Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Anger Misdirected

Anger Misdirected
Month 4, Day 20
Drake MacGregor
0948 Hours

Drake studied the bed's read-out, his brow slightly puckered. "When did you first start having symptoms?"
"Well, yesterday, I-"
"What have you done with that redhead?"
Drake turned his head to see the captain standing in the doorway. Been expecting this for days. "Not nearly as much as I'd like to."
Beth tsked. "I'm not sure either of you realizes what that sounds like. And since it is about a patient, perhaps you should continue this discussion in your office, doctor. Meanwhile, I will get this patient settled in and ask all the usual questions."
"I'll be back in just a moment," Drake told the technician on the bed, and turned to usher the captain into his office. Once the door closed behind him, he stated, "I can't just order the girl to get some sleep."
"Probably not, but that's what I threatened to do this morning when I found her asleep on a lift."
Drake paused next to his desk, tried to determine if Jane was joking. He didn't think she was. "I find the floor too hard for sleeping."
"She wasn't on the floor, she was leaning against the wall."
Drake shook his head and sat down. "Well, I guess a lift would be quieter than the messhall."
"I thought you were going to fix her sleeping problem."
"First I have to figure out what's causing it."
"All this time, and you haven't even managed that much?"
"It's not an illness, Jane. There's not a test I can give to figure out what's causing her to not sleep. She doesn't seem to know. Bugalu has a theory, that her stress level is untenable. But nothing we've tried has managed to lower it for any length of time. She gets a day or two of half-way decent sleep, and then she's back to being unable to sleep longer than half an hour at a time."
"Duck, you know even better than I that this ship carries a pharmacy of drugs, including sedatives, anti-anxiety meds, anti-"
"We do," he agreed. "Most of the meds haven't worked, except one or two have possibly let her sleep for 45 minutes at a time, but she says the nightmares are even worse, and it takes her longer to fall asleep again, so there doesn't seem to be any advantage to her using them. She refuses to try sedatives, for fear she'd be trapped in her nightmares, unable to escape by waking up."
"Nightmares are Dr Fong's specialty."
"I've made that suggestion, several times. She said she'd rather waste her time studying, if she's going to waste her time."
Jane grunted. "She has opinions."
"And she's stubborn," Drake added. "But if she's falling asleep on lifts, maybe she'll be a little more willing to listen to me."
Jane frowned at the floor for a moment. "Maybe you should order her."
The suggestion surprised him. Didn't she just agree that wasn't possible? "To sleep?"
"To see Dr Fong."
He sighed. "Yes. That option is on the table. Again. Although, don't expect any overnight miracles. Psychiatrists don't have any. But I'll definitely push that idea at her the next time I see her."
"Make it soon," Jane told him. "Something has to work! For her own safety. If Winthrop catches her alone, asleep and defenseless..."
"This evening," he promised. No, she was sleeping this evening, something about giving Bugalu a break. Trying to sleep, after studying all day. I'll have to hunt her up, have her come here. "Today," he amended.
"Good. Only I sent her to her room to sleep, so this evening is better."

"Then this evening it is." I can have Ferguson let me know when she shows up for her workout, rather than try to hunt her down. Jane left his office, and Drake returned to sick bay to take care of his patient.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wrong Place

