Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Whole Gang

The Whole Gang
Month 2, Day 30
2136 Hours

2,189 words

When Ivy emerged from his bathroom, Bugalu handed her a glass of wine before leading her to his living room couch. After they settled in on the couch, she gave him a quick peck on his check. “Explain something,” she requested.
“If I can,” he answered, and nuzzled her neck.
“When you asked me to your quarters, I thought you were in a hurry. But you’ve been delaying. So, what’s going on?”
He sat back. Surprised she isn’t complaining about a lack of attention. It’s been hard to keep my mind on her. “Mac’s taking her test this evening.”
“She just took one.”
“A month ago. I said I’d be here. To celebrate or... whatever.”
Her brow puckered. “And your reason for having me here while you wait for her is-?”
To keep you away from LaPour, who would snatch you away at any opportunity. “She likes you. I thought you liked her.”
“I do, but... If I hadn’t asked, when were you going to tell me you were expecting her? When she interrupted us mid-coitus? That’s not fair. To either of us.”
I never had this kind of difficulty before Mac came aboard. No, I won’t think like that. “Sorry. I guess I wasn’t thinking.”
Before Ivy could respond, Mac walked in and stopped in mid-room to stare at the floor. Her top-knot had pretty much disintegrated, letting curls cascade in every direction. Her tomato red top was practically hidden by the overlarge overalls she wore.
This doesn’t look good. “Mac?”
The young woman in question slowly shook her head, then pulled a hand out of the interior of her overalls, bringing a nearly empty bottle with it. She drank the last of the liquid and tossed the bottle aside. Then she pulled out her other hand to reveal a fresh bottle, and began chugging that brown liquid.
“Uh oh,” Ivy muttered.
“Not good,” Bugalu agreed as he got up. He reached for the bottle, but green eyes glared at him as she continued to drink. “Mac, don’t do this.”
She lowered the bottle and stared at him with desperate, tear-filled eyes. “I couldn’t do it, Bugs. I’ll never be able to do it! Pa was right.”
“No, he- Mac!” he declared as she began chugging again, and watched helplessly as the level of the liquid remaining in the bottle visibly lowered.
“Lt MacDowell, you can’t go on duty drunk!” Ivy told her sharply.
Nice try, Ivy, but it won’t work. Bugs watched in surprise as Mac lowered her bottle again, this time to regard the engineering supervisor.
After a moment, Mac shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time,” she muttered, and walked over to sit in the easy chair. “You two go ahead with what you were doing. Don’t let me stop you.” She began drinking once again.
Ivy was staring at him in shock, probably at Mac’s revelation. “Later,” he requested of the woman, and sat down on the coffee table, his knees bumping Mac’s. “What happened?”
It took her a moment to pause long enough to answer. “I flunked. Thought it obvious.”
“Obvious, yes, I suppose, but it doesn’t make any sense. Abdulla said you know your field.”
“Yes,” Ivy agreed, but the redhead was already chugging again. “Better than most.” She sat next to Bugalu, put a hand on Mac’s knee. “Mac, why did you flunk?”
The green eyes closed, and tears rolled down white cheeks. Finally, with most of the liquid gone, she lowered the bottle again. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Because of him! I don’t know how he does it, but he does, and I can’t stop him! I don’t even know what it is he does to me!”
If I ever meet her father-
Mac’s hand lashed out and grabbed his shirt, pulled until his face was an inch from her own. “Make him stop, Bugs! I can’t take any more! I can’t think, I can’t sleep, I can’t...” Her voice petered out, and she let go of him to kill what remained in her bottle.
“Mac, get a hold of yourself,” Ivy suggested.
“I’d rather get a hold of-“ She lurched to her feet and went unsteadily to the liquor cabinet. “Or he could get a hold of-“ She glanced at them, reached into the cabinet and pulled out a bottle, prepared to continue drinking.
“Mac, that’s not whiskey!” Bugalu warned.
