Saturday, December 30, 2017


Month 7 Day 15
2352 Hours

Smitty was working on his third glass of a milky green drink with the consistency of partially-melted crushed ice, a strong odor of boiling cabbage, and a vague taste of pinecones. He had gotten used to it, but thought longingly of the whiskey in his cabin.

He sipped his drink as he turned and immediately noticed a redhead half the room away. This is annoying. All evening, she’s been wherever I look. Hope this doesn’t continue on the ship, me unable to avoid her. After all the times I caught her drinking, at least she isn’t drunk. Isn’t acting drunk. She raised her glass, and half the milky green beverage was downed in a couple swallows. How can she drink this stuff that fast?

Lt Bugalu joined the redhead’s group. All the lovely women at this party, and he can’t stay away from her. Even with a woman on his arm. Wait, the woman with him is Colleen. The paler one I thought was Colleen must be Kolla. Huh. How often have I made that mistake?

A hand touched his shoulder. “Come with me. You’ll enjoy this conversation.”

Smitty followed, but his legs became rubber as S’thyme lead him toward the Kolla/Colleen group. As they walked past, Smitty heard Bugalu ask, “Are you still doing that?”

It took a while for Colleen to answer, but eventually, “I guess.”

Doing what?

S’thyme introduced Smitty to a small group. Ushto, the tall male, was a historian; Fhaghee was a scientist helping extend the transportating beam’s range; and the woman was Gwanth, a biochemist who helped S’thyme’s team when needed. Introductions over, Smitty asked, “I understand your desire to explore another planet, but do you know what the conditions are there? Could your people survive?”

“Yes,“ Gwanth replied. “They’d need better clothing than what’s used at the poles, and...” Her voice faded as Smitty heard another conversation behind him.

“He’s light years away,” Bugalu said. “He has no way to punish you anymore.”

She was slow responding. “I know.” It seemed she was done, until, “But...” A long silence. “But that’s my... my...”

Smitty could see the Yukoskian mouths moving, but the conversation behind him seemed more important. Something’s wrong. She doesn’t usually have trouble talking. Smitty looked around without thinking.

Bugalu faced Colleen, his eyebrows pinched together. “Mac?” She stared at him, eyes half closed and dull. She leaned, and Bugalu grabbed her upper arm. Her eyes fully closed and she collapsed against Bugalu, who took 2 steps back before he could stop her momentum.

His conversation forgotten, Smitty turned around. “What happened?”

“I’ll get Dr Davis,” Bugalu replied, and pushed the redhead toward Smitty.

She was heavy, but he expected that. Smitty put an arm around her and looked for help. He no longer saw Bugalu, but Tall Bear stood near-by, his face as impassive as ever. “Help me lay her down,” he requested.

“She’ll hit me,” Tall Bear returned, but came closer.

“She’s out cold,” Smitty told him.

“She was the last time, and still gave me a black eye.”

S’thyme moved forward, looking confused. “She’s never hit me,” he told the AmerInd, and helped Smitty lower her to the floor. Her hat rolled away and that misbehaving curl moved out of place.

“Has she ever hit you, Mr Smythe?” Tall Bear asked.

“Of course not!”

“Might explain why she’s never hit Mr S’time,” Tall Bear stated.

“What’s going on?” Dr Davis asked breathlessly as Bugalu pulled her across the room.

“She wasn’t herself,” Bugalu stated. “As the evening progressed, she complained of a headache and wanted to hold my arm because it was ‘too dim’. She got shaky, sweaty, and couldn’t think. Glad you weren’t far away, Dr Davis.”

Davis pulled her portable diagnostic scepter from her pocket, knelt and scanned the girl’s body. “Wish I knew what she ate tonight.”

“Not much of anything,” Bugalu stated. “Except for that lavender ice cream or whatever that was served in the middle of the meal. Ate all of hers and mine.”

“We tried to make the food compatible with your biochemistry,” Gwanth stated.