Wrong Place
Month 4, Day 20
Capt Burke
0807 Hours

"Don't fret," Jane told her pre-occupied chief engineer as they walked down the corridor. "I don't plan on taking your head off, if that's what you're worried about."
Smitty seemed startled. "What? What have I done?"
Finally, something caught his attention. "Nothing too bad, so far. But you have been... absent-minded of late. Is there something you need to talk about?"
"No," he answered shortly.
A very quick and final negative. That's always a bad sign. They turned the corner together, headed for the lift. "That's good. But I do seem to be missing some engineering reports." She signaled for the lift.
"You'll have them in the morning," he muttered.
"Good." He hasn't missed a report in years, so I know something is bothering him. I wish he'd talk to me about it. I hate turning my imagination loose without any information. The lift arrived, and they stepped aboard, to find it already occupied. She looks familiar, but civilian clothes tend to throw me, unless I've known them for years. She took another look at the redhead leaning in the corner and realized the woman's eyes were closed. She's asleep! I don't recognize her, so she's not anybody on the bridge. Probably hasn't been aboard long, either. What's her name? What color uniform does she wear? What's her rank?
"Lieutenant," came a croaked whisper from the opposite corner of the lift.
Jane looked around to find Smitty pressed against the lift wall, his gaze glued to the sleeping figure, his face white. She must be one of his, one he recognizes. Doesn't help me, much. "Lieutenant," she greeted the redhead, and reached out to wake her.
"Captain!" Smitty jumped forward and stopped her. "It's not safe to touch her when she's asleep, Captain! Last time, she gave Tall Bear a black eye!"
This tiny package gave Bear that shiner? I wouldn't think she could reach that high, let alone with enough force... "Halt," she told the lift, for she didn't want to arrive at the bridge and leave the girl sleeping here. One never knew when Winthrop would make an appearance.
The lift gave an almost imperceptible shudder as it stopped, and the redhead began sliding out of the corner, would have landed on the floor if Smitty had not instinctively stepped forward, stopping her fall with his body. His arms, quite naturally, wrapped around her to keep her steady.
No sign of giving him a black eye. That would be striking a superior officer, but if she's asleep, she wouldn't know that. "Anyone that tired should be in bed," Jane stated.
"Bed," the redhead mumbled, and snuggled against the man's chest. Smitty's hands slowly curled into fists and his back stiffened, but his face glistened with sweat and his eyes were glazed.
That's a blasted strong come-on, even if she's awake. Especially in front of me. And he's fighting his inclination to respond, something I've never seen him have to do before. Because I'm here? Or because- "Is she one of yours? An engineer?"
"Communications," he answered.
Same thing; she's under his command. Come on, Jane; check your crew roster. Communications lieutenant. Obviously not Abdulla. That leaves Clines and Chun, who are male, and the new girl. Oh, blast, this is his troublemaker! The one who can't pass probation, and who couldn't take her eyes off him when she first came aboard! Jane noticed one of his hands uncurling to rest on the girl's rear. "Smythe!"
The engineer jerked at the angry bark, which shoved the girl away. The redhead staggered to retain her footing, blinked at her two companions in confusion.
"Take her to bed," Jane instructed.
"What?" Smitty's mouth dropped open in shock, while the girl backed against the wall, her face as red as her hair.
That didn't come out the way I meant it. "Take her to her room-" Dangerous suggestion, from the looks of it. She turned her attention to the girl. "Lieutenant, go get some sleep."
The younger woman tried to stifle a yawn. "I'm meeting Ivy to study."
"I didn't ask where you were headed. I told you to get some sleep!"
Jane glared at the girl. "Do I need to make it an order?"
The redhead finally seemed to get her thoughts pulled together. "No, sir. I'll... do my best."
"See that you do," Jane growled, and let most of her anger go. "What deck are your quarters?"
"Deck 4. East," the redhead responded, and the lift started for this new destination.
The small confines were silent, with neither the redhead nor the engineer sending a single glance toward the other. But when the lift door opened and the girl exited, Smitty couldn't keep his eyes off her until the door closed again.
"Bridge," Jane instructed, and considered her chief engineer's pensive expression. I'm standing right here, and obviously, the only thing on his mind is her. If I wasn't here, would he have been right behind her? And it doesn't seem she would turn him away. I can't approve of that, but like Duck said, I wouldn't necessarily know about it, not until it became an issue. Would it be so awful, if that's what they both want? But if I look the other way because their situation is different, it wouldn't be long before everybody's situation was 'special'. Then how could I keep Winthrop in line? Not that I manage it now. "She's a subordinate," she stated flatly.
Startled, Smitty's face went red. "I know."
He's fighting it, he's just not winning. Is she trying to use sex to get past her probation? Didn't I ask Takor to investigate her abilities? I haven't gotten that report yet. "It might be best if you avoid her. As much as possible."
He sighed. "I've been trying."

