Thursday, November 19, 2015

Debrief 3

Month 6 Day 11
Capt Jane Burke
0234 Hrs

Jane didn't realize she had started to float in a sea of numbness until she heard an unexpected familiar voice somewhere behind her. "I thought I had set that to human normal visual before I sent the files to you."
"The display was not set for the normal human range when you found it?" Takor asked.
"No, none of them have been. They've all been like that. I could barely see anything until I reset the screens. Do you mean you haven't studied the new files at all?" Jane opened her eyes and turned to stare at the chief engineer.
"Actually, I have. This setting is not as easy to see as the human range, but it is within Sciss parameters."
"Oh. I never stopped to think- Well, anyway, do you have any thoughts on-"
"Smitty, are you done with your nap already?"
The engineer turned to face her, looking chagrinned. "About that..."
"That would make you the fastest sleeper I've ever known, to manage 4 hours of sleep in..." she glanced at the chronometer, "...less than 2 hours!"
"He discovered Mac using his computer again," Takor explained.
Smitty sent a quick glance across the bridge, relaxed. Tall Bear now sat at the weapons console. When did Winthrop leave? And where did he go? "Really? Did you have any better luck with her than security has?"
"No," he admitted. "I was so... empty-headed when I got there, I didn't realize she was there until she left."
How could he not... No, as tired as I am right now, I'm not sure I'd notice if someone was in my bed, let alone my living room. And he can't be in any better shape. "Studying? Couldn't she do that anywhere?"
"My magazines on theoretical engineering are only available on my computer."
"She seemed particularly interested in articles pertaining to matter transmitting," Takor added. "I have similar articles in my quarters, but I doubt she's learned enough Scissan to read them."
She can't pass her communications probational, but she can understand theoretical engineering? Has he refused to pass her? How bad a case has he got for this girl? What's missing? This doesn't make sense. Or is my brain too tired to work?
Smitty opened his mouth, hesitated, then pushed his words out. "The planet below is obviously inhabited, Captain, given the colony on their largest moon. I know we haven't seen any spaceships, or even airships, but what if their scientists took a different path? What if they have matter transmittance? Maybe one of them has taken over Colleen's body! She hasn't been herself since..." His face turned red. Jane blinked, wondering at this uncharacteristic imagination from her chief engineer.
"Since she was working on the communications console, which had an electrical charge," Bugalu stated.
"And still does," Abdulla added. "Everything is charred, but they all still have a charge. Mr Smythe, how does the most popular theory propose that matter be transmitted?"
Startled by the question, Smitty considered his answer briefly. "The machine puts the matter into stasis, doesn't even let electrons move about their orbits. It plots the location of every iota of mass, strips it down to particles, sends them to the new location and puts it back together."
"I don't see-" Jane began.
"That might work for a lump of coal," Abdulla stated. "But living tissue isn't just mass; it also contains electricity. If the electricity wasn't there when it was reassembled, whatever was sent wouldn't be alive."
"They're trying to get it figured out for inert items first," Smitty responded.
"Scissan scientists believe the energy must accompany the living tissue being transmitted," Takor added. "They believe the energy binds the mass together during transmission and returns the matter to life once reassembled."
"We can discuss theory another time," Jane suggested testily. "Why did that theory lead you to believe some alien intelligence has taken over her body?"
"Well, it didn't, exactly. I looked at the schematics in those articles, and her notes. She'd used a combination of engineering and communications pieces mixed together. Realizing that, and knowing she couldn't come to the bridge to try that rearranging, I got Ensign Jones to go with me to the auxiliary bridge-"
"Jones! What was he doing in your quarters?"
Confusion clouded Smitty's eyes for a moment. "He wasn't. I went to engineering and got him."
Jane, you're so tired, your brain isn't working right. Maybe it's time to leave someone else in charge and take a nap. She nodded for the engineer to continue.
"And that's where she was, with both the engineering and communications consoles open, constructing a... well, constructing something in the space between them."
"She was sabotaging the ship?" If she's started-
"In the short term, those consoles would not have been usable for their actual purpose, but I don't think she was doing any permanent damage. I didn't take the time to analyze it; I needed to get Jones to sick bay."
"He just came out of sick bay!" Jane protested.
"Well, he's there again." Smitty cleared his throat. "When she didn't respond to his instructions, he shot the circuit board she was attaching and it blew up. She reacted by throwing her tool, and it hit his forehead, knocked him out. Big lump, bit of blood. Probably a concussion, Dr Koontz said."
That's two men she's knocked out. In our current situation, I couldn't afford to lose one. "Where did you put Ms MacDowell? Sick bay or the brig?" She watched Smitty's face go red and sighed in frustration. "She got away?"
Smitty stiffened, stared straight ahead. "Yes."
"How? You had a phazer. Didn't you?"
"I tried to talk to her. And she tried to respond! At first, I didn't hear anything, but with great effort, she managed to say a few words that I did hear. I'd accused her of sabotaging the ship, and she said she wasn't. Then she said," he paused to think, "that I should 'Help call a- She needs-' And then her voice faded out again."
"She's a communications officer! If she needs to call someone-"
"Captain, she didn't say, 'I need-'. She used the word 'she'. Somebody else needed help. That bolstered the idea she's got somebody else inside her body with her! And if I needed any more proof, I certainly got it when she smiled at me."
He is not making any sense. Or else my brain really isn't working. "She smiled at you and you let her go."
"Has she ever smiled at you?" Bugalu asked softly. Jane turned, and he went on. "Most men think she's the most beautiful woman they've ever seen. She has a powerful effect on them, which she's unaware of. Which only doubles the effect."
"Ridiculous!" Smitty protested, and Jane's attention swerved back to him. "She knew exactly what she was promising! Er, seemed to be promising. I'm sure you've seen that look in the streams, captain. Don't think I've ever seen it in real life, though."
Then he's not paid attention. Real women aren't as good at it as actresses, but some do a decent job. "We'll discuss it later. If you're awake, go back to the auxiliary bridge and try to understand what she was doing. Takor, go with him. This has gone on long enough; I'd like some answers, gentlemen."
"Yes, captain," Smitty said, and turned for the lift.
Jane gave Bugalu a lop-sided smile. "Never thought you'd say something like that about Ms MacDowell."
His lips tightened. "We adopted each other, but that doesn't make me blind and stupid."