“I know,” Davis answered. “What did she drink, Bugs?”

“They gave her a pale green drink, which she gave to me and asked for something sweet. They didn’t understand until she said something about fruit. Then they brought her a glass of pink bubbles. I think she’s had 5.”

“These readings can’t be right,” Davis said, and started her scan again.

“What do they say?” Gwanth asked.

“That her blood sugar is unheard-of low,” Davis answered.

“Sugar,” Gwanth repeated. “Is that C6H12O6?”

“Yes. Our bodies use it as fuel.”

“Not ours,” Gwanth replied. “It slows down our system. We use both the julatei that she ate and the totka she drank to remove sugar.”

Davis pulled a communicator from a pocket. “Davis to sick bay.” There was always somebody in sick bay, but this time, they took forever to answer. “Davis to sick bay!”

“Sick bay,” a female finally answered.

“I’ve got a crew member down with severe hypoglycemia. Prepare a dose of glucose. Make it 2 doses. I’ll send someone for it.”

“I’ll go,” S’thyme stated, his fingers already working the controls he wore on his wrist. People took a step away as he began to dissolve.

“I... don’t think I can do that,” the nurse responded.

Davis stared at her communicator in disbelief. “You don’t know how to prepare glucose?”

“Of course I know,” the woman returned. “But I can’t leave sick bay unattended.”

A 2nd voice broke in. “I’ll get it ready. Sick bay out.”

Davis’ lips formed a taut line as she discarded the communicator and scanned Colleen again. “How much sugar does it remove?”

“Whatever’s in the system,” Gwanth replied. “When it’s done, any remaining agent doesn’t do any harm, so how much sugar it can remove has never been studied.”

“Come on, Mac,” Davis whispered. “Fight it, don’t just-“

Smoke coalesced into S’thyme, exactly where he’d been standing before. He handed a box to Davis. “They sent extra.”

“Good.” Davis tore open the box and grabbed the hypo-unit. Thumbing the controls, she placed the first shot over Colleen’s heart and rapidly followed with other locations in her torso. Wherever she shot, the girl twitched. Davis adjusted controls and continued, placing the hypo-unit against the neck, wrists, thighs... too many places to count. When the machine beeped, Davis ejected the spent supply jacket - which rattled as it bounced across the floor - and inserted a new one before she took another scan of Colleen’s body functions. “Don’t be stubborn,” she mumbled, and began the injections again.

“This would be funny, if it wasn’t so serious,” Bugalu commented.

“Funny!” Tall Bear gave him a disapproving glare.

“Mac was on her best behavior tonight, and she still got into trouble.”

Davis paused to watch her scepter’s readout. “Mac has a habit of getting into trouble?”

“Of one kind or another,” Bugalu stated.

Davis sighed, and some of her tension eased. “She told me the same thing when we first met. This time, we can’t blame her. This was beyond her control.”

“She will recover?” Gwanth asked.

“Yes,” Davis answered, and smiled at the biochemist. “Thank you for your assistance.”

Colleen moaned and rolled her head to one side, pulling the other shoulder off the floor. “Bugs.”

“Right here.” Bugalu squatted, tried to tuck her wayward curl back among the others.

“I’m starving. Can you find some of that... julatei?”

No,” Davis answered.

“When we get to the ship, you can have pie,” Bugalu promised.

She rolled onto her side and opened an eye. Seeing the crowd gathered around her, her face went red. She muttered a torrent of unpronounceable words.

“I hope that’s not being translated,” Jane stated, and people chuckled as their tension abated. “MacDowell, I thought I told you to keep your hat on tonight.”

Colleen raised an uncertain hand to her disheveled curls. “Yes, sir. Sorry, captain. I’m... not sure what happened.”

“You ate and drank things nobody realized were not good for you,” Davis explained.

“And landed on the floor,” Jane added. “Can’t expect a hat to stay on in those conditions. After all, we didn’t glue it on.”

