Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Takor’s Experiment

Month 6 Day 1
0733 Hours

Takor knew, without consulting a chronometer, that the end of the shift was approaching. It could feel the touch of fatigue in the humans on the bridge, along with the first stirrings of anticipation. However, Lt MacDowell, who was deep in an explanation of her extended family in response to one of its questions, had an enormous weight of fatigue in her body, and seemed to experience no anticipation for the shift’s end.
Takor had its own growing anticipation, but not because of fatigue. Its main reason for coming to the bridge tonight was to be here during the shift change. Over the past week, it had not noticed a change in personal human pheromones that would explain... Except for last night. But its curiosity was aroused, and therefore, it would not leave the bridge until after the day shift arrived. Then, it planned, it would check at its office, give some instructions to its yeoman, and go to bed.
It realized MacDowell had stopped talking. “It seems very complicated. How do you keep them all straight?”
“I do have a large family,” she admitted. “But surely there must be parallels in your own culture. You have 2 parents, as do I. Other than your pair-sibling, what do you call other children of your parents?”
She gave a small nod. “Humans call them brothers and sisters, depending on their gender. In my case, I don’t have any sisters, only brothers; all my siblings are male. What about the parents of your parents?”
“Normally, we use that person’s name, but we do have 4 different phrases we could use, depending on which parent of which parent we mean.”
“We call them grand-parents. Although, we, too, have phrases to designate which grandparent we mean, if that’s necessary. What about the siblings of your parents?”
“They are simply members of the clan. Tribe. I don’t think humans have an exact word for what I mean.”
“Probably not. Clan, tribe, kin, relatives, extended family... Multiple words with multiple meanings, depending on who’s using them and what they are trying to say. Many times they don’t even translate exactly into another human language.”
“How many languages do you know?”
“I grew up with Gaelic and English, as well as Welsh. After 4 years at the Academy, I had a working knowledge of almost all the Earth languages. Except the native North American tongues and indigenous Australian. Turns out few of those wander into space, but Tall Bear thinks that will change. I’ve picked up enough Apache from him to make myself understood. Mostly. Working on tugs didn’t give me much chance to learn any languages, and I haven’t had any real opportunity to study any of the colonial dialects while here, but I do appreciate the few words of Sciss that you’ve taught me.”
“Scisson,” Takor corrected. “We are the Sciss people, we speak the Scisson language.”
“Everybody on your planet speaks the same language?”
“With some minor regional differences. We have traded and mated with each other since we emerged from the sea. Neither would be easy to accomplish if our language became unintelligible to each other.”
“Mac, I-“ Lt Bugalu came to a sudden halt as he approached the communications console, apparently because Takor was there. “Good morning,” he greeted blankly.
“Good morning, Lt Bugalu,” MacDowell returned politely.
Takor considered that greeting as the helmsman headed for his own assignment. “You used rank and full name,” it observed.
Mac nodded. “I can’t use nick names on duty.”
“He is not on duty yet,” it stated.
The redhead flashed a big smile. “But I am.”
“Not really. I’m here to relieve you,” Abdulla stated, leaning against the equipment.
MacDowell turned her seat to the newcomer. “Are you sure? You don’t look well.”
Takor turned his attention to the darker skinned woman, decided she did look paler than normal.
“You know we’re under quarantine,” Abdulla stated. “The way I understand it, we’re all likely to catch this... what did McGregor call it? Verasis Flu. Or was it Verasis Measles? Can’t remember. Anyway, I figure I’ll work until I absolutely can’t handle it anymore, and then I’ll report to sick bay. No telling just how long this quarantine will last.”
“It’s probably measles,” MacDowell returned. “Gaelund’s Port City had an outbreak a few decades back and put itself under quarantine. After a month, some rich guy decided he was losing money, being unable to import and export, so he started having ships from the space station use the New Dublin airport.”
“He had space ships use an airport?” Abdulla repeated.