For all the good it's done him so far. No wonder he never comes to the bridge first thing in the morning any more. And then to find her asleep on the lift! What if he'd been alone? Worse, what if he had been Winthrop? If she thought my bark was a rude awakening- Didn't I tell Duck to fix her sleeping problem? Obviously, he hasn't. That's something I can check into this morning.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Rumor Spreads

Month 4, Day 11
Tall Bear
1908 Hours

"All I'm saying," Ferguson told Tall Bear as they waited in the gym, "is that it explains why I haven't made any progress with her."
"No, it doesn't,' Tall Bear muttered, crossing his arms. It only explains it because you want a reason why she doesn't find you irresistible.
"Look, it confirms she's dating Bugalu, which was obvious, despite their denials. If she's dating him, I bet she dates MacGregor, too. And with those two sharing her, she doesn't have time for anybody else."
"If you believe Ryan." Are you the fool for believing what you want? Or am I?
"You think Ryan lied?"
Tall Bear kept his face stony. "White man often speak with forked tongue."
"Very funny." Ferguson's gaze wandered to something behind Tall Bear. "Here she comes. I'll give you 2 guesses who she's with."
"No." Tall Bear was pretty sure who Mac was with, based on Ferguson's tone. "You go ahead; it's your turn tonight." He turned to find Mac was with Bugalu, as he'd expected, and there was no sign of Yellow Dog yet. The small redhead moved off with the big cook, headed for Weight Station C. "I think she looks a little better," Bear observed quietly.
"She still has a lot of sleep to catch up on," Bugalu responded. "But she did get some today. At least 6 hours."
Tall Bear never had any problem talking to Bugalu about anything, so he didn't hesitate now. "You know I like Mac, right?"
"Yes," Bugalu agreed.
"I'd like to date her."
"You and-" Bugalu stopped what he was about to say and hesitated before saying, "I know."
"You told me there was nothing between you two."
"Nothing sexual," Bugalu confirmed.
Tall Bear nodded. "Okay."
"Just like that?" The negro sounded surprised.
"Who would you believe? Ryan? Or me?"
"Good point." After a moment, Bugalu asked, "Made any progress? Getting a date?"
Bear turned his head to look at him. "No."
Bugalu nodded, but his face held a slight frown. "I'll see what I can do. But even if she agrees, don't expect sex. Or a kiss." The helmsman thought for a moment. "She probably won't even hold your hand."
"Sounds like a novel date, but she's still fun to be with." When Bugalu turned to give him a quizzical look, he added, "We have lunches together. Keeps Evans and Adams from pestering her."
"Good. That's a big point in your favor." With a smile, Bugalu started to walk off.
"Where are you going?" Bear asked.
"I left my book somewhere. Probably her place. And Della's got a date tonight, so I have to look there before he shows up. But I'll be back before Mac's done."
Bear watched him leave, turned to start warming up and ran right into Yellow Dog. His arms instinctively flew around her.
"Coup," she said, wrapping her arms around him as well.
"No, I'm going to contest that," he told her. "I touched you first." She smiled, her dark eyes staring into his. Okay, technically I did touch her first, but she somehow put herself there without me knowing about it. I hate it when she manages that. But she's good at it. "Okay, you win. It's your point."
She smiled and pulled away, took her position at weight station B. They began her workout - he used too much weight for her to be able to spot for him - and almost before he realized it, they were at the end.
"Mac?" he heard Ferguson at the next station. "How does she do that?" Bear looked over, but the redhead was merely standing near a tall rack, not doing anything. Ferguson looked around. "Well, everything's put away. Computer, standard gravity on weight station C."
The cook swayed as the gravity changed, but Mac screamed, her arms flailing. Shocked, Ferguson reached out to reassure her, but she shoved him aside with one hand. Yellow Dog scooped the shorter woman into a tight embrace. The scream became hysterical sobs.
Bugalu suddenly appeared and slipped his arms around the redhead. "What happened?"
"She was asleep," Ferguson stated. "Standing up, but asleep."
"I was... falling!" Mac sobbed, only Tall Bear wasn't sure if she'd said falling or failing. He assumed the change in gravity had made her feel like she was falling.
"You won't," Bugalu told her, with steel in his voice. "I won't let you." He raised his head to look at Ferguson. "You guys done?"
"Yeah, just now."
"Come on, Mac, let's go study," Bugalu stated, and they left.