“Should hope not. I like my hair.” She put her hand flat on the floor, prepared to get up.

“Stay down!” Davis barked.

“Obey the doctor, lieutenant,” Jane instructed. “Dr Davis, when will MacDowell be able to return to the ship?” Davis waved her scepter over the redhead again, considered the readout and administered 2 more doses.

With each shot, Mac winced. “No wonder I feel like a punching bag.”

“I didn’t have time to be delicate,” Davis told her, and turned to Jane. “I think in 15 to 30 minutes. But I want her in sick bay. For the night.”

“What rotten luck for your last night here, Coline,” S’thyme stated.

Davis rose and whispered to Jane, “The only thing she ate or drank tonight were recipes for removing sugar from the blood, since sugar isn’t used by Yukoskians. And that got dangerous very quickly.”

Colleen rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling a moment. “Bugs, did I faint?”

“You lost consciousness, yeah,” he returned. He accepted Mac’s hat, which a native woman held forward.

“I don’t remember much,” she muttered. “And that’s embarrassing.”

The young doctor knelt for another quick scan of her patient. “How do you feel?”

“Starved. Shaky. Weak. If I’m going to sick bay, can I have something to eat?”

“Absolutely. For tonight, it’s pie, cake and ice cream.”

“Sounds strange to hear a doc say that.”

Davis held up the hypogun. “By the time I got some glucose, your blood sugar was at 5. And still going down.”

“What’s it supposed to be?”

“100 to 140. 70 is low. They’ll keep an eye on it in sick bay. Gwanth said the sugar-removing agent works quickly, and is out of their system in 8 hours. But since you’re human, and had several portions, we’re not sure of anything.” She stood. “Bugs, help her into a chair. Let’s see how well she manages that.”

Someone placed a chair nearby. Bugalu and Tall Bear got her in the chair, but she looked as if she had just had a long, hard workout. Sweat rolled down her pale face and stained her uniform as she tried to catch her breath. Bugalu stood beside her, his hand on her shoulder. After a moment, he asked, “Are you dizzy, Mac?”

“Yeah.” She didn’t elaborate.

Davis stepped forward with her scepter, ‘tsk’ed at the readout, and gave the girl more glucose. “Sit quietly. And say something if anything changes. Vision, headache, nausea... anything!”

“I think... I thought Bugsy was... restless.”

“Come on, Mac,” Bugalu muttered, as if he could ever be restless around her.

Colleen shrugged. “Confusion. Foggy headed.”

“What?” Davis reached for her scepter again.

“Not now,” the redhead clarified quickly. “When I was dizzy.” As Davis relaxed, Colleen looked at the dozen - or less - people in this area. “Where did everybody go?”

Jane stated, “Most have left. We agreed that 3 weeks is a long party, and cutting the last day short by an hour or two does not jeopardize our negotiated agreement.”

“Now I feel guilty,” Colleen muttered.

“Please don’t,” Ushto urged. “This has happened before.”

“A negotiator fainted during the party?” Colleen asked.

“The most notable example is when - many centuries ago - the Yurg negotiator fell ill during the celebration, as did a quarter of his people,” Ushto replied. “Some Yurgs suspected poison. But a Luan doctor was allowed to treat them, and all was good. So long as no food made with xell was served, all remained well.”

Gwanth added, “Xell was a common food for the Luans, but unknown to the Yurg. There are still people on Yukosk who must avoid xell in their diet.”

“I hope I told those ladies how grateful I am for their efforts on behalf of a complete stranger.”

“No, but they all saw you become ill.” Kolla stepped forward. “I’ll give you their names and contact information. You can send your gratitude through the machine W’son installed on our moon base.”

“That seems... impersonal. And late.”

“Not at all,” Gwanth returned. “To hear from you will assure them you are well. And that you remember them with warm feelings.”

“Plus, it will be a good test of the translating radio,” Smitty added quietly.

