Month 6 Day 16
Capt Jane Burke
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.”