Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Making Progress (Part 2)

Month 6 Day 16
Capt Jane Burke
0721 Hours

“How does she handle visitors?” Jane asked. “As popular as she is, I’d think she’d have many visitors.”

“Plenty,” Drake agreed. “But as soon as they find she’s asleep, they leave. Some check back several times a shift, so that should tell you how little she’s actually awake.”

Again a disruption involved MacDowell when Abdulla and Bugalu jumped up to keep her upright in her chair. Jane couldn’t see the girl’s reaction; Bugalu was between them.

“What happened?” Ferguson asked as he approached.

“She fell asleep,” Bugalu answered.

“I don’t think she’s as recovered as she thinks she is,” Abdulla added, and asked the helmsman. “Can you get her to sick bay?”

“Not easily,” he admitted.

“I can.” Ferguson stepped forward.

A big copper hand caught Ferguson’s shoulder. “Let me, Ferg,” Tall Bear said.

“Why? You’re on duty.”

“That’s why,” the AmerInd responded. “Besides, if security sprouts a black eye, no one gives it a thought.”

“Not true,” Ferguson refuted. “We wonder who gave it to you.”

“Well, nobody asked,” Tall Bear returned, and picked the girl up. Then he stood quietly, as if he expected…

MacDowell squirmed, raised a hand and a knee to push against the AmerInd’s shoulders. “Stop it,” she protested.

“Mac. We’re taking you to sick bay.” Bugalu took hold of her arm. The girl grabbed his hand and stopped squirming.

“Here.” Abdulla held out a small container. “Take this with her.”

“Thanks. They don’t have pineapple on Gaelunde. Come on, Bear, or I’ll be late to my station.” His hand still held by the redhead, he walked out with the burdened security man.

“Well…” Drake gulped the rest of his coffee. “I’d better go see that she’s properly restrained.”

Jane had finished her meal, but Smitty had only eaten half of his, and was back to scowling at his plate. Jane wondered what was on his mind. “It’s about time for our shift,” she stated.

“What?” He looked up, sighed. “Yes, I’d better-“ He stood up to take his tray to the disposal.

Jane was right behind him. Trays deposited, she requested, “Walk me to the bridge, Smitty.”

“Yes, captain.”

Neither of them spoke all the way to the lift. Seems strange – considering the time – that we’re the only ones on this lift. Maybe it’s Smitty’s scowl. What has him in such a bad mood? Just before the door opened, she said, “We’ll go to my office.” He nodded and followed her. “Have a seat, Smitty. Blossom, take a break.”

The yeoman immediately rose. “Good morning, captain.” Headed for the hall doorway, she added, “Today’s negotiation points haven’t come in yet.”

“Plenty of time,” Jane returned, and took her seat as the girl left. “Is something upsetting you?” she asked her chief engineer.

He looked up, startled. “No, captain, of course not.”

“You seem… out of sorts,” she pointed out. “I thought perhaps Drake had said something that irritated you.”

“I don’t remember him saying anything…” His voice faded, which left her wondering if he truly didn’t remember anything Drake had said at breakfast.

“Did I say something irritating?”

“Of course not, captain!”

She nodded. Would he tell me if I had? Space, I hope so, as long as we’ve known each other. So what is his problem? She paused to ponder her chances of getting information from him. Probably not good. He might not even know what’s bothering him. Giving up – for now – she leaned forward, put her hands on her desk. “It occurs to me that MacDowell has been aboard nearly 6 months.”

His face immediately darkened; too fast to be a blush, too dark to be only anger. “I know,” he whispered, and his voice mixed relief and desperation.

Interesting. Since he didn’t seem likely to go on, she did. “The last I remember, she hadn’t - yet - passed her test?”


“Has she made any progress at all?”

Smitty’s mouth was a thin line. “Some. Not enough.”

Jane hesitated another moment. “Yet, others have told me she knows her field inside and out. And that was 2 or 3 months ago.”

