Month 6 Day 10
Capt Jane Burke
It made Jane's skin crawl, to have Winthrop accompany her to Sick Bay. Still, I want him where I can see him. If this were a civilian ship, I could fire him and get a replacement. Promote Bear, maybe. Left just Takor, Abdulla and Bugalu on the bridge, but handling all stations will be easier if Winthrop isn’t there.
Ingersol lay on one examination bed, an arm bent over his face. Duck was on the next bed, apparently taking a nap. Verasis Flu spots covered his face. Across the room, Nurse Temple massaged Tall Bear's arm. Smitty stood at a computer console next to them, muttering to himself.
"Let yourself succumb, Beth," the AmerInd softly told the white-faced nurse. "The longer you put it off, the worse it will be."
She gave him a wan smile, her voice hoarse. "Where did you get your degree, Doctor? That's not true, even if everybody says it. I'm in no hurry."
"It can't be blood," Smitty stated.
Temple turned her head, paused her massage to rub her blood-shot eyes. "Not human blood," she stated. "Nor Sciss. We learned something from those lithium-based creatures on Penoc. Biochemistry is complex, but all built on the basics of chemistry. We call ourselves carbon-based, but our blood is based more on iron."
"You still think these squiggles represent... blood?"
Temple tried to hide a yawn. "I don't know. That was my first thought, but I could be deluding myself. Mac always has a reason for what she does, even if that 'reason' seems... well, kind of crazy." She resumed her massage of Bear's arm. "Maybe what you need is a cryptographer."
"The sooner you get sick," Bear told her, "the sooner you'll get well. Tell you what, I can reciprocate this massage, once you're healthy."
Temple's lips pursed. "I could have sworn you were chasing a certain redhead."
"On duty - that's my job," he returned. "Off duty - I'm not making any headway."
Jane so seldom got to hear any private conversations, she was loathe to let them know she was there.
Winthrop, however, had no such qualms. "You're not making any headway on duty, either," he snapped. "You find her twice and lose her twice! Explain yourself!"
As Bear's head swiveled toward his superior, his gaze flickered briefly at his captain. Jane wiped the scowl from her face, hoped he realized it wasn't for him. "She's one hell of a woman," he responded.
Winthrop turned red. "I was speaking of her ability to escape, not her skill in bed!"
Anger flashed in Bear's dark eyes, but his face remained impassive. "So was I."
"Tell me what happened," Burke invited, cutting off Winthrop's tantrum.
"She was ready for us. She'd padded one of Mr Takor's weapons, and turned out the lights, so as soon as the door opened, the corridor light alerted her. It only took a couple swipes with that... spear-thing to knock Ingersol out of the room and down for the count. I don't think he even saw it coming."
Ingersol sighed. "I've been trying to figure out what happened."
"Then she trapped me against a wall with the thing. But she made the mistake - I thought it was a mistake, at the time - of trying to get close enough to smash a bottle on my head, so I grabbed for her. I missed, but I got a Space of a shock up my arm. Everything went dim. I'd heard Mr Smythe approach, tried to tell him to keep away..." He sighed. "Having dispatched both of us, she disappeared."
"Smythe didn't even try to stop her?" Winthrop demanded.
Smitty looked up in outrage, but Tall Bear responded quicker. "Don't know how he could have. She would have decked him or shocked him. How does she do that?"
"We don't know," Jane told him. "That shock is why we said to avoid physical contact. Don't you believe in following instructions?"
"Not when it contradicts an order to restrain her," Bear replied. "I figured that was because she decks any man who puts a hand on her. If we can't touch her, and can't use weapons, we need some sort of hand-held tractor beam. Then at least we'd have a chance."
I like an officer who can speak plainly. Still... "Lt MacDowell is a petite young lady from a backwards planet. Yet she's beaten a muscular security lieutenant - yourself - twice."
Tall Bear shrugged off Temple's ministrations and began flexing his arm. "Thanks, Beth. Still feels tingly, but it works." He turned to his captain and one corner of his mouth raised a hair. "Mac's from a heavy gravity planet and works out regularly under the simulated gravity of her homeworld. In this gravity - what we consider normal - she packs twice the punch it seems she would. She also spent the first 16 years of her life with 8 older brothers; a rough and tumble lot, I hear. She sees my muscles and training, and raises me one electrical charge. I-"
"Sick bay to sick bay," came over the intercom. "Space, that sounds weird."
Jane pressed the toggle. "Dr Koontz. You sound like you might be alive."
"Captain? Ah, yes, there was nobody else down here to do it, so I released myself for duty."
"Glad to hear it."
"I've got a dozen requests from people who also want to be released."
"Good. Send them to the bridge."
