Month 6 Day 11
Jane couldn’t stop her yawn, then stared at the helm for a second before making a slight adjustment. “Did you say Bugalu is awake?” she asked Dr Davis. “How long before he can return to work?”
Davis explained. “He’s awake from the... electrical charge, for lack of better words. But that shock weakened his immune system and the flu immediately took over, so he’s not capable of work.” Jane scowled, and Davis hurried on. “On the other hand, Evans is released. He should be here in a couple minutes, as soon as he’s showered.”
I should be relieved to hear it. He is in charge of the bridge on midnight shift, after all. But I’d prefer it was Bugalu. Davis was watching her closely. “Any idea what happened in Bugalu’s room? He broadcast that MacDowell was there, and by the time anyone arrived, he was unconscious, and she was gone. I know that much.”
“From what I understand, Yeoman Yellow Dog and Lt Tall Bear got there at the same time, from different directions. There’s no clue where MacDowell went. She seems very resourceful.”
“Apparently,” Jane growled in frustration. What an understatement. She turned as the lift door opened. Takor emerged, and an exhausted Smitty staggered behind him. “News, gentlemen?”
“We have a theory,” Takor stated.
Dr Davis walked to Smitty and gave him a shot in his neck. He didn’t react until she was done, and his scowl of surprise quickly changed to a less haggard face and a straightening of his spine.
A stimulant? Why didn’t she say so? Jane motioned the doctor close and canted her head as the stimulant was delivered into her neck. Well, that cleans some of the cobwebs from my brain.
There was a sharp crackle from the communications console, and Abdulla complained in her native language. Smitty whirled, his eyes round. “You aren’t still- Stop trying to drain that!”
Abdulla stood, looking angry. Her eyes flashed, but her voice was even as she reported, “I haven’t made any progress.”
Smitty gave a short nod and relaxed. “Come and listen.” She walked over, and Smitty waved her to sit at navigation, currently empty. Davis offered her a shot of stimulant, but she refused.
Takor started. “Ms MacDowell has been studying radios.”
“That’s a surprise?” Abdulla muttered.
“It is her field,” Dr Davis stated in confusion.
Smitty didn’t answer those statements. “She’s also been studying the theories of transporting solid objects by breaking them into electro-magnetic waves. Her notes concerned similarities between communications equipment and the theory of transporters.”
“Similarities?” Abdulla asked.
“Far more of them than you’d think,” Smitty added. “Although, from what we managed to decipher, she veered quite a ways from the current theoretical formulas.”
“She did so deliberately,” Takor reminded him.
“I still don’t-“
“What’s your theory?” Jane asked impatiently.
Smitty frowned as Takor explained. “That we somehow intercepted a transporter beam of the natives, and the contents of that beam are now trapped in our communications equipment. Or, more correctly, the electrical manifestation of the native’s body is still in the equipment. The consciousness, we believe, is inside Ms MacDowell. Unfortunately, we have not yet discovered how such a transfer happened.”
“If the native’s mind is inside Mac’s body,” Abdulla asked, “then where’s Mac’s mind?”
“There are two possibilities,” Takor responded. “Both intelligences might be present in the one body.”
“But I think Colleen’s consciousness has been transferred into the communications equipment,” Smitty stated. “She’d never make any sense of those papers on the theory of transportation, let alone the formulas involved.”
“Yes, you would think that,” Abdulla muttered, which earned her a sharp look from her superior.
“I disagree, Mr Smythe,” Takor returned. “Most of the handwriting in her notes looked much like Mr MacDowell’s to my eye.”
Burke opened the intercom. “Attention all hands. This is the captain. I am countermanding all previous orders regarding Lt MacDowell. If you see her, report it to the bridge, but make no move to interfere with her. But do avoid all physical contact.” She closed the channel. “What was she doing on the auxiliary bridge?”
“She didn’t get much done,” Smitty stated. “But it looks like she was trying to modify the circuitry to try to retrieve her own body. It wouldn’t have worked. The essence of the native may have been temporarily converted to something that resembles electricity, but it cannot be electricity. It must have some... cohesiveness that keeps it together. Otherwise, our efforts to remove that charge from our equipment would have worked. Or it would have joined the electricity in the rest of the ship and been dispersed. If she tried to move that... pseudo electricity to another location, most of it wouldn’t arrive.”