“They’ve told me that, too.” he revealed. “I haven’t seen it.”

“Can you explain it? This difference of... perception?”

“No,” he answered. “Except-“ She waited, and eventually, he continued. “Well, I- Her co-workers are bound to say that about her. She’s friendly.”

Is he saying...? What is he saying? “Let me make sure I understand. Abdulla and Wilson gave me glowing reports of her abilities because they’re friends with her?” At Smitty’s reluctant nod, she shook her head. “I would hope my officers - even junior officers - would understand the importance of an accurate assessment of a co-worker’s ability, not let their emotions mis-represent those skills!”

“Ah, um, well...”

“Am I to deduce from that statement that you don’t think highly of her skills because... what, she hasn’t been friendly to you?”

His face turned bright red, and his eyes widened with a wildness she’d never seen in them before. “Too friendly,” he choked out. His gaze landed on his hands in his lap and stayed there.

Silence ensued while Jane’s thoughts whirled. Too friendly? Smitty doesn’t notice such things it they’re directed towards him. I thought she might be in awe or lust or something when she first came aboard, unable to take her eyes off him. Didn’t really think it would become a problem. Oh, space, all those entries in her file that hinted of discipline. Those entries could have been for something else, and I wouldn’t be so sure of the reason if there weren’t so blasted many of them! So she’s been under that pressure since the Academy, and then she comes here, and immediately finds she has feelings for her new supervisor- Wait. Does she? Have feelings for him? Maybe she was staring at him so intently because she was worried about him? Afraid he’d make the same demands previous supervisors made? Sounds logical. If something happens, over and over, one starts to expect it will happen again, even if it never should have happened in the first place.

Smitty wouldn’t do it. But if she’s expecting... no wonder she can’t think when he’s around! Therefore, she hasn’t passed her test. And in the meantime, her case of nerves has put him on edge, and somehow, he’s become convinced that she’s chasing him! “What a mess,” she muttered.

He glanced up, lowered his gaze once more. “Beg pardon?”

Jane took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she rubbed her eyes. “I want you to give her another month to pass.”

He raised his head, his brow furrowed in confusion. “She’s... had 5 months.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Making Progress (Part 1)

Month 6 Day 16
Capt Jane Burke
0721 Hours

With her breakfast tray full, Jane slid into the chair next to Smitty in the messhall. He looked up from staring at his own tray, but the frown on his forehead didn’t smooth. “Morning,” he growled, and picked up his fork to start eating.

“Judging by the sounds of you, the ship must be in terrible shape,” she guessed, knowing he’d spent the last 2 days with S’thyme and Wilson, going over all the repairs made while he was ill.

“No,” he replied. He didn’t sound any happier about it.

“You getting along with S’thyme?”

“Yes. I suppose. He’s intelligent. Knowledgable, considering he’s never seen a Fleet ship before.”

“Have you had a chance to work with his wife?” Smitty looked up, his face blank. He doesn’t know who I mean? “He’s newly married to Kolla, who looks like MacDowell.”

“Oh. Her.” His gaze deepened, giving him a haunted look. He turned back to his food. “Yes, some. She keeps disappearing, but when she’s there, she’s knowledgeable, especially about communications.”

I was looking for information on how he felt, working next to a MacDowell look-alike. Maybe I got his answer. “S’thyme says she’s a better engineer than he is,” Jane commented. Smitty’s response was a short grunt. “She keeps disappearing to facilitate negotiations between us and the Yukoskians."

He nodded, but didn’t pursue the subject. Thankfully, Drake joined them. “The Yukoskian doctors gave the crew a clean bill of health.”

Smitty looked up, suddenly interested. “Everyone?”

“Well, not MacDowell,” Drake admitted. “She’s over the flu, but still fighting exhaustion. She-“ He stiffened, staring at the serving line.

Jane looked, and there was MacDowell, waiting in line. She stepped forward as the line moved, got herself a tray. The server smiled in greeting. “Mac, how did you escape from sick bay?”

