Month 6 Day 16
Capt Jane Burke
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... already had 5 months.”
True. By 5 months, either he’s tossed them out and requested a replacement, or he’s accepted them onto his team. So if he truly doesn’t believe she has potential, then why is she still here? Jane composed herself, put her hands together on the desk. “Smitty, I think she might, just might have potential. Now, let me explain my thoughts. Back when she first came aboard, you began your initial assessment-“
“She couldn’t answer the first question.”
“True, but you told me later that should not have been the first question. Maybe it’s the one you ask last, I don’t know-”
“I don’t usually ask that question of brand new junior lieutenants,” Smitty stated, his face red.
“Oh.” No wonder he was so shocked by the answer. “Okay. But, not knowing the answer, she found the answer-”
“She wouldn’t have found the answer. She must have found the formula and figured out the answer.”
Even better! “I see. She did that, and brought you the answer. How long did that take her?”
“I... I... didn’t really keep track. 20 minutes, maybe?”
“How long does it usually take someone to figure out the answer?”
“I... couldn’t say,” he responded. “At the Academy, some of my classmates took hours with that formula.”
He asked her an engineering question? And when she brought him the answer in a matter of minutes, he didn’t immediately declare she had passed probation? What is wrong with him? Jane swallowed. “That sounds like a tough question. Which she handled like a pro, not a brand new junior lieutenant.”
“Just think about it, and we’ll go on. After that, she began to study. Any idea when she started?”
“That same day. By the end of shift, Abdulla had prepared a review tape for her.”
Good! I was afraid- “So she didn’t waste any time refreshing her knowledge. I find that a good sign.”
“But it hasn’t done her any good! I know she’s been studying. I’ve seen her at it! She’s enlisted the aid of several co-workers. I even gave her a list of those I thought could help her, but she still can’t pass!”
Jane raised a finger to stop him. “Let’s deal with that inability to think in a moment. You agree she’s been studying-”
“A lot,” he added.
“There’s times I’ve wondered when she sleeps. Or if she sleeps. And if she’s having trouble sleeping now, when she’s half sedated and deathly ill, I guess I have my answer; she doesn’t!”
“She certainly wasn’t getting much opportunity, even before Kolla... arrived,” Jane reminded him. “With the Verasis Flu rampaging through the crew, she was working double shifts - or more - for several days before Abdulla came back to work. I never heard any complaint from her. In fact, Bugalu commented on her hours, and her response was a cheerful, ‘Well, it keeps me out of trouble!’ At the time, I thought it refreshing to have someone on the bridge who wasn’t growling with exhaustion.”
“But she was exhausted,” Smitty protested. “Even before the flu. I could see that myself.”
“Then she didn’t let it get the best of her,” Jane pushed. “Even when she got called back to make repairs, after Abdulla’s accident, she got here in good time, her mind was working. And she couldn’t have gotten more than a couple minutes of sleep, if that. That’s the kind of crew member I like. One who’ll do what’s necessary for the good of the ship.”
Smitty sighed. “Yes, Captain. Her attitude is a point in her favor. But it doesn’t do any good if she can’t-”
“Do you remember what she said when the negotiators arrived?” Jane broke in. “You were half asleep yourself, so maybe you don’t. But once she realized she was expected to do something, she looked for a way to do it. What she came up with was to ask you to leave. Because she doesn’t think well when you’re around. Do you remember that?”
“Ahh, not really. But Abdulla’s said something similar to me. About Colleen.”
Not MacDowell; Colleen. Interesting. “Others have had that problem when they arrived. Even Wilson, I recall. Chang... I think you had coffee with him 6 times during his 2nd month aboard, trying to get his tongue loosened.”
Smitty closed his eyes, his mouth drawn down. “Don’t remind me. That was the longest month of my entire life.”
“Yes, it would be,” she said quietly, remembering the changed dynamics of the bridge crew on Abdulla’s days off, when Chang sat at communications. “Have you ever just sat down and talked to the girl?”
He jerked back, face red again. “No!” His eyes slightly glazed and darted around all corners of the office, as if to make sure they were alone. Or hunting a place to hide. “Not... deliberately! I mean-” He stopped and tried to gather his thoughts. They were still slow coming out. “We... She... bumped into me one night. A bit... ah, tipsy. Well, it was shore leave. We talked. For a minute or two. But not about... not about... work.”
Smitty, not talk about work? That’s gotta be a first. Still, if they did talk, that’s something. “Maybe you should do it again.”
“I... won’t,” he whispered, with desperation in both his eyes and his voice.
Don’t think I’ve ever seen him this uncomfortable before. If not work, there’s not much he would introduce as a topic. But once one is broached, he can usually- Oh. “Did she... say something that-” I’ve never tried to say this delicately to him before. I don’t generally discuss sex with any of my crew. “Wish I knew what she said,” she muttered, her thoughts turned inward. Could she have said something about her previous supervisors? Doesn’t seem likely; such treatment would have made him angry at them, not uncomfortable around her. Wait, what’s he saying?
“...As invited me to... take advantage of her,” Smitty choked out.
“Which you promptly refused.” That may be what he heard, but is that what she meant? If he was already tipsy-
He raised his head, his chin hard and eyes flashing. “She’s a subordinate!” he bit out.
“Yes. That’s why I assumed you refused, even if you were tipsy. Because that relationship- that official relationship- actually means something to you.” She sighed, leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling as she considered how to proceed. “Smitty, did you ever look at MacDowell’s record?” Probably not. He likes to make up his own mind.
“I don’t hold a person’s previous... problems, if they had any, against them. I give them a chance. I’ve only glanced at it.”
She gave another sigh. “You wouldn’t have seen anything with a glance. I had to dig down into the sub-sub-sub-references, hunt up medical records, time-keeping records, supply records... And then piece them all together.”
“That’s a lot of work for a discipline problem,” Smitty stated. “With her record, how she got a promotion, let alone transferred to us, is beyond my understanding.”
Yes, that’s what a quick glance would have shown. “Because she wasn’t a discipline problem,” Jane answered. “But her record makes it look like she was. Remember how surprised she was to get shore leave? She didn’t want to let go of the tablet that held the form, afraid hers would be canceled.”
“That did seem strange,” he agreed. “But you told me to give her all 3 days!”
“Because she hadn’t had shore leave in 4 years. The only leave she’d ever had after the Academy was funeral leave for her brother, who was lost on the Flame. And believe me, funeral leave is not the same as shore leave.”