Month 6 Day 16
Capt Jane Burke
“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.”
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.”