“Just temporary,” the redhead stated. “I have to go back once I’ve gotten some real food.”

The server looked confused. “We send this same food to sick bay for you.”

“Yes, but there, it’s missing an important ingredient,” MacDowell stated. “Conversation. Hope I can find some here.”

“Take your pick,” the server invited. “No A shifters right now, but Abdulla, Bugalu, Ferguson are here. You want scrambled eggs?”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Also bacon, toast and hot tea. Citrus juice, too.”

Chef Hamara appeared in the open doorway of her office. “I thought I heard you, Mac. You look better, but not yet well. Are you having toast this morning?”

Mac gave her a lop-sided grin. “I didn’t think cake, pie, pizza or ice cream would be good for breakfast.”

“Xyla, give her some of that puree in the fridge. Mac, use it like jelly on your toast.”

“Yes, ma’am,” both young ladies responded.

“Since when do you let patients wander around the ship?” Smitty growled at Drake.

“I let you go to your own room to finish sleeping,” Drake reminded him.

“I’m not sure I would have trusted him to do it,” Jane teased softly. “Not with somebody else making repairs.”

“It was a concern,” Drake agreed. “But then you made it an order. Besides, the stuff they gave us acted like a sedative, so wherever he went, he would have fallen asleep.” Smitty gave the physician a small glare, but didn’t respond to their comments. Drake turned his attention to Jane. “I imagine you aren’t getting much ‘negotiating’ done, as exhausted as she was. Is. I still don’t know why she keeps waking up, but if she’s tightly restrained, she’ll manage to sleep half an hour or maybe 45 minutes at a time. At that rate, I won’t be able to release her for days.”

“We’ve made progress, considering we’ve only had 2 half-hour sessions on day 1, and 2 one-hour sessions yesterday. Kolla and Colleen don’t just look alike, their minds work the same. Ooka announces a subject, one girl makes a suggestion, the other expands on it, and their ideas are so spot on, there’s very little tweaking for us to do.” She shook her head. “I wonder if it’s because both women shared one body.”

“Maybe that explains how they managed to share one body,” Drake suggested. “If they practically are the same person.”

“They’re not!” Smitty rumbled. “How many days?”

“For what?” Drake asked.

“Before you can release her!” Smitty returned tartly. “I have to arrange for somebody to work her shift!”

Their conversation was interrupted by a short squeak of surprise. Three tables away, Abdulla asked MacDowell, “What’s up?”

“It’s pineapple!” the redhead declared, staring at her toast, now missing a bite.

“You love pineapple,” Bugalu stated, confused.

“Yes, but I couldn’t think of anything with pineapple for breakfast. And I so much wanted some!” She hastily put down the toast to cover her face with her napkin.

“Is she… crying?” Jane wondered.

“Her emotions are pretty raw,” Drake stated, “so I wouldn’t be surprised if she is. Her body temperature is off, too. First she’s cold, then she’s hot.”

“That doesn’t sound good.”

“It seems her body is trying to set itself right, now that she’s getting some sleep,” Drake explained. “I wish you could skip negotiations today and let her sleep, see if she can get past this stage.”

“I watch her closely,” Jane replied. “If she starts looking tired, I end the session. If Kolla hasn’t beaten me to it.” She pushed her empty plate to the back of her tray. “But yesterday afternoon, she wanted us to come back for an evening session.”

“Yeah, she’s starting to chafe at spending her time in sick bay. Says she’s bored, not tired. I finally gave her access to the ship’s library. Checked back after an hour, and had to modify that decision because she’d called up technical manuals to study!” He sent a quick glare in Smitty’s direction. “Happily, she had fallen asleep, so I blocked her access to reference materials, checked her restraints, and left.”

“How does she handle visitors?” Jane asked. “As popular as she is, I’d think she’d have many visitors.”