No. Not Bugalu.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


Month 6, Day 11
0144 Hours
When the lift doors opened, Smitty checked his phazer, made sure it was set on the lowest setting. He hadn't wanted to come alone, but Ensign Jones wasn't his first-choice companion. There was only Jones and Adams to choose from. Better to leave Adams in charge and bring Jones, rather than the other.
"What makes you think she's in the auxiliary bridge?" Jones asked, startling him.
"Just a... hunch," Smitty muttered, then remembered she was apparently deaf. "We'll go in together. You step to the right, I'll go left. Don't know her location in there, or what she's doing, but don't let her get out this door."
"Yes, sir."
"Computer, change the lighting in Deck 10 Transverse Hallway East to match the auxiliary bridge."
Jones gasped as the hallway went dark. "Mr Smythe, if the lights aren't on inside, she probably isn't in there."
By now, Smitty's eyes had begun to adjust to the ruddy glow that barely illuminated his underling's form. "She's using a different spectrum these days," he stated. "Have your eyes adjusted yet?"
"This is as dark as space," Jones complained.
"If it were any brighter, she'd know as soon as we opened the door. Are you ready?"
"I don't understand how anybody can see in this dimness, but yes, I'm ready."
"Computer, open the door to the auxiliary bridge."
"Access denied," said the neutral mechanical voice.
What the-? "For what reason?" he asked testily.
"I am to deny access to the auxiliary bridge until Lt MacDowell has completed her assignment."
"Still think she's not inside?" Smitty mumbled.
"Guess so," Jones stated. "What assignment?"
"Computer, Lt MacDowell doesn't have the authority to shut off the door to the auxiliary bridge."
"Her assignment came from a higher rank. She is not to be disturbed."
I really don't like the sounds of this. "Computer, who gave her this assignment?"
"Lt Cmdr Smythe," the voice stated.
"Computer, I am Lt Cmdr Smythe, serial number 10-31-20-15-92-5. I did not give Lt MacDowell any assignment, and I want this door opened now!"
The door slid open almost silently. Smitty and Jones walked inside, separated as they stepped to either side. Smitty saw her right away, despite the lack of lighting. She stood between the communications and engineering consoles, working on something. Her tool sparked, and he glimpsed a circuit board she was connecting in a web of wires strung between the consoles.
He didn't have time to wonder what she was doing, for Jones boldly walked halfway to her, his phazer steadily pointed. "Stop what you're doing, Mac!" he instructed loudly. "Get your hands up!"
She ignored him, of course. I told him she was deaf! I should have-
Jones' phazer emitted a hot pink line of power that was not lowest setting, and the circuit board shattered, making her jump back. Temporarily blinded, Smitty heard Jones moan, his body hit the floor, and something hard skittered for several feet.
What in space-? I can't see- "Computer, normal lighting."
Smitty blinked in the brightness. Colleen groaned and hid her eyes. After several steps, Smitty saw Jones sprawled on the floor, his forehead gashed, an electrical joining tool on the floor beside him. His phazer had skittered away, now rested against the bulkhead.
He turned to Colleen, his gaze flickered for half a second at the web of wiring - half of it broken and sagging, now. What was she doing? He studied her suspiciously, the oddly-colored hair and eyes, the face even whiter than normal. And somehow, he knew this was not - exactly - Colleen anymore.
"You've been studying. Human biochemistry, history, even transporter theory." But not communications. He pushed the stray thought aside. "You're not Colleen anymore. Someone, something has gotten hold of you." He pointed to the web of wiring. "Trying to take over the ship. I can't let that happen."
She cocked her head to one side, then inched forward. I can't let her shock me! Smitty raised his weapon a centimeter, and she stopped. Watching her, he moved toward an intercom.
She turned gray and leaned against the engineering console as a blue glow engulfed her. Eyes closed, her lips moved. At first, Smitty didn't hear anything, then he caught a whisper of... She opened her eyes. "S'thym."
She frowned as the glow faded and her dark eyes turned a more familiar shade of green. "Smythe!" she insisted, and staggered, apparently off balance.
She recognized me. "Maybe there is a piece of Colleen left inside. Maybe you don't have total control. Colleen, don't do this. Don't betray your own people!"
"I'm not!" she declared, but it was hardly more than a whisper. "Help call a-! She's only..." The voice faded into nothingness as the green faded from her eyes. Realizing she could no longer communicate, tears rolled from her eyes, and she lowered her head.
She answered me. She must have heard me. "You're not yourself, Colleen, I can see that. Just go to sickbay and let the medics take care of you!"
She didn't answer, but she did raise her head, wipe moisture from her cheeks and regard him thoughtfully. What's she up to now? After a nerve-racking moment, she gave a sad look at the destroyed web of wiring. He saw her sigh in frustration, then her gaze veered toward the door. When she stepped in that direction, Smitty hurriedly placed himself in front her, his phazer ready. "The only place you're going is sick bay."
She looked at him in confusion, gave her head a toss that made her pony tail sway. Relaxing her stance, she smiled, lowered her chin an inch and gave him an extremely enticing look. Didn't know real women ever gave that look. Thought it was only in the streams. And I'm not sure the actresses in the streams ever did it justice. I feel just as loopy as the actors pretend to be. The promises that look makes...
Smitty wiped sweat from his brow and realized Colleen was 2 feet closer. She's trying to shock me unconscious so she can get away. He quickly stepped back, trying to keep a safe distance between them, remembered he still had his phazer. He wriggled the weapon. "Don't make me do this, Colleen."
Her lips parted and the tip of her tongue peeked out, as erotic as any of the dreams he'd ever had about her. This is no dream. But it can't be real!
His back found a bulkhead. Smitty's mind frantically snatched at any thought that might break her hold on him, although his body was eagerly reacting to the promises her eyes made. Finally, his mind found the answer. She's Bugalu's girl, just waiting for him to wake up and realize it. She has no interest in me. She's only teasing, using my weakness to make a fool of me. If I let her.
"It won't work," he told her as firmly as he could. "I have my orders."
She suddenly lunged sideways and raced down the darkened corridor. His efforts to keep distance between them had him back out the door to the opposite side of the corridor! "Blast!" He raised the phazer, but she turned into the cross corridor before he could aim. He ran after her, but by the time he got around the corner, she was gone.