Apparently, Bugalu heard the other word.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Offering Solace

Offering Solace
Month 4, Day 11
Anna Hamara
1801 Hours

Anna watched the two men play table tennis. Look at them. Vying for the chance to play the next game with me, thinking it’ll be ping pong. Which one do I want to bed tonight? They’re both good, even though neither one actually has me on their mind, even during sex. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not like I want to get serious.
Smitty missed the ball by a mile and stared at nothing for a moment before whirling around. “Ryan!”
“Sir!” A young man jumped to his feet halfway across the room.
Scowling fiercely, jiggling the paddle in his hand like a weapon he was eager to use, the chief engineer marched over to at the younger man. “Who a woman... entertains... in her room is the business only of the woman and the man she chooses!” He didn’t give the other a chance to respond; he was obviously too angry to listen. “It is unbecoming and unseemly for you to tell anybody what you may or may not have seen! It’s not their business, nor your responsibility to spread rumors! So stop it at once!”
Ryan swallowed, but bravely - or stupidly - responded. “I think I can be excused for needing to vent, Mr Smythe. After all, she’s been lying all this ti-“
“If she’s lied to you, that’s between you and her. It’s no one else’s business!”
“But she’s been lying to them, too!”
“Then it’s up to them to discover the truth. It’s not your responsibility to inform them! And that puts an end to it, understood?”
“Yes, sir.”
With a curt nod, Smitty came back, with no thought of looking for the ball, or taking it when someone tried to hand it to him. “What blasted idiots men can be,” he muttered to no one in particular.
“Especially the young ones,” Anna agreed softly, and retrieved the ball for him. Who was Ryan talking about? I wasn’t paying attention. Why did Smitty pay attention? He hates gossip and rumors, but to hear one conversation from across the room is ridiculous. So Ryan caught some girl with a new boy friend. Why would that be important to Smitt- She froze, the ball forgotten in her hand, as one possibility came to her. Smitty’s clearly upset, and not as an officer, as a man. He’d be appalled if anyone said anything about it, and he’s trying to get it under control, get his thoughts pulled together. Poor Smitty. He’s got it bad. She offered him the ball, and when he seemed oblivious to it, asked, “Smitty?”
“I knew that’s how things were,” he muttered, his voice bleak. He sighed, raised his head, and stared at his opponent for a moment. “And him. I knew that, too.” He threw his paddle onto the table but couldn’t make himself look at the doctor again. “Sorry, Drake, I just... remembered something. I’ve got to go.”
He turned but stopped when she put a hand on his arm. “I could go with you, Smitty.”
He turned confused, sad eyes to her. “I can’t- It’s- Wouldn’t be fair.”
“Being with you is never just fair; it’s always good.” She smiled, her voice soft. “Even if I’m not the one on your mind.”
That didn’t have the effect she expected; instead of a wan smile, his face went hard and determined. “You were right before, Anna. I should deal with this on my own.”
She watched him go, aware that Drake came around the table to stand beside her. “What’s got him so upset?” he asked quietly. “He professes anger when he’s squashing rumor-mongering, but this time, he actually seems upset.”
“Perhaps it was the subject of the rumors,” she offered. If Drake doesn’t know about Smitty’s problem, it’s not my place to tell him.
“Which was?”
She hesitated. “I didn’t actually hear what Ryan was said, wasn’t listening. I guess you’ll have to ask Ryan.”
“After Smitty just bawled him out for gossiping? Not me. So, would you like to play table tennis? Or we could stroll through the arboretum.”

