudge near his mouth. He let go of her quickly and turned away, walked around the table to stand near Abdulla. That is a lipstick smudge! And his hair is mussed. He's been with someone. Must be someone special, to make him late! This is so unlike him!
"You seem to have a natural penchant for self injury," Smythe said in a low voice. "As this ship needs crew members capable of doing their assigned tasks, I would appreciate it if you would refrain from... hurting yourself."
"Yes, sir," came a quiet, meek reply from the normally-irrepressible Mac.
Smythe sat down and took a furtive swipe at the smudge, which only smeared it more.
Mac pulled the chairs upright, sat in one, and folded trembling hands together on the tabletop.
"How far have you gotten?" Smythe asked. Abdulla turned the screen so he could see it. His eyes traveled in that direction, but didn't focus. "Not bad, I guess." How insulting! "I'll start with something simple. What's the hailing frequency of Podidas?"
"But I've already-" Smythe shot the redhead an angry look, and she closed her mouth.
Why is he so hard on her? She's already answered that question, which he'd see, if he'd bother to look at this screen! He's got her so frightened, she's a nervous wreck! The sooner we get this done, the better! She kept her voice calm and friendly. "Go on, Mac."
"What?" Mac asked, startled. Green eyes darted to Abdulla, scurried back to the engineer. "I'm sorry, I..."
After a pause, Smythe cleared his throat, a frown puckering his brow. "The hailing frequency of Podidas?"
"Podidas?" she repeated. "I think it's sexy. I mean, sexty- sixty!"
"What?" As Smythe glared at her, Abdulla firmly closed her mouth. This is wrong. She did so well before he arrived! He startled her, then chastised her for being startled, as if it's her fault! From the sounds of it, that's what her father would do - blame her. She's beyond the age of having to follow her father's dictates, but she still is. Mr Smythe hasn't troubled to hide his disapproval, so she's just as meek around him. And he arrives with obvious signs of recent sex, which her father so thoroughly disapproves of - no wonder she's confused. This is going to be brutal.
'Brutal', it turned out, was too gentle a word. After Mac's stumbled answer to Mr Smythe's first question, the girl seemed unable to put more than 2 words together. After 10 questions, Smythe sighed and halted the proceedings. "I told you when you arrived, you only had 6 months to prove yourself capable."
"Yes, sir," Mac agreed.
"Now you have only 5 months," he stated. "I suggest you start studying in earnest."
"Yes, sir."
"Dismissed." Mac left the room, and he turned to Abdulla. "Have you helped her any, since that first week?"
"As much as she needed."
"I prepared review files. I prepared Q&A files so others could help her. I've answered a few questions."
"Is that all?"
"She hasn't needed anything else. She knows the material."
"I didn't see that," he pointed out.
Abdulla turned the computer display to face him. "This is when I was testing her, before your arrival," she stated, pointing to the left side. "We didn't get far, but you can see from her scores that she was doing well." She moved her finger to the right side. "After your arrival, I don't think she could remember her name."
He studied the screen thoughtfully. "I startled her when I-"
"She's scared to death of you," Abdulla stated. "And I can't blame her. You don't approve of anything she says or does. Just like her father."
"Father!" he exclaimed.
"I doubt if she see much difference!" she declared daringly. "She's never been able to please him, and apparently, she can't please you, either."
"I've never-"
"Said a good thing to her?" Abdulla asked, retrieving the test file from the computer. "If you have, I haven't heard it. I have heard you chastise her - always carefully worded - but what it amounts to is disapproval, and I'm certain that's all she hears. Your cold, formal behavior whenever she's around comes across to her as disapproval. I know that's how I would have interpreted it, if you'd acted that way when I came aboard. I tell you, Mr Smythe, she has potential. But you'll never know if you don't give her a chance."
"She's got the same chance as every other new crew member."

Abdulla sighed and turned off the computer. "If you believe that - truly believe it - then she hasn't got a chance. And that makes me sad and angry at the same time." She stood up and headed for the door. "Good night, Mr Smythe."