“Plenty,” Drake agreed. “But as soon as they find she’s asleep, they leave. Some check several times a shift, so that tells you how little she’s actually awake.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Negotiations (Part 2)

Month 6, Day 13
1250 hours

In Part 1:
“Good idea,” JanBuck agreed. “When you think you’re done sleeping, Smitty, come back for a formal release.” She reached out to relieve him of his grip on Mac’s arm.
“Yes, captain,” Smit replied. He released the girl and left the room.

“Thank you, Captain,” Mac murmured.

“We’ll discuss it later,” JanBuck returned. Mac gave a short nod, left her gaze on the floor as she took a deep breath.

“Now, if we may--“ Arblek began.

Mac faced her captain. “The original people who made contact? Isn’t that what you said?”

“That’s what I understood,” JanBuck agreed. “It’s possible the translator--“

“Even if that contact was a... an accident? That they weren’t trying to make contact?”

“The situation of the first contact did not seem to matter.”

Mac turned to Kolla with a half smile. “Kolla, I guess it makes sense. We had to work together to solve a huge, intricate problem presented by that first contact. After that, negotiation should be a piece-- should be easy.”

Arblek snorted. “Please address me. I am the elder negotiator for my people.”

Mac finally looked at him. “And my captain is the senior... negotiator for this ship, which represents all the planets within our alliance. But apparently, the negotiations must happen between those who first made contact. You were brought to me, Ambassador Arblek, but you were not involved in our first contact. Kolla was. I assumed I would negotiate with her.”

“She is only a mechanic! She-“

S’thyme stiffened in outrage.

“It’s a good thing she is,” Mac interrupted. “Because the mistake that brought us together took a lot of mechanics and electronics, some biology and biochemistry before we could set things right again.”

Arblek’s cheeks went gray as he turned to JanBuck. “Do your underlings always speak thusly to a superior?”

JanBuck blinked, twice. “To answer that properly would require a long explanation about the culture of the Alliance. Which - if I understand your customs correctly - cannot be done until negotiations are completed. My short answer is that I have not heard her say anything that is not true. I appreciate that you ‘bent’ your customs to explain your traditions. Do you now want us to ignore your people’s beliefs and customs?”

Arblek’s face turned even grayer.

“She’s right,” Ambassador Ooka stated, and Arblek whirled to face her. “You have overstepped, Arblek, confused them. If we are to hold to the old ways, even when meeting people who are not from our planet, then we must hold to them. Tleeda, return Arblek to Yukosk and explain the situation to the Council. I will stay and assist Kolla through the negotiations, as I assume you, Captain JanBuck, will assist your... Kolla.”

“Colleen,” Kolla corrected, though her mind whirled at this sudden change.

“You can’t send me back!” Arblek argued. “I am the Elder Negotiator-“

Tleeda asked, “Why remind everyone that you are old? And yes, you have been a negotiator longer than any other living person. But Yukosk hasn’t needed any negotiators for 3 centuries, so it’s only a title.” She placed a black square on his shoulder, then pressed the middle of the square.

“No!” Arblek reached for the patch, but before his hand touched it, the transporter beam swirled his molecules into gray smoke that was whisked away.

Tleeda placed another black square on her own shoulder and smiled at JanBuck. “I’ll send your translators back, Captain.” She pressed the button.

“Does that hurt?” DocMac’s eyes were wide as Tleeda’s appendages turned to smoke.

“That probably-“ Ooka began.

“No pain,” Tleeda answered, the translator sounding distant. “Numbness. Dizziness. Some experience...” Swirling smoke faded and she was gone.

“Nausea,” S’thyme stated. “A few people experience nausea.”

Ooka sighed. “The amount of technology we share is usually determined by negotiation.”

“That will be fun, won’t it?” S’thyme teased. “We’ve put this ship back together, so we’ve already had a good look. Our doctors studied their biology, so we know some of that. Ooka, we are starting with a great deal of their knowledge, which you must make an honest effort to repay.”

“Like your mother, I know my obligations. But exchange of technology and knowledge is not the first item on the negotiation list.”