“Wish I could have been part of that team,” Colleen sighed, and looked around at the remaining Yukoskians. “Thank you for your assurances. I had no wish to spoil the party.”

“Such things happen,” Jane stated. “Dr Davis, how is she doing?”

“The only part that concerns me is the walk from the briefing room to sick bay. As strong as she normally is, she may find that difficult.”

“I’ll take her straight to DocMac’s office,” S’thyme volunteered. “It’s where I came from when I brought the medicine.”

“Then it’s up to her. Are you ready, Mac?”

Colleen looked uncertainly at S’thyme as Bugalu whispered in her ear. She looked startled, but slowly, carefully, she stood up. “That’s the way,” S’thyme said as he surged forward. He took her hands. “Is this enough support, Coline? It’s only a few seconds.”

Colleen looked over S’thyme’s shoulder at Smitty. “It’s fine.” She was still staring at Smitty as the 2 of them dissolved.

And so she goes off with me, except it isn’t me. S’thyme gave me a manual for their transportation beam. I’ll need somebody to translate it. I’ll ask Abdulla in the morning.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Month 7 Day 15
1845 Hours

Smitty adjusted his dress uniform collar as he exited the lift and headed for the newly designated ‘transport room’. He'd rather travel by transport box, but since the Yukosk weren’t set up for that method, he'd have to trust their transport beam. He refused to think about what could go wrong by considering the new paper he and S’thyme had received.

It’s obviously Colleen’s idea. I remember that conversation in sickbay about the bio-scanners and how they might be modified to sound an alarm if the wrong person entered. Winthrop’s intrusion bothered her, but I thought she’d forget. Apparently, she didn’t.

It might work, as long as the biochemistry is right. At least Kolla included Dr Davis, since it involves human biochemistry.

Smitty entered the briefing room, where Lt Bugalu had his hands all over Colleen. On her shoulders, at least. “Stop fidgeting,” Bugalu told the redhead.

“Can’t,” Colleen replied. “Mixed emotions make me… nervous.”

“You’ll wrinkle your uniform,” Bugalu chided, and his hands slid down her back. “I don’t see any sign of you ballooning.”

“Good!” she responded. “60 meals, but not a single piece of pie, cake or any dessert. I'm dying for a dessert!”

“Your choice,” Bugalu told her. “I saw you drooling for my pie last night.”

“You were mean, to eat it in front of me.”

Bugalu clucked. “Now a piece of your hair is loose. Let me see if-“

“Where?” she demanded.

“On top.” He raised a hand toward the wayward strand.

“I'll fix it,” she declared, and slammed her hat onto her head as she stepped away.

“Easy on the cover,” Smitty suggested, and when they turned in surprise, he added, “They're expensive to replace.”

Colleen blinked. “Are you coming to tonight’s party, Smit?”

Obviously. “S’thyme asked me to.” He stepped forward to place his hat on the table.

“Not there.” Colleen hurriedly moved his hat to one of the chairs against the room’s walls. “The table was the only place they could be sure no one would be standing when they beam in,” she explained.

“Yes. S’thyme mentioned that,” Smitty said, though he didn’t remember anything being said.

Bugalu retrieved his own hat from another chair, looking young, fit and very smart in his dress uniform. When he turned back, he smiled. “Good evening, Captain.”

Jane breezed past Smitty, her hat squashed under one arm as she worked to fasten the top of her dress jacket. “Good evening, Lt Bugalu. Glad to see you joining us. This could be an emotional evening for Lt MacDowell.”

“She’s already crawling out of her skin,” Bugalu agreed.

“I am not!” Colleen objected. Both Bugalu and the captain gave her a disbelieving look. “What?”

“You're pacing,” Jane stated calmly. “I was impressed by the paper you turned in today. And glad you included a new co-author. Good evening, Dr Davis.”

“Hello, Captain. After working with Kolla, I thought I should visit Yukosk.”

