Month 6 Day 10
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.