MacDowell considered that. “Well, it was before I was born, so I could be wrong, but I think he built a couple landing pads and extra-long runways right next to the airport, roads to get stuff to and from, warehouses... No telling what all he had to build. At first, he was the only company using them, but within a week, I think, other companies did, too. When passenger ships started using it, he turned it over to the airport authorities. So, before Port City lifted its quarantine, Gaelund had a 2nd space port, on the other side of the globe, and they both keep pretty busy, these days.” She paused. “That was a long way of saying I’ve heard of Verasis Measles, but not Verasis Flu.”
“It really doesn’t matter what it’s called. We’re all expected to come down with it,” Abdulla responded. “Except possibly you, Mr Takor.”
Takor gave a slight nod. “There has been no reported cases of any Sciss contracting Verasis Measles.” It had moved a little closer to the two women, could smell their perfumes intermingling, as well as their individual body odors, and there was nothing similar to the pheromones that had made him halt the test last night. He had not noticed anything like that between these two when they greeted each other on previous mornings, so he hadn’t really expected it to happen this morning.
“Let’s hope it stays that way,” Abdulla stated. “Come on, let me sit, Mac.” MacDowell obediently stood, and Abdulla plopped gracelessly into the chair.
“Lt Abdulla used a nick name,” Takor observed softly.
“She outranks me; she can call me anything she likes,” MacDowell returned, and began the pre-shift check for her friend.
“You’re right, Mr Takor, I shouldn’t have,” Abdulla stated. “Mac- Dowell, I’m supposed to be doing that!”
“You don’t look like you can keep your eyes open, let alone concentrate. I really think you should stand down and let me take this shift for you. It’s not like I have anything else to do.”
“And I think you should go to sick bay, get a sedative, and get some sleep!” Abdulla bit back.
“Be stuck in my nightmares all day? No thanks.”
“How can you be so stubborn?” Abdulla demanded. She looked over when the lift door opened. “Mr Smythe! Would you please tell Mac- Dowell that I am here for my shift - or as much of it as I can manage - so she can leave?”

Takor saw MacDowell stiffen as Abdulla greeted the chief engineer, and an interesting smell began to tickle its nostrils. Smythe stopped at the greeting, stared at the redhead, and reluctantly stepped forward. The aroma changed as another intermingled with it, and Takor felt the stirrings of-

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wrinkled Pattern

Month 5, Day 30
2326 Hours

He was awakened when his bedroom door opened, letting the corridor light shine in his face. “What is it?” he asked, bolting upright. He saw a red uniform in the doorway. “Is there an emergency?” The woman had red hair to go with the uniform. “Oh, it’s you.” Not this dream again! Thought I’d gotten past this one, but... apparently not. She walked over to stand beside his bed. “What do you want?” he growled, and hastily rearranged his blankets. How do I wake myself up, put an end to this?
The door closed, throwing the room into darkness. It took her a moment to answer his question, and her voice was high and tight. “I need help,” she told him. He sensed that she moved forward, inch by inch.
“You’ve had it,” he pointed out, his thoughts going back to shore leave, when these dreams seemed to start. “Bugalu and MacGregor, and who knows who else? That should be enough.” He punched his pillow, then stopped. This feels... wrong.
“They aren’t enough,” she returned. She was much closer than he had thought, and his body began to respond to her nearness. “I... I need... you.”
He heard the metallic sound of a uniform being unfastened. “You’re a subordinate. I don’t fraternize,” he almost said, but stopped in confusion. This isn’t the way it usually goes, is it? He reached out, trying to figure out just where she was, and his fingers touched the smooth silkiness of her uniform hose. “What’s going on?” he muttered to himself.
“I know I shouldn’t be here, but I... I had to come, and... and...”
“Shouldn’t the uniform be on the floor by now?” he wondered. The uniform fell to the floor with a soft ripple. “Yes, I’m sure that’s how it goes.” His fingers, having a mind of their own, traveled up her leg and found the hem of her shorts. “This shouldn’t be here,” he decided. Don’t remember her ever having her shorts on before.
He heard a sharp intake of breath, and her voice was at least 2 notes higher. “Do you want them... gone?”
Oh, yes. That would get us more on track with this dream. She’s so warm and- He froze as a terrible thought occurred to him. Maybe I’m not asleep. He bit his lip as a test, was dismayed to feel pain. Even so, he couldn’t just... pull his hand away. “Are you... offering sex?” His voice was husky; his lust would be unmistakable. She’ll know she’s got me.