Well, she did it. Winthrop will definitely have something to say about my having let her escape again! And probably the captain, too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Another Dream?

Month 6 Day 11
0048 Hours

Smitty barely caught himself before he fell out of his chair.
"Are you alright?" Takor raised its head to study him.
Smitty was trapped in a pair of green eyes, so much like- Transparent nictitating eyelids slid over the green pupils and back again, chasing that thought out of his mind. He looked away and regained his seat. "Yes, I... lost my balance." He cleared his throat. "Have you given any thought to Nurse Temple's idea that these scriggles might represent some sort of alien blood?"
"They might," Takor returned. "The writing directly above represents the basic chemicals in human blood. I believe I have identified the 'squiggles' for hydrogen and oxygen, but they are configured differently, so if this is blood, it is neither human nor Sciss. Nor..."
Smitty's hearing faded as he fought a huge yawn. When he finally finished it, he opened his eyes wide, trying to stay awake. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that last bit."
"He said it isn't the blood of those Penoc creatures, either," Burke stated from her seat at Navigation. "You're dead on your feet, Smitty, and you aren't even on your feet. Go take a nap."
"Captain, I-"
"I've checked the records," she interrupted. "I know how long you've been working." When he hesitated, she went on. "Takor's people don't sleep as much as humans, so he can continue working on that puzzle. And Abdulla can handle repairs to communications."
He glanced at Abdulla, currently seated at the Engineering console. "She's otherwise occupied," he muttered.
The lieutenant glanced his way. "Neither one of us can actually work on communications until Fabrication sends up new parts."
"Smitty, go take a nap!" Burke repeated.
"Yes, captain," he acquiesced, and carefully started for the lift.
Before he reached it, the door opened, and 3 techs got off. Their coveralls were red, but Smitty couldn't remember their names.
"Mr Smythe," the male greeted him. "Dr Koontz told us to report to the bridge, but we aren't any of us trained for bridge work."
"Good, more newly healthy," Burke stated. "Good night, Smythe." As he stumbled forward again, he heard her ask, "Where are you normally assigned?"
"Laundry," the male answered, while the women's answers were "Hydroponics" and "Fabrication."
Smitty stumbled off the lift with no memory of the lift ride. As the doors closed behind him, he had a wild thought this might not be the right deck, but a glance around said it was. He plodded forward, toward his quarters, which were down this corridor and a jog to his left. A somewhat longer jog, for he had no need to enter his living room. The way he felt, he'd be lucky to manage that 'somewhat longer jog' to go straight to his bedroom. One foot, the other foot. Keep going. Almost there.
He blinked as he stumbled into something, realized it was the foot of his bed. The blanket was a jumble atop it, and that confused him, until he remembered the entire crew was sick, and nobody had been around to make his bed in... weeks? Months? Can't remember. Not important.
He shucked off his boots, lowered his trousers, crawled onto his bed from the foot. When his arms gave out, his head wasn't on the pillow, and his feet hung over the end, but he didn't care. "Four hours," he muttered at his alarm clock. "Lights out."
She's here, standing over my bed, watching me. This dream, again! And me too tired to resist. Why resist? Come here. He reached out, but she backed away hurriedly, bumped into his dresser against the other wall. Strange. She's always been willing before. The seductress, in fact. Her lips curled into a sad smile, she shook her head, blew him a kiss, and was gone. He heard the door close.
Strange variation of that dream. Wonder what it means. Maybe she's finally given up on me, she's moving on. At long last, that door has closed. He breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed into his mattress.
His eyes flew open. I heard the door close. "Lights on," he requested as he sat up. His over-tired eyes smarted in the sudden brightness. His face burned at the thought that she had seen him semi-clothed. Ridiculous. It was completely dark. Then how did I see her? I didn't, it was a dream. Variation on a theme. But I heard her leave.
He climbed out of bed and pulled his pants up from around his calves, stepped over to the opening to his living room.
She wasn't there. His eyes took in the entire room in an instant - computer, desk, liquor cabinet, couch, everything - and she wasn't to be seen. He took a deep breath and let it out as utter fatigue washed through him again. I have something that vaguely resembles a dream I've had before, and I go crazy. Which isn't far to go, considering how close to insanity she's driven me. Space, I need sleep.
He turned back, to repeat his climb into bed. "Lights out." He stopped unfastening his trousers as the brightness was replaced by a deep red glow. His head swiveled to stare at the computer screen, which was no longer dark, but bathed most of his living room in a ruby sheen.
Legs wooden, heart frozen, he managed to sit at the desk and forced his eyes to try to focus on the screen. I left this display with normal parameters. Now it's down near infrared again. She was here! I was too tired to notice. If she's deaf, she wouldn't have heard me, but if she had the lights off - like in Takor's quarters - them coming on when I entered would have alerted her. I'm surprised she didn't just run, as soon as- Oh, Black Space, she really was in my bedroom, looking at me!
He jerked his thought away from that idea, reached out to adjust the screen. Why would she come back here? Because this is the last place anyone would look for her, having found her here once? Or was she doing something here she can't do anyplace else? He flipped through the open files, sent copies to Takor on the bridge. She could read technical manuals on nearly any screen, but these theoretical magazines are only available here, in my cabin.