Kolla asked, “What is the first thing to negotiate?”

“Where and when to begin negotiations,” Ooka replied patiently, and glanced at the humans. “Obviously, that’s not here and now.”

Colleen was leaning against DocMac, her eyes closed. DocMac strained to keep her upright. “She’s fallen asleep, hasn’t she?” he asked.

“Let’s get her onto a bed.” JanBuck bent to lift her legs, grunted. “She is heavy.”

“You should see how much weight she works out with,” DocMac replied.

S’thyme moved forward to help, and as soon as he placed his arms under her torso, Colleen jerked awake. “Who-?” She blinked, staring at S’thyme. “Like the beard, Smit.” She was asleep again before they deposited her on the bed. DocMac draped a blanket over her.

“Is she heavier than others of your kind?” S’thyme asked.

DocMac studied the display panel on the wall. “She’s a Gaelunder. She comes from a colony on a planet with more gravity than our home world.”

“You have a home world and colonies also?”

“S’thyme!” Ooka hissed.

“Do not worry, mother-sister-in-law,” Kolla told her. “We have worked with these people. They do not mind questions.”

“Some might, if the questions were too personal,” JanBuck corrected. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure the translator knew one of the words you used. Could you explain ‘mother-sister-in-law’?”

“Ooka is my mother’s sister,” S’thyme replied. “Kolla is my bride.”

“Oh, yes, now I understand.”

“When this is over,” Ooka stated, “I will see that your honmuck time is adjusted. Now, um, when do you suppose Colla-n would be better rested?”

DocMac was frowning at the display.

“Drake?” JanBuck said. “How long before she wakes up?”

He glanced around. “Hard to say. Maybe... 3 minutes? Four, if we’re really lucky.”

“Do I understand your time measurement correctly?” Ooka asked.

“Unfortunately, she has trouble sleeping,” JanBuck replied. “Drake, isn’t there any way you can help her?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know what the problem is. I could sedate her, but if she’s having nightmares...” He sighed. “At least I can keep her from falling out of bed.” He tightened restraining straps around her and looked at the display again. “What in space does that mean?”

“What?” Kolla asked.

“Her blood pressure has fallen, slightly. She’s stabilizing into normal sleep.”

“Isn’t that what you want?” S’thyme wondered.

“Sure, but... people don’t usually sleep well when they’re tied up, which is basically what I’ve done.” He looked down at his patient. “Mac, every so often, you react in such an unexpected way that... I just don’t know what to think.”

“She won’t answer, Doctor,” came a voice from the doorway. “She’s asleep.”

He turned, smiled at the newcomer. “Nurse Temple! Good to see you up and healthy again.”

“Thank you. It’s good to be healthy again, even if I am one of the last to return to duty.”

“Your first assignment is to keep an eye on Mac. She’s still fighting the illness, despite the medicine, and her body is completely exhausted. But she won’t stay asleep more than a couple minutes at a time. Nightmares, apparently.”

Temple nodded slowly. “What about a dose of monotrellix?”

“Anti-anxiety,” he stated. “That might be worth a try.” He bit his lower lip. “I don’t know exactly what the Yukoskians gave us. On everybody else, it seemed to have some sedative properties. I’d better consult with them.” He headed for the door. “Try to keep her asleep.”

“Perhaps,” S’thyme suggested to his aunt, “you could make a tentative plan to see if she might be able to negotiate tomorrow.”

Ooka turned to her niece-in-law. “Is that agreeable to you?”

Kolla looked from aunt to husband to JanBuck, back to her aunt. “If she can get some sleep, then yes, we can try. But I do not want to tire her overly much.”

“History says the longest negotiation took 60 years,” Ooka stated calmly. “While negotiations with people from another planet are likely to be more complicated than between 2 ancient tribes on our own world, I had hoped this would not take that long.” Kolla felt her face darken. Oona patted her shoulder. “I don’t expect you to understand negotiating, Kolla. Your mind is full of engineering. I hear you are as good at that as your husband.”

