Signs of a Problem / Part 1 - Yellow Dog
Month 4, Day 1
Jane greeted the two officers waiting in her office as she took her seat. “Where’s Smitty?” she asked. The way he looked, I’m not surprised he forgot, even with my reminder. At our age, it’s not so easy to stay up all night and still function the next day.
“I haven’t seen him this morning,” Drake stated.
“Agreed.” Takor was still learning the intricacies of English, but she usually understood its intent, even if the words were not quite correct.
Jane tried not to frown as she reached for the intercom to call the absent man, but her office door opened and the engineer entered, a coffee cup in his hand. “Sorry, captain,” he mumbled as he started for one chair, changed his mind and took another. His hand quivered as he took a drink. “There were a number of reports on my desk, and I wanted to ask some questions of Harris - Lt Harris, who was late, as usual, so I had a talk with her about that nasty habit, instead of what I really wanted to ask about. Then I wanted to talk to Wilson, but she’s evenings, and I couldn’t justify bothering her when she’s off duty, so I’ll have to talk with her this afternoon, but I don’t imagine it will matter by then.” He took another drink, seemed unwilling to put his cup down.
He looks worse now than he did 2 hours ago. And that’s a lot of talking to say... nothing. Smitty’s usually succinct. She glanced at Drake, who was staring at the engineer, his eyebrows pulled together. Drake noticed, too. Maybe he can figure out what’s going on.
“Gentlemen,” she began. “Most of us have been through this before. I just want a brief statement about how your new people are doing, whether or not they’re fitting in, that sort of thing. I hate being blind-sided when somebody doesn’t work out.” She considered the 3 officers, her gaze lingering on the dark smudges under Smitty’s eyes, the tic that made his upper lip tremble at irregular intervals. He looks half panicked, which doesn’t make sense. He has been through this before. Maybe he just needs a minute to get his thoughts organized. She turned to the science officer. “Takor, we’ll start with you. How is your yeoman doing? Is she knowledgeable? Have you noticed how she gets along with other members of the crew?”
“She passed her probation exam on her first attempt,” the Scissan stated. “Also, Ms Dog often-“
“Yellow Dog,” Jane corrected.
Nice job of shortening the phrase. It’ll be talking like a human in another year. “Your yeoman’s culture often has 2 words for the last name. We had this discussion before, when you referred to a particular security lieutenant as Lt Bear. To do so is similar to us calling you ‘Tak’. It isn’t your full name.”
The alien considered her words briefly. “They are of the same culture? Their relationship has me... much confused.”
“Same cultural base, different tribes,” Drake offered. “A tribe is like an extended family. Each tribe has somewhat different traditions. In ancient times, I believe their tribes had many conflicts. I think Tall Bear and Yellow Dog compete, trying to honor their ancestors without actually doing damage to each other. I’m not sure I understand it; I don’t share their culture.”
“Captain!” Smitty’s eyes were round. “We can’t allow ancient animosity to run rampant on our ship! The next thing, the Irish would declare war on the British, Abdulla would pick a fight with Goldmann, and nobody would like Kraus! We can’t have it!”
Jane held up a hand to stop his tirade and turned to Drake, who had been startled by Smitty’s outburst. “You said they compete without doing damage?”
“Yeah, it’s... like a game. Can one of them get close enough to touch the other before the 2nd realizes they are there? It’s only a touch, not like they’re actually fighting. No matter which way it goes, they both wind up laughing.”
“That explains much,” Takor stated, and continued its report. “I have observed that Ms Dog - my apologies, Ms Yellow Dog - frequently anticipates my needs and requests, and seldom makes an error. I have seen her interacting with several crewmembers, and such interactions often include laughter. Therefore, I have no reason to believe she has not been accepted by the crew.”
Jane smiled. When it came aboard, it thought laughter was some horrible medical condition, possibly lethal. “Very good comments, Takor. You’ve hit all the points I asked about. Doesn’t seem likely we’ll have to replace her, then. I was worried she might prove surly, when she first came aboard.”
Drake apparently had more to contribute. “YD’s problem, if you want to see it as one, is that she only says a word or two at a time. Less, if she can get away with it. Somehow, she makes herself understood. She uses hand signals with Tall Bear, who used to complain she ‘talked’ too fast, but I think the skill has come back to him by now. As for the non-AmerInd crew members, I don’t know, maybe she’s got a touch of telepathy. It would explain how she anticipates Takor’s requests.”
“I don’t care how she communicates, as long as she is integrated and not hiding somewhere, plotting sabotage,” Jane told him. “You next, Drake. How’s your new nurse working out?” Drake’s face stiffened. Uh oh. I don’t like the looks of that.