“Most Yukoskians are delightful,” Jane told her. “Would you please fasten this top connector? It’s being stubborn tonight.” As the doctor did as requested, Jane asked, “Did you learn much about the Yukosk physiology as you worked on this project?”

“Yes. Kolla's introducing me to one of their doctors, in hopes we will maintain communications, learn more and be better prepared for the next meeting between our people.”

“Sounds like there could be a medical paper coming,” Jane stated.

Davis stepped back. “I’d like to write a book.”

“Sounds good,” Jane replied. “And thank you. Chef Hamara, you haven’t been off ship in-“

“Too long,” Anna answered. “That woman is gone. Or maybe healed.” She walked to Colleen. “What was wrong with the pineapple pie last night?”

Colleen’s eyes grew round. “I’m sorry! I’ve been eating so much lately, I haven’t allowed myself any desserts! I don’t want to let my uniforms out.” Smitty nearly objected. Her shape is perfect! “Tomorrow, I get a regular schedule, and dessert won’t be taboo!” He studied her face. Shame on Dr Davis for letting a project keep her from sleeping.

“Ask for your piece of pie. C shift saved one for you.”

Colleen smiled. “Great!”

The meeting room had become crowded. Jane coaxed her hat into proper shape and set it on her head. Her attention settled on Colleen. “Lt MacDowell.”

Colleen turned. “Yes, captain?” Jane walked over, her eyes on the girl’s hat, which was 2 cm too low. She picked up the hat, and a stray curl flopped onto Colleen’s forehead. Colleen turned pink. “It’s unruly today, captain,” she muttered.

“I’ve had days like that,” Jane stated. “Hang on.” She stuffed the red strand in among better-behaved curls, then lowered the hat. “Don’t take your hat off tonight.”

“Yes, captain, thank you.” When Jane turned, Colleen stuck her tongue out at Bugalu. Still flirting with him.

Jane addressed the crowd. “This is not official, but... I've heard Fleet is changing our uniforms. That's all I know. Well, I don’t even know that; it’s a rumor. I haven’t heard when, or what they will look like, just that it's in the works.” Smoke started to coalesce above the table, and Jane asked, “Everybody have a translator? And is it set to Yukosk? There will be far more of them than us, and you'll want to know what they say. Or ask.”

The smoke became S’thyme, Kolla, and one of S’thyme’s team, who spoke to the gathered crowd. Smitty’s translator asked, “Is there anybody who needs to be tasted to be transported?”

“Tasted?” Anna asked.

“I don’t think we have a word for it, Anna,” Smitty said. “Their computer needs to recognize each person’s DNA. It’s no more than a thumb scan.” He raised his hand to wave the man closer.

Jane announced, “Anybody who has not been to the surface, gather around Mr Smythe so the Yukosk computer can ‘taste’ your DNA. I promise, you won’t even feel it.”

The team member approached, followed by Lt Bugalu. Colleen jumped atop the table and spoke to Kolla and S’thyme as she offered a hand to the captain, who had climbed onto a chair. In a moment, the 4 of them were fading into smoke.

Smitty's chest tightened around his heart mercilessly. There she goes, out of my life. No, she’ll be back. She passed probation. More than once.

Anna interrupted his thoughts. “Smitty, the man is talking to you.”

“What?” Smitty looked at Anna, then at the Yukoskian.

The man smiled. “Mr S’mythe, your technology is strange, but we did our best. How--”

“You did a fantastic job putting my ship to rights. She's been purring like a kitten.”

The Yukoskian repeated, “Kitt-in?”

“An infant of a particular domesticated animal,” Bugalu offered. “When this animal is happy, it emits a low hum called a purr.”

The native smiled. “We have a similar animal.”

“I'm not surprised,” Dr Davis said. “The more I learn about Yukosk, the more it seems just like Earth. Only different.”

“Kolla says the same!” the man revealed. “Reversed, of course.”