It took a long time for her to respond, her voice so soft he nearly didn’t hear, “Is that what it will take?”
Feeling like he’d been dumped into a glacier, he reluctantly pulled his hand away from her warmth. How many times do we have to go through this? “You’re offering sex in exchange for-“ He couldn’t go on. He knew the answer, and he had an overwhelming urge to agree, to say anything that would get her into his bed.
“Help with my studies,” she breathed readily. “I thought... if you...”
Oh, she’s crafty. Won’t say it plainly, that she’ll give me sex for a passing grade on her test. That way, she can claim innocence, and I not only could wind up in trouble for falsifying a test score, but also for bedding a subordinate. He could feel his heart beat in his chest like a throbbing ache. And she might get away with it, because it might be worth it. To have her in my bed. For real. Just once.
She made a strange, unrecognizable noise. “I... have duty in about... 10 minutes.”
Is she asking me to relieve her for the night? To initiate sex right now? That’s more like the dream. It would definitely seal my doom; Jane would never let that slide. He forced himself to turn away from her and lay back down, pulling the blanket up to his chin. “You’d better get there, then.”
“But,... you haven’t said-“
He closed his eyes tightly and barked, “Go!” loud enough to be heard over the pounding in his ears. He never heard the door to indicate she had followed that order, and he couldn’t trust himself to open his mouth and repeat it.
He felt her sit on the edge of his bed. “What are you doing still here?” he asked in surprise. And hope.
“Looking for help,” she answered simply, and placed a warm hand on his shoulder.
“I told you-“ he started, rolling to his back, but her mouth covered his, and he got nothing else said. Speaking was not the urge that overwhelmed him as he pulled her closer, welcoming the warmth of her body that ignited an answering fire in his. This was what he wanted, what he needed; this woman, and he didn’t care if having her was taboo, or what her reasons might be for coming to him. The fact she was here was the important thing, not his rank, not his job, not-
Smitty opened his eyes to a dark room and a bed that felt woefully empty. “Colleen?” he asked in a whisper, but received no answer. He lay in the starless darkness, hardly able to breathe, unwilling to think. But eventually he whispered, “Lights, 20 per cent.” He stared all around his bedroom, but it was empty. The door to the bathroom was not locked.

He let out a deep, shuddering sigh. That dream again. He threw the covers off, sat up on the side of his bed. Took a strange twist this time. I almost thought it was real. He stood and scowled at the bathroom door. I hate cold showers, but it’s my only chance to get any sleep tonight. Reluctantly, he started forward. If it had been real, she never would have made her station on time. I couldn’t have let her go. Of all the women in the fleet, why did my body have to pick her?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Another Test...

Month 5, Day 30
2009 Hrs
Abdulla stopped as soon as the meeting room door closed behind them. “Why does that keep happening?”
But Mac didn’t stop; she walked past Bugalu and MacGregor as she headed down the hallway for the lift. Abdulla joined the men as they hurried after her. Mac glanced briefly back at them. “Do you mean my inability to pass my test? Or that Takor keeps telling us to leave the room?”
“Let’s start with the one that isn’t completely entrenched. Yet,” Abdulla returned. “I work with Takor on the bridge every day.” Until recently. “And Smythe frequently comes to the bridge. But Takor’s never acted like that. Which makes me think he must have a problem with you, Mac.”
“Level 7, east,” Mac told the lift once they were all aboard. “I don’t agree,” she told the other woman. “I might have, a month ago, but not now. He’s been spending time with me on midnights, and he doesn’t act like that then.”
“What do you mean, he spends time with you?” Abdulla asked.
“About a week ago, he started coming to the bridge during my shift, giving me pop quizzes. Sometimes, they take all shift. Other times, we move on to other subjects. Do you realize he has a pair-sibling back home?”
“Don’t change-“ Abdulla started.
“What is the world is-“ Bugalu interrupted.
“You’ve been talking to Takor about sex?” MacGregor asked in surprise, which shut up the other two.
Didn’t think she talked to anybody about that!
