Month 6 Day 11
Capt Jane Burke
Jane didn't realize she had started to float in a sea of numbness until she heard an unexpected familiar voice somewhere behind her. "I thought I had set that to human normal visual before I sent the files to you."
"The display was not set for the normal human range when you found it?" Takor asked.
"No, none of them have been. They've all been like that. I could barely see anything until I reset the screens. Do you mean you haven't studied the new files at all?" Jane opened her eyes and turned to stare at the chief engineer.
"Actually, I have. This setting is not as easy to see as the human range, but it is within Sciss parameters."
"Oh. I never stopped to think- Well, anyway, do you have any thoughts on-"
"Smitty, are you done with your nap already?"
The engineer turned to face her, looking chagrinned. "About that..."
"That would make you the fastest sleeper I've ever known, to manage 4 hours of sleep in..." she glanced at the chronometer, "...less than 2 hours!"
"He discovered Mac using his computer again," Takor explained.
Smitty sent a quick glance across the bridge, relaxed. Tall Bear now sat at the weapons console. When did Winthrop leave? And where did he go? "Really? Did you have any better luck with her than security has?"
"No," he admitted. "I was so... empty-headed when I got there, I didn't realize she was there until she left."
How could he not... No, as tired as I am right now, I'm not sure I'd notice if someone was in my bed, let alone my living room. And he can't be in any better shape. "Studying? Couldn't she do that anywhere?"
"My magazines on theoretical engineering are only available on my computer."
"She seemed particularly interested in articles pertaining to matter transmitting," Takor added. "I have similar articles in my quarters, but I doubt she's learned enough Scissan to read them."
She can't pass her communications probational, but she can understand theoretical engineering? Has he refused to pass her? How bad a case has he got for this girl? What's missing? This doesn't make sense. Or is my brain too tired to work?
Smitty opened his mouth, hesitated, then pushed his words out. "The planet below is obviously inhabited, Captain, given the colony on their largest moon. I know we haven't seen any spaceships, or even airships, but what if their scientists took a different path? What if they have matter transmittance? Maybe one of them has taken over Colleen's body! She hasn't been herself since..." His face turned red. Jane blinked, wondering at this uncharacteristic imagination from her chief engineer.
"Since she was working on the communications console, which had an electrical charge," Bugalu stated.
"And still does," Abdulla added. "Everything is charred, but they all still have a charge. Mr Smythe, how does the most popular theory propose that matter be transmitted?"
Startled by the question, Smitty considered his answer briefly. "The machine puts the matter into stasis, doesn't even let electrons move about their orbits. It plots the location of every iota of mass, strips it down to particles, sends them to the new location and puts it back together."
"I don't see-" Jane began.
"That might work for a lump of coal," Abdulla stated. "But living tissue isn't just mass; it also contains electricity. If the electricity wasn't there when it was reassembled, whatever was sent wouldn't be alive."
"They're trying to get it figured out for inert items first," Smitty responded.
"Scissan scientists believe the energy must accompany the living tissue being transmitted," Takor added. "They believe the energy binds the mass together during transmission and returns the matter to life once reassembled."
"We can discuss theory another time," Jane suggested testily. "Why did that theory lead you to believe some alien intelligence has taken over her body?"
"Well, it didn't, exactly. I looked at the schematics in those articles, and her notes. She'd used a combination of engineering and communications pieces mixed together. Realizing that, and knowing she couldn't come to the bridge to try that rearranging, I got Ensign Jones to go with me to the auxiliary bridge-"
"Jones! What was he doing in your quarters?"
Confusion clouded Smitty's eyes for a moment. "He wasn't. I went to engineering and got him."
Jane, you're so tired, your brain isn't working right. Maybe it's time to leave someone else in charge and take a nap. She nodded for the engineer to continue.
"And that's where she was, with both the engineering and communications consoles open, constructing a... well, constructing something in the space between them."
"She was sabotaging the ship?" If she's started-
"In the short term, those consoles would not have been usable for their actual purpose, but I don't think she was doing any permanent damage. I didn't take the time to analyze it; I needed to get Jones to sick bay."
"He just came out of sick bay!" Jane protested.
"Well, he's there again." Smitty cleared his throat. "When she didn't respond to his instructions, he shot the circuit board she was attaching and it blew up. She reacted by throwing her tool, and it hit his forehead, knocked him out. Big lump, bit of blood. Probably a concussion, Dr Koontz said."
That's two men she's knocked out. In our current situation, I couldn't afford to lose one. "Where did you put Ms MacDowell? Sick bay or the brig?" She watched Smitty's face go red and sighed in frustration. "She got away?"
Smitty stiffened, stared straight ahead. "Yes."
"How? You had a phazer. Didn't you?"
"I tried to talk to her. And she tried to respond! At first, I didn't hear anything, but with great effort, she managed to say a few words that I did hear. I'd accused her of sabotaging the ship, and she said she wasn't. Then she said," he paused to think, "that I should 'Help call a- She needs-' And then her voice faded out again."
"She's a communications officer! If she needs to call someone-"
"Captain, she didn't say, 'I need-'. She used the word 'she'. Somebody else needed help. That bolstered the idea she's got somebody else inside her body with her! And if I needed any more proof, I certainly got it when she smiled at me."
He is not making any sense. Or else my brain really isn't working. "She smiled at you and you let her go."
"Has she ever smiled at you?" Bugalu asked softly. Jane turned, and he went on. "Most men think she's the most beautiful woman they've ever seen. She has a powerful effect on them, which she's unaware of. Which only doubles the effect."
"Ridiculous!" Smitty protested, and Jane's attention swerved back to him. "She knew exactly what she was promising! Er, seemed to be promising. I'm sure you've seen that look in the streams, captain. Don't think I've ever seen it in real life, though."
Then he's not paid attention. Real women aren't as good at it as actresses, but some do a decent job. "We'll discuss it later. If you're awake, go back to the auxiliary bridge and try to understand what she was doing. Takor, go with him. This has gone on long enough; I'd like some answers, gentlemen."
"Yes, captain," Smitty said, and turned for the lift.
Jane gave Bugalu a lop-sided smile. "Never thought you'd say something like that about Ms MacDowell."
His lips tightened. "We adopted each other, but that doesn't make me blind and stupid."
No. Not Bugalu.