“What?” She looked at the bottle’s label for a moment and giggled. “The letters are dancing.”
“Oh, space!” Bugalu jumped forward, caught her as she started to crumple into an unconscious heap. Ivy was right beside him, and rescued the bottle from a nasty tumble as the redhead’s grip failed. Bugalu picked up his friend and deposited her on the sofa. “Okay, not bottles 1 and 2 like I thought, but bottles 2 and 3. No way she’ll make it to work tonight.”
“I wouldn’t think so,” Ivy agreed, returning the rum to the cabinet. “Are you saying she’s drunk 3 bottles of whiskey tonight?”
“You saw how fast she was putting it away.”
“She hardly seemed drunk, just upset.”
“When she couldn’t read the label, I knew she was done.” He sighed. “Now what do I do?”
“Take her to sick bay. That much alcohol is dangerous.”
“Not for a Gaelunder.” Before Ivy could protest, he held up his hand. “I know I should take her to sick bay, but she’ll be reported as unable to work because she’s drunk, and that won’t make her life any easier. You know Mr Smythe.”
“I do. And he might be more sympathetic to hear she was so upset she got drunk, rather than she never showed up for work. She’ll be reported AWOL.”
“I know, but... I just can’t picture Mr Smythe having any sympathy.”
The icy tone made Bugalu realize he had said the wrong thing, and he winced. He didn’t have time to argue with Ivy tonight, he needed to think out what to do about Mac.
His door opened again, and they both turned. “We need to talk,” Abdulla announced, and her gaze slipped past them to the redhead on the couch. “About her.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Beth left Abdulla’s side, headed for the sofa.
“She’s drunk,” Bugalu stated. “I figure about 3 bottles of whiskey in the last hour, maybe? Hour and a half?”
“Impossible,” Abdulla stated, but Beth rolled her eyes, changed direction to go to the desk, and punched an intercom button. The call wasn’t answered.
“Why’s she drinking?” Beth asked as she tried a second time. “She’s been sober since shore leave.”
“She flunked, why else?” Bugalu answered.
“Flunked?” Abdulla asked. “Not exactly-“
“Yes?” interrupted a female voice on the intercom.
“Drake’s niece needs vitamins in his nephew’s quarters,” Beth stated flatly.
There was a hesitation from the other end. “I’ll give him the message.”
“Thank you,” Beth returned and broke the connection.
“Who was that?” Abdulla asked in surprise.
“Never mind,” Beth answered. “I’m not supposed to know about her.”
“Drake?” Ivy asked. “Dr MacGregor doesn’t have any relatives aboard, that I know of.”
Beth grinned and sat down. “That’s what Mac does. She takes the men most likely to try to date her, and she - somehow - convinces them to adopt her. A little sister for Bugalu, a niece for MacGregor.”
“That’s... not exactly how it happens,” Bugalu stated. Is it?
Beth shrugged. “Close enough. Now, why am I here?”
“Something has to be done,” Abdulla stated. “I’m hoping one of us has an idea.”
“About what?” Ivy wondered.
“About why Mac keeps flunking! She should have passed it last month. Maybe it was jitters, I don’t know. But she didn’t even try tonight! Granted, she didn’t have a good day, but she was answering questions just fine until-“
“Wait,” Bugalu requested. “What was wrong with her day? I didn’t find her studying, so I figured she wanted a decent amount of sleep before the test.”
Abdulla hesitated. “Winthrop found her.”
“Blast!” Should have realized she can’t study in the same place every day.
“Don’t know how long he had her cornered.” Abdulla shuddered. “From what I understand, Smythe wandered in and virtually rescued her. She went to her room, but was so upset, she didn’t get a wink of sleep.”
Ivy commented, “Well, that’s not going to help her get over her hero worship of Mr Smythe.”
“Hero!” Abdulla exclaimed. “She’s scared to death of Smythe!”
Beth had her own thoughts. “No, I think it’s more personal than either of those.” She turned her gaze on the helmsman. “What do you think, Bugalu?”