“Better,” S’thyme said. “I had to marry her, to keep another team from snatching her away.”

“Not to mention you love her,” Ooka added tartly. “She can’t read your mind, nephew. Tell her of your feelings.”

“Yes, mother-sister,” he agreed, and returned to Kolla’s side. Kolla was delighted that her husband’s arm slipped around her.

“Since negotiations are delayed,” JanBuck stated, “may I give you a tour of the ship? I promise not to explain any technology to you.”

Ooka laughed. “I wouldn’t understand it,” she returned. “And Kolla and S’thyme no doubt want to continue testing the work they’ve done. But I would not mind a brief look around.” They all headed out the door, leaving Colleen in Temple’s care.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Negotiations (Part 1)
Month 6, Day 13
1250 hours

The negotiators halted in the doorway, confused by the struggles of the threesome across the room. Even Kolla wasn’t sure what was happening; it looked like DocMac was trying to pull Colleen into a standing position, while S’thyme – No, she calls him Smit – tried to put Colleen’s feet on a bed. He knows she needs more sleep, instead of having to deal with this nonsense.

Colleen jerked, Smit lost his grip, and Colleen fell atop DocMac. Kolla winced. That was a hard landing. With a grimace, Colleen rolled off her friend and laboriously climbed to her feet, then helped DocMac off the floor.

I have to talk to her. Kolla surged across the room and wrapped her arms around the woman who had spent so much time closer to her than her husband.

After a moment, her hug was strongly returned. Even so, she knew this was nowhere near the strength Colleen usually had. Poor girl. First her studies, not being able to sleep, then… well, me. And the cordaki illness, always so hard on an adult. And instead of sleeping, now she has to deal with insane demands from an old man who’s been out of date for centuries! “Wish we could speak privately,” Kolla whispered.

“Remember Gaelunder?” came through the translator.

Even stranger than sharing a body is that I learned 2 languages during our time together. Colleen read the computer screens in English, and now I can read, speak and understand English. But her personal thoughts were in her native tongue, so I can speak and understand that, also. “Yes,” she answered.

When they separated, Colleen’s fingers brushed the controls of Kolla’s translator, which then spoke strange words –. “No one else here speaks it.”

This isn’t the same as our communication while we shared a body. That was easy, as long as she was drinking. She has strange biology. But I have to warn her, before someone interrupts us. Anxious, she spoke quickly, mostly in Gaelunder, but occasionally she substituted English or her own language. She hoped Colleen could understand the mishmash. “Some are angry because I dared to make first contact instead of letting them make contact.”

Colleen frowned, which emphasized the dark smudges under her eyes, the few faint yellow spots that remained. “It wasn’t your idea. Wasn’t anyone’s idea.”

“Negotiator Arblek doesn’t care. Or doesn’t believe it. The man with a face of wrinkles. He’s stuck in the ways of long ago.”

Colleen looked grim. “I know the mind-set.”

“The other two are more modern, but he won’t listen to them. However, the rest of the council will, so you must try to impress them.”

Colleen hesitated for a long minute, then shook her head slowly, and had to be grabbed by the men on either side to keep her upright. “They should talk to the captain, not me. I’m basically nobody. And mostly asleep.”

“They won’t. Arbleck-“

“Kolla,” S’thyme said quietly as the group approached. “That’s why you’re in trouble, remember?”

Colleen gave her a lop-sided smile. “I’ve been in trouble my entire life, seems like. Sorry it overflowed onto you, Kolla.”

“Probably, mine overflowed onto you,” Kolla returned and sighed. “I was hoping to avoid any more misunderstandings between our peoples.” She turned, but Colleen caught her upper arm.

The human’s fingers played with the translator again. “Now you can hear and understand everybody.”