“No, not really,” Mac responded. “We’ve compared families and stuff like that. Occasionally, one of us asks a question that - between humans - might be considered sexual. I suppose. But I was curious why the Sciss are considered not to have a gender.”
“Actually, each Sciss has both genders,” MacGregor stated. “So they don’t have any gendered pronouns, which early contacts thought meant they don’t have any gender.” He glanced at Bugalu. “A pair-sibling results from the same sexual act. Since each participant is both genders, it’s infrequent that they don’t both get pregnant. Each mother is the other child’s father.”
“Yeah, that’s the way he explained it,” Mac agreed.
“That’s... mind-boggling,” Bugalu stated as the lift door opened and they headed for the rec room.
“Seems fairer than the human way, though,” Mac stated. “Anyway, what I was trying to point out is that he doesn’t act like that when we’re on the bridge. So I don’t think you can blame me for his acting like that.”
“Acting like what?” Bugalu asked as they found seats at a corner table.
The women looked at each other, and Abdulla sighed. “Everything is fine when we first get started with the test. Takor just sits there quietly, listening, observing. Smythe was almost... flippant tonight. Like he could see the end of some horrible ordeal.”
“Yeah, I imagine that’s how he sees it,” Mac muttered. With a sigh, she rested her head on Bugalu’s shoulder, and he wrapped an arm around her waist.
Well, it seems unprofessional to me. Abdulla cleared her throat and mind. “Then, about the time Mac lost her concentration, Takor ordered Mac and me out of the room.”
“Why?” Bugalu asked.
“We don’t know,” Mac answered. “He doesn’t give a reason.”
“Just you two?” MacGregor asked. “Not Smythe?”
“Just us,” Abdulla confirmed. “What in space it might mean is beyond me.”
“Hey, Shorty,” Tall Bear greeted as he paused at their table. “What’s the news on your test?”
“I failed,” Mac said simply.
“We were interrupted,” Abdulla corrected. “I don’t think tonight should count.”
“Even though Takor’s been helping you study?” Tall Bear asked the redhead.
Mac’s forehead wrinkled. “He hasn’t been helping me. He’s been testing me.”
“That’s all I can do, to help you study.”
MacGregor shook his head. “Takor was sure you’d pass. He told the captain you would.”
Mac considered the doctor as she thought about what he’d said. “Well, I didn’t.”
“I don’t understand. The idea, as I understand it, is if someone of Takor’s rank asked you the questions, you wouldn’t be so... intimidated by questions asked by Smythe.”
Mac rolled her eyes. “I’m not intimidated by rank!”
“So that brings up the other question,” Abdulla stated. “Why can’t you pass?”
Mac shrugged, as if the question wasn’t important.
Tall Bear’s big hand touched Abdulla’s shoulder briefly. “Didn’t you tell me, Abs, that Mac loses her concentration? Shorty, does your mind go completely blank, or do you find yourself thinking about something else?”
Her face crimson, the redhead abruptly stood, declared, “I should study,” and hurried away.
“Wait up!” Bugalu called, and hurried after her.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Tall Bear muttered. “Poor girl.” He moved off, toward the game tables.
Abdulla tried to figure out what Mac’s mind might move to in the middle of a test that would be so embarrassing for the other woman. Or was it just the fact that her mind did move on, instead of staying on track? “She doesn’t need to study! That’s all she’s been doing. What she needs is...” Her voice died, because she still didn’t know what else would help the redhead. She sighed. “I don’t know what she needs, but I need a drink.”
“You’re beginning to sound like her.”
MacGregor’s statement startled her; she had forgotten he was still there. “That’s a splash of cold water!”
“I thought you liked her.”
“I do. But I don’t want to be her. I certainly don’t want to be treated the way Smythe has been treating her. Ever!” Woops. Shouldn’t have said that. It just... slipped out. I expect he’ll have a few words to say to me about it. It’s been a long time since anyone’s given me a dressing down.
“How does he treat her?” the doctor asked mildly.
“I shouldn’t have said that,” she told him nervously. “Forget it. Tell me, exactly what is going on in sick bay that’s put the ship in quarantine?”