Bugalu hesitated, his mind racing. There’s some truth in all their suggestions, yet all of them together don’t add up to the truth. Still, it’s not my place to be discussing any of it. Except with Mac, when she’s finally ready to talk. If she ever is.
The door opened again, and MacGregor walked in, stopped short at seeing so many people. “Ahhh, I was told I was needed here?”
Thanks for the timely interruption, Doc. “Mac’s drunk,” Bugalu stated, jerking a thumb in her direction.
MacGregor frowned. “Isn’t she on duty tonight?” He started forward, stopped when he kicked an empty whiskey bottle.
“Supposed to be,” Abdulla agreed.
Doc started forward again, glanced at the second bottle he kicked out of his way, and pulled out his med scanner. “She was celebrating? I hope?”
“Afraid not,” Abdulla answered.
“Blast.” After a brief scan, he gave the redhead several shots. “I’ll certify her unfit for duty and request an off-shift for her. Shouldn’t be any problem. She’s been pretty frazzled lately. Smitty must have noticed.” He turned to Abdulla. “Tell me she at least did better this time.”
She shook her head. “The same. Meaning, she was doing fine, until Mr Smythe showed up. Then she couldn’t remember her own name.”
Doc turned to Bugalu. “Any clue what her problem is?”
Bugalu glanced around, and they were all waiting for his answer. Right back into the fire. “Maybe.”
“What are you doing about it?”
“I’m working on it.” As much as I can.
Doc shook his head in frustration. “I hope so. She can’t go without sleep forever.” He glanced at her unconscious form. “And this isn’t going to count as sleep.”
“She’d ace the test if she just wasn’t so scared of Mr Smythe!” Abdulla sighed.
“Scared?” Doc glanced to Bugalu, who shrugged. “Well, I need to go find him.” He started for the door, stopped when he saw Beth sitting at the desk. “Beth. Was that you-?”
“Yes,” she answered softly. “Sorry.” Doc nodded and left.
Everybody looked around at everybody else, each wondering what to say or do. Bugalu wondered how to get all these ladies to leave. Mac groaned and rolled to face the sofa back. Even asleep, her quiet voice revealed distress: “I can’t take anymore! Make him stop!”
“Make who stop what?” Beth asked.
“That’s what we were trying to figure out when she passed out,” Ivy replied.
“It’s obvious,” Abdulla stated. “Make Winthrop stop pestering her.”
“Sorry, ladies, but it’s time for you to leave,” Bugalu told them. “If Mac can talk, I’ve got work to do.”
Beth glanced at the sleeping girl. “She’s not awake.”
“Then she needs to sleep it off,” he answered. “And having us talk about her as if she wasn’t here won’t help with either case.”
“Bugalu, we want to help,” Abdulla told him. “She’s our friend, too.”
“I appreciate that,” he responded. “And she will, too, once she adjusts to the idea. I’m not sure she’s ever thought of women as friends who would help her. Anyway, I’ve got to make sure just what the problem is.”
“Yes,” Abdulla agreed. “Let us know what we can do, Bugalu. Come on, Beth.”
Ivy paused after the others left to touch her lips to his. “I do like her, Bugalu.”
“Glad to hear it.” He sighed. “Sorry about tonight’s date.”
She smiled. “It was... different from our usual dates. But if I had any worries about you two before, it’s obvious she thinks of you as a brother, someone who can solve all her problems.”
“I don’t know about solving. Maybe help her cope.”
“And that’s a big brother talking.” She gave him another quick kiss and left.
Bugalu went back across the room to sit in the chair recently occupied by Mac. She wouldn’t have been that upset by Winthrop. That’s a normal day for her, or that’s how she would see it. If she didn’t sleep, she might have continued to study, trying to get ready for the test. But Abdulla, Ivy... everybody’s been telling her for a month she knows the material, that she just needs to relax. Thought they were getting through to her. So that leaves... Smythe. He sighed. Wish you hadn’t drunk quite so much, Mac. We need to talk.

He got up, retrieved the empty bottles and threw them down the trash chute. He got a spare blanket from his bedroom to spread over his guest and turned on his e-book to read.

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