She can't pass a simple communications probation test, there's no way she could make sense out of these magazines!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Month 6 Day 10
Capt Jane Burke
2208 Hours
It made Jane's skin crawl, to have Winthrop accompany her to Sick Bay. Still, I want him where I can see him. If this were a civilian ship, I could fire him and get a replacement. Promote Bear, maybe. Left just Takor, Abdulla and Bugalu on the bridge, but handling all stations will be easier if Winthrop isn’t there.
Ingersol lay on one examination bed, an arm bent over his face. Duck was on the next bed, apparently taking a nap. Verasis Flu spots covered his face. Across the room, Nurse Temple massaged Tall Bear's arm. Smitty stood at a computer console next to them, muttering to himself.
"Let yourself succumb, Beth," the AmerInd softly told the white-faced nurse. "The longer you put it off, the worse it will be."
She gave him a wan smile, her voice hoarse. "Where did you get your degree, Doctor? That's not true, even if everybody says it. I'm in no hurry."
"It can't be blood," Smitty stated.
Temple turned her head, paused her massage to rub her blood-shot eyes. "Not human blood," she stated. "Nor Sciss. We learned something from those lithium-based creatures on Penoc. Biochemistry is complex, but all built on the basics of chemistry. We call ourselves carbon-based, but our blood is based more on iron."
"You still think these squiggles represent... blood?"
Temple tried to hide a yawn. "I don't know. That was my first thought, but I could be deluding myself. Mac always has a reason for what she does, even if that 'reason' seems... well, kind of crazy." She resumed her massage of Bear's arm. "Maybe what you need is a cryptographer."
"The sooner you get sick," Bear told her, "the sooner you'll get well. Tell you what, I can reciprocate this massage, once you're healthy."
Temple's lips pursed. "I could have sworn you were chasing a certain redhead."
"On duty - that's my job," he returned. "Off duty - I'm not making any headway."
Jane so seldom got to hear any private conversations, she was loathe to let them know she was there.
Winthrop, however, had no such qualms. "You're not making any headway on duty, either," he snapped. "You find her twice and lose her twice! Explain yourself!"
As Bear's head swiveled toward his superior, his gaze flickered briefly at his captain. Jane wiped the scowl from her face, hoped he realized it wasn't for him. "She's one hell of a woman," he responded.
Winthrop turned red. "I was speaking of her ability to escape, not her skill in bed!"
Anger flashed in Bear's dark eyes, but his face remained impassive. "So was I."
"Tell me what happened," Burke invited, cutting off Winthrop's tantrum.
"She was ready for us. She'd padded one of Mr Takor's weapons, and turned out the lights, so as soon as the door opened, the corridor light alerted her. It only took a couple swipes with that... spear-thing to knock Ingersol out of the room and down for the count. I don't think he even saw it coming."
Ingersol sighed. "I've been trying to figure out what happened."
"Then she trapped me against a wall with the thing. But she made the mistake - I thought it was a mistake, at the time - of trying to get close enough to smash a bottle on my head, so I grabbed for her. I missed, but I got a Space of a shock up my arm. Everything went dim. I'd heard Mr Smythe approach, tried to tell him to keep away..." He sighed. "Having dispatched both of us, she disappeared."
"Smythe didn't even try to stop her?" Winthrop demanded.
Smitty looked up in outrage, but Tall Bear responded quicker. "Don't know how he could have. She would have decked him or shocked him. How does she do that?"
"We don't know," Jane told him. "That shock is why we said to avoid physical contact. Don't you believe in following instructions?"
"Not when it contradicts an order to restrain her," Bear replied. "I figured that was because she decks any man who puts a hand on her. If we can't touch her, and can't use weapons, we need some sort of hand-held tractor beam. Then at least we'd have a chance."
I like an officer who can speak plainly. Still... "Lt MacDowell is a petite young lady from a backwards planet. Yet she's beaten a muscular security lieutenant - yourself - twice."
Tall Bear shrugged off Temple's ministrations and began flexing his arm. "Thanks, Beth. Still feels tingly, but it works." He turned to his captain and one corner of his mouth raised a hair. "Mac's from a heavy gravity planet and works out regularly under the simulated gravity of her homeworld. In this gravity - what we consider normal - she packs twice the punch it seems she would. She also spent the first 16 years of her life with 8 older brothers; a rough and tumble lot, I hear. She sees my muscles and training, and raises me one electrical charge. I-"