Kolla returned to her husband. She didn’t understand. I didn’t convince her that this potentially friendly contact could go completely wrong. Now that Arblek is involved. S’thyme wrapped his hand around hers and gave a gentle squeeze. Hope my trouble doesn’t overflow onto him. That would be a poor start to our marriage.

Colleen studied the negotiation team for a moment, lowered her eyelids and failed to open them. She started to slump, straightened abruptly and opened her eyes. She stared at the negotiators again and muttered, “Still here.” She sighed and faced her supervisor. “What do I do?”

Smit glanced at the group and shook his head. “Sorry, Colleen, I woke up only a minute before you.”

Colleen turned, lost her balance and fell against Smit, who grunted, but supported her. “Doc?” she asked hoarsely.

But it was JanBuck who answered the question. “Yukoskian tradition says that those who made First Contact will negotiate the relationship between the 2... peoples involved.”
Mac pulled her brows together as her eyes glazed. She shook her head, listed, and was held upright by both men. “Captain, I need sleep. I heard your words, but they didn’t make sense.”

JanBuck tried again. “You were the first member of our crew to come into contact with a Yukoskian. Therefore, you must negotiate whether the Fleet and Yukosk will be friendly or not, engage in trade or not, and probably a dozen other things. These negotiations might take days.”

“I have no authority for that!” Mac protested. Kolla saw Arbek’s face turn hard, while the 2 younger negotiators glanced at each other.

JanBuck stepped forward. “Ambassador Arblek has explained that according to their customs, you are the only one with the authority. I believe he drastically bent their customs to tell me, because normally, the only communications at this time are the negotiations.”

Mac groaned and turned to one of the men holding her arm. “Put me ba--“ She stopped and turned, blushing, away from Smit to face DocMac. “Send me back to bed, Doc. This is even worse than my usual nightmare.”

“Wish I could,” he told her. “Wait, what nightmare?”

But Colleen had turned back to her captain. “That rule isn’t in our SOP... Is it?”

“No,” JanBuck stated. “Not in any SOP you would know. The closest we get is the understanding that in these situations, the Fleet members try to oblige the customs of the culture that has been contacted.”

“I wasn’t trained for it!” Mac muttered. “I’m in no condition- I can’t think!” She paused. “Mr Smythe.”

Smit looked surprised. “Yes?”

Her face red again, she didn’t look at him, stared instead at JanBuck. “Could you leave? Abbie says I think better when you aren’t around.”

“You’d think better if you could rest and recover,” DocMac growled under his breath.

JanBuck stepped forward. “The same goes for Smythe. He’ll want to examine every inch of this ship before we leave, but right now, he’s still got a couple spots.”

“Captain, I feel--“

“Has he been released?”

“Not for duty,” DocMac stated. “I told him to go to his quarters and sleep.”

“Good idea,” JanBuck agreed. “When you think you’re done sleeping, Smitty, come back for a formal release.” She reached out to relieve him of his grip on Mac’s arm.”

“Yes, captain,” Smit replied. He released the girl and left the room.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Make it Official

Month 6, Day 13
Dr Drake McGregor
1242 hours

It took several attempts for Drake to get Smitty shaken awake. The engineer’s eyes half opened, but didn’t look focused. “Wha--?” He didn’t sound alert, either.

“How’s your head?” Drake asked.

Smitty took forever to get his thoughts pulled together. “Better. I guess. Still hurts.” He started to roll over, his eyes closing.

Drake already knew that from the medical readout on the wall. “Yeah, you’re not quite done. But you need to get out of here.” He grabbed the engineer’s upper arm to pull him off the bed. “Go. Do your sleeping in your quarters.”

“Why?” Smitty asked, and staggered to keep on his feet. “What’s going on?”

“Ambassadors from Yukosk have arrived, and it turns out they’re not nearly as friendly as the rank and file Yukoskians.”

“Who?” Smitty leaned against the bed, obviously still not sure of his footing.

