Month 5, Day 11
The door to her quarters opened, and Smitty reluctantly followed Harris into her living room. I do not want to be here. Again. But considering Colleen’s... attire, and that she’s sleeping, I didn’t dare send one of the men. He managed to pull his thoughts off the sleeping beauty without even glancing toward the bedroom and walked over to the second desk, where Harris was starting to remove the monitor from the base.
Impatient, he took the tool from her hand and in only a moment, the monitor was detached and resting in the chair. He then began to separate the computer base from the desk.
Although he kept his mind firmly on his work, a back corner of his mind heard someone exhale, “Mac,” at a distance. Harris handed him another tool, which he took automatically before he looked at it and then at her.
“Isn’t that what you need next?” Harris asked uncertainly, almost breathlessly. He nodded and returned to work, shelving his surprise that a staff member usually considered ‘adequate’ had correctly anticipated his needs.
By the time he had disengaged the computer base from the desk, he became aware of a series of moans audible from the bedroom, and he looked up, aghast. Harris stared in that direction, her eyes round and face white. She opened her mouth to say something to her roommate.
“Don’t you dare!” Smitty hissed.
She turned her face to him, startled. “They don’t know we’re here!” she whispered.
“They don’t need to,” he returned as quietly, his stomach tied in knots at the idea of what was happening in the next room. “Don’t... embarrass them. Just do what we’re here to do.”
She swallowed and turned back to the computer as he silently slid the base aside. There was no sheen of dampness on the desktop, not even when he squatted to look from a different angle. Mouth compressed in irritation, he stood and moved the computer completely away from where it normally sat.
The sounds from the bedroom were louder and more frequent. Harris glanced in that direction. “He told me-“
“Mind on your work!” Smitty hissed. “Did you clean up this desk?”
“I told you, I didn’t find anything to clean up,” Harris whispered, sounding peeved. “Not on the desk, not inside the computer. And all the components tested fine!”
I told her not to- And she never did acknowledge it, did she? Best to make sure before I accuse her. He pulled another tool from the belt Harris wore and began to remove the computer’s cover.
With one final outcry and a thump, the bedroom went silent for half a minute. Then a voice - which he now recognized as Lt Bugalu - stated, “You really did it.”
Colleen sounded out of breath when she asked, “Bugs? When did you come?”
“Just a little bit ago.”
“You see?” Harris’ demand was barely audible, but when it caught his attention, he lost track of the bedroom conversation. “No liquid inside, either.” She pulled the tester from her belt, and several tests came up normal. “Are you absolutely sure-“
“Is there a squiggle in the power display anymore?” Smitty asked.
“Ahhh, no,” she admitted. “Not since you ordered this computer taken off line.”
“Right,” he acknowledged. She cleans up her own messes.
“-Smit found me sleeping and read me the riot act,” Colleen said in the bedroom.
A bit of one, but not for-
“For sleeping?” Bugalu asked. “He’s got to have some idea how exhausted you are.”
“So, how do we tell if it’s safe to turn this computer back on?” Harris asked.
Smitty clamped his lips together tightly. It was exactly this situation he’d been trying to avoid when he had ordered Colleen- “MacDowell!” he bellowed.
“Oh, now what have I done?” she wondered, and he heard a couple uncertain steps.
No doubt she has to get dressed, after- “Step outside, Harris,” he told his underling.
“But the computer-“
“Later!” he growled.
“Yes, sir,” she acknowledged, and headed for the door.
The redhead appeared in the bedroom doorway, a touch of green lace peeking from the cleavage of her white robe. Even the thick robe could not hide her figure. “Lt Bugalu, you’re excused,” Smitty called out. Colleen raised her eyebrows and glanced behind her.
“Yes, sir,” came in response, and he heard the bedroom door open and close.
She is so beautiful. We’re alone. It’s been so long, and I’d probably only need a minute or two. The first time.
“Smit, what happened to my computer?”
The words were like a dash of cold water in his face, and reminded him that he was angry with her, as well as why. Why has got nothing to do with her entertaining Lt Bugalu instead of sleeping! “You disobeyed an order!” he snapped.
She studied him warily. “Which one?”
For a second, he was dumbfounded, wondering how many she had disobeyed, besides the two he knew about. “I told you, more than once, not to muck with this computer!”
“I haven’t ‘mucked’ with it,” she responded.
“You cleaned out the whiskey!”
“Well, of course,” she answered. “I made the mess; I cleaned it up.”
“I told you not to!”
“I don’t... remember that being an order,” she stated carefully.
“You know full well that’s how I meant it!”
She cocked her head to one side. “Sir, I don’t remember it being specifically stated as an order. And I’m not telepathic. I can’t be expected to know what you mean if you don’t say it.”
Another game. I don’t often lose this one, either. “Didn’t you stop to consider the extra work you were making for someone else?”
Her brows drew together in confusion. “What extra work?”
“Now that they can no longer see where the liquid was, they’ll have to dismantle the entire thing, clean every bit, and then put it back together. What should have been a 10-minute chore has become an all-day undertaking.”
“But I cleaned it.”
“So you say. But you aren’t certified in computer maintenance, are you? It’s not in your file, if you are.” Her mouth opened, but no sound came out, and eventually she closed it. My point. “I don’t know when I can spare a technician to spend that much time on it.” Her eyes widened in horror. My game. “Go back to bed, Colleen. And this time, get some sleep.” Embarrassed he had let that slip out, he turned for the door.
“But... I need my computer! I need to study!”
He stopped where he was, but didn’t look at her as he considered this new play. Her game. Because I could assign a technician right now. And if I don’t, it’ll seem like I’m doing it to keep her from passing. Which would put me in even worse trouble with Abdulla, Wilson, probably even the captain. But if I give in, and assign a technician right away, she’ll think she’s got me wrapped around her little finger. She very nearly does, but I can’t let her know that. He sighed in defeat. “When do you study?”
“Um, well, pretty much every waking moment. Except on duty, of course.”
Which gave him an unexpected - unorthodox - method of... not winning, but at least not losing. “Fine. You can study while you’re on duty. As long as it doesn’t interfere with your work!”
She was right behind him, and he hastily moved away as he whirled to face her. “What more do you want?” I need some R&R. I don’t dare! “I’ve given you all I can give! Am I supposed to completely forget you’re on probation? Probation isn’t supposed to be easy! It’s an opportunity for you to get your act together, get organized. I’ve bent the rules as much - and more - than I’ve done for anyone else!” He swallowed a sudden lump in his throat. “Perhaps you aren’t meant to be here.”
Her face was absolutely white as he turned and left her quarters.