"Sick bay to sick bay," came over the intercom. "Space, that sounds weird."
Jane pressed the toggle. "Dr Koontz. You sound like you might be alive."
"Captain? Ah, yes, there was nobody else down here to do it, so I released myself for duty."
"Glad to hear it."
"I've got a dozen requests from people who also want to be released."
"Good. Send them to the bridge."
"Uh, they're not all trained for bridge duty, captain."
"Right now, too few people can work, so I'll decide what they'll do on a case by case basis."
"Yes, sir. Is Dr MacGregor available? I have a... personnel question for him."
"Sorry, Dr Koontz, he's got the flu."
"I suspected. Maybe I can find Nurse Temple."
"I'm here, doctor," Beth said. "Is this about a nurse?"
"Yes, um..." He lowered his voice. "Nurse Monroe. How long has she been down with the flu?"
Beth frowned. "She was the 10th patient, if I remember right."
"That's what I remember, too. She's still sick? Or sick with something else now?"
Beth's voice became icy. "She says she's still sick. I'm not a doctor; I can't prove she isn't."
"I see. Captain, can you clarify the level of my authority-"
"Are there any other doctors around?"
"Um, if MacGregor is ill, I appear to be the only one capable of standing."
"Then you are in charge of sick bay. And all medical personnel."
"Thank you, captain. Sick bay out."
“If this represents blood that isn’t based on iron,” Smitty asked, “then what does it use to tie up oxygen?”
Temple turned again, and Tall Bear grabbed her to keep her from falling. “My turn, I guess,” she muttered, and let Bear help her onto a bed. Eyes closed, she quietly stated, “Copper, iron, lithium are the ones we know of. Bound to be others. Does it have to be oxygen they need?”
“Smitty, Nurse Temple is too ill to help you puzzle that out. Ask Takor. Biochemistry is one of his fields,” Jane suggested.
Smitty looked up, realized the nurse was in a bed. “Ah, good idea, captain.” He walked out slightly faster than his normal gait.
Jane turned back to Tall Bear. “Where were we?”
Tall Bear’s back straightened. “I want another crack at bringing in Mac.”
Jane turned to look at the other young security man. “How's Ingersol?”
“Concussion,” Temple stated.
“Back to work, Ingersol!” Winthrop ordered.
"Stay in that bed." MacGregor didn't open his eyes; he sounded worse than he looked. "He's a patient, Winthrop. Until he's released for duty, he doesn't follow your orders."
Winthrop leaned towards Jane. "Captain, I can't have MacGregor undermining my authority-"
"Winthrop, even I can't countermand a ship's doctor, when it comes to medical treatment," she reminded him sharply. She faced Tall Bear. "Sorry, lieutenant. You'll have to spar with her another time. Take half those being released from sick bay to help you search. Set phazers to stun, and shoot as soon as you see her. I don't want her getting away again."
"Jane!" Drake somehow managed to rise to an elbow, looking ghastly. He labored for breath. "Don't do it, Jane!"
She crossed over to take his hand reassuringly, hoped he wasn't too ill to be reasonable. "Duck, consider her actions. She's fought 2 men to a standstill, left one unconscious and the other nearly so. Twice. Ingersol has a concussion. She could have attacked Smitty!"
"She wasn't trying to hurt anybody!" Duck argued. "She padded Takor's weapon, to avoid cuttings. You told them to keep their distance, and that's all she's trying to do! Stay away."
There's no reasoning with him right now. She patted his shoulder. "Try to rest."
He grabbed her arm. "She's protecting herself, can't you see? She's suddenly deaf, must be scared, confused, doesn't know why security keeps attacking her! And that strange electrical charge. There's no telling how that might react with a stun! It may kill her!"
The death of a crew member always makes me feel old. Especially one with so much life left to live. Jane removed his hand and helped ease him down to the mattress. "It's a chance we- I have to take. Rest. She may need you, when they bring her in."
Duck's eyes closed as moisture squeezed between his lids. "Space, I'm sorry, Mac," he whispered.
Jane straightened her back and adjusted her tunic, then walked over to the intercom. "Captain to sick bay. Dr Koontz?"
It took a moment for the doctor to answer. "Yes, captain?"
"MacGregor and Temple both have the flu. Ingersol is here with a concussion. I know you're swamped, but you might have somebody come up and check on them from time to time."
"Thank you for the info. I'll ask the yeoman to pull their bed readouts to a computer down here."
"Yeoman?" The medical staff doesn't have any yeomen.
"She's not medically trained, but she's been here, helping in all sorts of ways for at least a week. Can't remember her name; not sure I've ever heard it, but a blue uniform."

