Month 6, Day 13
Lt Cmdr B Smythe
Smitty woke slowly, confused by a silence that included distant noise. His eyelids fluttered, his head pounded. How much did I drink? “Lights, 50%,” he whispered. Beyond his eyelids, the world brightened, making his eyes water. “Never mind,” he croaked, and dimness returned. What time is it? My alarm didn’t go off, so it’s before that. Or… is this my day off? Must be, with this hangover. Been a while since I’ve felt this bad. Should have gone to sick bay, got detoxed.
A nearby moan caught his attention. I didn’t bring a crew member to my room! Did I?
Another sound, definitely female. He had to send her away, no matter how bad he felt. He forced his eyes open, stared straight up at a bulge on the wall that didn’t belong in his bedroom. Or in anybody’s bedroom. Sick bay? Why didn’t they detox me?
“No. No. No!” She sounded scared leading to panic.
Smitty rolled his head, tried to focus on the next bed. He recognized the smear of red hair. A man stood over her, who she tried to fight off. “What are you doing?” he demanded, except it barely sounded like a hoarse whisper, even to his ears.
The man glanced around, and Smitty stared at a familiar face, except for the beard. Colleen tried to get up, get away from him, and the man turned back, grabbed her shoulders. A mechanical voice said, “Somebody help me.”
“Let go of my woman!” Smitty managed to throw one foot over the side of his bed and struggled to rise.
“Smitty, stay in bed,” Jane snapped as she hurried in. She and a pink-haired woman veered toward Colleen. “Why can’t she stay asleep?” Jane asked.
“She is asleep,” the mechanical voice stated.
“Not any more.” Colleen stopped struggling. Her trembling hand pushed red strands of hair away from her sweat-damp face. “Sorry, captain.”
“When she sleeps, terror grows inside her,” the mechanical voice stated.
“Terror?” Jane asked. “Of what?”
“I don’t know. I never remember.” Colleen sighed. Jane turned to the pink-haired woman.
“I felt the terror,” the mechanical voice stated. “But I was asleep, too, and our minds were not that much in tune.” Smitty had seen the pink-haired woman’s lips move, and realized the mechanical voice came from the small translator attached to her shoulder.
“I suppose not, or you wouldn’t have had to teach each other so much.” Jane crossed her arms and studied the ceiling for a moment. “Well, lieutenant--" She stopped as her gaze landed on the redhead’s face. “She’s asleep again,” she whispered, and signaled the others to leave while she straightened Colleen’s blanket. Then she turned, raised Smitty’s foot onto the bed. “Smitty,” she whispered.
“Captain?” His mouth was a dustbowl.
“Let go of your woman?”
“Go easy on him, Jane.” Drake was on the bed behind him. “He’s hardly in his right mind. I’m amazed he’s awake, let alone acting the hero.”
“I suppose,” Jane agreed reluctantly. “How are you, Duck?”
“Surprisingly well for one who should be in this bed another week.” He sat up. “So unfair. I hung in there so long, and now I don’t even get to lay around a few days.”
Jane smirked. “Davis said doctors make the worst patients. She was so happy when the native doctors said they had a medicine for Verasis Flu.”
“How could they?” Drake got to his feet. “Our biology can’t be that similar.”
“Don’t ask me. Six of them arrived in containment suits and spent hours studying our biology. Called for the medicine, treated everybody who was still sick. Most the crew has been released, and the emergency sick bay is dismantled.”
“That’s intriguing. Think I’ll find one of them and pick their brain.” He headed for the doorway.
“Don’t be startled by their lead physician,” Jane suggested.
“What do you mean?”
“She bears a striking resemblance to Beth.”
Drake glanced at Colleen and digested the captain’s statement for a moment. “Did she bring me along?”
Jane shook her head. “Haven’t seen him. There’s only a dozen on the ship, all told.”
“I can’t imagine how Earth scientists will accept these natives, especially if they come face-to-face with themselves,” Drake stated, and turned toward the door as a sigh escaped Colleen’s lips.
“She’s asleep now, but that doesn’t last,” Jane muttered. “Why is that?”
“I’ve been watching her,” Drake stated. “Maybe she’s too exhausted? She’s been studying so hard, and then played host to a native… That is what happened, right?”
Their conversation didn’t make sense to Smitty, until he remembered Colleen, surrounded by a mass of wires and pieces of equipment, split into two people. The 2nd woman had pink hair and—
Wires and equipment— “Oh, no.” He struggled to get up.
Drake glanced at the display above the engineer. “Go back to sleep.”
“I can’t sleep!” Smitty protested. “Repairs are needed! Communications and engineering consoles on the bridge. Both bridges!”
“Repairs are nearly done, Smitty,” Jane said. “Abdulla and Wilson have things well in hand.”
“They’re good,” Smitty conceded. “But I’d rather—”
“Forget it,” Jane returned. “You haven’t been released. You’ve always had glowing reports about these women, so trust them. For once.”
“But working all alone—”
“Not alone,” Jane stated. “Kolla and S’thym pitched in. Besides doctors, other engineers came. Worked in containment suits, at first, until the docs said they weren’t needed.”
Smitty was horrified. “They don’t know the Fireball! Their technology can’t be compatible!”
“Maybe. But one said- can’t remember which; the translator only has 1 voice. One said, ‘Electricity is electricity, it just depends what loops you want it to make’.”
Smitty grunted. Sounds familiar, somehow. “I want our kind of loops!”
“Abdulla and Wilson are in charge. Now, go back to sleep so the medicine can finish its job. You’ll have time to check things out before we go.”
Smitty opened his mouth, but he didn’t have the energy to get to either bridge, let alone do anything when he got there. “Then give me something for this terrible headache, Drake,” he groused, adjusting his blanket.
Jane answered. “He can’t. Analgesics interfere with the medicine. A few more hours of sleep, and the headache will be gone.”
“I thought Davis was being mean, when she wouldn’t give me anything,” Drake joked. “Just let yourself fall asleep, Smitty. Won’t take long.” Drake turned to the captain. “Any idea where I might find the native doctors?”
“Try the messhall,” Jane answered as they left. “Seems they can’t get enough of our peanut butter…”
Smitty watched the redhead sleep. I couldn’t have called her my woman. Jane must have mis-heard. My crew woman, maybe. Irritated, he turned away. Fatigue washed through him, and his eyes closed.