Smitty turned to watch smoke coalesce atop the table again. Two more members of S'thyme's team appeared, each carrying 3 gift boxes. He watched as they got off the table and placed the boxes on chairs. “What's that?” Smitty asked.

“Gifts for Koline,” the man answered. “A surprise arranged by Kolla.” He let his machine 'taste' the last person in Smitty's group. “I never thought about... members of your crew being married.”

Smitty looked at him in confusion. “Some,” he admitted. “Not many. Why?”

The native seemed uncomfortable. “Perhaps I misunderstood the nature of the gifts,” he stated. “If some of you will join us on the table, we can take the next 3 to the surface.”

Smitty joined Anna and Dr Davis on the table, and turned the remainder over to Lt Tall Bear. Lt Bugalu, he noticed, gave the gifts a strange look as he waited for his turn. Yes, what do those gifts have to do with being married?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Shared Knowledge

Month 6 Day 31
1732 Hours

As they got their meals, Mac asked, “MacG, could you join us? Since I’ve got you both here, there’s something I’d like to say.”

That’s odd. Mac usually ‘goes with the flow’. If MacGregor joined us without an invite, she’d be fine with it. If he sat someplace else, she’d be fine with that, too, would tell him some other time. So what does she want to tell us?

Mac led them to a corner table as far from the crowd as she could get. She pulled the table away from one wall, and Bugalu grabbed a chair from nearby for her. “Thanks,” Mac said and sat with her back to the wall. That behavior usually means someone’s pestered her. Which doesn’t make sense, since she spent the afternoon with Kolla. She wasn’t paranoid when I found them.

MacGregor set his tray on the table but didn’t sit. “Normally, I’d happily join you,” the doctor stated. “But not today. I keep thinking I’ve forgotten to do something. From the glare the captain’s giving me, I’d better go find out what I’ve done. Or haven’t done. Another time?”

Mac tried to keep her disappointment hidden. “Of course.” After MacGregor picked up his tray and left, she told Bugalu, “You may have to fill him in. I don’t know if I can say this a second time.” Then she sat, staring at her food. Her mouth opened occasionally, but shut again without any words emerging.

Bugalu placed his hand lightly over her balled fist. “Mac?”

She glanced at him, returned her gaze to her plate as her face flushed. “Guess I know why you never talked about this, despite all my pestering, Bugs.” She returned to silence. He could feel her hand quiver. “I didn’t think it would be this hard.”

Bugalu leaned forward. “We don’t have to talk right now,” he whispered. “It can wait until we’re at your place.”

“If I put it off, I might never say it,” she responded.

“Then spit it out and we’ll deal with it.”

She nodded and glanced around. “Remember how you found us this afternoon? Kolla and me?”

Bugalu nodded. “Like my sisters when they were discussing boys.”

“That’s what we were doing,” Mac stated, staring down at her plate.

What - exactly - does she mean? “Things like ‘George is so cute, but Bob is gross’? That kind of talk?”

She glanced around again, her face bright red. “No. Kolla just got married. And nobody had explained to her what to expect. After the ceremony.”

Mac’s mother wasn’t allowed to explain it to her. Was this the blind leading the blind? “Could you help her?”

She gave a brief grimace of irritation. “Sometimes, Yukosk society sounds like Gaelunde,” Mac responded, and reached for the salt shaker. “Kolla was told her mother was... what was that word?... ‘without self-esteem’. And didn’t know which man had given her a child. Which sounds stupid, phrased like that. Like a man hands an infant to a woman.” She put the salt down. “She had no idea what would happen when they were alone. She decided she should let me know... the mechanics. She assumed I was as un-informed as she was. Well, less informed, because she’s been through it few times by now. She says it wasn’t bad, but it sounds awful.”

Bugalu lowered his voice another notch. “Most women like it.”

Mac’s fork quivered above her green beans, and she hissed, “It sounds like… Bob.”