“What about the cohesiveness you mentioned? Wouldn’t that keep it together?” Jane wondered.
“Why did this happen to Mac?” Abdulla interrupted. “I assume the console exploded because it was suddenly flooded with pseudo-electricity that it wasn’t built for. Why didn’t that consciousness enter me? Why wait until Mac got here?”
“We have no answer for that,” Takor stated.
Jane didn’t wait for them to remember her unanswered question. “What do you recommend?”
Smitty didn’t hesitate. “She needs to drain that residue directly into a... converter. We’ve got to recreate what she was doing on the auxiliary bridge here, on the main bridge. Help her finish it, if we can. And then-“ He swallowed, and his voice got quieter. “Then we hope there’s enough of her left in the equipment to... complete the procedure.”
“Do you agree, Takor?”
“The alternatives all appear to result in at least one death, either of the native, or of Lt MacDowell. Or both.”
“Then do it,” Jane instructed.
“Yes, captain,” Smitty responded, and headed for the lift.
Abdulla watched her superior with wistfulness. “Lt, go help him, since there’s nothing up here you can do right now.”
“Thank you, captain!” Abdulla smiled as she hurried to catch up with Smitty.
Jane turned to the doctor. “The next time you think I need a stimulant, just tell me.”
“Yes, captain,” she acknowledged, and prepared to leave.
“Have any engineering or communications people been recently released from sickbay?” Jane asked.
“Yes,” she answered, looking thoughtful. “Wilson, Adams... Jones. And Vogel.”
“Thank you.” Again, Jane opened the intercom. “Attention. All engineering and communications staff capable of working are to report to Mr Smythe on the auxiliary bridge.” She closed the channel and turned to her science officer. “Sit at navigation, Takor.”
It hesitated. “I am not trained-”
“Don’t touch the controls, just sit. Conversation is easier if we are both sitting.”
“I see.” It moved around her and sat in the chair Abdulla had vacated. “Was our explanation not clear, captain?”
“Clear enough to make a decision. Let’s call this curiosity. If we intercepted a transportation... signal, and MacDowell is not- was not familiar with that technology, since we don’t yet have it, then it seems likely the native directed her studies. Would you agree?”
“I do, captain. Most of the handwriting, as I’ve said, seemed like MacDowell’s, but there are places - especially in the beginning - where pieces of the theoretical equations were crossed out and something else substituted, including symbols neither of us recognized. Those areas were much less similar to MacDowell’s handwriting, but the writer appeared confident. I suspect the native is quite familiar with the workings of their transportation equipment.”
I hope so. “Doesn’t it seem likely that this... person would have realized it was not feasible to pull her... its physical form from this bridge to the auxiliary bridge?”
“Desperate humanoids will act on the slimmest chances.”
“We don’t know the natives are humanoid.”
“There must be something about MacDowell’s physical form that was compatible. And the cohesion of that signal may be stronger than Mr Smythe believes, making the attempt possible.”
“Not strong enough to keep its body and intellect together,” Jane pointed out.
“After that make-shift contraption is built here, how do we get... MacDowell to come here? She can’t hear us explain. She’s done her best to avoid us. And I can’t blame her.” There isn’t a word for this mixed being, so we’ll have to keep using our crew member’s name.
“My yeoman will manage it.”
“They are good friends.”
“Bugalu is her best friend, and she left him unconscious.”
“It is hard to explain, captain. But if there is a difference in MacDowell’s mind - if she shares it with another person - then YD will know and act accordingly.”
“Whidee?” Jane repeated. Whitey? That’s not-.
“Yellow Dog,” he explained. “Is it inappropriate to use an abbreviation of her last name? Many others do so, and I picked up the habit.”
Oh, Y D! “It would not be appropriate any time formality is called for, but if she doesn’t object... It simply caught me by surprise.” I seldom notice nicknames. Keeps me from using them with the lower ranks.
“Do you need a nap, captain?”
“I just received a stimulant, Takor. And you are not trained in helm or navigation.”
“But Mr Ryan is, and he has arrived for assignment.”
She turned to find the relief navigator behind them, faint spots barely visible on his face. “Captain, I’m reporting for duty.”
“Good. You may return to your station, Takor. Mr Ryan, take your accustomed seat. It’s good to have you back.”
“Thank you, captain.”