Month 6, Day 5
Colleen was playing pool when Smitty finally found her. She wasn’t in uniform, but wore a pair of shorts that displayed shapely legs and emphasized the roundness of her rear as she bent over to take aim at a tricky shot. Smitty pulled his gaze off that delightful view and cleared his throat. “Colleen?”
She turned her head to look at him. “Dear?” she responded.
“Sorry to interrupt your game, but I’d like to talk to you,” he stated as his eyes glanced again at her derriere. She straightened up, turned to face him, and he raised his gaze to her green eyes. Somehow, he found his arms around her, her body pressed against his.
“That’s quite a cue stick you have,” she stated with a flirtatious smile.
“I haven’t got- oh.” There was a hardness between them that definitely belonged to him. Her arms slipped around his neck.
“Mmm, and a set of balls, too,” she stated, her fingers toying seductively with the hair on the back of his head. “What a coincidence. I’ve got a pocket you can sink one in.”
He grinned. “I’d like that.”
“Well, line up your shot,” she suggested, and he leaned forward to kiss her.
“What happened to ‘Dear’?” he wondered as their lips approached each other.
“Mr Smythe, are you okay?”
Smitty opened his eyes and realized he was in his office, sitting at his desk, while Harris looked at him strangely. “Sorry.” He removed his hand from propping up his head. “Must have nodded off. Too old to pull long hours like this.” He blinked at his underling in confusion. “Is it day shift already? Surely I didn’t sleep that long!”
“No, it’s just after midnight,” Harris answered. “Ivy- Lt Wilson called me in when half of Adams’ shift called in sick. Adams isn’t well, either, but he won’t go to sick bay. Can’t blame him, because that would leave-“ She swallowed in sudden uncertainty. “That would leave me in charge.”
Smitty glanced at the display screens, plainly saw Adams sitting at a console, his head in his hands, looking like death warmed over. Speckled death, because flu spots had already spread to his face and hands. “Alright, I’ll go send him to sick bay,” he stated, climbing to his feet. “In the meantime, Harris, sit down and compile a list of all the engineering personnel who aren’t yet sick, right down to freshmen technicians. Communications, too. I’ve got to send someone to relieve Colleen in the morning.”
“Ivy already had a list for engineering, which I’ve updated,” she stated as she slid into the vacated seat. “Medical says one of our ensigns will likely be discharged tomorrow- I mean, later today. And two technicians tomorrow. I noted that, too, to put some hope in the list. It’ll just take a couple minutes to do communications, since there’s not as many in that specialty.”
Smitty glanced back on his way out, and marveled at the determined efficiency that had suddenly appeared in Harris. Never thought she might have that in her. Maybe I gave up on her too soon. I’ll keep a closer eye on her, when this is over.
Something to Do
Month 6, Day 10
Captain Burke turned her command chair when the lift door opened, and used her fingers to hide her smile of relief from seeing Lt Abdulla emerge. Still looking peaked, Abdulla walked over and touched Lt MacDowell’s shoulder, startling her. “I’m here to relieve you, Mac.”
“Ab!” The redhead jumped up, ready to hug the other woman, but restrained herself. “It’s good to have you back, Abdulla.”
“I imagine so,” Abdulla said. “I understand you’ve been living at this post.”
“Well, it beats where you’ve been this past week.”
Jane turned away. We might get through this medical crisis after all, now that some of the earliest patients are reporting back to duty. We’re still short-handed, and will be for a while, but things are looking better.
At the helm, Lt Bugalu had started his second shift for the day, with hardly more than a bite to eat between. He’s been watching the redhead since I got here. Not with lust, like so many crew men. He’s worried about her. Like a big brother. “Lt MacDowell,” Jane called out.
The redhead straightened her back and turned from waiting for the lift. “Sir?”
She looks terrible, can barely keep her eyes open. Well, who can blame her, she has just about been living at her station. Jane stood and walked to the lift area. “Lieutenant, Your efforts this past week have been noted and are appreciated. Now that you’ve been relieved, I hope you immediately take the opportunity to get some sleep.”
Green eyes slid past her to glance at the helm. “Yes, sir, I do plan to try.” Her brow furrowed, eyes lost their focus, and her voice lowered to a mutter. “Maybe if I wrap myself tight in my blanket, like a cocoon, it might feel like someone is hold-” She stopped and glanced around, afraid she’d been overheard.
Jane pretended she hadn’t muttered. “Good. I hope you have sweet dreams.” As the lift door opened, Jane turned away to consider the overworked, mish-mash skeleton crew on the bridge. MacDowell looks like she’ll fall into her bed. Why, then, is Bugalu frowning? Surely she’s too exhausted to be bothered by sleeping difficulties? “How are we doing, Lt Bugalu?”
The negro turned back to his equipment. “We’re entering the system now. We could be in orbit any time today, sir. If we find anything we want to orbit.”
As early as that? Moor left his station to approach her. He usually spent his duty shift in his office, but with the current staff shortages, he was manning the bridge today. “Captain, are you sure this is a good idea? We are under quarantine,” he asked quietly.
“Yes, and we’re terribly short-handed,” she agreed, keeping her own voice soft. “We could just drift in space and do absolutely nothing until we’re back up to strength. But that would mean those who can work would have nothing to do. Except worry about getting sick. And be bored. Neither are good for the ship’s sanity or morale. This way, everybody has something to do, not too strenuous, but useful, because we will be gathering information about an unknown system. We will not touch anything. If there is intelligent life in this system, and they are sufficiently advanced, we might try to establish radio contact, but that is hardly a physical connection.”
“Alright,” Moor stated sourly. He didn’t seem convinced, but he went back to his post.
Jane walked toward the science station. “Takor, what have you got so far? How many planets are in this system, and are any of them remotely like Earth? Or Sciss, for that matter.”
“I see 8 planets,” Takor returned. “Or 9, if you count the largest moon of the 4th planet. It might be considered a binary pair, for the moon has a rudimentary atmosphere, though not enough to facilitate breathing. The 4th planet is slightly smaller than Sciss, slightly larger than Earth. Further information will become available as we get closer.”
“Atmosphere on that 4th planet?”
“It appears to be drier than Earth, but breathable.”
“That sounds very interesting,” Jane decided. “Bugalu, how long to reach the 4th planet?”
“About 3 hours, Captain.”
“Good, do it. I’ll be in my office. Alert me a quarter hour before orbit.”
Despite her helmsman’s fatigue, she heard a note of excitement in his voice. I was right not to delay exploring this system. The crew needs something to think about besides Verasis Flu. Satisfied, she left the bridge for her office.