Anna had thought he was about to suggest seeing the movie, so this other suggestion was a delight. “Arboretum! I’d pretty much forgotten we had one! Yes, please, I could use some air that doesn’t smell canned for a change.” Drake offered his arm, she took it, and they strolled out. I suspect Smitty has gone home to drink himself into oblivion. Can he reach that stage on 3 bottles? And it’s been a while since shore leave; does he even have one bottle left?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Caught in the Act

Caught in the Act
Month 4, Day 11
Della Harris
1605 Hours

Della left Engineering with her mind working overtime. What is with Mr Smythe these days? It’s like he’s deep in thought most of the time. Not that I’m complaining if he doesn’t realize I’m a little late of a morning. Still, if I wasn’t late, he used to greet me. Now he just looks through me. And everybody else, come to think of it.
As the lift started, a pair of arms encircled her, and a mouth nuzzled her neck. “Della, squeeze me in before your date?”
Who does he think he’s fooling? “Ryan, you want to go to my place in hopes Mac is still in bed.”
“That would be an added bonus,” he admitted.
“Oh, grow up,” she told him in disgust. No wonder she doesn’t like men. She slipped out of his grasp to exit the lift, but Ryan followed her. “If Mac’s not interested, there’s others who would be. Try Monroe.”
“I’ve had Monroe.”
“You’ve had me,” she pointed out.
You’re still fun,” he returned.
“I resent your trying to use me to get to Mac,” she stated as her bedroom door opened. They stopped short in surprise.
“I knew it,” Ryan muttered.
Mac was still in bed - unheard of - but even more shocking, she wasn’t alone. She and Bugalu lay entwined, arms around each other. But it wasn’t... Della turned her head to speak to Ryan, but he was walking away quickly. With a frown, she stepped forward so the door would close.
She studied the two-some. Mac was decently covered by her pajamas and under her covers. Bugalu was fully dressed, even his shoes, and on top of the blankets. One of his arms encircled the redhead, who held his hand in one of hers. His other arm lay at his side.
Biting her lip, Della walked over and poked Bugalu’s forehead. With a sharp breath of surprise, he woke up and tried to focus on her face. “What are you doing?” she whispered, as if someone might overhear them.
“Morning, uh, Della. What are you doing here?”
“I live here,” she returned, and when his brow furrowed in confusion, she went on. “You’re in my roommate’s bed.”
“Roommate?” he repeated.
Oh, space, he acts just as dazed as Smythe! I shouldn’t have to put up with 2 unthinking men in one day. “Mac! You’re in bed with Mac!”
Alarmed, he tried to sit up, but the arm around Mac never moved, so he was soon back in the exact position where he had started. With a groan, he raised his unoccupied hand to his forehead. Then his hand lowered to feel his shirt and pant leg. “She trapped me,” he finally stated.
“That is not something I ever expected to hear you say!” Della declared, still whispering. “And if you know Mac so well, you should know you can’t drink as much as she does!”
“Huh! I wouldn’t dare try. What I meant was, I was in the living room when she started to toss and turn for the dozenth time, so I came in to talk to her, which had settled her down before. She was sitting, one foot on the floor to hold her upright. She seemed half awake, or less, didn’t answer when I talked to her. I touched her shoulder to get her attention, and she touched it. Then she wrapped her fingers around it, and when she lay down and rolled over, I was tossed across her like I was nothing. I couldn’t get my hand free, so I couldn’t get my arm out from under her. Eventually, boredom made me fall asleep. What time is it?”
“Evening shift just started.”
“That explains why I feel groggy, out of it. I’ve had too much sleep. Della, do me a favor, will you?”
“I can keep my mouth shut, but Ryan won’t, and he was with me when I entered. The whole ship will hear how we interrupted you two.”
“Ryan. Blast. And he’ll include explicit details he couldn’t have seen because they never happened. But what I really wanted you to do was see if you can get my hand free. That arm is numb, even the shoulder.”
“I can try, but she’s strong.” She gave her roommate an uncertain look. “On the other hand, one shouldn’t touch Mac when she’s sleeping. She gave Tall Bear a black eye.”
“I know. I saw it. But you’re a woman. Her pa never told her not to let a woman touch her.”