“Kolla and S’thyme. The doctors and engineers.” Seeing confusion on Smitty’s face, he again grabbed the man’s arm in frustration, to take him to his quarters himself. “Those are the friendly ones. But now the ambassadors - the big-wigs - have arrived, dressed in all the regalia a person can imagine and then some.”

As they headed for the exit, Mac groaned and tossed her head to one side. Smitty stopped short to look at her. “She’s waking up.”

“Not my idea, but they refuse to talk to anyone else.”

Smitty frowned. “They were trying to keep her asleep earlier, weren’t they?”

I know he’s still kind of out of it, but I have no idea what is going through his mind. “Who?”

“What’s her face. Koleen. And the guy, uh… showed up looking for her. For Koleen.”

“Oh, you mean Kolla and S’thyme. Yes, they want her to sleep, to get well. But the others insist on talking to her.”

“The doctors? Or the engineers?”

Man, he is mixed up. “The ambassadors. They refuse to talk to anybody but the original contact Kolla had. And they’re going to be here any min—“

With a drawn-out yelp, Colleen abruptly sat up straight, leaned to one side with her eyes mostly closed, then fell off her bed, but somehow landed on her feet with her knees buckled and her hands clutching at the next bed – the same bed Drake had just pulled Smitty from. She looked around, eyes blinking, as if she couldn’t figure out where she was. Both men started forward to help her, while she straightened her legs and started to climb onto the empty bed she held.

Drake grabbed her shoulders to pull her upright, while Smitty picked up her legs to put them on the bed. “Hey!” she complained, and started twisting around until she could see Drake’s face. “Oh, ‘s you. Lemme sleep, Doc, I feel like—“

Somebody cleared their throat, and they all turned to see who had come in. Just inside the door stood 5 Yukoskians; Kolla and S’thyme with 3 others with white faces. Nothing else could be seen of the 3 ambassadors, as their entire body was covered in robes, hats, shawls, sashes, various pieces of garish jewelry… There were so many colors involved, Drake could hardly tell where one ambassador ended and the next began. Next to them, Jane looked downright plain, even in her dress uniform.

Mac twisted away from the sight so forcefully, Smitty lost his grip on her legs, and suddenly supporting her entire weight was more than Drake was ready for. He landed on the floor, and all the air was forced from his lungs when the young lady landed atop him. She rolled off, and he gratefully pulled air in.

“That made my eyes hurt more than my head does,” Mac muttered, and found her way to her knees. “Sorry, Doc, I know I’m heavy. You okay?”

Drake pulled in another deep breath. “I’ll live,” came out hoarsely. He watched her climb to her feet, then accepted her offered hand. She pulled him up so forcefully, he lost touch of the floor for a second. But once he was on his feet, he could see her eyes were barely open, and her shoulders and back were hunched, as if she were ready to succumb to gravity and fall to the floor. Again.

“Straighten up,” Smitty whispered. “Make as good an impression as you can.”

Her eyes glazed over at the sound of his voice. Before she pulled herself together – again – Kolla skipped forward and pulled her into a big hug. Mac’s eyes grew big in surprise, then sought Drake’s attention. Her lips moved soundlessly, but it was plain she was asking, “Who is this?”

“Kolla,” Drake answered calmly.

Mac’s expression changed to joy, and she returned the hug enthusiastically, but carefully. “I’m glad our crazy scheme worked, Kolla.”

“I wish I could speak to you privately,” the translator whispered.

“Do you remember any Gaelunder?” Mac asked.

“Oh, yes,” Kolla assured her.

Mac broke away and reached up to adjust the translator. “I don’t think anybody else here speaks Gaelunder,” she stated. The ladies said more, but Mac had switched languages, and the translator also. Drake didn’t understand any of it.

Smitty, Drake realized, was frowning at the women in disapproval. What’s his problem? They’ve been through a mess together, so if they want a private conversation, let them. Looking up, he realized the others were approaching. As they crossed the room, Jane raised her eyebrows to silently ask a question. Drake gave a small shrug; he didn’t know what the women were talking about.