“Like the captain announced, we have a few cases of Verasis Flu.”
“Is that illness really bad?”
“It’s not fatal to humans, but it certainly isn’t pleasant. And it’s extremely contagious. Regulations require a ship go into quarantine as soon as we know we have it aboard, until the last patient has been dismissed for 2 weeks. Abdulla.” His hand on hers was not exactly insistent, but his blue eyes were intense. His voice lowered. “What you said does not exactly surprise me. That particular officer has himself made a few... allegations about his behavior. He seems as confused by it as you. Still, if he’s not treating her fairly, somehow can’t manage it, then someone should bring it to the captain’s attention. It might as well be me. I’ll keep your name out of it.”
She bit her lower lip in indecision. Beth seems to think MacGregor can be trusted. I don’t know if he can keep my name out of it, since all I’ve got are my observations during the testing process. Even if he manages it, the captain’s smart; she’ll figure out his source. So will Smythe, but he already knows what I think of his behavior. And if I don’t tell someone, then it’s like I condone that behavior. She scooted her chair closer to his and lowered her voice. “I’ve never seen him act like this before, so don’t think I’m venting old anger, or anything like that. In fact, before Mac arrived, you would never have heard me say anything against Mr Smythe.”

“No, I never have,” he agreed. “Just tell me what it was like during the testing process this evening.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mixed News

Month 5, Day 21
Jane Burke
0825 Hours

Jane turned when the hallway door of her ready room opened. Drake stopped in the doorway. “Sorry. I didn’t realize you were busy, captain.”
Takor rose to its feet. “I have finished my preliminary report. I believe we are done, unless you have questions, Capt Burke?”
“Come in, doctor,” Jane invited so the door would close behind him. “Takor just told me there’s no reason for Ms MacDowell not to pass her probational test this month.”
“That’s good news!” Drake stated.
The lizoid added, “However, when I stated that to her, she said she had felt equally prepared the last 3 months. She seems... embarrassed and... miserable at her inability.”
“She is. And confused as all get out.”
“Of course,” Takor agreed. “I will leave you to confer.”
“Stop,” Jane said. “Dr MacGregor was not telling you to leave. ‘As all get out’ is an old phrase that roughly means ‘to the extreme’. He was saying that Ms MacDowell is extremely confused by the situation she is in.”
“Exactly,” Drake agreed. “Sorry, Takor. Sometimes slang slips out without my realizing it.”
Takor lowered its head. “No doubt if we were speaking Scissian, I would be... in the same vehicle?”
“Boat,” Jane corrected with a smile. “A specific type of water vehicle. You are learning some of our human slang.”
“Thank you. Mr MacDowell is good at explaining phrases and intent in human communication.”
“Always good for a communications officer,” Jane stated. “If you don’t mind - this is strictly voluntary - since MacDowell is so uncertain of her readiness, perhaps you could continue to probe her knowledge? If she continually satisfies someone of your rank, perhaps she won’t be so intimidated by questions from Mr Smythe.”
“I am willing, if you do not mind my temporarily changing to A shift?”
“As you like. Will you also move your yeoman to A shift?”
“I will leave Yellow Dog on B shift, to act as intermediary between me and my department heads.”
Intermediary? Can’t see how, she talks so little, but I won’t micro-manage my team. “Fine. You probably want to eat and go to bed, then. Now, why are you here instead of sick bay, doctor?”
“Wait just a moment, Takor. You might want to consult your home world medical people. I couldn’t find anything about this in the information I have about your race.”
Don’t like the sounds of that. Come to think of it, Duck was extremely distracted last night. Now he’s here. Definitely don’t like it. “Sit down, doctor, and don’t keep us in suspense.”
Drake sat down, as directed, but his frown didn’t bode well. “I wish I had answers, captain, but all I’ve really got is a big batch of worry.” She raised her eyebrows, and he went on. “Oberlin, from Laundry, was admitted to Sick Bay yesterday, complaining of..., well, lots of symptoms. As a nurse helped her into pajamas, she noticed spots on the patient’s torso, so that placed some type of measles at the top of our list.”
Measles doesn’t sound so bad. Had them as a kid. “How many types of measles are there?”