"Yellow Dog," she stated in sudden realization. "Mr Takor's yeoman." So that's where she's been. She's so quiet when she's in the room, I didn't realize she was missing. "Send everybody you release to the bridge, as I said. Except medical staff, of course. Burke out." She turned to Winthrop and Tall Bear, jerked her head toward the door. "Come on. We should be there when the newly healthy arrive."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Another Look

Month 6 Day 10
2116 Hours

Smitty entered his quarters, stopped just inside the door. What a mess! Discs and papers were strewn across the desk, a chair was overturned, an open bottle rested against the bottom of the couch with a dark pool of whiskey surrounding it. One of my bottles, not hers.
He sighed and stepped into the bedroom, where a blanket lay on the floor, a boot beside it. He shook his head, tossed the blanket to the bed, put the boot in the closet, returned to the living room.
He set the chair upright, sat down to consider the computer screen. “Computer, reset to what was displayed before Lt Tall Bear looked at this screen.” His eyes automatically squinted as the screen brightened considerably. I wanted to see what she was looking at when they found her, but I can hardly see anything at all on this screen, the controls have been set so far from normal. I don’t remember Tall Bear mentioning that.
He reset the screen controls to something closer to 'normal' and glanced through the various files. Interesting. Not sure it makes sense. That file she started on her own isn’t using Gaelund. Definitely not Sciss. Just squiggles, to me. I’ll transfer these files to the bridge, and we can all take a stab at them together. As he reached to do that, his gaze landed on the lower border of the screen. These files are already being shared. With… Takor’s quarters? Takor’s on the bridge. Then who- I’d better find Tall Bear.
When Smitty left his room, a loud thump made him dash down the corridor in that direction. Outside Takor’s quarters, Ensign Ingersol was against the bulkhead but now slid unconscious to the floor. Smitty stopped short as Tall Bear backed out of the Scission’s room. The AmerInd was being shoved by a long ancient Scission weapon, which had a towel wrapped around the business end. The weapon's length meant that only as Tall Bear was pressed against the bulkhead did his assailant emerge, looking worried, but – for the moment – the master of the situation.
“Colleen!” Smitty blurted.
She didn’t respond, although Tall Bear flashed a palm in his direction, apparently to tell him not to interfere. The AmerInd’s gaze never left Colleen’s face. “Okay, Mac, I’m against the wall. You don’t want to hurt me, or you wouldn’t have padded the weapon. I can’t get you, but you can’t let go. Stalemate. Now what?”
Rather than answer, she took a drink from the bottle she held in one hand. That one’s her brand. I don’t know if Takor can tolerate alcohol.
Despite the earlier statement that Coleen was now deaf, Tall Bear continued to reason with her. “Come on, it’s me. The guy who makes sure you can eat lunch and study without being pestered, remember? There’s no need for us to be at odds. Just go to sick bay and let MacGregor check you out. It won’t take long; it’s plain you don’t have the flu.” Then he grunted. "Okay, you don't like that idea, but you don't need to shove a blunted weapon through my chest."
She finished the bottle's contents, reversed her hold on the neck and began to edge down the weapon toward him. Bear grabbed for her, and she jumped back. His hand didn’t get any closer than half a foot from her, but Smitty plainly saw a great black spark jump that gap. Tall Bear slumped to the floor. Colleen staggered, dropped the weapon and bottle, and sagged against the wall, breathing heavily.
Smitty stepped forward without thinking. “Colleen!”
Her head jerked up, as if she’d heard him. The pupils of her eyes roiled with shades of gray and green. A tear ran down her cheek. She reached out, as if to caress his face, and she spoke, but no sound came from her lips.
Smythe took another step. Her eyes darkened to pine, her hand snapped back and she slid away along the wall.
Tall Bear groaned, and Smitty looked at the 2 men on the floor. Colleen stopped to also look at the men, her lower lip caught between her teeth. She took half a step toward them, then stopped, misery and guilt plain on her face. She tossed a pleading look at Smitty, then turned and raced away.
Bear's right, she insulated the weapon to avoid shocking him, so she knows she’s electrically charged. Planned to use that bottle to knock him unconscious, so she didn’t realize how far that charge could jump. I think she heard me. And Bear’s groan. That was after the discharge. But I couldn’t hear what she said.
Smitty made sure Ingersol was breathing, then stepped to the nearest intercom. “Smythe to bridge.”
“Burke here,” the captain answered. He could hear her stifle a yawn. “What is it, Smitty?”
“I could use someone medical here on five, if there’s anyone available. They found Co- uh, MacDowell again. Ingersol’s unconscious, and Tall Bear’s semi-conscious.”
“I suppose she had returned to your quarters,” Winthrop sneered in the background.
“She was in Takor’s quarters,” Smitty returned icily. “Studying the same files she had open on my computer.”
“Since you only mentioned Ingersol and Tall Bear,” Jane stated, “I assume Lt MacDowell is no longer there.”
Smitty swallowed and glanced around. “No sign of her. She could be anywhere.”
“Good,” MacGregor breathed, barely heard by the engineer. “I’m on my way.”
“Are you sure, Duck?” Jane asked. “You look like last week’s spent fuel cell.”
“There’s no one else,” MacGregor returned.
“Try to find time for a nap,” the captain suggested. “Smitty, did you make any sense out of what MacDowell was… studying?”
“It’s a mishmash,” he answered. “It might help if I could make sense of her notes. I only recognized half the symbols she used, a kind of engineering shorthand." And when, exactly, did she learn that? "The other half is not Gaelund. The files are still open. Have Abdulla clone them to the bridge and you can see it yourself.”
“Great Spirit, what did she hit me with?” Tall Bear wondered as he tried to climb to his knees.
“Electricity,” Smitty answered. “I think. It jumped further than she expected it would, but didn’t seem to hinder her as much as it did you. And the bolt was black.”
“My entire arm is numb,” Tall Bear complained.
"Dr MacGregor is on his way," Jane stated across the intercom.

