Month 2, Day 10
Smitty scowled at the floor as he walked down the corridor. It wasn’t often his mind was completely preoccupied, and the thoughts were not of engineering. He found the experience... unsettling. It is not my fault! Everybody flunks the first probationary! Almost everybody. I told her to study, when she first came aboard! He sighed, glanced around to get his bearings, since he hadn’t been paying any attention to his surroundings, and changed his direction. Abdulla hardly talks to me. Wilson’s been cold. That might be because of the blasted rumors I unthinkingly got started about us. I’m not sure. Jane keeps saying Coleen looks tired, and that I should check with MacGreg whether she needs that extra day off! He’d like that, I’m sure. Time it so he has the day alone with her, without Bugalu being around. Making out with her in a rec room! Thought he had more discretion than that! And Jane never disciplined him for it! How does he get away with these things?
He stopped once again to check his surroundings and turned into the deck 11 rec room. It was the same size as any other rec room, but felt small, with half the floor space taken by wells opening to the arboretum below, allowing several trees to display their upper branches. It also felt more private, with branches and leaves doing what they could to hide each table from the others. He was always surprised to find it usually empty, but those who wanted a taste of greenery frequently opted to visit the arboretum itself. Not likely I’ll be found here. He got a cup of coffee from the dispenser and sat down heavily at a corner table beside a well. I need a moment of peace and quiet, just to settle my nerves. This place is empty, and this morning’s night cycle in the arboretum should be peaceful, I would think. He took a deep breath to enjoy the earthy smell rising from below. There seemed to be a faint sweetness to the air, as if flowers were blooming heavily in the ground located so far below. His deep breath ended with a huge yawn. Hope I can keep from falling asleep. The dreams haven’t let up a bit. Don’t think I’ve slept in a month.
Smitty gazed at the closest treetop and let his eyes unfocus. He tried to imagine happily chirping birds and busily buzzing insects as the overhead lights began to dim. I swear I can almost feel a breeze stirring.
“Blast!” Smitty’s eyes jerked open wide when he heard the tree’s profanity, followed by a string of syllables in a language he was glad he didn’t understand. Leaning forward, he managed to see past the leaves, saw vivid red curls bounce as the girl jumped to her feet. Still swearing in her native tongue, she glared at the dimming lights, then angrily removed a disk from the reader and shut it down. Gathering a handful of disks - trying not to drop any - she turned for the doorway, then stopped short to stare at the clock. “It can’t be that late!”
The hallway door opened, and Lt Adams, his midnight engineering supervisor, entered. “Here you are!” Adams declared when he saw the redhead, and leered. “It’s past our bedtime, Mac. If you don’t like sleeping alone-” He started toward her.
“Stuff yourself,” she muttered, added a few choice words in her own language, and headed for the door. Adams reached out to stop her.
“Adams!” Smitty barked without thinking.
Both of them jumped and turned to stare, aware of his presence for the first time. Colleen went absolutely white, as if she’d been caught doing something wrong. “I am studying!” she declared defensively, then whirled and ran out.
I never said a word to her! I certainly never accused her of- While Smitty’s mind had spun with incomprehension, Adams had turned to follow her, which made the spinning stop. “Stand still,” Smitty told his underling.
Adams turned back, looking thoughtful. “Mr Smythe, you don’t date your subordinates, but surely you don’t object to my dating my peers.”
“No, I don’t,” Smitty agreed. “Unless-“ he added as the younger man started to turn again, “-they aren’t interested. And that one isn’t.”
“Let me be the judge of that,” Adams suggested.
Idiot knows his engineering, but not people. “Fair warning. If you’re wrong, and she lodges a complaint, I’ll remember this conversation.”
“She won’t complain. They never complain.” Adams grinned in utter confidence in himself, and left.
Smitty frowned at his cup, suddenly uncertain when Adams had been so confident. Maybe she won’t. I told her to walk away from such problems, and she seems to have been doing that. I would have heard if she’d been put in the brig, or brought up on assault charges. She was so shocked to see me here, apparently thought I’d been watching to make sure she’s been studying. Does that mean that I should be watching, or- Well, I won’t. I don’t get involved when others have needed to refresh their memories, and it would be... favoritism to treat her any differently. Still- He stared through the leaves at the reader she’d been using. -She wasn’t on duty last night, was shocked by the time on the clock. She seems to be taking everything I’ve told her to heart, if she’s been studying all night.
Still frowning, he sat back, tried desperately to regain a sense of peace in the dimness. But his mind kept reviewing the encounter with his two subordinates, kept wondering how he could have reassured Colleen, or if he even should have, and how he might have more firmly warned Adams away from her, if he should have tried. Or would that have started more rumors? That would be all she would need. No, it’s no good. Might as well get back to work.