Month 6 Day 10
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.”