"Uh, they're not all trained for bridge duty, captain."
"Right now, too few people can work, so I'll decide what they'll do on a case by case basis."
"Yes, sir. Is Dr MacGregor available? I have a... personnel question for him."
"Sorry, Dr Koontz, he's got the flu."
"I suspected. Maybe I can find Nurse Temple."
"I'm here, doctor," Beth said. "Is this about a nurse?"
"Yes, um..." He lowered his voice. "Nurse Monroe. How long has she been down with the flu?"
Beth frowned. "She was the 10th patient, if I remember right."
"That's what I remember, too. She's still sick? Or sick with something else now?"
Beth's voice became icy. "She says she's still sick. I'm not a doctor; I can't prove she isn't."
"I see. Captain, can you clarify the level of my authority-"
"Are there any other doctors around?"
"Um, if MacGregor is ill, I appear to be the only one capable of standing."
"Then you are in charge of sick bay. And all medical personnel."
"Thank you, captain. Sick bay out."
“If this represents blood that isn’t based on iron,” Smitty asked, “then what does it use to tie up oxygen?”
Temple turned again, and Tall Bear grabbed her to keep her from falling. “My turn, I guess,” she muttered, and let Bear help her onto a bed. Eyes closed, she quietly stated, “Copper, iron, lithium are the ones we know of. Bound to be others. Does it have to be oxygen they need?”
“Smitty, Nurse Temple is too ill to help you puzzle that out. Ask Takor. Biochemistry is one of his fields,” Jane suggested.
Smitty looked up, realized the nurse was in a bed. “Ah, good idea, captain.” He walked out slightly faster than his normal gait.
Jane turned back to Tall Bear. “Where were we?”
Tall Bear’s back straightened. “I want another crack at bringing in Mac.”
Jane turned to look at the other young security man. “How's Ingersol?”
“Concussion,” Temple stated.
“Back to work, Ingersol!” Winthrop ordered.
"Stay in that bed." MacGregor didn't open his eyes; he sounded worse than he looked. "He's a patient, Winthrop. Until he's released for duty, he doesn't follow your orders."
Winthrop leaned towards Jane. "Captain, I can't have MacGregor undermining my authority-"
"Winthrop, even I can't countermand a ship's doctor, when it comes to medical treatment," she reminded him sharply. She faced Tall Bear. "Sorry, lieutenant. You'll have to spar with her another time. Take half those being released from sick bay to help you search. Set phazers to stun, and shoot as soon as you see her. I don't want her getting away again."
"Jane!" Drake somehow managed to rise to an elbow, looking ghastly. He labored for breath. "Don't do it, Jane!"
She crossed over to take his hand reassuringly, hoped he wasn't too ill to be reasonable. "Duck, consider her actions. She's fought 2 men to a standstill, left one unconscious and the other nearly so. Twice. Ingersol has a concussion. She could have attacked Smitty!"
"She wasn't trying to hurt anybody!" Duck argued. "She padded Takor's weapon, to avoid cuttings. You told them to keep their distance, and that's all she's trying to do! Stay away."
There's no reasoning with him right now. She patted his shoulder. "Try to rest."
He grabbed her arm. "She's protecting herself, can't you see? She's suddenly deaf, must be scared, confused, doesn't know why security keeps attacking her! And that strange electrical charge. There's no telling how that might react with a stun! It may kill her!"
The death of a crew member always makes me feel old. Especially one with so much life left to live. Jane removed his hand and helped ease him down to the mattress. "It's a chance we- I have to take. Rest. She may need you, when they bring her in."
Duck's eyes closed as moisture squeezed between his lids. "Space, I'm sorry, Mac," he whispered.
Jane straightened her back and adjusted her tunic, then walked over to the intercom. "Captain to sick bay. Dr Koontz?"
It took a moment for the doctor to answer. "Yes, captain?"
"MacGregor and Temple both have the flu. Ingersol is here with a concussion. I know you're swamped, but you might have somebody come up and check on them from time to time."
"Thank you for the info. I'll ask the yeoman to pull their bed readouts to a computer down here."
"Yeoman?" The medical staff doesn't have any yeomen.
"She's not medically trained, but she's been here, helping in all sorts of ways for at least a week. Can't remember her name; not sure I've ever heard it, but a blue uniform."
"Yellow Dog," she stated in sudden realization. "Mr Takor's yeoman." So that's where she's been. She's so quiet when she's in the room, I didn't realize she was missing. "Send everybody you release to the bridge, as I said. Except medical staff, of course. Burke out." She turned to Winthrop and Tall Bear, jerked her head toward the door. "Come on. We should be there when the newly healthy arrive."