“Hundreds. Even more if you count the illnesses that aren’t measles, but mimic some of the symptoms, like skin blotches. So we took samples from the patient and sent them to lab to see what we had.”
“That’s what had you so pre-occupied during supper last night.”
“Right. The possibilities range from a couple days of mild illness for one person to... well, to quarantine. And possibly worse.”
Jane sat up straight. No captain wants to declare quarantine. There are stories- She pushed that thought away. “The lab results are back? What are we dealing with?”
Drake rubbed a hand along his jaw line. “Not sure. Yeah, the tests eliminated 90% of the possibilities, but not all I had hoped it would eliminate. Oberlin got worse, so she’s in isolation. And Udtoha from Sanitation came in with similar complaints. He’s in isolation, too.”
“How do you treat an illness when you don’t know what it is?”
“We’re treating the symptoms. And administering wide-range antibiotics. Maybe they’ll help with the original illness; maybe they’ll just keep secondary illnesses from settling in. Now we wait for the more specialized tests to be run.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Prepare to declare the Fireball quarantined,” Drake replied. “Out of the 4 remaining illnesses it could be, only one won’t require that. Takor, I sent the information on these 4 illnesses to your office computer. You can forward that to your home planet, see how vulnerable you might be.”
“If you have the ill people isolated...” the lizoid began.
Drake shook his head. “By the time they came to sick bay, the illness had been in their body for at least a day, probably longer, with ample opportunity to infect others. We try to mitigate the damage by placing them in isolation, but it’s like closing the barn door after the horses have escaped.”
Takor’s nictating membranes blinked. “Closing the door is intended to keep the... hoorssess inside the barn?”
“Exactly.” Drake studied the Scisson face. “Get some sleep. One thing I did learn about your species is that you are more susceptible to illnesses when you’re tired.”
“I am on my way,” Takor told him. “Captain?”
“You can go. Sweet dreams.”
Takor had risen to his feet and now hesitated. “Sweet?”
“Pleasant. I hope you have pleasant dreams.”
“Having dreams- rather, remembering one’s dreams - usually indicates illness. Therefore, I hope not.”
After Takor left, Jane turned back to her Chief Medical Officer. “How long will we be quarantined, Drake? The holiday celebration is a month away, with furlough scheduled shortly after that. Will we have to cancel the festivities? Orbit that furlough planet without any physical contact? And if so, would we have the manpower to magnetically haul in any supplies that get jettisoned for us?”
“Jane, I’ll have more information after I get the test results this afternoon. One of the 4 diseases is relatively easy to deal with, and won’t require quarantine. How long will be determined by how contagious it is. As will our ability to deal with it. For now, we should probably plan to continue with our normal activities as much as possible. That would help keep morale up as everybody waits to get sick.”
“Everybody? Doctor, what’s the worst that could happen?”
Drake cleared his throat. “One of the diseases we’re testing for could make this a plague ship. Takor is the only one who might live through it - mostly, Sciss and humans don’t share diseases - but he’d live the rest of his life alone on this ship.” Jane closed her eyes briefly as she accepted that possibility. Drake went on. “The next worse possibility is that everybody aboard gets ill in a relatively short time. Try to imagine everybody being ill at the same time, including all the doctors and nurses.”
“At least it wouldn’t last long,” said a soft voice.
“Blossom, this information is not to leave this office until I say so,” Jane stated, finally remembering her yeoman was at the corner desk.
“Of course, captain.”
“I’d better get back to sick bay.” Drake stood. “I’ll get you more information as soon as I can.” He left, worry already beginning to pale his skin.
Jane called up the quarantine declaration from the Space Fleet regulations, and then the plague declaration as well. She minimized them for now; she didn’t know what illness to name, and it wasn’t time for either of them yet. With a deep sigh, she tried to deal with the normal influx of reports.
She looked up to see an off-duty security officer in her doorway. Oh, great. More problems? I can’t remember the last time he came up to see me. “Come in, Tall Bear. What can I do for you?”
“Could I speak with you?” His eyes veered toward the corner desk. “Alone?”
“Blossom, take a break.”