Della hoped he was right, and started to pry at the white fingers, even as she protested, “She’s asleep. She can’t know who’s touching her. And what do her parents have to do with anything?”
“Even asleep, she somehow knows. Not parents, just her father. Drummed it into her not to let a man touch her, for fear she’d wind up pregnant and unwed. Apparently, it’s an extreme version of the somewhat intolerant Gaelund society.”
“Colonies do get weird sometimes,” she muttered, and gave up trying to break the woman’s grip. “You’re going to have to wake her up.”
“No. Thanks for trying, anyway.”
“Just poke her a little bit and tell her to let go.”
“The idea was for her to sleep!”
“Yeah, but-“ A slight movement caught Della’s eye. “Wait, I think I saw her thumb move. Let me try again.” With great effort, she was finally able to shift the redhead’s fingers, one by one, until Bugalu’s dark hand flopped to the mattress, free at last. “There! She’s let go!”
“Has she?”
“Can’t you feel it?”
He shook his head. “Told you, it’s numb. I’m not even sure I have an arm anymore.”
“That doesn’t sound good. I’ll try to lift her and you can pull free.”
“Do you think you can? I don’t think I can help. Not even sure I can pull myself free if you do.”
Della hesitated. “Well. I could go get some help.”
“It would have to be a female. And I’m not sure I’d want anybody else to see me like this. They’d jump to the same conclusion as Ryan, and one person spreading rumors is enough.”
She swallowed and then made the only suggestion she could think of. “What about MacGregor? He seems to get along with her, and I haven’t seen him with any black eyes.”
“Doc,” Bugalu repeated. “Yeah, that might work. He’s got the same relationship with Mac as I do.”
“Not exactly the same,” came a soft mutter from the redhead.
“Blast,” Bugalu swore. “Are you awake?”
She opened one green eye. “It’s hard to stay asleep with you two talking so much. Even in whispers.”
“You managed to sleep in the messhall yesterday,” he pointed out.
“I’ve gotten more sleep today,” she returned, and sat up, leaving his arm behind. “Do you have a date tonight, Della?”
“Yeah. Any chance you could clear out by... 2000? For the night?”
“Sure.” Mac swung her legs over the side of the bed and paused to stifle a yawn.
Bugalu grimaced as he studied the redhead’s slumped posture. “You can spend the rest of the day in my bed, if you want.”
Mac turned red, stood up and rummaged through her closet mindlessly, even though her uniforms were in plain sight. “That’s an interesting thought,” she choked out.
“I thought you two didn’t do that!” Della declared.
“Do what?” Bugalu asked.
“That’s why the suggestion surprised me,” Mac stated, and finally found one of her clean uniforms. Grabbing it, she headed for the bathroom. “I’m up, Bugsy. Wide awake and ready to study. Just give me 15 minutes.” She paused with the bathroom door open. “Or maybe 20 minutes.”
Della turned to see Bugalu grimacing horribly, one hand gripping the arm that had been around Mac. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s trying to wake up, and it’s killing me!” he declared.
Della picked up his arm and began massaging it, from shoulder to fingertips and back again, letting the negro grimace and moan without making any comments. As his pain seemed to subside, she stated, “I’ve been thinking.”
“Better not make a habit of that. Mr Smythe will promote you,” Bugalu joked.
“No fear of that,” she returned with a smile, still massaging. “All the guys aboard have an unnatural curiosity about Mac.”
“Most of them,” he agreed.
“They might not be so curious if she dated. I don’t mean the entire crew; just one or two. She’d be just like all the other women.”
“Maybe. But it’s not as easy as you make it sound. I told you about her pa’s indoctrination.”
“Well, warn anybody she agrees to go out with.”
“I could. But they won’t listen, they’d think I was trying to stake a claim. Nobody takes that warning seriously.”
“Oh, they might, now that Tall Bear’s had his black eye. And if not, then they aren’t a suitable date for her. Right?”
“Yeah, that part makes sense,” he agreed. “I can try to convince her. But right now, the only thing she thinks about is passing probation. She won’t pass if she doesn’t sleep on a regular basis.” He gently pulled his arm from her hands and began to flex it. “And I sure can’t do that again.” He stood up. “Thanks, Della.”
“I’ve never heard you complain about holding a woman before.”
“First of all, Mac is heavier than most the crew. Second of all, Mac is not a woman. She’s a pesky little sister I’ve adopted.”
“Who needs to sleep, like you say, so what are you going to do?”

He gave a deep, bottomless sigh. “I have no idea.”