Yes, but telling him he looked like last week's spent fuel cell was pure flattery. "Stay where you are, Bear," Smitty suggested. "Ingersol's still unconscious, and we need to wait for MacGregor. Then I'll help you two-" Or rather, the 3 of them. "-get to sick bay.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Unhappy Report

Month 6 Day 10
Jane Burke
2109 Hrs

Winthrop stood next to Jane’s chair as they argued over the ship’s blueprint she had displayed on her personal screen. He’s admitted the current search isn’t likely to find the girl, but the only alternative he’ll consider is that he draft everybody, close all the airtights and conduct a ‘proper’ search. Completely ignoring the epidemic, the planet we’re orbiting and any reaction they might have to our presence. A security chief without flexible thinking is worse than no chief at all!
The intercom on Jane’s chair arm beeped. “Captain?” Tall Bear sounded breathless and somewhat confused.
Winthrop punched Jane’s reply button before she had a chance to. “Winthrop here. What is it, Bear?”
“Ahh,” Tall Bear stammered, probably surprised to be answered by his immediate boss rather than the captain. “We… found Mac. MacDowell. But she got away. She was on deck 5.”
“Her quarters are on four,” Winthrop pointed out sharply.
“Yes, sir,” the Amerind agreed calmly. “She wasn’t in her quarters.”
“Then where was she?” Winthrop demanded.
“She, uh… she was in Smythe’s quarters.”
Winthrop turned and glared at the communications console. “Smythe!”
Something sizzled and Smitty peered out of an open hatch again. “Now what?”
“Why was MacDowell in your quarters?”
“How would I know?” Smitty barked back. “She’s never been-“ He stopped suddenly and his cheeks went pink. “I’ve got work to do,” he stated and turned away.
“Perhaps you know her better than you pretend,” Winthrop remarked.
Smitty’s face returned to glare at the security chief. “What are you insinuating?”
“Enough!” Jane put enough bite in her voice to make even Winthrop pause. With a brief glare at him that she hoped might make him remember his place in the scheme of things, she punched the button on her intercom connection. “Lt Tall Bear, what did you find MacDowell doing in Mr Smythe’s quarters?”
“I don’t believe it!” Duck groused in disgust, and wrapped his blanket tighter around himself. Jane exchanged confused looks with Bugalu, who rolled his eyes and shrugged.
“Exactly what was she studying?” Takor asked.
“I haven’t had time to look. Just a second.” The connection stayed open, and she heard a groan in the background. “You okay, Ingersol?”
“Space, she packs a punch!” Ingersol moaned.
Duck looked up. “She hit him?”
Winthrop interrupted. “How did she get away? There’s two of you, and she’s just a short bit of a girl.”
Some days, I wish he wasn't my subordinate so I could show him just what 'girls' can do.
It took a moment for Tall Bear to answer. “We underestimated her. She used her whiskey- she used a number of things as weapons. Threw whiskey in Ingersol’s eyes. We chased her into the bedroom, where she tossed a blanket over us. Then- I thought she was kicking us, but I found one of Mr Smythe’s spare boots next to us after she’d left, so I figure she hit us with the boot on her hand.”
“No direct physical contact,” Takor muttered.
“It felt like she kicked us,” Ingersol commented.
“After her!” Winthrop commanded. “She can’t have gotten far!”
“Just a moment!” Jane barked and paused to adjust her tunic. I have had just about enough of Winthrop! “Have you discovered what MacDowell was studying?”
“Kind of,” Tall Bear replied. "She’s got several files open, including basic radio, communications, some on theoretical radio transportation, engineering…”
“Yes, yes, very interesting,” Winthrop broke in. “But it doesn’t tell us where she’s gone! Get after her!”
“Mr Winthrop!” Jane said loud enough to get the man’s attention. “Must I remind you of one of the first lessons taught to security cadets? ‘Know your enemy!’ I, for one, am not sure Lt MacDowell is our enemy, but even if it turns out that she is – especially if it turns out she is – then it behooves us to learn all we can about what she is doing, in order to figure out what she might plan to do!”
“We have to find her, disable her, and get her locked up!” Winthrop argued. “We already know what she’s up to! She’s out to sabotage this ship! She attacked Mr Takor, and now she’s attacked two of my men! She’s got to be-“
“Enough!” Jane roared, rising to her feat. “Mr Winthrop, I am taking charge in this matter! For now, you will take a seat at the Weapons console, and your only concern is being prepared to return fire, should I order you to do so! Am I understood?”
“Captain, I am Chief of Security! It’s my duty-“
“You are an officer on my ship, and your first duty is to follow my orders! If you can’t, I will relieve you of all duties and have you confined to your quarters!”
At long last, it seemed she had gotten through to him. The wild defiance in his eyes finally settled, although she thought she still saw a hint of sly conniving. He gave her a sloppy salute. “Aye, aye, captain.” He turned and walked to the weapons console.
Takor stepped closer and quietly stated, "I do not believe Ms McDowell attacked me. It seemed pure accident."
"I'm aware of that, Takor." Jane sat back down, realized the intercom connection was still open. “Tall Bear, is there anything else MacDowell was studying?”
“Uh, yeah. Surprised me, but she had a file open on human biology, and…”
“Birds and bees,” Drake muttered, and Bugalu gave him a startled look.
“   another file,” Tall Bear went on, “that looks like notes, calculations. But some of the words, symbols don’t look familiar. I don’t even think they’re Scission.”
“Gaelund?” Jane suggested.
“I’d have to see it,” both Abdulla and Bugalu stated.
“Hmm. Tall Bear, leave the computer as it is; I’ll send someone down to take a look. How is Ingersol doing?”
“I’m okay, captain.” Ingersol’s voice came from further away than Tall Bear’s. “I just needed to, uh, catch my breath.”
“Good. Try to pick up MacDowell’s trail. And please be more careful the next time you find her. You might try talking to her.”
“He did try,” Ingersol stated. “It didn’t do any good.”
“Really?” Jane returned. “I thought you got along with nearly everyone, Bear.”
“Mac and I get along fine,” Bear answered. “But talking didn’t work because she didn’t hear me. Not just what I said, but any noise we made.”
“Yeah, she was acting pretty deaf,” Ingersol added. “Didn’t know we were there until she actually saw us.”
“Mac’s… deaf?” Bugalu muttered in shock.
I understand. How can she function as a communications officer if she can’t hear?
Abdulla tried to brush off her uniform as she turned from communications. “I’ll go look at what Mac was doing.”
Bugalu stood. “Captain, I volunteer to see what Mac was doing. I know how she thinks. I have an overview of both engineering and communications, a couple courses of biology, and her brother was my Academy roommate, so I can recognize Gaelund.”
“Captain,” Smitty said, emerged from inside the equipment and approached her chair. “I’ll go,” he stated. “It’s my quarters, I have the knowledge, including the theoretical.”
“Biology?” Jane asked quietly.
“Captain,” he protested.
“And recognizing Gaelunder?”
“One of my instructors was Gaelund,” he returned. “I still exchange letters with him, and he still sometimes forgets to translate a word or two. I can’t speak it, but I can recognize it. Did I mention it’s my quarters?”
Jane smiled. “Go. See if you can make sense of it.”

