Month 6, Day 5
When the door to his quarters opened, Smitty looked up from his computer screen. Tired and pale, MacGregor gave him a lop-sided smile. “I’ve escaped from Sick Bay for a couple hours; let’s play some pool.”
“You look like you need a nap,” Smitty observed.
“Naw. I catnap in my office, between patients. Right now, I need something entertaining.”
“Alright.” Smitty turned his terminal off. It’s been getting hectic, keeping a more-or-less full crew on duty for all shifts, with more and more crew members getting sick. As rough as it’s been for the rest of us, I can’t imagine how bad it is for the medical personnel.
Only one of the pool tables was in use, but MacGregor made a beeline for it. “Mind if we join you? Not sure I’ve got time for a full game of my own.”
Her pool cue clattered to the table as the redhead whirled and threw her arms around the doctor’s neck for a tight embrace. “Mac! I’ve missed you!”
Briefly, the doctor held her close, his face buried in her curls, then he withdrew to study her face. “You look worse than I do. You been getting any sleep?”
She shrugged. “I’m used to it.”
“You don’t get used to sleep deprivation,” he told her. “As exhausted as you’ve been, I expected you to land in sick bay with the first wave of illness.”
She sent a seductive look his way. “Not me. I drink so much, my blood is antiseptic.” She handed him her pool cue. “I was aiming for the 7, but if you’re really good, you could try for the 5.”
Anna chortled on the other side of the game table. “Drake’s not that good at pool. “What about you, Smitty? Show her how to put that 5 away.”
Green eyes looked his way in sudden panic. “Smit!” the redhead breathed in alarm. “I... didn’t see you!”
Of course not. She only had eyes for MacGregor. He felt a touch on his arm, and turned his head to find Anna standing beside him, offering her cue. “Mac’s a natural at this game, but needs more competition than I can give her,” she stated.
He took a look at the table. She’s right, the 7’s a middlin’ shot, the 5 more difficult. I’d have to bounce the cue ball off the 15 and the 11, and tap only the edge of the 5, letting it roll down along the bumper. And just the right force, or everything goes haywire. This kind of shot takes math more than anything else. He chose a position, mentally reviewed his calculations, and shot. Then he held his breath.
“Well done!” came a soft exclamation as the 5 dropped into the pocket.
“It’s a matter of balancing the force needed for the final target with-” He stopped as the smell of lilacs filled his nostrils, and he realized the warmth on his shoulder was probably not Anna’s hand. He stood, felt a confusing mixture of relief and chagrin when the redhead moved away. “It... takes practice,” he offered lamely.
Colleen grimaced. “Something I haven’t done, lately.”
“Likewise,” he agreed without thinking.
Somebody’s communicator beeped. “Blast!” MacGregor swore, raising his hand.
“Not yours,” Anna told him, and raised her own. “Humara.”
“Ferguson’s headed for Sick Bay.”
She sighed. “Well, hold things together. I’ll be there soon to see how things are going.”
“I thought Ferguson was days,” the doctor commented.
“Normally,” she agreed. “What staff I’ve got left has all been working long hours, and he and I have been working 12-hour shifts. Are any of my people approaching well, Drake? Otherwise, I may soon have to put peanut butter and bread out as meals for the foreseeable future.”
“Some who got sick early may be released tomorrow or the next day. Not sure who that includes. Now, if I’m going to play, let’s get going. Smitty took Mac’s turn, so that puts them on the same team. Looks like it’s you and me, Anna. Now, let’s see, what do I want to try for? Maybe the 2.”
“If you’re on my team, go for a stripe,” Anna told him. “Mac has solids.”
“Oh, right. Okay, the 10.”
Another beep, and they all looked at their wrist. It was Smitty’s this time. “Smythe.”
“Clines is down.”
He rolled his eyes. “I’ll get someone there as soon as I can.” He turned to put the pool cue on the table, his thoughts turning to crew members. “Blast, Abdulla still sick, and now Clines. That leaves Chun, I suppose.”
“He’s asleep,” Colleen said. “I’ll go.”
How does she know? “What makes you think he’s asleep?”
She shrugged. “He sleeps immediately after duty. Says it keeps him on track, or something. He’s hard to listen to. But he’s asleep, and there’s no reason to wake him. Just give me 5 minutes to throw on a uniform.”
“You already worked extra this morning when Chun was late. He didn’t work a full shift, so-“ His wrist beeped again. “Smythe.”
“Chun is in sick bay,” Temple’s voice told him before the connection went dead.
“Oh, black space,” he muttered, and gave a nod to the redhead. “I’ll get someone there to relieve you as soon as I can,” he promised.
“No hurry,” she told him grimly. “I can get through until morning. I’s not like I’d sleep or do anything important.” She walked off, her hips moving seductively.
Smitty managed to turn back, to find MacGregor and Anna in a deep embrace. He couldn’t even wait until one girl friend left! “This is hardly the place for that.”
The doctor reluctantly broke the hug. “There wasn’t anybody here but Mac, and she won’t say anything.”
“I’d better go check on the kitchen,” Anna stated. “Good to hear there might be an end to this, Drake. At this point, I’d take a technician, if they were well.”
“Those who haven’t succumbed yet will, probably soon. And that includes you two. Just because we’re officers doesn’t mean we’re immune.”
“You know how to cheer a person up!” Anna groused, then grinned. “Check my medical record again, Drake. I had Stetson’s Measles as a baby. They say that makes me immune to several illnesses, including Verasis Flu. See you two later.” She also left.
“Hmm,” Drake voiced thoughtfully. “That’ll take some research; I’ve never heard of Stetson’s Measles.”
Smitty picked up the pool cues to put them away. “You didn’t get much of a break,” he observed.
Surprisingly, MacGregor smiled. “I got 2 hugs. Those are more refreshing than a game of pool.” He stared at Smitty coldly. “You might remember that the next time you see Mac. She’s reaching the end of her endurance, and now you’re relying on her. It wouldn’t kill you to give her a hug.”
Smitty stiffened in shock. “That wouldn’t be appropriate!”
“To space with what’s appropriate. You’ve ridden her mercilessly since she got here, been downright unpleasant, from what I’ve heard. Bend a little; let her at least know that her efforts during this crisis are appreciated! It’s the least you could do!” He took a calming breath and turned for the door. “Three new patients in the last 5 minutes. That I know of. I’d better get back.”
A hug! Maybe it is the least I could do. But is it the least that I would do?