“Bob?” Who’s Bob? That can’t be S’thyme’s first name. Can it?

“George is cute, but Bob is gross,” she repeated.

“Oh.” Bugalu considered what she’d said. “If all she told you was the mechanics, that could sound… weird. I guess. If she had explained the emotions… but you might not have paid attention to that, because it’s so far outside your experience. Sorry, but you still don’t know everything about sex.”

She raised her red face far enough to give him a sour look through her eyelashes. “I imagine not, but this was a chance I couldn’t skip. And she needed to talk.”

“The emotions are the important part.” Bugalu smiled and raised his voice to a more normal tone. “I figured you’d study the mechanics on your own. Like every other subject that caught your imagination.”

Her head came up, her brow wrinkled with confusion. “How?” Her face drained as she realized others could have heard her.

“The same way you studied everything else,” he returned. “With books.”

“Really?” she squeaked, and considered the possibility. “I should visit the library.”

“Hey, Shorty.” Tall Bear stood a respectable distance away with a tray of food.

“Hey, Tall-ey,” Mac responded.

“Hope I’m not intruding,” the AmerInd stated.

“Nope,” Mac said. “Join us, we’re all done planning the secret birthday party.”

Bugalu smiled. Trying to give us a reason for whispering so intensely. Not bad, until someone realizes - eventually - that such party hasn’t happened.

TB sat down and studied Mac’s face. “What’s the final decision, Short Stuff? You coming or going?”

Mac didn’t show any surprise. “Well, Tall Drink, after much consideration, I guess I’ll stick around for a while.”

“Good. Wasn’t sure, after you faced off with Smythe last night.”

“You heard about that?” Mac asked uncertainly.

“The whole ship has heard by now,” Bugalu told her.

TB stated, “Can’t imagine what was going through your mind.”

Mac pushed her potatoes around her plate. “Smit... wasn’t using the rules I expected.”

“Yeah, that’s bad, when they change the rules and don’t tell you,” TB agreed. “Who’s the birthday party for?”

“We don’t know,” Bugalu inserted. “That’s the secret.”

Mac laughed. “Exactly!”

TB shook his head and moved on. “How you feeling? You look a ton better, but... not well rested.”

Mac grimaced. “Don’t tell the docs, but I’m napping, not regular sleep. 4 hours in the morning, then I meet Kolla for lunch and she hands me over to Bugsy when he gets off. Then another 4 hour nap before I go on duty.”

“You haven’t been signaling me to meet you for lunch,” TB stated quietly.

“Oh, blast! Knew I was forgetting something! Sorry, Bear, but I eat when I get off duty, after my first nap, before my 2nd nap, and before I go on duty. I haven’t been eating during my mid-shift break.” She glanced around and lowered her voice. “I go to the observation deck and try to relax.”

“I don’t like that,” Bugalu decided. “You should get a full night’s sleep. Now that you don’t have to study all the time, I wish you’d get to a ‘normal’ schedule.”

“I know,” Mac agreed. “I overslept today and was half an hour late meeting Kolla. And 4 meals a day... I’m going to balloon! But, when we leave Yukosk in another week or... 10 days? I’ve lost track. After that, I can sleep the day shift, eat only 3 meals. And get to the gym. Dog can probably run 2 laps around the ship for every 1 of mine these days.”

“She misses you,” TB stated. “She’s planning a day together for you 2 next shore leave.”

“Sounds good.” Mac tried to stifle a yawn. “Makes me tired just thinking about it,” she stated, and climbed to her feet. “My next nap is calling, Bugs. Good to see you, Bear.”

They watched her leave. “Is she really going to sleep?” TB asked. “Or is she headed for the library?”

“I don’t think she’s desperate for answers this minute, and the library will still be there after we leave Yukosk,” Bugalu answered. “She tries to get enough sleep, but her schedule is weird right now.” I’ll check on her later. “How long have you 2 been having lunch together?” And how did he talk her into it?