“Thank you, captain,” the yeoman intoned and left.
“Is there a problem?”
“Captain, because of certain... peculiarities in our chain of command on the Fireball, I’m sometimes not certain what’s expected of me. I’d like to ask a question.”
“Go ahead,” Jane told him, wondering if Winthrop had gotten out of hand. Again.
“Hypothetically,” Bear added.
“Okay. Ask.”
“Let’s suppose a certain entertainment activity had been introduced on the ship. The basic activity is not banned, but this particular... game, when hosted by a particular person, has been modified so that the result is not something fleet regulations - nor the ship’s captain - would approve of.”
Capac’s poker games? Was there a problem last night? Maybe Winthrop- “Does the captain know this game has been modified?”
Bear stared at her a moment, his face stony. “I don’t know.”
“I see. Go on.”
“Most of the crew knows the game’s rules when they agree to play, and being adults, they can make their own decisions. But let’s say one person did not know, and the host did not explain what she was agreeing to.” Jane winced involuntarily, but didn’t interrupt again. “In that instance, supposing I learned about it, what should I do? Normally, I would report the situation to my superior...”
“But that sounds like the kind of thing Winthrop would take advantage of,” she muttered.
“Yes,” he breathed. “So, in such a case, do I report straight to the captain? Deal with it as if I were Head of Security? Unless the game goes past midnight, I wouldn’t be on duty. If that happened, captain, how would you want it handled?”
I wonder how he handled it last night. Capac was on duty this morning, not in the brig. She considered the AmerInd. “Some captains walk a fine line,” she stated. “They stick to the regs when they need to, but as you say, one assumes crew members are adults. So long as nobody is hurt, and efficiency remains high, they might turn a blind eye to... indiscretions. Still, if a person doesn’t know the rules, they haven’t been allowed to make an informed decision, and no captain can turn a blind eye to that. In my case, I hope you would deal with the situation. Eliminate the game, or at least see that everyone who decides to play is aware what’s expected. In other words, since your superior is not doing his job, you have the right and the responsibility to handle such items.”
“Yes, captain.”
“I would hope that after you handled it, you would then inform your captain what had transpired.” Bear nodded slowly, and Jane let silence stretch between them for half a minute. “When did MacDowell discover it was strip poker?”
He looked up. “After she lost the first hand.”
“And then she left?”
He shook his head. “No, she’s too stubborn. Idiotic, even, since she has no interest in... Well, at least we were there to even the odds.”
“Who is ‘we’, and how did you even the odds?”
“Bugalu tried to talk sense into her. When he couldn’t, he sat down to play, so... another guy and I also sat in.”
“You participated?”
If he reddened, she couldn’t see it. “If one of us won, we wouldn’t claim her... we’d just let her leave. And Monroe was trying to lose, so-“
If MacDowell had lost, she would have been naked!”
“True, but helping her fight her way out seemed a lot easier than dragging her out when she saw leaving during the game to be reneging on a promise to play.”
She stared at him in concern. “Some promises are too stupid to keep!”
“I know that, captain. I agree with you. But Mac doesn’t see it that way.”
“Oh, the idiocies of young women!” she spat. “How any of us make it to age 30 in one piece sometimes eludes me!” She took a calming breath. “I was willing to turn a blind eye to strip poker, as long as everybody knew that’s what they were playing!”
“Mac’s probably the only one who-“
“We can’t assume that,” she returned quickly. “Deal with it. How, I leave to you.”
“I did warn Capac last night.”
“Warning being all you could do, once you decided to participate. Reinforce that warning today. I can’t have the rules of that game posted around the ship, but all players must be aware of those rules before they agree to play!”
“Yes, captain.”
“And keep your eye on it. One more time, the slightest incident, and I want those games shut down! Understood?”
“Yes, captain.” He stood up. “Thank you, captain. That certainly clarifies my thoughts.”
She gave him a lop-sided grin. “You’re a good man, Tall Bear. You’ll make a fine officer, once you learn to think things through. In the meantime, feel free to ask any more ‘hypothetical’ questions you come up with.”
“Thank you, captain.”

He left, and she sank back into her chair. What a morning!