“Thank you, captain.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Found Again

Month 6 Day 10
Tall Bear
2056 Hours

There were only 2 of them to search the entire ship. Ingersol waited in the hall while Tall Bear opened a door and took a cursory look inside, then Bear waited while Ingersol opened a door on the other side of the corridor. This is not a way to search effectively. I can understand Winthrop’s statement he needed more men- more people to do a proper search for Mac. But unlike him, I also understand that there aren’t any people to spare for that project. Great Spirit, Engineering is down to 3 people! Well, 4, but Della worked nearly 24 hours, and she’s down for a time. Smythe won’t stop until communications is finally working again. Or he winds up in Sick Bay. Surprised he hasn’t landed there yet.

Bear was so convinced this method wouldn’t work that he was startled when Ingersol’s eyes rounded as he looked inside the latest quarters he had opened, and he frantically motioned to Bear. Going over to stand beside his partner, Bear looked in, saw a familiar figure parked, as usual, at the computer viewscreen. Another thing she’s done that’s normal. For her. But I never thought to see her doing it here!

Moving as softly and quietly as they could, they stepped inside the officer’s living room, stopped warily when the door shushed closed behind them. Mac’s gaze stayed glued on the viewscreen. She’s so intent on whatever she’s studying, she doesn’t even realize we’re here. That’s not like her.

Tall Bear signaled Ingersol to go one way, while he angled to the other. But as he fanned out, Ingersol didn’t pay enough attention to his surroundings and bumped into a chair. They both stopped again, expecting some reaction from the woman, but she simply raised a hand to trace something on the screen with a finger. She didn’t hear that? How could she not?

“Mac?” Bear stated calmly. “We’re supposed to take you to Sick Bay.”

She raised her other hand, and it seemed both hands were pointing at different things on the screen while her lips moved.

Still no reaction. I’m definitely not used to her ignoring me. In fact, she’s acting like she’s deaf.

Mac reached with her left hand to pour herself another drink from a half-full bottle. As she raised the glass to her mouth, her eyes veered from the screen, and she caught sight of Ingersol. After a split-second of shock, she became a whirlwind of activity. The glass flew toward Ingersol, who screamed as some of the pungent liquid landed in his eyes. Then the bottle flew at Tall Bear, but he was lucky enough to duck it.

Knowing that whiskey in the eyes was painful but not fatal, Bear ran around the desk after Mac, who had disappeared into the bedroom. Blast, there’s 2 ways out of that room, and neither of them is guarded! He took a quick glance behind him, to find Ingersol following, his eyes squinty, red and watering profusely.

Blackness settled over Bear, and the softness that surrounded him made him realize a blanket had been thrown over him. He started to pull it off, but someone – most likely Ingersol – fell against his back and then slid to the floor, making Bear stumble and almost lose his balance.

Someone kicked him just above his ear. He staggered in surprise. Shorty can kick that high? After another stunning head blow, he fell to his knees. In a kind of dim semi-consciousness, he heard a dull thump, then a door swooshed open and shushed close. His thoughts whirled for a time before they began to make sense. Is it over? Did Shorty beat me? Us? How long has it been since that last kick she gave me? She must be gone. Winthrop will be enraged that she got away. Always full of surprises, that Mac.