Trying to Make Amends
Month 4 Day 1
Smitty stifled a yawn as he stepped onto the lift. “Bridge,” he told the equipment.
“There you are.” He turned his head to see the captain already aboard. “You missed breakfast.”
He nodded. “Time got away from me.”
Her smile faded. “Another bad dream?”
“No. I... managed to avoid that.”
She studied his face for a long moment. “By staying up all night, looks like.”
He gave her a quick glance, unaccountably feeling guilty. “Did some soul searching,” he admitted.
“If you want to talk-“
“I know,” he told her, and thought for half a moment. “It would have to be off the record.”
Now it seemed to be her turn to think. “I can do that,” she decided.
He pondered that statement. Would she still feel that way if she knew I’d be confessing to a heavy case of lust for a subordinate? Would I dare? Even if I didn’t name Colleen, the captain’s smart; it wouldn’t take her long to figure out- She made the offer. It doesn’t mean I have to take her up on it. “Thank you, Ca-Jane. I’ll keep that in mind.” The door opened, and he followed her off the lift.
“Mr Evans,” the captain greeted. “Was there a problem at the communications console that required your assistance?”
The helmsman seemed startled as he scurried for his own post. “Ah, no, sir, it turns out there wasn’t,” he replied.
The captain’s question had caught Smitty’s attention, but since there wasn’t any problem, he lost interest. He turned to communications, paused to consider the redhead as he reviewed what he planned to say.
Colleen sat at her station, brow furrowed in concentration as she stared at her screen. Smitty heard a ping as a piece of mail arrived. The redhead raised a finger to a particular spot on the screen, and then - without removing her gaze from that screen - she used her left hand on the controls to send the mail to the personal terminal of whoever it was for. As Smitty finally stepped forward, her left forefinger also went to the screen, and the two fingers followed different paths.
That brought Smitty’s attention to the screen, and he stopped dead. “Purvis units?”
Colleen jumped, landed hard in her chair. “Ouch.” The screen went black as she whirled to face him. “Sir!” Her face turned red, and when she spoke again, her voice was low, almost a whisper. “You... didn’t explain the difference last night.”
“That doesn’t sound like you, Mr Smythe,” the captain observed from her command chair.
He turned to face his superior as a wave of guilt flowed through him. “The question arose during her test, and was... forgotten by the time we... ended.”
The captain nodded without looking up from her own screen. “Well, you’re not in the middle of a test now.”
“Yes, captain,” he agreed softly as he realized this brief meeting he had planned was already off schedule and going to take far longer than he had hoped. He faced the redhead. “Put it back on screen. Which one were you looking at?”
“Um, both,” she replied as she touched a single button.
It took him half a second to realize there were 2 Purvis units displayed on the screen, one in blue, the other in red. The sections that were exactly the same - which was most of the display - were purple. Why did Abdulla teach her how to do that? Or was it Ivy? He took a deep breath, and the smell of lilacs removed all thoughts from his mind. “Here,” he finally croaked, pointing to a corner where the red line was definitely inside the blue one. “Most people think that’s the difference, but that’s simply a matter of adjusting the shape to fit the space allotted. The biggest difference is here.” He moved his finger to a section that looked like a tiny checkerboard of blue, red and purple. “It’s a little hard to see in this display, but the different configuration here means that...” Almost before he knew it, he had reached the end of his explanation and didn’t know what else to say. I usually go on from here, but she’s not engineering, and I don’t want to confuse her. He unthinkingly glanced at Colleen - who was looking at him rather than the screen - and quickly pulled his gaze away before he got distracted. “Did you understand that?”
I doubt it, but as long as the captain’s satisfied. “Any questions?”
He gave a short nod and turned to go, realized he held something in his hands and remembered why he had come. He turned back and handed the study files to her. “These are yours.”
She accepted them with quivering fingers and whispered, “Thank you.”
He cleared his throat. “When I started to suggest that the senior techs might be able to help, my thought was that some of them may be studying for their own exam. In their case, a promotional exam.”
“Yes,” she agreed softly. “I helped a number of new lieutenants on the tugs.”
Then why is she having so much trouble here? And why did she get so mad- No, that was Abdulla. He held out the electronic pad he had also brought. “Here’s the list I promised.”
This item she eagerly took from him, turned on and studied the list. “I don’t see Della on here.”
She seems to be a ‘first name’ person. I’m glad she can’t use mine! “Della?” he asked.
“Della Harris. Her roommate,” said a soft voice behind him, and he knew he had not gotten away fast enough. Fortunately, Abdulla didn’t sound angry any more. “No, I wouldn’t have thought Harris a good choice, either, but she did a good job undoing Clines’ scrambling.”
He tried not to show his surprise. Harris’ habitual tardiness irritated him, and he hadn’t observed anything outstanding about her work. “Well, add her to the list if you want.”
“Not sure she’d stop dating long enough- Steph isn’t here, either.” Smitty turned to look at Abdulla, but the dusky woman shrugged and shook her head. “Tech Freyer,” Colleen explained. “You sent her to fix Bugalu’s door that time... uh...” She stopped, her eyes darting toward the helm.
“Tech Freyer is engineering,” he stated.
Colleen licked her lips nervously. “Don’t you expect your engineers to know all the... side dishes?”
Why in blazes did I ever use such a silly phrase? He sighed. “Try her if you want, but she’s only a Jr Tech.”
The redhead nodded, and a curl escaped from her bun to bounce delectably just behind one ear. “Thank you, Smi- Mr Smythe.”
He turned away, eager to make his escape at last, but Abdulla stood before him. “Mr Smythe, I need to apologize for-“
He held up a hand to stop her. “You had some good points, Lt. Let’s discuss it more fully in a few days. Some place more private than this.” At her nod of agreement, he told the captain, “I’ll be in engineering, sir.”
“Don’t forget our meeting this morning, Smitty,” she returned. “Ten hundred, my office.”
He had forgotten, but wasn’t going to admit it. “I’ll be there,” he stated, and stepped onto the lift before it could leave again. It wasn’t until he reached his own office that he remembered this was the half-way point of Colleen’s probation. The captain would be expecting a report on how she was doing. He plopped down into his chair and stared at nothing rather than the various report chips lined up on his desktop. What in Black Space am I going to say?